Thursday, December 31, 2020

Come, follow me: the call to Zion


On the last day of 2020, I turn to my main focus.

I've been asking around. People don't know which verse, exactly, contains the term "come follow me." Most think it comes from the calling of the fishermen apostles. There are several verses that include the words come, follow, and me, but the exact phrase appears only once in the scriptures. 

The Come Follow Me curriculum takes it's title from a challenging scripture. It's a call to Zion.

18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

The Savior reviewed the commandments, to which the rule replied:

21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.

22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

(Luke 18:21–24)

There are now several million people--active Latter-day Saints--who weekly study the scriptures within in the context of "Come Follow Me."

Imagine how quickly Zion could be established if we took the original verse to heart? 

I posted an awesome presentation on the Zion revolution on my howtoZion blog today:

https://howtozion.blogspot.com/2020/12/a-feast-of-fat-things.html

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The ruler, who "was very rich," had kept all the commandments from his youth up. But the Lord recognized that he lacked one thing: this fine young ruler had not been willing to jettison his wealth for the benefit of the poor and then to live the law of consecration.

Imagine what a shining city on a hill would result if wealthy Latter-day Saints decided to sell what they had and distribute to the poor. Imagine if our role models were those who lived the law of consecration instead of those who have the biggest mansions, the most expensive cars, the greatest net worth, the most prominent Church callings, or the most popular youtube videos, bestselling books, etc.

Given the topic of this blog, one application of Come Follow Me might be for scholars to jettison their theories in favor of the teachings of the prophets. Imagine how much stronger the Church would be, and how much more united Latter-day Saints would be, if our scholars decided to support and corroborate the prophets on such basic topics as the truthfulness of the scriptures, the translation of the Book of Mormon and the New York Cumorah. 

Everyone in the world is seeking a Zion society. They just don't know where to find it--and we're not telling them.

11 And also it is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart—

12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it

(Doctrine and Covenants 123:11–12)

The world is not going to find Zion in the cacophony of the Internet. But they can find it--or could find it--if the Latter-day Saints were united with one heart and one mind.

I hope that 2021 will bring about Zion more openly and happily than ever before as members of the Church, and seekers of Zion everywhere in the world, accept the Lord's challenge to "Come follow me."




 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Kindle owners update-A Man that Can Translate


A lot of people bought a kindle version of A Man that Can Translate months ago. Recently we expanded and updated the book, but we kept the same ISBN so previous buyers can update. 

I've arranged with Kindle to allow updates now. Check your account and you can choose to update the book if you like, although you'll lose your notes.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Between these Hills: A case for the New York Cumorah

Because I'm one of the faithful Latter-day Saints (LDS) who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, I wrote a book to explain my position.  It's called Between these Hills: A case for the New York Cumorah.

Long-time readers here know that I defer to the teachings of the prophets. I give special credence to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, who wrote of their personal experiences. 

But that's not the only reason why I agree with what they taught about Cumorah. In my view, the LDS intellectuals who try to undermine the teachings of the prophets on this topic by casting doubt on the credibility and reliability of Joseph, Oliver, and their contemporaries, are missing the point. 

In the book, I also present evidence from the text and from extrinsic sources, both historical and scientific, to make a case for the New York Cumorah.

The title comes from a phrase in Oliver Cowdery's Letter VII, in which he declares it's a fact that the Hill Cumorah in western New York is the same hill called Cumorah by the Nephites and Ramah by the Jaredites. I'll explain the book more below after briefly discussing two related topics.

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LDS apologetics have been in the news lately, partly because of controversial videos posted by FairMormon that try to appeal to Gen Z, and partly because of interviews on MormonStories.org that respond to those videos and take the topic further. 

I have a new blog that focuses on MormonStories, which does a good job empathizing with people while also pointing out some of the same problems with FairMormon that I've discussed here. You can find out about it on my Consensus blog.

https://bookofmormonconsensus.blogspot.com/2020/12/consensus-between-lds-scholars-and.html

The new blog is still in development but will be fully operational starting in January 2021.

_____

Joseph Smith's birthday is a good time to reflect on some of the things he taught, especially regarding the early days of the Restoration. There are three key specific points that my latest books cover in depth. I disagree with LDS scholars, their employees and followers, as well as non-LDS critics, who reject the following three propositions.

1. Joseph Smith, Jr., translated the engravings on the plates with the Urim and Thummim.

2. The translation is "after the manner of [his own] language." (D&C 1:24)

3. The Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York. That's the topic of today's post.

_____

Most LDS scholars (including historians) who otherwise believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God now agree with unbelievers that the "hill in New York" is not the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6. 

I've written dozens of posts about this, reviewing materials provided by the M2C citation cartel and others. By now, readers here know that I think M2C is a hoax, a product of bias confirmation that originated with a mistake in Church history; i.e., the assumption that Joseph Smith wrote, edited or approved of anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons that claimed the Nephites lived in Central America and that the city of Zarahemla was located there. I don't think Joseph had anything to do with those articles, never saw them until after they were published, had repudiated the hemispheric model in the Wentworth letter in March 1842, and resigned as the nominal editor of the Times and Seasons in response to these article (among other reasons).

Some LDS scholars and historians debate whether Joseph ever taught the New York Cumorah. They reject the evidence from Lucy Mack Smith, David Whitmer, Martin Harris, and especially Oliver Cowdery. They also reject the teachings of Joseph's contemporaries and successors as Church leaders. 

Why?

Because they prefer an explanation that puts the Book of Mormon in a limited geography in Mesoamerica. They think this limited geographical area is too far from New York to fit, so they invented a different Cumorah in southern Mexico and claimed there are really two Cumorahs (M2C): (i) the "real" Cumorah in Mexico, and (ii) the hill in New York, named to commemorate the one in Mexico or pursuant to a false speculation regarding the last battles of the Jaredites and Nephites.

Unlike the M2C scholars, I think the teachings of the prophets are reliable, relevant and important. 

The differences of opinion stem from different assumptions.

In Between these Hills, I spent several pages discussing the psychology of all of this because the problem is really psychological. There is abundant evidence from the text and from extrinsic sources to support whatever interpretation you like. That makes it difficult to ascertain what is truth vs what is opinion.

In my view, if you believe the LDS prophets, you should seek evidence that supports and corroborates what they say, not evidence that repudiates their teachings. This is the big difference between me and the M2C scholars and unbelievers.

In the book, I offer an alternative interpretation of the text that corroborates, instead of repudiates, the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. I offer supporting evidence from science, including citations to peer-reviewed papers and various books. I don't spend time explaining why I disagree with M2C, though, because I'm fine with people believing whatever they want.

The book is an overview of the topic. An introduction, really, but it includes plenty of resources for those who want to study more. 

I didn't write the book to persuade anyone. Although I think there is a rational basis for accepting the New York Cumorah, based on the text and extrinsic evidence as well as the teachings of the prophets, people stick with their beliefs. Bias confirmation is usually too powerful to be overcome by facts and logical/rational arguments. 

My purpose was to help M2C believers, as well as those who reject the Book of Mormon, understand why thousands of Latter-day Saints still accept the New York Cumorah.

My secondary purpose was to help those who haven't made up their minds to make informed decisions.

I hope people enjoy the book.


Friday, December 18, 2020

A Man that Can Translate: Joseph Smith and the Nephite Interpreters

Readers here know I've blogged a bit about the translation of the Book of Mormon. This is a critical issue that people continue to debate, although many LDS scholars claim the debate is over. 

Two alternative explanations were set forth in the 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed: Joseph produced the Book of Mormon with either 

(i) the Urim and Thummim (U&T), or Nephite translators, that Moroni put in his stone box on the Hill Cumorah, as described in the text itself; 

OR

(ii) the "peep" stone, or seer stone, that Joseph put into a hat before covering his face with the hat to read the words that appeared. I refer to this as SITH for "stone-in-the-hat" theory.

Some say it doesn't matter how Joseph produced the Book of Mormon, whether because they think it's true or they think it's false. That's fine with me; people can believe whatever they want, and most people seek only to confirm their biases either way. 

Those aren't the people I write this blog for.

Many people think it matters a great deal how Joseph produced the Book of Mormon. Because Joseph and Oliver spoke about it multiple times, I assume they thought it mattered. For most people, how Joseph produced the Book of Mormon is an important component of "convincing" the world that "Jesus is the Christ" as the Title Page declares. 

If Joseph actually translated engravings that were recorded on ancient plates, that demonstrates the divine authenticity of the record. If Joseph merely "read" words that "appeared" on a stone in a hat, or recited words he saw in a vision while staring at such a stone, it is more difficult to see that as a demonstration of the divine authenticity of the record. It's no wonder that from the outset, critics promoted SITH. As an impediment to acceptance of the Book of Mormon, what is more effective than SITH?

For over 180 years, LDS prophets taught U&T, while critics taught SITH. 

However, in recent years, many LDS scholars (including the M2C citation cartel) have agreed with nonbelievers that SITH is correct. They now teach it as a fact. Book of Mormon Central spends millions of dollars to promote this and related ideas. 

These scholars believe they are "inoculating" the youth in the Church and new converts by teaching SITH. 

Inoculation is a great idea--unless it's really infection.  

Years ago I had a friend who suffered from the effects of a childhood polio vaccine. The manufacturer had released over 100,000 doses in which the virus had not been properly inactivated; people who received those doses received active virus. They were infected, not inoculated.

I think teaching SITH infects people with a false narrative. It's great for people to learn about the witness statements regarding SITH, but they should also learn what Joseph and Oliver taught. Even better, they should learn how the historical facts support an explanation that reconciles what appears on the surface to be conflicting evidence.

However, our LDS scholars are only "reconciling" the evidence by claiming that Joseph and Oliver, as well as their successors as Church leaders, misled the Church. These scholars say the term "Urim and Thummim" really meant the seer stone, contrary to the historical evidence. They are teaching that Joseph never even used the plates, never used the Nephite interpreters, didn't really translate anything, etc. 

The situation is so dire that even the Gospel Topics Essay on Translation teaches SITH without once quoting what Joseph and Oliver said about the U&T.

Consequently, the narrative promoted by opponents of Joseph Smith to destroy the Restoration has become the prevailing narrative. By now, we all see how that is playing out in terms of the widespread faith crises. 

_____

Seeing a need for a detailed, historically documented explanation that supports what Joseph and Oliver taught, while also reconciling the statements from other witnesses, I wrote a A Man that Can Translate. I'll summarize it below.

I don't expect our LDS scholars, or critics who reject the Book of Mormon, to agree with my interpretation. Both groups have huge investments of time, reputation, and money in their respective positions. They focus on confirming their biases, not on considering alternative perspectives.

Book of Mormon Central, the most prominent and best-funded member of the citation cartel, identifies itself by a logo that forecloses consideration of alternative perspectives. 

I wrote this book mainly for myself, to better understand the historical evidence. When I practiced law, I found that in many cases, the "truth" emerged from a reconciliation of multiple perspectives. 

In every case, I would sit and watch the opposition present its case and, while seeing how the facts in evidence might support that version of the truth, I also knew there was an entirely different explanation of those same facts that I was about to present. Sometimes, both as a prosecutor and as a criminal defense lawyer, I knew facts I could not even present for various reasons. 

I see the same process taking place when I do historical research. People take a position and then find evidence to support that position. They also seek evidence to discredit someone else's position. People end up believing whatever they wanted to believe in the first place.

An exception is when someone's beliefs are based on incomplete facts. In that situation, people are not making informed decisions. 

This is why I mention Book of Mormon Central so often. Their approach is the antithesis of helping people make informed decisions because they censor alternative perspectives and insist people adhere to their editorial positions, buttressed by other members of their citation cartel to convey an impression of diversity and scholarship.

As a result of my research, I think both LDS scholars and critics are not making informed decisions. 

They'll undoubtedly disagree; scholars and critics always want to self-identify as "open-minded" and truth seekers who consider all the evidence. But they're people, subject to bias confirmation, cognitive dissonance, and logical fallacies. As am I, which is why I welcome input if there is any evidence I've overlooked.

We published the book for those who are interested and willing to take a new look at the evidence.

Hopefully, some people will find it useful.

_____

There is historical evidence in the form of witness statements to support both theories. They can be summarized this way:

(i) Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery always said Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim by the gift and power of God. A few others corroborated that claim. The first published declaration came in response to Mormonism Unvailed, when Oliver Cowdery declared, 

"Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’" (Joseph Smith—History, Note, 1)

Joseph's contemporaries and successors in Church leadership always reaffirmed what Joseph and Oliver taught; i.e., that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim, or Nephite translators, that came with the plates.

(ii) Other people claimed that Joseph used SITH. Some claimed they were present during the event, others related what they'd heard or understood. Wikipedia collected some of these statements, here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_plates#Translating_the_plates

_____

In A Man that Can Translate, I assess the statements and propose the following reconciliation.

Joseph and Oliver were absolutely correct and honest when they said Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by means of the Urim and Thummim and by the gift and power of God. Joseph did not translate any of it with the seer stone.

The translation process was difficult and time-consuming. At the Whitmer farm, Joseph translated from sunrise to sunset, 14-hour days. (In the book I explain why I think Emma and other pre-Oliver scribes recorded most or all of Mosiah, which expands the time for translation in Harmony consistent with the laborious effort in Fayette.)

However, Joseph did conduct one or more demonstrations using the seer stone. Joseph faced a dilemma: Under commandment to not show the U&T or the plates to anyone unless specifically authorized (for good reason), Joseph also had family members and supporters wanting to know how he was translating. The curiosity was interfering with the actual translation. People were familiar with the idea of seer stones in hats, so he did the demonstration. Witnesses and hearsay took it from there, even though Joseph and Oliver always specified Joseph translated with the U&T.

Mormonism Unvailed, which set forth the competing explanations, also set forth the Solomon Spalding theory, which claimed the Book of Mormon was copied from a novel by Spalding, adapted by Sidney Rigdon, who added Christian sermons and rhetoric. The Spalding theory became the predominant explanation for the Book of Mormon outside of the Church in the 1800s, widely reported in newspapers, by ministers, etc. 

A key element of the Spalding theory was Joseph reading from the Spalding manuscript from behind a curtain. If you read the major statements about SITH in context, you see that they were prefaced by a rejection of the Spalding theory, including assertions that Joseph had no manuscript or other document to read from. In other words, after Joseph and Oliver died, SITH became a refutation of the Spalding theory. 

An interesting detail from the demonstration account is that Joseph had multiple scribes present so they could take over when one got tired. That indicates a rapid dictation--much different from the laborious effort in Harmony and upstairs in Fayette. This detail also tells us that the demonstration had to involve Second Nephi (partly because Emma was one of the scribes at the demonstration and she did not write any of First Nephi). For the reasons explained in the book, I think Joseph used the demonstration to dictate some of the Isaiah chapters in Second Nephi from memory. That's why these chapters have otherwise inexplicable minor differences from the King James version, etc. 

This is merely an overview; you can get the details in the book, supported by hundreds of footnotes.

_____

Next week we'll discuss my two other new books.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

What if 2020...

Matt Ridley made an observation about 2020 that could apply to LDS issues:

What if 2020 went down in history as the year synthetic biology dealt a mortal blow to future viruses and illnesses in general, rather than the year a virus ruined our health, wellbeing and livelihoods?"

https://twitter.com/mattwridley/status/1339573038627565571

He referenced an article he wrote for the Spectator titled:

Why mRNA vaccines could revolutionise medicine

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/why-mrna-vaccines-could-revolutionise-medicine

_________________

I'd like to rephrased it this way:

What if 2020 went down in history as the year the teachings of the prophets dealt a mortal blow to the vain theories of intellectuals, both inside and outside the Church, rather than the year these theories ruined the faith of the people?

In my view, the worst thing that has happened in the Church is having intellectuals repudiate the teachings of the prophets and then seeing those intellectuals' theories be widely accepted. 

Because it's so easy to spot the logical and factual fallacies of these theories, people lose their faith. Our fine young LDS scholars resort to sarcasm in a misguided effort to respond to critics because on key points, these scholars agree with the critics.

The recent post on MormonStories about how the M2C citation cartel is funded may have finally drawn more widespread attention to the problem.

(https://www.mormonstories.org/podcast/non-profits-and-mormon-apologetics/

Because the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion, it's not surprising that the critics have focused there. The critics and LDS intellectuals (including the entire M2C citation cartel) now agree on three fundamental assumptions that drive everything else they teach:

1. Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon by using a seer stone in a hat, not the Urim and Thummim (the Nephite interpreters) that Moroni put in the stone box. He didn't even use the plates.

2. Joseph Smith didn't really translate anything; he merely read words that appeared on the stone in the hat (SITH), which acted as a metaphysical teleprompter fed by a mysterious unknown supernatural translator from the 16th century who inexplicably provided Early Modern English for Joseph to read.

3. The Hill Cumorah is not in New York. 

In my view, it's an enormous mistake to "inoculate" Church members with these theories. That's not inoculation but infection.

Inoculation would involve discussing all the historical facts, not just selected ones, and understanding them in a way that corroborates and supports, instead of repudiates, the teachings of the prophets.

__________________

I disagree with all three assumptions. I think:

1. Joseph Smith translated the plates with the Nephite interpreters.

2. Joseph Smith translated the plates in his own language, having been prepared from his youth to do so.

3. The Hill Cumorah is in New York and extrinsic evidence supports the teachings of the prophets on this topic.

I've explained all of these in detail in my latest books and upcoming podcasts. Tomorrow we'll discuss the translation.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

A few memes

 Later this week I'll discuss some serious topics, so today we'll look at some fun memes.











Monday, December 14, 2020

How times have changed since 1973


Here's an article from the 1973 New Era about Joseph Smith that we would never see published today. It relates documented facts, but because it contradicts M2C and SITH, the scholars would never approve it for publication.

I indicated in red the parts our scholars would censor and their "corrections" in blue.

The Greatness of Joseph Smith and His Remarkable Visions (churchofjesuschrist.org)


The Greatness of Joseph Smith and His Remarkable Visions

During the month of December we especially remember the birth of the Savior and his special ministry. It is also appropriate that we remember the man God chose to restore his gospel in these latter days, because the Prophet Joseph Smith was born December 23, 1805.

To understand Joseph Smith you need to see his spiritual and physical traits. Parley P. Pratt, who was personally acquainted with the Prophet, gave this word description:

“President Joseph Smith was in person tall and well built, strong and active; of light complexion, light hair, blue eyes, very little beard, and of an expression peculiar to himself, on which the eye naturally rested with interest, and was never weary of beholding. His countenance was ever mild, affable, beaming with intelligence and benevolence; mingled with a look of interest and unconscious smile, or cheerfulness, and entirely free from all restraint or affectation of gravity; and there was something connected with the serene and steady penetrating glance of his eye, as if he would penetrate the deepest abyss of the human heart, gaze into eternity, penetrate the heaven and comprehend all worlds.

“He possessed a noble boldness and independence of character; his manner was easy and familiar; his rebuke terrible as the lion; his benevolence unbounded as the ocean; his intelligence universal, and his language abounding in original eloquence peculiar to himself (modern scholars have determined that Joseph actually spoke like everyone else except when reciting the Book of Mormon, translated by an mysterious unknown supernatural translator, and when speaking the early revelations, all of which are actually Early Modern English)—not polished—not studied—not smoothed and softened by education and refined by art; but flowing forth in its own native simplicity, and profusely abounding in variety of subject and manner. He interested and edified, while, at the same time, he amused and entertained his audience; and none listened to him who were ever weary with his discourse. I have known him to retain a congregation of willing and anxious listeners for many hours together, in the mist of cold or sunshine, rain or wind, while they were laughing one moment and weeping the next. Even his most bitter enemies were generally overcome, if he could once get their ears. …

“In short, in him the character of Daniel and a Cyrus were wonderfully blended. The gifts, wisdom and devotion of a Daniel were united with the boldness, courage, temperance, perseverance and generosity of a Cyrus. And had he been spared a martyr’s fate till mature manhood and age, he was certainly endowed with powers and ability to have revolutionized the world in many respects, and to have transmitted to a posterity a name associated with more brilliant and glorious acts than has yet fallen to the lot of mortal.” (The Historical Record, vol. 7 [January 1888], pp. 575–76).

Adam was the first member of the church of Christ on the earth and the first high priest after the order of the Son of God. In the commission he received from God, Adam was given the keys to administer the divine plan of salvation to others, including all his children to the very latest generation of time. It is through Adam’s authority that any revelation pertaining to the gospel of Christ was or shall be revealed. The Prophet Joseph said:

“Adam holds the keys of the dispensation of the fulness of times; i.e., the dispensation of all the times that have been and will be revealed through him from the beginning to Christ, and from Christ to the end of the dispensations that are to be revealed.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [Deseret Book Co.: 1961], pp. 167–68.)

He further observed that whenever any principles or teachings of the gospel are revealed to men on this earth, they are revealed from heaven by Adam’s authority. (Ibid.)

This principle means that whenever any keys of the priesthood are revealed from heaven, they are revealed under the direction of Adam. When John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood, he was acting under the direction of Peter, James, and John; but they were acting under the direction of Adam. Section 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants is a recap of the restoration of the gospel, and the Prophet here recounts some of the events that happened. In verse 20 he says:

“And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! (The hill in New York was falsely named after the real Cumorah, which is a mountain in southern Mexico.) Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!”

From this it appears that Michael, whom the Prophet Joseph Smith said was Adam, was around to keep the devil from thwarting the plans of God. When Peter, James, and John came to restore the Melchizedek Priesthood, Adam was there.

Adam stands at the beginning of the gospel plan and presides over all dispensations of the gospel and at the grand conference at Adam-ondi-Ahman, which will take place before Christ appears in the clouds in glory for all mankind to behold. There each prophet who has had a hand in the affairs of mankind will make his report to Father Adam, who will then make his report for all of them to the Savior. Joseph Smith was the prophet who became the receptacle for all the keys that were ever held by any of the prophets from Adam to his time, because he was chosen to lead the dispensation of the fulness of times.

Joseph Smith was foreordained to this important calling. He was also somewhat conscious of this foreordination because he once said, “Would to God, brethren, I could tell you who I am! Would to God I could tell you what I know! But you would call it blasphemy, and there are men upon this stand who would want to take my life.” (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 322.)

At the age of 14 this boy exercised such great faith that he was given the privilege of beholding the greatest vision ever recorded in the annals of scripture. This man was privileged to behold the presence of not just the great Jehovah, whom the ancient prophets had conferred with, but he was to have the great privilege of having the Father, known to us as Elohim, come down and in a face-to-face meeting speak to him and introduce His Son. In commenting about this President Joseph Fielding Smith said:

“All revelation since the fall has come through Jesus Christ, who is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. In all of the scriptures, where God is mentioned and where he has appeared, it was Jehovah who talked with Abraham, with Noah, Enoch, Moses and all of the prophets. … The Father has never dealt with man directly and personally since the fall, and he has never appeared except to introduce and bear record of the Son.” (Doctrines of Salvation [Bookcraft: 1954], vol. 1, p. 27.)

However, the First Vision was only the beginning of visitations from beyond the veil that Joseph was to receive during his short life of 38 years. Four years after he had been visited by the Father and the Son he was visited by an ancient prophet who had formerly lived  upon the American continent in the Americas and who introduced himself as the angel Moroni. Then, on May 15, 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were visited by another ancient prophet, John the Baptist, who bestowed upon them the Aaronic Priesthood; and within a month they had been visited by Peter, James, and John, the ancient apostles of Christ, who bestowed upon them the Melchizedek Priesthood. This is the incident when Adam was present and thwarted the devil in his attempt to stop the bestowal of the priesthood.

After the Kirtland Temple was completed and dedicated, the Lord had a place to which he could come and restore other keys pertaining to the gospel. On April 3, 1836, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were visited by Christ who accepted the temple; then three other ancient prophets appeared and bestowed necessary keys of the gospel. The great prophet Elias, whom Joseph Fielding Smith says is Noah (See Answers to Gospel Questions [Deseret Book Co.: 1957], vol. 3, p. 138), appeared and bestowed upon their heads the keys of the dispensation of Abraham, or in other words, as Elder Bruce R. McConkie says in Mormon Doctrine (2nd ed. [Bookcraft: 1966], p. 219.), the keys of celestial and plural marriage. Once again the promise that husbands and wives could be eternally united was upon the earth.

Following this vision the great prophet Moses, who had led the children of Israel from bondage, appeared and bestowed upon the heads of Joseph and Oliver the keys of the gathering of Israel and the leading of the Ten Tribes from the land of the North. Joseph now had authority to disperse missionaries throughout the world to begin the gathering in of the Lord’s elect in these latter days.

As soon as Moses had departed, the prophet Elijah, who was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire, appeared and bestowed upon them the sealing power to bind wives to husbands, husbands to wives, and children to parents until the whole human race is sealed back to Father Adam. Although Elias had bestowed the keys of celestial marriage, the keys to seal that, and all other ordinances of the gospel, were bestowed by Elijah. This key also gave authority to begin work for the dead. With the authorization Joseph now had he could begin to look beyond the veil and perform proxy ordinances that would open the door of salvation for beloved ancestors who had lived upon the earth and died without an opportunity to hear the gospel.

Can you now begin to see the greatness of Joseph Smith’s mission? Each of these prophets may have held only a few keys of the gospel. Now he was receiving all the keys that had ever been on the earth.

By this time in his life Joseph Smith had become so used to looking beyond the veil that it was almost an everyday occurrence. When he and Sidney Rigdon were privileged at Father Johnson’s home in Hiram, Ohio, to have the revelation that is known as section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants [D&C 76], he was so used to the Spirit of the Lord that he did not fall to the earth from exhaustion as Moses had done when he talked with God (Moses 1:9–10) and as he himself had done after the First Vision. In fact we see a little bit of Joseph’s humor in this incident. After the vision closed, Sidney was completely exhausted and had to lie down on the couch. Seeing Sidney’s pallor, Joseph remarked with a smile on his face: “Well, Brother Sidney is not as used to it as I am.” (Juvenile Instructor, vol. 27 [May 15, 1892], pp. 303–4.)

The first time Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith, on September 21, 1823, it was the beginning of a very intensive teacher-student relationship between Joseph and Moroni that was to encompass four years and was to culminate in having brought the young Joseph from the role of an unlearned farm boy to the position of a heaven-taught, angel-tutored prophet of God. It is true that the young prophet spent very little time inside the formal schoolroom and he could never translate anything and was ignorant about the Book of Mormon—but he was not unlearned. He spent four years in the university of eternity, taught by learned men from the throne of God.

During the night of Moroni’s first appearance to Joseph, the principle of repetition in the learning process could not have been better illustrated. The angel, appearing three different times, spent the entire night teaching Joseph the things he needed to know relative to the gold plates and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The next day Moroni appeared to him again in the field where he was working with his father. In this visitation the angel instructed him to proceed to the Hill Cumorah a hill in New York. There the two met again, and Joseph was allowed to view the plates, although he was not allowed to take them out of their repository. In four of these visits the angel repeated to Joseph the same information.

During the four-year preparatory period Joseph received instructions not only from Moroni but also from others. George Q. Cannon said that Joseph was visited constantly by angels. In a letter he wrote to John Wentworth, the Prophet said: “After having received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of 22nd of September, 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into my hands.” (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 4. p. 537.)

When Joseph went to a hill in New York the Hill Cumorah the first time and was allowed to view the plates, he thought it was possible to remove them and immediately take them home with him. He even had thoughts of what he could do with a chunk of gold of that size. However, the Lord knew the frailties of man and sought to strengthen the young prophet by showing him a vision of what would be his if he were faithful; he also showed him, on the other hand, what would be his reward should he fail. [Note: Oliver was an ignorant speculator so we censor what he wrote, even though Joseph helped him write it, had Oliver's work copied into his own journal and had it republished multiple times during his lifetime.) Oliver Cowdery records that while Joseph was being instructed by the angel, “… the heavens were opened and the glory of the Lord shone around about and rested upon him. While he thus stood gazing and admiring, the angel said, ‘Look,’ and as he thus spake he beheld the prince of darkness, surrounded by his innumerable train of associates, all this passed before him, and the heavenly messenger said, ‘All this is shown, the good and the evil, the holy and the impure, the glory of God, the power of darkness, that ye may know hereafter the two powers and never be influenced or overcome by that wicked one.’” (Messenger and Advocate, vol. 2, no. 1 [October 1835], p. 198.)

Another but not very well-known appearance of Moroni was the visit that took place on the same day in September, one year later, 1824. At this time Joseph would have been 18. Joseph doesn’t tell us much about this particular visit, but the Prophet’s mother, in the history she wrote of her son, records some interesting details of this visit to the hill. She said that the Prophet went to the hill fully intending to take the plates home with him, and indeed was allowed to take them out of their hiding place. He supposed that the only requirement necessary to receiving the plates was to keep the commandments of God. This he felt he could do. Among those requirements was a strict injunction not to lay the plates down or put them out of his hands until he could deposit them in a safe place. But as he took them and turned away, he thought perhaps he should return and cover the box and check to see if, perchance, he had left anything therein. After laying the plates down upon the ground, he returned. And as he turned again to pick up the record, it was gone. Anyone who has ever lost anything of great value can empathize with the feelings of this frightened young man. In a state of great alarm he commenced to pray, whereupon the angel appeared to him and chastized him for his neglect. He was then permitted again to raise the stone that covered the repository and therein he beheld the plates. Still he was convinced he was ready to take the plates from the hill, and according to his mother’s account, “He immediately reached forth his hand to take them, but instead of getting them, as he anticipated, he was hurled back upon the ground with great violence. When he recovered, the angel was gone, and he arose and returned to the house, weeping for grief and disappointment.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, [Bookcraft: 1958] p. 84.)

On another occasion the young man was sent by his father, Joseph Smith, Sr., on an errand to Manchester a short distance from the Smith home. Joseph was late returning home, and his father began questioning him as to the reasons why. The young prophet answered, “I have taken the severest chastisement that I have ever had in my life.” When his father began to interrogate him as to who had a right to find fault in him, he answered, “Stop, father, stop, it was the angel of the Lord. As I passed by a hill in New York the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel met me and said that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to be brought forth; and that I must be up and doing and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do.” (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, pp. 99–101.)

Moroni’s many appearances to Joseph during these four years, as well as the appearances of other ancient prophets, were to instruct the Prophet and prepare him for his mission. By the time 1827 had rolled around, Joseph had been sufficiently instructed and disciplined to the point where he could be entrusted with the care of the plates and the task of reading words off a seer stone in a hat that were put there by a mysterious unknown supernatural translator translating them.

A number of individuals appeared to Joseph Smith in order to help prepare him for his mission. He received visitations from the Father and the Son; Moroni; John the Baptist; Peter, James, and John; Moses; Elias (Noah); Raphael (it is not clear who this is); Michael (Adam); and Elijah. John Taylor says that Joseph Smith had communication with not only the Lord, “… but with the ancient apostles and prophets; such men for instance as Abraham, Isaac, Noah, Adam, Seth, Enoch, and Jesus and the Father, and the apostles that lived on this continent as well as those who lived on the asiatic continent.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 21, p. 94.)

Joseph Smith stated in the Wentworth letter that prior to his receiving the plates on the morning of September 22, 1827, he had received many visits from the angels of God; and John Taylor further stated that when Joseph Smith was raised up as a prophet of God, “Mormon, Moroni, Nephi, and others of the ancient prophets who formerly lived on this Continent” visited him and communicated certain principles of the gospel. (JD, vol. 17, p. 374.)

The Prophet’s mother said in her book that the family could hardly wait to get their chores done at night so they could gather around the kitchen table and listen to stories told by Joseph about the ancient Nephites and Lamanites. She said the stories were so vivid and filled with details of history, culture, and religion that it was as though the Prophet had lived amongst these ancient peoples all his life. He must have seen in panoramic vision the entire history of the Nephite and Lamanite generations.

Joseph was able to give excellent descriptions of the apostle Paul that indicate Paul had visited him. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 180.) On one occasion he compared his brother Alvin in likeness to Adam and Seth, saying he looked very much like them. (DHC, vol. 5, p. 347.)

His intimacy with the prophets is further evidenced by an event that took place in 1834 when the Prophet was leading the March of Zion’s Camp to Missouri to assist the Saints in reclaiming their land and homes that had been lost to the mobs. One day while walking out ahead of the company he was seen talking to a strange man. Upon returning to the company he was queried as to whom he was talking with. He said that it was John the Revelator and that he was on his way to visit the lost ten tribes. (Diary of Oliver Boardman Huntington, Typescript in BYU Library, 1847–1900, part 2, p. 162.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith was totally committed to the Lord and was willing to serve him at all times, at all costs, and at all hazards. He was willing to serve the Lord even when it was not convenient. When Joseph was living in the Johnson’s home at Hiram, Ohio, his wife, Emma, gave birth to twins who died the day of their birth. The wife of John Murdock also gave birth to a set of twins on that same day, but Mrs. Murdock died in childbirth. Joseph and Emma asked Brother Murdock if they might adopt his twins, and he readily accepted that offer.

When the twins were 11 months old, they became very ill with measles, causing many sleepless nights in the Smith household. One night the Prophet told his wife to go into the back bedroom and try to get some rest while he sat up in the living room with the sicker of the two children. As the night passed, Joseph lay down upon a trundle bed and dozed off. The next thing he knew, he was being carried bodily through the front door by an angry mob who were shouting among themselves, “Don’t let his feet touch the floor, or he will take us all.” They realized what a tremendously powerful man he was physically as well as spiritually.

They carried him out through the orchard, and as they did so, he saw Sidney Rigdon lying on the ground, presumably dead. The mob had also dragged Brother Rigdon from his house by the heels, bumping his head on the frozen ground until it had knocked him insensible.

After coming to a halt, the mob deliberated as to whether or not they should kill the Prophet but decided against it. Finally one of them said, “Let’s tar up his mouth.” With that they tried to force the tar paddle into his mouth. Next they tried to force a phial of poison between his teeth, but he kept them clenched so tightly that the bottle broke, along with the corner of one of his front teeth. Failing to tar up his mouth or poison him, one of the members of the mob fell on him, and after the others had torn off all Joseph’s clothes except his shirt collar, began scratching him like a mad cat, muttering: “… that’s the way the Holy Ghost falls on folks.” They then poured hot tar on his body, rolled him in a feather tick and left him for dead.

After regaining consciousness the Prophet made his way to the house. When his wife, Emma, saw him coming to the door with his body covered with tar and feathers, she fainted. The rest of the night was spent removing the tar from his body. The tender hands of Dr. Frederick G. Williams, a physician and also a counselor to the Prophet in the First Presidency, performed the heartbreaking task. Sometimes large pieces of skin came off with the tar. The next day was the Sabbath, and the Prophet, in great discomfort, was at the service where he spoke.

It is hard to study the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith without remembering that he learned to serve the Lord fully, at all times, and at all costs, and he relied on credentialed scholarship for information about the Book of Mormon.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Conference tomorrow

People want more information about what I'm speaking about tomorrow.

Here's the link: https://4mevents.org/. I'll be speaking around noon Mountain Time from my home in Oregon.

My main topic focuses on "how to Zion," meaning how to establish Zion within the context of modern society, wherever we live. A major focus will be how to achieve unity in diversity.

I'll touch on these topics:

- Examples of legal precedence as described in the Book of Mormon, including an example from Mosiah 27 that I discussed in my new book Between these Hills: A Case for the New York Cumorah,*. 

- The importance of free agency and its preservation. 

- The consequences of oppressive rule and the inevitability of tyranny. 

- How we can "Zion" under various governments, using examples from around the world.

- Why people everywhere seek Zion but don't know where to find it.

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*Between these Hills discusses why Cumorah is central to understanding the Book of Mormon, how relevant sciences corroborate what the prophets have taught, and how we can build faith by supporting the prophets.

The book is now available. https://www.amazon.com/Between-These-Hills-Case-Cumorah-ebook/dp/B08Q69VWJW/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1607706440&sr=1-1

I'll discuss it more next week.




Thursday, December 10, 2020

Conference this Saturday, December 12, 2020

As I mentioned on this blog back in September, I'm shifting toward efforts to build Zion. My blog https://howtozion.blogspot.com/ has a weekly comment about Zion, but soon there will be much more going on there.

Some of you already know about this, but for those who don't, I'm speaking at a conference this coming Saturday. Info is here: https://4mevents.org/

My topic is how government can accommodate the establishment of Zion.  

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An essential element of Zion is having all things common, as mentioned in Acts and 3 Nephi. Another is what Enoch described:

And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

(Moses 7:18)

Does "one heart and one mind" mean everything thinks and acts alike? 

Hopefully not. This looks more like a description of unity in purpose and desires and systems and goals, but also accommodating multiple operating hypotheses when we don't have all the information.
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Getting back to the topic of this blog, this is why I keep hoping our intellectuals will drop their antagonism toward other faithful members who still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught about the translation of the plates, the New York Cumorah, and other issues. 

Hey scholars: you don't have to agree with us, but you ought to respect and accommodate faithful Church members who don't accept M2C or SITH. Specifically, Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon and the rest of the M2C citation cartel need to stop censoring alternatives.
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Speaking of Joseph and Oliver, I've forgotten to mention that my latest book on the translation is available on Amazon, Deseret Book, Digitalegend, etc. I'll tell more about that next week.





Wednesday, December 9, 2020

FairMormon statement on videos

I strongly support the idea of what FairMormon purports to be--a useful web-based resource for factual information and useful answers. FairMormon would be an awesome resource if it was actually fair.

 Fairness includes transparency and openness to other faithful interpretations and perspectives.

But the organization instead is an advocate for specific intellectual fads and it uses anonymity to obfuscate its editorial objectives and provide plausible deniability to the scholars and others who provide content.

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Yesterday FairMormon published a response to the publicity about the videos they released under their TITS (This Is the Show) brand. Yeah, they actually think that's a cool brand name.

https://www.fairmormon.org/blog/2020/12/08/fairmormon-statement-regarding-this-is-the-show-videos


The first thing to notice is the author of this statement: "Fair Mormon Staff."

That's a meaningless attribution because FairMormon never reveals its staff. Anonymity and secrecy rule at FairMormon. 

It makes sense, actually. FairMormon's promotion of M2C is based on anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons. Anonymity enables intellectuals to use all kinds of sophistry and logical fallacies to promote their teachings.

Look at what the "Fair Mormon Staff" says next:

First, some have claimed that other groups collaborated with FairMormon on these videos. This is false.  FairMormon commissioned the production of “This is The Show” videos without prompting, input, suggestion or direction from any other entity or individual. No other group has contributed to the content, style, performance, production, or distribution of our videos. FairMormon alone is responsible for the content shared on the videos, and our websites.

This is a patently absurd statement. FairMormon doesn't make any decisions or produce any content; everything is decided and produced by people. But FairMormon never reveals who these people are.

You can't blame them, I suppose; no sensible person wants to be affiliated with these videos. No donors want to fund them. Everyone seems to be running away from them.

Which is why FairMormon is opaque. 

In a sense, it's smart to have an anonymous organization that can experiment with new ideas and tactics. But it shouldn't be FairMormon because FairMormon is an anonymous facade for the entire M2C citation cartel. The interlocking M2C organizations share employees, advisers and contributors, and they coordinate messages and marketing tactics. 

When the lines between these organizations are as blurred as they are, they're all responsible for one another.

When you go to FairMormon's "about" page, here's what you see: no names. No list of contributors, no list of editors--nothing except vague references to the rest of the M2C citation cartel:

FairMormon is staffed completely by volunteers who are students of the scriptures, ancient languages, early Christian history, early LDS history, and LDS doctrine and apologetics. Most all of the staff here at FairMormon have been involved in online services and Internet-based LDS apologetics for many years. Many of our members are authors of currently-available apologetic publications.

FairMormon does reveal who its "friends" are:


Every "friend" on that list promotes M2C (although the BYU Religious Studies Center is less blatant about it than the others). Most also promote SITH. They all elevate intellectuals above prophets. 

These "friends" use separate organizations to provide an illusion of diversity, but they share uniform editorial views, cite one another (hence the citation cartel), promote one another's material, and coordinate their efforts. For example, the former editor of BYU Studies is the founder of Book of Mormon Central and founder of FARMS. The editor of the FARMS journals started the Interpreter when he was fired from FARMS. Pearl of Great Price Central is a component of Book of Mormon Central, and so on.
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Next, look at this explanation.

The overwhelming bulk of our work is set forward in well-documented articles and lectures. “This is The Show” video series isn’t a change in our course, It’s our first attempt to support young people—using means, methods, and media commonly familiar to them—in their efforts to understand and defend sincere and insincere questions or attacks on their faith and beliefs.

Their work is documented in the sense that they provide citations and links, but they don't disclose authors and they carefully edit material to present their editorial perspective instead of providing complete information.

It's a great idea to support young people, no doubt. But young people (as well as older people) seek transparency and honesty. 

That's why so many prefer the calm, respectful approach of certain critics as opposed to the counterproductive tactics of ridicule, parody and sarcasm so typical of this strain of LDS apologetics. 

I'm still hopeful that FairMormon can reform itself and become more transparent, open, honest and fair. I've been hoping that for several years. Maybe the controversy over the videos will prompt a change. If so, I'll be among the first to welcome and applaud it.












Tuesday, December 8, 2020

M2C citation cartel news

Some readers here know I'm releasing a book about LDS apologetics next year, based on my experience over the last few years. In my view, spending millions of dollars to persuade people that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were wrong about the New York Cumorah and the translation of the Book of Mormon is worse than a waste of money. 

If some intellectuals refuse to accept what Joseph and Oliver taught, that's fine. People can believe whatever they want. But they should at least consider their teachings one of multiple working hypotheses. 

People deserve to make informed decisions with good information. But the M2C citation cartel disagrees. They insist their M2C and SITH theories are the only acceptable beliefs, and they spend millions of dollars to censor and attack those of us who still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught.

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My basic life philosophy is that eventually the right thing happens. 

Maybe we've reached that stage where the right thing will finally happen with LDS apologetics. I'm all in favor of teaching and defending truth, and to the extent scholars do that, great. But that's not what the latest news is dealing with.

People are asking about the latest developments with the M2C citation cartel (FairMormon, the Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central, BYU Studies, Meridian Magazine, etc.). Here are my opinions.

Overall, for the most part, LDS apologists are sincere, smart, and well-meaning. However, their work is mainly bias confirmation, so not very persuasive, especially regarding M2C and SITH, which makes many of them highly defensive and thin-skinned. 

Some are fine young scholars trying to make their mark in the world. Nothing unusual about that; inexperienced students usually think their newfound education makes them smarter than those who disagree with them. LDS apologetics has a long history of engaging in logical fallacies, ad hominem attacks, snide cynicism, etc., and the fine young scholars have continued that tradition.


Lately, FairMormon released youtube videos including some of the fine young M2C scholars that focused on the CES Letter and related topics. While I don't recommend videos from the M2C citation cartel because of their editorial bias, you should go to their youtube channel and see for yourself. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoLAowawEfrtrxvnQQAx2yw   

The videos are apparently supposed to be funny and entertaining, an attempt to reach younger people than FairMormon's articles do. 

The M2C citation cartel constantly asks Church members for donations. These FairMormon videos should finally wake people up to see how their money is being spent because they contain the same type of editorial content and style of apologetics as FairMormon always has, a legacy of FARMS.

In addition to their juvenile sarcasm and parody, the videos include some depictions of violence that led to a response from MormonStories, which posted a podcast on the topic.

https://www.mormonstories.org/podcast/non-profits-and-mormon-apologetics/ 

Both FairMormon and MormonStories teach people to reject the teachings of the prophets; they just differ about what to reject and how to frame the rejection. In that sense, they suit each other. 

Overall, for the most part, MormonStories and other such groups are sincere, smart, and well-meaning. However, their work is mainly bias confirmation, so not very persuasive, especially regarding the straw man arguments they create and attack, which makes many of them highly defensive and thin-skinned. 

In that sense, the apologists and their opponents also suit each other.

MormonStories has raised objections to LDS apologetics several times in the past over the long-term practice by LDS apologists of using ad hominem attacks, sarcasm, logical and factual fallacies, etc. Much of this is a good point, because the M2C citation cartel's arguments are not exactly coherent or persuasive. 

This MormonStories podcast focused in part on fundraising by FairMormon, the More Good Foundation, the Interpreter Foundation, and Book of Mormon Central.

The MormonStories podcast points out that these members of the M2C citation cartel members have raised nearly $23 million dollars and spend $1 million/year on salaries. That's a big budget, over ten times what MormonStories has raised, yet MormonStories' videos have more viewers.

While I don't recommend the MormonStories podcast because of their editorial bias, you can see the MormonStories youtube channel here: 

If you compare the youtube channel of FairMormon with that of MormonStories, you will see that MormonStories looks more serious and thoughtful--especially compared with this recent series from FairMormon.
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One of the targets of MormonStories responded, sort of.

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2020/12/my-connection-with-some-controversial-recent-videos.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=BRSS&utm_campaign=Latter-day+Saint&utm_content=366

That's a good defense, I suppose, and it acknowledges the coordination among the M2C citation cartel. But it skirts the main issue of who is encouraging the fine young scholars to engage in the counterproductive apologetics. Which leads to a related development.

Recently the Salt Lake Tribune published an article about a "radical orthodoxy manifesto."

https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2020/12/05/theres-new-manifesto/

The manifesto, deliberately vague, reads as a virtue-signaling effort to mainstream M2C, SITH, and whatever the latest intellectual fads are. They promote these ideas and frame them as the center between two unacceptable right/left camps.

The signatories include the usual suspects, including some of the fine young scholars and their mentors who engage in the counterproductive apologetics:

https://latterdayorthodoxy.org/signatories/

Notice: I have not used any names in this post. But you'll see my critics will complain about me by name, as they always do, because they are well-trained by their mentors in using such logical fallacies.

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Overall, these developments look promising. The reckoning for poor and counterproductive LDS apologetics is long overdue. 

Maybe the M2C citation cartel will look in the mirror and come to realize that trying to persuade the world that Joseph and Oliver were wrong is not such a good idea after all.

But if past is prologue, we'll see our M2C and SITH scholars continue to double-down, lash out, and strive all the harder to confirm their biases.

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Counterproductive apologetics is a major contributing factor for people leaving the Church and rejecting the missionaries. The latest crop of fine young scholars is making that problem worse, and the M2C citation cartel gives them a forum (and employment) to continue doing it. The "elder statesmen" in the M2C citation cartel could stop it overnight, but they won't because they've been doing the same things for decades, albeit without social media. You can go through the archives at Book of Mormon Central and find lots of examples, most of it in an effort to defend M2C.

Recently, the Ensign published an article that could/should have been a sign of better things to come in apologetics.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2020/09/the-book-of-mormon-and-the-descent-into-dissent?lang=eng

Considering the author, the article comes across as "lessons I've learned from doing what I'm telling people not to do." Except he continues to do the same things he has done for years.

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Look at these FairMormon videos and ask, is your money well spent? Do these people represent you?

Look at these videos from the M2C citation cartel and see how deeply M2C is infused in their content.