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, November 13, 2018

Young M2C scholars on the radio

There's a radio station in Salt Lake City that features a program put on by our friends at the Interpreter, members of the M2C citation cartel. Recently they had a show that discussed the book Saints and its censorship of the term Cumorah.

I doubt many people listened to it, but the show gives us a chance to observe classic rhetorical techniques used by M2C intellectuals, as exhibited in this case by the younger generation of scholars. [a link is at the end of this post] A lot of Church members remain oblivious to what these intellectuals are doing, so this is a good chance to discuss their techniques and objectives.

(The Interpreter is an online magazine/journal created by and managed by Dan Peterson after he left the old FARMS. The host of this particular radio show and his principal guest are employees of Book of Mormon Central Censor. (BOMCC). Both the Interpreter and BOMCC are members of the M2C citation cartel, which means they both promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory of Book of Mormon geography and censor alternative points of view, including the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.)

For thousands of years, the contrast between prophets vs scholars has forced people to make a choice, a choice that is more difficult for some people than for others. For example, contemporaries of Christ had to make this choice; do I follow Christ and his Apostles, or do I follow the scribes and Pharisees?

The new Saints book
Today we have the same choice, not only on the New York Cumorah but on many other issues. The New York Cumorah is one topic that is easy for everyone to see and understand. That's why it's a big deal that Church historians censored Cumorah right out of Saints, and are methodically censoring the term everywhere else they can. 

It's not a conspiracy (contrary to what the M2C intellectuals want you to think); instead, it's a result of the shared belief among LDS intellectuals, including the Church historians, that Church members should not know what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah. There's no need for a conspiracy; this is a shared belief that all of these intellectuals learned when they were trained by their mentors at BYU/CES, all of whom have been promoting M2C for decades.

To be clear, I strongly encourage people to read Saints. It's a wonderful book. 

I just think it's a tragedy that the authors decided to create a false historical narrative present, purely to impose a modern intellectual fad (M2C) on historical personalities.

On this radio show, instead of having a guest who can accurately convey the historical problems with Saints, the M2C host and his guest created their own straw-man caricature to attack.

They imagined a "blogger" who claims there's a conspiracy that led to the censorship of Cumorah in Saints. Then they discussed the document written by the creators of Saints that was posted as a FAQ to the Saints page on lds.org. The host and his guest simply accepted the document at face value, without any analysis. They didn't mention my own detailed analysis, which I posted here:

The host also posed a rhetorical question about what is at stake with Book of Mormon geography and said he'd want to know what "Heartlanders" would think if a stela was found in Mexico that was translated to say that king so-and-so, in the year 385, marched his armies to Cumorah and destroyed the Nephite nation.

Obviously, he could have had someone on to give a response, but he didn't appear to want an actual answer. He left it as what he thought was a clever rhetorical question. This is a common practice among LDS intellectuals, especially among M2C intellectuals. It was established long ago at FARMS and continues at the Interpreter, BOMCC, FairlyMormon, and other members of the M2C citation cartel.

It's a good question nevertheless. Before I answer it, let's look at the straw man they constructed.

If they wanted to inform instead of mislead their listeners, they would have at least discussed some of the following points, even though they may disagree with them.

First, realize that the host of the show, Brother Neal Rappleye, and his main contributor, Brother Steve Smoot, are employees of Book of Mormon Central Censor. Both are paid to write articles promoting M2C. Both support the ongoing censorship at BOMCC regarding the New York Cumorah.

M2C on Mars
During the radio show, they claim there's nothing at stake regarding Book of Mormon geography. If evidence was found in Central America, they said, or in New York, or in Alaska, or on Mars, it wouldn't matter because regardless of the evidence, Joseph Smith is a prophet.

Imagine you're a nonmember, or a member who left the Church or is questioning whether to remain active, and you heard a comment such as this. LDS intellectuals laughing about evidence on Mars might not help you take the Book of Mormon seriously.

Instead, this is an example of the degree of confirmation bias these scholars engage in. Now, even if they have to go to Mars to find evidence of the Book of Mormon, that's good enough.

For most people, the evidence cited from Mesoamerica is just as illusory as the canals on Mars.

These statements make it easy to see how these fine young scholars have been groomed by their M2C mentors. This is the same type of logical fallacy their mentors have been making for decades.

Confronted with these comments, we step back and ask ourselves, "If the geography doesn't matter, why does BOMCC censor the New York Cumorah and other alternatives to M2C?"

The answer, of course, is BOMCC's corporate mission statement, which has as its number 1 goal "to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex."

It's fascinating to hear these two employees try to convince listeners that their employer's number 1 goal "doesn't matter." It's like the way BOMCC approaches donors by telling them they follow the Church's policy on neutrality, as if donors are too ignorant to realize what a "Mesoamerican codex" is.

Another speaker said whenever she asks "average" Latter-day Saints about geography, they say the Church is neutral and the geography doesn't really matter because the Church is true regardless.

These intellectuals often make a distinction between "average" Latter-day Saints and the "experts." In fact, it was this same Brother Smoot who claimed the prophets have hired the scholars to guide the Church, so therefore any criticism of the scholars constitutes criticism of the Church and its leaders. This was another example of the way our M2C intellectuals are training our youth to think.

The "neutrality" policy pertains to locations other than the New York Cumorah anyway. The prophets have always taught two things:

1. Cumorah is in New York.
2. We don't know where the other events took place (neutrality).

An approach the M2C scholars should take is to ask people who have left the Church or who are no longer active. These groups report that their disbelief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon is a major factor for their decision.

Another way to think of it is, how many people leave the Church with an intact testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon?
BYU's fantasy map of the Book of Mormon

On that point, how many active Church members really believe the historicity doesn't matter? How many just "put it on the shelf" and hope/trust there is an answer?

You might wonder why these young scholars joked about going to Mars to find evidence. If you know what's going on at BYU and CES, it's no surprise.

This is essentially what BYU and CES are teaching with their fantasy maps, developed by BOMCC people.

Those who work with the youth and with returned missionaries are seeing the early returns of the fantasyland approach taken by BYU and CES, and they're not pretty.

While M2C consists of confirmation bias based on illusory evidence, the M2C criticisms of the "Heartland" theory usually consist of creating a straw man to attack. This radio show fits the pattern.

They claimed that, while nothing is actually "at stake" regarding Book of Mormon geography, to "Heartlanders" the stake is important because the "Heartland" theory is based on the premise that Joseph Smith received revelation about the location of the Hill Cumorah in New York and other sites.

Maybe there are some "Heartlanders" who believe that, and I can't speak for anyone else, so I'll limit my discussion to the New York Cumorah.

Long-time readers know how well the historical record establishes the New York Cumorah, but I'll summarize it here:

1. Joseph identified the hill as Cumorah before he even got the plates.
2. The divine messenger told David Whitmer he was taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah even before Joseph started translating the plates of Nephi in Fayette.
3. On their 1830 mission to the Lamanites, Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt taught that the hill in New York was called Cumorah anciently.
4. Joseph, Oliver, and others visited the depository of Nephite records in the hill Cumorah in New York.
5. In Letters VII and VIII, Oliver specifically identified the New York hill as the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.
6. Joseph had these letters copied into his journal and republished multiple times.
7. Every prophet and apostle who has ever addressed this issue has reaffirmed that the New York hill is the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.
8. No prophet or apostle has ever questioned, challenged, or repudiated the teachings of his predecessors about the New York Cumorah.

Does this mean Joseph learned the location of Cumorah by revelation?

You can apply whatever definition you want, but the likelihood that you will reject the historical evidence depends mainly on how badly you want to disbelieve it.

Joseph first learned the name from Moroni. Later, the messenger who took the Harmony plates referred to it as Cumorah. Joseph actually entered the Nephite repository in the hill. Prophets and apostles have borne personal witness of the truth of these things. That's good enough for me, but I don't have any motivation to reject the evidence.

Maybe if I was employed by BOMCC I'd feel differently.

The real question is, why do the M2C intellectuals reject what the prophets have taught?

The historical evidence of the New York Cumorah is compelling. It is far better attested than many of the accounts given in Saints, for example. Nevertheless, Brothers Rappleye and Smoot and their mentors usually say the prophets were merely expressing their opinions, as men, and that they were wrong because the M2C scholars have determined that Cumorah cannot be in New York.

Lately, they've been hedging their bets a bit by saying none of this matters (despite their employer's corporate goal.) In a sense, this is a positive development. At least they're opening the door to the possibility that the prophets are right.

But until BOMCC reverses its censorship policy and begins offering readers and listeners alternative views that support and corroborate the teachings of the prophets, members of the Church will continue being misled by BOMCC and the rest of the M2C citation cartel.

Until then, anyone who has access to the Internet can compare the M2C censorship with what the critics point out regarding LDS leaders vs LDS intellectuals, such as here.

Here's what's at stake, in my view.

Because they promote censorship, the M2C citation cartel is depriving members of the Church, as well as nonmembers, of the opportunity to make an informed decision whether to follow the teachings of the prophets or the teachings of the scholars.

This radio show was a good example. Here we have two employees pretending their own employer's number one goal "doesn't matter." Instead of educating their listeners about what is at stake, they mislead listeners by creating a straw man fallacy about "the Heartland." They cite the historians' letter about Saints without discussing the false historical narrative its authors created. And much more.

By contrast, Joseph and Oliver recognized the importance of grounding the Book of Mormon in the real world. That's why they wrote Letters VII and VIII in the first place, and why Joseph had them republished so every member of the Church (and the world at large) could read them.

The purpose of the Book of Mormon is to convince people that Jesus is the Christ. The divine authenticity of the book is a critical component for accomplishing that purpose; if the book was fiction, it would convince nobody. Naturally, most people who hear about the Book of Mormon want to know when and where the people lived. When our only answer is "we don't know" and "we have no idea," most people conclude the book is fiction and lose interest.

What else can we realistically expect?

Does anyone think the Bible would have achieved its tremendous influence throughout the world if no one knew where the events took place? Or if Peter and Paul and the other apostles went around saying "We don't know where Jerusalem is, but we're sure it's somewhere in Asia." The physical reality of Biblical sites is not evidence of the reality of the miracles, the atonement, or the resurrection, but it is evidence that the accounts in the Bible involved real people in real places.

Believing the Bible involves believing accounts by actual people in actual places. No one has to first jump a historicity hurdle--or hope there's evidence on Mars.

Teaching that the Book of Mormon took place in a fantasy world, the way BYU and CES are currently doing, converts it into a fable more akin to The Lord of the Rings than to the Bible.

This seems self-evident to me. I think it was equally self-evident to Joseph and Oliver, and explains why they wrote Letters VII and VIII.

True, there are a tiny minority of people in the world who accept the Book of Mormon purely on faith. That's awesome. It's the gift of great faith that Moroni mentioned. But it is unrealistic, unnecessary, and counterproductive to expect everyone to share the same spiritual gifts, especially when Moroni specifically warned us against doing just that.

Not everyone needs a real-world connection, but why deny it to those who do? Especially since the prophets have taught and reaffirmed it all along?

In my view, the rejection of the teaching of the prophets about the New York Cumorah by our M2C intellectuals is a disaster in terms of convincing people of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, and by extension convincing people that Jesus is the Christ.

Each of us can ask this question:

Do I want to follow the prophets, or do I want to follow the scholars instead?

Remember: every prophet and apostle who has ever addressed this issue has affirmed what Joseph and Oliver taught; i.e., that Cumorah is in New York.

A handful of self-proclaimed "experts" have determined that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah.

Whom do you follow?

Now, to answer Brother Rappleye's hypothetical about the imaginary Mayan stela that specifically refers to a Book of Mormon event.

The question itself betrays the priority of the M2C approach. They think archaeology is more important than the teachings of the prophets.

I sustain the prophets, not the scholars. If the prophets and apostles officially teach that their predecessors were wrong and that Cumorah is actually in Mexico (or anyplace else), then I would accept that.

In my view, current science corroborates what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, but that's not why I accept the New York Cumorah. I accept it because that's what the prophets have taught.

I also recognize there is ambiguity about Zelph, the plains of the Nephites, Zarahemla, and other statements made by, or attributed to, Joseph Smith. But those are all qualitatively and quantitatively different from the consistent, persistent, teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah.

So my answer to Brother Rappleye is, tell me what the prophets and apostles teach, and you'll have my answer.

(And don't tell me I'm supposed to follow the scholars because the prophets have hired the scholars to lead me.)


If you want to hear the program yourself, here's the link. The 1:13 min mark is where they talk about Heartlanders having an issue with the Saints book. 

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