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.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Maxwell Institute podcasts are great, but the study edition not so much

If you haven't been listening to the Maxwell Institute podcasts, you are missing a chance to learn from some insightful scholars--so far, without any M2C or SITH.

Here's the link:


Blair Hodges is the host and he is one of the most effective interviewers around. He is well prepared and asks interesting questions.

I have especially enjoyed the podcasts on the new "Brief Theological Introduction" series.

The podcasts (so far) have nothing to do with M2C. I mention the podcasts here because the Maxwell Institute does a lot of good things and we want to recognize and support legitimate scholarship.

Significantly, the Maxwell Institute is apparently shifting away from M2C in favor of neutrality.

They used to have an M2C logo for their podcasts, but they replaced it with a neutral logo:

Current logo - awesome
Old logo - M2C disaster

Another positive development I've mentioned before is that a former MI employee who is a strong M2C proponent (a great guy whom I won't name) left MI to work for Book of Mormon Central, where he is free to continue confirming the M2C bias. 

However, the M2C bias remains in some aspects of the Maxwell Institute. For example, Terryl Givens, the M2C promoter who wrote the Foreword for Mormon's Codex, has joined the Institute as a "Senior Research Fellow." 

M2C readers edition
In 2018, the MI published a Study Edition of the Book of Mormon that explicitly teaches M2C under the guise of being "neutral."

There are at least a few Latter-day Saints who still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught, but their views are excluded from the Maxwell Institute Study Edition. 

In the book's "Chronology of the Translation" under 1824-1826, the authors write "For three consecutive years, Joseph meets the angel at the hill (later called Cumorah) on Sept. 22." But Lucy Mack Smith quoted Joseph calling the hill Cumorah even before he got the plates.

In the Index, the entry for Cumorah reads "Cumorah, land and hill: scene of the last Nephite battle and place where Mormon hid many records; Morm 6:2; see also Ramah, hill. The hill in upstate New York where Joeph Smith found the gold plates was named for this ancient site."

Of course, that is pure M2C propaganda. Not a single source in Church history claims "the hill in upstate New York" was named for some other Cumorah. That is M2C spin concocted within the last few decades. Every actual source declares that the "hill in upstate New York" is in fact the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.

It's also astonishing that any study guide of the Book of Mormon omits the most detailed accounts we have of Moroni's visit to Joseph and the Hill Cumorah itself, accounts that were repeatedly republished and copied into Joseph's own history as part of his life story. See http://www.lettervii.com/.

But the M2C intellectuals reject those accounts so, naturally, they are omitted from this MI study edition.

A real study edition would at least inform readers about the facts of Church history and let readers make informed decisions. By contrast, this guide seeks to imprint M2C by censoring the facts.

We do not attribute this teaching of M2C to bad motives. Instead, we see that M2C is so deeply imprinted on the minds of these scholars that they don't even realize what they're doing.


The study edition also promotes SITH by editing out any references to Joseph translating with the Urim and Thummim. It puts Emma Smith's so-called "Last Testimony" after the testimony of the 3 and 8 witnesses and before the testimony of Joseph Smith. 

Here is how the MI study edition explains the translation:

Joseph generally translated by putting a seer stone in his hat and then placing his face in the hat to block out the ambient light while he dictated to scribes. There is still no consensus among LDS scholars as to how the translation process worked. Some think that Joseph received spiritual impressions through the seer stone that he then put into his own words, while others believe—along with the early eyewitnesses—that Joseph read aloud a preexisting translation that appeared in the stone. Joseph himself never gave any details and simply asserted that it was done “through the gift and power of God” (title page).

That last sentence is the latest theme of the SITH scholars, but it is false. 

Joseph did not "simply assert" it was done "through the gift and power of God." He declared he translated the record "through the medium of the Urim and Thummim" that came with the plates. 

You won't find what Joseph wrote in the Wentworth letter, for example:

With the records was found a curious instrument, which the ancients called “Urim and Thummim,” which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rims of a bow fastened to a breastplate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God.

Maybe someday the Maxwell Institute will publish a second edition of their study edition that does not promote M2C and SITH by censoring Church history, but unfortunately that seems unlikely. These two theories are deeply entrenched at this point.

More likely, any future study edition will teach readers EMET.

Still, there are a lot of good things happening at the Maxwell Institute and so long as they don't impose M2C and SITH, we can all appreciate their good work.  

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