long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Cumorah - 8a, The lure of Mesoamerican "evidence" to BYU/CES students

I've often wondered how I was deceived* for so long by M2C (Mesoamerica/two-Cumorahs theory). I learned it in seminary as a high-school student, but we accepted pretty much everything our Seminary teachers taught us back then because, frankly, we were more interested in other things during high school.

That hasn't changed, of course, although the Internet has enabled high school students to discover for themselves that their Seminary curriculum isn't telling them what the prophets have taught about Cumorah. Plenty of them use google, which takes them to sites such as this:

I was also taught M2C at BYU, where I had a Freshman Honors class with John Sorenson. FARMS was in full M2C mode, of course. There was really no viable option at the time; you either accepted M2C or you were ignorant and probably didn't really believe in the Book of Mormon.

The strange thing is, no one talked about what the prophets taught.

We all know that people who leave--or decline to investigate--the Church cite a lack of openness about Church history as one of the top reasons for their decision.

What other conclusion can they reach when even BYU/CES students are being deliberately misled about the consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah?

It's not only BYU/CES. The Church History Department is perpetuating the M2C dogma, as I've shown in the notes in the Joseph Smith Papers and the displays in the Visitors Centers. Undoubtedly, M2C will appear in the new Church history volumes as well.

The M2C intellectuals justify themselves by citing "evidence" that to any non-M2C believer is transparent confirmation bias, which makes this all the worse. BYU/CES students are defenseless against this onslaught because they trust their teachers. The teachers very effectively mingle spiritual insights and lessons with their M2C dogma, enabling the students to swallow M2C whole.

In that sense, then, maybe I shouldn't assess the illusory nature of the M2C "evidence" and the logical fallacies used by the M2C proponents. I don't want anyone to question their faith about the spiritual truths of the Book of Mormon and it's authenticity as an ancient record of real people just because they discover their professors deceived them with M2C. We don't want people throwing the baby out with the bath water, etc.

But I think the greater danger is not exposing M2C for what it is. 

As long as BYU/CES continue to repudiate the prophets and teach M2C based on illusory evidence that works only because of confirmation bias, more people are likely to throw the baby out with the bath water when they realize they've been deceived by the very BYU/CES teachers they trusted.

If we ever get to the point where BYU/CES teachers embrace, instead of repudiate, the teachings of the prophets and apostles about Cumorah, we'll find a dramatic increase in acceptance of and enthusiasm about the Book of Mormon, both in the Church and among investigators.

So let's get started.

Before addressing the evidence specifically, I need to provide context. As I pointed out before, the book In Search of Cumorah dismissed Letter VII with a brief footnote.

Another influential
M2C book
John Sorenson's influential book, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, doesn't even mention Letter VII. He conflates the issue of Cumorah (which all of Joseph's contemporaries agreed was in New York because of Letter VII) with the diverse early opinions about the rest of the geography, which even the proponents at the time admitted was speculative.

And note this: neither Joseph nor Oliver ever engaged in that speculation. Joseph specifically taught that the "remnant are the Indians that now live in this country" and that the Midwest was the "plains of the Nephites,"** but beyond that neither of them clearly identified any sites other than Cumorah.***

While ignoring the consistent teachings about the New York Cumorah, Brother Sorenson cites the anonymous 1842 Times and Seasons articles as evidence that the early brethren relied on secular scholarship--that self-serving academic argument that we still get today from the M2C citation cartel.

I'll address Brother Sorenson's book in detail later, but for now, here's how he explained Cumorah:

"Let's review where the final battle took place. The Book of Mormon makes clear that the demise of both Jaredites and Nephites took place near the narrow neck of land. Yet New York is thousands of miles away from any plausible configuration that could be described as this narrow neck. Thus the scripture itself rules out the idea that the Nephites perished near Palmyra." (page 44).

This fallacy of this argument--it is circular reasoning, starting with the premise it seeks to prove--is obvious to me now, but when I was a freshman at BYU, I found this type of rhetoric persuasive.

Especially when I didn't realize Brother Sorenson was repudiating the prophets!

Right there, on page 44, Brother Sorenson is telling us that the two men who wrote and published and re-published Letter VII--Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery--contradicted the very Book of Mormon that they translated, transcribed, and published to the world. It is pure academic arrogance to assume that today, because we have PhDs and LiDAR, we know more about the Book of Mormon than the men who handled the plates, were taught by angels, visited the depository of Nephite records and artifacts, and identified the scene of the final battles, which they said was a fact.

It's possible that when I was a student at BYU no one knew that Joseph Smith had his scribes copy Letter VII into his personal history, the volume now known as History, 1834-1836, that he kept with him until he died. It's possible no one knew how frequently Letter VII was republished during Joseph's lifetime and afterward. Maybe people didn't even know what Brigham Young and others taught about the depository in the New York hill that Joseph, Oliver and others entered multiple times.

In retrospect, though, I think the M2C scholars knew more about Letter VII and the New York Cumorah than they admitted to their readers and students. After all, in 1975 and 1978, the New York Cumorah was unambiguously reaffirmed in General Conference as the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites.

I don't know whether or how FARMS responded to President Romney and Elder Petersen, but if they did, I assume they simply dismissed these prophets and apostles as ignorant speculators who were misleading the Church with their personal (and incorrect) opinions. At least, that's how they are characterizing them now.

And make no mistake. Today's BYU/CES teachers are fully aware of Letter VII, its context, its legacy, and the supporting evidence.

They just choose to repudiate the prophets because they prefer their own M2C interpretation.

What about today's students? With all we now know, how are they so easily persuaded to repudiate the prophets about the Hill Cumorah?

Historically, the aphorism applied: "if historians/scholars can keep just one generation in darkness on a given subject, then their work is done for all succeeding generations." But the Internet has changed that. And, despite the M2C commentary inserted in the notes, at least the Joseph Smith Papers give people access to original sources, such as Letter VII, if they look for them.

I wonder if I would have been as easily duped by the M2C intellectuals today as I was back when I attended BYU. I suppose if I was only reading what the M2C citation cartel published, I probably would be. The M2C citation cartel are going all out to protect their dogma from scrutiny and exposure, which I'll be documenting soon.

But there's another important weapon that the M2C intellectuals wield.

For a college student, the siren call of the intellectuals is alluring. You show up on campus at BYU (or in any Institute) and now you can learn from the real experts. No more simple Sunday School lessons, read from a manual. No more relying on what your parents told you.

Now you get the real stuff.

From approved, popular, and well-known professors.

And it's all "evidence-based" knowledge!

BYU fantasy map of the Book of Mormon
You go to your required Book of Mormon class, Religion A 121 or 122. Your professor uses the fantasy map to "help you understand" the text.

He/she tells you this map matches "the approximately 550 geography descriptions in the text as closely as possible." The message: other interpretations don't match the text.

You are familiar with the fantasy map because you learned basically the same map in Seminary, so you don't question anything.

You've been well indoctrinated, but now, at the university level, you're being prepared for life.

Your BYU/CES professor is making sure this interpretation of the text is imprinted on your mind for the rest of your life.

You will go on a mission. You will teach classes in Church. Maybe even in CES or at BYU. You will have leadership callings. Maybe you will someday work for the Church.

Wherever you go, you will promulgate the M2C dogma you learned at BYU/CES. 

BYU Studies map
Maybe your professor produces the BYU Studies map of Mesoamerica. (I've been told recently by BYU students who are currently taking the Book of Mormon class that their professors showed them maps of Mesoamerica in addition to the fantasy map. Supposedly the BYU Administration has told faculty not to use any real-world maps, but apparently it is more important to teach M2C than to comply with University policy.)

How do the BYU/CES professors get away with this?

CES fantasy map of the Book of Mormon
Mainly by never telling the students what the prophets have taught.

I've been told by BYU professors that they don't use any teachings of the prophets and apostles that are more than 30 years old (which conveniently lets them avoid the General Conference talks from the 1970s), except for what can be found in the manuals Teachings of the Presidents of the Church. But since those manuals have edited out everything that contradicts M2C, students are never taught the truth about Cumorah.

Unless they do their own research on the Internet.

As I wrote at the outset, we all know that people who leave--or decline to investigate--the Church cite a lack of openness about Church history as one of the top reasons for their decision.

What other conclusion can they reach when BYU/CES students are deliberately being misled about the consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah?

What all this means is, the evidence for M2C must be so powerful, so amazing, so convincing, and so irrefutable that it justifies brainwashing BYU/CES students into disbelieving the clear, unambiguous, and consistent teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah.

As we'll see in the next few days, the M2C evidence not only doesn't meet that standard, but it contradicts the text.

At the same time, the evidence that corroborates and supports the teachings of the prophets is impressive and persuasive.

* I realize the term "deceived" has a connotation of a plan and an intention. That's why I chose the term. I am not claiming anyone has lied about this, and none of this is a personal attack because I think the M2C proponents sincerely believe their ends justify their means. But I do think I was deceived by my teachers who didn't tell me everything they knew. Specifically, they kept me ignorant of the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah. And they're still doing it.

**You can read the complete Wentworth letter here:
Remember, don't look it up in the lesson manual Teaching of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith because the curriculum committee edited out the relevant passage to protect M2C. I explained this here:
https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/07/the-official-position-of-church-part-1.html. Joseph's identification of the remnant is consistent with the Lord's identification of the Lamanites as American Indians living in New York and Ohio (D&C 28, 30 and 32).

You can read about the plains if the Nephites in Joseph's letter to Emma, found in the Joseph Smith papers here: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-to-emma-smith-4-june-1834/2
"The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest men and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionaly the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity."

*** To be sure, Joseph identified the site of the New Jerusalem and arguably the site of Zarahemla and Manti, but those designations are less specific. While M2C advocates also press semantic arguments against the teachings of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Wentworth letter, and Joseph's letter to Emma, their logical fallacies on those points are laughable.

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