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.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

How the Correlation Department promotes M2C

Many people want to know why the Brethren don't formally address the issue of Book of Mormon geography. My answer: they have. They've addressed it for over 160 years. They've consistently made two points:

1. The Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in New York.
2. We don't know the details of the rest of the geography.*

The Brethren are not obligated to respond to every academic theory that arises, especially when the record is as clear as it is regarding the New York Cumorah. How many more times would the Brethren have to reiterate these teachings before the intellectuals would accept them? 

As lawyers say, the question of Cumorah has been "asked and answered."

However, certain LDS intellectuals refuse to accept the answer. The influence of these intellectuals is pervasive and growing in the Church. In this blog we've documented many examples, but today we're going to look at the Correlation Department.**

Until we LDS unite around the prophets' teachings about the New York Cumorah, confusion will persist, to the detriment of missionary, retention and activation work.

Many people think the Church's official policy on Book of Mormon geography is neutrality. But in reality, we all know that Church-produced materials, visitors center displays, media, artwork, curriculum, etc. all depict the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C). The April 2018 Ensign is merely the latest example.

How do we explain this contradiction between what the prophets have taught and what we see everywhere?

The Correlation Department thinks this: 
M2C = neutrality! 

That's why the Department requires that Church-produced materials, displays, media, etc. always depict the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica and forbids any mention of the New York Cumorah. 

That's why we have M2C on full display at the visitors center on Temple Square, M2C causing the History Department to rewrite Church history, M2C on prominent display at the MTC, in the illustrations in the Book of Mormon, etc.

To be sure, the Correlation Department doesn't care what I have to say. Nor do the other Church departments. This blog post will make no difference as far as the promotion of M2C, but I hope it will help readers understand why we see M2C everywhere in the Church.

Plus, there's no doubt the Correlation Department employees think they are doing the right thing. Most if not all of them have been taught M2C at BYU/CES. We infer from the document we'll discuss below that they don't even know what the prophets have actually taught. No one who has been educated by BYU/CES in recent years knows what the prophets have taught about Cumorah. We infer they don't know because we don't believe that they would intentionally misrepresent those teachings, even though the document itself does exactly that.

If you write to Church headquarters and ask about Cumorah and/or Book of Mormon geography, your letter will go to the Correlation Department for a response. They have a standard letter they send out, accompanied by a document titled "Prophetic Statements on BOM Geography." I've had multiple people share this with me and I've addressed the issues for years on this blog.

Today we will discuss the actual document to save time for those who are thinking about writing to the Church about your concerns about the M2C intellectuals.

If you do write such a letter, the Correlation Department will tell you that:

1. Some Church leaders "have made suggestions" about Book of Mormon geography,
2. The First Presidency has not definitely revealed the precise locations of the geography, and
3. The geography doesn't matter anyway.

Let's briefly look at the evidence and you can decide for yourself whether these claims are accurate or if they are misleading because they cleverly use partial truths to obfuscate important historical facts.

1. Suggestions. It's true that some Church leaders have made suggestions about Book of Mormon geography. But those suggestions all involve geography questions other than Cumorah.

Regarding Cumorah, Church leaders have consistently and specifically taught the fact, as Letter VII declared, that Cumorah (Mormon 6:6) is in New York. The Correlation Department never tells people about these teachings and doesn't allow these teachings to be included in lesson manuals, visitors centers, Church magazines (except Conference reports), Church artwork, etc. Even the Visitors Center at the Hill Cumorah in New York teaches M2C.

Regarding the rest of Book of Mormon geography, Church leaders have consistently and specifically taught that we don't know for sure where the other events took place. And yet, the Correlation Department insists that all Church-produced material depict Mesoamerica.

The Department is conflating these two points to justify its promotion of M2C throughout the Church. IOW, it is promoting M2C by implementing technique 3 as discussed here:

2. The First Presidency. The First Presidency in 1835 consisted of Joseph Smith, President; Oliver Cowdery, Assistant President; Sidney Rigdon, First Counselor; and Frederick G. Williams, Second Counselor. President Cowdery wrote a series of eight essays, published as letters, with the assistance of Joseph Smith. Part of Letter I is canonized in the Pearl of Great Price. Letter VII declares it is a fact that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the same hill from which Joseph obtained the plates.

Joseph had his scribes copy it into his personal history (fortunately for us, because now it's in the Joseph Smith Papers and even the Correlation Department can't erase it from there).

The first scribe to copy these essays into Joseph's history was President Williams. Joseph Smith personally approved and directed the republication of these essays in every Church-related publication of his time. President Rigdon is also on record as having no objection to the republication of these essays. Thus, Letter VII originated with the First Presidency and, despite relatively little documentation from that period of Church history, we do have records that all members of the First Presidency approved these essays.

No First Presidency since has ever revoked, repudiated, or even questioned Letter VII.

Instead, members of the First Presidency have specifically taught the New York Cumorah--including in General Conference.

Here are a few examples of how the First Presidency has been involved with teaching the New York Cumorah.

In 1905, the First Presidency asked James E. Talmage to write the book that became Jesus the Christ. Elder Talmage wrote the book in the Salt Lake Temple. The desk he used is on display at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City. The Church owns the copyright and published the book. It contains this statement about Cumorah:

For many decades the Nephites retreated before their aggressive foes, making their way north-eastward through what is now the United States. About 400 A.D. the last great battle was fought near the hill Cumorah; and the Nephite nation became extinct. The degenerate remnant of Lehi's posterity, the Lamanites or American Indians, have continued until this day. Moroni, the last of the Nephite prophets, hid away the record of his people in the hill Cumorah, whence it has been brought forth by divine direction in the current dispensation.... Joseph's father instructed him to obey the messenger's instructions and testified that they were given of God. Joseph then went to the locality specified by the angel, on the side of a hill called in the record Cumorah,

The index reads:

Cumorah, scene of last Nephite battle, 742; 
  Book of Mormon plates taken from, 767.

You can read the book here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22542/22542-h/22542-h.htm

Elder Talmage also wrote Articles of Faith (also published by the Church) in which he specifically distinguished between the certainty about the New York Cumorah and the uncertainty about the rest of Book of Mormon geography. I discussed this here:

In 1943, the First Presidency (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, David O. McKay) approved a book for members of the military titled Principles of the Gospel. it contains this statement on p. 92:

"This record, engraved upon plates of gold, was deposited about 420 A.D. by Moroni, the last of these ancient prophets, inside a stone box, in a hill located in the western part of the State of New York, and which was called by the Nephites, Cumorah . . . . "

In 1980, the entire First Presidency signed off on a letter that affirmed the New York Cumorah by stating, "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 Correlation Department will never tell people about this letter, but it is widely available online, such as here.

Why does the Correlation Department never tell people about these and other teachings about Cumorah related to the First Presidency? The only answer that is consistent with everything else the Department does is because these statements contradict M2C.

3. What matters. The Correlation Department says the geography doesn't matter, but the statements they provide involve (i) comparative importance and (ii) geography other than Cumorah (with one exception that I address below).

Everyone agrees that the spiritual message of the Book of Mormon is more important than the geography, but that doesn't mean the geography is unimportant.

The logical fallacy (the Department's argument that if something is less important than something else, then it is unimportant) is apparent when we consider what Joseph Smith taught about relative importance.

The fundamental principles of our religion is the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, “that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven;” and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion. But in connection with these, we believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost, the power of faith, the enjoyment of the spiritual gifts according to the will of God, the restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth.


Everything in the Church is less important than the Resurrection and Atonement of the Savior, but that doesn't mean other things in the Church are unimportant.

Besides, if the Correlation Department really thought the geography doesn't matter, it would not suppress Letter VII. It would at least occasionally approve Church-produced materials that support the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah instead of only allowing materials that repudiate the prophets and support M2C.

But M2C is so deeply believed by Church employees in the Correlation Department that they either (i) don't know about Letter VII and what the prophets have taught or (ii) don't want members to even know about these teachings. Either way, the Correlation Department makes sure that Letter VII cannot be published, depicted or even quoted in Church materials. Nor can the many teachings of the prophets regarding the New York Cumorah.

It turns out that, for the Correlation Department, geography matters a great deal. That's why they promote M2C extensively throughout Church curriculum, visitors centers, artwork, etc. The Correlation Department also makes sure the Church History and Missionary departments also promote M2C. And that's how we end up with BYU/CES teaching students that the Book of Mormon took place in a fantasy world.

I mentioned recently that Joseph Smith himself recognized the importance of actual evidence when he recounted "the history of the Book of Mormon" while passing through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, which he said were "the plains of the Nephites." He described "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."***

On another occasion, President Cowdery responded to reports that the Latter-day Saints disbelieved the Bible. He wrote, "We believe that sacred record from the evidence we have of its divine authenticity, and because we believe it a consistent book, when taken in its true meaning." (Messenger and Advocate, October 1836, p. 385).

Evidence to support the divine authenticity of the Bible was just as important as evidence to support the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

Joseph thought "proof of its divine authenticity" was important during his lifetime, so why would it not be important now?

The answer may be as simple as this: because the M2C intellectuals have persuaded so many people that the "best evidence" of the Book of Mormon is M2C, which contradicts the teachings of the prophets, the Correlation Department diverts attention from the issue, conflates Cumorah with the rest of the geography, and suppresses the actual teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

M2C prevails only in an environment of ignorance and disbelief of the prophets.

This is the fulfillment of President Joseph Fielding Smith's warning that M2C would cause members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

Below is the Correlation Department's document (in blue), accompanied by my comments (in black). I've seen various versions of this document, but this includes the quotations they send to people who ask about the New York Cumorah. As you read this, consider whether this document educates people about the teachings of the prophets regarding the New York Cumorah.

Prophetic Statements on BOM Geography

President Russell M. Nelson
"I would like to add my testimony of the divinity of this book. I have read it many times. I have also read much that has been written about it. Some authors have focused upon its stories, its people, or its vignettes of history. Others have been intrigued by its language structure or its records of weapons, geography, animal life, techniques of building, or systems of weights and measures.

Interesting as these matters may be, study of the Book of Mormon is most rewarding when one focuses on its primary purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ. By comparison, all other issues are incidental."  [Ensign, November 1999, 69.]

We all agree with President Nelson about the hierarchy of importance; the spiritual message is far more important than other messages. All the prophets and apostles have made that point in one way or another. It's a given.

Joseph Smith recognized this truth as well, but he also spoke about physical evidence in Ohio as proof of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Notice, President Nelson said these other issues are incidental by comparison. That doesn't mean they are unimportant.

Sometimes we read Moroni 10:3-5 and stop there--but Moroni did not stop with verse 5. Most active members of the Church have a spiritual testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. They are self-selected into activity because they have the gift of "exceedingly great faith" (verse 11). Moroni assured us that "by the power of the Holy Ghost [we] may know the truth of all things," but he never said that there is only one way the Holy Ghost teaches us. Instead, Moroni exhorted us not to deny the gifts of God. Not everyone has the gift of "exceedingly great faith." Others have the gift of knowledge, or wisdom, tongues, etc. Hence the importance, as Joseph taught, of "proof of its divine authenticity."

President Gordon B. Hinckley
The evidence for its [BOM] truth, for its validity in a world that is prone to demand evidence, lies not in archaeology or anthropology, though these may be helpful to some. It lies not in word research or historical analysis, though these may be confirmatory. The evidence for its truth and validity lies within the covers of the book itself. The test of its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God. Reasonable men may sincerely question its origin; but those who have read it prayerfully have come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true, that it contains the word of God, that it outlines saving truths of the everlasting gospel, that it came forth by the gift and power of God “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ. (Book of Mormon title page.) (Ensign, November 1984, 52)

President Hinckley here noted that evidence "may be helpful to some." This is the point Joseph made when crossing Ohio and teaching the Brethren how the mounds were proof of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. It's the same point that Moroni makes when he reminds us there are many gifts of God.

President Harold B. Lee
Some say the Hill Cumorah was in southern Mexico (and someone pushed it down still farther) and not in western New York. Well, if the Lord wanted us to know where it was or where Zarahemla was, He’d have given us latitude and longitude, don’t you think? And why bother our heads trying to discover with archaeological certainty the geographical locations of the cities of the Book of Mormon like Zarahemla?
The witness of the Book of Mormon is not found in the ruins of Central and South America. They may be outward evidences of a people long since disappeared. The real witness is that which is found in the Book of Mormon itself. [The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 155- 156.]

This is my favorite out-of-context quotation. FairMormon also quotes it out of context. (I wonder if FairMormon provided these quotations to the Correlation Department or vice versa.) 

President (then Elder) Lee gave this obscure talk in 1966 in a private meeting with Church educators. As such, it hardly compares with the definitive declarations about the New York Cumorah delivered by President Lee's own Counselor in the First Presidency, President Marion G. Romney, in General Conference in 1975. Yet instead of presenting President Romney's General Conference address, the Correlation Department scoured its sources to come up with this little-known, private comment by Elder Lee in 1966.

Worse, when read in context, we see that Elder Lee listed the Mesoamerican Cumorah among three other false doctrines the educators were teaching. You can see my more detailed analysis here: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/10/fairmormons-famous-harold-b-lee.html 

President Howard W. Hunter
Faith is required for a divine reason. Faith is the assurance of the existence of a truth even though it is not evident or cannot be proved by positive evidence. Suppose that all things could be proven by demonstrative evidence. What then would become of the element of faith? There would be no need for faith and it would be eliminated, giving rise then to this query: If faith is the first step or principle of the gospel and is eliminated, what happens to the gospel plan? The very foundation will crumble. I submit that there is a divine reason why all things cannot be proven by concrete evidence. [Ensign, May 1975, 38.]

Everyone agrees with this. No one is arguing that "all things" about the Book of Mormon can be proven by demonstrative evidence. But some things can be, and the New York Cumorah is one of them.

President Cowdery and Joseph Smith wrote Letter VII specifically to respond to claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction. They declared it was a fact, a term that defines "a thing that is indisputably the case." Knowing that Cumorah is in New York does not eliminate the need for faith, any more than knowing Jerusalem is in Israel removes the need for faith. Not a single one of the Brethren who have taught the New York Cumorah for decades thought that fact would remove the need for faith.

But knowing the fact that Cumorah is in New York supports faith and eliminates confusion among believers at least regarding that one fact. That's why it is so important today for all Latter-day Saints to accept the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

President George Q. Cannon 
There is a tendency, strongly manifested . . . among some of the brethren, to study the geography of the Book of Mormon. . . . We are greatly pleased to notice the . . . interest taken by the Saints in this holy book. . . . But valuable as is the Book of Mormon both in doctrine and history, yet it is possible to put this sacred volume to uses for which it was never intended, uses which are detrimental rather than advantageous to the cause of truth, and consequently to the work of the Lord. . . .   

The brethren who lecture on the lands of the Nephites or the geography of the Book of Mormon are not united in their conclusions. No two of them, so far as we have learned, are agreed on all points, and in many cases the variations amount to tens of thousands of miles. These differences of views lead to discussion, contention and perplexity; and we believe more confusion is caused by these divergences than good is done by the truths elicited. 
How is it that there is such a variety of ideas of this subject? Simply because the Book of Mormon is not a geographical primer. It was not written to teach geographical truths. What is told us of the situation of the various lands or cities of the ancient Jaredites, Nephites and Lamanites is usually simply an incidental remark connected with the doctrinal or historical portions of the work and almost invariably only extends to a statement of the relative position of some land or city to contiguous or surrounding places and nowhere gives us the exact situation or boundaries so that it can be definitely located without fear of error.  
It must be remembered that geography as a science, like chronology and other branches of education, was not understood or taught after the manner or by the methods of the moderns. It could not be amongst those peoples who were not acquainted with the size and form of the earth, as was the case with most of the nations of antiquity, though not with the Nephites. Their Seers and Prophets appear to have received divine light on this subject. 
The First Presidency have often been asked to prepare some suggestive map illustrative of Nephite geography but have never consented to do so. Nor are we acquainted with any of the Twelve Apostles who would undertake such a task. The reason is that without further information they are not prepared even to suggest. The word of the Lord or the translation of other ancient records is required to clear up many points now so obscure that, as we have said, no two original investigators agree with regard to them. . . .    

For these reasons we have strong objections to the introduction of maps and their circulation among our people which profess to give the location of the Nephite cities and settlements. As we have said, they have a tendency to mislead instead of enlighten, and they give rise to discussions which will lead to division of sentiment and be very unprofitable. We see no necessity for maps of this character, because, at least, much would be left to the imagination of those who prepare them; and we hope that there will be no attempt made to introduce them or give them general circulation.   

Of course, there can be no harm result from the study of the geography of this continent at the time it was settled by the Nephites, drawing all the information possible from the record which has been translated for our benefit. But beyond this we do not think it necessary, at the present time, to go, because it is plain to be seen, we think, that evils may result therefrom. (Jan. 1, 1890, JI 18-19) (Gospel Truth, 476-477)

President Cannon's discussion relates directly to the non-New York Cumorah geography. We've already seen that the Brethren have been clear and specific about this; i.e., that apart from the New York Cumorah, we don't have any specific, unambiguous information about other Book of Mormon sites.

In fact, President Cannon noted the confusion that arises by the divergences of opinions, but all of them were at least based on the New York Cumorah. Today we see that there is even more confusion than there was in President Cannon's day. It is the Correlation Department itself that is fostering this confusion among the Saints by suppressing and censoring the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

I addressed President Cannon's comments in more detail here:

President Joseph F. Smith
A Book of Mormon geography conference was held at Brigham Young Academy on May 23-24, 1903 President Joseph F. Smith gave the following counsel regarding the discussion on the location of Zarahemla:

"President Smith spoke briefly, and expressed the idea that the situation [location] of the city [of Zarahemla] was one of interest certainly, but if it could not be located the matter was not of vital importance, and if there were differences of opinion on the question it would not affect the salvation of the people; and he advised against students considering it of such vital importance as the principles of the Gospel." (Deseret Evening News, May 25, 1903, 7)

Note: The present associate editor of The Instructor was one day in the office of the late President Joseph F. Smith when some brethren were asking him to approve a map showing the exact landing place of Lehi and his company. President Smith declined to officially approve the map, saying that the Lord had not yet revealed it, and that if it were officially approved and afterwards found to be in error, it would affect the faith of the people. (George D. Pyper, Associate Editor) [The Instructor, Vol. 73, April, 1938, #4, 160.]

This is another example of the difference between the New York Cumorah and the rest of the geography. I addressed this one in the same post linked to under President Cannon. There I observed:

In 1899, nine years after President Cannon published his comment about Book of Mormon geography, President Joseph F. Smith published Letter VII in the Improvement Era. This demonstrates that, from the perspective of the First Presidency, teaching that Cumorah is in New York is consistent with neutrality on the rest of Book of Mormon geography. That position has also been explained by other prophets.

This dichotomy between the New York Cumorah and the rest of Book of Mormon geography has been so well established by so many of the prophets that it is inexcusable to continue to conflate the two separate issues.

President Anthony W. Ivins
There is a great deal of talk about the geography of the Book of Mormon. Where was the land of Zarahemla? Where was the City of Zarahemla? and other geographic matters. It does not make any difference to us. There has never been anything yet set forth that definitely settles that question. So, the Church says we are just waiting until we discover the truth. All kinds of theories have been advanced. I have talked with at least half a dozen men that have found the very place where the City of Zarahemla stood, and notwithstanding the fact that they profess to be Book of Mormon students, they vary a thousand miles apart in the places they have located. We do not offer any definite solution. As you study the Book of Mormon keep these things in mind and do not make definite statements concerning things that have not been proven in advance to be true. [Conference Report, April 1929, 15-16.]

When read in context, President Ivins also emphasizes the difference between the New York Cumorah and the rest of the geography. One year previously, in the April 1928 General Conference, President Ivins specifically discussed the New York Cumorah as the location of Mormon's depository of Nephite records, but the Correlation Department never tells people about that sermon.

I addressed this point here: http://www.lettervii.com/2017/01/the-hill-cumorah-by-president-anthony-w.html

Matthew Cowley
I would like to bear my testimony to you about the book which you are studying in the Relief Society, The Book of Mormon. I know nothing about archaeology. I have not studied the maps which apparently relate to The Book of Mormon, the travels of the Lehites, the Lamanites, and so forth. I know very little about the outside evidences of The Book of Mormon, but I have a testimony of the divinity of this book, and that testimony has come to me from within the two covers of the book itself.      
To me, archaeology, and all that archaeologists discover, which may in a way prove the genuineness of the book-these discoveries are lost in the spirit of the book itself, and if you can't find a testimony within the covers of this book, there is no need to look elsewhere. (Matthew Cowley Speaks, 110)

Again, Elder Cowley is talking about the rest of the geography, not the New York Cumorah. 

Mark E. Petersen

We have had speculation, for instance, on the part of some with respect to Book of Mormon geography, and it is plain, unadulterated speculation and not doctrine. And if a General Authority has speculated on Book of Mormon geography he did not represent the view of the Church while doing so. [, “Revelation,” address to religious educators, 24 August 1954. (in charge to religious educators, 2nd ed. 1982, 137]

This is one of the most egregious examples of disinformation possible. Notice that, as with Elder Lee, the Correlation Department scoured obscure sources to try to justify its promotion of M2C. It ended up with a statement in a 1954 private meeting that is very difficult to find if you like to check sources. 

But surely the Department knows that Elder Petersen specifically taught the New York Cumorah in General Conference in 1978. 

The Department never quotes Elder Petersen's General Conference address. They don't want members of the Church to even know about it. Instead, they use this obscure quotation from 1954 against Elder Petersen himself!

 Here's what Elder Petersen said in General Conference: "Moroni's father was commander of the armies of this ancient people, known as Nephites. His name was Mormon. The war of which we speak took place here in America some four hundred years after Christ. As the fighting neared its end, Mormon gathered the remnant of his forces about a hill which they called Cumorah, located in what is now the western part of the state of New York... When finished with his record, Moroni was to hide it up in that same Hill Cumorah which was their battlefield. It would come forth in modern times as the Book of Mormon, named after Moroni's father, the historian who compiled it."

By using the quotation from a 1954 private meeting, the Departments wants members of the Church to believe that Elder Petersen was engaged in "unadulterated speculation" when he spoke about the New York Cumorah in General Conference in 1978. That is inexcusable.

There are plenty more examples of the Brethren teaching the New York Cumorah, none of which the Correlation Department allows to be published in Church materials. By now, readers of this blog should know about Joseph Fielding Smith, LeGrand Richards, Marion G. Romney, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and others.

But if your only source of information is material approved by the Correlation Department, you will never learn what the prophets have taught about the Hill Cumorah. 

As I said at the outset, I suspect that most Correlation Department employees actually do not know what the Brethren have actually taught about the New York Cumorah. It has come to my attention that very few people in the Church even know Letter VII exists, let alone that President Cowdery explained it was a fact that the final battles took place in New York.

Even those who know about Letter VII don't realize Joseph had it copied into his personal history and had it republished in every Church-related publication during his lifetime.

One explanation of the Correlation Department's misleading claims in this document is therefore ignorance. You can decide whether that is more or less likely an explanation than the intentional promotion of M2C.

Regardless of the reason, I've reached these conclusions:

This document that the Correlation Department sends to Church members who inquire about Book of Mormon geography intentionally obfuscates the truth by omitting (censoring) what Church leaders have actually taught about the New York Cumorah.

The Department is pursing its agenda through BYU/CES so that, starting from an early age, the youth of the Church will never learn what the prophets have taught about the Hill Cumorah in New York.

The obvious problem is this: the Correlation Department cannot completely censor the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah because members of the Church (especially the youth), as well as nonmember investigators, can easily find these teachings on the Internet. 

When they do discover what the prophets have taught, people are dismayed when they realize how the Department has so completely misled them.

Fortunately, Letter VII itself is in the Joseph Smith Papers. Jesus the Christ and Articles of Faith are widely available. So are the conference talks.

That hasn't kept the Department from trying, though. I've previously discussed how the Department has misled Church members by censoring the Wentworth Letter. http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/07/the-official-position-of-church-part-1.html

Now they're doing the same with Church history generally, as we saw in the April 2018 Ensign.

The M2C intellectuals have been very clever and successful in promoting their theories, but it is not inevitable that M2C will prevail.

Here's hoping that the Correlation Department will abandon the M2C course and return to the New York Cumorah, the course that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery established when they launched the Church.

Let's also hope that someday BYU/CES will stop teaching the youth by using fantasy maps based on the M2C interpretation of the text that repudiates the prophets.

* I think we don't know the rest of the geography because of a combination of these factors: (i) we've ignored what Joseph Smith taught; (ii) in recent decades LDS scholars have rejected what Joseph taught; (iii) these scholars have developed an interpretation of the text designed to fit only Mesoamerica (volcanoes, pyramids, tapirs, etc.); (iv) the early European settlers destroyed most of the ancient sites and burial grounds in the U.S.; and (v) there are still so many ancient sites in the U.S. that match the descriptions in the Book of Mormon that it is impossible to choose among them with any certainty.

**Throughout this blog, I'm referring to the Correlation Department, meaning Church employees who review material, not the Correlation Committee, which includes Church leaders.

***Historical detail. According to my database, the first use of this phrase was in an unsigned letter published in the March 1834 Evening and Morning Star in Kirtland (online here). According to the notes in the Joseph Smith Papers, "Joseph Smith and other Church of Christ leaders in Kirtland prepared this installment for publication." Oliver was the Editor of the paper. Joseph used the phrase when he wrote his letter to Emma in June 1834. Later, others also used it, including W.W. Phelps, Parley P. Pratt, Benjamin Winchester. The phrase "divine authenticity" also appears in the anonymous 1842 Times and Seasons article about M2C. Winchester used the phrase in his book History of the Priesthood, which he was working on about the same time as the anonymous articles appeared.

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