Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The greatest student of the Book of Mormon?

To whom would you guess the following accolade was given?

Brother _____ is a student of the Book of Mormon, the greatest I have ever met, and his contribution to the geography of that book will be handed down to generations unborn as one of the grandest discoveries of the age.

Before you search the internet, see if you can guess who Brother _____ is.

Here are some names that might come to mind.

Joseph Smith, Jr.?

Oliver Cowdery?

Orson Pratt?

Benjamin Winchester?

Parley P. Pratt?

Sidney Sperry?

John Sorenson?

John Clark?

Jack Welch?

Tyler Griffin?

Dan Peterson?

The staff at Book of Mormon Central?

The staff at FAIRMormon/LDS?

The staff at the Interpreter?

The staff at BYU Studies?

_____

For more clues, here is the article in its entirety:

Book of Mormon Geography 

May I say a word in advocacy of the new map of Book of Mormon lands as diagramed by ______. 

It is undoubtedly a find, the greatest in connection with that book since its discovery in 1829. 

I have given much time to painstaking research of the map, comparing it with the Book of Mormon, and I must say that the harmony is nothing short of marvelous. Our brother is now lecturing in ______ and his efforts are awakening unprecedented interest and enthusiasm. 

Several years ago his map was referred by General Conference to a committee for report. Up to date we have had no report. 

Whatever the inconvenience of saying "We were wrong" we may as well square away, back up, and take a new course-one that will lead us into avenues of harmony, opening up into an oasis of wealth such as we have never heretofore experienced. 

Brother _____ is a student of the Book of Mormon, the greatest I have ever met, and his contribution to the geography of that book will be handed down to generations unborn as one of the grandest discoveries of the age. 

I am fully conscious that my remarks will occasion questioning, but be it so; there is only one way to determine their accuracy, and that by securing from our brother his atlas, comparing it with the Book of Mormon itself. 

With profound appreciation of the splendid services rendered the students of the Book of Mormon by the laborious researches of our brother, and with honor to whom it is due, 

Yours in the interest of truth, 

_______________.

I'll post the answer tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

It's not about the geography

The Lord explained that one reason for the restoration was "That faith also might increase in the earth." (Doctrine and Covenants 1:21)

Yesterday, Gallup released a poll under this headline:

U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time

https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx

The charts accompanying the article show the downward trends, which seem to show the opposite of an increase in faith in the earth. 

(click to enlarge):




It's obvious that younger generations are disaffiliating with churches.

Similar trends are apparent among LDS.

Recently, Patrick Mason gave a fireside in Logan during which he discussed these trends. He pointed out that retention rates among LDS Millennials is below 50%.



He explained some of the reasons why people are "switched off" from Church activity, including the Gospel Topics essays.


He also discussed the data from The Next Mormons, which I've discussed previously on this blog. 

The data indicates that younger LDS are less likely to believe fundamental doctrines. 
For example, only half of LDS millennials are confident that the Book of Mormon is a literal, historical account. Given the way BYU and CES teach the Book of Mormon with a fantasy map, it's actually surprising that even half of them believe it's a real history. 



_____

Some people think this blog focuses on Book of Mormon geography, but that's not what it's about.

It's about the intersection of faith, history, science, and psychology. 

Of course, we can each believe whatever we want, and we can interpret the scriptures and Church history to confirm whatever beliefs we choose. I write about M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) here because, while for some people M2C may build faith, for others it undermines faith. 

As I've explained many times, I write this blog for those who, like me, have changed our minds about M2C after having been indoctrinated by the M2C scholars who dominate BYU and CES. Once we learned what Joseph, Oliver and their contemporaries actually taught about Cumorah, we saw things in a new light. Our confidence in their credibility and reliability increased.

Long ago Joseph Fielding Smith warned that the idea that Cumorah is in Mesoamerica instead of in New York would cause members to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. That should be obvious, because to reject the New York Cumorah in favor of M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory), you have to cast doubt on the credibility of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, all their contemporaries, and all their successors who have ever discussed the topic.

Related to that, the interpretation of the text and its historicity are greatly influenced by the assumption we make about Cumorah. If we accept the New York Cumorah, then we can interpret the text consistently in light of relevant archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc., all of which corroborates the teachings of the prophets.

If we reject the New York Cumorah, we can also confirm that bias by citing various sciences, but each step of the way we are rejecting the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, chalking them up as the uninformed speculations of men expressing their own incorrect and uninspired opinions in General Conference. Instead, the modern M2C intellectuals have saved us from persisting in the ignorance of the prophets by adopting the M2C theory developed by an RLDS scholar in the early 1900s from whom even the RLDS First Presidency distanced themselves. 

Unmoored from the Cumorah anchor, anything goes. Now we're told that Joseph didn't use the plates or the Urim and Thummim. He didn't even really translate anything; instead, he merely read words that appeared on a stone, or in a vision.

Maybe "faith will increase in the earth" as the missionaries teach people that Joseph didn't really translate anything. More people will join the Church once they learn that when Joseph said he "translated" the plates, he really meant he didn't use the plates but merely read words that appeared on a stone he put in a hat.

Maybe "faith will increase in the earth" as more people learn that the early Church members created, taught, and promulgated false speculation about the New York Cumorah, and that Church leaders for over 150 years continued to mislead members by repeating that speculation, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.

Maybe "faith will increase in the earth" as the M2C intellectuals and revisionist Church historians continue to reframe the narratives that originated with Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and their contemporaries. 

So far, it doesn't seem to be working out, though.

Maybe it is time to try corroborating the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah instead of repudiating those teachings?



Monday, March 29, 2021

Nahom explanation by Kent Brown


The identification of Nahom has generated a lot of discussion pro and con, but in this video, Kent Brown explains the discovery and its implications. 

Brother Brown is awesome, and I'm so glad his account has been recorded and made publicly available. Everyone should watch it.


Kudos to Book of Mormon Central for making this available.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

FAIRLDS and credibility


Our friends at FairMormon have changed their organization's name to FAIR (Faithful Answers, Informed Response) and their website to https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/ 

They've also removed the bizarre "apologetic" videos they posted a few months ago.


Scott Gordon explained their new objective: 

“We are fact checkers and clarifiers. We want to provide fact checking and clear explanations that all parties can trust. We fully understand that not everyone will like our conclusions as we are believing members of the church. However, we want everyone to be able to trust our review of the facts. This means avoiding personal attacks or derogatory language."

This is a welcome change--maybe.

One big problem with FAIR remains evident in Scott's statements. He refers to "our conclusions." That's the opposite of being "fact checkers and clarifiers."

There are lots of self-proclaimed "fact checkers" in the media, both right and left, that use "fact-checking" as a ruse to promote partisan agendas. That has long been the case at FAIR. If FAIR continues to promote only one of a variety of faithful approaches to the issues, it will remain problematic even if it drops the personal attacks. 

FAIR has a long history of resorting to logical fallacies, including ad hominem attacks, that undermined their apologetics. That was understandable, given the similar approach taken by FARMS and its successors (and the M2C citation cartel as a whole), but this change in editorial policy could be significant. 

Now let's see if they live up to their commitment. 

We will see if FAIR's new direction is window dressing or substantive by whether they invite a more diverse group of faithful contributors.

A big problem with FAIR and the rest of the M2C citation cartel is the way they accept as a given some of the same assumptions relied upon by MormonStories, CES Letter, etc. Reconsidering those assumptions, rather than debating with critics about the implications of those assumptions, would be far more productive.

Ideally, they would adopt an approach of multiple working hypotheses that recognize the full spectrum of faithful explanations. So far, they've consistently refused to do so, just as Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, BYU Studies, and other members of the M2C citation cartel have refused to do.

For example, look at the FAIR explanation for the Hill Cumorah. 

https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon/Geography/New_World/Hill_Cumorah

While there are helpful resources there, it is mingled with a collection of misinformation, deflection, and interpretations framed as facts. The entire article is designed to promote M2C instead of providing a factual background for people to make informed decisions.

They don't inform readers about, let alone deal with, Lucy Mack Smith's recollection that Joseph told her it was Moroni who identified Cumorah the first time they met; her recollection that Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah before he even obtained the plates; Moroni telling Joseph that the record "was written and deposited not far from" Joseph's home in Palmyra; Martin Harris referring to the hill as Cumorah before the Book of Mormon was published; Oliver stating it was a fact that the final battles took place at the New York site; that Joseph wrote D&C 128:20 in 1842 in the context of the New York Cumorah (Letter VII had been republished by Joseph's brother Don Carlos in the Times and Seasons just the year before, and was republished again in 1844 by Joseph's brother William in the NY Mormon newspaper called The Prophet); or that all of Joseph's contemporaries and successors who ever addressed the topic reaffirmed the New York Cumorah, while none have repudiated those teachings.

Instead of informing readers about the archaeological and anthropological evidence that supports the New York Cumorah, they cite a list of fanciful "requirements" for Cumorah that appear nowhere in the text but are designed to promote M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory).

Maybe, with their new editorial direction, FAIR will edit this entry to present a variety of faithful views so readers can make informed decisions. We'll see.

Hope springs eternal.






Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Reframing Lucy Mack Smith, Cumorah, and credibility

The ongoing confusion about Church history and Book of Mormon historicity/geography is destructive to faith. We see this in surveys of Church members in which fewer than half of millennials believe the Book of Mormon is an actual history. Rejecting Joseph Smith's testimony about the historicity of the Book of Mormon and his translation of the engravings on the plates does not help build faith.

The confusion could be resolved by reframing our approach.

Instead of rejecting what Joseph, Oliver and their contemporaries wrote, including Joseph's mother Lucy Mack Smith, what if we decided to accept what they wrote?

Instead of reading Mesoamerican culture and geography into the Book of Mormon text, what if we started with what Joseph, Oliver and their contemporaries taught and built on that?

The most obvious reframing involves Cumorah. 

If Moroni actually identified the hill in New York as Cumorah as the early sources claim; if the repository of Nephite records was in that hill as the early sources claim; and if the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place there as the early sources claim, then why not (as at least one of multiple operating hypotheses) build on those sources?

This reframing would change our interpretation of the text. Instead of millions of Nephites, we'd have tens of thousands. Instead of massive stone pyramids made of stone and cement, we'd have structures made of wood and cement (as the text describes), along with banks of earth, etc. Instead of claiming that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who, along with their successors, misled the Church about Cumorah, we could corroborate and support what they taught with archaeology, anthropology, etc.
_____

One place to start reframing is with Lucy Mack Smith's account. On my LetterVII blog recently, we discussed Lucy Mack Smith's description of Moroni's first visit to Joseph Smith. 
http://www.lettervii.com/2021/02/remove-grass-and-moss-occams-razor.html

There, I pointed out that Lucy Mack Smith dictated a little-known account of what Moroni told Joseph Smith, including the identification of Cumorah

If we accept Lucy's account, then we know the origin of the New York Cumorah narrative. 

It came from Moroni himself.

Church historians and M2C scholars (essentially the same thing) avoid this account because it contradicts their narrative that the identification of Cumorah was a late invention by unknown early Church members. 

Some of these scholars justify omitting Lucy's account because they question her reliability and credibility. That's outcome-oriented thinking, purely to accommodate M2C. Thinks about it: Lucy's account is so credible that Saints, volume 1, cites Lucy's history 127 times. 

Here is page 11 of Saints, volume 1. Notice note 22.


Note 22 cites 
Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–45, book 3, [8]–[10]. You can see this online at the Joseph Smith Papers here: https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1844-1845/40


Lucy's explanation of Cumorah is found on the very next page of Lucy's history. Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–45, book 3, [11]. 
You can see this online at the Joseph Smith Papers here: 

And yet, the creators of Saints omitted the reference to Cumorah and later, to justify their revision of Church history to censor Cumorah, claimed they never noticed it, as we discussed here.

Here's what Lucy dictated.

[Moroni, after telling Joseph about the record, said] but you cannot get it until you learn to keep the commandments of God For it is not to get gain. But it is to bring forth that light and intelligence which has been long lost in the Earth 

Now Joseph beware or when you go to get the plates your mind will be filled with darkness and all manner of evil will rush into your mind. To prevent you from keeping the commandments of God that you may not succeed in doing his work and you must tell your father of this for he will believe every word you say.

The record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place. Remove the grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars of cement— then the angel left him. [editing marks removed]

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1844-1845/41

In my Letter VII post, I pointed out that Lucy's description of what Moroni told Joseph is highly credible because of the detail and description it contains. She explained that Moroni referred to the hill by name and specified its location. Moroni told Joseph he'd have to remove the grass and moss, which is a significant detail because it helps explain why the stone had not been removed in the centuries since Moroni first put it over the stone box.

_____

There's another important reason why Lucy's account is credible.

Some scholars reject what Lucy wrote because she seemed to conflate the first vision with Moroni's visit. 

But that's the opposite conclusion that follows from the facts.

It's true that, if you read Lucy's account, it looks as though she is conflating the two accounts (see her account below, without the editing marks).

What Lucy dictated is the opposite of what she would have dictated if she was conflating memories with modern developments. By 1844-5, Joseph's account of the First Vision was well know. What is now Joseph Smith-History had been published in the Times and Seasons in 1842. If Lucy was incorporating more modern events (such as the New York Cumorah) into her history, as the M2C scholars claim, then she surely would have incorporated Joseph's formal description of the First Vision. 

In fact, in the 1845 version of Lucy's history, created by the Corays from Lucy's original version plus additional material (see the historical introduction), the Corays (without explanation) actually replaced Lucy's account by incorporating the History of Joseph Smith that was published in the Times and Seasons. 

This indicates that Lucy's reported what she remembered, not what people wanted or expected her to remember.

There is no indication that Joseph told his mother specifically about the First Vision prior to the visit of Moroni. In his 1832 history, Joseph wrote that he "could find none that would believe the hevnly vision nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart about that time my mother and20."  

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-circa-summer-1832/3

Note 20 reads, "This canceled fragment may refer to the Presbyterian affiliation of JS’s mother and three of his siblings."

When Joseph described Moroni's visit, he said "he called me by name and he said the Lord had forgiven me my sins and he revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N.Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni & his fathers." 

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-circa-summer-1832/4

That is consistent with what Lucy dictated.

To repeat: If we accepted Lucy's account, then we know the origin of the New York Cumorah narrative. 

It came from Moroni himself.

Lucy's original dictation:

One evening we were sitting till quite late conversing upon the subject of the diversity of churches that had risen up in the world and the many thousand opinions in existence as to the truths contained in scripture Joseph never said many words upon any subject but always seemed to reflect more deeply than common persons of his age upon everything of a religious nature 

After we ceased conversation he went to bed and was pondering in his mind which of the churches were the true one. but he had not laid there long till he saw a bright light enter the room where he lay he looked up and saw an angel of the Lord standing by him 

The angel spoke I perceive that you are enquiring in your mind which is the true church there is not a true church on Earth No not one and has not been since Peter took the Keys of the Melchesidec priesthood after the order of God into the Kingdom of Heaven the churches that are now upon the Earth are all man made churches. 

There is a record for you and Joseph but you cannot get it untill you learn to keep the commandments of God For it is not to get gain. But it is to bring forth that light and intelligence which has been long lost in the Earth Now Joseph beware or when you go to get the plates your mind will be filld with darkness and all manner of evil will rush into your mind. To prevent you from keeping the commandments of God that you may not suceced in doing his work and you must tell your father of this for he will believe every word you say the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars of cement— then the angel left him

The next day he and his father Alvin [Smith] were reaping in the field togather sudenly Joseph stopped and seemed to be in a deep Study for some time Alvin hurried him saying Joseph we must keep to work or we shall not get our task done Joseph worked again dilligently then stopped in the same way a second time when his father Saw that he was very pale and urged him to go to the house and tell his mother that he was sick he went a short distance till he came to a green sward under an apple tree here he lay down on his face for he was so weak he could go no farther. *

The personage whom he saw the night before came to him again and said why did you not tell your father what I told you Joseph said he was affraid his father would not believe him he will said the angel believe every word you say to him he then told when you get the record take it immediately into the house and lock it up as soon as possible and let no one see it till it is translated and then show it to such as the Lord chooses as a witness to the world



Friday, March 19, 2021

Narrow neck of land

Many of our ideas are encrusted with old ideas that we inherited without thinking them through. Taking a fresh look at the language of the scriptures can provide new insights.

Such a fresh look leads to the development of multiple working hypotheses, which in turn can lead to unity about the question of historicity and geography. People may not agree on the specifics, but they should be able to agree that alternative approaches are feasible and reasonable.

That's all we can ask. 

But it's not what our scholars are permitting, especially the scholars at Book of Mormon Central who continue to ban and criticize any working hypothesis other than the one they've been teaching for decades. They've welded M2C into their very logo.
_____

People who discuss Book of Mormon historicity and geography often focus on the "narrow neck of land," as if it is the critical element of the geography. When I point out that that term appears only once in the text (Ether 10:20), people usually don't believe me. But then they check for themselves and discover it's true. (There is also a "narrow neck" and a "small neck of land," which some people conflate to refer to the same thing as the "narrow neck of land," as if different terms mean the same thing, which I'll discuss below.)

Years ago, Andrew Hedges pointed out that the Mesoamerican setting requires its proponents to accept as a "narrow neck of land" a crossing that is several times wider than the "narrower" neck in the Isthmus of Panama.

https://rsc.byu.edu/vol-9-no-3-2008/narrow-neck-land

In the early days of the Church, Parley and Orson Pratt claimed Panama was the "narrow neck of land." That reflected the common knowledge of the day, as shown by Alexander von Humboldt, whose 1811 book Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain was on sale in Palmyra in 1818 at the printing shop Joseph visited weekly to get the newspaper for his father.

Three times in that book, Humboldt referred to the isthmus of Panama as a "neck of land." But Humboldt did not refer to it as a "narrow neck."

It's difficult to imagine that anyone on the ground would refer to Panama as a "narrow neck." If you've traversed the Panama Canal, as I have, you know it "narrow" only in the sense that, looking at a map or from space, it appears "narrow" compared with the rest of the continent.






Usage in Joseph's day.

One usage of the term "narrow neck of land" that was common in Joseph's day is found in a hymn by John Wesley. 

Lo! on a narrow neck of land
'Twixt two unbounded seas I stand,
Secure, insensible;
A point of time, a moment's space
Removes me to that heavenly place,
Or shuts me up in hell.

Hymn LVIII, A Collection of Hymns for the use of the people called Methodists, (London 1786) p. 62.

The inspiration for this stanza has generated some speculation, as shown in this discussion in an 1860 lecture on Wesley. The author wrote

The Rev. Dr. Hannah has favoured me with the following note: "I am inclined to think that the sublime stanza which begins,
"Lo, on a narrow neck of land,"
is a magnificent paraphrase of a thought which occurs in different writers not unknown to Charles Wesley. I give two instances: --'Many witty authors compare the present time to an isthmus, or narrow neck of land, that rises in the midst of an ocean, immeasureably [sic] diffused on either side of it.' (Spectator, No. 590.) --'We are here in a state of probation, situated, as it were, upon a neck of land with the two infinite oceans of a miserable and happy eternity on either hand of us.' (Horbery's Sermons, IV., Part II., on Acts iv.12. --Horbery was born 1707, died 1773.)"

The coincidence is certainly very remarkable, and the stanza may have been so suggested. Charles Wesley was in the habit, as the reader will find in subsequent part of the Lecture, of paraphrasing other men's thoughts after this fashion. But I cling to the old Tradition, which was in existence during the Poet's life-time,--that the Land's End suggested the imagery. The Hymn, which is called "An Hymn for Seriousness," was written and published very soon after Charles Wesley's first visit to that remarkable spot.


Land's End is the most south-westerly point of Cornwall in England. (see map diagram)

It's a long peninsula. Wesley referring to this peninsula as a "narrow neck of land" in a well-known hymn opens further possibilities for understanding the Book of Mormon text.

_____

An 1776 book titled The Practical Navigator defined the terms this way:

A Peninsula is a Part of Land almost surrounded with Water, save one narrow Neck of Land which joins the same to the Continent.
An Isthmus is a narrow Neck of Land joining the Peninsula to the Continent, by which People may pass from one to the other.

Another source, the 1785 Geographical Magazine, points out that a narrow neck could be land or water. With that in mind, it makes sense that Ether 10:20 specifies a "narrow neck of land."

A Strait is a narrow neck of water, uniting one sea to another; as, the Straits of Gibraltar, the Straits of Caffa, etc. 
A Sea is a portion of water everywhere inclosed [sic] with land, except a narrow space or neck which unites it to the ocean; as, the Mediterranean Sea, the Adriatic Sea, the Red Sea, etc.
An Isthmus is a narrow neck of land, by which a peninsula is united to a continent; as, the Isthmus of Darien, the Isthmus of Corinth, etc.
A Peninsula is a portion of land, every where surrounded with water, except a narrow space or neck of land, which unites it to the continent; as, the Morea, which joined to Greece; Crim Tartary, to Little Tartary, etc.


Multiple terms and translations.

In addition to the "narrow neck of land," there is a "neck of land" and a "small neck of land."  

M2C proponents always conflate the terms narrow neck, narrow neck of land, and small neck. I think they are different terms because they refer to different things. 

narrow neck: a narrow feature between larger bodies of either land or water

narrow neck of land: an isthmus or connection between continents, or a connection between any two land masses, or a long narrow peninsula (as Wesley used it).

small neck of land: connotation suggests small in all directions, contrasted with narrow which connotes relatively long compared to width.

It's also interesting that that the translation of these terms into other languages has, in some cases, removed the distinction.

Those who don't read English are reading the M2C interpretation, not the text Joseph translated.

Examples.

Alma 22:32 reads:

thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.

In French, the passage is translated like this:

c’est ainsi que le pays de Néphi et le pays de Zarahemla étaient presque entourés d’eau, une étroite bande de terre existant entre le pays situé du côté du nord et le pays situé du côté du sud.

Alma 63:5 reads:

therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward.

In French, it reads:

s’en fut construire un navire extrêmement grand dans les régions frontières du pays d’Abondance, près du pays de Désolation, et le lança dans la mer de l’ouest, près de la langue étroite qui menait au pays situé du côté du nord.

Ether 10:20 reads:

20 And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.

In French, it is:

20 Et ils construisirent une grande ville près de la langue étroite de terre, près de l’endroit où la mer divise le pays.

If you don't read French, you can see that in all three cases, the French uses the term étroite, which means "narrow." You don't get the English distinction between "small" and "narrow." The M2C intellectuals say the terms are synonymous. That's possible, but they have different connotations that are lost in the French translation.

Again, these are examples of an interpretation, not a translation.

Joseph (or Mormon/Moroni) used different terms. Why should the foreign translations use the same terms?

The French does use "bande" instead of "langue" here, which is an interesting choice. "Langue" means "tongue" or "language," but "langue de terre" means a "spit of land." Like a tongue, a spit of land is "a small point of land especially of sand or gravel running into a body of water."

"Bande" means a "strip" or "stripe."

Instead of a "small neck of land" we have a "narrow strip of land."

Instead of a "narrow neck" we have "a narrow tongue." A neck connects two bodies of water or earth, but a tongue extends from one without joining to another. This is a problem for any proposed geography.

In Alma 63:5, "by the narrow neck" becomes "near the narrow neck." This, too, loses the possible alternative meanings of the phrase, such as "through the narrow neck," "by means of," or "in the vicinity of the narrow neck."

_____

Be careful any time you read an interpretation of the Book of Mormon that insists only one possibility is feasible, or, worse, "correct."

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

St. Patrick's Day

As a descendant of Irish ancestors, and because Ireland is the promised land for the Irish, I enjoyed everything about this video.

Enjoy.

Friday, March 12, 2021

A Mighty Nation - an example of bias confirmation

From time to time we like to look at examples of bias confirmation. By now, it is obvious to readers here that people can confirm pretty much any bias they have. They usually frame it as "following the evidence" and they usually believe that's the case. 

Of course, any two people can look at exactly the same evidence and reach contradictory conclusions. That's why it's more important to understand the bias people are confirming than to debate the merits of the evidence.

This example involves the "mighty nation" mentioned in 1 Nephi 22:7.

7 And it meaneth that the time cometh that after all the house of Israel have been scattered and confounded, that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles, yea, even upon the face of this land; and by them shall our seed be scattered. (1 Nephi 22:7)

The term appears just once in the Book of Mormon. It appears twice in the Bible, in Genesis 18:18 ("Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation") and Jeremiah 5:15 (Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith the Lord: it is a mighty nation").

Some think the Book of Mormon "mighty nation" is the United States. Others think it is Spain. Let's look at the arguments so you can make an informed decision.
_____

The argument for Spain as the "mighty nation" has been made by Kirk Magleby of Book of Mormon Central, here: http://bookofmormonresources.blogspot.com/2020/09/mighty-nation-spain.html. Kirk is a fine scholar, great guy, and effective writer. He has a strong bias in favor of M2C. 

Although I shared his bias for decades, I no longer do. Instead, I have a bias in favor of the North American setting. One of the reasons I changed my mind is the type of comparative merits of the two alternatives we'll look here.

Let's see what he has to say.

His words in blue. My comments in red. Emphasis mine.

Mighty Nation = Spain

In December, 2018, I authored an important blog post entitled "Prophecy Fulfilled 016" identifying the mighty nation among the Gentiles described in 1 Nephi 22:7 as Spain. The article explained the historical succession of Spain/France/England as global superpower and interpreted 1 Nephi 13:30 in that light.

The first thing that jumps out is the disconnect between 1 Ne. 22:7 and any foreign nation.

The "mighty nation" was supposed to be raised up "upon the face of this land." Nephi was writing from the New World, not from Europe. Thus, we should be looking for a "mighty nation" that God would "raise up" upon the face of the New World. 

Spain/France/England were all European countries. They were not "raised up" in the New World.

By contrast, the United States adopted the Constitution in 1789. The Lord explained, "I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood." (Doctrine and Covenants 101:80)

Between 1808 and 1826, the continental colonies in the Americas became independent of Spain and Portugal. Mexico became independent in 1821. These countries were all "raised up" in the western hemisphere, and so are candidates for the "mighty nation." 

All of this assumes that "nation" refers to a political entity. Originally, the term referred to a family or group who descended from a common progenitor, like a tribe.
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It's also interesting to note that in Joseph's environment, the United States was referred to as a "mighty nation." For example, an article in the Wayne Sentinel from March 23, 1825, said, "That the policy of our country is peace, and the ark of our salvation union, are articles of faith upon which we are all now agreed. If there have been those who doubted whether a confederated representative democracy were a government competent to the wise and order management of the common concerns of a mighty nation, those doubts have been dispelled."


In 1843, Joseph Smith read a speech that included statements from Choctaw Indians, east of the Mississippi, including this passage:

"Brother: You stand in the moccasins of a great chief; you speak the words of a mighty nation, and your talk was long. My people are small; their shadow scarcely reaches to your knee; they are scattered and gone; when I shout, I hear my voice in the depths of the woods, but no answering shouts come back."


More examples are included below, as well as statements from LDS General Authorities identifying the United States as a "mighty nation."
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Chronology clinches the identification of Spain as the mighty nation. 

Clinch means to confirm or settle. That means no further analysis or discussion is warranted. That's like the logo of Book of Mormon Central, which uses a Mayan glyph to represent the Book of Mormon because, in their view, the geography is settled (contrary to the Church's own position and contrary to the beliefs of many Latter-day Saints).

The term clinch contradicts the approach of multiple working hypotheses, so as far as I'm concerned, it does not end the discussion. Let's continue.

What did the mighty nation do? They scattered Lehi's descendants 1 Nephi 22:7. 

Scatter means to "separate and move off quickly in different directions." The Mayans and other indigenous people throughout Latin America today still live where they've lived throughout history (aside from moving to modern cities). The Spanish conquered indigenous people and moved some into cities, but by and large they retained their ancestral lands. Whether that constitutes a scattering depends on one's own interpretation.

In North America, there was a similar pattern of conquering and subduing. The U.S. established the first Native American reservation in 1786, but settlers constantly pushed the Indians off their lands. President James Monroe took office in 1817 and entered a series of treaties, effectively removing most Indians from states north of the Ohio River. By 1825, he recommended all remaining Indians be relocated to west of the Mississippi. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 expressly relocated indigenous tribes hundreds of miles away from their ancestral lands, never to return.  

When was Lehi's seed scattered? Before the marvelous work among the Gentiles began 1 Nephi 22:8.

1 Nephi 22:8 And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders.

Note that the passage is vague about timing and does not say "after all our seed is completely scattered," nor does it preclude additional scattering.

The passage also does not specify when the marvelous work would begin. 

What was the marvelous work? The coming forth of the Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 25:17, 27:26 was a major part of it.

The publication of the Book of Mormon by itself does not satisfy the point of the verse. The first effort to nourish the Indians was the "mission to the Lamanites" which began in October 1830.

Key dates associated with the modern Book of Mormon include:

December 23, 1805 Joseph Smith, Jr. was born
September 21, 1823 Angel Moroni first appeared to Joseph Smith, Jr.
March 26, 1830 Book of Mormon went on sale to the public 

All good, but still none of these events directly involved nourishing Native Americans. That effort didn't begin until October 1830.

So, the mighty nation, pre-eminent among all others in the New World, scattered Lehi's posterity prior to the 1805 - 1830 time frame. 

As we discussed above, the "mighty nation" was "raised up" upon the face of the New World. It was not an old nation raised up elsewhere. 

It's an interesting question whether Mexico, post independence, scattered the indigenous inhabitants, or whether Peru, Chile, or any other of the newly independent nations did so. I don't know the answer. But it's clear that the United States, after it was raised up on the face of the New World, did scatter the Indians.

The various Latin American nations gained their independence from Spain between 1810 and 1825. From 1500 - 1810, Spain scattered Lehi's children and appropriated native American lands from California to Argentina.

This is a repeat of the same problem that Spain was not raised up in the New World, but the problem extends beyond that.

The Spanish held little of the land they claimed in North America (above Mexico). Their presence consisted mainly of missions run by Catholic priests. There were some skirmishes between Spanish military and Indian tribes, but no tribes were scattered. 


The map is a little misleading because France controlled the Louisiana territory from 1699-1762, when it was ceded to Spain. In 1800, France took it back before selling it to the U.S. in 1803. But even when France "owned" the territory, it controlled very little of it, just as Spain controlled very little of the west. These areas of North America were inhabited by Native Americans with little interference from Spain, apart from attempts at religious conversions.

During those 300 years preceding the marvelous work of the restoration, no other nation came close to the level of influence Spain exercised in the Western Hemisphere.

The double fallacy here is that (i) Spain wasn't "raised up" in the New World and (ii) we cannot say from the text where Nephi's seed lived. The text doesn't even mention the Western Hemisphere. For that identification, we have to rely on Joseph Smith and the D&C, but both of those sources specifically identified the Indians from New York to Kansas as the Lamanites.

What we can tell is that the first mission to the Lamanites, the first fulfillment of D&C 22:7, started in October 1830 as Oliver Cowdery and three others took the Book of Mormon to the Indian tribes of New York, Ohio, and Missouri/Kansas, where they had been scattered from their ancestral lands.

Soon after this article was published, I was delighted that a friend, Bruce Webster, shared his 2013 blog post with me. He reached the same conclusion that 1 Nephi 22:7 refers to the Spanish Empire.

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Bruce Webster's post is here:

http://adventures-in-mormonism.com/2013/08/19/1-nephi-227-a-mighty-nation-the-spanish-empire/

He also ignores the point that the mighty nation was to be raised up in the New World.

The US really didn’t become a “mighty nation” until the late 19th or early 20th Century. Spain, on the other hand, established a global empire pretty much coinciding with the discovery (by Spain) of North and South America at the end of the 15th Century, and it remained a mighty nation well into the 19th Century.

Spain conquered and claimed half of North America, all of Central America, and most of South America, in the process killing, enslaving, and scattering many of the native American inhabitants. The US, at the time of publication of the Book of Mormon, occupied less than half of its current extent and really hadn’t done much “scattering” of native Americans compared to what Spain had done for the previous 240 years.

I don't know how to quantify who did more "scattering," but even today, the tribes in the U.S. live largely on reservations far from their ancestral lands, while indigenous people in Latin America occupy their ancestral lands.

For that matter, much of the “scattering” of native Americans that happened in the eastern half of the United States happened under British rule (see “British Territory” on the map above), before the US was founded.

This would be a good point if it was true.

And, somewhat redundantly, the US never occupied Mesoamerica, which is where Book of Mormon events most likely occurred.

This is the bottom line for both Bruce and Kirk. And yet, Joseph Smith failed to take the Book of Mormon to Nephi's descendants in Mesoamerica. Instead, he took it personally to the entirely distinct Native Americans he (and the Lord) called Lamanites, as explained in D&C 28, 30, 32, and elsewhere.

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Some references to the United States as a "mighty nation" follow:

The Book of Mormon prophecies concerning the future of America have been referred to in our hearing during this conference, wherein it is stated that this nation, though it becomes a mighty nation, still it can stand in security here only as it serves the God of this land. That conception was in the hearts of the men who rounded America.

(1920s, 1928, October, 5th Session, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, ¶17 • CR)

 believe America to be a Christian country. I believe the principles which are set forth in her fundamental laws to be derived from, consciously, the Savior of the world. His precepts, his principles of truth and living, have been set forth by the founders and the fathers in our laws and statutes; and America, in order to continuously and satisfactorily fill her great mission as a mighty nation, must conform to those fundamental laws and principles of truth, in my humble judgment.

(1920s, 1924, October, 4th Session, Elder Stephen L Richards, ¶10 • CR)

America was independent.

Here then a great and magnificent spectacle breaks in upon the view. A mighty nation rising in arms to recover her natural rights, and boldly [Page 9] braving the storm of regal ambition.

(18c: 1790s; 1796, N22677 / 2. AN ORATION, Paul Allen, Providence, July 5, 1796,8¶–9¶)


The battle of the European warriors is indeed with a confused noise. It is the bruit of a war, which originated, on the one hand, in the too sanguine hope of planting the tree of liberty in every clime, and is prosecuted, on the other, with an unwarrantable acrimony against a mighty nation, struggling to be free, if not in direct repugnance to the natural rights of mankind, and the laws of eternal justice. If, in this huge contest between the sentiments of equal liberty, and the unnatural systems of arbitary power, the latter should prevail, America, in tears, will behold the triumph.

(18c: 1790s; 1794, N20534 / 1. ON THE AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, Harvard, July 4, 1794, William Emerson,33¶)


Of all the injuries done us, none ought to be so quickly resented, or so severely punished, [Page 23] as an injury done to our country. The interests of our country, not only comprise our own, but the interests of a growing and mighty nation; the man, therefore, who seeks to injure his country, is guilty of the blood of millions.

(18c: 1790s; 1798, N26355 / 1. AMERICAN LIBERTY, Discourse in Watertown on July 4th 1798, by Rev. Israel B. Woodward,37¶)


The retiring President retained the full health and strength, the vigor and activity of a strong body and sound mind, equal to the functions of his elevation, and fitted to relish the fascinating charms of his grandeur. But these were not the motives for his consenting to appear at the head of a mighty nation▪ When his country could spare his agency, no inducement remained with him to continue in her service, and he resolved once more, "to pass the remainder of his days in honorable repose, and place his glory beyond the reach of fortune."

(18c: 1790s; 1800, N27614 / 1. A Discourse in Baltimore, Feb. 22, 1800 by Rev. Patrick Allison, &c.,21¶)

Calm reflection here performed the miracles of inspiration, and deliberate valor acquired the achievements of Gods. An empire happy, a mighty nation freed from tyranny. These are the glorious monuments of our revolution; these are the immortal trophies of which we boast.

(18c: 1790s; 1800, N28804 / LUTHER RICHARDSON, JULY 4, 1800. 1. AN ORATION.,6¶)




Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Patrick Mason on social trust

Erasing Church history for ideological reasons, the way our Church historians and our M2C citation cartel does, is just as destructive to the pillar of social trust as Hoffman's effort to create new history through forged documents.

Censoring actual history is the mirror image of forging historical documents.

Both produce a distorted understanding of history that undermines social trust. They just take different routes to get there.


In a comment on the Mark Hoffman Netflix series, Patrick Mason wrote this great insight:

The evilest thing Hofmann did was to kill two innocent people in cold blood. But perhaps the second most sinister thing he accomplished was to undermine our collective confidence in facts. Hofmann was a master forger, yes, but even more deeply he was a master manipulator of one of the pillars of social trust — the ability to agree on what the facts are. When that pillar begins to crumble, it’s not just the Saints and the nerds who have reason to worry.

https://www.deseret.com/opinion/2021/3/9/22315949/murder-among-the-mormons-netflix-review-reaction-mark-hofmann-latter-day-saint-history-scholars

That concept of "social trust" expresses my disagreement with Book of Mormon Central and the rest of the M2C citation cartel, including the current correlated history that has been edited to accommodate M2C.

People can't make informed decisions when they don't have all the relevant information. 

As Patrick Mason pointed out, everyone interested in Church history should at least agree on what the facts are.

But Church members can't agree on the facts when they don't even know the facts.

It's one thing to have debate and discussion about the facts. That's healthy and, despite bias confirmation, can eventually lead to people making informed decisions.

It's something else entirely when scholars decide what they want people to believe and then manipulate the facts to lead people to reach the desired conclusions. 

Maybe, if the scholars were always correct, that would be acceptable in some cases. People don't have time to study and ponder everything. Some deference is appropriate and even necessary.

That's why we have medical doctors, experts in physics and engineering, etc. 

But when it comes to Church history and Book of Mormon historicity, the evidence supports multiple working hypotheses.

What justification can there be to censor legitimate, authentic documents from Church history (not to mention censoring the teachings of the prophets), merely to promote M2C?

And if there is no legitimate justification, why does Book of Mormon Central and the rest of the citation cartel continue to do it?

I discussed this in more detail on my saintsreview blog.

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2021/03/saint-and-crumbling-pillar-of-social.html





















Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Pre-Columbian horses in North America

An article in Indian Country Today discusses horses in North America.

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/yes-world-there-were-horses-in-native-culture-before-the-settlers-came?fbclid=IwAR2FEO_vNg6PfoLn1mn4gHMRFJwqEFFtRgIlRQRN9gCBzE1Lt-UN4wKHDhI



The article links to several papers on this topic on this page:

https://www.sacredwaysanctuary.org/publications

Her specific article is here:

https://app.box.com/s/zhfcqgrwr4gyquq66206cwa9u3873qtm

Here's an excerpt from her Abstract:

This research project seeks to deconstruct the history of the horse in the Americas and its relationship with the Indigenous Peoples of these same lands. 

Although Western academia admits that the horse originated in the Americas, it claims that the horse became extinct in these continents during the Last Glacial Maximum (between roughly 13,000 and 11,000 years ago). This version of “history” credits Spanish conquistadors and other early European explorers with reintroducing the horse to the Americas and to her Indigenous Peoples. 

However, many Native Nations state that “they always had the horse” and that they had well established horse cultures long before the arrival of the Spanish. To date, “history” has been written by Western academia to reflect a Eurocentric and colonial paradigm. The traditional knowledge (TK) of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, and any information that is contrary to the accepted Western academic view, has been generally disregarded, purposefully excluded, or reconfigured to fit the accepted academic paradigm. 

Although mainstream academia and Western science have not given this Native TK credence to date, this research project shows that there is no reason – scientific or otherwise – that this traditional Native claim should not be considered true. The results of this thesis conclude that the Indigenous horse of the Americas survived the “Ice Age” and the original Peoples of these continents had a relationship with them from Pleistocene times to the time of “First-Contact.”

Friday, March 5, 2021

Hoffman, Church history, Saints, and President Oaks

The Mark Hoffman saga is in the news because of the Netflix documentary

Let's look at some parallels between the Hoffman problem with fake documents and the ongoing suppression of Church history designed to promote M2C and SITH.

In response to the Hoffman events, President Oaks delivered a detailed, masterful address, which you can read here:


Here are excerpts from that talk (in blue), along with my commentary (in red).

What interested me most was the fact that these forgeries and their associated lies grew out of their author’s deliberate attempt to rewrite the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that so many persons and organizations seized on this episode to attempt to discredit the Church and its leaders. [emphasis added]

Deliberate attempts to rewrite the early history continue, but now it's the Church History Department doing the re-writing.

For many years, certain LDS historians have sought to rewrite the early history of the Church. Richard Bushman explained:

"The downside of that is that there is developing in the scholarly world a view of church history. It’s out of kilter with the church version, what’s told in Sunday school class. All sorts of things that don’t fit together such as the seer stones in the hat, or many, many other things."


Now the problem has reversed. Correlated Church history, such as the Saints books, is "out of kilter" with authentic historical documents and events. Why? So far as I can tell, the only reason is to promote modern narratives, including M2C and SITH. 

Yesterday I showed specific examples regarding Cumorah. The Saints book, volume 1, quotes Lucy Mack Smith's histories 127 times, but it deliberately omits every one of her references to Cumorah because the M2C citation cartel rejects the New York Cumorah. We see the same careful re-writing of Church history in the Gospel Topics Essays.

There is a revolving door between the Church History Department and the M2C citation cartel (including BYU Studies and Book of Mormon Central), so naturally they work together and reinforce these narratives. That's what makes it a cartel.

Consequently, well-meaning but uninformed Latter-day Saints don't know that when Moroni first visited Joseph Smith, he identified the hill where the plates were concealed as Cumorah, even though this was widely known during Joseph's lifetime and informed everyone's writing and understanding at the time. By omitting Cumorah from the historical record, our LDS historians have distorted Church history and created a new version that (i) accommodates M2C but (ii) contradicts the historical record. This leads to preventable confusion among new, former, and prospective members.  

The same thing has happened with the discrepancies between the Urim and Thummim and seer (or "peep") stone accounts. (SITH=stone-in-the-hat.) Like the Gospel Topics Essays, the Saints book deliberately omitted Lucy Mack Smith's accounts of Joseph using the Urim and Thummim. Instead, it cites much later accounts from David Whitmer and Emma Smith, both of whom had ulterior motives for promoting SITH (i.e, refuting the Solomon Spalding theory). 

For example, Saints merely says "Another letter informed David that it was God's will for him to bring his team and wagon to Harmony to help Joseph, Emma and Oliver move to the Whitmer home in Fayette, where they would finish the translation."

However, Lucy explains that they made the request because Joseph received a commandment through the Urim and Thummim to do it. 

"an intimation that was given through the urim and thumim for as he one morning applied them 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 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"


"Not far from this time, as Joseph was translating by means of the Urim and Thummim, he received instead of the words of the Book, a commandment to write a letter to a man by the name of David Whitmer, who lived in Waterloo; requesting him to come immediately with his team, and convey them [3 words illegible] (Joseph & Oliver) to Waterloo; as an evil designing people were seeking to take away his (Joseph’s life), in order to prevent the work of God from going forth to the world."


Saints omits these and related passages because they contradict the currently fashionable narrative that (i) Joseph merely dictated words that appeared on the seer stone in the hat (SITH); (ii) Joseph didn't even use the plates, which remained concealed under a cloth the entire time; and (iii) Joseph didn't really translate anything anyway.

And, of course, Saints completely omits the account of David, Joseph and Oliver meeting the messenger on the road to Fayette. In his knapsack, the messenger had the abridged plates that Joseph had given him in Harmony. He declined a ride to Fayette, explaining he was taking the plates to Cumorah. Joseph identified him as one of the Nephites. 

But instead of relating these detailed historical accounts, Saints elaborated on the sketchy account of the same messenger showing the plates to David's mother Mary. To make it worse, Saints concocted a fake quotation! 

"My name is Moroni," he said.

Except that is a fictional quotation and contradicts what Mary Whitmer herself said, that the messenger identified himself as "Brother Nephi." It also contradicts Joseph Smith's identification of the messenger as "one of the Nephites," an identification he made more than once.

David Whitmer, who actually conversed with both this messenger and Moroni on separate occasions, clearly differentiated between the two individuals, but Saints changes Church history to portray the resurrected Moroni as capable of changing his appearance, age, and physical size for unknown reasons. Obviously, that raises important questions about the doctrine of the resurrection.

In a sardonic sense, it's funny to see how the historians manipulated the history to reach this result. For example, in note 16 (page 595), they cite David Whitmer Interviews, 26-27. That book is long out of print and difficult to obtain, but I have a copy. On page 182 of the same book, which Saints does not reference, David says "Joseph looked pale almost transparent & said that was one of the Nephites and he had the plates of the Book of Mormon in his knapsac." 

Why deprive Church members of this interesting and relevant information?

Recall, this was the messenger who said he was going to Cumorah before going to Fayette. Because the M2C citation cartel insists Cumorah cannot be in New York, our historians decided we should not be informed about this event. They must accommodate M2C at all costs. I've shown before how the book Opening the Heavens went so far as to deliberately falsify this same history.

Which brings us back to President Oaks' talk.

The Church operates under a divine mandate to acquire and preserve the documents and artifacts that show its history...

We are deeply indebted to the Joseph Smith Papers project to preserve our history. Despite the notes and annotations that, in some cases as I've discussed, seek to promote M2C and SITH, at least we have the actual documents that the historians cannot change. 

The historians can and do omit relevant documents from correlated materials such as the Gospel Topics Essays, Saints, and lesson manuals, but anyone can go to the original documents and see for themselves what Joseph Smith and his contemporaries said, did and thought, as much as the historical record can reveal.

It seems to me that the mandate is not only to acquire and preserve the documents, but also to accurately convey them to Church members and the world as a whole. When it comes to M2C and SITH, though, that does not seem to be the case. 

In order to perform their personal ministries, Church leaders cannot be suspicious and questioning of each of the hundreds of people they meet each year. Ministers of the gospel function best in an atmosphere of trust and love. In that kind of atmosphere, they fail to detect a few deceivers, but that is the price they pay to increase their effectiveness in counseling, comforting, and blessing the hundreds of honest and sincere people they see. It is better for a Church leader to be occasionally disappointed than to be constantly suspicious.

Here, President Oaks gives us an exceptionally important insight. I agree that Church leaders should be able to trust the Church historians and scholars to be open and honest in their portrayal of Church history. 

But when we see the type of omissions we see in Saints, and no effort to correct those omissions when pointed out, it is difficult to continue to trust those historians who are promoting an agenda instead of accurately reporting history. 

It's even worse with the Gospel Topics Essays, as we've discussed many times. Fortunately, some of those have been edited (albeit without notification) from time to time to correct mistakes, but they still reflect specific agendas of the scholars who wrote them. There is a long way to go to making those essays reliable and credible.   

I observed that “historical and biographical facts can only contribute to understanding when they are communicated in context.” This is the work of the scholar. We would all be better informed about history if historical impressions came from the articles and books of mature and objective scholars rather than through the often sensational and always incomplete “stories” of journalists.

Sound historical work takes time, but patience is rewarded.

This is another important point. My basic life philosophy is that eventually, the right thing happens. A lot of Latter-day Saints are impatient with the revisionist Church history we are expected to believe, even though it contradicts the historical record and the teachings of the prophets. 

Nevertheless, we remain hopeful that these things will be corrected and revised over time. In the meantime, we can read the original sources ourselves and see how the writings of both critics and correlated materials vary. 

Fortunately, the actual history is the most faith-affirming of all. 


When it comes to naivete in the face of malevolence, there is blame enough to go around. We all need to be more cautious. In terms of our long-run interests in Church history, we now have the basis, and I hope we have the will, to clear away the Hofmann residue of lies and innuendo. With that done, we should all pursue our search for truth with the tools of honest and objective scholarship and sincere and respectful religious faith, in the mixture dictated by the personal choice each of us is privileged to make in this blessed and free land.

I bolded that last sentence because it epitomizes my approach to all of this. I strongly favor and encourage people making informed decisions. That's why I don't accept the revisionist history designed to accommodate M2C and SITH. That's also why I disagree with the censorship-based editorial policies of the M2C citation cartel. 

I don't expect LDS scholars to vary from their dogmatic enforcement of M2C and SITH. Book of Mormon Central, for example, has M2C embedded in its logo. After decades of promoting M2C, it is probably impossible, psychologically, for the scholars to become open to alternatives to M2C, let alone change their minds.

But their intellectual rigidity doesn't matter to those who, as President Oaks says, "pursue our search for truth."

the end