Because this blog focuses on Book of Mormon issues, I won't discuss other interesting aspects of the book here (but I will elsewhere).
For now, I'll mention one of Riess' findings.
She asked about the degree of certainty people have about specific LDS teachings. In this table, she shows that the percentage of members who are confident that the Book of Mormon is a literal, historical account is declining significantly.
|BYU Fantasy/mythology map of|
the Book of Mormon
It's the same problem missionaries have when they tell investigators/friends that the Book of Mormon is 1,000 years of a real history of real people--except we have no idea where any of it took place.
How do we expect investigators to respond? How would any of us respond?
The explanation of Book of Mormon historicity now being given is a complete reversal of what Joseph and Oliver taught about the one certain connection between the Book of Mormon and the real world: the New York Cumorah.
In the early 1900s, certain RLDS scholars decided the New York Cumorah wasn't feasible.
They figured Joseph and Oliver (and all their contemporaries and successors) were wrong about Cumorah.
They figured there had to be "two Cumorahs." The real one was in Mexico, while the hill in New York was falsely labeled "Cumorah" because of tradition. This is the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C).
Certain LDS scholars adopted the RLDS theories over the objections of Church leaders at the time. They claimed that the prophets who taught the New York Cumorah were merely expressing their private opinions and were wrong.
Building on illusory correspondences with Mesoamerica, these scholars further developed M2C with a series of books and articles published through the M2C citation cartel that censors alternative ideas, including the teachings of the prophets.
M2C has become the de facto standard. Despite the official policy of neutrality, M2C is taught in Church media, visitors centers, and CES/BYU.
To accommodate M2C, the Church History Department censored Cumorah from the book Saints.
To accommodate M2C, the Church Correlation Department censored portions of the Wentworth letter from the lesson manual on Joseph Smith.
Now, no LDS youth is taught what the prophets have consistently and persistently taught about the New York Cumorah.
Now, every LDS youth is taught a combination of M2C and the fantasy/mythology maps.
Now, when an LDS youth discovers, on his/her own (usually through the Internet) what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, their CES/BYU teachers explain that the prophets were wrong.
That leads to a second major issue brought out in The Next Mormons that we'll discuss in the next blog post.