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.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Is lds.org a "Church setting?"

The new Gospel Topics essay on Book of Mormon Geography says, among other things,

The Church urges local leaders and members not to advocate theories of Book of Mormon geography in official Church settings.

One question the essay doesn't answer is whether lds.org itself is "an official Church setting." 

This new policy will have many ramifications, but with regard to the Internet, there are three possibilities.

1. The links on lds.org to M2C-promoting web pages are removed from lds.org.

2. The content on the M2C-promoting web pages changes to comply with the new policy; i.e., the M2C citation cartel stops promoting M2C.


3. The links on lds.org to M2C-promoting web pages are not removed from lds.org.

This would mean that the new policy is going to be selectively enforced in favor of M2C, and/or lds.org itself is not a "Church setting."

It will be interesting to see which alternative becomes the new reality.

It seems obvious that lds.org is a "Church setting."

It also seems obvious that the M2C citation cartel is not about to change their editorial position or the content of their web pages.

That leads to the only viable alternative.

All links to M2C-advocating sites should be removed from lds.org. This includes links to BYU Studies, FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, and any other site that advocates a particular theory of Book of Mormon geography. 


On this blog, I've shown lots of examples of how these organizations and groups, which I refer to collectively as the M2C citation cartel, advocate M2C. For new readers, here's on example.

Go to https://byustudies.byu.edu/

Today's "daily feature" promotes an M2C book, saying it "ought to be on the bookshelf of everyone interested in Book of Mormon geography."

BYU Studies promoting M2C, 31 Jan 2019

BYU Studies also features, right on their home page, the infamous map of "Book of Mormon places" that teaches people the prophets were wrong about Cumorah.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Gospel Topics essay on Book of Mormon Geography

Great news!

A Gospel Topics essay on Book of Mormon geography has been posted.


I'm very happy to see this new policy because finally, it allows members of the Church to evaluate the teachings of the prophets without the M2C* filter.

(*M2C is the acronym for the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.)

For decades I've attended Church meetings at which M2C was being taught. I learned it in my classes in Seminary and at BYU. I went to an M2C fireside just a few months ago in Utah County. There was a large crowd of members of the Church assembled in a stake center to learn about M2C. I've attended others in chapels where current BYU professors have taught M2C. Such presentations conveyed the impression to Church members that the Church approved of M2C.

Worse, there was disparate treatment of different geography theories. While M2C presentations were allowed throughout the Church (including CES and BYU), other presentations that focused on the teachings of the prophets about the Hill Cumorah in New York were aggressively banned.

This essay declares that the Church now officially has no preference for one theory over another.

In other words, from now on, Church members will have no further reason to infer that the Church endorses M2C, and anyone who states or implies otherwise is contradicting Church policy.

This Gospel Topics essay is an important step toward correcting errors that have crept in over the years.

However, because the essay contains much of the same material found in the work of the M2C scholars who have written similar things for years, I'll make some suggestions for improvement in terms of clarity and accuracy.

Original in blue, my comments in red, other quotations in green.

Book of Mormon Geography


The Church takes no position on the specific geographic location of Book of Mormon events in the ancient Americas. Church members are asked not to teach theories about Book of Mormon geography in Church settings but to focus instead on the Book of Mormon’s teachings and testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel.
Everyone agrees that the message of the Book of Mormon is far more important than its historicity. The quasi-official endorsement of M2C has been a major stumbling block for decades, both for members of the Church and for friends (investigators). And yet, as we'll see below, historicity is a critical element in fulfilling the purpose of the Book of Mormon.
Presumably "Church settings" in this essay includes classes taught by CES and BYU. Eliminating M2C from these classes is a tremendous change and a big step forward.
One area that this essay leaves unclear is how to deal with the consistent, persistent teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. I have watched General Conference when prophets and apostles have explicitly taught that the hill Cumorah is in New York. These talks are still available on lds.org. Plus, the Joseph Smith Papers, including Joseph's own history, still contain explicit teachings about the New York Cumorah. 
As written, this policy appears to censor references to or discussion of these materials in Church settings. I suggest that if this is the intent, the essay should be more specific; i..e., it should say "Teachings of past prophets and apostles regarding the Hill Cumorah should not be shared or discussed in Church settings."
In addition to those general conference addresses discussed below, here are two examples in which the New York Cumorah was specifically taught:
General Conference talk by President Marion G. Romney: 
General Conference talk by Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Twelve: 
The risk of censoring such teachings, of course, is that Church members and friends (investigators) will only learn about these teachings of the prophets from critics, such as the CES Letter. That is the current situation, and it is causing confusion and dismay among active members of the Church.
I propose that the essay be edited to acknowledge the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah as a separate issue from the location of other Book of Mormon sites.
The Book of Mormon includes a history of an ancient people who migrated from the Near East to the Americas. This history contains information about the places they lived, including descriptions of landforms, natural features, and the distances and cardinal directions between important points. The internal consistency of these descriptions is one of the striking features of the Book of Mormon.
The term "the Americas" is a recent paraphrasing of actual teachings of the prophets. The essay would be more accurate to use the terms used by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, who referred to "this country" when discussing what Moroni taught about the remnant of the Lamanites. 
Since the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have expressed numerous opinions about the specific locations of the events discussed in the book. 
This paragraph of the essay conflates two separate categories of teachings by the prophets and apostles. Careful and complete analysis of the formal teachings of the apostles and prophets shows that they have always taught that (i) the Hill Cumorah is in New York and (ii) we don't know the locations of the other events in the Book of Mormon. This different treatment of the two separate topics has been consistent and persistent since the early days of the Church. The essay should be revised to clarify this distinction. The prophetic teachings about the New York Cumorah do not determine any other issue of geography, a point the prophets have made many times. 
Some believe that the history depicted in the Book of Mormon occurred in North America, while others believe that it occurred in Central America or South America. Although Church members continue to discuss such theories today, the Church takes no position on the geography of the Book of Mormon except that the events it describes took place in the Americas.
This is true with regard to point (ii) above, but all of the prophets and apostles who have ever addressed the issue have affirmed that there is one Hill Cumorah and it is in western New York. As written, this paragraph confuses members of the Church who study the teachings of the prophets and apostles. 
This paragraph also raises an important question about the so-called "abstract" maps used by CES and BYU, neither of which depict "the Americas." Instead, the youth of the Church are being taught that Lehi landed in a fantasy land that doesn't exist in the real world. The maps are generated by computer, based on the M2C interpretation of the text. The essay would be helpful if it stated a policy on the use of computer-generated fantasy maps to teach the Book of Mormon. 
The Prophet Joseph Smith himself accepted what he felt was evidence of Book of Mormon civilizations in both North America and Central America. While traveling with Zion’s Camp in 1834, Joseph wrote to his wife Emma that they were “wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionally the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls and their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity.”1 In 1842, the Church newspaper Times and Seasons published articles under Joseph Smith’s editorship that identified the ruins of ancient native civilizations in Mexico and Central America as further evidence of the Book of Mormon’s historicity.2
The first statement converts an inference into a declaration of fact and should be rewritten to accurately state the facts.  
Notice the difference between the two sources cited in this paragraph. 
The first source is directly from Joseph Smith--a letter he wrote to his wife Emma. 
The second source is an anonymous article that has been long attributed to Joseph, even though there is no historical evidence that Joseph actually edited the Times and Seasons and lots of historical evidence that he did not do so. (For example, he sent the letters that became D&C 127 and 128 to the actual editor of the Times and Seasons to have them published. Because D&C 128:20 refers to Cumorah, it should be addressed in this essay to avoid confusion.)
Furthermore, while Joseph's responsibility for or approval of the anonymous Times and Seasons article remains a topic for historical analysis because he never explicitly endorsed it, the essay should clarify that any statements about ancient civilizations in Mexico and Central America have no bearing on the explicit teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah. 
For example, Letter VII, which declares it was a fact that the Hill Cumorah in New York was the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites, was published in official Church newspapers, by Joseph's own brothers, both before and after the 1842 article cited above. 

Letter VII was published in the Times and Seasons itself in 1841 by Joseph's brother, Don Carlos, at the direction of Joseph Smith. Joseph's brother William Smith, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve at the time, republished Letter VII in the Church newspaper called The Prophet in New York City in June 1844--ironically two days after Joseph Smith was martyred in Carthage. 

Today anyone can read Letter VII in Joseph Smith's personal history in the Joseph Smith Papers, here:
Footnote 2 is also misleading and should be revised. It reads, "Although it is not clear how involved Joseph Smith was in writing these editorials, he never refuted them." The footnote claims that because we have no historical records of Joseph refuting these editorials, he therefore never did refute them. By this reasoning, because we have no historical records of Joseph explicitly approving these anonymous editorials, we should conclude he didn't approve of them. 

Both cases are examples of the absence of evidence fallacy. An accurate footnote would state, "Although it is not clear how involved Joseph Smith was in writing these editorials, there is no historical evidence that he ever explicitly approved of them or refuted them."

To reiterate, these editorials have no bearing on the location of Cumorah in New York. 
Anthony W. Ivins, a Counselor in the First Presidency, stated: “There has never been anything yet set forth that definitely settles that question [of Book of Mormon geography]. So the Church says we are just waiting until we discover the truth.”3
The inserted paraphrase is misleading and should be omitted because President Ivins was one of the Church leaders who made the clear distinction between (i) the known New York Cumorah and (ii) the uncertainty about the rest of Book of Mormon geography (the topic of his 1929 sermon).
On April 6, 1928, President spoke in General Conference about the Hill Cumorah in New York, which the Church had recently purchased. Both of his talks (1928 and 1929) should be addressed in this Gospel Topics essay; simply omitting one (and quoting the other out of context with a misleading paraphrase) creates a false impression of what President Ivins actually taught.
In his 1928 address, after discussing the Hill Cumorah in New York and explaining it was the location for the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites, President Ivins said,
All of these incidents to which I have referred, my brethren and sisters, are very closely associated with this particular spot in the state of New York. Therefore I feel, as I said in the beginning of my remarks, that the acquisition of that spot of ground is more than an incident in the history of the Church; it is an epoch—an epoch which in my opinion is fraught with that which may become of greater interest to the Latter-day Saints than that which has already occurred. We know that all of these records, all the sacred records of the Nephite people, were deposited by Mormon in that hill. That incident alone is sufficient to make it the sacred and hallowed spot that it is to us.... Those additional records will come forth, they will be published to the world, that the children of our Father may be converted to faith in Christ, our Lord and Redeemer, through obedience to the doctrines which he taught."
The distinction President Ivins made between Cumorah and the rest of the geography is made clear when the 1929 sermon excerpted in part in this Gospel Topics essay is read in context. Note what precedes the excerpt and bracketed paraphrase. "There is a great deal of talk about the geography of the Book of Mormon. Where was the land of Zarahemla? Where was the City of Zarahemla? and other geographic matters. It does not make any difference to us. There has never been anything yet set forth that definitely settles that question. So the Church says we are just waiting until we discover the truth. All kinds of theories have been advanced. I have talked with at least half a dozen men that have found the very place where the City of Zarahemla stood, and notwithstanding the fact that they profess to be Book of Mormon students, they vary a thousand miles apart in the places they have located. We do not offer any definite solution."
In 1929, President Ivins was not casting doubt on the location of Cumorah, as the Gospel Topics essay currently implies. This Gospel Topics essay would avoid confusion and fully inform readers by including both quotations from President Ivins' General Conference addresses to reiterate the consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets on these two separate topics: (i) Cumorah is in New York and (ii) we don't know where the other events took place.
The Church urges local leaders and members not to advocate theories of Book of Mormon geography in official Church settings. 
Again, this is a wonderful change from past practices which favored M2C over other ideas.
Speaking of the book’s history and geography, President Russell M. Nelson taught: “Interesting as these matters may be, study of the Book of Mormon is most rewarding when one focuses on its primary purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ. By comparison, all other issues are incidental.”4
Absolutely, I think everyone agrees this is the primary purpose for studying and sharing the Book of Mormon. We all love the Book of Mormon and want to share it with the world because it testifies of Jesus Christ.
The new policy that prohibits M2C presentations in Church buildings, at which M2C speakers repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the Hill Cumorah, is an important step to achieving the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon. 
I hope my suggestions for improving the accuracy of the Gospel Topics Essay are helpful.
Now I'd like to comment on the historicity question.
Moroni explained why he and his father wrote the plates: "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations."
The open question is whether a policy that censors the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah will enhance or detract from the effort to focus on the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon. 
I don't think that the teachings of the prophets about the Hill Cumorah detract from the purpose of the Book of Mormon; otherwise, they wouldn't have taught about the Hill Cumorah in General Conference and in other official settings. 
For that matter, Joseph would not have had Letter VII published and republished in all the Church newspapers of his day.
Today, thanks to the CES Letter and other critics, the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon is under attack much as it was in 1834 when Joseph and Oliver responded by writing the first Gospel Topics essays, the eight historical letters. They concluded that focusing on the facts--the facts of the visit of John the Baptist, the facts of the visit of Moroni, and the facts of the Hill Cumorah--were the best way to respond to claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction.
It seems to me that the responses they provided in 1834 and 1835 are equally effective today, if not more so.
However, I realize that M2C has been taught for so long that it will take time before people are ready to accept the teachings of the prophets again.
While this Gospel Topics essay is an important first step toward correcting the M2C errors that have crept in over the years, I hope it's not the last step.  

For example, this essay should mean we will see a change in the artwork, media, and visitors centers that have been portraying M2C for decades, as we've discussed on this blog many times.

Because the Church now no longer has a position on Book of Mormon geography, we can expect a change in the visitors centers so they will no longer depict specific Book of Mormon settings, such as this display in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square that puts Mormon in a Mayan cave while Moroni is off in New York burying the plates. This display specifically teaches that there are two Cumorahs, one in New York and one in Mesoamerica.

I've discussed all of this many times on this blog and it's wonderful to see it being addressed in a Gospel Topics essay this way.

E.g., http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2016/12/yes-they-do-teach-two-cumorahs-theory.html

Maybe we'll even see BYU change it's M2C-inspired fantasy map that teaches students the Book of Mormon can best be understood as taking place in a fictional, computer-generated fantasy land.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Indian literature

Rabindranath Tagore won a Nobel Prize for literature in 1913, the first non-European winner. His most famous book is Gitanjali, written originally in Bengali. The opening reminds me of how I feel when I study the Book of Mormon and Church history.

Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.

This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and has breathed through it melodies eternally new.

At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.

Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.

Monday, January 28, 2019

An Angel from on High

At Stake Conference this weekend, we sang "An Angel from on High," a song that ought to settle the Cumorah issue because it's based on actual Church history, not the M2C philosophies of men.

Even before he obtained the plates, Joseph knew the name of the hill was Cumorah because Moroni told him. We know this from Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith.

When he went on his mission to the Lamanites with Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery explained to people that Moroni said the hill was called Cumorah anciently.

Pratt wrote this hymn that memorializes what Moroni told Joseph Smith that first night--years before Joseph obtained the plates.

First verse:

1. An angel from on high
The long, long silence broke;
Descending from the sky,
These gracious words he spoke:
Lo! in Cumorah's lonely hill
A sacred record lies concealed.
Lo! in Cumorah's lonely hill
A sacred record lies concealed.

Oliver Cowdery wrote the most detailed account of Moroni's visit, now found in Letter IV, which you can read in Joseph Smith's personal history, here.

During his first visit to Joseph, Moroni explained that the history was "written and deposited not far from" Joseph's home; i.e., Mormon and Moroni abridged the records while living in western New York.

This was well understood during Joseph's lifetime. For example, Heber C. Kimball joined the Church with Brigham Young when they lived in western New York. (Kimball was later one of Brigham Young's counselors in the First Presidency.) Kimball wrote,

"In the towns of Boomfield, Victor, Manchester, and in the regions round about, there were hills upon the tops of which were entrenchments and fortifications, and in them were human bones, axes, tomahawks, points of arrows, beads and pipes, which were frequently found; and it was a common occurrence in the country to plow up axes, which I have done many times myself. I have visited the fortifications on the tops of these hills frequently... The hill Cumorah is a high hill for that country and had the appearance of a fortification or entrenchment around it. In the State of New York, probably there are hundreds of these fortifications which are now visible, and I have seen them in many other parts of the United States." Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 25.

Our M2C scholars teach that President Kimball didn't know what he was talking about.

Ask your Seminary or Institute or BYU or Sunday School teacher about President Kimball's statement. Most likely, they have never heard what President Kimball wrote. They'll consult the "experts" and come back to tell you President Kimball was mistaken, or speculating, or ignorant, solely because of M2C.

It's all very simple. The prophets have consistently and persistently reaffirmed this basic teaching that the hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York.

Nevertheless, the M2C intellectuals (who, unfortunately, are very influential) have persuaded many members of the Church to disbelieve the prophets.

At least we have this hymn to remind us of what really happened.

Full lyrics.

  1. 1. An angel from on high
    The long, long silence broke;
    Descending from the sky,
    These gracious words he spoke:
    Lo! in Cumorah's lonely hill
    A sacred record lies concealed.
    Lo! in Cumorah's lonely hill
    A sacred record lies concealed.
  2. 2. Sealed by Moroni's hand,
    It has for ages lain
    To wait the Lord's command,
    From dust to speak again.
    It shall again to light come forth
    To usher in Christ's reign on earth.
    It shall again to light come forth
    To usher in Christ's reign on earth.
  3. 3. It speaks of Joseph's seed
    And makes the remnant known
    Of nations long since dead,
    Who once had dwelt alone.
    The fulness of the gospel, too,
    Its pages will reveal to view.
    The fulness of the gospel, too,
    Its pages will reveal to view.
  4. 4. The time is now fulfilled,
    The long-expected day;
    Let earth obedience yield
    And darkness flee away.
    Remove the seals; be wide unfurled
    Its light and glory to the world.
    Remove the seals; be wide unfurled
    Its light and glory to the world.
  5. 5. Lo! Israel filled with joy
    Shall now be gathered home,
    Their wealth and means employ
    To build Jerusalem,
    While Zion shall arise and shine
    And fill the earth with truth divine.
    While Zion shall arise and shine
    And fill the earth with truth divine.
  6. Text: Parley P. Pratt, 1807-1857
    Music: John E. Tullidge, 1806-1873
Photos of the hill Cumorah from Church history are available here:

Account of the acquisition of Cumorah here:

The Tabernacle Choir recorded the hymn here:

Friday, January 25, 2019

LDS Statistics and Church Facts

The Church updated its statistics page,* which you can see here:


They have membership, unit, and other statistics by continent and country. They only show current statistics, however; they don't show the detail for prior years.

They do show aggregate historical data, such as this:

Most people are familiar with this story; i.e., the Church has grown substantially since it was founded in 1830.

I was curious about how this compared with world population growth, so I found this chart that shows world population growth since 1800.

Comparing these two charts, it appears the Church has grown faster than world population overall, meaning that the Church is growing as a percentage of world population.

Next, I did a chart of comparative growth rates, using online data and projecting it forward. It's well known that in the last year for which we have statistics (2017), the Church's growth rate was the lowest in decades. If the current trend continues, in 2019 the growth rate of the Church will roughly equal world population growth rates.

This seems surprising to me because the Church is expanding into new countries, especially in Africa.  As the Church becomes better known in these areas, shouldn't we expect greater growth?

Most of the growth in the Church seems to be coming from Africa, at least in percentage increases. Countries with large membership, especially in the United States, will continue to have more converts, even if growth is lower as a percentage.

This chart merely reflects percentage growth based on total membership. It says nothing about activity rates, such as sacrament meeting attendance, tithe payers, enrollment in CES, etc. Activity is partly reflected by the number of units; i.e., fewer units per capita generally means lower activity rates.

A good example is this chart of membership in Europe.

Because we don't have the historical membership broken out by country, we can't see where the growth is. I suspect much of the growth since around 2000 has been in Eastern Europe, where there was little Church presence until the collapse of communism.

The decline in the number of congregations suggests lower activity rates.

In France, for example, they are closing two branches that were operating when I was a missionary there decades ago.

What does all this mean?

There are many variables involved, and we all have our own experiences and opinions about these trends. We can't isolate one factor as the main cause of the trends. However, in my experience, the Internet plays a major role.

Most investigators are inclined to google the Book of Mormon before they pray about it. When they do so, they quickly come across negative information, such as the CES Letter (which was published in 2013). FairMormon and others responded, leading to a back-and-forth that was mostly ineffective in terms of supporting the position of the Church.

(e.g., https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Criticism_of_Mormonism/Online_documents/Letter_to_a_CES_Director)

This coincides with the decline in growth rates. Correlation doesn't equal causation, but maybe in this case there is a link.

After all, if you're a sincere investigator (or a youth in the Church), and you encounter the CES Letter or other criticisms, what do you do? The critics challenge the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, claiming there's no evidence for it, etc.

If you go to CES, BYU, FairMormon, or Book of Mormon Central, you quickly learn that the CES Letter is correct: all of these supposedly faithful sources declare that the prophets were wrong about the Hill Cumorah in New York, which is the only specific link between the Book of Mormon and the real world.

Naturally, investigators and youth conclude that if the prophets were wrong about that, how can we trust other truth claims?

Because the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion, and because M2C teaches that the prophets were wrong about the Book of Mormon, little else matters.

IMO, until we accept what the prophets have taught, these trends will continue. 


*h/t to http://ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com/

Thursday, January 24, 2019

BYU Studies: Full M2C

BYU Studies has a new editor, but it looks like the journal is going to stay full M2C. It's not surprising, of course; the new editor was heavily involved with the Saints book that created a false historical narrative present to accommodate M2C.

Mary Whitmer and Moroni? Seriously?
The cover tells you everything you need to know. This is the wonderful painting that tells a false story. It's titled "Mary Whitmer and Moroni," but this beautiful painting depicts "Brother Nephi," not Moroni.

I've discussed the problem with this painting before, since it represents the false account related in the Saints book (see here), but to summarize, Mary Whitmer herself referred to the man who showed her the plates as "Brother Nephi."

Her son David said it was the same man he met on the road when he was bringing Joseph and Oliver from Harmony to Fayette. This was the messenger who was taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah. Joseph Smith identified him as one of the three Nephites.

David Whitmer described the man this way:

"an aged man about 5 feet 10 heavey Set & on his back an old fashioned Armey knapsack Straped over his Shoulders & Something Square in it." 

On another occasion, David described him this way:

"While on the return journey from Palmyra, David noticed a somewhat aged-looking man who approached them on the road. He had a very pleasant face, about which, however, there seemed something peculiar, and he carried a knapsack on his back fastened with straps which crossed his breast. David asked him to take a ride, but he declined, saying: 'I am going over to Cumorah,' ... Shortly afterwards, David relates, the Prophet looked very white but with a heavenly appearance and said their visitor was one of the three Nephites to whom the Savior gave the promise of life on earth until He should come in power."

Nephi was one of the twelve disciples from whom the Three Nephites were chosen. We also know that the other nine were promised that at age 72, they would die and return to the Lord. See 3 Nephi 28. We can infer that the Three Nephites were changed at the same age, which explains why "Brother Nephi" was "aged-looking."

The M2C intellectuals disbelieve these accounts because their whole M2C theory falls apart if there is one Cumorah and it is in New York, as the prophets have taught.

Notice how, to perpetuate their beliefs, the M2C intellectuals want us to accept the magical thinking that Moroni can appear both as a glorious resurrected being and as an old, 5'10" heavy-set farmer lugging the plates in a knapsack to the hill Cumorah--in Mexico.

Here is part of Oliver Cowdery's description of Moroni:

"The stature of this personage was a little above the common size of men in this age; his garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam."

This is how artists have always depicted Moroni, with good reason.


The cover photo isn't the only problem with this issue of BYU Studies. The first article is titled "Time the Translation of the Book of Mormon." This is essentially the presentation made earlier in 2018 that deliberately omits the account of the messenger taking the plates to Cumorah.

I've discussed that here: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/12/opening-heavens-but-censoring-history.html

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

CES Letter and other critics

Today's BYU Devotional Forum by Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge of the Seventy focused on how to approach critics.


I encourage everyone to read/watch his talk. Critics such as the CES Letter are having a tremendous impact on members of the Church (and investigators), and Elder Corbridge gives some great advice.

Here, I want to discuss why the critics are so successful. I think their success is largely attributable to the teachings of certain LDS intellectuals that are being promulgated by CES and BYU.

IOW, the CES Letter is persuasive to people because of the teachings of LDS intellectuals who teach the youth that the prophets are wrong. This includes not only M2C advocates but also the revisionist Church historians who support them.

For now, I'll give just two examples.

M2C-approved BYU Fantasy map that teaches students
to think of the Book of Mormon in a fictional setting -
because the prophets are wrong
The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. The critics know that, so naturally that's where they focus.

But their job is made easy because both CES and BYU teach their students that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah.

To make sure students grasp the point, CES and BYU use fantasy maps in their Book of Mormon classes.

Really, when CES and BYU students are being indoctrinated to think of the Book of Mormon in terms of a computer-generated fantasy map that has no relevance to the actual planet Earth, the critics are redundant.

The critics claim that the Book of Mormon is fiction, but every student going through CES and BYU is learning that already.

By contrast, how did Joseph and Oliver respond to the early anti-Mormon claim that the Book of Mormon was fiction? Did they draw a fantasy map and publish it in Church literature?

Of course not.

Eight letters
Instead, they wrote the first Gospel Topics Essays, published as letters, explaining the facts regarding the restoration of the Priesthood, the visit of Moroni, and the location of the Hill Cumorah in western New York.

They declared it was a fact that this is the very Hill Cumorah where (i) Joseph found the plates, (ii) Mormon concealed the repository of Nephite records, and (iii) both the Jaredite and Nephite nation waged their final battles. (See Mormon 6:6 and Letters IV and VII).

How do our intellectuals respond? Do they support and corroborate what Joseph and Oliver taught?

No. Instead, they side with the anti-Mormon critics and insist Joseph and Oliver were wrong. 

They teach people to disbelieve these declarations by Joseph and Oliver that were republished multiple times during Joseph's lifetime. 

For example, Joseph's brother William, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, republished Letter VII in New York City just two days after Joseph's martyrdom in Carthage. 

These LDS intellectuals proceed to teach their students to disbelieve the teachings of all the prophets who have reaffirmed the New York Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.

According to the M2C intellectuals, Joseph changed his mind about the setting of the Book of Mormon when he read a travel book in 1841-1842.

Joseph Smith Papers,
Look at this comment in the Joseph Smith Papers, for example. This is in the Historical Introduction to Orson Pratt's 1840 missionary pamphlet titled "Interesting Account."

Pratt’s association of Book of Mormon peoples with the history of all of North and South America matched common understanding of early Latter-day Saints. Shortly thereafter, when John Lloyd Stephens’s Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan became available in Nauvoo in about 1842, JS greeted it enthusiastically and church members used it to map Book of Mormon sites in a Central American setting.


In my view, this is an outrageously deceptive comment because Joseph Smith actually rejected Orson Pratt's speculations.

Saints - M2C-approved
If you're a faithful member of the Church who reads the commentary in the Joseph Smith Papers, the Saints book, or even the Joseph Smith lesson manual, you will never know what Joseph actually taught.


Because the M2C intellectuals and their followers don't want you to know what Joseph actually taught. 

When he wrote the Wentworth Letter, Joseph Smith adapted parts of Pratt's 1840 pamphlet. The Joseph Smith Papers comment explains it this way (same reference as above):

Interesting Account is not a JS document, because JS did not write it, assign it, or supervise its creation. However, two JS documents in this volume, “Church History” and “Latter Day Saints” (a later version of “Church History”), quote extensively from Pratt's pamphlet. These documents made use of Pratt’s language to describe JS’s early visionary experiences and built on Pratt’s summary of the church’s “faith and doctrine” for the thirteen-point statement of church beliefs that came to be known as the Articles of Faith...  Interesting Account is therefore included as an appendix to allow convenient comparison with JS’s histories. 

"Church History" here refers to the 1842 Wentworth letter. While Joseph quoted from part of Pratt's pamphlet when he wrote the Wentworth letter, he deleted all of Pratt's speculation about the remnant of the Lamanites living in Central and South America and replaced it with this statement:

The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.

This is the very passage that the Correlation/Curriculum Departments censored from the Joseph Smith Manual, as we've discussed before, such as here.

Why do the editors of the Joseph Smith Papers (JSP) claim Joseph "enthusiastically" "greeted" a travel book about Central America?

Because they continue to teach that Joseph Smith was the acting editor of the Times and Seasons, as opposed to merely the nominal editor. That teaching contradicts the historical evidence, as I've explained in detail in my three books about Nauvoo history. (This teaching causes other problems that I don't have time to cover here.)

If you look at the footnote 6 to the JSP comment I linked to above, it references Terryl Givens for authority. Brother Givens also wrote the Foreword to John Sorenson's Mormon's Codex, in which he claims "So influential has Sorenson's work on Book of Mormon Geography been that there is widespread consensus among believing scholars in support of what is now called the "Sorenson model," which identifies the scripture's setting with a Mesoamerican locale."

Do you see how the M2C citation cartel works? 

Brother Sorenson writes M2C material, including Mormon's Codex, which was published by Deseret Book and the Maxwell Institute. Brother Givens writes the Foreword. Then the Joseph Smith Papers cites Brother Givens to support the proposition that Joseph Smith enthusiastically greeted the very travel book that is the premise for Mormon's Codex.

It's all circular reasoning, but it's effective because most Church members rely on these intellectuals and historians to relate history accurately. They don't realize this is all driven by the M2C agenda.

Recall, Mormon's Codex is the book that teaches this: "There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundreds of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history."

Among these Latter-day Saints whose teachings are "manifestly absurd" according to the M2C intellectuals are these: Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, Anthony Ivins, Joseph Fielding Smith, Marion G. Romney, James E. Talmage, LeGrand Richards, and many others who have declared, in their writings and in General Conference, that Cumorah is in New York.

These influential LDS scholars, who all believe in M2C, have infiltrated every department of the Church, and their work is found throughout the Joseph Smith Papers, as well as Saints, the lesson manuals, and the ubiquitous artwork and media productions.

They successfully indoctrinate people into believing M2C because the M2C citation cartel continues to censor the teachings of the prophets.

This all makes is much easier for CES Letter and other critics to undermine the faith of the Latter-day Saints.

This is the tip of the iceberg, but today's students don't have to read CES Letter or other critical literature to lose their faith in the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

All they have to do is attend class at CES/BYU and learn how the prophets are wrong about so basic a fundamental as the location of the Hill Cumorah.