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.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

M2C triumvirate: from RLDS to Book of Mormon Central

Preliminary points.

1. Some people wonder how a discussion of M2C (the Mesoamerican/two Cumorahs theory) is good preparation for the upcoming General Conference. I'll address that specifically tomorrow, but we're discussing this topic within the framework of President Nelson's teaching that "good inspiration is based upon good information."

2. Our focus on the M2C triumvirate is the opposite of an ad hominem argument. The M2C triumvirate are each exemplary scholars and members of the Church. This is a discussion of ideas and priorities, not individuals. We are focusing on the intellectual genealogy of M2C and the thinking errors that enable it to persist today. This involves the origins of M2C and the techniques used to perpetuate it.

3. Finally, the discussion involves the treatment of the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah (i.e., that the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York). We distinguish between M2C and M. It is the 2C element that repudiates the teachings of the prophets. M is an open question.

The same prophets who have taught the New York Cumorah (NY1C) have also said that beyond Cumorah (Mormon 6:6), we don't know where other events took place. That is really the only viable position to take at this point because there are thousands of sites that could relate to Book of Mormon history and geography.

[Note: the anonymous Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography conflates these two points, a logical and factual error that should be corrected, but the error could be attributed to the essay's complete avoidance of the Cumorah question.]

A key point: facts don't matter. If you have ever tried to persuade people to change their minds by presenting facts, you know it doesn't work. That's why we are not trying to persuade anyone of anything. We seek only to help people discover "good information" and detect "bad information" so they can make their own informed decisions.

People believe they have their own facts that are better than yours. If they realize their facts fall short, they change the subject. Hundreds of thousands of LDS missionaries have experienced this directly.

That's why the critical dynamic is your starting point. Whatever your initial premise, you can find facts that support it. If you support the prophets, you find facts that corroborate their teachings. If you disregard the prophets in favor of scholars, you find facts that corroborate the scholarly theories.

It's really that simple.

Knowing this, the M2C triumvirate and their followers have focused on LDS students. An LDS youth cannot get through Primary, Seminary, Sunday School, Institute, or BYU without being indoctrinated into M2C.

For M2C advocates, this is a feature, not a bug. But many former LDS members made the mistake of conflating M2C with the Church's position, and when they see the errors of M2C, they lose their faith--just as the prophets have warned.

We think it strengthens faithful members to vindicate the teachings of the prophets instead of repudiating those teachings.

The M2C triumvirate and their RLDS predecessors developed 2C because of M; i.e., they (i) assumed Mesoamerica was the setting, (ii) then decided that the New York Cumorah was too far away, and (iii) then decided that the prophets were wrong about NY1C.

Those of us who accept NY1C instead take the opposite approach. We assume the prophets were correct about the New York Cumorah and proceed from there.

[At this point, ask yourself, what assumption do you start with?]

As we've discussed, M2C originated with scholars from the RLDS Church in the late 1800s. These RLDS scholars developed a map of Book of Mormon events that placed all the events in a limited geography of Mesoamerica, with Cumorah in southern Mexico near the Gulf of Mexico. This was the origin of M2C.

In April 1917, an RLDS scholar of the Book of Mormon (named L.E. Hills) published a map that depicted M2C.

LDS leaders opposed M2C. When the Church purchased the Hill Cumorah in western New York in 1923, President Ivins (2nd Counselor in the First Presidency) devoted an entire address in General Conference to the importance of the New York Cumorah as the repository of Nephite records in that area (Mormon 6:6).

Hills' location of Cumorah

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, then an Apostle and Church Historian, rejected the 2C element as we saw yesterday.

He warned that the "two Cumorahs" theory would cause members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

The prescience of that warning is obvious today. But that doesn't matter to the M2C scholars.

Books published by the Church such as Jesus the Christ, The Articles of Faith, and A Marvelous Work and a Wonder spelled out the New York Cumorah. Prophets in General Conference reiterated it.

But that still didn't matter to the M2C scholars. They taught their students that the prophets were merely expressing their own incorrect opinions. They still teach that today, right at BYU and in CES.


Because they found Hills' M2C theory more appealing than the "private, incorrect opinions" of the prophets. 

The M2C triumvirate developed their own version of Hills' map.

This one has been promoted on the main page of BYU Studies for many years. You can see it here:

M2C triumvirate's location of Cumorah
You can see that they moved their "Cumorah" some miles east of where Hills had put it. The M2C scholars have proposed several variations, but they all agree that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah.

If you're wondering why BYU Studies would promote an M2C map, there is an easy answer.

For decades the Editor-in-Chief of BYU Studies was Brother Jack Welch, a member of the M2C triumvirate.

BYU Studies has been one of the most effective tools used by the M2C triumvirate to promote M2C.

BTW, we can expect M2C promotion to continue under its current editor (as of January 2020), Brother Steven C. Harper. Brother Harper, a BYU Church History professor and a wonderful guy, was instrumental in the development and editing of the Saints series of books about Church history.

By now it is well known that Saints, Volume 1, deliberately created a false historical narrative to purge the New York Cumorah from Church history. Instead of presenting Church history from the perspective of the historical figures, the authors of Saints accommodated the modern M2C theory by censoring all mention of Cumorah from Volume 1.

This is one reason why most Church members today, and all future generations, will never learn what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.

For those members of the Church who still believe what the prophets have taught, it is puzzling why M2C has become so prevalent in the Church today. Because of the work of the M2C triumvirate, working through various channels including the academic cycle, M2C has become the de facto position of the Church, based on Church media, manuals and curriculum.

For example, BYU and CES applied the M2C interpretation of the text of the Book of Mormon--the interpretation behind the M2C maps depicted above--and created a fictional fantasy map to use in Book of Mormon classes.

Consequently, every active LDS youth is being taught to understand the Book of Mormon in a fictional setting that also teaches them that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah.

We're told that some BYU faculty no longer believe the Book of Mormon is an authentic history. That's an increasingly common belief, even among active LDS. None of this is a surprising result of teaching the Book of Mormon using fantasy maps, mingled with elements of Mayan culture.

People are free to believe whatever they want, of course. If you think L.E. Hills and the M2C triumvirate are correct, and the prophets are wrong, that's fine.

But it should be just as fine with you that others think the prophets are correct and L.E. Hills and the M2C triumvirate are wrong.



Joseph Fielding Smith.

"Within recent years there has arisen among certain students of the Book of Mormon a theory to the effect that within the period covered by the Book of Mormon, the Nephites and Lamanites were confined almost entirely within the borders of the territory comprising Central America and the southern portion of Mexico-the isthmus of Tehauntepec probably being the "narrow neck" of land spoken of in the Book of Mormon rather than the isthmus of Panama.

"This modernistic theory of necessity, in order to be consistent, must place the waters of Ripliancum and the Hill Cumorah some place within the restricted territory of Central America, notwithstanding the teachings of the Church to the contrary for upwards of 100 years. Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. It is for this reason that evidence is here presented to show that it is not only possible that these places could be located as the Church has held during the past century, but that in very deed such is the case."

Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3:232–243.

BMC, the most prominent advocacy group for M2C, was founded by, and is currently operated by, followers of Dr. John Sorenson, who wrote this about the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah:

"There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundred of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history." 

Mormon's Codex, p. 688.

Those involved with BMC are awesome, faithful Latter-day Saints whom I personally like and admire for their work, with the exception of their approach to the teachings of the prophets on this topic.

The simple answer is that the people who founded and currently manage BMC have been promoting M2C for decades. 41 years ago they founded FARMS, an organization that was abolished in 2010.

Many readers have no idea what FARMS is, so let's discuss it.

BMC is managed by the founders of FARMS. They convinced themselves decades ago that the prophets were wrong about Cumorah and that M2C is the only viable explanation for the Book of Mormon.

To understand BMC, you need to understand FARMS,

Here's an example from a 1979 paper. Notice how the theory is stated as a fact.

The Book of Mormon is the religious chronicle of a small group, descendents [sic] of a common ancestor, who migrated to Mesoamerica and flourished for nearly 1000 years before being culturally assimilated and then militarily annihilated by the larger and more powerful native civilization.  

In 1984 the FARMS newsletter titled Insights explained why the logo incorporates a Mayan glyph:

WHAT DOES THE F.A.R.M.S. LOGO STAND FOR? Many people have asked what the F.A.R.M.S. logo means. Here is a brief explanation. The logo is composed of characters from Hebrew, Creek, Mayan and Egyptian, which are four of the main ancient languages and cultures relevant to Book of Mormon reseach [sic]. The characters are set in four stone blocks, symbolizing archaeology and ancient reseach [sic]. The Blocks are fit together like a puzzle. The Hebrew "aleph" in the upper left hand corner and the Greek "omega" in the lower right hand corner are the first and last letters of the Hebrew and Greek alphabets, standing for the "first and the last" (Isaiah 48:12), or the "Alpha and the Omega" (Rev. 1:17), who is Jesus Christ. The Mayan glyph is stylized, representing Mesoamerican studies. The Egyptian "Wd3t-eye" is the "whole-eye of the Sun-god Re" which was an ancient symbol of resurrection, since a myth told how the eye was torn to pieces and put back together. We have chosen this Egyptian hieroglyph because of an astonishing connection with the Book of Mormon, namely that the "pieces" of this eye were used by the Egyptians as mathematical symbols for their grain-measures. In other words, the tear duct was worth 1/64; the eye lash was 1/32; the left white of the eye was 1/16; the eyebrow was 1 /8; the pupil was 1 /4; and the right white of the eye was 1/2. The whole eye was one full measure. This binary fractional system is extremely reminiscent of the weights and measures of the Nephites in Alma 11. There a leah is half of a shilum, which is half of a shiblon. which is half of a senum, which is half of an amnor, etc. Moreover this Egyptian measurement system was used to weigh and convert amounts of barley, wheat and other grains into silver and gold, just as the Nephite system was used. See Alma 11:7. This is described more technically in the F.A.R.M.S. Preliminary Report, "Nephite Weights and Measures in the Time of Mosiah II." In addition, the round pupil of this eye was also used by the Egyptians as the round outline of the hypocephali which they used in burials, of which Facsimile 2 in the Book of Abraham is an example.


THREE THREATENING DANGERS. There are at least three dangers that threaten the Church within, and the authorities need to awaken to the fact that the people should be warned unceasingly against them. 

As I see these, they are flattery of prominent men in the world, false educational ideas, and sexual impurity.

But the third subject mentioned—personal purity, is perhaps of greater importance than either of the other two. We believe in one standard of morality for men and women. If purity of life is neglected, all other dangers set in upon us like the rivers of waters when the flood gates are opened.—Improvement Era, Vol. 17, No. 5, p. 476. March, 1914.

Leaders of thought frequently express admiration for the social conditions of the Latter-day Saints, the simplicity and earnest- ness of their worship, their care for the poor, and the honesty and purity of their daily lives. For these reasons our people are sought as colonizers in various parts of the country, men having seen that their industry and good character are of immense value in the building of a community and in the development of a country.

I sometimes fear that we are not altogether worthy of some of the good things said of us, and that they have a ten- dency to throw us off our guard, make us less watchful, and lull us to sleep, as it were, thus handicapping our continued efforts in the upward direction of right. Incorrect educational ideas are implanted in the hearts of our young people, often at home, and nearly always abroad. We have hundreds of young men, and young women, too, for that matter, who go abroad to receive their higher education, who partake to a great extent of the teachings of the world in these institutions. Not infrequently many of them return filled with the so-called "higher criticism" which not only tends to disbelief in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, but disbelief in God, and in the saving mission and divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord, upon which Christi- anity and the faith of the Latter-day Saints are founded.

But the third subject mentioned,—personal purity, is per- haps of greater importance than either of the other two. We believe in one standard of morality for men and women. If purity of life is neglected, all other dangers set in upon us like the rivers of waters when the flood gates are opened. Our youth naturally incline to follow the tendencies of the age in this direction, which is toward impurity in thought and action, impropriety in dress, and a double moral standard which gives men liberties in sin which are not, and should not be, tolerated in women. The general in- clination is towards moral looseness. It does not appear, not- withstanding declarations to the contrary, that the people are growing better in this respect, and that is a fearful thought to contemplate. Hence, there never was greater need than now of teaching our people to lead clean lives, and of impressing upon our young men the imperative necessity of moral cleanliness. So many examples come to the surface every day showing sexual iniquity and impurity that it is time to cry out against this sin. Parents, teachers and Church authorities must diligently warn their son* and daughters against these vile sins of the world, and make plain to them the sorrow and death that await the sinners. The warning should come in a Christ-like, earnest, and sincere spirit, in wisdom, and without cant and hypocrisy.

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