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, 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.

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