Yesterday, I posed the question, "Who is the greatest student of the Book of Mormon?"
The answer: L.E. Hills.
Here is the quotation with the name filled in.
Brother Hills 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.
Reference: Daniel MacGregor, "Book of Mormon Geography," The Saints' Herald, volume 68, 1921, p. 811. (See image at the end of this post.)
Here we are, 100 years later, and we see that MacGregor's praise of Brother Hills was prophetic.
If it hasn't already happened, soon enough every Latter-day Saint's understanding of the Book of Mormon will be directly influenced by L.E. Hills.
Many people don't know L.E. Hills.
It was Brother L.E. Hills who, in 1917, first published a map depicting the "two Cumorahs" theory that LDS scholars later popularized (see maps below).
(And yes, the simulation cleverly delivered the perfect last name for the originator of "two hills Cumorah" which we now call M2C for the "Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.)
The praise for Hills was prescient in the sense that yes, "generations unborn" did inherit M2C. Some think M2C is not just "one of the grandest discoveries of the age," but the grandest discovery about the Book of Mormon.
Take another look at the quotation.
Brother Hills is a student of the Book of Mormon, the greatest I have ever met, and his contribution to the geography of that book [M2C map] will be handed down to generations unborn [including LDS students taught by CES and BYU] as one of the grandest discoveries of the age. [M2C is the unifying "consensus" among LDS scholars, the foundation for the M2C citation cartel, the underlying assumption that drives the interpretation of the Book of Mormon by LDS scholars, and the basis for depictions of the Book of Mormon in academic, artistic and media presentations.]
Except it's not really a discovery.
It's an disastrous repudiation of the teachings of the prophets.
Relying on Hills' map, LDS M2C scholars have "discovered" that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, their contemporaries and their successors were speculators who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah by expressing their ignorant, incorrect private opinions.
M2C scholars have "discovered" that Joseph didn't accurately translate the plates because he forgot to include descriptions of and references to Mayan culture and settings, such as jaguars, jungles, and jade. Once
The Hills M2C map has become the basic assumption for Book of Mormon Central and the rest of the M2C citation cartel. It is the basis for the M2C fantasy maps that CES and BYU use to teach the Book of Mormon to Latter-day Saint students around the world.
Because today is April 1, it's a good day to discuss a hoax--the M2C hoax.*
Below is the map Hills published in 1917. Notice the placement of Cumorah far from New York.
You'll notice that there are slight differences, such as the specific location of Cumorah in Mexico. The M2C believers continue to debate which river in Mesoamerica is the Sidon, etc.
But they all agree with Hills that the "real Cumorah" is in southern Mexico and that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah.
Below are the BYU and CES maps that teach M2C to Latter-day Saint students around the world. You can see how they rotated the Mesoamerican maps 90 degrees and put Cumorah in the same area that Hills and Sorenson did, near the "narrow neck of land" by the "sea east." Both maps teach unambiguously that Cumorah is not in New York. Modern LDS students are never told what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.
The BYU and CES maps have the additional feature of framing the Book of Mormon as taking place in a fantasy land. Is it any surprise that most LDS Millennials no longer believe the Book of Mormon is an actual history?
The Maxwell Institute has its own fantasy version of the Hills/Sorenson map, which you can see here:
Truly, Hills "contribution to the geography of that book [has been and is being] handed down to generations unborn as one of the grandest discoveries of the age."
We should clarify that we don't blame Hills for anything. He was a great student of the Book of Mormon. I've discussed why he did what he did in my book, Between these Hills. We don't question his faith, devotion, sincerity, motivations, etc. He was undoubtedly awesome and exemplary. And, to his credit, he helped focus attention on the historicity issues.
But it's useful to compare the way our modern LDS scholars have enthusiastically embraced Hills' M2C theory against the way the RLDS and LDS churches responded to that theory.
The Saints' Herald was a publication of the RLDS Church. Elder L.E. Hills was an Elder of that Church.
Later that year, the RLDS First Presidency published a "Notice" in The Saints' Herald.
Inasmuch as numerous reports and inquiries have reached this office touching the recent activities of Elder L.E. Hills in lecturing on Book of Mormon geography and traditional history, we take this opportunity to inform the Saints who are interested in this matter. Brother Hills is not under church appointment as a general representative or missionary; neither is he acting under appointment from the Presidency in this matter, as rumor which has come to us has it. So far as the general church is concerned, he is carrying on his work mentioned above entirely on his own initiative.
“Notice,” The Saints Herald, December 13, 1921, online at http://www.latterdaytruth.org/pdf/100235.pdf , page 1199.
A few years later, the LDS Church purchased the Hill Cumorah in New York. In General Conference, President Ivins of the First Presidency discussed the acquisition, explaining that this was the actual Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6. The following year, President Ivins clarified that we don't know the location of other Book of Mormon events, which makes sense because there are hundreds of archaeological sites that could qualify as Book of Mormon locations.
M2C nevertheless persisted.
In the 1930s, Church Historian and Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith warned that the idea of Cumorah in Mexico would cause members of the Church to "become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon." He repeated that warning when, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, he published Doctrines of Salvation.
President Smith's warning has proven to be as prescient as MacGregor's prediction about the influence of L.E. Hills.
*I've discussed this hoax before:
BTW, the origin of April Fool's Day is worth reviewing: