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, March 28, 2018

Benjamin Winchester Award 2017 - Gold Cup

The Benjamin Winchester Award recognizes individuals or groups who have done the most to promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory. In the future, we will limit consideration to work produced during a single calendar year (starting with 2018). Because this is the first year of the award, we looked at the entire body of work of various individuals and groups and have selected three winners.

The Bronze Cup went to Book of Mormon Central.
The Silver Cup went to Chris Heimerdinger.

Before we announce the winner of the Gold Cup, we need to discuss some doctrinal background. This is a little long, but it's important to establish the merits of the award.

There is plenty of precedent for people rejecting the prophets. All the standard works address the problem. Sometimes people stone the prophets; sometimes they ignore them. But in today's Church, there is another rationalization.

The M2C intellectuals, including BYU professors teaching Book of Mormon classes, teach that the words of the prophets about the New York Cumorah were merely their "opinions." 

This is precisely what President Benson warned against when he observed that "The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them, otherwise the prophet is just giving his opinion—speaking as a man." 


This selective repudiation of the prophets has been discussed throughout the scriptures.

Letter VII teaches in "words of plainness" that the Hill Cumorah is in New York. But the M2C intellectuals despise Letter VII.

For those willing to liken the scriptures to themselves, Jacob warned about this in Chapter 4:14 But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand.

Other times, people think they understand when they don't.

The Savior gave an example in 3 Nephi 15:3 And behold, this is the land of your inheritance; and the Father hath given it unto you.

14 And not at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell it unto your brethren at Jerusalem.

The question of Book of Mormon geography is the same question; i.e., where is the land of the inheritance of Lehi's descendants? Apart from Cumorah, the Lord hasn't told us specifically. Now let's look at the reasons.

15 Neither at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell unto them concerning the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land.

16 This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them:

17 That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

18 And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them...

Now we see why the Lord did not reveal more. What He did reveal was a test of their faith. But instead of believing what the Lord taught, the people "supposed" that they understood, and their understanding was wrong. The Lord let them languish in their confusion and misunderstanding.

That's the same way we ended up with M2C intellectuals rejecting the plain words and instead "supposing" that there are really two Cumorahs.

22 And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching.

23 And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice—that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost.

The Lord had clearly taught the people in Jerusalem that He would personally visit His other sheep, which meant they could not be Gentiles, but the people nevertheless misunderstood, and the Christian world has been confused about this ever since.

Likewise, the prophets have clearly taught that the Hill Cumorah is in New York, but our M2C intellectuals nevertheless misunderstood and members of the Church are confused, just as Joseph Fielding Smith said they would be if M2C continued to be taught.

Alma explained an important principle in Alma 12:

9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries.

Let's apply this to the New York Cumorah vs. M2C.*

[Note: this post does not address the futile semantic debates or the relative merits of arguments based on geography, geology, anthropology, archaeology, etc. M2C fails in all those areas, but because we're awarding the Benjamin Winchester Cup, we are focused on activities that have injured the Church by repudiating the prophets.]

Letter VII definitively established the New York setting for Cumorah.

President Cowdery declared it was a fact that the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place in the mile-wide valley west of the hill in New York from which Joseph obtained the plates hid up by Moroni. http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/90

President Cowdery's letter was partly a response to claims the Book of Mormon was fiction, but it was also a formal affirmation of a well-known truth among his contemporaries. See examples at the end of this post.**

Joseph Smith endorsed Letter VII multiple times, as have all of the modern prophets and apostles who have spoken or written about the issue. Not a single one has ever repudiated Letter VII.

But the recipient of today's Gold Cup has.

That's where Alma 12:9-11 comes into play.

Apart from the New York Cumorah, Book of Mormon geography has never been specifically and unambiguously identified by Church leaders. Yet everyone who reads the book wants to know where these events took place.

Many wonder why the Lord has not revealed the geography more specifically. I think Alma 12:9-11 is one answer.

Alma explains that the Lord reveals his word "according to the heed and diligence which" his people give unto him. When people harden their hearts, they get "the lesser portion of the word, until they know nothing concerning his mysteries."

That perfectly describes M2C.

The M2C intellectuals have hardened their hearts against the New York Cumorah. Now they are left knowing nothing about Book of Mormon geography. Having rejected what the prophets have taught, they even participate in futile searches for the "real" Cumorah in southern Mexico.

Incredibly, the M2C intellectuals project their confusion and ignorance onto Joseph Smith himself. One wrote, "To put the matter clearly: Joseph Smith did not fully understand the Book of Mormon." They actually believe (and teach) that Joseph was so unsure about Book of Mormon geography that he embraced a travel book about Central America as the answer.

The rejection of Joseph Smith started even when Joseph was alive. Joseph gave them instructions, but many early Church writers did not heed them.

For example, while traversing Ohio, Indiana and Illinois during Zion's Camp, Joseph Smith explained to the Brethren that they were crossing the plains of the Nephites. He wrote to Emma, describing what he was seeing: "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 [sic] 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."

These plains are mentioned three times in the text: i.e., "meet them upon the plains between the two cities" (Alma 52:20); "pitch their tents in the plains of Nephihah" (Alma 62:18) and "battle against them, upon the plains" (Alma 62:19). The Jaredites referred to the "plains of Agosh" (Ether 14:15-16) and the "plains of Heshlon" (Ether 13:28-29).

Some early members of the Church, despite knowing Cumorah was in New York, speculated about the other locations. Although they participated on Zion's Camp, the Pratt brothers (Parley and Orson) famously taught that North America was the land northward, South America was the land southward, and Panama was the "narrow neck." Benjamin Winchester, another Zion's Camp participant, wrote the anonymous articles in the Times and Seasons that placed Zarahemla in Guatemala (the origin of M2C).

We don't know whether the Pratts and Winchester heard Joseph's recounting of Book of Mormon history during Zion's Camp--there were over 100 men on the journey--but we do know that Joseph Smith expressed frustration with these three men for not heeding his counsel. Joseph said Winchester had a rotten heart and would injure the Church as much as he could. When he wrote the Wentworth letter, Joseph edited out Orson Pratt's hemispheric theory and replaced it with the simple statement that "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."


Because of today's Gold Cup winner, members of the Church will never learn about this.

Alma is not the only one who taught that the Lord gives a little to test the faith and diligence of His people.

Mormon wanted to write more of the teachings of Christ to the Nephites, but he was forbidden.

3 Nephi 26:9 And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.

10 And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.

11 Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people.

12 Therefore I, Mormon, do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord.

When we don't accept the things we have been given, the Lord withholds greater things.

The New York Cumorah is the barest minimum that the Lord could have provided to test our faith, and yet our M2C intellectuals have completely rejected it. Thanks to today's Gold Cup winner, fewer and fewer members of the Church even know what the prophets have taught. The rising generation will never learn about it.

Mormon observed a similar problem in the days of King Benjamin:

Mosiah 26:1  Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.

In the same way, the rising generation in the Church cannot understand the words of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. M2C has been imprinted on their minds from their earliest childhood right through CES/BYU and the MTC.

In 1 Nephi 15, Nephi's brothers "were disputing one with another concerning the things which [their] father had spoken unto them." Nephi was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts. He asked the cause of their disputations.

7 And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken...

8 And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?

9 And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.

The M2C intellectuals insist that the Lord has never revealed the location of any Book of Mormon locations, including Cumorah.

To reach this conclusion, they teach
(i) that President Cowdery was uninspired when he wrote Letter VII,
(ii) that either President Cowdery lied or Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and Heber C. Kimball misunderstood Oliver's statements that he and Joseph had actually visited Mormon's depository of records in the Hill Cumorah;
(iii) that David Whitmer and Lucy Mack Smith had faulty memories,
(iv) that Joseph was not referring to the New York Cumorah in D&C 128 (even though Letter VII had been published in the Times and Seasons a year before he wrote D&C 128),
(v) that the Wentworth letter was referring to Indians in Central America (even though he had met with the Sac and Fox tribe just six months previously and had told them the Book of Mormon was the record of their fathers)
(vi) that Joseph adopted a false tradition about Cumorah that misled the Church until they, the intellectuals, figured out the "real" Cumorah is in Mexico.

You probably get the idea by now. I could go on, and I'm sure you can think of many more examples from the scriptures that apply. It's fascinating to observe the prophetic warnings being played out in our day.

So now we come to the point: the winner of the 2017 Benjamin Winchester Gold Cup is the Correlation Department of the Church.

We emphasize: the Department is entirely distinct from the Correlation Committee. Not a single member of the Quorum of the Twelve or the First Presidency has ever repudiated the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

But the Correlation Department definitely has.

For that reason, we award the Gold Cup to Church employees who promote M2C from within the Church.

The award isn't limited to those in the Correlation Department, but the Correlation Department really controls what is said, written, and depicted throughout the Church.

We won't take the time to discuss correlation generally. There is an excellent explanation of Correlation here: http://www.truthwillprevail.xyz/2016/01/who-why-and-what-is-church-correlation.html

The parameters of the Correlation Department were set out in a 1978 letter:

The Correlation Department has been given responsibility to ensure more effective correlation of activities and programs of the various priesthood and auxiliary organizations and church departments.

            This department is responsible to review proposed activities, programs, handbooks, curricula, policies, procedures, practices, plans, terminology, training and leadership materials, and other materials intended for use throughout the Church for content, doctrine, and correlation.  Thus, such proposed items prepared by general Church departments and organizations should be submitted to the Correlation Department for review.

            The Correlation Department is not an origination nor implementing organization, but it will ensure that the policies approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve are consistently and uniformly applied.

Certainly the Correlation Department does an excellent job ensuring that Church policies are consistently and uniformly applied. But the Correlation Department has also taken its own initiative to originate and implement M2C, gradually and subtly at first, but openly now.

On this blog, we've discussed five specific techniques used by M2C intellectuals to promote M2C throughout the Church. E.g., http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/03/m2c-technique-1-suppressing-and.html

Without the participation of the Correlation Department, though, these techniques could not have prevailed. Without the M2C agenda of the Correlation Department, we would not have the Visitors Center on Temple Square teaching the two-Cumorahs theory.

For that matter, we would not have the Visitor Center at the Hill Cumorah in New York teaching the two-Cumorahs theory!

A good example of the work of the Correlation Department is the April issue of the Ensign.

On the inside back cover is Minerva Teichert's painting, "Christ Visits the Nephites." This depicts Christ appearing at a Mayan temple, complete with the Mayan temple of the feathered serpent from Teotihuacan.

The painting is found in the Church History web page, here:

Incredibly, the web page assigns this title: "Christ Blesses the Nephites at the Bountiful Temple," with a reference to 3 Nephi 11:7. Thanks to the Correlation Department, we have a direct identification of the Nephite Bountiful Temple as a Mayan temple.

For more M2C art, go here: https://history.lds.org/exhibit/-christ-in-the-americas-exhibit?lang=eng

Also in this issue is Chapter 3 of Saints, the new Church history book published by the Church History department. This is a wonderful new book, and it's great that the book at least cites Letters IV, VII and VIII. But the notes refer to "LDS Messenger and Advocate," a source few Church members are familiar with or know how to look up. They could have cited Joseph Smith's History 1834-1836 right in the Joseph Smith papers themselves, as they do with other references in the notes.

Even if you look at the chapter online, the reference goes to the first page of the archive.org edition of the Messenger and Advocate instead of to the actual page where these letters are found. It would have been much easier for people to go to the copy in the Joseph Smith Papers (or the Times and Seasons, Millennial Star or Improvement Era, which also published these letters and are more familiar to Church members).

This may sound like quibbling but it's a question of accessibility and credibility.

Note 9 cites Oliver Cowdery, Letter IV, but lists pages 65-67, which are actually W.W. Phelps' Letter 4. Oliver's letter, which refers to the Urim and Thummim, starts on page 77.

In fact, if you go to the online version and look at footnote 13, which references Letter VII, the link actually lists Letter IV twice, not Letter VII. And it goes to the first page of the Messenger and Advocate, not the page where these letters are actually found.

Go to https://lds.org/languages/eng/content/history/saints-v1/03-plates-of-gold and click on note 13.

Here's where Letter IV starts:

Here's where Letter VII starts:

That's all technical stuff. Here's what I consider to be M2C influence, originating with the Correlation Department (and/or the History department, but either way, it is Church employees promoting M2C from within).

From Saints:

Moroni spoke of gold plates buried in a nearby hill. On the plates was etched the record of an ancient people who once lived in the Americas. The record told of their origins and gave an account of Jesus Christ visiting them and teaching the fullness of His gospel.8 Buried with the plates, Moroni said, were two seer stones, which Joseph later called the Urim and Thummim, or interpreters.

From Letter IV:

He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigines of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham. He represented them as once being an enlightened and intelligent people, possessing a correct knowledge of the gospel, and the plan of restoration and redemption. He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother's privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain, and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.

Do you see the difference?

Our Gold Cup winner, the Correlation Department, transforms President Cowdery's language "a history of the aborigines of this country" into the M2C version: "the record of an ancient people who once lived in the Americas." 

IOW, Moroni referred to "the aborigines of this country" but Church members are being told he said "an ancient people who once lived in the Americas."

It's unbelievable, isn't it?

The Correlation Department knows that few if any readers will look up the original sources. Doing so is deliberately made more difficult by the citation to the Messenger and Advocate instead of the Joseph Smith Papers, the online link to the first page of the archive.org version of the Messenger and Advocate, and the citation to the wrong letter on the wrong page.

Plus, there is the additional problem of these original sources being available only in English, while Saints is translated into 14 languages (print version) and over 40 languages online.

This means that very few, if any, members of the Church will learn what Moroni actually told Joseph Smith!

Notice two other points. Moroni told Joseph that "this history was written and deposited not far from that place," meaning Joseph's home near Palmyra. It was not written in Mesoamerica and hauled 3400 miles to Palmyra. But the M2C version of history we are getting in Saints skips right over this.

Next, notice that in Letter IV, Oliver has Moroni calling the interpreters the Urim and Thummim. Recall that Joseph helped write these letters; in fact, Oliver notes that he could only have gotten this information from Joseph.

There's a widespread assumption among Church historians that it was W.W. Phelps, not Joseph, who identified the interpreters as the Urim and Thummim. According to them, Joseph later adopted Phelps' term. The reason is that Phelps was the first to put this in writing (in the Evening and Morning Star). It's possible that Joseph did adopt Phelps' term, which plays in the M2C narrative that Joseph also adopted others' false ideas about the New York Cumorah.

However, Oliver was using documents no longer extant (which I think include his notebook in which he recorded what Joseph told him when they were translating the plates in Harmony in 1829). Between such sources and Joseph's own memory, why should we say, as a fact, that Joseph later called these the Urim and Thummim instead of reflecting what Moroni said as reported in Letter IV?

I realize this is a lot of detail, but this example from the Ensign is really the tip of the iceberg of what the Correlation Department has been doing to rewrite history and suppress what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, the identification of the descendants of Lehi, etc.

We've seen M2C promoted throughout Church curriculum, visitors centers, media, etc. Before we address the rationales they give, let's remember an important fact.

No member of the Twelve or First Presidency has ever repudiated the teachings of their predecessors about the New York Cumorah.

M2C is purely an invention of M2C intellectuals and the Church employees (including CES/BYU educators) who follow them.

Two rationales from the Correlation Department:

1. There are people working in the Correlation Department who claim the Church has never taught the New York Cumorah.

This is the M2C tactic we identified here:

In reality, as far back as the 1930s, Joseph Fielding Smith observed that the New York Cumorah had been taught by the Church for over 100 years. He was concerned about M2C because he knew it would cause members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith. He reiterated his warning when he was President of the Quorum of the Twelve, but the M2C intellectuals rejected him.

The Church itself published James E. Talmage's Articles of Faith, which teaches that the New York Cumorah was the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites.

In 1975, when M2C was gaining adherents among scholars, President Marion G. Romney gave his talk in General Conference about America's Destiny, in which he reaffirmed, in no uncertain terms, that the hill Cumorah in New York was the site of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites. First the M2C intellectuals rejected President Romney's testimony, and now the Correlation Department has followed suit.

A 1990 letter endorsed by each member of the First Presidency--Ezra Taft Benson, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas S. Monson--observed that "The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities, that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon." The letter was widely circulated but our M2C intellectuals have rejected it, along with the Correlation Department.

2. There are people working in the Correlation Department who claim the New York Cumorah is not important.

FairMormon and the Correlation Department both circulate collections of out-of-context statements by some Church leaders that supposedly shows it doesn't matter where the Book of Mormon took place. I've addressed these throughout my blogs.

We stipulate that the spiritual messages of the Book of Mormon are more important than its setting. That's axiomatic. But that doesn't mean the setting is unimportant.

The "unimportant" argument is akin to saying the Word of Wisdom is unimportant because the Atonement is more important.

Joseph Smith himself wrote about "recounting occasionaly [sic] 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."

Joseph's contemporaries often used the phrase "divine authenticity" that he used in this letter to Emma. They cited physical evidence to the best of their knowledge, but the only facts they cited were those set forth in Letter VII, which emphasized the fact that the Hill Cumorah was in New York to counter the arguments that the Book of Mormon was fiction.

Joseph made sure Letter VII was widely published for the Saints of his day, but also for the world at large, by having it reprinted in the major media centers of his day: Philadelphia, New York City, Edinburgh, and Liverpool.

Today, most of the world, if they think about the Book of Mormon at all, think of it as a work of 19th Century fiction. 

The teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are a powerful, direct refutation of the claim that the Book of Mormon is fiction. But because M2C has replaced the teachings of the prophets, Church members and missionaries are left with the ineffective M2C response that, as the critics know, repudiates the prophets.

Plus, M2C fails the plausibility test on the archaeology, anthropology, geography, geology, and simple interpretation of the text.

Worst of all, members of the Church are being led to conclude the Book of Mormon is fiction because they are being taught to think of it as taking place in a fantasy world, thanks to the fantasy maps developed and taught by CES/BYU. And this is all approved by the Correlation Department.

There has never been a time in the history of the Church when it was more important to heed the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah than now.

But the Correlation Department is moving full steam ahead on promoting M2C throughout the Church.

For that reason,

Tip your hats and give a round of applause to 
The Correlation Department 
the 2017 Winner of the Gold Trophy of the Benjamin Winchester Award!

* M2C is the acronym for the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorah's theory.

** Even before he obtained the plates, Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah. His mother quoted him: "I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to <​be​> brought forth." Online here: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1845/111

Parley P. Pratt recorded Elder Cowdery's speech to the Lamanites in 1831, including this comment: "This Book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him Cumorah, which hill is now in the state of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario County." (Autobiography of P.P. Pratt p 56-61, online here.)

David Whitmer said Joseph Smith "told me that he first found the plates in the year 1823; that during the fall of 1827 [sic] he had a vision, an angel appearing to him three times in one night and telling him that there was a record of an ancient people deposited in a hill near his father's house, called by the ancients 'Cumorah,' situated in the township of Manchester, Ontario county, N. Y." (online here).

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