When the book Saints
was published, I noted that the term Cumorah
had been censored from the text. I attributed this censorship to an effort by Church historians to revise Church history to accommodate their M2C* colleagues.
Recently the editors publicly acknowledged the censorship of Cumorah
. In this post we'll examine their statement.
Many readers prefer short posts, so here are three twitter-length summaries:1. Saints creates a false narrative present; i.e., characters in the book do not have 1827-1844 ideas about the New York Cumorah that is well established in original sources.
2. Instead, the characters in Saints know nothing about Cumorah, a reflection of the late 20th century "two Cumorahs" theory created by M2C intellectuals.
3. In responses to criticism, the editors of Saints published an essay that seeks to explain their censorship of Cumorah with a series of inconsistent and counterfactual justifications.
4. The editors of Saints ultimately admit they censored the term Cumorah to "uphold" so-called "neutrality," a euphemism for accommodating the M2C theory of Book of Mormon geography.
Over a year ago I anticipated this outcome in Saints
, which is part of a well-established a pattern by LDS intellectuals to erase the New York Cumorah from the historical record and from the knowledge of members of the Church.**
There is additional related revisionist editing in Saints,
such as replacing terms from original sources ("this continent" and "this country") with the M2C-approved term "the Americas." Another problem is the phony 20th century story about Mary Whitmer being shown the plates by Moroni.For thousands of members of the Church, the censorship of Cumorah has become a serious enough issue that the editors of Saints responded publicly (although they haven't yet responded to the other revisionist problems in Saints).Their response confirmed that they've been revising Church history to accommodate M2C. They now characterized their editorial policy as their effort to "uphold" what they perceive to be "neutrality" regarding Book of Mormon geography, a euphemism for accommodating 20th century theories about two-Cumorahs.
_____All along, I've emphasized that the censorship of Cumorah is an issue of accuracy in Church history, not a question of Book of Mormon geography.
The New York Cumorah says nothing about where the other events took place. In fact, for decades, Church leaders have consistently taught two things:
1. The hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in New York.
2. We don't know where the other events took place (i.e., neutrality).
M2C intellectuals (including the historians) confuse members of the Church by conflating these two teachings. What they now characterize as "neutrality" is actually an explicit repudiation of the prophets and apostles, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.Because M2C contradicts the plain teachings of the prophets and apostles, M2C intellectuals don't want Church members to know what the prophets and apostles have taught.
is just the latest iteration of this effort.
I emphasize that I greatly admire and respect everyone involved with the Saints
project, as well as all the historians and staff responsible for the Joseph Smith Papers, the Church History Library and Museum, and all the other wonderful resources available today. I encourage everyone to learn as much as possible about Church history and to read Saints
.My comments are intended to improve the book and to eliminate the misinformation it contains so that current and future generations will be accurately informed about Church history.
Below, I consider the justification essay in full. As you read it, keep in mind that these are professional, experienced writers who chose their words carefully.
In fact, you might want to read their essay first and see how many logical and factual errors you can find. Then compare your analysis with mine.https://history.lds.org/content/saints-and-book-of-mormon-geography?lang=eng
Original in blue
, my comments in red
.Saints and Book of Mormon GeographyJed Woodworth and Matt Grow
12 October 2018
Since the publication of Saints, Volume 1: The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846, some concern has been expressed online and to us personally that the text of the book has expressed a preference against a “heartland” model of Book of Mormon geography.
No doubt they have heard concerns--thousands of Church members are concerned about Saints for many reasons--but "a preference against a "heartland" model is not the point I've raised.
The censorship of Cumorah is a serious problem because it undermines the accuracy of Church history as conveyed in Saints. It creates a false historical narrative as I explain below.
This is not a question of Book of Mormon geography because the New York Cumorah accommodates many models of geography, just as the prophets have taught. The invocation of a "heartland" model in this essay is merely an effort to deflect from the real issue.
We have been disappointed to read online commentary from individuals favoring a “heartland” model of Book of Mormon geography that asserts Saints works in subtle (and even conspiratorial) ways to suppress their views. This is not true.
Again, this does not respond to my concerns because I don't think Saints suppresses anything other than the truth about Church history. Plus, the censorship of Cumorah is anything but subtle.
Much of the concern has resulted because the word “Cumorah” does not appear in Saints.
Skillful writers use passive voice this way to disclaim responsibility, as if it's the word's fault it doesn't appear.
As I mentioned above, the censorship of Cumorah is only one of several editorial decisions to revise Church history in Saints. In this essay they avoid the other problems.
This omission has led some to believe that we left out that word in order to speak against a “heartland” model. We assure you that this is simply not the case.
I readily accept this assurance because it's irrelevant.
So far, the justification given for censoring Cumorah amounts to a straw man fallacy. A straw man argument is "giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent."
I've asserted that the editors of Saints censored Cumorah not to "suppress" or "speak against" a "heartland" model, but to accommodate (make room for) M2C. As you'll see in a moment, they admit that's exactly what they did.
It's an enormous difference, consistent with the pervasive effort to accommodate M2C by other intellectuals, as I describe in my footnotes below.
We have worked on Saints for many years, Matt as a general editor of Saints and Jed as a review editor of Volume 1. In those capacities, we have read all the draft chapters and editorial comments accompanying these drafts. No one under our observation—writers, editors, external reviewers, General Authority reviewers—has expressed any concern about the word “Cumorah” or articulated any need to expunge it from the record.
This purported justification for censorship demonstrates exactly the problem I raised about current LDS scholarship.
Notice the wording: no one involved "has expressed any concern about the word "Cumorah."
How could a term as significant in the history of the Church as "Cumorah" never once come up in a conversation in years of working on Saints?
The obvious answer is that the claim is untrue.
First, as I've shown, the editors had to carefully circumvent Lucy Mack Smith's quotation of Joseph referring to the hill of Cumorah in 1827 before he even obtained the plates. If there were no "concerns" about Cumorah, there is no excuse for what they did. They quoted a passage that Lucy lined out when she revised her history because her revision included her direct quotation of Joseph referring to Cumorah in 1827.
Second, as we'll see in a moment, the editors give as an alternative justification specific research they conducted about the term "Cumorah." If no one ever expressed any concern about the word "Cumorah," why would they have conducted the research to see when the term was first used?
Let's assume, alternatively, that the claim is true: no one discussed Cumorah. The censorship happened without anyone discussing the term Cumorah because everyone simply understood the term was not to be used. That, actually, makes sense--but it's precisely the problem I've sought to call attention to.
The M2C ideology has been deeply imprinted on students at BYU and CES for decades. Consequently, it is highly believable that everyone involved with Saints has incorporated the belief that there are two Cumorahs. An easy way to understand it is they are all inside the M2C bubble.
If everyone on the team thinks the same way, it is self-evident why no one "articulated any need to expunge it from the record." Everyone was on the same page. There was no one on the team who even thought to include Cumorah in the book because the idea that Cumorah is in New York is unthinkable to modern LDS intellectuals.
It makes no difference whether this groupthink arose because no one on the team knew what the prophets and apostles have taught, or because they have all rejected what the prophets and apostles have taught. The result is the same: censorship of the term "Cumorah."To our knowledge, there have been no discussions about the need to put down one theory of Book of Mormon geography in order to promote another.
This is another expression of the straw man argument we saw above. No one suggested they "put down" a geography theory. The problem is revising Church history to accommodate M2C.
The purpose of Saints is to present a compelling narrative of the faith and sacrifice of early Latter-day Saints, not to weigh in (subtly or otherwise) on the various theories of Book of Mormon geography.
This is axiomatic, really. That's why I pointed out the Cumorah issue is one of accuracy in Church history, not a question of Book of Mormon geography. No one expected Saints to "weigh in" on Book of Mormon geography. All we expected was accurate history and characters in an honest narrative present.
We have sought to uphold the Church’s position of neutrality on these theories: “Though there are several plausible hypotheses regarding the geographic locations of Book of Mormon events, the Church takes no official position except that the events occurred in the Americas.”1
Note: This justification contradicts everything they've written up to this point. Far from never even discussing Cumorah, now they admit they had an editorial policy to "uphold" what they consider "the Church's position of neutrality."
Their objective was not solely or purely to report accurate Church history in a narrative form, after all.
This editorial agenda reveals that the historians realized that the original documents in Church history actually do have something to say about the geography of the Book of Mormon that, in their view, is not "neutral."
Think about this for a moment.
They realized that the teachings of the founding prophets of the restoration about the New York Cumorah contradicted their version of the "position of neutrality" they wanted to "uphold," so they changed the wording of those documents and censored the term "Cumorah."
Now you see why this is such a serious problem._____
You might wonder, how does "upholding" a policy of "neutrality" justify censoring the term Cumorah?
This iteration of "neutrality" is involved less with geography than with the teachings of the prophets and apostles. The "neutrality" policy, as articulated by the intellectuals, conflates the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah with the teachings of the prophets that we don't know where the other events took place.
This is how the intellectuals justify their claim that there are "two Cumorahs."
IOW, these historians are "neutral" on the question of whether or not to accept the teachings of the prophets.
Actually, they're not even neutral on that. They've chosen not to tell readers what the prophets and apostles have taught about Cumorah.
Footnote 1 in their essay cites a Gospel Topics essay that was written by M2C scholars who cite M2C scholars exclusively, with no input from anyone who still supports what the prophets have taught. The Gospel Topics essay reflects the same M2C groupthink that prevailed during the creation of Saints.
For example, if you read the cited Gospel Topics essay, you'll see it quotes President Ivins' 1929 Conference address to support the alleged "neutrality" policy. However, the essay does not mention President Ivins' 1928 Conference address that specifically identifies the New York Cumorah.
There is no contradiction between President Ivins' two discourses. He was articulating the well-established teachings that I itemized above; i.e., that Cumorah is in New York but we don't know for sure where the other events took place.
The M2C scholars (and Saints) conflate the two teachings because they don't want members of the Church to know what the prophets and apostles have taught.
The preface to Saints explains that the book is a narrative history. Narrative histories are governed by rules, and one of the rules implemented by our writing team is that characters are to live in the “narrative present” and not be burdened by the understanding of later time periods.
The censorship of Cumorah directly violates this purported rule.
As a matter of historical reality, every character mentioned in Saints shared a belief that the Hill Cumorah was in New York. Letter VII was ubiquitous from 1835 through 1844. The letter that became D&C 128 was well known.
The editors even admit that, at least as of 1835, the New York Cumorah was commonly accepted. (They know it was published in 1833, but they don't acknowledge that.)
However, as presented in Saints, these characters have never heard of Cumorah.
Consequently, contrary to their own rule, the editors have created a deliberately false narrative history.
The characters in Saints are burdened by the M2C understanding of modern time periods, just like the current generation who is being taught at BYU and CES (and by Saints) that Joseph got the plates from "a hill in New York" but not from Cumorah.
Our rule states: “The whole story as we understand it will be told, but readers will be following that story scene-by-scene, or even volume-by-volume, as the narrative progresses. If readers desire a broader view of the story or want additional information, extensive footnotes are included, and other in-depth material is available online, including links to essays, videos, and other sources.”
I've discussed some of these footnotes here. https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-saints-footnote-on-cumorah-packers.html
. If you read the cited reference, you'll see it reflects late 20th century ideas.
Good luck to anyone who wants to understand what the prophets and apostles have taught about the New York Cumorah. You won't find these teachings easily available anywhere in the work of current LDS intellectuals, and the Gospel Topics essay is a good example of how the intellectuals have confused Church members with their selective quotations from President Ivins.
Thus, as Saints tells it, Joseph Smith walks into the “woods,” not the Sacred Grove, in 1820. There he has a “vision” of God and Christ, not the First Vision.2 In the same way, Joseph walks to a “hill” not far from his father’s home, not to the Hill Cumorah.3
This is another straw man fallacy. No one is saying that Saints should have called the woods the Sacred Grove. Neither Lucy Mack Smith nor Oliver Cowdery, the two major sources cited in the early chapters of Saints, referred to the Sacred Grove or First Vision, but they both explicitly referred to Cumorah as the hill where Joseph got the plates.
Furthermore, Joseph himself identified the hill as Cumorah before he even got the plates. Joseph was present when he, David and Oliver encountered the messenger taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah. Joseph collaborated on Letter VII and had it republished multiple times. Joseph referred to Cumorah explicitly in D&C 128.
Censoring Cumorah creates an explicitly false narrative history for each of these important figures in Saints.
The reason for omitting “Cumorah” is not that the writers wanted to expunge it in order to promote a geographical theory.
Notice how their excuses have evolved. First, no one even discussed or had a concern about Cumorah. Now they have given several justifications for their censorship, all of which amount to pretexts.
We can easily accept that they didn't do it "to promote a geographical theory," because no one has claimed they did. To that extent, this is another straw man fallacy.
However, they've already admitted they had an editorial agenda to "uphold" the "position of neutrality." That's not technically promoting a theory, but it is definitely revising Church history to accommodate M2C.
Notice that nowhere in this essay do they ever deny seeking to accommodate M2C.
The reason is that there is no historical evidence that Moroni called the hill “Cumorah” in 1823.
This is a very carefully written sentence. It's both another straw man fallacy and a deflection.
The straw man is whether or not Moroni called the hill "Cumorah" in 1823. It's an irrelevant point. Joseph could have learned the term from Moroni at any point between 1823 and 1827.
What is important is that there is historical evidence that in 1827, before he got the plates, Joseph referred to the hill as "Cumorah." These historians know this, but they word their statement here to deflect from that evidence, without overtly denying it exists.
Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, quoted Joseph referring to the hill Cumorah in 1827, in a passage these editors deliberately avoided when they wrote Saints, as I showed here.
From whom could Joseph have learned that term other than Moroni? It doesn't matter, really; he could have learned it from other angelic messengers or visions that he never mentioned. The point is, Joseph himself referred to the hill as Cumorah at that early date, before he could have read it from the plates which he hadn't yet obtained.
Therefore, it is not a lack of historical evidence that drove the decision to censor Cumorah.
The historians relied on Lucy Mack Smith's history throughout the early chapters of Saints. They also know that Parley P. Pratt reported, in 1831, that he and Oliver Cowdery were teaching that the hill was called Cumorah by Moroni anciently.
The censorship of Cumorah was an editorial decision by these historians to not use the evidence they had, solely because it contradicted their editorial agenda to "uphold" what they consider to be a "position of neutrality." And by "neutrality" they mean accommodating M2C.
Of course, early Latter-day Saints, including Joseph Smith, later called the hill Cumorah, but the best research on the subject puts the term into common circulation no earlier than the mid-1830s.4
Here is the research they did about the word Cumorah. Remember when they started this list of justifications by claiming no one was ever concerned about the term?
Recall also their claim that they were writing a narrative history, with characters in the "narrative present." Here they acknowledge the narrative present for early Latter-day Saints included the New York Cumorah, but they've deliberately chosen to replace that narrative present with the modern notion of "neutrality" developed by M2C intellectuals in recent decades.
On this point, we will undoubtedly see the same false narrative present in future volumes of Saints.
Through at least 1990, Church leaders have spoken about the New York Cumorah. The purchase of the hill was a major event in Church history, as explained by President Ivins in 1928. But the editors of Saints will expunge all mention of Cumorah, draining characters in all four volumes of an important part of their reality._____
Let's consider this latest justification based on what was not in "common circulation" until the mid-1830s.
By this standard, Saints should not relate any of the history found in the early chapters of the book, except for what is contained in the brief 1832 history (assuming that does not qualify as mid-1830s).
Of course, that wouldn't work; most of their citations in the early chapters of Saints are to records created in the mid-1830s.
Although they don't tell you, these historians know the hill from which the plates were retrieved was identified openly as Cumorah in January 1833, in The Evening and the Morning Star, about six months after the 1832 history was recorded.
Is it this six-month period that constitutes the critical dividing time between what is credible Church history and what is not?
If so, Saints needs a lot more revision than I've proposed._____
Note that the 1832 history does not mention the name of the "angel of the Lord" who came to Joseph Smith, but Saints reports, on p. 22, that "The angel called him by name and introduced himself as Moroni."
The name Moroni was not in common circulation earlier than the mid-1830s, when Oliver Cowdery explained the angel's name was Moroni in Letter IV in 1835, and when verses were added to D&C 27, also in 1835.
On the same page 22, Saints reports that "the angel wore a seamless white robe," but that description comes from Oliver Cowdery's Letter IV, also published in 1835.
The editors of Saints freely rely on mid-1830s sources (including Oliver's letters) to support the earlier narratives they approve of.
That makes their latest justification for censoring Cumorah--"common circulation no earlier than the mid-1830s"--a mere pretext.
It's true that Lucy dictated her history after Joseph's death in 1844, but Saints relies on her history throughout the early chapters because she is considered a reliable eye-witness. As we've seen, Lucy's account has Joseph identifying the hill as Cumorah well before many of the events covered in the first few chapters of Saints. But Saints doesn't want readers to know that.
Let's explore this in more detail.
When it's a topic the editors like, such as Joseph translating the plates by looking at a stone in a hat, they happily cite references from as late as 1879 (cited several times in Chapter 4).
But when it's a topic the editors don't like, such as the term Cumorah, suddenly the very sources they rely on most are not credible.
Look at the citations in Chapters 3-5. Most of them fall within three categories:
(i) Oliver Cowdery's letters (1834-5)
(ii) Joseph Smith-History (1838)
(iii) Lucy Mack Smith's History (1844-5).
Of these, Joseph Smith's history is the shortest. It's also the only one that doesn't explain that the hill Cumorah is in New York, the only one that says it was Nephi who visited Joseph instead of Moroni, etc.
The editors of Saints want us to believe that when they cite President Cowdery's letters and Lucy Mack Smith's History, those sources are credible. But those same sources are not credible when they refer to the New York Cumorah because...
They don't explain why.
These unpersuasive post hoc rationalizations only make the censorship problem more apparent.
The main historical source concerning events at the hill between 1823 and 1827 comes from the history Joseph Smith began in 1838. There Joseph uses the term “hill,” never “Hill Cumorah.”5
Recall, in the previous sentence they argued that earlier sources are more credible than later ones (i.e., Cumorah was not in "common circulation" until documents showed up in the mid-1830s).
Now they're telling us a later source is more credible than an earlier source.
And what does it mean to say a source is "the main historical source" anyway? The editors did not rely exclusively or even principally on the 1838 history. That history was so sparse that they supplemented it with many other sources--including Oliver Cowdery's letters and Lucy Mack Smith's history.
Joseph's history never referred to Moroni as the name of the angel. It doesn't describe his robe as seamless. It lists only a few of the scriptures Moroni quoted. It doesn't include the dialog between Joseph and Moroni quoted on page 26 of Saints.
All of that information and more comes from Oliver's letters.
The editors want us to believe they omitted Cumorah because Joseph's 1838 history is the "main historical source," even though in Chapter 3 most of their citations were to Oliver's letters and Lucy Mack Smith's History, both of which explain the hill where Joseph found the plates was Cumorah._____
There's another problem with this justification. The 1838 history says it was Nephi, not Moroni, who visited Joseph Smith in 1823. If the editors really thought the 1838 history was the "main historical source," they should have stuck with its Nephi narrative.
But they didn't.
Because they know Oliver's letters and other evidence identifying the angel as Moroni are more credible than the 1838 history. Censoring Cumorah because the word doesn't appear in the 1838 history is the weakest justification offered so far._____
As senseless as this justification appears, it has a long intellectual genealogy. A standard assertion by the proponents of M2C and the historians who agree with (or accommodate) them is that Oliver Cowdery's letters are not reliable.
This presents a problem for the producers of Saints because they had to rely on these letters for several important historical details. But since they are justifying their censorship of Cumorah by telling us the letters are not all that important after all, let's compare them to Joseph's 1838 history and see why they are cited so often in Saints for everything except Cumorah.
Joseph helped write Oliver's letters. He referred to them as President Cowdery's letters (since Oliver was Assistant President of the Church when he wrote letters IV through VIII).
The letters were copied into Joseph's own journal as part of his life story. These letters provide more detail about many of the events than Joseph's 1838 history.
Oliver's letters were first published in 1834-5. Joseph's history was recorded in 1838, but it was not published until 1842, when it was published once in the Times and Seasons.
Between the time when Joseph's 1838 history was recorded and when it was published in the Times and Seasons, Oliver's history was republished at least 3 times, at least twice with Joseph's approval. They were published in the Gospel Reflector, the Times and Seasons, and the Millennial Star, all in 1840-1841. The next year, Joseph's history was published in the Times and Seasons. Then, in 1844, Joseph's brother William republished Oliver's letters again, this time in the New York City paper The Prophet. (Letter VII appeared two days after Joseph's martrydom.)
When parts of Joseph's 1838 history were canonized as Joseph Smith-History, an excerpt from Oliver's Letter I was included as a footnote.
The historians know all of this history, but they're confident you don't, so they don't address this larger context in this essay.
Saints follows Joseph’s lead.
This sentence is clever rhetoric. Maybe they hope it's the "take-home" quotation from their essay. But it is contrary to the historical record.
The record shows us that Joseph led on this issue when he told his mother about the name Cumorah before he even got the plates.
Joseph led by helping Oliver write the eight historical letters, including Letters VII and VIII.
Joseph led by having the letters copied into his personal history.
Joseph led by having them republished multiple times so all the members of the Church in his day could learn Church history.
Joseph led by writing D&C 128:20.
20 And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed._____
Thanks to Saints, current and future generations will have no idea what Joseph Smith, his contemporaries, and his successors as prophets and apostles were referring to when they spoke and wrote about the New York Cumorah.As our rule states, additional material connected with Saints contains “a broader view of the story.” In the Church History Topics, where the rules of narrative history do not apply, the term “Cumorah” can be found (see topics entitled “Angel Moroni” and “Sacred Grove and Smith Family Farm” at saints.lds.org or on the Gospel Library App).
Of course, this explains nothing about the censorship of Cumorah in Saints. Proper nouns are used throughout Saints. Referring to the name of the hill the way their own sources did would have simplified and clarified, not confused or slowed down, the narrative.
Furthermore, it would have fulfilled instead of violated the purported narrative rule: "characters are to live in the “narrative present” and not be burdened by the understanding of later time periods."
Every single character described or quoted in Saints believed Cumorah was in New York.
Falsely conveying the impression that people thought the plates were found in a nameless "hill in New York" is not honest history.
I hope everyone involved with producing Saints will reconsider the censorship of Cumorah and the other revisionist elements designed to "uphold" a concept of "neutrality" on the geography issue.
Censorship and revision of original documents is a matter of Church history, integrity, and clarity. _____
When none of the pretexts given in the essay make sense except one, we are left with the only rational reason given for the censorship of Cumorah; i.e., the editors' decision to "uphold" their version of "neutrality on Book of Mormon geography."
IOW, the essay concedes that my criticisms are correct.
They did not revise Church history to attack any so-called "heartland" model of geography, a claim I didn't make, but they did revise Church history to accommodate the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs setting in the pursuit of what they think is neutrality.
I consider such revisionism unjustified and unconscionable.
Unless Saints is revised to more accurately teach actual Church history, current and future generations throughout the world will be:
(i) kept ignorant of the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the hill Cumorah and other issues,
(ii) confused by references in both the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, and
(iii) susceptible to critics who use this ignorance and confusion to undermine the faith of members of the Church and to deter investigators._____
 “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies,” note 6, Gospel Topics, topics.lds.org.
 See Saints, volume 1, chapter 2.
 See Saints, volume 1, chapters 3 and 4.
 See Cameron J. Packer, “A Study of the Hill Cumorah: A Significant Latter-day Saint Landmark in Western New York,” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2002), chapter 3.
 This history initially refers to it only as “the place,” but Joseph’s scribe James Mulholland appended a slip of paper to the volume describing “a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood.” The back of the slip of paper explains that he made the addition in consultation with Joseph. See Joseph Smith History, 1838–56, volume A-1, 7 and attached slip, in Karen Lynn Davidson and others, eds., Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, volume 1 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee and others (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2012), 232–33 (draft 2).
Oliver, too, described the hill by its physical attributes in Letter VII. Like Mulholland, Oliver wrote that the hill "is as large, perhaps, as any in that country... I think I am justified in saying that this is the highest hill for some distance round."
Mulholland's note explained "“I mentioned to President Smith that I considered it necessary that an explanation of <the location of> the place where the box was deposited would be required in order that the history be satisfactory." He did not suggest that the name of the place be included.
In light of D&C 128:20 (Joseph's lead that the historians chose not to follow), is it legitimate to claim that the 1838 history is the lead they should follow, just because Mulholland did not name the hill in that history? Here's what the essay on the Angel Moroni says as it explains the error in Joseph's 1838 history:
This reference [to Nephi] likely originated with Joseph Smith’s clerk James Mulholland, who began in 1839 to combine various manuscripts of Joseph Smith’s history into a single narrative. Evidence suggests Mulholland did not take dictation from Joseph Smith but rather worked from sources available to him that have not survived. Mulholland could easily have been confused about the identity of the angel since many of Joseph’s earlier accounts before Mulholland’s draft did not mention the angel’s name.
Since Joseph didn't dictate the 1838 history, how is it a legitimate excuse for censoring Cumorah from the historical record?
*M2C is the acronym for the Mesoamerican/Two-Cumorahs theory that teaches the "real" Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is not in New York but instead is somewhere in southern Mexico. M2C is based on the assertion that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ignorant speculators who misled the Church when they taught that Cumorah was in New York. M2C has been accepted by many LDS intellectuals, and is being taught at BYU and CES.
**Certain LDS intellectuals recognize that the New York Cumorah taught by the prophets and apostles for decades contradicts their M2C theory. While they have long claimed the prophets and apostles are wrong, most members of the Church don't realize this, and the M2C intellectuals don't emphasize the point. Instead, they have been carefully erasing the New York Cumorah. Examples of their efforts include:
- The censorship of a critical portion of the Wentworth letter in the lesson manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church--Joseph Smith
, discussed here.
- Manipulating the search engine in the Joseph Smith Papers so a search for "Cumorah" does not produce critical references to the New York site.
- Censoring the David Whitmer account of meeting the messenger who was taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah.
- Creating a display in the North Visitors Center that depicts Mormon abridging the Nephite records from a cave in Mesoamerica, while Moroni is burying the plates off in the distance in New York.
- Creating confusion about the actual teachings of the prophets and apostles by taking certain teachings out of context and censoring teachings about the New York Cumorah (M2C citation cartel, including FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, BYU Studies, etc.).
- Teaching the Book of Mormon at BYU and CES with fantasy maps that depict Cumorah in an area that resembles Mesoamerica and is anything but New York.
Of course, in the Internet age, censorship is a fool's errand. No matter how much the intellectuals seek to scrub the record of the New York Cumorah, anyone can read Letter VII, the General Conference reports, and all the historical references to the New York Cumorah.How does it build faith for Church members to be kept ignorant of the teachings of the prophets and apostles?
How will current and future generations react when the first they hear of the New York Cumorah is when critics of the Church make them aware of it?
The real tragedy here is that the extrinsic evidence corroborates the teachings of the prophets, while M2C is based on illusory correspondences that lead people to disbelieve the teachings of the prophets.