Working with M2C believers
I accept the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah. Can you help me understand why you disagree?
CAUTION: Usually, they will become defensive. If they work for the M2C citation cartel, they will become angry. You will see their response boils down to #3 below, but they resist this reality as long as they can.
IMPORTANT: Do not ask the question to start an argument.
Ask because you are genuinely curious. If you just want to argue, don't ask the question.
Emphasize you are not accusing them of anything. These are wonderful brothers and sisters with whom we share the most important beliefs about the gospel. We want to know why people think the things they do because we want to improve understanding and facilitate cordial relationships.
We're not criticizing them for their beliefs or saying they're wrong. (Many people feel personally attacked when their beliefs are questioned. This is especially true of M2C employees. Be sensitive and empathetic if they get emotional. Use your judgment. It may take a while to get past the emotions.)
Emphasize that we have no problem with people having different opinions.
We just want to know if they've made an informed decision. If so, fantastic. We don't expect everyone to think alike. In fact, you should have an open mind as well. Maybe they will tell you something you didn't know before. If you haven't ever changed your mind on this topic and you're convinced you're right, realize that they think the same way.
In almost every case, you'll see they have been trained by BYU/CES to think only of M2C and have not made an informed decision. They have never thought this through.
I can relate to them because I, too, trusted my M2C professors at BYU. I trusted FARMS, etc.
I wish someone had asked me that question 30 years ago. I wouldn't have spent decades believing M2C myself.
Here are the responses you'll get, depending on how well trained they are.
1. "The prophets have never said Cumorah is in New York."
Notice: no prophet or apostle has ever questioned, let alone repudiated, the teachings of his predecessors about the New York Cumorah. This is not "Mormon Chess" in which people can find contradictory quotes by prophets and apostles to support their positions.
Because the M2C citation cartel censors teachings that contradict M2C, most members of the Church today have never heard of Letter VII, President Romney's talk, etc. Refer them to the BYU packet here: http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html
In most cases, they will be surprised. In many cases, they will say, "How come I've never heard about this?" In some cases, they'll say, "I need to study this." A few will even accept these teachings and wonder why they believed the M2C intellectuals and their employees in the first place.
Those who have been well trained by the M2C citation cartel will say, "Those were merely the opinions of men. They were not speaking as prophets and apostles."
Besides being disrespectful of the prophets and apostles, this answer contradicts the statements themselves, but don't argue about that. Notice: their response was not a response to the question. Pace them and ask, "then why do you reject their opinions?"
If they start talking about evidence, skip to #3 below.
2. "The Church has no position on Book of Mormon geography."
This is a dodge they resort to because they are uncomfortable with the real answer.
They will refer to the anonymous Gospel Topics Essay which is not an answer to the question.
The essay has been changed once and can change again at any moment without notice.
Contrast this with the specific and clear teachings by well-known prophets and apostles contained in the Joseph Smith Papers, the General Conference reports, and books published by the Church including Jesus the Christ and A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. Not to mention prior statements that say the Church has always taught that Cumorah is in New York.
Here's the key point: the essay allows members to believe whatever they want. It says nothing about Cumorah and simply restates long-held positions about Book of Mormon settings other than Cumorah.
What the essay does not do is give a reason for rejecting what the prophets and apostles have taught about the New York Cumorah.
When M2C intellectuals and their employees, followers, and donors cite the essay, just respond by repeating the question, "Fine, but why do you reject the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah?"
They won't want to tell you their reason. They will do almost anything to avoid answering. But eventually they will get around to it.
3. "Because the New York Cumorah doesn't fit my interpretation of the text."
This is the real reason, and the only reason, why the M2C intellectuals, their followers, employees and donors, reject the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
This is not criticism.
This is just reality.
Once everyone understands this, there will be no more "contests of opinions" because we can all agree on our respective biases and leave peacefully together.
They will undoubtedly say they reject the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah because of "evidence," but that's a pretext and a delusion. The "evidence" they site is post hoc rationalization to support their interpretation of the text.
None of the typical reasons they cite (anonymous 1842 Times and Seasons articles, statements by prophets and apostles about Lamanites in Latin America, the location of Zion, etc.) has anything to do with the New York Cumorah--except as it relates to the M2C interpretation of the text.
In fact, there is nothing necessarily inconsistent between a Mesoamerican setting and a New York Cumorah except for the M2C interpretation of the text.
While I happen to think the North American setting makes more sense than any Mesoamerican setting, I'm open to all ideas. Until the prophets and apostles speak about these issues, I rely on what they've said in the past. And they have consistently and persistently taught that Cumorah is in New York.
One thing I'm not open to is devaluing and repudiating the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah just because some academic interprets the text to fit his/her preferred geography. That approach leads to confusion and doubt about everything the prophets have taught.
Separately, I've explained how the entire M2C interpretation of the text is based on a false premise (that Joseph couldn't have known about ancient civilizations in Central America) supported by circular reasoning and illusory evidence.
I've also explained how the scientific evidence supports the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
By now, we all know that people confirm their biases by interpreting "evidence" to fit their preconceptions. The facts don't matter. This should be especially obvious to every member of the Church who accepts the Book of Mormon. We know that at least a billion people have looked at the same evidence that we think supports the Book of Mormon, but they have rejected it.
(BTW, this is why Book of Mormon Central's marketing campaign is so ridiculous. If the evidence they offer was "clear and convincing" we wouldn't have 99% of the people who look at that evidence rejecting it. Somebody needs to do some A/B testing outside the M2C bubble.)
I freely admit my bias is to accept the teachings of the prophets and apostles.
If your M2C friends are self-aware and honest, they will admit that their bias is to favor the theories of intellectuals over the teachings of the prophets and apostles.
It's a simple choice. Nothing to argue about.
So long as people are making informed choices, we're happy with whatever they decide for themselves.
Finally, you should be able to answer the inverse question. They will ask something such as this"
"I think the Book of Mormon took place in a limited geography of Mesoamerica. Can you help me understand why you disagree?"
By now, I'm sure you can answer easily and lovingly.
Hopefully, you can have a productive discussion with your friends. You're not trying to persuade them or change their minds. You're honestly curious about what they think, how they arrived at their conclusions, etc.
All you want to do is encourage them to make informed decisions.
Regardless of what they decide, move forward with faith and love together.