Friday, October 23, 2020

M2C Evidence Central

they began to mark themselves... (Alma 3:18)

The mark of M2C is expanding.


The new web page, Evidencecentral.org, has an excellent logo. The designers did a nice job. 


The web page is a great idea that I fully support--in theory. It's important for people to know there is evidence to support the claims of the prophets and the scriptures.

However, Evidence Central is (so far) completely tainted by the mark of M2C. It's just another member of the M2C citation cartel. 

Consequently, Evidencecentral.org accumulates and presents evidence to convince people to disbelieve the teachings of the prophets.
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Here are some examples. Notice the mark of M2C on every page.



In Joseph Smith's translation of the Book of Mormon, there are zero accounts of people building massive stone temple, pyramids, or other structures. Yet the M2C citation cartel has retranslated the text to describe these and other features of Mayan culture.


Joseph Smith's translation describes building houses with "cement" and cities "both of wood and of cement." It never mentions building with stone and cement, but M2C has retranslated the text to present as "evidence" the massive stone pyramids and other Mayan structures.

11 And thus they did enable the people in the land northward that they might build many cities, both of wood and of cement.
(Helaman 3:11)

In North America, indigenous people built with wood and cement.

The only cement we know for certain was Nephite was discovered in western New York. Moroni used it to construct the box into which he placed the abridged plates. 



In Joseph's translation, Coriantumr's stone was so unusual that the people of Zarahemla brought it to Mosiah to be interpreted. It is the only engraved stone mentioned in 1,000 years of Nephite history.

20 And it came to pass in the days of Mosiah, there was a large stone brought unto him with engravings on it; and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God.
21 And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons.
(Omni 1:20–21)

In the M2C translation, these stones were ubiquitous because among the Mayans they were ubiquitous.

Of course, such stones are common in many human societies. I've seen them in China, Cambodia, India, Egypt, Mexico, Belize, Lebanon, Israel, Greece, Italy, Turkey, etc. It's difficult to find an ancient society without such stones. 

The lack of such stones in the Book of Mormon, combined with the special mention of Coriantumr's stone, suggests we should look for ancient American societies in which a large carved stone would be unusual, even undecipherable.

The last society to cite as evidence of the Book of Mormon is a society that had large engraved stones everywhere.
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I encourage people to go through EvidenceCentral and see if you can find any evidence to support the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah or the translation of the Book of Mormon with the Urim and Thummim. 

If you find such evidence, send me an email (lostzarahemla@gmail.com) and I'll mention it in this blog.








Thursday, October 22, 2020

The partiality of paternalism

Now that people recognize the mark of M2C as the antithesis of intellectual pursuit and a direct repudiation of the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, many people are wondering why LDS intellectuals adopted the mark of M2C in the first place.

These intellectuals are smart, credentialed and well intentioned. Some (but not all) of them ostensibly recognize the importance of an open mind. What would lead them to adopt a logo that declares as a fundamental premise that the only permissible discussion of Book of Mormon geography is in the context of a Mayan setting?


There's a simple explanation. These intellectuals simply assumed the prophets were wrong about Cumorah and they fell in love with their theory.

In technical terms, M2C (the Mesoamerican/2 Cumorahs theory) is an example of "the habit of precipitate explanation." 

The reason so many people become emotionally attached to "hastily born theories" such as M2C was explained in 1890 by the geologist T.C. Chamberlin. His paper was reprinted in Science magazine in 1965. A pdf is available here: 

http://www.sortie-nd.org/lme/Statistical%20Papers/Chamberlain_1997.pdf

Chamberlin explained how affection for one's theory create a "blinding influence."

For a time these hastily born theories [such as M2C] are likely to be held in a tentative way with some measure of candor or at least some self-illusion of candor. With this tentative spirit and measurable candor, the mind satisfies its moral sense and deceives itself with the thought that it is proceeding cautiously and impartially toward the goal of ultimate truth. 

It fails to recognize that no amount of provisional holding of a theory, no amount of application of the theory, so long as the study lacks in incisiveness and exhaustiveness, justifies an ultimate conviction. It is not the slowness with which conclusions are arrived at that should give satisfaction to the moral sense, but the precision, the completeness and the impartiality of the investigation.

It is in this tentative stage that the affections enter with their blinding influence. Love was long since discerned to be blind and what is true in the personal realm is measurably true on the intellectual realm. Important as the intellectual affections are as stimuli and as rewards, they are nevertheless dangerous factors in research. All too often they put under strain the integrity of the intellectual processes.

The moment one has offered an original explanation for a phenomenon which seems satisfactory, that moment affection for his intellectual child springs into existence, and as the explanation grows into a definite theory his parental affections cluster about his offspring and it grows more and more dear to him.

While he persuades himself that he holds it still as tentative, it is none the less lovingly tentative and not impartially and indifferently tentative. So soon as this parental affection takes possession of the mind, there is apt to be a rapid passage to the unreserved adoption of the theory. 

There is then imminent danger of an unconscious selection and of a magnifying of phenomena that fall into harmony with the theory and support it and an unconscious neglect of phenomena that fail of coincidence. [In the case of M2C, it started with "unconscious neglect" but now the M2C citation cartel not only neglects but actively suppresses, attacks, and censors facts that "fail of coincidence" with M2C.]

The mind lingers with pleasure upon the facts that fall happily into the embrace of the theory, and feels a natural coldness toward those that assume a refractory attitude. Instinctively there is a special searching-out of phenomena that support it, for the mind is led by its desires. There springs up also unwittingly a pressing of the theory to make it fit the facts and a pressing of the facts to make them fit the theory. [A perfect description of Book of Mormon Central.]

When these biasing tendencies set in, the mind rapidly degenerates into the partiality of paternalism. 

KEY POINT that explains M2C:

The search for facts, the observation of phenomena and their interpretation are all dominated by affection for the favored theory until it appears to its author or its advocate to have been overwhelmingly established.

The theory then rapidly rises to a position of control in the processes of the mind and observation, induction and interpretation are guided by it. From an unduly favored child it readily grows to be a master and leads its author whithersoever it will. The subsequent history of that mind in respect to that theme is but the progressive dominance of a ruling idea. 

Briefly summed up, the evolution is this: a premature explanation passes first into a tentative theory, then into an adopted theory, and lastly into a ruling theory.

When this last stage has been reached, unless the theory happens perchance to be the true one, all hope of the best results is gone. To be sure truth may be brought forth by an investigator dominated by a false ruling idea. His very errors may indeed stimulate investigation on the part of others. But the condition is scarcely the less unfortunate.

As previously implied, the method of the ruling theory occupied a chief place during the infancy of investigation. It is an expression of a more or less infantile condition of the mind. I believe it is an accepted generalization that in the earlier stages of development the feelings and impulses are relatively stronger than in later stages...

The defects of the method are obvious and its errors grave. If one were to name the central psychological fault, it might be stated as the admission of intellectual affection to the place that should be dominated by impartial, intellectual rectitude alone.

_____

M2C promoters (and Book of Mormon Central employees) will claim that my views (Moroni's America, etc.) are just as defective.

There's a big difference, though. I accept the teachings of the prophets that the New York Cumorah is a fact. When we start with a fact, we avoid "the habit of precipitate explanation."  That's why it is crucial to recognize that Oliver Cowdery was not merely speculating or proposing a theory.

He declared the New York Cumorah was a fact.

By insisting that Oliver merely speculated that it was a fact, the M2C promoters implicitly recognize the fundamental weakness of their position.

Denying facts is the "tell" that M2C is a hoax. 

But plenty of people lead productive lives while believing in hoaxes, and I'm fine with people believing whatever they want. 

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

How the M2C logo makes sense

Adapted from a twitter feed:

Once you realize that M2C advocates think of themselves as priests policing heresy rather than investigators seeking truth, the M2C logo and the censorship by the M2C citation cartel will make a lot more sense.




Monday, October 19, 2020

Logos and perspective

This political season is a good time to remember the contents of an 1839 letter that Joseph signed as co-author and personally edited:

We ought always to be aware of those prejudices which sometimes so strongly present themselves and are so congenial to human nature against our neighbors, friends, and brethren of the world who choose to differ with us in opinion and in matters of faith. 

Our religion is between us and our God. Their religion is between them and their God. 

There is a tie from God that should be exercised toward those of our faith who walk uprightly. . .. 

It is without prejudice, but gives scope to the mind, which enables us to conduct ourselves with greater liberality toward all others that are not of our faith than what they exercise toward one another. These principles approximate nearer to the mind of God because they are like God or godlike. 

Those who read my blogs know that I have great respect and fondness for the members of the M2C citation cartel. All those I've met are great people, sincere, dedicated, smart, etc. 

While I disagree with their interpretations of the text and the relevant extrinsic evidence, it doesn't bother me in the least that other people have different opinions. I object strongly to their policy of censorship of alternative ideas, but none of these differences are personal. I'm happy to associate with and interact with anyone despite disagreements about any particular issues.  

Unlike some of my critics, I don't resort to name-calling, accusations of apostasy, etc. Such logical fallacies reflect their insecurity about their opinions and are easily ignored anyway.  

For those who are serious about these topics, many differences of opinion arise from a simple difference of perspective. Once we understand this it is easy to have unity of purpose simultaneously with diversity of thought.

_____

From Twitter:

Everything you see, hear and know is based on a subjective perspective.

It is all relative to where you stand.

https://twitter.com/BrianRoemmele/status/1317454797516070912



_____

One highly significant difference of perspective involves the Book of Mormon Central logo, which is the old logo from F.A.R.M.S. 

For some people, this logo represents outstanding, brilliant scholarship. Even the Maxwell Institute, for a time, used a modified version of the logo.




For others (such as me) it represents completely closed minds and bias confirmation presented in the guise of scholarship. 

This logo literally teaches that the Book of Mormon is a Mayan Codex (i.e., Mormon's Codex, which M2C believers hold out as the "high-water mark of scholarship on the Book of Mormon"). 

This logo teaches that the "real Cumorah" is in southern Mexico.

This logo is the antithesis of the Church's position of neutrality.


It would be impossible for any organization or publication that identifies itself with a Mayan glyph to represent the Book of Mormon to even consider, let alone fairly evaluate, the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. 

That's why the hirelings of Book of Mormon Central spend their time trying to convince Church members that the prophets are wrong.

That logo represents a deliberate choice to repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

The logo of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies is composed of characters from four of the main ancient languages and cultures relevant to Book of Mormon research. The Hebrew “aleph” in the upper left corner and the Greek “omega” in the lower right are the first and last letters of the Hebrew and Greek alphabets, standing for “the first and the last” (Isaiah 48:12), who is Jesus Christ.

The Mayan glyph in the upper right is stylized, representing Mesoamerican studies. The Egyptian “Wd3t-eye” in the lower left corner represents Egyptian studies. This character, the pupil of the sun god Re, was an ancient symbol of resurrection, since a myth told how the eye was torn to pieces and then put back together. The round pupil of the eye was also used as the model of the round outline of the hypocephalus placed under the head in royal burials, of which Figure 2 in the Book of Abraham is an example.


You can see the original explanation here.

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Once those who identify themselves with this M2C logo understand how the rest of us perceive it, maybe they will be a little more understanding of our point of view.

Probably not, but hope springs eternal.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Once someone gets a PhD...

 From Nate Silver's twitter feed:

Nate Silver
This is not a subtweet of anyone in particular and it's going to annoy some people since I have a lot of PhD followers/friends and also I'm a stubborn guy myself but...one thing I'm noticed is that once someone gets a PhD, it become 10x harder to convince them they're wrong.

_____

To this I would add, once someone is hired by a PhD, it becomes 20x harder to convince them they're wrong.

And if they're working on PhD themselves, it becomes 30x harder to convince them they're wrong.

Exhibit A: the employees of Book of Mormon Central who troll faithful LDS who happen to disagree with M2C because they still believe the prophets.






Thursday, October 15, 2020

M2C handbook illustrations

The M2C handbook explains how to perpetuate M2C. 

1. Develop a logo that depicts the Book of Mormon as a Mayan codex:


2. Put the logo everywhere:






3. Hire fine young scholars and pay them to flood the Internet with M2C and attacks on faithful LDS members who still believe the teachings of the prophets.

4. Spend millions of dollars to enforce M2C and censor alternatives.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Source Book framing of the issues

We've been discussing Brother Sorenson's Source Book. Today we'll look at how it frames the issues. Brother Sorenson did a great job articulating a useful approach to the issues, but then he stumbled by making M2C-driven assumptions within a few pages of pointing out how such assumptions should not be made!

Bottom line: The M2C citation cartel defies Brother Sorenson's reasonable framework because they do not want Church members to make informed decisions.

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page 210.

If we are to progress in this task, we must chop away and burn the conceptual underbrush that has afflicted the effort in the past. 

Among the conceptual underbrush is the assumption that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church with a false narrative about the New York Cumorah. But what does Brother Sorenson write in the very next sentence?

We must stop asking, as so many do, what have the Brethren said about this in the past? It is clear enough (see Appendix A) that none of them knew the answer (which is what some of them have said often enough).

While Brother Sorenson included Letter VII in Appendix A, look at how he edited it:

p. 372.

Oliver Cowdery. Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, July 1835, p. 158-159. (Reprinted in The Times and Seasons 2,1841, page 379, and again in The Improvement Era 2,1899, pages 729-734.)

Re. the New York hill Cumorah: "At about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former .. . between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.

Here is the unedited passage:

At about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between. The soil is of the first quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.

By omitting Oliver's statement that the New York Cumorah was a fact, Brother Sorenson accommodated his theory that this was merely Oliver's (incorrect) opinion. 

Today, most M2C followers I've discussed this with have never heard of Letter VII, but even those who have heard of it say it was merely Oliver's opinion. To the extent they're relying on the Source Book, you can see why they think that.

Brother Sorenson didn't mention that Letter VII was also copied into Joseph's history, although he might not have known that. You can see it now in the Joseph Smith Papers, here:

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/90

He also didn't mention that Letter VII was republished in the Millennial Star, the Gospel Reflector (with the express consent of Joseph Smith), and the Prophet (by Joseph's brother William), but maybe he didn't know all of that, either. Other than the scriptures themselves, these essays on Church history that Oliver wrote with Joseph's assistance were the most republished articles in the Church during Joseph's lifetime. Everyone knew about them, including the fact of the New York Cumorah.

There is nothing in Appendix A that suggests, let alone supports, Brother Sorenson's claim that "it is clear enough that none of them knew the answer" about the New York Cumorah. Like all M2C believers do, Brother Sorenson conflates the issue of Cumorah with the rest of the geography issues.

This is a favorite tactic of my critics, too. I've always said that while I don't think Mesoamerica makes sense for several reasons, I don't categorically reject it or any other geography, so long as the proposed geography retains the New York Cumorah of Mormon 6:6. That's the only definite pin in the map the prophets have provided, and everything beyond that is open for discussion.

_____

Continuing at page 210:

Where we must begin is with the words of Mormon and his associates who kept the original records.

On page 216, Brother Sorenson writes, "6. I assume too that all the relations and phenomena known in present day nature prevailed in Book of Mormon times. That is, water ran from mountains to seas, the "headwaters" of the river Sidon had to be higher in elevation than any point downstream, and the river ultimately debouched into a sea....

"Headwaters" is not a term in the text. It is not one of the "words of Mormon and his associates." 

This is an example of what I call the Sorenson translation. I once had a conversation with a well-known M2C author who referred to the "headwaters" and I said, "That's not a term in the text." He replied, "Of course it is." I asked him to show me. He actually looked! Of course he couldn't find it. After a while, he found "head of Sidon," which, as I pointed out, is a different term that has more than one meaning. There are other examples of the Sorenson translation throughout the Source Book

Look at the very next sentence: 

From their words we must derive every scrap of meaning; I assume that their knowledge of geography was so integral and holistic that meanings are tucked into their records at a level below intention.

This is Brother Sorenson's rationale for developing his own translation of the text, which every M2C believer has accepted. They are looking through the text at the hidden meanings that only they, the M2C scholars, can discern. It's fascinating from an psychological perspective to see this degree of lack of self-awareness. 

We must sift for these. We cannot omit any of them, for crucial clues may occur in or between words or lines where we had not seen them before. 

This is good analysis, but not always adhered to. Worse, the hidden meanings come to take precedence over the text itself. 

To summarize, the following steps are necessary, and no other set of steps nor any other order for accomplishing them can solve our problem:

1. Purge our minds as far as possible of preconceptions about where the Book of Mormon lands were.

One well-known BYU scholar has said he "cannot unsee" Mesoamerica when he reads the Book of Mormon. Most, if not all, members of the Church educated by CES or BYU (or Book of Mormon Central) would have to say the same thing because the M2C interpretation has been deliberately imposed on Church members from a young age. 

As most members of the Church to draw a Book of Mormon scene and they'll start with a Mayan pyramid. 

Nearly every time when I show or discuss the Moroni's America framework, people respond by saying "I've never seen that before, but it makes sense." 

In any rational scenario, Church members would be fully educated about alternatives. They would know what the prophets have taught about Cumorah. They would understand why the scholars repudiate those teachings. They would be able to roughly sketch both Mesoamerican and North American settings.

But the M2C citation cartel doesn't want Church members to make informed decisions.

The M2C citation cartel continues to deliberately censor alternatives to M2C. They openly defy Brother Sorenson's step number 1 in solving the problem of Book of Mormon geography. 

The worst of the bunch is Book of Mormon Central, which is spending millions of dollars to enforce M2C and censor alternatives. Their business model only works so long as Church members are kept in ignorance.

2. Analyze as freshly and completely as possible every geographical fact and sound inference which the texts require or make likely.

Once the LDS scholars decided the prophets were wrong, and the RLDS scholars were correct, on the issue of Cumorah, the LDs scholars abandoned any thought of analyzing anything freshly and completely. It has been pure bias confirmation ever since. 

3. Realizing that in fact we cannot completely rid ourselves of preconceptions or make inferences without some factual or logical errors, we should guard against hidden biases or errors by displaying for examination by other students as much of our mental processing as we are able. 

The M2C citation cartel has abandoned this step as well.  

This requires writing out our work in detail; only written communication permits the careful examination by others that such work demands. (The resulting volume of writing may seem tedious to those not sufficiently motivated to the task.)

4. Mutual criticism (again ideally in writing) is essential to reveal points where different students can agree or where they need to improve their thinking or information. This criticism need not be uncharitable, although truth must be the ultimate standard.

The M2C citation has hired fine young scholars to fill the internet with uncharitable, ad hominem attacks against anyone who dares question M2C. They have repudiated Brother Sorenson's reasonable framework just as completely as they have repudiated the teachings of the prophets. 

5. By this repetitive process all should move toward consensus. However, the end result may be a conclusion that the text does not provide enough information, as read at this time, to come to full consensus on a single-text based model. That can only be learned by trying.

The M2C citation cartel has definitely moved toward consensus; that's their justification for ongoing censorship of alternatives. A far better approach is the nominal neutrality articulated by the Gospel Topics Entry on Book of Mormon Geography, which unfortunately is not observed in practice.

6. So far as a single model emerges from this effort, then one-half—the prerequisite half—of the equation has been prepared. Only after this has happened can a definitive search for external correlations be carried out. Until then anything said about external geography, archaeology, linguistics or the like for any location in America can only be prejudicial to the suspension of opinion that we ought to maintain.

The M2C citation has managed to enforce the M2C interpretation of the text that, predictably, produces an M2C "model" reflected by the BYU and CES fantasy maps. The problem, of course, is that the M2C interpretation doesn't really fit the real world; hence the fantasy maps. 

Certainly there are numerous "real-world" maps based on the M2C citation, such as the one on the BYU Studies web page (which guides the editors so they properly comply with M2C in BYU Studies, just as they did in the Saints book). 

But the goal of generating an "internal map" relies on a cascading series of assumptions. It's easy to see why. Imagine someone generating an "internal map" of the Bible with no reference to the real world. No two people could possibly develop similar maps using the scanty geographical information in the text. 

That's why the only rational basis for constructing a map of the Book of Mormon is to start with the one known pin in the map, as declared by the prophets: the New York Cumorah.

Now that the M2C scholars have persuaded everyone to repudiate the teachings of the prophets, though, we end up with the BYU and CES fantasy maps, based on the M2C interpretation, which both implicitly and explicitly teaches students to think of the Book of Mormon in a fictional framework. 

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The end.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Lewis and Clark and geographical areas

Yesterday was the 200th anniversary of the mysterious death of Meriwether Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition. Some years ago I did some research on this topic so I was glad to see a nice article in the Deseret News about it:

https://www.deseret.com/opinion/2020/10/10/21508216/2-centuries-have-passed-since-meriwether-lewis-premature-death-we-still-dont-know-the-details

The National Park Service has a great web page that features historical sites you can visit. I've been to several of them. Fort Clatsop is not far from where I live.

https://www.nps.gov/places/fort-clatsop-or.htm

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/travellewisandclark/visit.htm

Lewis had a boat built in Pittsburgh that he sailed down the Ohio River to the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. That took about four weeks. 

They wintered in the St. Louis area, then embarked in May 1804.

During 1804-6, in two years, four months and 10 days, Lewis and Clark made a round-trip journey from St. Louis to Oregon and back, about 8,000 miles.  

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I mention all of this because it's not plausible to me to think that in 1,000 years, the Nephite civilization was confined to a "limited geography" in Mesoamerica. The idea that the Jaredites were confined to such a small area is even less plausible. 

Compared with the M2C theory, I think the Book of Mormon was both larger and smaller; i.e., larger in territory and smaller in population. 

Here is a rough comparison of the areas covered by M2C, the Bible, and my interpretation of the Book of Mormon as discussed in Moroni's America. Click images to enlarge.

M2C area: 175,000 square miles

Bible area
Bible area: 1,121,000 square miles


Moroni's America area: 900,000 square miles



Friday, October 9, 2020

The academic cycle: Jakeman and the Source Book


The Source Book we discussed yesterday has a helpful history of Book of Mormon geography that I encourage everyone to read. 

One of the most influential scholars in this field was M. Wells Jakeman, who began teaching at BYU in 1946. The Source Book suggests that Jakeman was probably influenced by RLDS scholar L.E. Hills, whose 1917 map showed Cumorah in Mexico.


From page 27: 

Jakeman's most significant contribution was through his students. Over a period of three decades he furnished stimulation to many hundreds of young people who passed through his courses at BYU. As they spread throughout the Church, they carried with them assurance that Mesoamerica was the scene of Book of Mormon events and that traditions from that area strikingly confirmed scripture.

One of Jakeman's students was John L. Sorenson, author of the Source Book. As I've mentioned before, Sorenson is an excellent scholar and a great guy. I completely disagree with his conclusions, but I also completely respect his scholarly focus on a real-world setting for the Book of Mormon. My own interest in the historicity of the Book of Mormon was prompted partly by a class I took from Sorenson at BYU, and I expressed my respect for him in the opening pages of Moroni's America.

Brother Sorenson's explanation of Jakeman's contributions on page 28 shows how deeply he was influenced by Jakeman:

Jakeman's primary contributions were two: 

(1) the settling, for many people, of the basic "where?" of the geography of Book of Mormon events; those who studied systematically with him ended up with no question but that the entire story took place in Mesoamerica and related significantly to what can be learned from the native Mesoamerican traditions; and, 

[This is the tell for indoctrination, brainwashing, imprinting, or whatever else you want to call it: students ended up with "no question" that M2C was the answer and then spent their careers confirming that bias. Ordinarily, we expect more educated people to have more open minds, but as we've been discussing lately on this blog, studies and experience show us that often more educated people have more closed minds. Members and employees of the M2C citation cartel are one of the best examples of closed minds we'll ever see.] 

(2) the idea that the ultimate "test" for correlating the Book of Mormon in space and time with one particular set of Mesoamerican sites and localities would involve comprehensive study of the ancient world, not just geography; ultimately traditions, archaeology, physical anthropology and linguistics had to combine. 

[Notice again that the outcome is a given: Jakeman's students focused on "correlating" the text with Mesoamerica, the only question being which "particular set of Mesoamerican sites and localities" has the closest fit. This process involves the relevant sciences, but the predetermined outcome also requires revision of the text through the process of reinterpreting terms to "fit" Mesoamerica. That's how M2C ended up with horse = tapir, tower = massive stone pyramid, etc.]

He [Jakeman] was the first student of the geography of Book of Mormon events to gain professional standing as an "archaeologist" (though he did virtually no digging personally) and to see that geography must connect with cultural contexts through meticulous scholarship.

This was the tipping point in the scholars vs. prophets dialectic. "Meticulous scholarship" replaced consideration of the teachings of the prophets. As you read the Source Book, you see a persistent conflation of the New York Cumorah with the "hemispheric model," as if they are the same. Because the "hemispheric model" was inconsistent with the text, the thinking goes, the New York Cumorah must also be inconsistent. In my view, that's not a rational argument. 

The Source Book proceeds to explain how the intellectuals rationalized narrowing the possible locations for the Book of Mormon. Continuing on page 28.

By the sixties the increasing number of people working with the geography question had settled on Mesoamerica as the only plausible candidate area in the New World. There were rare exceptions with anomalous models located in Peru, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, "Central America," and so on, but certain basic issues appeared to be settled for those who had paid close attention: 

[There it is: "basic issues appeared to be settled" means the academic minds were completely closed. They still are.]

(1) the area in which the story took place was far smaller than a continent, 

[Note that neither Joseph nor Oliver every said otherwise. The hemispheric model was set out by Orson and Parley Pratt. For example, the 1842 Wentworth letter was based on a prior missionary pamphlet written by Orson Pratt. Pratt had written at length about the indigenous inhabitants of Central America. Joseph deleted all of that and replaced it with the statement that "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."

As we've discussed before, if you look up the Wentworth letter, don't refer to the lesson manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. The M2C-influenced Curriculum Committee edited the Wentworth letter to omit what Joseph taught about the "Indians that now inhabit this country." 

It's worth looking at the manual to see the ellipses where they omitted Joseph's teachings. This is ironic because Joseph began the letter by asking Mr. Wentworth "that he publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation." Joseph should have been more concerned about the future Curriculum Committee and its M2C orientation.

Instead, to see the actual Wentworth letter, refer directly to the Joseph Smith Papers or an older article in the Ensign that published the letter in full before the M2C cartel could get to it: 

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2002/07/the-wentworth-letter?lang=eng 

I spent some time discussing this because once you see this deliberate editing of the Wentworth letter, you can understand what I've been saying about the Saints book and other materials that have been revising Church history to accommodate M2C. It's a pervasive problem, not confined to the M2C citation cartel. Because these M2C intellectuals have been convinced that M2C is the only plausible explanation for the Book of Mormon, young and new LDS members will never learn what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.]

(2) the hill in New York could not be the scene of the final battle because of statements in the text itself, and 

[This is a prime example of interpreting the text to fit M2C. Anyone can read the text and see that it does not exclude the New York Cumorah. To interpret the text this way, the M2C citation cartel has to outright reject the direct, unambiguous statements from Joseph Smith (quoted by his mother), Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and all of Joseph's contemporaries and successors in Church leadership who have ever addressed the question.] 

(3) only some place within the high civilization area called Mesoamerica could qualify.

[M2C advocates have concocted the "high civilization" framing because it is necessary to justify M2C. Ironically, it's exactly the same mistake that the Pratt brothers made when they developed their hemispheric model.]

And finally for today, we see the results of the academic cycle:

Meanwhile the Church membership in general still held a vague idea of a hemispheric model, although they thought little about it under a virtual ban on discussion of the topic in Church manuals and in the education system. Yet thousands of readers and people who had studied under Jakeman or his students scattered throughout the Church actually held the Mesoamerican view.

These M2C students are in positions of influence throughout the Church. That's why everything you see or read promotes M2C implicitly or explicitly.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Example of academic process-- The "Source Book"

Yesterday we looked at the academic process of bias confirmation in a generic sense, then applied it to the LDS academic process.

Today, let's look at an example of how that LDS academic process operates to perpetuate M2C.



To follow along, go to this site and download the .pdf.

https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/sites/default/files/archive-files/pdf/sorenson/2020-01-24/john_l._sorenson_the_geography_of_book_of_mormon_events_a_source_book_1990.pdf

This is an important reference book, not only for the content, but even more for the implicit M2C bias throughout. 

Here's a classic quotation, from page 10. Notice how this paragraph could be describing today's M2C citation cartel. 

Original in blue, my comments in red.

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Another factor clearly was the sheer smallness of the number of minds at work studying the Book of Mormon in any degree. 

[There are fewer than 10 intellectuals who drive the entire M2C enterprise. They've hired fine young scholars to promote M2C on the Internet, but the hirelings contribute nothing original.]

For at least the first 50 years of the Church's existence, [just like the last 50 years] virtually everyone who thought in detail about and then put their thoughts in print on any gospel topic were few in number. 

They were almost all known personally to each other and were concerned with unity, not alternative views. [The M2C citation cartel in a nutshell.]

There was no source of nor room for variant points of view, let alone criticism. 

[The M2C citation cartel is notorious for censoring "variant" points of view, especially those that corroborate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.]

No one would have thought of questioning Joseph Smith or whoever it was who indicated that "the ancient City of Manti" had once been located in Missouri (see Appendix A). 

Today: The M2C citation cartel does nothing but question Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Except they don't merely question them; they expressly repudiate them. 

This sentence rephrased for the current reality:

No one would think of questioning L.E. Hills or whoever it was who first indicated that "the real Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6" is located in Mexico. 

(It is obvious enough nowadays ["obvious" is classic M2C closed-minded thinking] to Book of Mormon students [thanks to the academic cycle they're all brainwashed to accept the M2C interpretation of the text] that since Book of Mormon Manti was in the land southward and near the head of north-flowing river Sidon, [the M2C revision of the text] a location in Missouri is out of the question.)

More to come...


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

How the academic process works

Pretty much every day someone asks how M2C persists. 

Answer: the same way every other theory and philosophy persists. Bias confirmation is a psychological superpower. 

The academic process is usually a formal exercise in bias confirmation. It's a ruse designed to obscure the reality that academics spend their entire careers confirming their own biases. When they claim they're "following the evidence" they usually only follow evidence that supports their own theories.

In the case of M2C, the bias being confirmed is that the prophets are wrong.

Here's an animation that explains the typical academic process, and then compares it to the LDS academic process, with the predictable outcomes.

Click on the image to see it bigger.






Monday, October 5, 2020

The pandemic potential

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has lasted longer than many people assumed, and looks like it will continue much longer. People everywhere wonder what the future holds. Many of the speakers at General Conference discussed the pandemic.

One theme was the way to Zion.

Another was the lessons we can learn by going through the pandemic.

Professor Andrew Latham, who teaches "Plagues, Pandemics and Politics" at Macalester College, offers "some clues about the way COVID-19 might bend the arc of history." 

 https://theconversation.com/how-3-prior-pandemics-triggered-massive-societal-shifts-146467

He points out that Christianity became the dominant religion in the Roman Empire as a result of the Antonine and Cyprian plagues.

On the eve of the Antonine plague, the empire was pagan. The vast majority of the population worshipped multiple gods and spirits and believed that rivers, trees, fields and buildings each had their own spirit.

Christianity, a monotheistic religion that had little in common with paganism, had only 40,000 adherents, no more than 0.07% of the empire’s population.

Yet within a generation of the end of the Cyprian plague, Christianity had become the dominant religion in the empire.

I've been thinking about the pandemic in terms of the fulfillment of the prophecies about taking the Gospel to the world. Professor Latham suggests the pandemics "made Christianity a much more attractive belief system" than the prevailing paganism.

Could that happen in our day?

_____

One result of the current pandemic is that Christians, and adherents of other religions, are coming to realize they have been overly dependent on their religious leaders. A church or religion that relies on a professional clergy has an inherent weakness that the pandemic exposed.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not dependent on a professional clergy. We have been able to participate fully in the Sacrament and worship in our homes. We serve one another and watch over one another just as carefully as we did before the pandemic. Maybe more so.

Christian friends of mine have observed over the years that they admire the LDS system of home teaching (ministering). They admire the youth programs, the welfare system, the location-based ward organization, etc. But now, they see the importance of the "lay" Priesthood.

Years ago, Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave an address titled "Only an Elder." You can read it here:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1975/06/only-an-elder?lang=eng

He pointed out "Only an elder! Every elder in the Church holds as much priesthood as the President of the Church. No apostle can or will rise higher in eternity than the faithful elder who lives the fullness of the gospel law."

This is one of the most revolutionary religious principles that, if people understood, would cause them to reflect on their own religious traditions.

That's just one example, but it's the type of opportunity the pandemic presents to us today. 

____

But then there is the ongoing problem with M2C, SITH, etc. 

What sense does it make to tell the world we have prophets, only to mutter under our breath that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery misled the Church on such basic topics?

These are not the biggest issues, for sure, but they are fundamental. They have arisen in plenty of missionary and reactivation situations I've been involved with. They are an ongoing source of confusion for new, young, and even seasoned members of the Church.

They're an unforced error, easy to correct. 


Friday, October 2, 2020

How to Zion

Yesterday I mentioned my pivot to my favorite topic: the establishment of Zion.

Readers here know that I've lived and worked and traveled all over the world. I've worked with and lived among people of many religions, languages, cultures, ethnicities, etc. Among them are all sorts of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

People everywhere (not just Americans or Latter-day Saints) yearn for the fulfillment of the powerful words, 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, 

that all men are created equal, 

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, 

that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

The U.S. Constitution was a major step toward the realization of that aspiration, but it is inadequate. Other countries have developed systems for their respective cultures that also work, more or less, but all are inadequate. Societies everywhere have serious problems, and while in many respects live keeps getting better around the world, the same human weaknesses lead to the same social, economic, and moral failures.

What people everywhere seek is what Zion promises. But, as Joseph Smith taught, "they know not where to find it." (Doctrine and Covenants 123:12)

_____

Most Latter-day Saints seek to establish Zion, one way or another. The Church has set up an awesome process that leads toward perfecting the Saints, but the concept of Zion seems a little vague. 

What Zion is and how it can be achieved is not vague at all in the scriptures and in the teachings of the prophets. Maybe we all know what we should do but just don't know how to do it. Or we don't have enough faith to do it.

That will be the focus on my new blog, https://howtozion.blogspot.com/ 

I decided to name the blog "How to Zion" because while Zion is both a place and a people, it ought to be a verb. "How to" books are a major category in the publishing field for a good reason. People want to know "how to" do lots of things.

A lot of people want to know how to establish Zion. By making it a verb, I hope to focus on action instead of theory.

_____

It seems obvious to me that one of the impediments to the establishment of Zion is disunity among the Latter-day Saints on certain topics. There are some LDS who accept what the prophets have taught, some who reject what the prophets have taught, and some who don't care or know what the prophets have taught. (And some who claim the prophets never taught what they actually taught.)

As readers here know, I have spent a lot of time in the last few years on topics of Book of Mormon geography and Church history. This was partly a result of my long-term interest in these topics, and partly an experiment to understand the psychology of LDS apologists.

After years of following the debates, I got involved publicly because of what I saw as abuse by the credentialed class of other faithful Latter-day Saints. 

LDS apologetics have a well-deserved reputation for abrasiveness and counterproductivity. One survey of former LDS pointed to these apologetics backfiring as one of the reasons they left. For years I watched the type of rhetoric and tactics employed by well-known LDS apologists and I was curious how they would respond to a faithful alternative to their theories. 

The results are now obvious to everyone. (My book on LDS apologetics will come out early next year.) 

My overall objective was to see if it was possible to develop an approach that corroborates and supports the teachings of the prophets. I think the answer is yes. Many Church members find this approach useful.

In some cases, my approach challenges or contradicts the scholarly consensus. As I've explained in recent posts, much of what passes for "evidence based" scholarly study and publication in these areas is merely bias confirmation. That's why, to many Latter-day Saints and to people throughout the world,  it is both unpersuasive and unattractive.

An alternative to the illusory "evidence based" approached borrowed from academia, a faithful approach starts with the teachings of the prophets and finds evidence to support and corroborate those teachings. 

In my view, the only "way to Zion" is to accept the teachings of the prophets and unify behind them. 

Others disagree, and that's fine. We all make our own decisions and believe whatever we want. To me, none of this is personal. I sincerely like and respect everyone involved with these topics, regardless of what they think. 

_____

As I pivot toward a focus on how to Zion, I invite readers to subscribe to the new web page and engage in the topics. 

https://howtozion.blogspot.com/



Thursday, October 1, 2020

Perspective and pivoting

In recent presentations I have discussed the importance of keeping things in perspective. The topic of Book of Mormon geography is more interesting and important to some people than it is to others. 

If it's important to you, great. If it's not, that's great, also.

People can be faithful, dedicated members of the Church regardless of what they believe.  

I showed this graphic:


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Some people (particularly M2C advocates) are so insecure about their belief in M2C that they are obsessed with running around on the Internet trying to prove why the prophets have been wrong about the New York Cumorah.  

They're like Maitre Hauchecorne in Guy de Maupassant's short story, "A Piece of String."

Readers of this blog know that all we care about is helping people make informed decisions. Unlike the M2C citation cartel and their employees, we don't censor information. We encourage people to read the publications of the M2C citation cartel and see for themselves. We think the more information a person has, the better informed that person's decisions.

We want everyone to know there is a legitimate, evidence-supported interpretation of the Book of Mormon that corroborates the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. 

The M2C philosophy instead promotes M2C or bust. That's why Book of Mormon Central censors anything that contradicts or even questions M2C. We don't want those who find M2C implausible to reject the Book of Mormon just because a particular group of LDS scholars insist M2C is the only plausible explanation.

_____

We'll continue to discuss issues related to Book of Mormon geography on this blog. I noticed recently that I have 98 unpublished posts on this blog alone. I could schedule them at the rate of 2 per week and take most of the year. 

By now, most readers here realize that we all make decisions about what to believe and then use bias confirmation to support those decisions. That's how we end up with the two basic categories of belief about Book of Mormon geography.

(i) Some people accept what the prophets have taught about Cumorah and seek to support those teachings.

(ii) Other people reject what the prophets have taught about Cumorah and seek to repudiate those teachings with alternative theories. M2C is the best-known of these theories, but there are several others.

Either way is fine with me. Obviously, I prefer (i), but for many years I believed (ii). I've been a faithful Latter-day Saint throughout. 

Those who know me well know that I've long been much more interested in what Joseph Smith called our "greatest object." I'm pivoting more to that topic.

Tomorrow I'll explain in more detail.