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, August 7, 2018

Changes coming

In my view, everyone in the world is searching for the answers provided by the restored gospel--including members of the Church who don't realize or appreciate the magnitude of the work we're engaged in.

The Internet is a tremendously important element of bringing the Gospel to the world, but it is just as effective in confusing people and undermining the message of the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. The two principle impediments we face are (i) critics from outside who distort and mislead and (ii) intellectuals from inside who assert superiority over the prophets. Think how awesome it would be to eliminate at least the second impediment and the contention it produces.

I write these blogs and books because "it is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart—For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—" D&C 123:11-12. I emphasize that I'm not saying I'm "right" about anything; instead, I propose perspectives and interpretations as alternatives to the prevailing M2C ideas that, IMO, are mistakes. I just want everyone to have a chance to consider and compare different ideas.

Notice that Joseph wrote "among all sects... and denominations." He did not exclude Latter-day Saints from this list.

How are LDS people blinded by the subtle craftiness of men?

One way, IMO, is through M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory). I think M2C, while originally well-intentioned,* has become pernicious because:
(i) it teaches people to disbelieve the prophets, who have consistently and persistently taught that Cumorah is in New York;
(ii) it relies on sophistry, censorship, and presuasion as explained below;
(iii) it causes BYU and CES to teach the youth of the Church that the Book of Mormon took place in a fantasy world, thereby laying the foundation for a shift toward a "metaphorical" understanding of the Book of Mormon instead of a literal, real-world understanding long taught by the prophets. I discussed that here: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/01/getting-real-about-cumorah-part-2.html

In response to all of this, some big changes are in the works. 

1. Focus. I realize that this blog has too much information for people to sort through. I have addressed every argument put forward by the M2C intellectuals, including my peer reviews of their most well-known articles. If there are any M2C arguments I have not addressed, I ask anyone to let me know about them so I can comment on them.

We're going to make an announcement in September about a re-organization of the material in my blogs to make it more accessible. For example, we'll have more comparison material, such as this chart I posted in 2016.

2. Africa. We're moving to Africa tomorrow for the school year (through May 2019). Last night I did my last fireside in Utah for a long time, although I will do some events over the Internet. I have a blog about what we're doing: http://mormoninmauritius.blogspot.com/

3. Getting real. We try to get real on this blog, but people still ask me what I "really" think. For the rest of this week, I'll explain what I really think in more detail than I've ever done before.

4. Why M2C persists. Readers here know that I think M2C is based on a mistake in Church history.* Because it is based on the premise that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah, M2C exalts the scholars over the prophets. This undermines faith, as warned by past prophets. Nevertheless, M2C intellectuals are influential and persuasive because of sophistry, censorship and presuasion. 

4a. Sophistry. In my blogs, I've explained many of the rhetorical tools used by M2C intellectuals in the publications of the M2C citation cartel (BYU Studies, the Interpreter, BMAF.org, FairMormon.org, Book of Mormon Central, Meridian Magazine, etc.). I discuss some of their tactics in this blog as well as in  my peer-review blog:

Long-time readers know that I don't think any of the material published by the M2C citation cartel is truly peer reviewed. It is peer-approved material, designed to enforce the approved M2C dogma and to confirm the shared bias of the reviewers that the Book of Mormon events took place in Mesoamerica. It is phony scholarship, IMO, which is why it is not accepted or even respected outside the M2C citation cartel.

Notice, I am referring to M2C specifically. LDS scholars produce and publish outstanding research on a variety of important topics that helps take the Gospel to the world. It is only M2C advocacy, and material influenced by M2C (such as the M2C-influenced notes in the Joseph Smith Papers), that I consider problematic and counterproductive. 

4b. Censorship. Censorship is a critical tool to enforce ideas that don't withstand scrutiny. Anyone can persuade others if alternative interpretations (and inconvenient facts) are censored. That's why the framers of the Constitution added the First Amendment. That's why our judicial system gives equal voice to plaintiffs and defendants, but in totalitarian regimes, only one side's position is allowed to be heard. Or, as Joseph Smith put it, "by proving contrarieties, truth is made manifest."

Censorship is in the news lately. Every generation naturally resists censorship. Today's young people are no exception. George Orwell's book 1984 was published in 1949 but remains a bestseller today. People want to make up their minds independently, after considering alternatives.

The M2C citation cartel is a classic case of censorship. They have absolutely refused to allow alternatives to M2C to appear in their publications, except when they misrepresent, ridicule and attack alternatives. They even refuse to allow side-by-side comparisons.

By contrast, I welcome comparisons and full disclosure. I trust people will make good decisions once they have all the relevant information. 

I encourage members of the Church to compare M2C to the alternatives, as I've explained over and over on this and other blogs. I hope Church members will become familiar with FairMormon and Book of Mormon Central and the fantasy maps being used by BYU and CES to teach that the prophets are wrong. I endorse the idea of teaching people correct principles (and giving them all the facts) and then letting them govern themselves.

My new nick-name for Book of Mormon Central is Book of Mormon Censor. I've started a new blog to explain how the censorship works: http://bookofmormoncensor.blogspot.com/

I'll also continue to point it out as it is used by other members of the M2C citation cartel, such as FairMormon: http://fairlymormon.blogspot.com/

4c. Presuasion. The M2C intellectuals have been teaching their theories at BYU and CES for around 40 years. (Prior to that, other intellectuals promoted Central and South America as settings for the Book of Mormon, all in reliance on a mistake in Church history.*)

How the Academic Cycle perpetuates M2C
The academic cycle has effectively infused M2C throughout the Church, with artwork, videos, and innumerable articles, presentations, and lessons.

Consequently, M2C has been imprinted on the minds of Latter-day Saints beginning in Primary. M2C is imprinted almost from the moment they meet the missionaries.

A term for this technique is presuasion, a term coined by Robert Cialdini. This is the technique of preparing the minds of others to be receptive to one's message.

The technique is explained pretty well in this video:

I discussed this as it applies to M2C here:

and here:

Already this post is longer than I planned, so I'll stop here. But stay tuned.


*M2C originated as a well-intentioned effort to vindicate what scholars thought Joseph Smith taught, based on anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons. These articles linked the Book of Mormon to discoveries of ancient ruins in Central America. The boilerplate at the end of each issue of the newspaper said the paper was printed, edited, and published by Joseph Smith. From this, scholars inferred that Joseph actually edited the paper. And yet, no one believes he actually printed the paper.

There is zero historical evidence that Joseph actually edited anything, apart from the Wentworth letter that appears to have been taken from a prior Orson Pratt pamphlet and heavily edited. In fact, the Wentworth letter edits out all of Pratt's "hemispheric" ideas about Book of Mormon geography. But then today's Correlation Department edited the Wentworth letter to omit Joseph's teachings about the Lamanites, a topic I'll discuss later this week in this blog.

The point is, Joseph was merely the nominal editor, just as he was merely the nominal printer and publisher. He had nothing to do with anonymous articles. He had nothing to do with any link between the Book of Mormon and either Central or South America.

Those interested in more detail about this can read my books on the topic and my reviews of others' articles that seek to tie Joseph to Mesoamerica.

As always, I emphasize that I admire and respect all the LDS scholars and intellectuals, including those who continue to promote M2C. I think they're all great people with good intentions, etc. I attribute their obsession with M2C to Mesomania, a term I use to describe the powerful psychological effects of confirmation bias. I continue to hope that they will break free, but I recognize the reality that this may be nearly impossible for some of them.

The most I can realistically expect is that some of them, at least, will recognize what they've been doing and will decide to be intellectually honest enough to open up the citation cartel to alternative views and interpretations. A good start would be a comparison chart similar to the decision tree I posted here:

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