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, May 8, 2018

The Unbelievers at FairMormon

[Note: while I'm out of the country, we're re-posting the most popular posts from the last few years]

People often ask me how, when the people behind FairMormon purport to be faithful, dedicated Latter-day Saints, they can continue to advocate the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C). 

It's not a question of faith and dedication to the gospel. All the individuals I've met who contribute to and manage FairMormon are nice, sincere, and dedicated to supporting the Church and the prophets and apostles, with one exception. They are disbelievers when it comes to what Joseph, Oliver, David, Brigham, all their contemporaries and successors taught about the Hill Cumorah in New York (and related matters).

The FairMormon organization actually believes they are building faith by attacking the credibility and reliability of Joseph, Oliver, David, etc.

This is why I call them Fairly Mormon. They have a lot of great material, but they try to persuade people to disbelieve the prophets.

You can see how it's not a question of faith or dedication. In their minds, they are doing the right thing.

Instead, it's a question of obsession with Mesoamerica, which I label Mesomania.

I'm hearing that people associated with FairMormon are upset at my criticism, but in my view, they're not upset enough because they continue to refuse to follow the Church policy of neutrality on Book of Mormon geography. 

On their web page and in their conferences and books, they present only carefully edited material designed to promote their Mesomania. They refuse to present alternative ideas. Most importantly, they refuse any information that supports what Joseph and Oliver taught about the one Cumorah in New York.

We all know why FairMormon won't adopt the Church policy of neutrality. We and they know that very few Church members would accept the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theories if they had all the facts. That's why FairMormon (and the rest of the Conclave) suppress and ridicule what Joseph and Oliver taught about Cumorah in Letter VII and other places.

The evidence of how deeply FairMormon has misled the membership of the Church is abundant. I'll share another example at the end of this post. I'm sure if you ask around, you'll quickly find people whose faith in Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Brigham Young and others has been diminished because of what FairMormon teaches.

I've even had investigators print off some of the FairMormon and FARMS nonsense and ask me to explain it.

For that matter, FairMormon is diminishing faith in the Book of Mormon itself by rationalizing that Mormon was exaggerating, that some of the words Joseph used in the translation were wrong, etc.

It's not only Letter VII that they actively oppose, as you know if you've been reading their web page along with this and other blogs. But I focus on Letter VII because it is a simple binary choice.

You either accept and believe Letter VII or you reject and disbelieve it.


Well, it's simple if you accept it. Then everything else in Church history and the scriptures makes sense and is consistent with what Joseph and Oliver taught..

But if you reject what Joseph and Oliver taught in Letter VII, it's not so simple.

Let me qualify that. Our LDS scholars and educators think it's simple as this cartoon illustrates:

BYU professor reacts to Letter VII - h/t to Scott Adams

There is a lot packed into the claim that Joseph and Oliver were wrong.

Below is a partial list of what you have to also believe if you reject Letter VII. 

This same list is what BYU and Institute and Seminary students will be taught from now on (unless something changes):

1. Our modern LDS scholars and educators know more about the Hill Cumorah than Joseph and Oliver did.

Think about that one a moment before moving on.

2. As Assistant President of the Church, Oliver Cowdery lied when he wrote it was a fact that the final battles took place in the mile-wide valley west of the Hill Cumorah in New York.

3. Joseph Smith adopted a false tradition about Cumorah and spread it throughout the Church.

4. Joseph told his scribes to copy a false history about Cumorah into his (Joseph's) personal history, and now this false history is in the Joseph Smith papersfor the entire world to read.

5. Joseph told his brother Don Carlos to publish a false tradition about Cumorah in the Times and Seasons, passing it as a fact.

6. Joseph's brother William Smith published a false tradition about Cumorah in New York City two days after Joseph's martyrdom.

7. David Whitmer was making things up (or confused) when he repeatedly explained that the first time he heard the word "Cumorah" was when he was taking Joseph and Oliver to Fayette and encountered the messenger to whom Joseph had given the plates before leaving Harmony, and who was taking the plates to Cumorah.

8. Brigham Young was either confused, lying or misleading the people when he taught that Oliver and Joseph and others had been inside Mormon's depository in the Hill Cumorah in New York.

9. All of Joseph's contemporaries and successors who corroborated and sustained what Joseph and Oliver taught about Cumorah were wrong, even when they spoke in General Conference.

I could go on, but you get the point.

To FairMormon and the scholars who contribute material, each of these nine elements are obvious. They've talked themselves into these beliefs because each one of the 9 is essential to believing the Mesoamerican setting and the two-Cumorahs theory on which it depends.

IOW, if Joseph and Oliver were correct in Letter VII, then everything these scholars and educators have taught for the last 40+ years about Book of Mormon geography is false.

Hence my illustration above.

Now, some might think FairMormon's material is harmless because geography doesn't matter. The thinking goes like this: So what if investigators, missionaries, and members become confused and disturbed in their faith? They need to get on board with the scholars--the real experts on the scriptures. When the Brethren have questions, they call the BYU professors. Anyone who doesn't accept the two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories is ignorant, if not delusional. FairMormon embraces the idea that what Joseph and Oliver taught is "manifestly absurd."

In fact, the idea that Cumorah is in New York is not only "manifestly absurd," it is dangerous and must be suppressed and attacked at every opportunity. Information that supports and corroborates what Joseph and Oliver taught must be censored, to the extent possible, and suppressed whenever it slips through.

Whatever else happens, we can't let BYU students, or any CES students for that matter, read and discuss Letter VII, especially not in its historical context and in light of archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc. 

To make sure they never accept what Joseph and Oliver taught, we need to inoculate them with phony "requirements" for Book of Mormon lands, fantasy maps, and a quasi-canonized interpretation of the text that all point to Mesoamerica.

I hope it's obvious now that the FairMormon approach directly contradicts the Church's desire to be more open about its history. And yet, the Mesoamerican proponents still want to make sure that Letter VII is the last "secret" in Church history.

As I mentioned, there are abundant examples of the way FairMormon and its collaborators have imposed Mesomania on the membership of the Church. Here's an example from a recent writing (name, identifying terms, and source redacted) that shows the typical mindset of those who refer to FairMormon and believe what they read there. It doesn't really matter who wrote this particular piece; I've received lots of emails and comments along these lines over the years, and I hear these same arguments whenever I talk with a Mesomaniac. I'm only using it here to show that I'm not making this up. FairMormon is causing serious problems for investigators and members of the Church.

Many scholars of the Book of Mormon agree that the Cumorah in the Book of Mormon and that hill in upstate New York are not the same place. 

[This is based on the "Cumorah" entry in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and the phony plagiarized fax that FairMormon claims came from "the office of the First Presidency" that supposedly endorses the Cumorah entry.] 

Archeological evidence does not support the conclusion that large armies gathered at the place. 

[This is based on a series of phony "requirements" for Cumorah that directly contradict what Letter VII (and the Book of Mormon itself) says about the numbers of people involved with these battles.]

Also... historical documents from Joseph Smith's time suggest that the association of the hill in upstate New York did not come until after several years after the Book of Mormon was published.

[This is all taken from FairMormon, which you can see here: https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon/Geography/New_World/Hill_Cumorah.] 

The Prophet himself never said that the Cumorah in the Book of Mormon was the same place where he found the plates and it seems that Oliver Cowdey and David Whitmer were responsible for the association. 

[Joseph actually wrote very little; he normally deferred to others for writing. In this case, though, he helped Oliver write the historical letters, including Letter VII; he had his scribes copy them into his own history; he made sure they were reprinted for every Church member to read; and the New York Cumorah was accepted by all of his contemporaries and successors. We would expect Oliver to associate the discovery of the plates (which he also described in more detail than Joseph ever did) with Mormon's depository because he actually visited the depository with Joseph on multiple occasions. We also expect David to know about Cumorah because of how he first heard the term and because of his experience with the other plates and artifacts.]

It is true that for many years members of the church thought the hills were the same, but modern scholarship does not maintain that position.

[Exactly. Members thought this "for many years" because Letter VII was ubiquitous, at Joseph's own direction. Only after the RLDS scholars began their limited Mesoamerican theory, and LDS scholars embraced it over the objection of Joseph Fielding Smith, did Letter VII become censored by LDS scholars. 

On one hand, Joseph, Oliver, and all of their associates and successors taught that Cumorah was in New York. On the other, "modern scholarship" that relies on circular reasoning based on concocted "requirements" designed to support the Mesoamerican theory teaches that Cumorah is in Mexico.]

Finally, the text of the Book of Mormon itself suggests that the Nephite and Lamanite nations were not large civilizations that spanned both North and South America. Rather a close reading of the text indicates small regional populations interacting with each other. The Book of Mormon peoples were just some of many tribes and peoples found throughout the Americas. With this in mind, interpretations of the texts that incorporate large portions of North America becomes hard to support.

[This isn't unreasonable, but it's irrelevant to the question of Cumorah in New York.]

The reason I mention these is because the scenarios you have presented to me rely on interpretations of the Book of Mormon that assume that Cumorah of the Book of Mormon is the same hill in New York. That is a position that I do not hold. 

[The writer outright rejects Letter VII, but probably without having ever read Letter VII because FairMormon doesn't make it available to readers (unless they know where to find it in the Messenger and Advocate archive.) Certainly FairMormon will never explain how often Joseph endorsed Letter VII.]

Also, it assumes the entire North American continent as the stage for the Book of Mormon events. 

[A typical straw man argument. You either hear this or you hear that "you think everything took place around the Great Lakes," which is equally false, of course.]

That is also a position I do not hold. 

[I don't know anyone who does. It's pure straw man, easily dismissed.]

... the approach [Letter VII] is fundamentally different than one I would make. 

[This is the key. Some people start with what Joseph and Oliver taught and see if the text and relevant sciences corroborate and support what they said. I think the text and science fully corroborate what they taught. Others start with what they think the text says (based on the Sorenson/FairMormon translation) and then conclude that Joseph and Oliver were wrong. These are two opposite approaches, for sure.]

If you are interested in utilizing the sorts of approaches I have tried to describe here, I can introduce you to some of the scholarship that has shaped my thinking. 

[Exactly! FairMormon's "scholarship" is "shaping" the thinking of thousands of LDS people, missionaries, investigators, students, youth, and even children. They are imposing Mesomania everywhere and the result is what we see in this piece.]

[The] URL at the bottom [goes] to a web page that gives scholarly summations of several of the issues.... This page is maintained and written by faithful members and can be trusted in to that extent.

[Now we get to the good part: a citation to FairMormon, the source of the Mesomania dogma. Notice the comment that because the page "is maintained and written by faithful members" we should trust it. 

That gets back to my original point. Despite the implications of this claim, faith and dedication have nothing to do with this issue. People on all sides of this issue are faithful and dedicated. It's a question of whether one accepts Letter VII or Mesomania and all the implications that flow from that choice.   

Here's the referenced URL: 


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