Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day 2021

Readers from outside the United States may not know that today, May 31, 2021, is celebrated as Memorial Day in the United States. For more information, here's a useful site:


Along with millions of my fellow American citizens, I served in the U.S. military, as did my brother and father, grandfather, and so on. Memorial Day is one of the most important observances we can have.

On Memorial Day, I think of the words of captain Moroni when he explained his objectives:

I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country.
(Alma 60:36)

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Witnesses movie and M2C

The Interpreter Foundation is promoting its Witnesses movie. 

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2021/05/tickets-to-witnesses-are-available-now-for-34-theaters-in-several-states.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=BRSS&utm_campaign=Latter-day+Saint&utm_content=366 

The movie has its own website.

https://witnessesofthebookofmormon.org/

Such a film could have presented a complete, historically accurate account of the witnesses and what they said, which would be awesome. 

I haven't seen the film yet, but people who have tell me it's another affirmation of the latest intellectual fads from the M2C and SITH citation cartels, which means important testimony from the Three Witnesses is omitted because it contradicts M2C, while statements about SITH are emphasized.

I'm withholding judgment until I see the film. 

One of the things to look for is the treatment of the encounter David Whitmer had with the messenger who was taking the abridged plates from Harmony (where he had received them from Joseph) to Cumorah. 

Surely the filmmakers will not omit this event, which involved David, Oliver and Joseph.

The memory was vivid for David because it was the first time he had heard the word "Cumorah." It's an important event because it demonstrated (i) the reality of the plates, the shape of which David could see in the man's backpack, (ii) the reality of the 3 Nephites, (iii) the reality of Cumorah as an actual site in New York and not an imaginary mythical location, (iv) the reality that Joseph was actually translating plates and not merely dictating words from a vision in a hat.

According to David, the same messenger later showed plates to Mary Whitmer.

To their credit, the filmmakers include some of the accounts of the event on their web page.

But, not surprisingly, they focus on Mary's grandson's hearsay reframing of the account instead of what David said.

The Moroni/Mary Whitmer story has received a lot of attention because it's related in the Saints book. But frequent repetition doesn't make something true.

Don't take my word for any of this. I'm just reporting what the historical accounts show. They are available for anyone to read. 

It's a lot of fun to see the way our famous LDS intellectuals manipulate historical evidence. Normally, we would accept direct testimony (from David Whitmer) over hearsay testimony (from Mary Whitmer's grandson). Even if we accept hearsay testimony from Mary Whitmer's grandson about what his grandmother said, we would not accept his assumption that his grandmother was wrong, or that she actually meant to refer to Moroni when she referred to the messenger Brother Nephi.

But M2C relies on the premise that Cumorah cannot be in New York. David's direct testimony contradicts M2C, so the grandson's assumption that his grandmother was wrong is what our LDS scholars teach instead.

 _____

The website promotes the fake Moroni/Mary Whitmer story. (click to enlarge)

https://witnessesofthebookofmormon.org/other-witnesses/mary-musselman-whitmer/

Fortunately, as you see from the graphic, they include the quotation from Mary's grandson in which he explains that he was the one who created the fake Moroni story by assuming that his grandmother, Mary Whitmer, was wrong.

David Whitmer explained that Joseph Smith told him that the messenger was one of the Three Nephites. That explains why he identified himself to Mary Whitmer as "Brother Nephi." We don't know the names of the Three Nephites (3 Nephi 28), but they were chosen from among the twelve disciples, the leader of whom was named Nephi.

This also makes sense because this messenger was anyone but the resurrected Moroni. David met both people face-to-face and spoke with each of them. He made a clear distinction between the two. He explained that the messenger who took the abridged plates to Cumorah and showed plates to Mary Whitmer was the same person. 

Moroni was a different person altogether.

The movie's website includes some of the accounts:

https://witnessesofthebookofmormon.org/other-witnesses/mary-musselman-whitmer/statements/#content-faq-0

David asked him to ride and he replied I am going across to the hill Comorah. Soon after they passed they felt strangely & Stoped, but could See nothing of him all arround was clear & they asked the Lord about it he Said the Prophet Looked as White as a Sheet & Said that it was one of the Nephites & that he had the Plates.

_____

that they asked the Prophet to enquire of the Lord who this stranger was. Soon David said they turned around & Joseph looked pale almost transparent & said that was one of the Nephites and he had the plates of the Book of Mormon in the knapsack—

After their arival home the[y] felt the influence of this same personage around them for he said thare was a Heavenly feeling with this Nephite.

Mother Whitmer said and told them that she had see[n] this same man the Nephite & he showed her the Plates and that a portion of them were Sealed together. This was a great privalige to her but She was good to Joseph the Prophet and here was her reward.

_____

Joseph asked the Lord who this mysterious stranger was, who said it was one of the 3 Nephites, with the Plates.

_____

All felt very strange concerning this personage and the Prophet was besought to inquire of the Lord concerning him. Shortly afterwards, David relates, the Prophet looked very white but with a heavenly appearance and said their visitor was one of the three Nephites to whom the Savior gave the promise of life on earth until He should come in power. After arriving home, David again saw this personage, and Mother Whitmer, who was very kind to Joseph Smith, is said to have seen not only this Nephite,

_____

1889-the story changes as published in the Juvenile Instructor 24, no. 1, 1 January 1889, 22

David said that they felt a very strange feeling come over them, and Joseph, the Prophet, inquired of the Lord concerning it, and then said to the brethren that the mysterious stranger was Moroni with the plates of gold.

_____

1918, anonymous typewritten account attributed to Joseph F. Smith

Then he demanded, “What does it mean?” Joseph informed him that the man was Moroni, and that the bundle on his back contained plates which Joseph had delivered to him before they departed from Harmony, Susquehanna County, and that he was taking them for safety, and would return them when he (Joseph) reached father Whitmer’s home....

David said that when she  [his mother Mary] came back she was full of joy. He did not know the reason for her rejoicing until she said, “I have seen the messenger.” David said she described the very man they saw walking on the prairies and he told her who he was; said that Joseph had come there for safety and he was in their care and protection.

[Note: Mary never identified him as Moroni, but instead as "Brother Nephi." We're told to believe Moroni misled Mary by identifying himself as "Brother Nephi."]


Zina Young remembered the account because David Whitmer, with his companion Hyrum Smith, were the missionaries who converted her family. She asked Stevenson to ask David Whitmer about it, as discussed here. http://www.lettervii.com/2019/09/david-whitmer-and-cumorah-messenger.html

On another occasion, Joseph Smith identified the "old man" as one of the Nephites as well.

The website also includes David Whitmer's explanations that the person who showed his mother the plates was the same messenger who took the abridged plates from Harmony back to Cumorah.

_____

By now, we would expect these M2C intellectuals to at least acknowledge the actual history. Maybe they would also recognize the doctrinal complication of teaching that a resurrected being, in this case Moroni, could and would change his physical body from a glorious figure taller than average (Joseph was 6'2") to a 5'8" heavyset old man with a long beard and wool suit.

Why does the M2C citation cartel members continue to promote the fake Moroni/Mary Whitmer story?

It's simple. 

M2C trumps everything else.

They absolutely cannot allow Church members to learn that, before leaving Harmony, Joseph Smith gave the abridged plates to one of the Three Nephites, that this Nephite took the abridged plates back to Cumorah, and that the same Nephite brought the plates of Nephi (D&C 10) to Fayette for Joseph to translate them there.

That would mean the repository was really in the "hill in New York" as Oliver Cowdery said it was.  

Which would mean the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 really is in western New York, as the prophets have consistently and persistently taught.

Which would mean M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) is a hoax perpetrated by a handful of LDS scholars who stole the idea from L.E. Hills, who developed the theory in response to criticism of the Book of Mormon that was based on ignorant anthropology.

Which would mean the M2C citation cartel has not only repudiated the teachings of the prophets but has misled generations of LDS students.




Sunday, May 23, 2021

Come Follow Me lesson: D&C 51-57

This week's Come Follow Me lesson includes lots of connections between Church history and the Book of Mormon. I discussed some of those on my Come Follow Me blog, here:

https://comefollowme2021.blogspot.com/2021/05/may-17-23-d-51-57.html

These sections also discuss elements of establishing Zion, as I discuss each week on my How to Zion blog, here:

https://howtozion.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Bottom line on M2C

I continue to write occasionally about the New York Cumorah because it is apparent how deeply the rejection of the New York Cumorah has affected the perception and even the interpretation of the Book of Mormon. 

Half of LDS millennials no longer believe the Book of Mormon is an authentic history, and that number continues to decline as they are taught M2C by CES and BYU. That seems inevitable, doesn't it?

The issue certainly isn't worth arguing about, but it is worth learning about because, as President Nelson has taught, "good inspiration us based upon good information." 

Most discussions about Cumorah involve the difference between lazy and engaged learners. A lot of people are lazily deferring to scholars who promote their own theories, backed up by their credentials. But credentials are meaningless when we're dealing with the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets.

We can't make informed decisions in ignorance. I know from my own experience because I accepted M2C for decades, despite thinking I had been fully informed and had diligently examined the evidence. But then I learned that trusting the scholars was a huge mistake because they were pushing their own theories and deliberately changing narratives to match what they wanted people to believe. I've shown several examples on this blog, and I see more all the time.

I didn't know what I didn't know--and what I learned changed my mind. Now I accept the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, which are supported by the text and the external evidence.


_____

As I've been working on my book on apologetics, people send me new material daily. It is been fascinating to see how committed people are to M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory). Both pro- and anti-LDS authors simply assume M2C and debate from that assumption. 

One thing FairLDS and CESLetter, Book of Mormon Central and MormonStories, BYU faculty and MormonThink, etc., share is their devotion to M2C.

Both sides embrace M2C because it suits their respective agendas, both sides use logical fallacies to support their positions, and both sides resist alternative explanations--especially the New York Cumorah. 

But as Latter-day Saints, we should not ignore the plain reality about this topic. 

The bottom line: M2C proponents reject the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah.

And that's fine. Everyone can believe whatever they want. 

But they must own their position, and they should do it openly.

As readers here know, I've long supported the approach of multiple working hypotheses, meaning there are lots of ways to interpret the evidence and the teachings of the prophets.

However, there is one point that everyone should be able to agree upon (because it's a matter of public record): the teaching about the New York Cumorah has been consistent, persistent, and unambiguous. 

Certainly, many scholars have cast doubt on the New York Cumorah because it doesn't fit their various theories on other Book of Mormon locations or their own interpretations of the text. But their objections don't change the well-established record of prophetic teachings.

So far as I know, no prophet (including members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve) has ever expressly repudiated the teachings of his predecessors about the New York Cumorah.* 

If the modern prophets ever do repudiate the prior teachings, like other faithful Latter-day Saints I'd be happy to go along based on the principle of continuing revelation.

Some people claim that the anonymous Gospel Topics entry on Book of Mormon Geography constitutes a rejection of the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, but the essay doesn't even mention Cumorah. Instead, the entry leaves the issue open for individual study and interpretation.

Which leads us right back to the basic principle that everyone can decide whether to follow the scholars or the prophets. 

_____

M2C proponents rationalize their position in various ways. People can accept these rationalizations, no problem, but here I offer my response.

- Some say the prophets never taught the New York Cumorah, despite the well-established record in the Joseph Smith Papers, General Conference reports, and various books and articles. That's just denial. Accepting this rationale is lazy learning.

- Some say the prophets were wrong because an unknown person in the early days of the Church started a false tradition. The historical record includes Lucy Mack Smith's recollection that Moroni identified the hill as Cumorah the first night he met Joseph Smith. That is corroborated by subsequent accounts by other people, including all three witnesses of the Book of Mormon, Parley P. Pratt, and other contemporaries of Joseph Smith. M2C proponents rationalize this evidence away, but anyone who is unaware of all the evidence is a lazy learner.

- Some say Oliver Cowdery never claimed revelation when he wrote Letter VII. But he also never claimed revelation when he described the visit of John the Baptist, the translation of the Book of Mormon, or other events. He simply reported what happened. Having visited the repository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah, how could Oliver not say it was a fact that the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 was the same hill in New York where Joseph found the plates? The factual nature of Oliver's report, coming as it did to refute claims the Book of Mormon was fiction, makes it more, not less, credible. 

- Some say Joseph Smith adopted a false tradition of the New York Cumorah by having Letter VII copied into his own history, having it republished in Church newspapers, and referencing it in D&C 128:20. But the evidence shows Joseph was the source of the New York Cumorah, not the ignorant adopter of a false tradition. The claim that Joseph adopted false traditions created by others has obvious other implications, which is why unbelievers use M2C as much as the M2C citation cartel does.

- Some say all the prophets and apostles who subsequently reiterated the New York Cumorah were expressing their private opinions and were wrong. This includes members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference. The Church has explained that "Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church." First, Oliver expressly declared it as a fact, not an opinion, as did his contemporaries and successors. Second, this was not a matter of doctrine but of history. Third, this was not a case of a single statement by a single leader, but a deliberate, unambiguous and persistent teaching by many Church leaders over many generations. By contrast, those who repudiate the New York Cumorah typically cite unofficial, second-hand statements by individual Church leaders that are expressly not binding.

- Some say the New York Cumorah must be false because of anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons, attributed to Joseph Smith, which claimed Mayan ruins in Central America were left by the Nephites. But those articles said nothing about Cumorah. Letter VII was published both before and after those articles, in both cases by Joseph's brothers. There is plenty of evidence that Joseph didn't write or endorse the articles in the first place. And the ruins in question post-dated Book of Mormon events anyway. Even some people who accept the articles as authoritative nevertheless accept the New York Cumorah. 

- Some say the New York Cumorah doesn't fit the text because the text doesn't mention snow, there are no volcanoes in western New York, New York is too far from the narrow neck of land, there is no evidence of an ancient civilization of millions of people in New York, and there is no evidence of a battle involving hundreds of thousands of people at the New York site. Each of these objections is based on an assumption generated by M2C. 

The text doesn't mention snow (except to describe white), but it doesn't mention jungles, jaguars, jade, or other elements of ancient life in Mesoamerica. The New Testament also doesn't mention snow (except to describe white), but it snows in Biblical sites. 

There are no volcanoes in New York, but there are also no volcanoes in the Book of Mormon. Some people read volcanoes into the text, but the events actually described in the text match real-world events in North America consistent with the New York Cumorah.

Some people assume the "narrow neck of land" must be an isthmus in Panama or somewhere in Mesoamerica, but there are innumerable geographical features referred to in English publications as a "neck of land," "narrow neck of land," and "small neck of land." Such features are consistent with the New York Cumorah.

There is no evidence of an ancient civilization of millions of people in New York, but there is no evidence of millions of Nephites/Lamanites in the text as a whole, and not even a suggestion that they all lived near Cumorah anyway. Regarding the Jaredites, long before the battle and Cumorah Coriantumr reflected on the loss of "two millions of his people" but he didn't indicate over what time period. This could have been throughout his lifetime or throughout their recorded history going back to Jared (33+ generations), in which case the population would be consistent with the archaeological evidence.  

There is no evidence of a battle involving hundreds of thousands of people at the New York site but the text does not require that in the first place. The Nephites reached Cumorah only after decades of war and fleeing their enemies. Their largest enumerated army, after Mormon gathered in his people, was 42,000. Mormon and Moroni could see only their respective "ten thousand" from the top of Cumorah, but "ten thousand" is a universal term for a military unit, not a precise number. Oliver explained that only "tens of thousands" died at Cumorah, including Nephites and Lamanites. That's consistent with other battles in antiquity, some of which have still not been located by archaeologists. Yet Heber C. Kimball reported seeing the embankments at Cumorah and people finding ancient weapons all around the area.

 

Obviously, this is a brief summary, but there continues to be enough interest in this topic that I thought such as summary would be useful.

_____

*FairLDS has tried to cast doubt on those teachings with various informal, out-of-context references, a point I've addressed specifically and repeatedly on this blog. Just search this blog for whatever quote they offer.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Second interview with Mormon Book Reviews

A thought for the day from twitter:

Don't worry about others when aiming to be a better person. Either they will be inspired to do better themselves or they will do what they've always done. Simply make sure you understand human nature and how to mitigate/protect yourself from it.

_____

The second part of my interview with Mormon Book Reviews has been released. This one introduces my upcoming book, Infinite Goodness.

Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hHY6oNM_ck

Monday, May 10, 2021

To Some 'tis Given

In my comments on Come Follow Me for last week, I mentioned this hymn. 

https://comefollowme2021.blogspot.com/2021/05/may-3-9-d-46-48.html

To Some ‘Tis Given  
46th Ward Hymn, 
Written by Bishop Gordon Low and Richard Rich,
Taken from D&C Section 46

Here's the music and lyrics. You'll see how memorable it is if you play it.

(click to enlarge)






Friday, May 7, 2021

Inertia and Book of Mormon historicity

Recently on this blog we discussed the importance of having an open mind and adapting to new developments, incorporating new ideas, etc.

President Nelson has told us as Latter-day Saints to become "engaged learners" instead of "lazy learners." 

A "lazy learner" is one who defers to others instead of making informed decisions. Their opinions and beliefs are assigned to them by others. By contrast, an "engaged learner" makes informed decisions by studying and evaluating the evidence "by study and by faith."

Given the topic of this blog, it's easy to see how anyone who accepts the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C) just because that is what they've been taught is a lazy learner. And that's fine, if they're satisfied with that. No one can study everything.

There are also engaged learners who accept M2C. They make informed decisions. One of those decisions is to reject the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.* Again, that's fine. People can believe whatever they want.

In my experience, though, both interpersonal and in reviewing the materials produced by the M2C citation cartel, most believers in M2C not only don't know what the prophets have taught, but they don't know about the abundant extrinsic evidence that corroborates those teachings.

It's a fascinating issue because our ability, as Latter-day Saints, to be engaged learners instead of lazy learners has far-reaching implications.

_____

Another way to look at the difference between "lazy learners" and "engaged learners" is something the physicist Richard Feynman said years ago.

The problem is not people being uneducated.

The problem is that people are educated just enough to believe what they have been taught, and not educated enough to question anything from what they have been taught.

Because of information overload in the modern world and the prevalence of fake news from all sides, most people simply accept whatever they're taught. We don't have enough time, energy, or expertise to question everything. We decide which news silo to accept and stick with it.

Plus, people can and will believe whatever they want anyway. Facts don't really matter much. 

Generally, people accept the religion they inherited from their parents. (click to enlarge)


We see similar regional affiliation in the states in the United States.

There is tremendous intellectual and emotional inertia that prevents people from accepting new ideas and beliefs. Otherwise, religious affiliation would be more evenly distributed around the world and throughout the United States.

The foundation of missionary work is the idea that people can and will change their minds when presented with new information. But as every missionary knows, such people are an exception to the rule. 

Missionaries seek people who have an open mind and are willing to listen to new information and a version of reality that differs from what they have known. 

As President Nelson put it, missionaries seek people who are engaged learners instead of lazy learners.

_____ 

We should ask, how do we as Latter-day Saints apply the counsel to become engaged learners instead of lazy learners?

The Gospel is a seamless web of interconnected ideas, information, doctrine, history, and practice. Some things matter to some people more than other things, and each person is different. We prioritize among them according to our individual needs and interests.

Most Latter-day Saints accept the premise that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. Some accept the Book of Mormon entirely on faith, whether because they inherited that belief from their families or because they had a spiritual witness that convinced them. 

Of course, most people in most religions share similar convictions about their respective beliefs. They, too, inherited their beliefs and have had spiritual experiences that affirm their beliefs. 

People of all religious beliefs generally accept their beliefs. Some wonder why others don't have the same beliefs and spiritual experiences they do. Others question their beliefs and seek alternatives. People convert from and to a variety of beliefs for many different reasons.

Preach My Gospel explains that "The Book of Mormon, combined with the Spirit, is your most powerful resource in conversion.... the first question someone should answer is whether Joseph Smith was a prophet, and he or she can answer this question by reading and praying about the Book of Mormon." https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/preach-my-gospel-a-guide-to-missionary-service/what-is-the-role-of-the-book-of-mormon?lang=eng

Some Latter-day Saints accept the Book of Mormon because of the power of its teachings. Again, that's the same basis upon which people of all religions accept their respective religious texts; i.e., they recognize the power of the teachings of their texts.

The Book of Mormon differs from other religious texts, however, because it was written specifically to convince people that Jesus is the Christ. Its origin as an ancient record of a long-lost civilization distinguishes it from all other religious texts. Joseph Smith recognized this when he identified extrinsic evidence as "proof of its divine authenticity."

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-to-emma-smith-4-june-1834/3 

For the vast majority of the world's population, the Book of Mormon has not been convincing because asking them to trade one set of beliefs for another is a non-starter. SITH--the stone in the hat theory-- creates another impediment by reframing the Book of Mormon as a revelation instead of a translation, akin to other religious texts.  

Many Latter-day Saints whose faith is inherited and/or based on spiritual confirmations also confirm or corroborate their faith by historical events. They accept the Book of Mormon because Joseph Smith said he translated it from an ancient record. They accept the teachings of the prophets about its historicity. They engage in learning about the evidence that corroborates the teachings of the prophets.

These Latter-day Saints consider the work of the scholars, but they don't defer to the scholars without first considering the biases and agendas those scholars promote. 

That makes them engaged, instead of lazy, learners.

_____

Right now, BYU and CES students are being taught an interpretation of the Book of Mormon based on the M2C interpretation. These conceptual maps groom students to accept M2C as the only plausible setting for the Book of Mormon.

Look at how BYU justifies its map. [https://bom.byu.edu/]

The Church and BYU stay neutral in questions of exactly where the Book of Mormon took place. [One glance at the BYU and CES maps shows they are anything but neutral. They incorporate, and functionally canonize, the M2C interpretations of the text, including the hourglass shape and the declaration that Cumorah cannot be in New York. The only reason they don't outright show Mesoamerica is because they've been told to remain "neutral," but these scholars all accept M2C.] The Lord could have removed all questions regarding the exact locations of these events but he did not. [The scholars blame the Lord for not revealing these locations, but they have rejected the New York Cumorah. Pursuant to the principle of Alma 12:9, we can hardly expect more light when we've rejected the light we once had.] For that reason, our design team has chosen to develop an internal map that shows relational directions and approximate distances that match the approximately 550 geography descriptions in the text as closely as possible. [This is the message: following the text "as closely as possible" means embracing the M2C interpretation. But the maps also depict the Book of Mormon in a fictional setting.]

Naturally, the LDS scholars who have constructed these maps claim they rely on the best scholarship. But that only makes the problem worse.

These conceptual maps (which I call fantasy maps) teach students that the Book of Mormon does not fit any real-world location. 

Consequently, fewer and fewer students coming out of CES and BYU believe the Book of Mormon is an authentic history.

As Patrick Mason pointed out in his recent fireside in Logan, Utah, according to The Next Mormons, only 50% of Millennials still believe the Book of Mormon is a literal, historical account. (click to enlarge)

The percentage of those who believe it's a literal history is declining over time. The trend is similar regarding other doctrines, but none of the other doctrines on this list involve external evidence. In fact, the other doctrines rely mainly on the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, as we saw from Preach My Gospel.


_____

Everyone who reads the Book of Mormon wants to refer to a map. But what message are we sending to the world if the "best" maps our scholars can produce are fictional fantasy lands?

I've pointed out the futility of constructing an "internal geography" based on the text of the Book of Mormon. Without a starting point, the generic geographical references in the text leave us with nothing but assumptions and speculation. The references are so vague that we can confirm any bias we want.

In an upcoming post, we'll discuss the importance of a starting point.

For now, let's look at the example of the term "narrow neck of land" which appears only in Ether 10:20. The terms could refer to any number of features. Some people infer it's the same geographical feature as the "small neck of land" and the "narrow neck," but why assume that different terms refer to the identical feature? 

In Joseph Smith's day, Panama was often referred to as a "neck of land," which explains why the Pratt brothers taught the hemispheric model (North America was the "land northward" and South America was the "land southward"). When he wrote the Wentworth letter, Joseph Smith deleted Orson Pratt's hemispheric model, which never really made sense anyway. Few people noticed what Joseph did there and the hemispheric model persisted until it became untenable. Today, few Latter-day Saints believe Panama was the "narrow neck of land" of Ether 10:20, let alone the "small neck" or the "narrow neck."

Despite rejecting the Panama scenario, our M2C scholars still teach that these three terms must apply to the same isthmus between two large land masses. Hence, the hourglass shape in the BYU and CES maps.

While an isthmus is one possible meaning of the term "neck of land," other meanings also exist. As I pointed out in Between these HillsGeorge Washington, in a letter to Congress dated November 19, 1776, described his army’s precarious position between two rivers in New Jersey.

Yesterday morning a large body of the enemy landed between Dobbs’s ferry and Fort-Lee. Their object was, evidently, to enclose the whole of our troops and stores that lay between the North [now called the Hudson] and Hackinsac rivers, which form a very narrow neck of land

This "very narrow neck of land" between two rivers is not an isthmus. It ranges between 2 and 5 miles across. And yet, we have LDS scholars who still claim the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is a "narrow neck of land."

William Hubbard, who wrote A narrative of the troubles with the Indians in New-England, published in Boston in 1677, used the term “neck of land” to refer to several of the peninsulas in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. 

On Friday July 15. Our Forces Marched for, and araived at Rekoboth where having no intelligence of the Enemy nearer then a great Swamp on Pocasset, eighteen miles from Taunton; they marched next day twelve miles to an House at Matapoiset (a small Neck of Land in the bottome of Taunton Bay, in the mid-way between Mount-hope and Pocasset Neck) from whence they marched for Taunton.

Warwick, a town near Providence seated upon a neck of land, environed by the sea, was all of it burned by the enemy at several times.

These are just a few of many such examples of how these terms have been used. Yet our M2C scholars, including the purveyors of the CES and BYU maps, don't consider multiple working hypotheses for these terms. They still insist that these three terms all apply to the same isthmus between two large land masses.

It's astonishing, really. 

But lazy learners can be persuaded to believe anything.

_____

Engaged learners will not be satisfied with what they're told. They want to explore these issues in depth by studying the scriptures, the teachings of the prophets, Church history, and related evidence.

Instead of seeking evidence to repudiate the teachings of the prophets, they seek evidence to corroborate the teachings of the prophets.

_____

*M2C believers today frequently claim the living prophets (including apostles) no longer teach the New York Cumorah. I'm unaware of any living prophet who has taught anything about Cumorah, one way or another, let alone any who has repudiated the teachings of his predecessors about Cumorah. 

Given the success of the M2C citation cartel in using the academic cycle to impose M2C as the de facto consensus and the only acceptable interpretation of the text, by now it would be highly disruptive for Church leaders to reaffirm the teachings of their predecessors.  

Instead, the living prophets repeatedly encourage Church members to be "engaged learners" who study the scriptures, the teachings of the prophets, and authentic Church history. 

It's up to us, as intelligent, faithful, informed Latter-day Saints, to reach our own conclusions. Although some of the M2C scholars claim they've been hired by the prophets to guide us in these matters, Church leaders have always taught that it is our responsibility to seek the truth. We cannot delegate this responsibility to the credentialed class, no matter how much the intellectuals want and even expect us to.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Adapting and an open mind


Last Sunday, Elder Gary Stevenson and his wife presented an awesome devotional.

https://www.thechurchnews.com/leaders-and-ministry/2021-05-02/elder-stevenson-worldwide-devotional-balance-vision-212164

Speaking of his own professional career, Elder Stevenson said that vision adjusts with time and experience. This aligns with President Nelson's teaching that we should be engaged learners instead of lazy learners.

“Vision needs to be adjusted regularly and routinely,” he said. “Starting as a small importer of brass giftware and then growing to become a large provider of fitness products required a lot of luck and adjustment to our vision in between. Abandoning and creating a new plan, reinvention and adjustment is a strength, not a weakness.”

This type of reinvention and adjustment is what I hope we see someday with our M2C and SITH intellectuals, who so far are so invested in their theories they can't adapt to new information.

Instead of repudiating the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah and the Urim and Thummim, these intellectuals could and should abandon their approach and create a new plan that supports and corroborates the teachings of the prophets.

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Even Twitter knows more about an open mind and the pursuit of truth than our M2C and SITH intellectuals.

Twitter insights about an open mind.

You can't lose a debate if you have an open mind.

Either you find confirmation or you find the truth. 

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With an open mind you'll always learn something new.

With a closed mind you'll always reinforce your false beliefs.

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The best way to build your self esteem is not on what you think you know, or have.

Rather an open mind or being a "learner" as you're always learning from others.

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Any organization whose very logo decides the outcome of the questions they are supposedly studying is a farce.

If Book of Mormon Central was a legitimate academic endeavor, they would immediately change their M2C logo. 

But they won't because their are obsessed with 

(i) proving their M2C theory with illusory "correspondences," 

(ii) convincing people the prophets were wrong about Cumorah, and, lately, 

(iii) persuading people that Joseph Smith didn't really translate anything but just read words that appeared on the stone in the hat.