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, April 16, 2018

M2C exposed on Facebook

Last week a Facebook interview was brought to my attention. I made some notes, but this is not a complete transcript or analysis. These are just a few of my observations and thoughts. Watch it yourself if you're interested. As always, I emphasized that everyone involved with this topic is an awesome, nice, well-meaning person. People just have different biases they seek to confirm.

The fundamental fallacy of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C) is currently on display on Facebook. The degree of self-delusion it takes to accept M2C has rarely been seen so clearly.

Thanks to the M2C intellectuals, people such as Dr. Michael Coe still think Joseph Smith wrote the anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons that linked the Book of Mormon to Mesoamerica. Then we end up with interviews such as this on Facebook:


Some M2C intellectuals asked questions during the presentation. E.g., Michael Ash asked, "So Joseph read Stephen's widely read books (published 1841/2) while he was writing the BoM (1830)?" And Zander Sturgill, who works for Book of Mormon Central America, wrote "Good question by Michael Ash."

If you watch the video, Dr. Coe had never made such a claim and he easily responded by explaining that after Joseph read these travel books, he identified the Mayan ruins as having been built by Book of Mormon people.

If you're not blinded by Mesomania, you realize that Joseph never read those books and never commented on them. The entire premise of M2C is a mistaken attribution of anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons to Joseph Smith. Dr. Coe takes that premise on its face and uses it to undermine faith.

Dr. Coe also points out that all ancient civilizations had roads.

Zander asked, "Did roads connect to marketplaces in the Maya world, as mentioned in the Book of Mormon?"

This is a funny question that reflects M2C confirmation bias because the Book of Mormon mentions exactly one market (Helaman 7:10). Besides, what would a road do if not connect places, and where there are people, there are products and services.

Dr. Coe points out that warfare, defensive structures, etc. are ubiquitous; every human civilization has them. "The Mayans were like everyone else. They had wars..."

The Book of Mormon says the people had wars, but so did every other human civilization. M2C is based entirely on such illusory correspondences, and on the basis of these illusory correspondences, M2C intellectuals want members of the Church to disbelieve the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah.

Coe pointed out that "One thing Joseph Smith didn't get was the Mayan inscriptions.... They're not in an old world language."

This is the compound fallacy of M2C regarding language. While the Book of Mormon describes the Nephites as literate, the larger group they joined (people of Zarahemla) were explicitly illiterate. And the even larger group of Lamanites were not only illiterate, but they sought to destroy the Nephite records, from beginning to end (Enos and Mormon both talk about this). Mormon had to conceal the Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah in New York specifically because the Lamanites would destroy them if they found them. And the only written languages mentioned in the text are Hebrew and Egyptian. The last place the Book of Mormon could have taken place is in the midst of a literate society with widespread writing and records that are neither Hebrew nor Egyptian.

IOW, the last place the Nephites could have lived was in Mesoamerica, where Mayan writing exists everywhere, even after the Spanish destroyed so many records. This was a highly literate society, with careful historical records and stone monuments, all in Mayan language that is never mentioned or even alluded to in the Book of Mormon.

In the face of all the evidence about Mayan civilization, M2C intellectuals have lately resorted to the argument that the huge, sophisticated Nephite society was also a tiny, unnoticed minority of Hebrews embedded within Mayan culture. The Nephites happened to have kings and a system of judges who interacted with the illiterate Lamanite royalty, all without being impeded in the least by the Mayans. In fact, the M2C intellectuals claim the Nephites influenced the Mayans!

When asked about whether the Nephites could have lived apart from the Mayans somehow, Coe said, "These explanations are so involved..." He points out that the Mayans were fully literate and they lived throughout the area for thousands of years. None of their extensive literature has anything to do with the Book of Mormon. There are thousands of examples, with no indication of ancient Hebrew or Egyptian.

According to Coe, John Sorenson's writings are a fantasy, an insult to the people who made the inscriptions.

Anyone not afflicted with Mesoamania recognizes that Coe's points about Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon are sound, factual, and rational.

He notes many similarities between the civilizations of Southeast Asia and Mesoamerica that are difficult to explain. If you really want to look for overseas connections, look to Asia, not the Middle-East. (-1:52:00). Dr. Coe says he couldn't even publish his findings about the links to Southeast Asia because he'd be ridiculed.

Different directions have different colors among Navajo. Also among Mayans and Asians. But not in the Bible. In East Asia, the full moon don't see the man in the moon, they see a rabbit, with a woman holding it. Also in Mesoamerica.

Central Asians migrated to Mesoamerica, according to DNA, language, culture, etc. They didn't go with empty minds.

The paradox of large Nephite civilizations against the absence of their influence.

Zander Sturgill · 1:16:39 So the National Geographic said, “Most people had been comfortable with population estimates of around 5 million,” said Estrada-Belli, who directs a multi-disciplinary archaeological project at Holmul, Guatemala. “With this new data it’s no longer unreasonable to think that there were 10 to 15 million people there—including many living in low-lying, swampy areas that many of us had thought uninhabitable.”

This is the Tikal Area. The Book of Mormon goes up to 400AD.

This is exactly the point I've been making. The larger the Mayan population, the less it fits the Book of Mormon. Plus, the larger the claimed Nephite population, the more striking it is that none of the Book of Mormon appears in the extensive Mayan writings.

Michael Ash · 1:19:50 So Dr. Coe _admits_ that he hasn't followed the current LDS scholarship addressing BoM issues. No offense to Dr. Coe-- who is obviously a brilliant scholar on Mesoamerica, but if he isn't familiar with LDS scholarly arguments, he can't really address them.

Michael Ash · 1:20:54 Cara Amsden. Try earlier FARMS, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter. John Sorenson, & Mark Wright. Lots to read.

Look at how Brother Ash cites the M2C citation cartel. "Current LDS scholarship" consists of repudiating the LDS prophets and apostles, while trying to impose M2C on members of the Church by suppressing those teachings, all because the only "evidence" to support M2C consists of illusory correspondences and wishful thinking.

Zander Sturgill · 1:25:24 Coe does not understand the LDS argument that the Nephites were a small small group among the vast Maya. NOT the Maya themselves.

If you watch the video, you see how Dr. Coe specifically addressed this absurd M2C argument.

Michael Ash · 1:27:43 Brandon Riches. Are you seriously wanting me to write the equivalent of a multi-volume library that already addresses these issues? I'll pass.

This is the age-old argument that more volume = more substance. There is nothing in the M2C argument apart from twin assumptions:

1. The modern prophets and apostles are wrong about the New York Cumorah.
2. Evidence for the Book of Mormon consists of illusory correspondences; i.e., the common attributes of most human societies are present in both the Book of Mormon and Mayan culture, which means the Nephites were Mayans (or lived among the Mayans, depending on which version of M2C you follow).

Dr. Coe boils this M2C argument down to its essence: The Nephites were a bunch of "secret people" no one has heard of or found.

Michael Ash · 1:34:32 Mary Thompson Vogwell. My point is that neither of these two men known the current LDS scholarship so they can't adequately address it. Perhaps Dr. Coe should read the writings of Brant Gardner & then formulate a response.

Dr. Coe points out that propositions should not only be provable, but also falsifiable. How do you disprove something that is so small you can't see them or detect them. "It's a complete fantasy from beginning to end."

Brother Gardner's work is voluminous, for sure, but it all boils down to the same twin M2C points:

1. The prophets and apostles are wrong about the New York Cumorah.

2. Illusory correspondences between Mayan culture and the Book of Mormon (actually, Brother Gardner's view of how Joseph should have translated the text) are evidence to justify point #1.

Zander Sturgill · 1:37:31 Coe isn't aware that there are things we see, but just not to the extent that Dehlin has been phrasing things this whole interview. Would Coe be willing to sit down with another organization for an interview?

Tim Birt · 1:37:35 Ash we are dealing with the popular understanding of Mormons and their prophet leaders not obscure apologetic responses how it could still be shown.

Dr. Coe points out that "What is true is so much more interesting than what is fanciful. In science, we deal with things that can be verified or falsified."

This is an interesting point. The M2C intellectuals like to claim their work is scientific and peer-reviewed, but of course it is really only peer-approved; the citation cartel never submits its work to people who disagree with M2C, whether members of the Church or not. That's why I ended up doing my own peer reviews for a while. http://interpreterpeerreviews.blogspot.com/2015/08/intro-why-peer-reviews.html I haven't spent time on that for a while because everything the M2C intellectuals write is a version of the same twin premises, over and over again.

I invite anyone interested to do your own peer reviews of the citation cartel. You'll quickly discover that if you don't accept the twin premises of M2C, their work doesn't hold up.

Dehlin: Mormon apologists are shrinking the target to something so small that we can't verify or falsify it.

My only problem with Dehlin's comment is he lumps all "Mormon apologists" into the same M2C camp.

Dr. Coe reiterated the M2C position about the Times and Seasons when he said Smith himself said Zarahemla was in Guatemala, so why look elsewhere? -46:00

Another comment was fascinating.

Rob Thomas Damascus · 2:29:54 Josh Gallant *** It is page 12 of the CES letter but I got my people mixed up. It was John E. Clark.whatsoever has been found at this site. John E. Clark, director of BYU’s archaeological organization, wrote in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 17:
“ I n a c c o r d w i t h t h e s e g e n e ra l o b s e r v a t i o n s a b o u t N e w Yo r k a n d
Pennsylvania, we come to our principal object – the Hill Cumorah.
Archaeologically speaking, it is a clean hill. No artifacts, no walls, no
trenches, no arrowheads. The area immediately surrounding the hill
is similarly clean. Pre-Columbian people did not settle or build here.
This is not the place of Mormon’s last stand. We must look elsewhere
for that hill.”

The John Clark article is immensely misleading, IMO. Everyone cites it, but no one has examined it critically because it fits the M2C narrative. It's confirmation bias at its worst. I've addressed it here:



Then there was this comment about the hemispheric model.

Rex Shupe · 2:29:30 Joseph was presented a travel book that described the great cities of Meso America and identifies them as proof of the great civilizations in the BoM. But also most every prophet and apostle since has described the BoM and the Lamanites covering all indigenous “from Barrow to Terra del Fuego”. It is most likely and evidence points that all prophets including Joseph had a hemispheric interpretation of the BoM. The text of the BoM points that direction as well. As does it discount the melding of the Nephites and Lamanites being subsumed into larger populations. I’ve read it over twenty times. To me, and being tutelage by the Church educational system, I was taught that the Jaredites and Lehi came to an empty continent preserved for them.

This is an interesting point, and reflects multiple misperceptions. First, many Mormons have been taught that the entire Jaredite civilization was destroyed at Cumorah, but Moroni specifically limits his account to the people living "in this north country," meaning the area around Cumorah. Ether was writing about his own family line, but the Jaredites had spread throughout the continent. Recent evidence indicates that the earliest Americans arrived by sea, not overland across Beringia, and then migrated north to Alaska and Canada as well as south. This is consistent with the Book of Mormon account of the Jaredites, aside from the dating issue, which I've addressed in the past and will do again soon. The DNA of the indigenous people in the Americas is consistent with this evidence. And there are indications in the text that Lehi's group encountered people when they arrived, but the text explicitly excludes "nations" such as the Mayans. They encountered hunter/gatherer groups, which is consistent with the archaeological record in the Southeastern U.S. We'll be discussing this more in the next few months, but the point is, science contradicts M2C but supports the Moroni's America scenario.

Dr. Coe also points out that the Mayans never had large armies, but Aztecs had a force of 400,000, others 200,000. Maybe 700,000 men in Aztec army. 5,600,000 people slain in a battle. -26:00

I don't think the Nephites has very large armies. Mormon describes an army as "a great number of men, even to exceed the number of thirty thousand." The largest army Mormon ever enumerates was 50,000 (Lamanites) and 42,000 (his Nephite army). (I know, some say Mormon had 230,000 men at Cumorah, but I think that's a misreading of the text.)

In this sense, one could say that, if Dr. Coe is correct, the Nephites fit the Mayan model because they both had small armies. But ironically, the M2C intellectuals are trying to say a much more numerous Mayan civilization is a better fit for the Book of Mormon than the actual numbers Mormon gave us. 

Dehlin: "What millions of Mormons are trying to figure out is whether their Church has told them the truth."

On this point, Dehlin conflates M2C intellectuals with the Church. Church leaders have consistently taught two things about the Book of Mormon historicity/geography:

1. The Hill Cumorah is in New York.
2. We don't know where the other events took place.

M2C intellectuals (including those working for the Correlation Department) have sown confusion by conflating those two clear points, replacing them with these:

1. The prophets and apostles were wrong about the New York Cumorah.
2. We know the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica.

The rejection of the prophets by the M2C intellectuals has led millions of Mormons confused and disturbed in their faith--exactly as Joseph Fielding Smith warned when he tried to prevent M2C from taking over. Members of the Church who trust the prophets have no problem. But those who trust the M2C intellectuals definitely have a problem.

Dr. Coe: "If it's [faith in the Gospel] resting on the Book of Mormon, it's not resting on a firm foundation." Paraphrasing: If you believe the Mormon religion gives you a set of values that are good, don't leave it. But if it depends on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, it's a bad foundation. Stay Mormon if it makes you happy and gives you a better life and for your children and grandchildren. But don't use it to tell scientists that they're wrong.

This is the inevitable outcome of M2C. It leaves people such as Dr. Coe with a false interpretation of the Book of Mormon that doesn't line up with archaeology, anthropology, geology, etc. 

Dr. Coe made another comment that was interesting but I don't have time to delve into right now.

Garreth Lowe, an archaeologist for the NWAF, had 3 different families. He was a "bothered Mormon." He believed in Celestial marriage. It only came out when he died. He had two Mexican wives. There were plenty of polygamous Mormons at that time in Mexico. He was bothered at first by evolution. At the end he pretty much lost his faith.

Dee Green at BYU, etc.

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