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.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Lulling the Saints into accepting M2C

I was pondering a theme for this week's posts when I saw this scripture at the top of our High Council agenda yesterday:

Jacob 4:10 Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.

That epitomizes the issues we'll discuss in the blog this week.

We are fascinated and appalled that in the Church today, certain intellectuals have succeeded in persuading CES, BYU, and the Curriculum, Missionary and Church History departments to teach the youth, missionaries, and members generally that the prophets* are wrong about the New York Cumorah. They do this to promote their M2C** theory.

Some people are uncomfortable discussing specific organizations, but it is time to get real. It is way past time to pretend this is not a serious problem, that it doesn't matter, etc.

M2C directly impacts faith and confidence in both the prophets and the Book of Mormon itself.

As we've seen, Church curriculum has already been carefully edited to promote M2C. Now the Church is about to publish a version of Church history, to be translated into 14 languages, that will firmly establish M2C for future generations. The first chapters have been excerpted in the Ensign. The narrative approach is appealing and effective, and will surely help members and nonmembers alike better understand the important events and context of the Restoration of the Gospel.

However, the book will not mention Letter VII or any of the prophetic teachings about the New York Cumorah. To the extent it even acknowledges the New York Cumorah, this new version of Church history, like the editorial comments in the Joseph Smith Papers, will reinforce the M2C teaching that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah, and that it is the efforts of the M2C intellectuals who have saved the Church from the mistakes of the prophets.

These intellectuals know their M2C theory would be rejected by the Saints if it was overt. That's why they have utilized a variety of sophisticated techniques to lull the Saints into accepting M2C passively without even noticing what is happening.

We'll be discussing some of these techniques this week:

1. Suppressing and censoring the words of the prophets

2. Using sophistry to teach the prophets are wrong

3. Causing confusion by conflating separate and distinct teachings of the prophets

4. Imprinting the M2C theory on the minds of vulnerable students and missionaries (and investigators) through media, artwork, displays, and academic publications

5. Dressing the new idea (M2C) in old habits to make it easier to accept.

Here's an introduction to technique #1, suppression and censorship.

The M2C intellectuals recognize that one of the biggest threats to their theory is Letter VII.*** They have concocted a variety of reasons why the Saints should disbelieve Letter VII, some of which I have addressed here: http://www.lettervii.com/2017/01/why-some-people-reject-letter-vii.html

Their arguments against Letter VII expose the cognitive dissonance the M2C intellectuals feel. Cognitive dissonance "is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values."

We stipulate that the M2C intellectuals are faithful members of the Church, which means that, in theory, they accept the teachings of the prophets. But with Letter VII (and its context and progeny), they face the clear, unambiguous words of the prophets that contradict their theory.

The prophets and M2C cannot both be true.  Here's how the M2C intellectuals resolve their cognitive dissonance:
M2C intellectuals at BYU/CES confront Letter VII - h/t to Scott Adams


It's important at the outset to distinguish between the M2C intellectuals and the people who have innocently relied on their teachings.

When we refer to M2C intellectuals, we mean those who are fully aware of Letter VII, its context and progeny (as well as the scientific evidence that supports Letter VII), but who nevertheless choose to reject the words of the prophets. 

BYU fantasy map
of the Book of Mormon
There are many CES/BYU teachers and Church employees who have believed and taught M2C their entire lives because they didn't know any better. Most of them have never heard of Letter VII or the teachings of the prophets that confirm Letter VII.

When faced with the cognitive dissonance depicted in the edited Dilbert cartoon above, many CES/BYU teachers and Church employees do not reject the prophets. Instead, they reject M2C.

Once they learn about the New York Cumorah, they readily change their views to align with the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. These are not the M2C intellectuals we are discussing this week.

Because Letter VII contradicts their bias, M2C intellectuals realize their arguments against believing the prophets are, to say the least, problematic in at least two ways:

(i) Most Church members are uncomfortable with teachings that directly repudiate the prophets, so when they realize what M2C is really teaching, they reject M2C.

(ii) Even when Church members follow the M2C intellectuals instead of the prophets, they are left with uncomfortable cognitive dissonance.

The M2C intellectuals know they can resolve both problems by simply keeping the people ignorant of the existence of Letter VII.

This technique isn't new. It's not unique to M2C intellectuals. But it is highly effective.

On p. 249 of his book, Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom explains how this technique works. “The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable..."

We've documented in this blog plenty of examples of how the M2C citation cartel (BYU Studies, the Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, BMAF, Meridian Magazine, etc.) actively implement the technique exposed by Bloom in this passage. Members of the M2C citation cartel steadfastly remove the awareness of other possibilities by refusing to educate readers about the teachings of the prophets regarding the New York Cumorah. 

The M2C intellectuals have not yet succeeded in completely erasing Letter VII from Church history. Fortunately, Joseph Smith had his scribes copy Letter VII into his personal history as part of his life story, so anyone can read it in the Joseph Smith Papers at this link:

But the editorial commentary goes out of its way to obscure the significance of Letter VII, as we've discussed before.

Nevertheless, because some Church members still read actual Church history and not merely the sanitized versions published by M2C intellectuals, the M2C citation cartel has had to "make it seem inconceivable that the New York Cumorah is viable." That's a separate technique we'll discuss later.

(Recall that the M2C objection to the New York Cumorah is a corner these intellectuals have painted themselves into. It is the M2C proponents themselves who insist a New York Cumorah is inconsistent with a Mesoamerican setting. The prophets have definitely taught that Cumorah is in New York, but they have just as definitely taught that the rest of Book of Mormon geography is a matter of ongoing study, consideration, and future revelation. There is no reason, based on the teachings of the prophets alone, that the New York Cumorah must be rejected to support a Mesoamerican setting.)

Let's return to the teachings of Jacob in Chapter 4. Think about this in the context of Letter VII and the many confirmations of the New York Cumorah by the prophets over the decades, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.

Then compare the clarity of the New York Cumorah with the confusing teachings of the M2C intellectuals who reject these plain teachings of the prophets.

13 Behold, my brethren, he that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. But behold, we are not witnesses alone in these things; for God also spake them unto prophets of old.

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. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.

Now, consider how the M2C intellectuals despise the words of plainness in Letter VII, and how M2C has introduced complexity and sophistry into what had long been a simple, clear teaching about the New York Cumorah. These M2C intellectuals and the CES/BYU teachers who follow them are imprinting the minds of our youth and missionaries with a fantasy map of the Book of Mormon that declares Cumorah cannot be in New York.

M2C intellectuals look beyond the mark of the New York Cumorah to pursue a futile search for Cumorah in southern Mexico. 


* For brevity sake, I refer to the apostles as prophets instead of their full title: prophet, seer and revelator.

**M2C is the acronym for Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, which is the idea that the "hill in New York" where Joseph found the plates was mis-named Cumorah because the "real Cumorah" of Mormon 6:6 and Ether 15:11 is somewhere in southern Mexico (or Baja, or Panama, or Chile, etc.) instead of New York. The intellectuals explain away the words of the prophets by teaching the youth that there are actually "two Cumorahs," consisting of a false one in New York and a real one in southern Mexico.

***Letter VII is the seventh of eight essays (the first Gospel Topics essays) written by President Oliver Cowdery with the assistance of Joseph Smith. In Letter VII, President Cowdery declares it is a fact that the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place in the mile-wide valley of the Hill Cumorah in New York. This, President Cowdery declared, is the same hill from which Joseph obtained the plates from Moroni's stone-and-cement box. It is the same hill that contained Mormon's depository of Nephite records (Mormon 6:6), which President Cowdery knew because he and Joseph had visited that depository multiple times.

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