Little did I know that there would be a perfect example of the need for pruning the very next day (today)!
I realize the issue of Book of Mormon geography is touchy. It is subject to all kinds of speculation, ideas, semantic debates, sophistry, etc. Not to mention "contention," although as far as I'm concerned, there is zero contention about the issue. I realize some people take the discussion personally, get offended, etc., but I consider all the discussion and analysis friendly and productive, always with the goal of achieving unity. (In my view the only way to eliminate contention is to heed the prophets and apostles, as the Lord explains in 3 Nephi 11-12, but others disagree because they don't accept those words, so what can we do?)
I don't object to anyone else having whatever views they want; my own views on the topic have changed over time and are constantly being refined as I learn more. However, I do object when intellectuals cite credentials to frame their views as superior to others' and censor/suppress others' views to prevent Church members and leaders from even knowing about alternatives. That's what I document in this blog.
I'm told there is no official Church position about Book of Mormon geography. It's up to each member to reach his/her own conclusions, which is great. People can believe whatever they want. Although I once accepted the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, I no longer do. I changed my mind because I learned things that the LDS intellectuals had not taught. But that difference of opinion is not my objection to BOMC.
I object to the approach taken by BOMC because (i) they censor and suppress different perspectives (and even inconvenient facts), contrary to Church policy; and (ii) they frame their position in a way that undermines faith.
I'll address these in inverse order.
Framing. By now, everyone reading this blog knows about Letter VII and its context.
The choice is simple and clear: Regarding Cumorah, people can choose to believe either the prophets and apostles (who have always and unanimously said it was in New York) or the intellectuals (who for decades have taught it is anywhere but New York). That choice drives everything else you want to believe about Book of Mormon historicity/geography, but that is not the real reason I have written so much about this topic.
The real question is, if you choose the intellectuals over the prophets on the Cumorah question, are you also going to follow the intellectuals instead of the prophets on other issues?
If you read the writings of the intellectuals, you quickly discover that they prefer their own ideas over what the prophets and apostles have taught about lots of subjects. If the prophets and apostles happen to agree with the intellectuals, then the intellectuals accept their teachings, but otherwise, according to the intellectuals, the prophets and apostles are naive, confused, perpetuating traditions, etc.
For me, the approach of the intellectuals is exactly backward. My bias is to accept what the prophets and apostles (and the scriptures) consistently teach, and then seek to corroborate their teachings with additional evidence.
The Cumorah issue is the single best illustration of this persistent problem because it is easy to understand and the choice is unambiguous.
Cumorah is like a gateway drug. Once you are comfortable believing that Joseph and Oliver and David and all the other prophets and apostles were wrong about Cumorah, it is easier to reject anything else taught by the prophets that counters your own area of expertise.
In a way, it's fun to watch the intellectuals think up as many reasons as they can for people to disbelieve Letter VII. But it's not really fun because it has such serious ramifications.
That's why, if we don't prune away the philosophies of men promoted by these intellectuals, we will continue to see members and investigators become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.
To be clear, I respect and personally like all the people associated with BOMC (as well as FairMormon, which promotes the same dogma). I like the idea of BOMC (and FairMormon). I had high hopes for BOMC when it was first announced.
But instead, they have turned it into an advocacy group that teaches the prophets and apostles are wrong.
In my opinion, BOMC is doing more harm than good because their fundamental belief is that they, as intellectuals, know more than the prophets and apostles. Their dogma leads BOMC (and FairMormon) to teach that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and every other prophet and apostle who has spoken or written about the Hill Cumorah was wrong. This includes Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, James E. Talmage, Joseph Fielding Smith, LeGrand Richards, Marion G. Romney, and others.
Here's another way to express it:
I think this Cumorah/Letter VII gateway drug is leading many members to question their faith, and is leading investigators to stop investigating.
Suppressing. Book of Mormon Central (BOMC, but more accurately known as Book of Mormon Central America) published a "kno-why" today titled "Why Is David Whitmer's Witness of the Book of Mormon So Compelling?" This is a prime example of why Book of Mormon Central (BOMC) is so exasperating.
As usual, there is a lot of good material in the article.
But as usual, the "kno-why" is misleading because it is tainted by the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.
I explain why in a blog post here, but for purposes of this blog, I simply want to warn readers that everything you read from Book of Mormon Central is designed to promote its dogmatic insistence that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and that the Hill Cumorah is somewhere in southern Mexico.
They have to promote this dogma because it's the Mission Statement of their corporate owner.*
Readers of this blog know that I welcome a variety of opinions. I link to sites that advocate other views--including today's kno-why. I encourage people to consider a variety of views, along with all the relevant, material evidence, and then make up their own minds.
BOMC takes exactly the opposite approach. They think they know the truth (they have PhDs and BYU professors, after all) and they are therefore justified in suppressing alternative perspectives, interpretations--and even contrary facts.
They refuse to publish material that contradicts or even questions their Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs dogma. And they attack anyone who dares to do so, to the point of intervening to prevent firesides and discussions of alternative perspectives.
IOW, if you accept what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught in Letter VII, BOMC will do everything possible to censor and suppress your ideas.**
For example, I've offered to provide input on these kno-whys that would make them at least more inclusive of diverse viewpoints, but they outright refuse because of their ideology.
Here is the real danger: Because contributors to BOMC include faithful LDS scholars and educators, including BYU faculty, unsuspecting members of the Church easily accept what BOMC teaches. It's not easy to tell when BOMC omits critical information or uses rhetorical tricks to promote its dogma. People who rely on BOMC think they are promoting Church doctrine, which, as I mentioned at the outset, is untrue. That's how you have presentations such as this going on throughout the Church, in Church buildings, sponsored by local Church leaders who have no idea that the speaker is teaching the youth that Joseph and Oliver were wrong and misled the Church.
But everyone who believes what BOMC publishes--LDS youth, missionaries, investigators, long-time members--eventually comes to believe, as they do, that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and their contemporaries and successors were unreliable witnesses who misled the Church about such a fundamental point as the location of the Hill Cumorah.
And once the intellectuals have you hooked on this idea, they can persuade you to believe the prophets and apostles are wrong about anything else they want.
*Ever since its inception, Book of Mormon Central has deliberately emphasized the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory developed and promoted by its founders and staff.
This is in fulfillment of the Mission Statement of its corporate owner, Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, Inc.
"Our goals are (1) to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex."
By their own mission statement, BOMC is prevented from publishing anything that contradicts the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.
**To be fair, BOMC did, early on, include the first edition of my Letter VII book in their archive. This is why I thought BOMC had potential to do a lot of good. But since then, they added a highly critical article without allowing me to respond. Actually, they've added several critical articles without allowing me to respond. This is classic Orwellian technique, designed to appear "neutral" while actually being anything but.