Wednesday, October 20, 2021

JS letter to OC, Oct 1829, and visiting with M2C/SITH scholars

The earliest extant sample of Joseph Smith's writing is a letter he wrote to Oliver Cowdery in October 1829. It includes this wonderful passage:

the people are all friendly to <​us​> except a few who are in opposition to evry thing unless it is something that is axactly like themselves

The passage reminds me of what it is like when I visit with M2C/SITH scholars. [BTW, if you're reading this post on Amazon,, or another site, you're missing the additional resources, including explanations of acronyms, on the original blog, here:]

We all love our critics, but it's sad to see how they still resist new ideas--especially new faithful ideas. After all, their education was supposed to give them confidence and competence instead of defensiveness and intransigence. 

Serious scholars would readily and happily spell out all the facts and then compare multiple working hypotheses. But our M2C/SITH scholars continue to refuse to do that. Within the last month I met with several of them and the answer is still the same: no. 

They are obsessed with trying to persuade people to agree with their theories. The last thing they want is for Latter-day Saints to make fully informed decisions.

It's the same with CES Letter, John Dehlin, and other critics. They delude their followers by pretending to seek "the truth" when in reality they share the approach of our M2C/SITH scholars; i.e., they support their personal theories with selective quotations and logical and factual fallacies instead of putting out all the evidence and showing multiple working hypotheses so fully informed people can make good decisions.

Both sides rely on lazy learners who defer to their respective "expertise."

I prefer the approach President Nelson encourages. "Good inspiration is based upon good information." 


The October 1829 letter obviously contradicts Emma's famous claim that Joseph couldn't write or dictate a letter (unless he attended an intense writing school during July-Sept 1829 when he was arranging the publication of the Book of Mormon).

The source note explains that this is a copy of the original letter, so it isn't necessarily an exact copy of Joseph's spelling. "JS, Letter, Harmony Township, Susquehanna Co., PA, to Oliver Cowdery, [Palmyra Township, NY], 22 Oct. 1829. Featured version copied [between ca. 27 Nov. 1832 and ca. Jan. 1833] in JS Letterbook 1, p. 9; handwriting of Frederick G. Williams; JS Collection, CHL."


The letter also contains considerable non-biblical, non-Book of Mormon terminology and phrasing, another indication of the sources of Joseph's lexicon. I agree with those who still believe Joseph Smith translated the engravings on the plates "after the manner of his language."  

I've annotated the letter here: 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Midnight Mormons, Heartland, and the M2C citation cartel

Yesterday, Midnight Mormons discussed the Heartland theory of Book of Mormon geography/historicity.

The Midnight Mormons are good guys, trying to do something positive. We respect that. But they don't live up to their motto, as described on twitter:

We aren’t apologists, we are radio hosts who call out B.S. when we see it.

You can't call out B.S. from a position of ignorance. 

They need to up their game, because everyone can see that CESLetter and John Dehlin are lapping Midnight Mormons (and the M2C citation cartel*) when it comes to informed discussions of Church history, Book of Mormon historicity, and other issues. That explains the disparity in views and subscribers, not to mention outcomes. 

Faithful Latter-day Saints should be the best-informed people in the world on these issues, but that's impossible if they rely on the M2C citation cartel for their information. 

To his credit, at least Kwaku has a somewhat open mind and has looked into a few things. He explained that his M2C bias comes from his friends. The other two, not so much. 

Cardon Ellis asked "what was the narrow neck of land that shows up in like 20 different books." (Actually, it shows up only once, in Ether 10:20**). 

Brad Witbeck admitted he's not "super familiar" with the issues (as if that's a feature, not a bug) and yet he acted as the authority on the show, spouting the talking points he's learned from FairLatterdaysaints and the rest of the M2C citation cartel.

Before Midnight Mormons discuss the Book of Mormon, they need to graduate from elementary Letter VII school. They can start here:

Then they can attend Cumorah school, starting here:

Naturally, they'll consult their friends at Book of Mormon Central, FairLatterdaysaints, the Interpreter, and the rest of the M2C citation cartel. We'll save them some time, because the cartel has one answer:

Midnight Mormons' display of ignorance was shocking, but not surprising. The Midnight Mormons are victims of the M2C citation cartel that uses "disinformation by omission" to keep their readers, students, followers, and donors in ignorance. Midnight Mormons trotted out all the superficial caricatures that the M2C citation cartel has imprinted on the minds of their followers. 

Take Book of Mormon Central as an example. They continue to promote M2C as the only acceptable interpretation of the Book of Mormon. They expressly repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, to the point where Midnight Mormons don't even mention Cumorah, which is the key the prophets have given to understand the setting of the Book of Mormon.


This should be a wake-up call for anyone who still doesn't understand what is happening to the younger generations of the Church.

Thanks to the M2C citation cartel, they are dwindling in unbelief and ignorance. 

Or, as Paul explained, they are "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Timothy 3:7) Watch the way Midnight Mormons stumbled through various speculation about geography, focusing on the "narrow neck" and "snow" instead of the core Cumorah issue.

Let's liken the scriptures unto us, starting with Mosiah 26:1-2.

1 Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, their contemporaries and successors, being little children at the time they spake unto their people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.

 2 They did not believe what had been said concerning the New York Cumorah, neither did they believe concerning the translation of the Book of Mormon from the plates with the Urim and Thummim.

Those of us who are "seasoned" members of the Church are still familiar with the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah. They were in our Institute and Seminary manuals. We learned Church history before the New York Cumorah was "de-correlated" by the Saints book. We still read the original documents in the Joseph Smith Papers so we can see how the Saints book promoted a specific agenda instead of accurately representing what historical figures actually thought.

The M2C citation cartel has managed to create a situation in which faithful Latter-day Saints who want to know what the prophets have taught about Cumorah turn to critics of the Church such as CES Letter and MormonStories.

That should change. Immediately.

Midnight Mormons should help educate the "rising generation" instead of encouraging ignorance.


*M2C = Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, which teaches that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled everyone about the New York Cumorah until modern LDS scholars figured out that the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is somewhere in southern Mexico.

**The "narrow neck of land" in Ether 10:20 is a reference from a different civilization and different time than the Nephite references to a different "small neck" and a "narrow neck" which, because it didn't mention land, was likely a waterway. M2C scholars conflate the three features to make their geography work. Common usage of the term "narrow neck" by early Americans, including George Washington, show that the term can apply to any number of ordinary geographical features.  

Friday, October 15, 2021

More disinformation from the Interpreter

For years, I've been advocating an approach to Church history and Book of Mormon historicity that focuses on established facts accompanied by multiple working hypotheses (interpretations) of those facts. This is a normal, expected academic/scientific approach to any topic. It leads to truth because everyone can see the facts for themselves and then follow the logic and assumptions of the alternative hypotheses. People can reach different conclusions, but at least everyone is making informed decisions.

To date, our M2C scholars and their citation cartel (Book of Mormon Central, FairLatterdaySaints, the Interpreter, BYU Studies, Meridian Magazine, etc.) have refused to agree with this approach. 

Instead, they deliberately keep their students and their followers (and donors) uninformed, misinformed, and disinformed. 

They don't want Latter-day Saints to even know what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, let alone know about the extrinsic evidence that corroborates and supports what the prophets have taught. 

These scholars have invested their careers into M2C, and they fear most Latter-day Saints would reject M2C if they knew all the facts and compared M2C to the alternatives that vindicate the teachings of the prophets. 

IOW, they don't trust Latter-day Saints to make informed decisions because they know most informed Latter-day Saints would reject M2C.

It's a self-defeating approach because, thanks to the de-correlation of the New York Cumorah, more and more Latter-day Saints (and prospective Latter-day Saints) are learning what the prophets have taught from critical sources who frame the issue in a negative way that, as Joseph Fielding Smith predicted, causes members to "become confused and disturbed in their faith."

It would be far healthier and productive for Latter-day Saints to learn in Church and CES/BYU materials what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah. Back when the Church was growing rapidly, Seminary and Institute manuals did still teach what the prophets have taught.

Nevertheless, our M2C scholars persist in censoring the New York Cumorah. I've pointed out many examples of how the M2C citation cartel does this. Today we'll look at another one published recently in the Interpreter.


Readers here will not be surprised to learn that the Interpreter continues to publish disinformation about Book of Mormon historicity/geography issues. I discussed a recent example here:

Next week, we'll look at another example from the 2021 Joseph Smith Papers Conference.

When M2C scholars resort to disinformation to maintain the illusion that M2C makes sense, they expose their own insecurity.

The graphic below explains that the difference between misinformation and disinformation is a matter of intention. (click to enlarge).


The Interpreter article is part of a series of articles that purport to use sophisticated statistical analysis to support the Book of Mormon as an ancient text. It's a transparent exercise in confirmation bias, which is fine; people enjoy having their biases confirmed, regardless of the validity of the argument. 

This article focuses on the resolution of alleged anachronisms in the text, which is also fine.

The disinformation arises from the article's gratuitous and deceitful claim that a geography model based on what Joseph and Oliver taught about the New York Cumorah does not resolve the alleged anachronisms in the text. 

At first glance, readers might assume the claim was based on excusable (but regrettable) ignorance; i.e., misinformation. After all, anyone who relies on the Interpreter for information about Church history and Book of Mormon historicity gets a steady diet of biased disinformation about the New York Cumorah and related topics.

But because the claim is one of the major premises of the article, and because the author purports to be objective and fact-based, it's difficult to excuse the errors on mere mistake.  

Here's an excerpt from my analysis of the Interpreter article, which refers to another article about anachronisms.

The article lists criticisms of the Book of Mormon based on alleged anachronisms, starting with those in Mormonism Unvailed. However, the anachronisms were a bit of a red herring. Even in the 1830s, people knew the Bible contained anachronisms (e.g., candles instead of lamps), but anachronisms that arise from translation are understandable, even expected. Translators use their own lexicon and culture to translate; otherwise, their work wouldn't be a translation. Anachronisms didn't prove the Bible was false.

The overriding objection to the Book of Mormon was that it was not a translation.

Which, perversely, is what LDS scholars are trying to prove today! 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Inspiration for Dune and M2C

I didn't realize that Frank Herbert was inspired to write Dune after visiting the sand dunes on the Oregon coast near where I live. 

We've been there many times.

How ‘Dune’ was inspired by the Oregon coast, at the beautiful Oregon Dunes (

Because while the world imagined in classic sci-fi novel “Dune” may be entirely alien, Pacific Northwest author Frank Herbert first dreamed it up on a visit to the Oregon Dunes just outside Florence.

Coincidentally, some of the Book of Mormon videos were filmed along the Oregon coast as well.


Although there are still some Latter-day Saints who believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, most Latter-day Saints have been taught to repudiate those teachings in favor of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C), which claims the "real Cumorah" is somewhere in southern Mexico.

Just as Frank Herbert imagined an entire dune world based on his visit to the Oregon dunes, our friends who promote M2C have imagined an entire setting for the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica, based on the ideas of L.E. Hills whose 1917 map generated the M2C theory.

Ever since, they've been reinterpreting the text of the Book of Mormon to conform to whatever discoveries are made about Mayan culture in Mesoamerica


More recently, CES and BYU teachers have taught an even more fanciful setting for the Book of Mormon. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Getting offended

Some of our M2C* and SITH** friends continue to get offended when we discuss the topics of Book of Mormon historicity and translation from a faithful perspective that supports and corroborates the teachings of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, their contemporaries and successors, all of whom taught the New York Cumorah and the translation of the plates with the Nephite interpreters. 

Getting offended is an emotional approach that obscures and prevents rational analysis of facts, scriptures, teachings of the prophets, etc. It's far more productive to share views and information and let people make their own informed decisions.

Offended people get defensive and resort to logical and factual fallacies. 

We see frequent examples on the web sites of Fairlatterdaysaints, CESLetter, the InterpreterFoundation, mormonstories, and everyone else who accepts M2C and SITH. 

None of these organizations want people to make informed decisions. They all keep people focused on their M2C and SITH narratives because they know that once people understand there are alternatives, they will no longer depend on these organizations to tell them what to think.

Naval explained why people get offended when they confront alternatives to their worldview.

"You’re offended when you fear that it might be true."

_____* M2C = Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory that Joseph and Oliver misled everyone about the Hill Cumorah in New York.**SITH = stone-in-the-hat theory that Joseph and Oliver misled everyone because Joseph never really translated the plates and didn't use the Nephite interpreters

Monday, October 4, 2021

Temple in Madagascar

Yesterday, President Nelson announced a temple would be built in Antananarivo, Madagascar. We were particularly happy about that one because we lived in Mauritius and spent a week in Madagascar. The new temple will have a tremendous impact on the Latter-day Saints in that area, as well as on their friends, families and neighbors.

Plus, our new illustrated book about Church history from an African perspective is set in Madagascar. The artist is from Madagascar and currently lives in Mauritius. He's a well-known political cartoonist who is very talented, as you can see from the illustrations.

For today's post, we'll use images to tell the story. (click to enlarge)

BTW, this was the same trip during which we visited Moroni, the capital of Comoros, with two books I was working through at the time: Royal Skousen's book on the History of the Language and the Annotated Book of Mormon (see the last two photos).

 Back cover

Front Cover

Explaining temples

In Madagascar

 Antananarivo, with the Mission Home in the distance

Lemurs like salt!

Lemur on the shoulder


Make Cumorah Great Again

Moroni, Comoros, with the Annotated Book of Mormon
Moroni, Comoros, with Royal Skousen's book

Friday, October 1, 2021

America's Destiny... and the Church's destiny?

In the General Conference prior to the U.S. 1976 Bicentennial celebration, President Marion G. Romney gave one of the all-time conference classics. 

Reading it now, 45 years later, the message is even more impactful.

There is an annotated version of the video here:

President Romney said, 

In the western part of the state of New York near Palmyra is a prominent hill known as the “hill Cumorah.” (Morm. 6:6.) On July twenty-fifth of this year, as I stood on the crest of that hill admiring with awe the breathtaking panorama which stretched out before me on every hand, my mind reverted to the events which occurred in that vicinity some twenty-five centuries ago—events which brought to an end the great Jaredite nation.

Within 25 years of President Romney's talk, the New York Cumorah was gradually de-correlated. Certain LDS scholars insisted that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were merely ignorant speculators who misled the Church because, according to these scholars, the "real Cumorah" was somewhere in southern Mexico.

That began the gradual repudiation of other things Joseph and Oliver taught, such as their claim that Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by means of the Nephite interpreters.

Now we're at the point where the most prominent critics of the Church and the most prominent LDS scholars and apologists agree that Joseph and Oliver were wrong about the New York Cumorah and the translation, and that they misled the world about those two key elements of the Restoration.

Everyone can see the obvious results of rejecting what Joseph and Oliver taught. As Joseph Fielding Smith warned, Church members are confused and disturbed in their faith.

People can believe whatever they want, of course, but the healthiest approach would be recognizing that there are many faithful Latter-day Saints who still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught. 

Some of us can still read and accept what President Romney taught, as well.


While America has had a unique and critical role to play in the Restoration, it is no longer the sole gathering place for the Saints.

Modern prophets have explained this quite clearly. 

This gathering of Israel and this building of Zion in the last days occurs in stages. The early part of the work, which involved gathering to the United States and building stakes of Zion in North America, has already been accomplished. We are now engaged in gathering Israel within the various nations of the earth and in establishing stakes of Zion at the ends of the earth. This is the work that is now going forward in all of the nations of South America and of which I shall now speak.

As is well known, ancient Israel was scattered among all the nations of the earth because they forsook the Lord and worshipped false gods. As is also well known, the gathering of Israel consists of receiving the truth, gaining again a true knowledge of the Redeemer, and coming back into the true fold of the Good Shepherd. In the language of the Book of Mormon, it consists of being “restored to the true church and fold of God,” and then being “gathered” and “established” in various “lands of promise.” (2 Ne. 9:2.) “When they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance.” (2 Ne. 6:11.)

Two things are accomplished by the gathering of Israel: First, those who have thus chosen Christ as their Shepherd; those who have taken upon themselves his name in the waters of baptism; those who are seeking to enjoy his Spirit here and now and to be inheritors of eternal life hereafter—such people need to be gathered together to strengthen each other and to help one another perfect their lives.

And second, those who are seeking the highest rewards in eternity need to be where they can receive the blessings of the house of the Lord, both for themselves and for their ancestors in Israel who died without a knowledge of the gospel, but who would have received it with all their heart had opportunity afforded.

Manifestly in the early days of this dispensation, this meant gathering to the mountain of the Lord’s house in the tops of the mountains of North America. There alone were congregations strong enough for the Saints to strengthen each other. There alone were the temples of the Most High where the fulness of the ordinances of exaltation are performed.

However, in the providences of Him who knoweth all things, in the providences of Him who scattered Israel and who is now gathering that favored people again, the day has now come when the fold of Christ is reaching out to the ends of the earth. We are not established in all nations, but we surely shall be before the second coming of the Son of Man.

As the Book of Mormon says, in the last days, “the saints of God” shall be found “upon all the face of the earth.” Also: “The saints of the church of the Lamb and … the covenant people of the Lord”—scattered as they are “upon all the face of the earth”—shall be “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” (1 Ne. 14:12, 14.)

We are living in a new day. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is fast becoming a worldwide church. Congregations of Saints are now, or soon will be, strong enough to support and sustain their members no matter where they reside. Temples are being built wherever the need justifies. We can foresee many temples in South America in process of time.

Stakes of Zion are also being organized at the ends of the earth. In this connection, let us ponder these truths: A stake of Zion is a part of Zion. You cannot create a stake of Zion without creating a part of Zion. Zion is the pure in heart; we gain purity of heart by baptism and by obedience. A stake has geographical boundaries. To create a stake is like founding a City of Holiness. Every stake on earth is the gathering place for the lost sheep of Israel who live in its area.

The gathering place for Peruvians is in the stakes of Zion in Peru, or in the places which soon will become stakes. The gathering place for Chileans is in Chile; for Bolivians it is in Bolivia; for Koreans it is in Korea; and so it goes through all the length and breadth of the earth. Scattered Israel in every nation is called to gather to the fold of Christ, to the stakes of Zion, as such are established in their nations.

Isaiah prophesied that the Lord “shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” The Lord’s promise is: “Ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel.” (Isa. 27:6, 12.)

That is to say—Israel shall be gathered one by one, family by family, unto the stakes of Zion established in all parts of the earth so that the whole earth shall be blessed with the fruits of the gospel.

This then is the counsel of the Brethren: Build up Zion, but build it up in the area where God has given you birth and nationality. Build it up where he has given you citizenship, family, and friends. Zion is here in South America and the Saints who comprise this part of Zion are and should be a leavening influence for good in all these nations.

And know this: God will bless that nation which so orders its affairs as to further his work.

(1977, April, Bruce R. McConkie, Come: Let Israel Build Zion, ¶21 • CR)

The choice to come unto Christ is not a matter of physical location; it is a matter of individual commitment. People can be “brought to the knowledge of the Lord” without leaving their homelands. True, in the early days of the Church, conversion often meant emigration as well. But now the gathering takes place in each nation. The Lord has decreed the establishment of Zion in each realm where He has given His Saints their birth and nationality. Scripture foretells that the people “shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise.” “Every nation is the gathering place for its own people.” The place of gathering for Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; the place of gathering for Nigerian Saints is in Nigeria; the place of gathering for Korean Saints is in Korea; and so forth. Zion is “the pure in heart.” Zion is wherever righteous Saints are. Publications, communications, and congregations are now such that nearly all members have access to the doctrines, keys, ordinances, and blessings of the gospel, regardless of their location.

Spiritual security will always depend upon how one lives, not where one lives. Saints in every land have equal claim upon the blessings of the Lord.

(2006, October, Russell M. Nelson, The Gathering of Scattered…, ¶38–39 • CR)

There is much said in the scriptures about the gathering of the Saints. In the early days, the call went out to converts all over the world to gather to Zion. And they came, first as a trickle, and then as a stream. The Zion to which they came was under terrible persecution and was greatly strengthened by their very numbers.
In an area conference held in Mexico City in 1972, Bruce R. McConkie said: “[The] revealed words speak of … there being congregations of … covenant people of the Lord in every nation, speaking every tongue, and among every people when the Lord comes again. …

“The place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. … Every nation is the gathering place for its own people.” (Mexico and Central America Area Conference, 26 Aug. 1972, p. 45.)

The following April, President Harold B. Lee quoted those words in general conference, and, in effect, announced that the pioneering phase of gathering was now over. The gathering is now to be out of the world into the Church in every nation. (See Conference Report, Apr. 1973, p. 7.)

(1992, October, Boyd K. Packer, “To Be Learned Is Good If …”, ¶11–16 • CR)