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.

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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.

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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.


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