Thursday, July 22, 2021

clarifying origin of M2C

I've been too busy on a big project to post much, but the origins of the M2C hoax are becoming clearer all the time.

Not unlike our clarity on Pluto.




Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Transparency is the watchword?

The transcript of Claudia and Richard Bushman is making the rounds. You can see it here if you want.

One key point in the transcript is Elder Holland's statement that "Transparency is the watchword." (I excerpted that passage below.) 

Transparency is what we all want (I hope). 

But our M2C and SITH scholars continue to resist transparency.

This is my primary objection to the M2C (Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs) and SITH (stone-in-the-hat) citation cartels. Book of Mormon Central is the worst because they continue to present only their own pet theories of geography (as exemplified by their logo), but BYU Studies, the Interpreter, FAIRLDS, Meridian Magazine and the rest do the same. Now they're doing the same with SITH.

We see the antithesis of transparency in the Gospel Topics Essays, the Saints books, the Book of Mormon videos, and other materials. Instead of transparency, they exalt the opinions of scholars over original sources (which they don't even quote or cite), all to accommodate the M2C and SITH theories. 

I continue to hope that, eventually, Elder Holland's statement will become a reality. But I don't see that happening so long as our M2C and SITH scholars are driving the agenda.

_____

Nearly every day I hear from people about SITH problems. Usually it's someone who has doubts or has left the Church over SITH. Sometimes it's questions about why we are reading about SITH everywhere, both from the critics (John Dehlin says it's the #1 reason why people leave the Church) and from faithful sources, including Church magazines and the Gospel Topics Essays. 

Because I get enough questions about these things, I want to explain my views here so people don't have to contact me about this. As always, I'm not trying to convince or persuade anyone of anything. People can believe whatever they want. I post these blogs as my own notes, and to let others see what I think and react however they want.

1. I think Richard and Claudia are awesome. Of all the LDS scholars I've met or had any involvement with, they are the most open-minded and fair. They are not part of the M2C or SITH citation cartels, even though members of the cartels cite their work. 

2. I completely disagree with Church members who attack the Bushmans for various reasons, particularly those who claim they are part of a conspiracy to discredit Joseph Smith. 

3. Critics such as John Dehlin focus on Rough Stone Rolling to confirm their biases. Some LDS authors also focus on Rough Stone Rolling as the cause of people leaving the Church. I agree with Bushman that it was important for Church members to know all aspects of Church history, and in that sense I think Rough Stone Rolling did a great job. However, Rough Stone Rolling is not an encyclopedia. It does not, and could not possibly, include all the historical evidence or all the plausible interpretations of the evidence. 

4. In some cases, Rough Stone Rolling presents interpretations as statements of fact. Discerning readers can tell the difference, but many readers apparently cannot. This enables Dehlin and other critics to cite these interpretations as facts, thereby confusing and misleading the unwary.

5. I wrote a brief line-by-line analysis of the translation section of Rough Stone Rolling to point out some of the omissions and interpretations. It's an appendix in my July update of A Man that Can Translate. Subscribers to the MOBOM newsletter have already received it. 

An earlier version is available on this web page. 

http://www.ldshistoricalnarratives.com/p/rough-stone-rolling-analysis-part-1.html 

6. The Bushman transcript includes this exchange (original in blue, my comments in red):

But on the whole the church authorities had no better knowledge of church history than the normal members and the general authorities also had to be educated in this new kind of history. So it’s put us in this difficult position where we are being asked to change very rapidly to a new construct of our own history and it’s put a lot of strain on a lot of people. 

[The statements about SITH that everyone is quoting now are hardly "new sources." They were very well known to Joseph's contemporaries and successors, as was the material in the 1834 Mormonism UnvailedYet none of Joseph's successors in Church leadership taught that Joseph merely read words that appeared on a stone in the hat (SITH). The "new kind of history" seems to be pretending these are new discoveries, or that they are suddenly more credible than they were in the past among contemporaries.  

The "Last Testimony of Emma Smith" was published in the Saints' Herald in October, 1879, several months after she died on April 30, 1879. Her testimony was widely discussed in Utah. 

David Whitmer's An Address to All Believers in Christ was published in 1887. You can read it here: 

https://www.google.com/books/edition/An_Address_to_All_Believers_in_Christ/wVU3AAAAMAAJ?hl=en

Or, incredibly, you can read excerpts in the January 2020 Ensign, as I discussed here:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2020/01/january-2020-ensign.html

and here

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2020/01/january-2020-ensign-more-to-discuss.html

Nevertheless, with full knowledge of what David and Emma said, Church leaders continued to reaffirm that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. 

In 1882 John Taylor explained, "We have here on the ceiling of this building pictured to us, Moroni making known to Joseph Smith the plates, from which the Book of Mormon was translated, which plates had been hidden up in the earth; and in connection with them was the Urim and Thummim, by which sacred instrument Joseph was enabled to translate the ancient characters, now given unto us in the form of the Book of Mormon; in which is set forth the theories, doctrines, principles, organizations, etc., of these peoples who lived upon this continent."

(1880s, 1882 JD, JT Dispensation ¶3 • JD 23:29)

In 1895, Franklin D. Richards reaffirmed that Mormon "wrote it upon plates of pure gold, and in the language called the reformed Egyptian—a language which no people knew very well; and he being a prophet and having the Urim and Thummim, hid it up with these plates, so that in due time the plates should come forth and the means to interpret the record on them.

(1890s, 1895, October, 3rd Session, Elder Franklin D. Richards, ¶13 • CR)

The last member of the Twelve or First Presidency to testify in General Conference that Joseph translated the plates with the U&T, however, was Elder L. Tom Perry in April, 2007.

What is new is that some historians are acting as if these early Church leaders, who knew Joseph and Oliver personally, were unaware of SITH sayers. Instead, the historical record shows that they reaffirmed what Joseph and Oliver taught despite knowing what David, Emma, Mormonism Unvailed, and others claimed.

Some now say that Joseph used both SITH and U&T and that Joseph never really translated anything. Others now say that SITH=U&T. Some say all the SITH sayers were liars. 

People can believe whatever they want, but none of those explanations make sense to me. Nor do they reconcile the historical evidence.

As readers here know, I think the historical and documentary evidence shows that Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by means of the U&T (which he explained as clearly as words can be when he said he copied and translated the characters), but that he also conducted a demonstration with SITH to help his supporters understand the process (because he couldn't show them the plates or the U&T). I explain all the evidence in detail in A Man that Can Translate

It’s quite amazing how over the last few years the church is formally and informally trying to adjust to that, with all these gospel topic stories that deal with the difficult issues all being assimilated in the church curriculum and Elder Ballard saying we all have to learn this material, we have to be ready, our kids have to learn it. We don’t want any more surprises.

I agree with this approach, but now the surprise comes from censoring or de-correlating what early Church leaders taught. IOW, youth and new members who are being taught SITH and M2C will be just as surprised to learn that early Church leaders taught the U&T and the New York Cumorah. 

Why not just embrace full transparency as Elder Holland described? 

Why not trust Church members with all the information?

The historical evidence is pretty easy to explain from a faithful narrative. It's easy to show how both evidence and logical thinking corroborate what early Church leaders taught about these issues. 

What's difficult to explain is how early Church leaders, speaking from their personal experience, were wrong, while modern scholars, looking back 200 years, are correct.  

[00:48] I think what’s most heartwarming is that the policy of transparency now governs church publications.

Part of Marlin Jensen’s genius as a church historian was that when he wanted to — when the Joseph Smith papers were going forward with a mandate from president Hinkley, Do papers that the scholars will value. That is, be rigorous[unintelligble] As he was moving forward with that project, he just didn’t take that and run with it and turn out these marvelous papers.

I agree completely with this. The Joseph Smith Papers project is wonderful--so far as the documents go. The commentary and notes, however, are agenda-driven in many respects, as I've documented many times. IOW, trust the documents. The notes and commentary, take with a grain of salt.

He brought along all the Quorum of the Twelve, the first presidency, and CES. He got everyone agreeing that what we’re doing here is to be the new standard of truth — historical truth — for the church, what goes into those papers.

I've been told the Church leaders lead the scholars, not vice versa, but the available evidence supports what Bushman says here. Recall also that employees of Book of Mormon Central claim they've been hired by the prophets to guide the Church in these matters.

I think we’re pretty well there. I [unintelligible] church history advisors, we were called into a seminar in Salt Lake and Elder Holland addressed us, talking about collecting history out of the provinces. He said, “Transparency is the watchword.” And he said, “Not everyone agrees with me around here but I’m telling you it’s the watchword.” What that tells me is the balance of power is shifting. There’s going to be general authorities, lots of others who would say, “Why bother with all that stuff? It just mucks up the picture,” but on the whole the official policy is, we’re never going to be secure in our own history until we tell it straight and I think that’s what they’re going to try to do.

I agree with Elder Holland completely, which is why it remains inexplicable why Saints, the Gospel Topics Essays, Church magazines, and other resources refuse to tell it straight. Instead, they de-correlate the New York Cumorah and historical evidence that supports the U&T translation. 

7. Another exchange.

Audience #3: I’m wondering, for me a lot of the incongruity that exists now, that is giving rise to a lot of crisis of faith and [unintelligible] situations seems to be caused, in my view, by the disparity between the dominant narrative, what I call the orthodox narrative, which is what we learn as missionaries, what we teach investigators or we learn in Sunday school. Then as you get older, you start to experience Mormonism in different ways. And those ways become very important, even dear to you but sometimes they may not jive with some elements of orthodox narrative. What I’m wondering is, in your view do you see room within Mormonism for several different, multiple narratives of religious experience? Or do you think that in order for the Church to remain strong, they will have to hold to that predominant one?

Richard [00:57:35]: I think for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true. It can’t be sustained. 

It's difficult to tell from this vague statement what he means. People impose their own views on this to support whatever position they have.

For example, if Richard was referring to the translation with the U&T, assuming it is untrue and needs to be reconstructed with SITH, then I completely disagree with that because I think the evidence supports U&T and does not support SITH, with respect to the translation. That either/or approach is simplistic and omits evidence from one side or the other.

I'm all in favor of multiple working hypotheses, based on all the evidence (full transparency). Yet I'm not aware of any explanations that deal with all of the evidence except the demonstration narrative. Consequently, I interpret Richard's comment to mean the "dominant narrative" that Joseph never used SITH for any reason cannot be sustained. But that doesn't mean a wholesale rejection of U&T is appropriate. Nor does it mean Joseph produced the Book of Mormon by reading words that appeared on SITH.  

The Church has to absorb all this new information or it will be on very shaky grounds, and that’s what it’s trying to do. 

As I pointed out above, none of this is new information. It was well understood when it originally came out in 1834, 1879, etc. Perhaps there was a gap after the first generation of Church leaders, who had first-hand knowledge, passed away. Subsequent generations perhaps forgot about or ignored the SITH sayers, although critics were very active publishing and re-publishing SITH.

What seems to be happening now is historians are applying that gap retroactively to the first-generation leaders. Attributing ignorance to the first-generation leaders is ahistorical. It comes across as hubris on the part of these historians who assume they know better, looking back 200 years, than the people who experience the events themselves (Joseph and Oliver) and the people who knew Joseph and Oliver and couldn't possibly have recorded everything they taught.  

And they’ll be a strain for a lot of people, older people especially. 

I agree with this, to the extent the "older people" didn't know Church history, and to the extent the "new narrative" censors early teachings and presumes that Joseph, Oliver and their contemporaries were wrong.

But I think it has to change. Elder Packer had the sense of “protecting the little people.” He felt like the scholars were an enemy to his faith, and that of the grandmothers living in Sanpete County. That was a very lovely pastoral image. But the price of protecting the grandmothers was the loss of the grandsons. They got a story that didn’t work. So we’ve just had to change our narrative.

The story that doesn't work is the currently popular narrative that Joseph Smith never translated anything, that he merely read words off a stone in a hat (and it doesn't matter whether that was a "peep stone" he found in a well or the spectacles, if he didn't even use the plates), and Joseph and Oliver misled people by claiming he translated the engravings on the plates by means of the Nephite interpreters.

We know the narrative Joseph and Oliver gave us works. It is supported by documentary and historical and theological evidence. Millions of people have gained testimonies of the truth of that narrative. 

It remains to be seen whether SITH is a narrative that will "work." So far, the evidence, in terms of conversions and retentions, soundly rejects the proposition that SITH "works." 

After all, it was largely to defeat SITH that Joseph and Oliver wrote Letter I in the first place.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

M2C, SITH and Orwell

George Orwell, writing about the defeatist attitude of the Left in World War II: One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.*

People can believe whatever they want to believe. People can talk themselves into believing all kinds of things.

But we also like the things that we believe to make sense. 

_____

M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) tries to persuade people to reject the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah because an anonymous article in the 1842 Times and Seasons claimed that ruins in Central America were left by the Nephites. 

Even when it turned out that those ruins long post-dated the Book of Mormon, the M2Cers persisted because they had already convinced themselves the prophets were wrong about Cumorah. Everything written on the topic since then is an effort to confirm that bias.

The alternative approach that more and more Latter-day Saints adopt is to accept the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah and proceed from there. That makes sense to us.

We don't mind if others disagree. We just want everyone to make informed decisions.

_____

SITH (the stone-in-the-hat theory) tries to persuade people to believe that Joseph never really translated anything because some of his contemporaries claimed he merely read words off a stone in the hat and never even used the plates. Even the critics at the time realized this was a lame diversion from the real issue; i.e., what was behind the curtain when Joseph dictated the Book of Mormon?

The 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed ridiculed SITH because it undermined the entire narrative of the plates. As the book pointed out, if Joseph never used the plates when he translated, what good was the testimony of the witnesses?

Mormonism Unvailed used the term "unvailed" only once (apart from the title), and that was in connection with the curtain that Charles Anthon had described. "This young man was placed behind a curtain, in the garret of a farm house, and, being thus concealed from view, put on the spectacles occasionally, or rather, looked through one of the glasses, decyphered [sic] the characters in the book." 

Here's how Mormonism Unvailed explained its title.

That there has been, from the beginning of the imposture, a more talented knave behind the curtain, is evident to our mind, at least ; but whether he will ever be clearly, fully and positively unvailed and brought into open day-light, may of course be doubted.

https://archive.org/details/mormonismunvaile00howe/page/278/mode/2up?q=unvailed

The entire book is an effort to "unvail" Mormonism by figuring out what was behind the curtain when Joseph was dictating. Was Joseph translating plates, or reading from the Spalding manuscript? As someone said recently, is it Joseph Smith or Joseph SITH?

Those of us who believe Joseph and Oliver when they said Joseph translated the plates reject the Spalding theory. We believe there were plates behind the curtain. That makes sense to us.

We don't mind if others disagree. We just want everyone to make informed decisions.

We see that SITH contradicts what Joseph and Oliver said and is based on the demonstration at the Whitmer home that David Whitmer described, as I discussed in detail in A Man that Can Translate.

The Spalding theory was the predominant explanation for the Book of Mormon for 100 years. It depended on the common understanding that Joseph dictated from behind a screen, which is the only thing he could do given he was commanded not to let anyone see the plates or U&T. 

To defeat the Spalding theory, David Whitmer, Emma Smith, and others related SITH accounts, based on the demonstration. They emphasized there was no screen or curtain, and that Joseph had nothing to read from, which makes sense. The demonstration was conducted in the open. That was the point. But the demonstration was not the translation, which took place in the small room upstairs in the Whitmer home.

Church leaders who knew Joseph personally also knew all about Mormonism Unvailed and the SITH-sayers. They certainly knew a lot more than today's scholars, who concoct their theories based on scraps of paper instead of personal interaction with Joseph and Oliver. These leaders reaffirmed over and over that Joseph translated the plates with the U&T, the way Joseph and Oliver always said.

How difficult is this to understand?

_____

*for more context, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17647355 and citations there.


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Is John Dehlin running out of money, out of ideas, or both?

Usually I avoid topics that I don't want to bring attention to. I discuss them with small groups of people instead of openly and publicly like this. 

But sometimes a topic deserves more attention.

For example, there's a sense that maybe the impact of critics such as John Dehlin and Jeremy Runnels has peaked. While I find it tragic that issues related to SITH and M2C have led so many people to leave the Church, question their faith, or decline to meet with or continue with the missionaries, maybe their influence is waning. Maybe most people who are troubled by these issues have already worked through them, one way or another. 

To be clear, that's not my opinion or experience, but because data is impossible to come by, anything is possible.*

Nevertheless, John keeps posting new material.

_____

The other day John posted a video/podcast titled "Questions I Would Ask Richard Bushman." 

He spent two hours asking a series of loaded questions along the lines of "Have you stopped beating your wife?"

(To understand the logical fallacy of loaded questions, there's a good overview here.)

He expressed frustration that faithful LDS tend to avoid his podcast, but anyone listening to this example would be wise to avoid his show. 

While I don't recommend it, you can listen/watch here: 

https://www.mormonstories.org/podcast/questions-i-would-ask-richard-bushman/

FWIW, I listened to it while on a driving trip. I didn't waste two hours; I accelerated the replay.  

John could have listed his questions in a brief post. That might have led to a constructive dialog that several people could have participated in. 

For example, I'd be happy to address John's questions.

Instead, John took a video clip out of context and expanded it into a tirade.

 

He sounds/looks like he was venting his frustration that his audience and donors are declining and he is running out of ideas.

I respect John for his early work, when he seemed to be sincerely seeking answers and explanations. He pointed out problems with Church history narratives, Book of Mormon historicity, etc. He engaged with a variety of perspectives, both faithful and critical. Like Jeremy Runnels and his CES Letter, John's objections originated with what he had been taught and his perception that he'd been misled or lied to.

(Unfortunately, our SITH and M2C scholars have largely agreed with the critical approaches to these issues, as we've discussed many times on this blog and elsewhere. For example, our top LDS scholars now agree that Joseph never really translated the plates, that Joseph and Oliver misled Church members by teaching that Cumorah was in New York, etc.) 

Lately, though, John's podcasts have been repetitive recitations by undoubtedly sincere people who, for one reason or another, have "left the Church." Naturally, these guests confirm John's biases. 

If/when I get some free time, I'll go through the list of logical and factual fallacies John uses to persuade his listeners. They're essentially parallel to the logical and factual fallacies employed by the SITH and M2C apologists.

In the meantime, I've discussed some of his points on my blog here:

https://mormonstoriesreviewed.blogspot.com/

_____

* I think that the SITH and M2C narratives continue to erode confidence and faith in what Joseph, Oliver and their contemporaries and successors taught. Critics thrive by focusing on what most LDS apologists claim, particularly those in the M2C citation cartel. Unlike the SITH and M2C proponents, both inside and outside the Church, I think the traditional narratives hold up to scrutiny. But of course, the SITH and M2C proponents think the opposite, and their views dominate. The results speak for themselves.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Witnesses movie review

On June 11th, I wrote, "Maybe the people telling me about it are wrong and the Witnesses movie relates everything the witnesses said.
I can't wait to see."

Well, now I've seen.

Witnesses is a movie that E.D. Howe would have made, or at least admired, because he basically wrote the script in 1834.
_____

We arrived in Utah Thursday morning and managed to catch a showing of Witnesses. (Now having contributed $20 to the Interpreter Foundation, less whatever cut goes to the theater, distributor, and others, does that make me an honorary "interpreter" too?)

I left the theater wondering what the purpose of the movie was. 

Everyone familiar with the Book of Mormon already knows the witnesses stayed true to their testimony. 

Even E.D. Howe acknowledged the witnesses' fidelity to their testimony. That was never the question. Instead, Howe argued that their testimony about the plates was irrelevant because Joseph didn't use the plates anyway.

Which is also what Witnesses teaches.

The images on the left are from Howe's 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed.

You can see these pages here:


On page 18, Howe wrote the script for Witnesses about the mode of translation:


Throughout the movie, the Witnesses filmmakers emphasized SITH (stone-in-the-hat). I can't figure out what these SITH-sayers hope to accomplish by introducing Howe's argument to modern audiences.

We do see Joseph fighting off attackers to protect the plates, hiding them under the floor, etc. 
We see people curious about the plates, eager to see them.
But then the film emphasizes the SITH-saying claim that Joseph never actually used them, or the Nephite interpreters, aka the Urim and Thummim (U&T).

Which as you can see above was Howe's point. 
_____

Over 50 years, ago, BYU produced a film written by Carol Lynne Pearson that, while definitely dated in terms of pacing, was more historically accurate than Witnesses.

That film showed Joseph translating the plates. Oddly, it didn't show the Urim and Thummim, possibly because of the inconsistent descriptions of the instrument.

But at least the 1968 film didn't teach SITH.

You can see it for free on youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbI_po3aPgc

We'll have to wait longer for a historically accurate update to the 1968 film. Ironically, Witnesses was dedicated to Richard Lloyd Anderson, who was a consultant on the more accurate BYU film. 

_____

Witnesses goes out of its way to misinform viewers about key historical facts. For example, it shows David Whitmer saying it took 3 months to translate, when he actually (and accurately) said it took 8 months. The film depicts Oliver coming up with the idea of asking David Whitmer to pick them up from Harmony, when it was the Lord who commanded Joseph through the Urim and Thummim to contact David--a man he had never seen before, but whom Oliver knew.

When we read Lucy's account of the events, we can see why the SITH-sayers keep omitting it. Instead of describing a seer stone in a hat, Lucy describes Joseph applying the U&T to his eyes and looking on the plates, which is what Oliver, Joseph and the scriptures always said, but SITH-sayers insist those sources are all wrong.


In the mean time Joseph was 150 miles distant and knew naught of the matter e[x]cept an intimation that was given through the urim and thumim for as he one morning applied the<​m​> latter to his eyes to look upon the record instead of the words of the book being given him he was commanded to write a letter to one David Whitmore [Whitmer] this man Joseph had never seen but he was instructed to say him that he must come with his team immediately in order to convey Joseph and his family <​Oliver [Cowdery]​> back to his house which was 135 miles that they might remain with him there untill the translation should be completed for that an evil designing people were seeking to take away Joseph’s life in order to prevent the work of God from going forth among the world This was accordingly done and the letter received and Mr Whitmore showed it to his Father mother sisters and brothers and asked their advice as to what it would be best for him to do... 

Rather than inform people about the historical facts, SITH-sayers such as the Witnesses movie create a revisionist history to support the E.D. Howe version of events.

I'm not going to list all the historical errors in the film; after all, it was only "based on true events." 

But I don't understand the point of a film that tells us what we already knew--the the witnesses remained true to their testimony--while both 
(i) emphasizing the SITH narrative that undermines the relevance of their testimony and 
(ii) omitting testimonies from the witnesses that explain and corroborate the literal historical reality of the events.

They never show Oliver Cowdery's consistent teaching that Joseph translated with the Urim and Thummim. 

In 1834, Oliver responded to Mormonism Unvailed by writing the famous passage that is now a footnote in Joseph Smith--History in the Pearl of Great Price.

You can see the original here:


Even when the film depicts Oliver's famous discourse upon rejoining the Church, Witnesses omits what he said about the translation.

It's not easy to avoid what Joseph and Oliver taught about the Urim and Thummim, but Witnesses manages to accomplish that, just like the rest of the revisionist history we're being fed today.
_____

Naturally, we all know that David and Emma and Martin made statements that, on their face, relate the SITH narrative. But those statements are always quoted out of context, the context being the Solomon Spalding explanation for the Book of Mormon that Mormonism Unvailed first published.

Howe was clever, but why are our scholars so unable to figure this out? 

Howe set them up by stating SITH as a fact (while also clearly distinguishing between the "peep stone" and the "Urim and Thummim," a distinction our modern scholars seek to blur). 

Then Howe proposed the Spalding theory as an explanation for the Book of Mormon. 

The Spalding theory required Joseph to be dictating from behind a screen or curtain because he was supposedly reading from the Spalding manuscript. 

Obviously, the Spalding theory contradicted SITH, but that was exactly the point

It was a set up. 

(a) If Joseph, Oliver and his scribes explained that Joseph dictated from behind a screen or curtain because he couldn't show anyone the plates or U&T, that would corroborate the Spalding theory.

(b) If Joseph, Oliver and his scribes claimed Joseph merely read words off a seer stone, that meant (i) he didn't really translate the plates, (ii) the plates (and the U&T) were not evidence of the antiquity of the text, and (iii) the entire narrative collapsed on itself. 

Joseph and Oliver (and their successors), as well as the scriptures, solve the dilemma by teaching the truth and letting people infer the circumstances. They emphasized that Joseph translated the engravings on the plates. Joseph said he actually copied and translated the characters. They all testified that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. And they also testified that Joseph could not show the plates or U&T to anyone except designated persons. Thus, it is obvious to those who believe Joseph that he had to translate in a concealed manner (except, presumably, with Oliver who had been authorized to translate as well).

The key point: It was Joseph's translation of the plates and use of the U&T that made the testimony of the witnesses relevant. 

But years later, in their effort to defeat the Spalding claim which had dominated the media in the 1800s, David, Martin and Emma taught SITH, based, IMO, on a demonstration Joseph conducted in the Whitmer home.

This is all a simple, clear explanation that reconciles all the evidence without adopting the Howe position.

But Witnesses chose Howe instead. 

Incredible.
_____

As of yesterday, the film has reportedly grossed $538,797. Hopefully that's what the producers expected. At an average ticket price of about $10, let's say that's around 50,000 people who have seen the film. 

Presumably most viewers have been LDS in Utah, Idaho, and Arizona. If so, they've already been taught SITH (stone-in-the-hat) by the Saints book, the Gospel Topics Essay, and the January 2020 Ensign (none of which address what Joseph and Oliver and the scriptures say). 

In that sense, the movie will confirm a few biases and reinforce the revisionist historical narrative that rejects the traditional narrative based on what Joseph, Oliver, Lucy Mack Smith, and the scriptures taught. That means it won't do much more damage. 

True, John Dehlin and other critics can cite Witnesses as another evidence to support their claim that Church leaders "covered up the real history," but those who read actual history instead of the revisionist spin can see that Church leaders always taught the truth about the translation.

_____

There are lots of ways to review a movie. Filmmakers make innumerable choices and second-guessing them is part of the fun of writing and reading reviews. 

Technically, Witnesses was fine, with good cinematography, sets, and music. The editing was mostly fine, although the long opening scene was repeated in full later in the film, which felt like padding. Audiences expect a setup and payoff, but in this case, the payoff was a dud because everyone watching the film knew David would survive beyond 1833. That's not even a spoiler alert because it was made clear in the movie from the outset (when the reporter comes to visit the much older David Whitmer).

I was quite surprised with all the emphasis on the Kirtland banking collapse. The history there was muddled and the film left viewers confused. Given the constraints of filmmaking, I was very surprised they chose to focus on such an arcane and uncinematic episode from Church history. Maybe it looked okay in the script, but on the screen, it was a mess.

As I said before I saw the movie, I hoped/expected them to show some of the important corroborating details the witnesses gave us, including the messenger who took the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah before taking the small plates of Nephi to Fayette. 

I hoped/expected them to show Joseph and Oliver visiting the repository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah, since both Oliver and David spoke about that important confirmation of the historical reality of these events.

But being a film from the Interpreter Foundation, a member of the M2C citation cartel, we already expected they would present revisionist history that accommodates M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory). 

_____



Monday, June 21, 2021

Clarifying issues: SITH vs U&T

This is an excellent time to discuss the best methodology for assessing issues of Church history. The Witnesses movie, along with the Saints book, Gospel Topics Essays, and related curriculum and media from both faithful and critical sources, have brought this all to a head through social media.

In his book First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins, Steven Harper does a great job explaining how historical narratives are created. That book is an admission, really, of how our scholars have changed the narratives and imposed a single interpretation of Church history that is a legitimate working hypothesis but not the only one and not, in my view, the best one.

That's not to say anyone is correct or incorrect, but the methodology based on a single authoritative interpretation does not empower people to make their own informed decisions.

Despite the claims of my critics, I also don't think the changing narratives we see today are the result of any conspiracies. I don't think the citation cartel is a conspiracy. It's more of a Groupthink that evolved step-by-step. We can observe that evolution in the pages of the historical record of academia. 

The process is similar to the evolution of legal theories, as I used to discuss in my books on U.S. constitutional law and other legal fields. One decision logically leads to the next and the next, and yet even the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court often strongly disagree about what the next step should be. 

But at least the Justices set out their multiple working hypotheses so everyone can see them and make informed decisions.

That's not what is happening now regarding Church history. Instead, we have a handful of scholars "interpreting" the facts for everyone else on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

The current approach leads to tribalism and emotional attachment to one's beliefs that clouds reason and prevents people from communicating effectively, openly, and cordially.

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In my view, the optimum approach consists of three steps:

1. Lay out all the known facts. Everyone should be able to agree upon what those facts are. This includes distinguishing between statements of fact (documents, first person eyewitness accounts, etc.) and statements of opinion, hearsay, inference, etc. Opening the Heavens was a great start, but editorial decisions there altered key facts and omitted others. Maybe a third edition could fix these problems and also distinguish between facts and hearsay.

2. Offer multiple working hypotheses, or interpretations, of those facts. Every interpretation should be included, from both faithful and critical perspectives. Because of the natural human tendency to seek approval and confirmation from others, people are uncomfortable when others interpret the same facts differently. But hopefully, everyone can rise above that insecurity and seek first to understand, then to be understood. Let everyone interested contribute, without editing. It's easy to argue for and against every hypothesis; that's not the point. We want to consider all of them.

3. Encourage those interested to make their own informed decisions. People adopt an interpretation or hypothesis for their own reasons, each thinking they are "following the facts" when in reality they are confirming their biases. It boils down to faith in one thing or another. But sometimes, seeing new facts or seeing old facts through new filters does change minds. We see this process with the "reveal" in every episode of mystery shows, every mystery novel, and even, sometimes, with every new discovery of an artifact or historical document.

So far, I know of no resource such as this, apart from a few comparison tables I've posted over the years. Both faithful and critical sources resort to choosing facts that they think support their respective beliefs and then making arguments based on those facts. You can take any topic and see examples from FairLDS, MormonThink, the Interpreter, CES Letter, Book of Mormon Central, MormonStories, etc. They all talk past each other because they don't even agree on the facts, let alone what alternative interpretations are available. 

Maybe it's too much to ask. Even within the LDS community, there is tremendous reluctance to follow this methodology.

The "faithful" sites not only don't accurately present critical arguments, but they don't even allow alternative faithful arguments. Worse, they embed their intolerant positions in their logos and enforce them through their control of the citation cartel. It's sad for many of us who believe in the Restoration to see so many people rejecting the Restoration because of changing narratives, implausible explanations they're told they must believe, feeling they've been lied to, etc. 

MormonThink and CESLetter cleverly purport to show "both sides" to persuade readers they are "neutral," but instead they emphasize a critical agenda by omitting facts and interpretations that contradict their respective narratives. 

Incentives. The obvious problem is neither the dominant "faithful" sites nor the dominant "critical" sites have an incentive to pursue the model I propose. Instead, both focus on fortifying their respective adherents and demonizing the other "team." Such team-building enables them to attract donors and followers. 

Maybe those incentives, combined with the psychology of bias confirmation, are too powerful to overcome. But I'm an optimist, and I think there are lots of people who want what I'm describing here.

We can't expect people to agree on the interpretations, but we can expect them to agree on the body of facts. Then everyone can choose whichever interpretation they prefer and agree to disagree if they differ. 

And then everyone can proceed accordingly, with no animosity, contention, hurt feelings, etc.

But as I pointed out at the beginning, the current approach leads to tribalism and emotional attachment to one's beliefs that clouds reason and prevents people from communicating effectively, openly, and cordially.

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One example in the news now is the Witnesses movie. 

The Interpreter Foundation is following up the Witnesses movie with a longer documentary. It "will also feature interviews with scholars, both Latter-day Saint and non-LDS, and others to shed light on the events covered in the theatrical movie." 

What remains to be seen is whether the documentary will feature anyone who still believes what Joseph and Oliver (and others) said about Joseph translating the plates with the Urim and Thummim. Such individuals are apparently difficult to find among LDS academia, based on what we read in the citation cartel. I saw recently where one of our prominent scholars said he doesn't even like the word "translate" in connection with the Book of Mormon. 

But surely the Interpreter Foundation will find at least one person to make a case for Joseph actually translating the plates. If no one else, I volunteer.

Not that they'd even consider that. Apparently Dan the Interpreter was upset over the weekend. Links here

Besides providing more material for my upcoming book on LDS apologetics, this semi-controversy based on being offended raises the larger question of why apologists mingle emotions with rational thinking. I've discussed that many times before. I'll have a chapter or two in the book.

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One reason for optimism is a growing number of people who like the idea of multiple working hypotheses.

Once we all agree on the facts, we can agree there are multiple working hypotheses to choose among, allowing people to make informed decisions.

To use the current vernacular, "Heartlanders" tend to favor this model, while M2Cers don't. It's a surprising but unambiguous difference between the two "tribes" that plays out daily on the respective web pages and social media. 

Most Heartlanders, like me, were brought into these issues after recognizing that the prevailing M2C hypothesis not only doesn't make sense from a narrative or scientific perspective, but it contradicts the unambiguous, consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets about Cumorah.

That "second reality" awakening led us to take a closer look at other things the M2C scholars were teaching, including SITH.

That's not to say we object to people believing M2C. People can believe whatever they want. 

We just want people to know that there are faithful alternatives to M2C and SITH. 

The critics are having a lot of success focusing on M2C and especially SITH. John Dehlin says SITH is the number one reason why people leave the Church. I don't know if that's quantifiable because people  leave for a variety of reasons, but clearly SITH is among the main reasons. It's also a major impediment for people listening to the missionaries.

When faithful members think their only option is to believe SITH (or M2C), they are susceptible to the critical arguments. But when members learn about faithful alternatives to SITH that rely on all the historical evidence, they can deal with the facts and make fully informed decisions. 

The internal problem is that faithful alternatives to SITH are disallowed by the citation cartel's cancel culture. 

I realize that many members of the credentialed class, especially participants of the citation cartel, have been offended by things I've said or written. I've explained before that I don't relate to emotional attachments to intellectual arguments. I underestimated how attached people are to their theories. I naively thought people would welcome new approaches, new interpretations, and alternative working hypotheses.

I certainly didn't realize how insecure and defensive our intellectuals are. It's a shame, because they're all great people, smart, dedicated, faithful, etc. It would be awesome if we could have an open dialog and establish the analysis model I described above, but I don't see that happening.

Well, there are exceptions, so anything is possible. I know of one exemplary open- and fair-minded scholar who is also influential and may make a difference.

In the meantime, to contribute one working hypothesis, here is my summary of the SITH vs U&T issue. I'm not saying this is the correct interpretation of the facts, only that it is one of multiple working hypotheses that everyone, faithful or critical, should consider and deal with.

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It's very simple. (The details are in my book, A Man that Can Translate.) The confusion arose because of a misunderstanding of what happened at the Whitmer home.

1. Joseph used the U&T to translate the engravings on the plates. He started by copying and translating the characters one by one and progressed to translating the engravings on each plate. He wasn't allowed to show the plates or U&T to anyone, so he used them behind a screen, blanket, or other concealment. He didn't "translate" anything with the plates covered or with a stone in a hat. 

2. Joseph used SITH to conduct a demonstration in the Whitmer home to explain the process to his supporters because he couldn't show them the plates or the U&T.

(We can see evidence of all of this in the Original and Printer's manuscript, as I explained in detail in the book.)

3. As early as August 1829, witnesses to the demonstration reported what they observedSome incorrectly inferred they saw the translation, but none of them reported what Joseph actually dictated. Consequently, we can't say whether anything he dictated on that occasion made its way into the text (although, based on the manuscripts, I think he dictated some of the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi from memory). 

4. In 1834, Mormonism Unvailed set out the Spalding theory. That book also explained SITH and U&T as distinct alternatives (not different names for the same seer stone), but it claimed Joseph didn't use the plates under either scenario. 

5. In response, Oliver and Joseph affirmed that Joseph translated the plates with the U&T.

6. Nevertheless, the Spalding theory was widely accepted by the public. That theory relied on the accounts of Joseph dictating from behind a screen or blanket; i.e., he was reading the Spalding manuscript to his scribes.

7. Consequently, to support their testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, David, Emma, and others described the demonstration to refute the Solomon Spalding theory; i.e., Joseph "had nothing to read from" and used SITH in front of witnesses.

8. Church leaders, including Joseph's contemporaries, consistently taught U&T, despite knowing what David, Emma, and others said about SITH. 

9. Those Church leaders were correct, but so were David and Emma, regarding what they observed (but not what they inferred); i.e., Joseph did a demonstration with SITH but never translated with SITH. 

10. Critics claimed Church leaders were "covering up the truth" by not adopting SITH.

11. Modern scholars bought into the "cover up" narrative because they didn't take into account the demonstration or the Spalding problem, so they assumed David and Emma were correct about both what they observed and what they inferred. They proposed that Joseph and Oliver misled people by referring to the "seer stone" as the "Urim and Thummim." This revisionist interpretation contradicts the plain distinction in Mormonism Unvailed, but it became the accepted working hypotheses.

12. Anonymous Church materials defer to the expert historians and now teach the new narrative that SITH = U&T (Saints book, Gospel Topics Essay, etc.). The Witness movie reportedly teaches SITH to broad audiences.

13. Critics such as John Dehlin and the CES Letter encourage people to read the Gospel Topics Essays, etc., to persuade people to leave the Church and/or reject the missionaries. They use the same rationale that Mormonism Unvailed did; i.e., Joseph didn't even use the plates, the whole text came from a peep stone, and therefore the Book of Mormon is anything but a translation of ancient records.

14. Some faithful LDS authors others claim SITH was an occult conspiracy concocted by Kirtland apostates inspired by Satan, but historical evidence shows SITH starting within a month of the time Moroni showed the plates to the witnesses (in the 1829 newspapers). By framing the witnesses as liars, the SITH conspiracy theory corroborates the critics .

15. Some faithful LDS authors claim it doesn't matter how the Book of Mormon was produced because the words of the book are evidence that it is true, and people can get a spiritual confirmation. But adherents of every religion make the same claim. Joseph and Oliver taught about the historicity of the text and its origin as an actual translation of ancient records because they recognized that was what distinguished the Book of Mormon from other texts.

16. Some faithful members will accept SITH. And that's great. It's awesome.  

17.  Most people, inside and outside the Church, are skeptical that Joseph would say he translated the plates if he didn't even use them. The SITH narrative did not originate from any additional revelation or any new historical information. It's merely a modern rehash of Mormonism Unvailed, accompanied by skepticism about what Joseph and Oliver claimed (similar to skepticism about what they taught about Cumorah and other topics), as well as skepticism about what is recorded in the Book of Mormon and D&C.

18. Having multiple working hypotheses regarding a complete set of facts empowers people to make informed decisions, which is what most people want to do in the first place. 

Scriptural elements:

Joseph said he copied and translated the characters. (JS-H)
The Lord told him to translate the engravings on the plates. (D&C 10)
Moroni told Joseph not to touch the sealed portion "in order that ye may translate." (Ether 5:1) 
None of that makes sense if Joseph was merely reading words off a stone, whether it was the U&T or SITH.


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Witnesses, SITH, and the tipping point

A few notes (trigger warning for SITH/M2C promoters):

The Witnesses movie is generating a lot of discussion on social media because of SITH (the stone-in-the-hat). The movie adopts the approach taken by Mormonism Unvailed, the 1834 anti-Mormon book that claimed Joseph never even used the plates but produced the Book of Mormon by reading a "peep stone" he put in a hat. 

John Dehlin of MormonStories is delighted. SITH is one of his key points, as he explains on TikTok (31.7k views in one day, 800 views on twitter)


There's no pushback against SITH from any Church leaders or prominent scholars. 

Instead, Kawku promotes SITH as a feature, not a bug. Our scholars fall all over themselves trying to justify SITH (much as they did with the Hoffman documents decades ago).  

Like other intellectual trends, we can see the origins of SITH among LDS academics even before Rough Stone Rolling came out, but that book pushed it into the mainstream. I think Rough Stone Rolling is an exceptional, timely, and useful book, but it portrayed some interpretations as fact and overlooked other facts, as I indicated in Part 1 of my summary, here: 


Saints and the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation formalized SITH, mainly by ignoring historical sources that corroborate what Joseph and Oliver taught and instead relying on sources that, on a surface level, contradicted what Joseph and Oliver taught. The Essay never even quotes what Joseph and Oliver said about the translation with the Urim and Thummim. Instead, it focuses on the theories of various academics.

The Urim and Thummim is essentially de-correlated. 

No one is claiming any revelation about what happened in Church history to overturn what Joseph and Oliver taught. The new narrative is based purely on revisionist historical interpretation of the same facts everyone has known for over 150 years. People today, looking at some historical evidence while ignoring other evidence, thereby conclude Joseph's contemporaries and successors were wrong. 

This is the same process by which Cumorah was de-correlated.  

Consequently, SITH has become the prevailing narrative in our day. 

And that's great for those who believe it. If you think it's awesome that the Book of Mormon is the product of words appearing on a stone in a hat, and not a translation of the ancient Nephite plates (as Joseph and Oliver claimed), good for you. I'm not going to say you're wrong. People can and will believe whatever they want.

But it seems likely (and statistics indicate) that most people will not accept that narrative, whether they are inside or outside the Church. In 1834, Mormonism Unvailed promoted SITH because the author knew it undermined the credibility of Joseph and Oliver. Detractors today promote SITH for the same reason. 
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There are alternative interpretations of the evidence.

For example, the Stoddards and others reject SITH by saying David Whitmer, Emma, Martin Harris etc. were liars. However, that plays into the critical narrative that the witnesses were dishonest. 

This is the mirror image of the SITH/M2C approach; i.e., we can believe some of what the witnesses said, but we have to reject other things they said, based on what we want to be true. 

Similarly, our M2C scholars (M2C=Mesoamerican/Two-Cumorahs theory) reject what the witnesses said about Cumorah because they want Cumorah to be in Mexico to fit their theories. But they still expect people to believe SITH based on what the witnesses said. It's transparent cherry picking.

Now you see why I've been saying that:

Interpreter=CESLetter=FAIRLDS=MormonStories=BookofMormonCentral=BYUStudies.

They've all reached a consensus that the prophets are wrong any time they disagree with the prophets.

If they disagree, they disagree only with regard to which things the prophets were wrong about--a distinction without a difference.
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I realize there are numerous interpretations of the evidence, ranging from Joseph seeing the words on a stone (or in vision) to Joseph composing, memorizing or reading the text. Some even say that when Joseph and Oliver testified about the Urim and Thummim, they deliberately misled people because they knew they were really referring to the stone Joseph found in a well; i.e., they used misleading terminology.

People can believe whatever they want, and that's fine with me.

But I've looked at all these explanations and none of them make sense to me. That's why I looked at the evidence for myself.

So far, the only explanation I'm aware of that reconciles Joseph and Oliver as credible, and David and Emma as credible, is the demonstration narrative I set out in A Man that Can Translate.

I'm completely open to any better explanations. If you know of one, email me at lostzarahemla@gmail.

There are still some Latter-day Saints who believe what the prophets have taught about both the translation and the historicity of the Book of Mormon, including the New York Cumorah. This is not "blind faith" or "blind obedience." This is recognizing that the people involved with the events are more credible than arm-chair commentators distant in time and space. It is also recognizing science- and fact-based, rational analysis supports and corroborates the teachings of the prophets.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Origins: M2C and COVID

Many Latter-day Saints (LDS) are surprised to learn about the origins of the Mesoamerican/Two Cumorahs theory (M2C.)

M2C originated in the "lab" of RLDS scholar L.E. Hills. Hills developed the theory about 100 years ago and published it in a book that included a map which our current M2C scholars have followed ever since.

M2C is a leak from that lab. But unless you're paying attention, you'd never know that because most modern LDS have been led to believe that M2C was developed by the credentialed class at BYU, the self-appointed "experts" on the Book of Mormon who knew more about the Book of Mormon than the rest of us. 

Actually, they claim they know more about the Book of Mormon than Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery did, to the point where our modern scholars reject what Joseph and Oliver said.

Such an origin story is not without parallels.

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This week, the Wall St. Journal published an article about COVID origins that parallels the M2C origins.

A Scientist Who Said No to Covid Groupthink

Many experts aggressively denied a lab leak was possible and only now admit it. It took courage to make the case a year ago.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-scientist-who-said-no-to-covid-groupthink-11623430659?mod=trending_now_opn_1

The article profiles Filippa Lentzos, who was one of a group of scientists who "asked these questions “not because we are conspiracy theorists. This is our profession,” Ms. Lentzos, 44, says in a video interview from her home in Switzerland. As the coronavirus and alarm about it spread, nonexperts started asking similar questions—only to be mocked or silenced by journalists, social-media companies and prominent scientists."

That "COVID cartel" has a parallel in the LDS community: the M2C citation cartel, consisting of Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, BYU Studies, etc. 

The M2C citation cartel does the same thing with alternatives to M2C. Lately, they've been deploying their followers on social media to promote M2C as well.

An excerpt from the article:

The most significant problem came from the scientific community. “Some of the scientists in this area very quickly closed ranks,” she says, and partisanship wasn’t their only motive: “Like most things in life, there are power plays. There are agendas that are part of the scientific community. Just like any other community, there are strong vested interests. There were people that did not talk about this, because they feared for their careers. They feared for their grants.”

Ms. Lentzos counsels against idealizing scientists and in favor of “seeing science and scientific activity, and how the community works, not as this inner sacred sanctum that’s devoid of any conflicts of interests, or agendas, or any of that stuff, but seeing it as also a social activity, where there are good players and bad players.”

Latter-day Saints who recognize what's going on with the M2C citation cartel also see how the community works.

Ms. Lentzos and her colleagues published an article that pointed out the circumstantial evidence about the lab-leak origins of COVID, but it got no traction because the COVID cartel controlled the narrative.

As the article points out:

That began to change early this year. Media outlets published articles considering the possibility of a lab leak. At least five of the Lancet signers have distanced themselves from the letter. Anthony Fauci and the World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said the theory merits further study. President Biden ordered the intelligence community to investigate the question. Even Facebook reversed its ban.

Maybe in the LDS community we will reach a point where the narrative changes.

Maybe, just maybe, someday we will honor, respect, and even believe what Joseph and Oliver said about the Book of Mormon, the translation, the Hill Cumorah, etc.




Friday, June 11, 2021

The Witnesses movie, etc.

People are asking what I think of the Witnesses movie. Because it's not playing anywhere near where I live, I haven't seen it. 

I'm reserving judgment until I do (if I do).

Nevertheless, people tell me it heavily promotes the narrative from the 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed; i.e., the ideas that

(i) Joseph Smith didn't really translate anything; 

(ii) he didn't even use the plates or the Urim and Thummim, 

(iii) instead he merely read words that appeared on a stone in the hat (SITH).

IOW, the movie is assigning a belief in SITH to its viewers. 

I wrote about the psychology behind opinions and belief on my consensus blog, here:

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If it's true that Witnesses teaches Mormonism Unvailed, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised. Dan the Interpreter insists that SITH (the stone-in-the-hat) is a feature, not a bug. 

Dan's argument boils down to this: "Sure, Joseph and Oliver said Joseph translated the plates, but we don't believe that any longer because other people said he merely read words that appeared on a stone in the hat. And we have really cool linguistic evidence that proves Joseph and Oliver misled everyone."

I've explained many times why I think the linguistic evidence he cites does not support the conclusions. The idea that a mysterious unknown supernatural translator (MUST) must have been the actual source of the Book of Mormon strikes me as ridiculous. 

Sure, it's one of multiple working hypotheses. I like having multiple working hypotheses to explain facts. Just because I find one to be ridiculous doesn't mean I think it should not be considered; it was by considering it that I reached my conclusion.

As we accumulate more data, we can add, delete, and modify the hypotheses accordingly. (This is why Book of Mormon Central needs to change its "only one hypothesis allowed" logo.)

If people want to believe that someone from the 16th century translated ancient buried records in America that weren't discovered until 1823, that's fine with me. People believe all kinds of things. 

In a sense, MUST is useful; it is a superficially sophisticated justification for SITH. But, as Mormonism Unvailed explained in 1834, if SITH is the explanation, the plates are meaningless because Joseph didn't translate them anyway. If anything, MUST makes the plates even more superfluous. 

Oliver and Joseph responded to the Mormonism Unvailed argument by specifically refuting SITH (see JS-H for example). 

The SITH question is what we lawyers call "asked and answered." The question was posed by Mormonism Unvailed in 1834, Joseph and Oliver answered it promptly and repeatedly thereafter, so the case should be closed.

But that doesn't matter to our modern scholars. They depend on ongoing controversy to generate donations for "scholarly research." Continually rehashing old debates is a dream job and assures employment security. It's much more profitable to reject what Joseph and Oliver said in favor of what Mormonism Unvailed says. 

Hence, we have the Witnesses movie teaching the world to believe Mormonism Unvailed instead of Joseph and Oliver (and the D&C).

But I'm reserving judgment. 

Maybe the people telling me about it are wrong and the Witnesses movie relates everything the witnesses said.

I can't wait to see.


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Change the logo

 

SCIENCE: If you don't make mistakes, you're doing it wrong. If you don't correct those mistakes, you're doing it really wrong. If you can't accept that you're mistaken, you're not doing it at all.

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