President Nelson taught, "Good inspiration is based upon good information." In this blog, we share good information from original sources. Many Latter-day Saints still believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah. This blog discusses corroborating evidence. We support the Church's policy of neutrality regarding Book of Mormon geography and other issues. That policy promotes unity by recognizing multiple working hypotheses. We encourage all interested parties to do the same.
long ago ideas
Thursday, April 29, 2021
Enforcing fake orthodoxy
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Watching General Conference with M2C intellectuals
I've been reminded of a video I did a few years ago. Go to https://www.youtube.com/ and search for "watching general conference with BYU professors."
I need to rename it. Instead of BYU professors, it should say M2C intellectuals, because there are lots of BYU professors who still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught.
Plus, not everyone in the M2C citation cartel is a BYU professor.
Monday, April 26, 2021
Neutrality promotes harmony and unity
Most Latter-day Saints accept the Church's position of neutrality regarding Book of Mormon geography, which recognizes multiple working hypotheses. We think that position best promotes harmony and unity in the Church.
On this blog, we support the Church's policy.
We encourage people to make informed decisions by evaluating multiple working hypotheses while we await further knowledge.
To make informed decisions, we encourage people to become "engaged learners" as they study the scriptures, the teachings of the prophets, authentic Church history, and relevant extrinsic evidence including anthropology, archaeology, etc.
We accept the teachings of the prophets that the hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in New York. That is one working hypothesis. We recognize that teaching does not determine the locations of any other Book of Mormon events. The New York Cumorah accommodates theories ranging from a limited area around New York to the entire hemisphere and everywhere in between. We think extrinsic evidence supports the New York Cumorah and improves our understanding of the text.
But again, that is only one working hypothesis.
Other Latter-day Saints insist that the only possible setting for the Book of Mormon is in Mesoamerica. They teach that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah because they have decided that the "real Cumorah" of Mormon 6:6 is in Mexico. This is the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C).
We recognize M2C as a working hypothesis and we are fine with people believing M2C if they want to. We hope they are engaged learners and not merely lazy learners whose beliefs are assigned to them by scholars.
M2C believers understand and accept the M2C teaching that the idea of Cumorah in New York was a false tradition that Joseph Smith erroneously adopted, thereby misleading the Church for decades until RLDS scholar L.E. Hills figured out the truth.
LDS scholars adopted Hills' theory, taught it at BYU and CES, and through the academic cycle have produced generations of Latter-day Saints who (i) don't know what the prophets have taught about Cumorah, and/or (ii) reject what the prophets have taught about Cumorah.
The M2C intellectuals formed the M2C citation cartel to aggressively enforce M2C. The biggest promoter of M2C is Book of Mormon Central, which has embedded M2C in its logo. Other members of the citation cartel include the Interpreter, BYU Studies, FAIRLDS, Meridian Magazine, etc.
On this blog, we respect the scholars and their research and we embrace relevant facts they discover, but we don't blindly accept their theories. We're happy for people to believe whatever they want, but we prefer to support the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah and we think the evidence corroborates those teachings.
The M2C citation cartel could bring about greater unity in the Church by changing course to embrace the Church's policy of neutrality, recognizing multiple working hypotheses.
A first step would require Book of Mormon Central to change its logo, which explicitly defies the Church's position of neutrality.
In the meantime, we see this (click to enlarge).
Friday, April 23, 2021
Complexity, solution, creativity
The easiest way to understand Book of Mormon historicity and related Church history is to accept what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said.
Those who reject their teachings about translating the engravings on the plates with the Urim and Thummim and the New York Cumorah embark on a life-long journey of complicated explanations and rationalizations.
I liked this graphic from Twitter:
Thursday, April 22, 2021
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Among the Lamanites
In Come Follow Me, we recently covered D&C 28, 30 and 32 which involved the Mission to the Lamanites who were living in New York, Ohio, Missouri and Kansas at the time.
There's a phrase common to all three sections.
And thou shalt assist to settle all these things, according to the covenants of the church, before thou shalt take thy journey among the Lamanites. (Doctrine and Covenants 28:14)
Monday, April 19, 2021
Lazy learners and the M2C citation cartel
In the April 2021 General Conference, President Nelson used the term "lazy learners." He encouraged each of us to "Become an engaged learner." He pointed out that "It takes faith to follow prophets rather than pundits and popular opinion."
There are lots of implications for his message, but I'd like to apply it to the ongoing problem of deference to the credentialed class of LDS scholars who purport to be "Interpreters" for the rest of us.
One category of "lazy learners" are those who don't study, but another category is those who think they are studying when they read/watch the teachings of scholars instead of original source material, particularly the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets, including Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
Deferring to an intellectual because of his/her credentials, affiliation with BYU or CES, résumé including Church service, or popularity, is a form of lazy learning because all we're doing is learning what that intellectual thinks. We're not thinking for ourselves.
This is particularly true when we defer to the M2C citation cartel who have been promoting their M2C theory for decades and continue to do so. They enforce their M2C theory through a variety of rhetorical techniques we have discussed many times on this blog.
From time to time, I still hear objections to the term "M2C citation cartel."
Let me explain once again.
I didn't invent the term "citation cartel," although if you google "citation cartel" images, you'll see several images of the M2C citation cartel among the first results. The term is widely used in academic circles to describe an ongoing problem with published scholarship. The term does not refer to drug or criminal cartels.
A citation cartel is any group of like-minded scholars (and their followers) who cite one another to bolster the impression that their groupthink is both widely accepted and the best theory regarding whatever topic they write about. It can be considered "peer approval" masquerading as "peer review."
Here's one way to identify a citation cartel:
In our experience, a citation cartel differs from the ordinary in that it usually involves one or more or all of the following:
i) a small number, often just two or three, journals are involved;
ii) similarly, the diversity of authors involved is small, i.e., smaller as one would expect for a healthy research community;
iii) often there is a large overlap of editors in the journals that sustain a particular cartel.
The M2C citation cartel easily satisfies these criteria.
i) We are dealing with two basic journals: (i) BYU Studies, and (ii) the various publications that arose from FARMS, including the current Interpreter, which Dan Peterson started after he was removed from FARMS, but which continues publishing the same type of material that the FARMS journals, led by Brother Peterson, did.
To the extent Book of Mormon Central could be considered a journal because of its "kno-whys" and other content, it is merely another branch of FARMS anyway.
Both BYU Studies and the FARMS publications have long promoted M2C exclusively. We could hardly expect otherwise, since Jack Welch founded FARMS and was the long-time editor of BYU Studies. The FARMS logo included a Mayan glyph to represent the Book of Mormon.
Now Book of Mormon Central, also led by Brother Welch, uses the same M2C logo.
This logo demonstrates the antithesis of academic inquiry by imposing the outcome--M2C--on anyone who hopes to publish in these journals. That's why we see peer approval in these journals instead of actual peer review.
ii) The research community publishing in these journals consists of a handful of influential authors, all of whom promote M2C, plus their students and followers. Anyone who proposes an alternative to M2C, especially anyone who still believes and corroborates what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught, is not only unwelcome, but the target of derision and censorship.
iii) The overlap of editors in the journals is obvious. Now Steven Harper edits BYU Studies, but as we've seen, he continues to promote M2C, both at BYU Studies and through his other work, including the Saints book.
I've referred to the M2C citation cartel as a Potemkin village because the same content surfaces in other venues, such as FairMormon (nkn FairLatterdaySaints), Meridian Magazine, and various blogs. But at the core, all of this content originated from the handful of M2C scholars we know and love.
We cannot expect them to adjust, let alone change, their views on M2C. We can only humor them, try to sift out the M2C influence in their content (because they have produced some fine research on other topics), and let them continue to confirm their biases while the rest of us move on to better understand and corroborate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, the translation of the plates, and related topics.
Most LDS members think most LDS intellectuals have accepted the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C). They may be right, but I've heard from enough LDS intellectuals who disagree with M2C but dare not challenge the M2C citation cartel to know that, despite the image of consensus conveyed by the Potemkin village, plenty of people have peered around the corner and have seen that M2C is little more than wishful thinking.
Of course, people can believe whatever they want. I'm not trying to persuade anyone to reject M2C. My hope is for everyone to make informed decisions instead of having their opinions assigned to them by dogmatic members of a citation cartel.
I have no problem with people who embrace M2C with full knowledge of all relevant facts.
The problem I see is that people embrace M2C based on incomplete knowledge, just as people leave the Church because of incomplete knowledge (combined with poor apologetics, a topic for another day). In both cases, people think they know everything on a given topic, but even cursory discussions with them shows they have huge gaps. I've spoken to many M2C believers who have never heard of Letter VII and its content, let alone its pervasiveness during the lifetimes of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
The reason the M2C citation cartel has dominated is not because of careful analysis of Church history; as we've seen repeatedly, the opposite is true, because M2C is based on rejecting early Church history about the Hill Cumorah and related topics.
The reason is also not because of careful analysis of the text of the Book of Mormon, or of careful analysis of archaeology, anthropology, etc., because the opposite is also true in those cases. The M2C advocates continually revise their interpretation of the Book of Mormon text to align with whatever the latest science tells them about Mesoamerica. They've admitted they "can't unsee" Mesoamerica when they read the Book of Mormon. They read into it all kinds of Mesoamerican culture that no one else sees.
Now, BYU and CES formally teach M2C, all the while proclaiming "neutrality."
Friday, April 16, 2021
What are we reading when we read the Book of Mormon?
What are the implications of embracing SITH (stone-in-the-hat) as the explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon?
For the first 200 years of the restoration, believers accepted the claims of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery that the Book of Mormon was a translation of ancient records kept on metal plates. They rejected the claims of critics that Joseph merely read words that appeared on a stone he put in a hat (SITH).
About 20 years ago, LDS scholars re-interpreted the historical evidence to reject what Oliver and Joseph said in favor of SITH. Lately, SITH has gained more widespread acceptance.
Nevertheless, many Latter-day Saints (including me) still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught.
Some of us think Joseph used SITH solely to demonstrate the process to a handful of supporters to whom he could not show the Urim and Thummim or the plates. Decades later, after Joseph and Oliver had died, some of the eyewitnesses transformed the demonstration into the translation, as I've described in my book, A Man that Can Translate.
Does it make a difference what we believe about the origin of the Book of Mormon?
I think it does, but apparently others do not think it matters. For them, it's the words in the book, not their origin, that matter. That explains much of recent apologetics, but it also explains why recent apologetics are so ineffective, as I'll discuss in my upcoming book on LDS apologetics.
I'm curious what people think about this topic, because it raises the question, what are we reading when we read the Book of Mormon?
1. A translation of a history of a small group of Hebrews living within Mayan culture?
2. A translation of a history of the moundbuilders in North America?
3. A spiritual vision?
4. Words, provided by an unknown source, that appeared on a stone that only Joseph could read?
5. A composition by Solomon Spalding and/or Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, etc.?
6. A compilation of Christian teachings in the framework of a faith-promoting narrative unrelated to any actual people?
7. Something else?
In my view, the evidence points to #2, which also happens to corroborate the teachings of the prophets.
And yet, many believers accept alternatives, including #1, #3, #4, and #6. It is their underlying assumption about these alternatives that drive apologetic arguments such as M2C.
I'm fine with people believing whatever they want, of course.
But I don't see much discussion of the implications of replacing #2 with the other alternatives. We'll discuss the alternatives in upcoming posts.
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Puzzles instead of battles
Such issues as the translation of the Book of Mormon and the historicity/geography of the Book of Mormon make people run to their ideological team and prepare for battle. They arm themselves with well-worn words and phrases and arguments that confirm their respective biases.
What if we looked these issues as puzzles to solve instead of as battles to be fought?
I discussed this on my consensus blog, here:
We can easily solve the puzzle once we recognize we're on the same team.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
More fun with SITH and M2C
FYI, I started a series on agenda-driven history on my LetterVII blog.
One of the issues that our M2C scholars debate is the translation of the Book of Mormon.
Anyone who reads the Book of Mormon knows it describes nothing like Mayan culture. There are no references to jade, jungles and jaguars, nothing about massive stone pyramids, nothing about volcanoes, nothing about ubiquitous stone engravings relating the history of the people beginning long before Lehi arrived, etc.
This leads our M2C intellectuals to conclude that Joseph didn't translate the plates literally, or even close to literally. They think the Book of Mormon is a "loose" translation.
Basically, the M2C proponents insist that Joseph Smith mistranslated the Book of Mormon. Here's how Brant Gardner, one of the more prominent M2C proponents, puts it: "We have evidence that Joseph dictated 'north.' What we do not have evidence of is what the text on the plates said."
Did you catch that? According to our M2C scholars, Joseph Smith's translation is not evidence of what the plates said!
This is why, despite the language in the text, they "cannot unsee" Mesoamerican culture when they read it. A "horse" is a "tapir," a "tower" is a "massive stone pyramid," etc.
Such a "loose" translation seems to conflict with the idea of an "iron-clad" translation promoted by various LDS scholars; i.e., the idea that Joseph read words that appeared on the stone in the hat (SITH).
LDS scholars such as Royal Skousen say Joseph was not the translator. This excerpt discussing SITH is from his book on the King James language in the text.
What this means is that the Book of Mormon is a creative and cultural translation of what was on the plates, not a literal one. Based on the linguistic evidence, the translation must have involved serious intervention from the English-language translator, who was not Joseph Smith. Nonetheless, the text was revealed to Joseph Smith by means of his translation instrument, and he read it off word for word to his scribe. To our modern-day, skeptical minds, this is indeed "a marvelous work and a wonder."
SITH depends on the theory that the Mysterious Unknown Supernatural Translator (MUST) somehow translated the plates into English and caused the words that they should appear on the stone in the hat.
To reconcile SITH with M2C, our M2C scholars have to conclude it was not Joseph who mistranslated the plates, but the MUST, who provided a "creative and cultural translation" but forgot to include all the elements of Mayan culture.
To many of us, this sounds ridiculous, but that is what M2C boils down to.
Of course, people can believe whatever they want. That's fine with me. All we do on this blog is discuss the facts and ramifications of the various theories.
Previously, we've discussed the awesome Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation (GTE).
The GTE forgot to even quote (let alone discuss) what Joseph and Oliver said about the translation with the Urim and Thummim.
Instead, the GTE mingles the theories of scholars with quotations dated decades after the events from people such as David Whitmer and Emma Smith.
For example, here's a screen capture from the essay:
That quotation comes from Oliver Cowdery's Letter I, an excerpt of which is found in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith-History, note 1. Here it is in context, with the omitted portion in red.
Oliver Cowdery describes these events thus: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’
(Joseph Smith—History, Note, 1) also at https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/49
Many faithful Latter-day Saints find it astonishing that a Gospel Topics Essay on the Translation of the Book of Mormon would not even inform readers what Joseph and Oliver had to say.
But many of us also find it astonishing that the GTE on Book of Mormon Geography is silent about Cumorah, precisely the same way that the Saints book, volume 1, is silent on Cumorah.
That's one of the topics I'll be discussing in the series on the Letter VII blog.
Friday, April 9, 2021
Book of Mormon evidence conference starts today
The online Book of Mormon Evidence conference starts today.
Thursday, April 8, 2021
Oliver forgot to mention...
No one reported him taking the stone out and displaying it to prove the truthfulness of what he was saying.
And yet, now our historians claim it's "likely" that Joseph used this stone to produce the Book of Mormon.
Church Museum of History and Art.
Apparently Oliver didn't get the memo that he and Joseph were wrong about the Urim and Thummim because we now "know" that Joseph didn't actually use the Urim and Thummim. Instead, he just stared at this stone in the hat (SITH) and didn't use the plates.
Either that, or Oliver just forgot to mention the stone in his pocket because he knew Joseph didn't use it to translated the plates.
When Cowdery returned to Church membership in 1848 he spoke to an Iowa conference. His words there were recorded by Reuben Miller: “I wrote with my own pen the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet as he translated it by the gift and power of God by means of the Urim and Thummim, or as it is called by that book, holy interpreters. I beheld with my eyes and handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was translated. I also beheld the Interpreters. That book is true. … I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet.”
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
The first Mission to the Lamanites
Friday, April 2, 2021
Preface to Between these Hills
This is the updated preface to my book Between these Hills.
Welcome to the magnificent world of the Book of Mormon. People everywhere are curious about the reality of its people and places.
I stipulate that the message of the Book of Mormon is more important than its geography or history. Believers rely on spiritual impressions more than physical evidence. But lingering questions about geography and history impede acceptance of the book as scripture.
Because many misconceptions about this topic exist, here are two important premises behind this book.
1. The location of Cumorah does not determine the settings of other Book of Mormon locations in the New World.
2. The Cumorah question is not so much about geography as it is about the reliability and credibility of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, their contemporaries, and their successors.
After decades of thinking of the Book of Mormon in a Mayan (Mesoamerican) setting, in 2014 I learned two alternative concepts: the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is really in western New York, and Book of Mormon events took place in Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, and New York. I began blogging about what I was learning.
My premise: Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught the truth.
The opposing view: Joseph and Oliver were wrong about Cumorah.
I’m only a minor participant and late comer compared with other well-known scholars, authors, speakers, and their organizations. For decades, they have produced numerous books, articles, web pages, blogs and videos. Yet my simple blogs have generated over 750,000 page views from all over the world.
Why the interest in Cumorah?
During his first visit to Joseph Smith, Moroni identified the location of the plates as “the hill of Cumorah.” In early 1827, before he obtained the plates, Joseph and his family referred to the hill by the name Cumorah.
Oliver Cowdery learned the name when he and Joseph translated the abridged plates in May, 1829, in Harmony, Pennsylvania.
In June 1829, David Whitmer learned the name for the first time from a divine messenger who was taking the Harmony plates back to Cumorah.
For all of Joseph’s contemporaries, the fact of Cumorah linked the Book of Mormon to the modern world. They expressed various opinions about other locations of Book of Mormon events, but the New York Cumorah was an established fact.
For many believers in the Book of Mormon, Cumorah is part of the historical reality at the core of their belief in the divine authenticity of the book. Because they believe the book is true spiritually, they believe it must also be true physically.
Other believers think questions about Book of Mormon geography are irrelevant, troublesome, or contentious.
Nonbelievers claim there is no extrinsic evidence to supports its historical claims—at least, not the type of evidence they’ve been led to expect. For similar reasons, some believers accept the book as an inspirational text akin to the parables in the Bible; i.e., it teaches truth but is not a real history.
Belief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon is declining, even among members. A survey published in 2019 indicated that younger members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are less inclined than previous generations to accept the Book of Mormon as an actual history—such as only 50% of Millennials.
Table 1.3 Mormons’ Certainty about LDS Teachings, by Generation
% who are “Confident and Know this Is True”
Born before 1965
Born since 1981
The Book of Mormon is a literal, historical account
Figure 1 - Certainty about Book of Mormon
More surprising, perhaps, is that more than 1 in 3 of older generations question whether the Book of Mormon is a literal history.
Regardless of what you believe now, I hope this book will give you insights into why so many people (i) accept the Book of Mormon as an authentic history and (ii) still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
When Moroni first visited Joseph, he explained there was a “history of the aborigines of this country” that had been “written and deposited” not far from Joseph’s home near Palmyra, New York. Joseph’s mother explained that Moroni told Joseph the name of the hill was “Cumorah,” the name by which his family identified the hill thereafter.
After Joseph translated the abridged plates from Moroni’s stone box in the hill, he and Oliver visited Mormon’s depository of Nephite records (Mormon 6:6) in another part of the hill.
Mormon chose that location because he knew the Jaredites had built defenses there. The Jaredites, who called the hill Ramah, had chosen the site because of its strategic location. Abundant external evidence corroborates this setting.
For decades, prophets and apostles reaffirmed these teachings about the New York Cumorah. For those of us who grew up in the LDS Church before the 1990s, the New York Cumorah was a well-established given. Newer members, however, know little or nothing about the New York Cumorah. For example, the Church history book Saints, volume 1, completely erased Cumorah from the historical record.
Why? What changed?
In the early 1900s, a book titled Cumorah Revisited criticized the prevailing hemispheric model of Book of Mormon geography. This made sense, actually. In the 1842 Wentworth letter, Joseph had replaced Orson Pratt’s hemispheric speculation with the declaration that Lehi’s remnant were “the Indians that now inhabit this country,” a reprise of what Moroni told him the first night. People forgot or ignored that.
Consequently, in response to Cumorah Revisited, scholars rejected what Joseph and Oliver taught and decided that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 could not be located in New York but must be in southern Mexico. They developed what I call the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C), reasoning that the New York Cumorah was merely a tradition—a false tradition—based on ignorant speculation.
Naturally, the scholars taught M2C to their students, and through the academic cycle, pursuant to Alma 12:9, within two generations the New York Cumorah was forgotten and M2C became the de facto—and nearly ubiquitous—faithful explanation of the Book of Mormon. Bias confirmation has produced plenty of supporting evidence.
If you accept M2C, that’s fine with me. If you don’t think geography matters, that’s also fine with me. I won’t persuade you otherwise. I only encourage people to make informed decisions.
One thing that attracted me to this topic was what I considered academic abuse of faithful Church members who still believed what the prophets taught. For years, the credentialed class attacked and ridiculed those who disagreed with them about Book of Mormon geography. They sought to censor alternative ideas and evidence that contradicted M2C. I investigated, concluded the scholars were defensive because their work was riddled with logical and factual fallacies, and blogged about the problems I saw. But blogs have limited usefulness.
This presented a dilemma. On one hand, I’m happy for people to believe whatever they want. I don’t want to disturb the faith of those whose beliefs are interwoven with M2C. They deserve respect—as do those who disagree with them.
On the other hand, people are troubled by the rejection of the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah and related topics. The logical and factual fallacies in apologetic M2C arguments turn people off. Believers seek an explanation of the Book of Mormon that corroborates and vindicates the teachings of the prophets.
I don’t see this as a case of right vs. wrong. Instead, the topic calls for recognizing multiple operating hypotheses. That will lead to mutual understanding and respect, despite disagreement.
Harmony in diversity leads to the establishment of Zion.
From my perspective, just as the Book of Mormon is “the keystone of our religion,” the New York Cumorah is the keystone of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. It is the only specific New World touchstone between the modern era and the ancient Jaredites and Nephites that has been identified by prophets and apostles.
This is not a book about Book of Mormon geography, per se. Originally, I contemplated writing a detailed, evidence-based presentation on why people should embrace the New York Cumorah. There is plenty of material. But by now, we all can see that facts don’t really matter. People believe whatever they want and then find facts to reinforce their beliefs.
Instead, I use Cumorah as a case study. You can adapt the principles of analysis and thinking described in this book to explore other topics. I won’t try to persuade you or tell you what to think. Naturally, we will review internal and external evidence about the New York Cumorah, but this is not a comprehensive resource. I’ll offer information and interpretations you might not have considered. Then you’ll make up your own mind by making informed decisions.
Let’s review the two key points.
Key point #1: the New York Cumorah does not determine where other events took place.
The teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are consistent and persistent. But they have also taught that we cannot specifically identify where other events took place. That makes sense because there are many ancient sites in the real world that fit the text.
Key point #2: The Cumorah question is not so much about geography as it is about the reliability and credibility of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
The historical record is clear: Oliver Cowdery’s explicit declaration that it was a fact that the hill in New York is the Cumorah of the Nephites and the Ramah of the Jaredites was universally accepted by Joseph’s contemporaries for the reasons we’ll review in this book. We have to consider the ramifications of repudiating those teachings.
Still, people can believe anything they want. Whatever our beliefs, let us all strive to humbly “receive knowledge from time to time.” D&C 1:28. There is surely more to discover—if we’re open to it.
 Numerically most believers are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), but there are thousands of believers in other faith traditions, including traditional Christian denominations as well as the Community of Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ, The Restoration Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, etc. I use “Church” to refer to all of these.
 Jana Reiss, The Next Mormons (Oxford University Press, New York, 2019), Table 1.3.
 All these references are cited in the body of this book. For one of many detailed discussions, see Cameron J. Packer, “A Study of the Hill Cumorah,” https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6007&context=etd
 Quotation from the journal of Wilford Woodruff, attributed to Joseph Smith, Jr.
 The Bibliography lists some resources. A visual resource is https://www.mobom.org/known-bom-locations. A comprehensive reference is https://stepbystep.alancminer.com/. If you’re interested in my explanation of how the text of the Book of Mormon describes a geographical setting consistent with the New York Cumorah, see my book Moroni’s America.