long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Intended audience

This blog is not for everyone.

Specifically, it is not for advocates of M2C and SITH who are focused on confirming their biases and place more value on being right than on getting it right.

I don't understand why such people even read this blog in the first place, but apparently many of them do. Insecurity about their own beliefs seems to be a major factor for them. I embrace improvements and corrections; I'm thrilled when someone finds an error in what I've written so I can correct it. I'm continually updating my books and other materials based on reader feedback. But I'm uninterested in word salad, meaning the opinions of "experts" about what a word "should" mean. I'm also unimpressed by the credentials of self-appointed experts because their investment in their own theories makes them even more susceptible to bias confirmation than "ordinary" people.

For their own mental health, I recommend that advocates of M2C and SITH confine their reading to their own citation cartel (Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, FairMormon, BYU Studies, etc.) and remain happy confirming their own biases. That's what most people do anyway, every day of their lives.*

Therefore, to help M2C and SITH advocates avoid painful cognitive dissonance, let's review the intended audience for this blog. There are three main categories:

(i) Church members who still believe the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, the Urim and Thummim, and related topics and who simply seek a better explanation that supports instead of repudiates those teachings;

(ii) Nonmembers who recognize the factual and logical fallacies of M2C and SITH and therefore reject the Restoration when they meet the missionaries (because they understandably attribute M2C and SITH to official Church positions); and

(iii) Church members who think there are no faithful alternatives to M2C and SITH and face a serious dilemma: do they continue to accept the Restoration and live with what they conclude is nonsense, or do they reject the Restoration?

I hear from readers in all three categories and I'm glad that, in some degree, they find helpful material here.

My critics (mostly M2C advocates and revisionist historians) will say category (i) above consists of people who are seeking to confirm their own biases, and I fully acknowledge that. I explain my own bias all the time; i.e., I still believe what the prophets have taught about Cumorah, the Urim and Thummim, etc. But this is not a blind belief; I believe what they have taught partly because of spiritual reasons but also because of all the evidence that corroborates these teachings--evidence that I didn't learn from the M2C citation cartel or CES, BYU, recent COB materials, etc.

Notice also,  I have not included Church members and nonmembers who are apathetic about these issues. 

It is an understatement to say that not everyone cares about these issues. Most people say issues of Church history and Book of Mormon historicity don't matter, whether it's because they inherently believe or inherently disbelieve in the Restoration.

Such people are satisfied with their positions and that's fine with me. They should continue to read whatever confirms their biases, not this blog.

Bias confirmation. Most people, in most aspects of their lives, seek to confirm their biases. That's why two people can look at the exact same facts and derive opposite conclusions. Our minds filter out facts and logic that contradict our beliefs.

Psychologically, most people see only facts and understand only arguments that confirm their biases. That's how we end up with sharp divisions in politics, religion, and even science.

In extreme cases, such as M2C and SITH, advocates don't want other people to even know about inconvenient facts. They seem to feel their positions are so weak that they need the comfort of like-minded people to reassure them and to confirm their biases. That's what leads to "fake news" and censorship, and it is completely understandable from a psychological perspective.*

Bias confirmation is a protection against the existential threat of having to change one's mind.

We can't expect members of the M2C citation cartel to change their minds. We can't expect them to consider facts and logic that contradict M2C, engage in conversations about the topics, etc. We can't even expect them to stop censoring such facts and logic, to the extent they have power to do so.

Book of Mormon Central will continue to mislead Church leaders and members by pretending to be "neutral," when in reality the organization is merely a front for M2C advocacy.

But none of that matters to people in the three categories of the intended audience for this blog.

I started blogging years ago because I wanted my notes and thoughts easily accessible. By now, it is a helpful resource for me because I can easily access my notes and the related references from anywhere in the world. (The search function works great.)

Gradually other people noticed my posts. Some have reposted them or referred others, while others feed my posts into their own web pages or criticize everything I write.

All of that is fine with me, because I continue to learn more all the time and whether people agree or disagree is up to them.

But if you are apathetic about these issues, or you are obsessed with confirming your own biases, your own mental health would be better off to ignore what we discuss on this blog.

* I empathize with M2C advocates because for decades, I thought the same way they did; i.e., I was persuaded by my CES and BYU teachers (and by FARMS, FairMormon and the rest) to accept M2C. I actually agreed with them that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah, that the Book of Mormon should be continually re-interpreted to conform to the latest discoveries in Mesoamerica, etc.

But my empathy doesn't prevent me from writing what I discover and what think. 

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