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.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Only 49% of LDS believe Book of Mormon is a literal, historical account?

Jana Reiss published a fascinating detail recently about the beliefs of Church members about whether the Book of Mormon is a literal, historical account:

  1. More religiously orthodox. Utah Mormons were more devout on almost every testimony question. These differences were less pronounced on questions of basic Christian belief (God, Jesus, etc.) and more visible on specifically Mormon questions about the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the role of apostles and prophets today. For example, there’s a twenty-point difference between the Utah Mormons who strongly agree that the Book of Mormon is a “literal, historical account” (69%) and the non-Utah Mormons who do (49%). In many cases on these testimony questions, non-Utah folks would choose the second option of “somewhat” agree rather than “strongly” agree. So it doesn’t mean they don’t believe in Mormon teachings, but they may hold them less tightly than Utah Mormons tend to.
This indicates that 1/3 of devout Utah Mormons don't strongly believe the Book of Mormon is a literal, historical account, and less than 1/2 of non-Utah Mormons believe that.

I suspect that the difference between the Utah and non-Utah Mormons is partly attributable to Utah Mormons having fewer interactions with people who challenge their faith in the Book of Mormon; i.e., they let bias confirmation guide them. 

Those who make inquiries on the Internet quickly realize that outside of a handful of M2C intellectuals and their followers, no Mesoamerican scholars see any links between actual Mayan culture and the Book of Mormon. As I've shown many times, the so-called "correspondences" touted by the M2C intellectuals are illusory and unpersuasive to those who are outside the M2C bubble.. 

The difference could also be attributed to demographics; i.e., non-Utah Mormons are generally younger, and younger LDS are less likely to believe the Book of Mormon is a literal history because of what LDS youth are being taught in CES and at BYU.

As LDS youth go through CES and BYU and learn the Book of Mormon by referring to the fantasy map, even fewer will believe it is a literal, historical account.

BYU fantasy map that teaches the prophets
are wrong about the New York Cumorah
This map is the work of fine scholars at BYU who claim it is the best representation of the geography-related passages in the text. Of course, they really mean it's the best representation of their M2C-driven interpretation; other interpretations of the text fully support the teachings of the prophets.

You can read about the map here:

Church members must realize that these fine scholars also teach that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah. That's why, in their map, they place Cumorah at the upper part of this fantasy map, as far from the real-world New York as possible.

This BYU map has been taught for several years now. Every new student has to learn this map in their introductory Book of Mormon classes.

CES fantasy map
CES uses a similar map.

My question is, how could any trusting youth in the Church believe the Book of Mormon is a literal, historical account when his/her CES/BYU teachers claim a fantasy map is the best fit for the geography?

Especially when these CES/BYU teachers are telling the youth that the prophets are wrong?

The M2C intellectuals, who claim to have been hired by the prophets to guide the Church, do, in fact, seem to be guiding the Church through their influence on the youth. 

The inevitable result of this course will be rejection of the historicity of the Book of Mormon. What impact will that have? I'll discuss that in an upcoming post.

Meanwhile, let's consider what course we're on.

The de-literalizing of the Book of Mormon became apparent to me when I took a closer look at the lesson manuals, the CES/BYU curriculum, the Saints book, the visitors centers, etc. These all repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. I attribute all of those to the M2C Church employees.

True, members of the Quorum of the Twelve do approve all of this, at some level. But they can only review what the employees show them, and the employees only show them M2C approved material.

So far, not one Apostle or President of the Church has repudiated or even questioned the teachings of prior prophets about the New York Cumorah.

Lately, lds.org has linked to the groups who are promoting the fictional fantasy maps of the Book of Mormon. At BYU Education Week, they offer courses in Lessons from the Book of Mormon and Lessons from the Chronicles of Narnia back-to-back.

And it has been 40 years since anyone speaking in General Conference declared the Book of Mormon is a real history.

When I go back and re-read the conference talks and other messages, they all emphasize the content of the book, not it's historical reality. The parables in the Bible are discussed in the same way; i.e., stories that teach true principles. 

Of course we all stipulate that the message of the Book of Mormon is more important than its history, but it is the literal, divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon--its historicity--that makes it a miraculous manifestation of God's involvement with the world. As an inspired parable, it may have power like the Biblical parables, but the power of the book is, in my view, greatly diminished. 

The Church History Department is instructing their staff and volunteers to tell people that Joseph never actually used the plates; instead, he kept them covered with a cloth while he read the words on a stone in a hat. Now Skousen and Carmack are saying Joseph didn't even translate the plates, an idea that is getting zero pushback from Church leaders and a warm welcome from the intellectuals, in part because it corroborates their view that Joseph Smith was merely an ignorant farm-boy speculator who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah.

People tell me that when they ask Church leaders about Book of Mormon geography, the standard response is "We don't talk about that." That's also the response missionaries are instructed to give whenever the question arises.

I realize the historicity doesn't matter to those who already want to believe; bias confirmation always conquers lack of evidence. I'm more interested in the people who want at least some touchstone with reality.

During his lifetime, Joseph Smith emphasized the literal, historical reality of the Book of Mormon. He helped Oliver Cowdery write Letter VII, which teaches it was a fact that the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place in the valley west of the hill Cumorah in western New York and that the repository of Nephite records (Mormon 6:6) was in the same hill. Joseph endorsed Letter VII and made sure it was widely distributed so all Church members could read it.

Today, few Church members have ever heard of Letter VII. 

Instead, they're learning that the Book of Mormon took place in a fictional fantasyland.

Does anyone care?

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