Friday, November 26, 2021

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc.

There's a promotion for some of my books going on right now. The Kindle versions are only 4.99 through next Monday. 

A Man that Can Translate: Joseph Smith and the Nephite Interpreters, which explains the evidence that Joseph Smith actually translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim. It includes a new, detailed analysis of the Original and Printer's manuscript, together with other evidence, to corroborate what Joseph and Oliver always said about the translation. 

The book also proposes an explanation for why David Whitmer, Emma Smith, and others who believed in the divinity of the Book of Mormon related the stone-in-the-hat narrative.

https://www.amazon.com/Man-that-Can-Translate-Interpreters-ebook/dp/B083DWSLDX/

 

Between these Hills: A case for the New York Cumorah discusses the extrinsic, scientific evidence that corroborates the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. Far too many Latter-day Saints have rejected the New York Cumorah because of misinformation about this evidence, combined with interpretations of the text designed to justify the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory. 

It's refreshing to see a new perspective with evidence that vindicates the teachings of the prophets and reaffirms the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

https://www.amazon.com/Between-These-Hills-Case-Cumorah-ebook/dp/B08Q69VWJW/

Infinite Goodness: Joseph Smith, Jonathan Edwards, and the Book of Mormon
. This book offers substantial evidence that the Lord prepared Joseph from a young age for his role as translator of the Nephite records. Critics have always sought alternative explanations for the origin of the Book of Mormon, such as the idea that Joseph composed the text or copied (plagiarized) previous books. Critics overlooked a basic point: evidence of composition is also evidence of translation. As the translator, Joseph necessarily used his own syntax and vocabulary, as guided by inspiration. The book also proposes that Jonathan Edwards, the great theologian of the 18th century, served as an Elias for the Restoration.  

https://www.amazon.com/Infinite-Goodness-Joseph-Jonathan-Edwards-ebook/dp/B09C2S6QTW/

Lemurs, Chameleons and Golden Plates is an illustrated history of the Church from an African perspective. Internationally recognized African artist William Rasoanaivo, a Latter-day Saint currently living in Mauritius, depicts grandparents relating the message of the Restoration to their grandchildren. 

In addition to a faithful presentation of the early events of the Restoration, the grandparents explain concepts of missionary and temple work, as well as the process of establishing Zion throughout the world.

https://www.amazon.com/Lemurs-Chameleons-Golden-Plates-Perspective-ebook/dp/B09MFTFK1F/

References for further study are included at the end of the book, including links to the Joseph Smith Papers and other sources. 

BTW, recently the Lemurs book was #13 on the Amazon list of bestselling new LDS releases on Kindle. It's available in French and Spanish as well as English. 

Printed editions are available at Costco and Deseret Book stores throughout Utah, Idaho and Arizona.



Sample pages (click to enlarge):






Wednesday, November 24, 2021

MOBOM newsletter; information brings inspiration

If you subscribe to the MOBOM.org newsletter, you should have received an email within the last day. If you didn't see it, check your "promotions" folder.

If you have any questions, write to mobominfo@gmail.com.

Lots of great things are happening.

_____

Right before Thanksgiving, we can all be grateful for the information the Lord has given to us.

Whenever I do firesides, I like to start off with President Nelson's teaching that "good inspiration comes from good information." 

Recently the Church released a video featuring Elder Uchtdorf teaching the same principle in other words, titled "information brings inspiration."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCSViRFg8v8

This is an important principle on many levels. 

It has a scriptural basis.

It explains how Joseph Smith was prepared for his role as translator and prophet.

It explains how each of us is prepared for our own roles in life.

It explains why the prophets teach us to be "engaged learners" and study the scriptures and "best book" for ourselves.

It explains why deferring to scholars makes us "lazy learners." Scholars can give us good information, but too often they mingle it with their own philosophies, interpretations, assumptions, and conclusions.

We're all far better off studying the scriptures, the teachings of the prophets, and the original documents in Church history for context.

For example, you can get more "good information" about Cumorah from Letter VII than from all the speculation of modern intellectuals who never knew Joseph Smith, Moroni, John the Baptist, etc. 

_____

Some sample scriptures:

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, 

(2 Nephi 2:27)

21 Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.

(Doctrine and Covenants 11:21)

118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
(Doctrine and Covenants 88:118)

The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.

(Doctrine and Covenants 93:36)


Monday, November 22, 2021

Free speech vs censorship

On Thanksgiving week, it's a good time for American Latter-day Saints to remember and think about our constitutional freedoms. Yesterday our Come Follow Me lessons included D&C 134, which discusses the relationship between government and religion. 

President Oliver Cowdery presented D&C 134 to the Church for approval on 17 August 1835.

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/appendix-4-declaration-on-government-and-law-circa-august-1835-dc-134/1#historical-intro


This was about one month after President Cowdery had published Letter VII in the Messenger and Advocate, as you can read in the Joseph Smith Papers, here:

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/83

For ideological reasons, though, our LDS scholars and historians have managed to keep most Latter-day Saints from knowing Letter VII exists, let alone its content. They have created a citation cartel that enforces their opinion that President Cowdery misled the Church about the New York Cumorah, and they don't want the Latter-day Saints to know what he taught. They expect their readers to be "lazy learners" who defer to them, the experts, to tell them what to read and what to think.

On this blog, we encourage Latter-day Saints to become "engaged learners" who read the original sources for themselves. 

_____

For Americans, the First Amendment promises that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."

As Jonathan Turley has pointed out, "Ironically, there is no need for such direct government involvement when social media companies are acting as the equivalent of a state media in the censorship of public debates."

This is the situation we Latter-day Saints face today because the M2C/SITH citation cartels dominate LDS scholarly literature and the M2C publications that draw from them, such as Meridian Magazine.

To the cartel, original teachings about Cumorah are deemed "disinformation" and "misinformation." They claim that entitles them to omit such teachings from their work so that Latter-day Saints, kept in ignorance, will see no alternative to M2C and SITH. 

This is an excerpt from Turley's insightful analysis of a report from the "Commission on Information Disorder."

https://jonathanturley.org/2021/11/18/fighting-information-disorder-aspens-orwellian-commission-on-controlling-speech-in-america/

Excerpt:

The findings and recommendations are found in an 80-page report on how to combat “disinformation” and “misinformation,” which are remarkably ill-defined but treated as a matter of “we know when we see it.”  From the outset, however, the Commission dismissed the long-standing free speech principle that the solution to bad speech is better speech, not censorship. The problem is that many today object to allowing those with opposing views to continue to speak or others continue to listen to them. 

He points out that

However, the most chilling aspect of the report is the obvious invitation for greater forms of censorship. It calls for the government to become involved in combatting misinformation, the scourge of free speech and an invitation for state controls over speech. Ironically, there is no need for such direct government involvement when social media companies are acting as the equivalent of a state media in the censorship of public debates.

Fortunately, we can all bypass the M2C citation cartel because we can read the original documents in the Joseph Smith Papers and make our own informed decisions.

That, for sure, is something to be thankful for.



Friday, November 19, 2021

M2C Education Week - Friday

My objective during M2C Education Week is to promote what Elder Quentin Cook taught: "We can be an oasis of unity and celebrate diversity. Unity and diversity are not opposites. We can achieve greater unity as we foster an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for diversity."

Our M2C scholars and their followers oppose diversity and inclusion. They insist on conformity with their own theories and they utilize their positions of power and influence to erect barriers and exclude faithful Latter-day Saints who seek to corroborate the teachings of the prophets. 

By contrast, so-called "Heartlanders" accept everyone. They not only celebrate and respect diversity, they encourage people to make their own informed decisions. We're confident of our decisions so we are happy to consider others' views without being defensive of our own.

I hope that by educating people about M2C, we can break down the walls and create an "oasis of unity" for everyone who loves the Book of Mormon and wants to share it with the world. We're fine with people believing whatever they want. We just oppose the tyranny of M2C groupthink and hope that someday our M2C scholars will demonstrate tolerance and respect for diversity of thought.

BTW, I realize these posts are long. They're part of my upcoming book on LDS apologetics.

_____

This week we've discussed origins of M2C and the rationales used by M2C believers for rejecting the  teachings of the prophets about Cumorah.

Today we'll discuss three lingering issues:

1. Psychology of affinity and investment.

2. Red herring stereotypes (nationalism, "anti-science").

3. Archaeological evidence.

_____

People often ask, why do LDS scholars refuse to allow side-by-side comparisons of M2C with NYC scenarios? 

[M2C = Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs, NYC = New York Cumorah]

It's such an important question that we will conclude this year's M2C Education Week by looking at the question from several perspectives. 

While it's true that BYU Studies recently published a comparison article of sorts, the thumb was on the M2C scale, as I discussed before. BYU Studies still features the M2C maps as the only acceptable explanation of the Book of Mormon. 

Only lazy learners are satisfied with one side of the issue. Engaged learners want more details and explanations from both sides. They want to make informed decisions.

M2C is an enormous problem because many Latter-day Saints who learn they've been misled or lied to reject the Restoration as a result. There is no justification for the M2C scholars to continue their current approach, but basic psychology tells us they are unable to change. That's why educating the Latter-day Saints by giving them "good information" is the only way to enable them to make informed decisions that leads to stronger commitments to the Restoration.

"Good information" corroborates the teachings of the prophets.

_____

M2C is unlike other academic fields. Normally, we think of scholarship as a pursuit of truth that welcomes critiques, seeks all relevant evidence, and encourages new ideas and interpretations. While everyone has pre-conceived ideas, the pursuit of truth welcomes information and alternatives because "good inspiration is based upon good information" and because "information brings inspiration."

Truth seekers accumulate facts and derive/propose multiple working hypotheses to explain the facts and predict outcomes. Informed people assess the alternatives, select the best, and proceed from there.

While M2C may have originated from this process, today's M2C advocates not only don't share all the information, they don't tolerate alternative working hypotheses.  

Consequently, we can see that M2C is not a legitimate academic pursuit. It's just an exercise in groupthink that is unusually insular because of the unique fiduciary positions its advocates have enjoyed, mainly through their positions at BYU, compounded by affinity bias and other problems.

_____

1. Psychology of affinity and investment.

We've seen from Brother Sorenson's Sourcebook that the development and promulgation of M2C started over 100 years ago when RLDS scholar L.E. Hills and his 1917 map that depicted the hill Cumorah in southern Mexico. (It's awesome that the simulation served up a man with the last name of "Hills" to produce the "two hills Cumorah" theory.)

M2C has competed with NYC (NY Cumorah) ever since. In the last 20-30 years, M2C has become more widely accepted, primarily due to the influence of three friends, shown below in a photo from 1984 during a tour of Mesoamerica.

(click to enlarge)

These are all great guys, faithful Latter-day Saints, well educated, smart, prolific, energetic, etc. 

Put yourself in their places. At an early age, they convinced themselves that Mesoamerica was the setting for the Book of Mormon. Then they found all kinds of "correspondences" to confirm their biases, and they went along with the idea that the prophets never really taught the New York Cumorah in the first place, or if they did, they were merely speculating. We saw how Brother Sorenson's Sourcebook did all of this, as you can see here: http://www.lettervii.com/p/sorensons-sourcebook-annotated.html

In their enthusiasm, these scholars reinterpreted the text of the Book of Mormon, rationalized away the problems they couldn't redefine away, and created a citation cartel of like-minded people who reassured one another and provided an illusory "peer-review" process to present their work as legitimate scholarship. This generated a deep level of affinity bias. 

Over the decades, they have taught and trained thousands of faithful Latter-day Saints, expanding the scope of their affinity throughout the Church. Lately, they have raised millions of dollars to fund Book of Mormon Central to further promote M2C around the world. 

After promoting M2C so heavily and widely for 40 years, we can understand why they would be psychologically and emotionally attached to M2C. Facts and rational analysis are secondary, if indeed they are relevant at all any more.

This is also evident in the writings of employees and followers of the M2C scholars. Some are so deeply attached to M2C that they think anyone who disagrees with M2C is an apostate. 

Psychology Today explains how affinity bias works. 

"Studies in neuropsychology have demonstrated that the neural pathways we use when we think about people in our “in-group” — those friends and family members closest to us — are the same pathways that light up when we think about ourselves. This means that we are biochemically disposed to show more empathy toward these people. On the other hand, we use a completely different pathway when we think of people outside our group, and as a result, are more indifferent to their triumphs and troubles.

"The problem is that creativity does not dwell in the familiar and we need creative solutions for the common problems we all face... collaboration with like minds is usually less fruitful than assembling a broad variety of viewpoints. Odds are that the members of your “tribe” think and problem-solve in much the same way you do. However, things get interesting when we try to try to bridge that gap between “us” and “them” to look at our challenges and creative endeavors in a new light."

Affinity bias prevents the M2C scholars from embracing Brother Sorenson's own observation that "If we are to progress in this task, we must chop away and burn the conceptual underbrush that has afflicted the effort in the past." 

I don't think there's a solution for affinity bias. 

As an unconscious bias, M2C is too firmly entrenched in the minds of the M2C scholars. Psychologically, as one has admitted, the members of the M2C citation cartel "cannot unsee" Mesoamerica. One of them has written, “Stop looking for the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica and start looking for Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon!” 

_____

Back in 1984, when the photo above was taken, I was all-in on M2C as well. I didn't know any better because I trusted these M2C scholars and their collaborators to give us all the best and most complete information. I read all the FARMS publications, attended conferences, etc. 

Less than a decade ago I came to realize I'd been misled. The M2C scholars hid important facts that, once I found out about them, changed my mind about M2C.

Many Latter-day Saints who feel they've been misled or lied to by the M2C scholars reject the Restoration as a result. 

I didn't, primarily because it was easy to see that our M2C scholars were acting in good faith to promote what they had convinced themselves was true. While they like to imply that Church leaders endorse M2C, in reality no Church leader has ever publicly done so. 

Thus, I was free as an "engaged learner" to study all of this for myself and make informed decisions. That's how I arrived where I am today.

But compared with the M2C scholars, it was easy for me to change my mind in response to better and more complete information. I had no deep investment in M2C. Having seen both sides of the issue, it's easier for me now to understand why people think the way they do. 

All that said, people can believe whatever they want. I've met lots of people who think they have "done their research" and have embraced M2C. In nearly every case, however, such people do not know what the prophets have taught because they've relied on the M2C citation cartel for their information. 

I'm fine with people making informed decisions different from my own. It's healthy to have multiple working hypotheses. I encourage people to read a variety of sources, consider different ideas, etc. That's what "engaged learning" is all about. If a fully informed person chooses to believe M2C, that's great. No problem at all. 

However, affinity bias prevails over engaged learning. It erects barriers and prevents the creation of an "oasis of unity."

2. Red herring stereotypes (nationalism, "anti-science").

Another aspect of affinity bias is negative stereotypes. 

One article explained that "Biased attributions can perpetuate negative stereotypes. When an outgroup member behaves in accordance with a negative stereotype, we attribute that behaviour to the stereotypical characteristic they share with their group members, but we attribute positive behaviour to external causes. This preserves the integrity of negative stereotypes. The tendency for biased attributions is more pronounced in individuals who are prejudiced, and where there is a history of intergroup conflict or strong negative stereotypes."

Some of the prominent M2C activists justify their exclusion of alternative faithful hypotheses on the grounds that those who still believe the teachings of the prophets are "nationalists" and "anti-science."

This has been a consistent theme among M2C intellectuals. A recent example is a new book by Michael Ash, a prominent M2C activist and participant in the M2C citation cartel. Here is his background, from FAIRLDS:

Michael R. Ash is a veteran staff member of the FAIR, former weekly columnist for the Mormon Times, and current columnist for Meridian Magazine. He has presented at six of the past fourteen FAIR Conferences and has written more than 200 articles defending the faith. He has been published in the FARMS Review, Sunstone, Dialogue, and the Ensign, and appears in the FAIR DVDs on the Book of Abraham as well as one addressing DNA and the Book of Mormon. 

Michael is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony In the Face of Criticism and Doubt and his second book, Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Michael and his wife Christine live in Ogden and are the parents of three daughters and the grandparents of six.

https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/authors/ash-michael

Michael Ash recently published a book titled Rethinking Revelation and the Human Element in Scripture: The Prophet's Role as Creative Co-Author. He expressed his bias against faithful Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets. 

Notice the pejorative spin he applies when he says he is "vexed" "by the number of Latter-day Saints who swallow uniquely United States of America Book of Mormon geographies."

Brother Ash is not alone in perpetuating these stereotypes. Many of my critics attribute to me the same "American elitism" and anti-science stereotypes. We'll use Brother Ash as a proxy for all the M2C advocates who share his biases.

I have been told directly that these stereotypes are the principal reason why the M2C citation cartel rejects the New York Cumorah and doesn't allow any discussion of these ideas in their publications, conferences, etc.

Obviously, such stereotypes are the antithesis of an "oasis of unity." We see these stereotypes repeated in M2C literature, M2C conferences, and in various discussions with M2C advocates. 

Let's discuss them directly. After all, stereotypes don't materialize out of nowhere. But they are often the product of exaggeration and overgeneralization, as they are here. 

And let's be clear. Brother Ash is criticizing the Heartland umbrella of working hypotheses that center on the New York Cumorah, as opposed to his own M2C hypothesis.

Nationalism. Brother Ash refers to "an American elitism that is not implied in the Book of Mormon itself.

"Elitism" is a fascinating word choice. One definition directly describes the M2C credentialed class, including Brother Ash himself, who look down on the uncredentialed class. "The belief that certain persons or members of certain groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their superiority, as in intelligence, social standing, or wealth."

We'll discuss "elitism" below, but first we recognize that Brother Ash makes a good point: no modern geography is "implied" in the Book of Mormon itself. 

Everyone who reads the Book of Mormon knows it never uses the term "America" or even "western hemisphere." These modern-world connections were originally taught by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Every other teaching about America or the western hemisphere derives from what they taught, which they learned directly from Moroni, who told Joseph the record "gave a history of the aborigenes of this country" and was "written and deposited not far from" his home in Palmyra. 

(Ash and other M2C advocates implicitly acknowledge this or they wouldn't be focusing on Mesoamerica, but they seem willfully oblivious to the reality that these same prophets also taught that Cumorah was in New York. In fact, it is the New York Cumorah and related teachings that led to the identification of America and the western hemisphere.)

Consequently, it is not the Book of Mormon, per se, that implies or teaches anything about America, but the teachings of the prophets, including revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. 

For example, in 1832, W.W. Phelps published an editorial that included this passage:

THE book of Mormon declares that the land which is now called America, is a choice land above all others, and we believe it, because the Lord has said it, and we have seen it. At present, the world thinks much of America because it is trying the experiment of a free government; and the people of the Lord are beginning to lift up their heads and rejoice, because Jesus the Redeemer is setting up his kingdom upon this choice land above all others, and it is no more to be confounded.

(Evening and Morning Star I.7:54 ¶19)

In the October 2001 General Conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley taught "Recently, in company with a few national religious leaders, I was invited to the White House to meet with the president. In talking to us he was frank and straightforward. That same evening he spoke to the Congress and the nation in unmistakable language concerning the resolve of America...

Great are the promises concerning this land of America. We are told unequivocally that it “is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12). The Constitution under which we live, and which has not only blessed us but has become a model for other constitutions, is our God-inspired national safeguard ensuring freedom and liberty, justice and equality before the law.

(2001, October, Hinckley, "The Times in Which We Live.")

Similar teachings are so numerous anyone can find them. 

Perhaps Brother Ash opposes these teachings with as much energy as he opposes the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt that what he opposes is not the identification of America as the "choice land" but the "elitism" that he believes is part of the Heartland umbrella.

The Heartland umbrella covers several variations but they are all based on the premise that Cumorah is in New York. The best-known proponents are Wayne May and Rod Meldrum, who have been working on these issues for decades. 

I know both of them pretty well, but I won't speak on their behalf, other than to say I'm confident they would reject Brother Ash's stereotype.

Brother Ash lives in Ogden, Utah. Most of the M2C proponents share a Utah-centric worldview, including the handful who don't actually live in Utah (but who frequent the state).

Outside of Utah, and outside the U.S., Latter-day Saints are far less attached to M2C--except maybe in Mesoamerica, where Book of Mormon Central is aggressively marketing M2C. 

I've met Latter-day Saints in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia who reject M2C in favor of the Heartland. Such members hardly accept Ash's "American elitism." But they do recognize the obvious reality that the United States has stood for and defended liberty around the world.

Brother Ash not only criticizes "American elitism" but he is "vexed" "by the number of Latter-day Saints who swallow uniquely United States of America Book of Mormon geographies."

His rhetoric drips with contempt. The same contempt permeates the M2C citation cartel generally, as anyone familiar with my own critics can see. 

We can't read minds, but maybe Brother Ash seeks to counterbalance his own stereotype; i.e., he may actually believe that "Heartlanders" unthinkingly and ignorantly "swallow" a North American setting because of their devotion to "American elitism," so he feels compelled to denigrate those faithful Latter-day Saints to "counterbalance" their unacceptable beliefs.

To be sure, there may be Heartlanders who do believe in American elitism, in the sense that they think Americans have some sort of superiority over other nationalities. The Heartland tent is large enough to accommodate a range of beliefs. Unlike the M2C cartel, Heartlanders accept everyone and encourage people to make their own informed decisions. 

But there is nothing inherent in Heartland ideas that involves "American elitism." We all recognize that while America--the United States of America--was once the gathering place for the Latter-day Saints and the promised land for Lehi, today prophets teach that the gathering place and promised land for the Latter-day Saints is the entire world. 

Today, Madagascar and Vietnam are just as much part of establishing Zion as is the United States of America. 

We have to conclude that the "elitism" stereotype is a mere pretext for rejecting the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.   

But what about the "swallow" element that so vexes Brother Ash and other M2C believers?

3. Archaeological evidence.

Brother Ash seems to think that faithful Latter-day Saints who are also Heartlanders merely "swallow" the North American setting. He asserts that they rely on "fraudulent artifacts" and "pseudoscientific genetic paradigms." 

There is some basis for this stereotype because there have been some instances of these things in the past (just as there has been with M2C). But it's an important part of the truth-seeking process to evaluate all the evidence. Only those with confirmation bias reject evidence for ideological reasons.

One of the reasons I came to question, and ultimately reject, M2C was because I approach these issues from a scientific perspective. Besides my law degree, I have a degree in economics and a Masters in agribusiness, essentially an MBA with an emphasis on agriculture, and I've taught environmental science for many years. Lawyers deal with facts and rational arguments, which expose fables and falsehoods. M2C relies on a combination of factual and logical fallacies that are easy to detect once one steps outside the M2C bubble. 

Brother Ash makes a generalized statement (a stereotype, basically), so it's impossible to address his specific complaints. Here I'll explain why, in my experience, Heartlanders are far more evidence-based than M2C advocates.

_____

Even if the prophets had never identified the hill in New York as Cumorah, the extrinsic evidence and the text itself points to New York as the most plausible location for Cumorah. 

To begin with, Moroni put the plates into the hill in New York. He used cement to construct the box, so the only known example of Nephite cement is in New York. He told Joseph that the record was the history of the aborigines of "this country" and that it had been "written and deposited" not far from Joseph's home. That makes far more sense than the theory that he made a 3,000-mile journey, hauling the plates and other artifacts from Mesoamerica to New York, without even mentioning such a journey. 

[One of the most ironic M2C arguments against the New York Cumorah is that Moroni didn't say he buried the plates in Cumorah (as if he could write where he buried the plates after he buried them), but that it is perfectly reasonable to believe Moroni would make this 3,000-mile journey without mentioning it.]

Consequently, as a matter of fact, logic, and common experience, the presence of the long-deposited plates on the hill in New York leads to the assumption that Moroni resided in the area.

As to "fraudulent artifacts," there are abundant authentic artifacts, including weapons of war, that date to Book of Mormon times in western New York. Before the Europeans arrived, rudimentary hilltop defensive positions were common, just as we would expect from armies in retreat as described in the text. There are numerous Hopewell sites, dating to Book of Mormon times, in western New York. Even in 1832, Heber C. Kimball visited the hill and noticed the embankment around it.  

The Hopewell culture from Iowa to New York dates to Book of Mormon times and corroborates the account in the text. The literature on the Hopewell is publicly available, and museums throughout the area are full of artifacts, including head plates, breastplates, etc. Wayne May and Rod Meldrum have accumulated some of this evidence in their books and videos that anyone can see for themselves. No one has to "swallow" any Heartland ideas because the evidence is abundant and easily accessible.

Obviously, comparing the evidence to the text is the main objective. The text does not interpret itself; language is imprecise, and we're dealing with Joseph's English translation, not the original Nephite text. The English text is susceptible to a wide range of interpretations, which is why people can read into it any geography they want. 

Textual interpretation is inherently subjective. There is no right/wrong dichotomy, except from an ideological perspective. If you believe M2C, M2C interpretations are right, while non-M2C interpretations are wrong. But that's a psychological problem, not "truth" in any sense.

The words in the text are facts. They exist. An objective, realistic approach is to recognize those facts along with a variety of interpretations, which I call multiple working hypotheses.

Thus, when we compare the fluid text with the abundant evidence, we can justify pretty much any of the geography theories we want, whether M2C, Heartland, Baja, Panama, Malaysia, etc.

But because the only known location of a Nephite that is universally accepted is Moroni's presence in New York when he deposited the abridged plates, the only rational approach is to start there and work backwards.

Add to that what Moroni told Joseph Smith about Cumorah, and what Joseph and Oliver told us about Cumorah, and we have the ideal combination of "study and faith" that establishes the New York Cumorah. 

Again, no one has to "swallow" anything. Good information corroborates the teachings of the prophets, and the more we learn, the more the prophets are vindicated.

_____

Brother Ash also complains about the DNA evidence discussed by Heartlanders. It's easy to see why. M2C advocates are highly defensive about DNA because there is zero DNA connection between Mesoamerica and the Middle East. They resort to claiming there shouldn't be any such connection, which is what we would expect from cognitive dissonance.

Heartlanders don't suffer from such deep cognitive dissonance. 

Presumably Brother Ash is referring to the X2 haplogroup, which everyone can see is concentrated in two areas in the world. 


By Maulucioni - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10448085

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_X_(mtDNA) 

Haplogroup X is also one of the five haplogroups found in the indigenous peoples of the Americas.[12] (namely, X2a subclade).

Although it occurs only at a frequency of about 3% for the total current indigenous population of the Americas, it is a bigger haplogroup in northern North America, where among the Algonquian peoples it comprises up to 25% of mtDNA types.[13][14] It is also present in lesser percentages to the west and south of this area—among the Sioux (15%), the Nuu-chah-nulth (11%–13%), the Navajo (7%), and the Yakama (5%)

The Algonquian peoples are the ones identified in the D&C (28, 30, 32) as Lamanites. When he first visited Joseph Smith, Moroni "gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham."

Obviously, Joseph Smith did not know about DNA and could not have possibly made the connection we see with the X haplogroup.

That said, the DNA issue is more complicated than the diagram shows because of dating. 

Scientists claim that

no presence of mt-DNA ancestral to X2a has been found in Europe or the Near East. New World lineages X2a and X2g are not derived form the Old World lineages X2b, X2c, X2d, X2e, and X2f, indicating an early origin of the New World lineages "likely at the very beginning of their expansion and spread from the Near East".[10] A 2008 study came to the conclusion that the presence of haplogroup X in the Americas does not support migration from Solutrean-period Europe.[15] The lineage of haplogroup X in the Americas is not derived from a European subclade, but rather represent an independent subclade, labelled X2a.[22] The X2a subclade has not been found in Eurasia, and has most likely arisen within the early Paleo-Indian population, at roughly 13,000 years ago.[23] A basal variant of X2a was found in the Kennewick Man fossil (ca. 9,000 years ago).[24

As a scientist myself, I'm aware of the problem of forming opinions about topics for which I have little education or practical experience. The Gospel Topics Essay on DNA, written primarily by LDS scholar Ugo Perego, reviews this subject extensively and accepts the ideas that I bolded above. The Essay accepts Darwinian evolution and the idea that humans evolved over 250,000 years ago. To the extent that is now Church doctrine is unclear, but as with all the Gospel Topics Essays, I see them as musings by scholars, not as prophetic pronouncements or binding doctrine. 

I'm fine with people believing Darwinian evolution if they want. I'm fine with people believing Adam was created 6,000 years ago. There are pros and cons of all sides of these issues, and I can't say from personal experience which is correct. People of all beliefs feel a spiritual connection with those beliefs as well. What someone else believes doesn't affect me anyway. I don't think there's a legitimate litmus test on any of this.

I'm interested in the pursuit of truth, not adherence to an ideology. 

When I've looked into the DNA issue, the main problem that stands out is the dating. Careful, honest scientists write things such as "most likely" and "roughly," as we see above. I don't have time here to discuss the dating issues in detail, but accepting the prevailing scientific understanding is a matter of faith and probability, not fact. 

On one hand, we have the scientists telling us what the DNA shows.

On the other hand, we have the Book of Mormon describing three migrations to the New World: the Jaredites, the Lehites, and the Mulekites. We have Moroni saying the record gives "a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham." We have Joseph Smith in 1842 saying 

We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. 

Here's how I interpret what he wrote.

We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. 

"America" means the U.S. circa 1842. He's not referring to the west coast or Latin America. He also doesn't say that America was inhabited by only two races of people. For example, he doesn't mention the Mulekites. 

The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the tower of Babel.

Assuming the Jaredites crossed Asia and the Pacific, this explains the Asian DNA throughout Latin America. The Jaredites brought unspecified friends who were not included in the first census, presumably because they had migrated away from Jared and his brother. When Moroni abridged Ether's record, he specified he was writing about people "in this north country," thereby excluding everything south of the New York area. Ether himself was writing only about his own family history over 33+ generations. He didn't mention what happened to Jared's friends, and he barely mentions what happened with descendants of the brother of Jared.  

The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ.

He doesn't mention the Mulekites here, who, as the people of Zarahemla, were more numerous than the Nephites who escaped with Mosiah. The Mulekites presumably sailed with Phoenicians who would have had the X haplogroup as shown in the diagram above. 

They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph.

This is a revision of what Orson Pratt had written in his 1840 pamphlet. The statement implies there were non-Israelites among Lehi's group. Because he's referring to Lehi leaving Jerusalem, he doesn't claim anything about the Mulekites. Possibly Mulek was the only one of Israelite descent who came with that group.  

The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country.

As Nibley pointed out, "destroyed" doesn't mean annihilated. It merely means their civilization disintegrated. Coriantumr wasn't even the sole survivor of the battle at Cumorah. Ether lived to tell the tale, and there's no reason to assume Ether had no family. Lots of Jaredite names appear in the text after the Nephites joined the people of Zarahemla, suggesting an ongoing Jaredite influence, in terms of culture, language, and genetics.  

The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. 

"Principal nation" means the Nephites led by Mormon, and "principle" means the nation most mentioned in the text. It doesn't mean the most numerous, most geographically extensive, etc.  

The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. 

"Remnant" could refer to the remnant of the Nephites, the remnant of the Nephites/Lamanites, or the remnant of all the people mentioned in the text, including the Jaredites. It doesn't matter much, because they were all mixed in Book of Mormon times and would still be mixed by 1842. What matters is the way this statement contradicts and corrects Orson Pratt's speculation about Central America.   

I see all of this being consistent with the DNA evidence--except for the timing.

IOW, as I understand the text and Joseph's explanation, the Jaredite migration involved Asians crossing the Pacific and spreading throughout the western hemisphere, with Ether's ancestors inhabiting the area around the Great Lakes and New York. The Lehite migration involved principally Israelites. The Mulekite migration involved mainly non-Israelite Phoenicians.

This means we would expect to find Asian DNA throughout the western hemisphere with some Phoenician and Israelite DNA in relatively confined areas of the Midwestern and eastern North America. 

That's pretty much exactly what the DNA shows. Again, except the timing is off.

The basic principle that underlies prevailing scientific theories of dating is uniformitarianism, which is "the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in our present-day scientific observations have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe."

I have no way to assess the validity of uniformitarianism, but I recognize it's not "truth" in any objective, ultimate sense. It's a working hypothesis. But so is the working hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is an accurate history, that the prophets relate truth, etc. 

It doesn't seem rational to me to reject what the prophets have taught, even if uniformitarianism seems "more likely" in some sense, because what the prophets have taught resonates with my own experience and observations. For example, it seems highly unlikely that Joseph Smith could have known that there was a genetic connection between the Indians in the New York area and ancient people living in the Middle East.

We all know that early European settlers assumed the Indians were Hebrews. Ethan Smith's book, among others, discussed that. Some thought they migrated through Asia to North America. Some thought they came by ship. But most, including Orson Pratt, assumed all the inhabitants of the western hemisphere had the same origins. Only Joseph Smith, so far as I know, distinguished between the Indians "of this country" and the rest of the inhabitants of the western hemisphere. 

And now the DNA evidence corroborates what Joseph taught. 

Except for the dating.

Which relies on the assumption of uniformitarianism.

Consequently, contrary to Brother Ash's objection, the DNA evidence does not disprove what Joseph taught. It does effectively disprove claims about Latin America, however. (I am happy to ascribe claims about Lamanites in Latin America to post-Book of Mormon migrations, but that's a hypothetical rationalization, not supported by DNA evidence.)

The issue, as usual, gets back to prophets vs scholars. 

M2C advocates such as Brother Ash apply inconsistent evidentiary standards to justify M2C regarding both historical and scientific evidence. I prefer consistent evidentiary standards, and I think it's cool that the extrinsic evidence corroborates the prophetic teachings. 

And I'm find with everyone making their own decisions. 

I remain hopeful that our faithful LDS scholars will come to trust the Latter-day Saints to make up their own minds by making informed decisions based on all the evidence. We don't need M2C curators to tell us what to think.

_____

Finally, regarding archaeological evidence, we have to ask what we should be looking for. Recently an article about Timna in Israel pointed out how even advanced civilizations can become "archaeologically invisible." 

Timna is a fascinating site in southern Israel. Some years ago my wife and I explored the ancient mines and artifacts there. We met an Israeli couple and when they heard we were from Utah, we discussed the comparisons between Israel and Utah: deserts, Salt Lake/Dead Sea, both fed by the Jordan River, etc. Then, because we were at Timna, they said there was one big difference. Utah doesn't have any big copper mines.

Obviously, the didn't know about the Kennecott mine. We explained and we all had a good laugh.

This article points out that the sophisticated civilization that operated the mines at Timna after the Egyptians left was "archaeologically invisible" except for artifacts recently uncovered in the mines. 

In my view, the Nephites were in a similar situation. Aside from the "heaps of earth" and "places of resort" that we can see today, there's no reason to believe they must have left a specific archaeological record. The text never mentions building with stone (except one wall) and we can all see they were often moving about. 

The discussion of Timna includes observations that apply directly to analysis of the Book of Mormon people as well.  

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/archaeological-dig-reignites-debate-old-testament-historical-accuracy-180979011/


But Ben-Yosef wondered why nomads 3,000 years ago would necessarily have been the same as modern Bedouin. There were other models for nomadic societies, such as the Mongols, who were organized and disciplined enough to conquer much of the known world. Perhaps the Edomites, Ben-Yosef speculated, simply moved around with the seasons, preferring tents to permanent homes and rendering themselves “archaeologically invisible.” Invisible, that is, but for one fluke: Their kingdom happened to be sitting on a copper deposit. If they hadn’t run a mine, leaving traces of debris in the shafts and slag heaps, we’d have no physical evidence that they ever existed. 

Their mining operation, in Ben-Yosef’s interpretation, reveals the workings of an advanced society, despite the absence of permanent structures. That’s a significant conclusion in itself, but it becomes even more significant in biblical archaeology, because if that’s true of Edom, it can also be true of the united monarchy of Israel. Biblical skeptics point out that there are no significant structures corresponding to the time in question. But one plausible explanation could be that most Israelites simply lived in tents, because they were a nation of nomads. In fact, that is how the Bible describes them—as a tribal alliance moving out of the desert and into the land of Canaan, settling down only over time. (This is sometimes obscured in Bible translations. In the Book of Kings, for example, after the Israelites celebrated Solomon’s dedication of the Jerusalem Temple, some English versions record that they “went to their homes, joyful and glad.” What the Hebrew actually says is they went to their “tents.”) These Israelites could have been wealthy, organized and semi-nomadic, like the “invisible” Edomites. Finding nothing, in other words, didn’t mean there was nothing. Archaeology was simply not going to be able to find out.


 







Thursday, November 18, 2021

M2C Education Week - Thursday

Today we'll discuss the core issue of M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory): 

Prophets vs. Scholars

It's a very simple point.

We can choose to:

(i) accept what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught about Cumorah, or 

(ii) reject what Joseph and Oliver taught about Cumorah, along with M2C scholars John Sorenson and Jack Welch and their followers.

There is no middle ground.

I write all of this with the greatest respect and kind feelings toward the M2C intellectuals, their followers and their victims. I have no personal animosity toward any of them. I like them and I think they're all great people, faithful members of the Church, etc. I just wish they would at least inform members of the Church about all the facts and let us make informed decisions instead of engaging in this sophistry designed to persuade us to believe the scholars instead of the prophets.

_____

(click to enlarge)
If we accept the New York Cumorah, we start with the pin in the map that the prophets gave us and work from there. 

This means Cumorah is in New York. Full stop.

If we want to discover or speculate about other Book of Mormon settings, we seek interpretations and evidence that is at least consistent with the New York Cumorah. 

This is very simple. 

Otherwise, if we follow the M2C scholars and feel free to repudiate the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, there is literally no reason to restrict our search to anywhere on the planet. The Book of Mormon never mentions "America" or the "western hemisphere." If the prophets were wrong, there is no more reason to look in Mesoamerica than in Malaysia or Madagascar. After all, the prophets who taught that "America" was the promised land are the same ones who said Cumorah is in New York.  

Maybe BYU and CES use a fantasy map that is nowhere on planet Earth because, having rejected the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, they realize they also have to reject the teachings about America and the western hemisphere?

_____

M2C believers push back against the reality that M2C constitutes an explicit repudiation of the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah. 

They say the prophets have never taught anything authoritative about Book of Mormon geography. That claim has been persuasive to many people who don't realize it conflates two separate points. 

Anyone who reads the history can see that the prophets have taught two separate points, both of which I agree with:

1. The Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in New York.

2. We can't say where other events took place.

The M2C believers merge point 1 into point 2 to say the prophets have never known anything about Book of Mormon geography. That leaves them free to reject what the prophets have actually taught about Cumorah, and, because they have credentials, they can assert their own superiority over mere prophets. 

The whole discussion is bizarre because the only reason--the sole reason--why these scholars reject the teachings of the prophets is because the New York Cumorah doesn't fit their preferred Mesoamerican setting and the interpretations they developed to support it.

Our M2C scholars apply all kinds of sophistry and inconsistent evidentiary standards to justify their repudiation of the prophets on the issue of Cumorah. 

There is a deep psychological problem when people look at the plain language of what the prophets have taught and insist they never taught that. While psychologists tell us that cognitive dissonance can blind people to facts that are inconsistent with their beliefs, the M2C blindness regarding Cumorah is well beyond normal cognitive dissonance.

Today, we'll review two examples, a "criterion" from Brother Sorenson's Sourcebook and a "Kno-Why" from Book of Mormon Central.

_____

Here's an excerpt from my annotation of page 353 of the Sourcebook. This is Brother Sorenson's list of "generalized criteria" for evaluating the geography, with my emphasis in bold and my comments:

0.9 It has often been supposed that the Church authorities (particularly Joseph Smith) must have had accurate, and by implication revealed, knowledge about Book of Mormon geography. The evidence is against that view; too many statements from those authorities are in contradiction to the text and to each other to allow us to suppose that anybody knew for sure the answers to the crucial geographical questions. Furthermore, later Church authorities have asserted that definite knowledge about geography has never been revealed to the Church. Hence, statements about geography made by historical figures deserve to be assessed critically in the same terms as do modern statements; those of early date are no more likely to be correct because they were early and none are authoritative.

This outcome-driven assumption is counterfactual because it conflates 

(i) the clear, unambiguous, consistent and persistent teachings about the New York Cumorah with 

(ii) the various statements about other aspects of geography that were always admittedly speculative. 

Notice how easily this assumption disregards the actual historical evidence regarding Cumorah without informing readers what that evidence was. 

Plus, of course, Oliver wrote that the New York Cumorah was a fact and explained to David Whitmer, Brigham Young, and others that he and Joseph had actually visited the repository of Nephite records inside Cumorah in New York. They didn't need to "claim revelation" for that because they had a real live personal experience.

It's not merely a loose or negligent argument to say that Joseph and Oliver, who experienced these things personally, are no more likely to be correct than armchair historians and scholars living today. This is a deliberate effort to undermine the credibility and reliability of Joseph and Oliver and everyone who knew them, as well as their successors in Church leadership. 

http://www.lettervii.com/p/sorensons-sourcebook-annotated.html

_____

Book of Mormon Central publishes a series of articles they call "Kno-Why." In some cases, I refer to these as "No-Wise" because they are misleading at best.

No-Wise #489 is titled, "Where is the Location of the Hill Cumorah?" Here's the link

This is a definite keeper. I wrote about it in 2018 when it first came out. It exposes the paucity of evidence to support M2C's repudiation of the prophets. Let's take a look.

They chose an image that makes the Hill Cumorah in New York appear insignificant, which supports their M2C narrative.

Notice how Book of Mormon Central (BOMC) superimposes their Mayan logo.

This is the logo that, when No-Wise 489 was published, conveyed the corporate mission of their parent company "to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex." 

Later, they changed the wording of the corporate mission to make it appear they are "neutral" about geography, but the logo retains the Mayan glyph to this day.

The logo tells you everything you need to know about the content of no-wise #489. Like all the other no-wise articles published by BOMC, this one promotes M2C.

The leaders of BOMC have been trying for decades (since they formed and operated FARMS) to convince Latter-day Saints that the Book of Mormon is a 
Mesoamerican codex

The book title Mormon's Codex is an explicit statement. 

The biggest obstacle to M2C is the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. The M2C advocates overcome the obstacle first by pretending those teachings don't exist. Whenever a Latter-day Saint stumbles across those teachings, the M2C advocates claim the prophets were wrong.

Let's observe how they do so in no-wise #489. In some respects, these "Kno-Why" articles are highly sophisticated persuasion, almost as if they'd been written by a lawyer to obscure the truth while not crossing the line into outright falsehood. In this case, though, they erred and did cross the line.
_____

Here's an extract from the no-wise in blue, along with my comments in red.

Not much is known about the land and hill Cumorah. 

This is effective writing because people often read only the first line or two of a passage. The first line is also a thesis statement that influences everything that follows. BOMC knows this. They expect their followers to not bother with the details. If "not much is known," then everyone is guessing, and one person's guess is as good as another's. This is the essence of BOMC's argument.

Plus, it is written in passive voice, purporting to convey a universal truth, as if no one can know much about Cumorah, and the author is such an expert that he/she knows all that is known and therefore can declare "not much is known" by anyone.  

"Much" is a relative term, so the statement cannot be disproven, but in fact, quite a bit is known about the land and hill Cumorah. Prophets have described what they've seen from the top of the hill. Letter VII explains the facts of what happened there, including the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites and the depository of Nephite records. Soon after he joined the Church, Heber C. Kimball visited the hill and observed the embankments that have since been plowed under. Joseph, Oliver and others visited the repository in the hill and we have fairly detailed descriptions of the contents.

The only Book of Mormon authors to discuss the location were Mormon and Moroni. 

Plus Ether. We know from Ether 15 that Coriantumr's army pitched their tents by the hill, and that the final Jaredite war took place there, consisting of a few thousand followers of Coriantumr vs. a few thousand followers of Shiz. Extrapolating backward from the numbers Ether gave us, the total number of combatants was apparently fewer than 10,000, which corroborates Letter VII. 

Based on a statement given by Mormon, the land of Cumorah was “a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains” (Mormon 6:4). 

This is consistent with western New York, as even Brother Sorenson acknowledged. I discussed this here:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2018/01/getting-real-about-cumorah-part-3-many.html

Other geographical clues given in the Book of Mormon appear to situate Cumorah north of the narrow neck of land and near an eastern seacoast (cf. Mormon 2:3, 20, 29; Ether 9:3).1 

You can read these verses yourself and see they don't say what is claimed here. Mormon 2 doesn't even refer to the "narrow neck of land." That was a Jaredite term, found only in Ether 10:20. Mormon 2:29 refers to a "narrow passage." Conflating these different terms is one of the major logical fallacies behind M2C, along with the M2C assumption that the "land northward" is a proper noun instead of a relative term. Ether 9:3 says Ablom, not Cumorah, was by the seashore. 

Note 1 is yet another example of the M2C citation cartel. "David Palmer, In Search of Cumorah: New Evidences for the Book of Mormon in Ancient Mexico (Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers, 1981), 28–53, esp. 44–53; Matthew P. Roper, “Plausibility, Probability, and the Cumorah Question,” Religious Educator 10, no. 2 (2009): 135–158. These additional criteria for the location of Cumorah inferred from the text have been critiqued by Andrew H. Hedges, “Cumorah and the Limited Mesoamerican Theory,” Religious Educator 10, no. 2 (2009): 111–134.

As Brother Sorenson explained in his Sourcebook, David Palmer was an M2C advocate. Matt Roper is an employee of Book of Mormon Central and a long-time M2C advocate. Andrew Hedges is the designated M2C skeptic who also wrote the recent article in BYU Studies that we discussed here:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2021/10/byu-studies-strikes-again-part-1.html 

The hill itself was tall enough that it could be used as a strategic defensive position as well as an observation point for surveillance of the surrounding countryside (Mormon 6:2, 7, 11).

Nothing in the texts suggests it was the height of Cumorah that made it a strategic defensive position, although we can't exclude that as a possibility. After all, it's called a "hill," not a "mount" or "mountain." 

Alternatively, Mormon could have chosen it because he knew Coriantumr had constructed a fortress there. Maybe the embankments that Heber C. Kimball observed were originally constructed by the Jaredites, so Mormon could use or rebuild those. It's true that Mormon could see two military units (10,000 is a unit, not an exact number) of his dead people from the top, and presumably an equivalent number of Lamanites. The valley west of Cumorah is a mile wide and can easily accommodate this many people. Thousands of visitors attend the pageant every year. Audiences of 5,000, including all their cars and buses and concession stands, don't fill even the area between the hill and the highway.
_____

Now, let's turn to the sophistry.

There is “no historical evidence that Moroni called the hill ‘Cumorah’ in 1823” during his first encounter with the Prophet Joseph Smith. 

This is a patently false statement. Anyone can read Lucy Mack Smith's account in the Joseph Smith Papers, where she reported that during his first visit in 1823, Moroni told Joseph "the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars of cement— then the angel left him"

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

People can choose to disbelieve what Lucy said there, but there is corroborating evidence from Parley P. Pratt and others. 

We also know from Lucy Mack Smith that Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah in 1827, before he obtained the plates (and well before he translated them). 

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1845/110

In both cases these statements constitute "historical evidence" that BOMC denies exists. Anyone can disbelieve or argue against them, but they are still historical evidence.  

More importantly, this is an example of the inconsistent evidentiary standards the M2C scholars apply. They argue that Lucy's statements were recorded "late," meaning after Joseph died in 1844. By normal standards of historical analysis, that has little bearing on their accuracy, particularly where she used quotation marks in the second example to quote exactly what Joseph said. She also related specific details that bear indicia of authenticity, such as the grass on the stone that Joseph had to clear off.

Whether Lucy kept a journal or other notes she consulted when she dictated her history is not known, but historians rely on her history as the only source for much of Joseph's biography, including events that occurred before 1823. 


The name Cumorah came into “common circulation [amongst Latter-day Saints] no earlier than the mid-1830s.”2 The first documented person to identify the drumlin hill3 in Manchester, New York where Joseph Smith received the plates with the hill Cumorah appears to have been William W. Phelps in 1833.4

Notice the sophistry here. No-wise #489 wants you to think Cumorah is not in New York because this 1833 publication is "late" and was published by Phelps. By that standard, we should reject the First Vision, which wasn't published until even later. 

The question is not when the name Cumorah was first published, but but when it was first known (which as we just saw was before Joseph even got the plates, and we'll discuss this more below). The no-wise is trying to get you to think past the sale; i.e., it wants you to think "common circulation" is the relevant point, when that is actually nothing more than a function of when members of the Church were able to publish a newspaper.


The first Church newspaper was The Evening and the Morning Star, published in Missouri by W.W. Phelps starting in June 1832. 


Not surprisingly, Phelps didn't publish everything in the first issue. He covered a variety of topics, including the Ten Tribes and the Resurrection, in the first issues. He also published the early revelations that were later published in the Book of Commandments and today's D&C.


Issue #8, January 1833, focused on the Book of Mormon. Phelps published this:


But before the glorious and happy results of this book are set forth, it seems necessary to go back to the time it was brought forth. In the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty seven, the plates came forth from the hill Cumorah, which is in the county of Ontario, and state of New-York, by the power of God.

You can read this yourself here:

http://www.centerplace.org/history/ems/v1n08.htm


IOW, the very first LDS publication declared that Cumorah was in New York in its eighth issue. If Phelps had published it in the first issue, would that have made a difference? If he had waited until the 10th or 12th issue to focus on the Book of Mormon, would that have made a difference?

Book of Mormon Central wants you to believe that Phelps unilaterally invented the New York Cumorah in 1833.


A more realistic way to consider this evidence is that the New York Cumorah was so well known among those who knew Joseph and Oliver that there was no urgency in announcing it sooner. Why? 


Notice that Phelps doesn't make a big deal about the New York Cumorah. He published it as a fact, not as speculation. He explains where Cumorah is, but doesn't feel any need to justify the name or explain why he calls it Cumorah. When you read the statement in context, you see that he is reporting to the world facts that were already well known to the Saints.


Phelps’s identification was later followed by Oliver Cowdery in 1835.5 

This is beautiful sophistry. 

Remember, Book of Mormon Central wants you to believe that Phelps invented the New York Cumorah. Here, they suggest that Oliver Cowdery merely copied Phelps' lead. 


You have to go to the footnotes to see that the reference is to Letter VII. Then they give you a link to Book of Mormon Central's own site, not to an original source (such as the Joseph Smith Papers). This allows BOMC to editorialize through their "More Like This" suggested readings to link to M2C-oriented material. 


By not linking to the Joseph Smith Papers, BOMC obscures the fact that Joseph had his scribes copy Letter VII into his own history, and that Joseph encouraged others to republish Letter VII, as we'll see next.


Probably due to the popularity and influence of these two early leaders’ writings, the identification of the hill in New York as same the hill Cumorah mentioned by Mormon in Book of Mormon became commonplace amongst early Latter-day Saints.6

Here, no-wise #489 glosses over a key fact that perceptive readers have already noticed. First, though, notice what they're trying to establish here. According to Book of Mormon Central, the only reason people believed Cumorah was in New York is because a couple of obscure articles from 1833 and 1835 became "popular." 

BOMC doesn't tell you that Phelps' article was so "popular" that it was never reprinted and had limited circulation in the first place. Instead, they try to persuade you that it "influenced" Oliver Cowdery.


So then we ask, why were Oliver's letters, including Letter VII, so popular and so often republished?


Here are some reasons that Book of Mormon Central will never tell you. In fact, they removed from their archive a little book that explained all of this and instead issued another no-wise that tries to persuade Church members to disbelieve Letter VII.


1. Joseph Smith helped write the letters.
2. Oliver was the Assistant President of the Church when he wrote and published Letter VII. The entire First Presidency endorsed the letters, as did every member of the Twelve who ever commented on them (through the present day).
3. Joseph had his scribes copy the letters, including Letter VII, into his personal history, where you can read it today in the Joseph Smith Papers. See link here: http://www.lettervii.com/
4. Joseph authorized Benjamin Winchester to reprint the letters in the Gospel Reflector newspaper.
5. Joseph gave the letters to his brother Don Carlos to reprint in the Times and Seasons.
6. Joseph's brother William reprinted them in the New York City newspaper called The Prophet.
7. Parley P. Pratt reprinted them in the Millennial Star.
8. The letters were so popular in England that, in response to popular demand, they were compiled into a special pamphlet that sold thousands of copies.


As far as can be determined, the Prophet Joseph Smith himself only associated the hill in New York with the Cumorah in the Book of Mormon towards the end of his life.

This is outstanding sophistry and misdirection.

By using the passive voice--"as far as can be determined"--the anonymous author assumes omniscience and conveys the false message that no one can find anything to the contrary. 


Earlier in this post I pointed out the well-known statement from Lucy Mack Smith, where she specifically quoted Joseph referring to the hill as Cumorah in 1827 before he even got the plates. (We'll see how BOMC deals with that in a moment.) 


Notice also the term "himself" in this sentence. That's there because Joseph expressly helped Oliver write the historical letters, including Letter VII. It's also there to exclude statements from everyone else, as we'll see.

We also have accounts of both David Whitmer and Martin Harris referring to Cumorah before the Book of Mormon was published. 

In an 1842 epistle the Prophet spoke of hearing “Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:20).7

Notice how Joseph didn't explain Cumorah at all. He didn't need to because his readers already knew all about Cumorah. This 1842 epistle was published in the September 1842 Times and Seasons. Every reader of the Times and Seasons knew where and what Cumorah was because the 1841 Times and Seasons had republished Letter VII. Joseph had given the 8 essays to his brother Don Carlos to republish them. 


Before then, Joseph left the name of the New York hill where Moroni gave him the plates unnamed in his accounts of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.8 

I discussed this here:


https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-hill-in-new-york-problem.html 


Now, notice this sentence:


Whether the Prophet arrived at this conclusion about the location of Cumorah by revelation, or by conforming to usage that had become common among the early members of the Church about Book of Mormon geography, or in some other way is historically unknown.9

Do you see how they are salting the earth here? They want members of the Church to believe that Joseph Smith misled the Church by "conforming" to a false "usage" created by unknown early members of the Church.

That assertion by M2C intellectuals is the first step toward their eventual repudiation of all the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah. They actually expect you to believe that Joseph Smith adopted and endorsed a false tradition, and that this false tradition is now canonized in D&C 128.


Plus, as we've seen, it's not "historically unknown" that Joseph learned the name Cumorah before he even obtained the plates. Lucy told us Moroni identified the hill by name the first night he appeared to Joseph.

Furthermore, David Whitmer learned the name Cumorah for the heavenly messenger who was taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah. 

But wait. It gets worse.


In the decades after Joseph Smith’s death, other prominent early Latter-day Saints, including Lucy Mack Smith,10 Parley P. Pratt,11 and David Whitmer,12 recounted earlier incidents in which the New York hill was identified as Cumorah by the angel Moroni and by Joseph Smith. Since these statements are somewhat late recollections, coming after the identity of Cumorah as a hill near Palmyra, New York, had become widespread, they should be used cautiously.13

"Used cautiously" is a euphemism for disbelieving them. Here, Book of Mormon Central wants you to believe that Lucy, Parley, and David all lied about the New York Cumorah, and thereby, like Joseph, misled the Church. 

Furthermore, BOMC wants you to believe that all subsequent prophets and apostles who have ever addressed the topic likewise misled the Church. 

Similarly, second and thirdhand sources from after Joseph Smith’s lifetime speak of a hidden cave within the New York drumlin which supposedly contains an abundance of surviving Nephite records (presumably Mormon’s repository described in Mormon 6:6).14 

As described by these sources, Joseph and Oliver are said to have entered the cave and beheld this repository after finishing the translation of the Book of Mormon. However, these sources are based on hearsay, and are somewhat ambiguous as to whether Joseph and Oliver’s purported experience was literal or they were taken there in a vision.15 As with other late or second-hand reminiscences describing any hill as Cumorah, these accounts should likewise be viewed cautiously.

In 1835's Letter VII Oliver explicitly stated that the repository was in the New York Cumorah. There was no "supposedly" about it. Brigham Young pointed out that Oliver did not discuss the repository "in meeting," but that he had told Brigham and others privately. David Whitmer also said Oliver told him about visiting the repository.  

This is another example of inconsistent standards of proof. BOMC expects us to treat Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Wilford Woodruff as unreliable (if not dishonest) reporters of what Oliver Cowdery told them because Oliver's account contradicts M2C, yet these same M2C scholars scour newspapers and books (all second and thirdhand sources) for scraps of evidence about the early history of the Church. 

The identification of the Hill Cumorah in New York as being the same hill where the Nephites perished has remained commonplace amongst members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.16 

The identification of Cumorah was "commonplace" among Joseph's contemporaries more than any accounts of the First Vision and Restoration of the Priesthood. For example, David Whitmer denied hearing about those latter two events, but he affirmed Cumorah. Yet our scholars reject his statements about Cumorah. There are no contemporaneous accounts of the First Vision or Priesthood restoration. Even Lucy does not mention them. 

However, most Church leaders have simply and accurately said that the geography of the Book of Mormon is not revealed.17 

Note 17 is one of my favorites. As vague as the claim is, it's not even true. "Most" Church leaders have been silent about this topic. Those who are on the record have all reaffirmed the New York Cumorah while pointing out that non-Cumorah sites have not been revealed.

Note 17 consists of an obscure, out-of-context quotation by Harold B. Lee that is currently being used by people in the Correlation Department to screen out any material that contradicts M2C. Anyone who writes to the First Presidency about this topic gets a letter quoting the Lee statement--with no mention of official statements such as Letter VII or General Conference talks. 

It's also a favorite of FairLatterdaySaints. I've addressed it before here:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2017/10/fairmormon-famous-harold-b-lee-quotation.html

In reality, every Church leader who has addressed the topic has affirmed the New York Cumorah. They have also affirmed the equally consistent and persistent teaching that we don't know for sure where the other events took place. This has been the case from the early days of the Church through the present, but Book of Mormon Central and the rest of the M2C citation cartel constantly try to conflate the two separate issues to confuse and mislead members of the Church.

Additionally, several Latter-day Saint scholars have questioned whether the hill in New York could feasibly be the hill Cumorah described in the Book of Mormon.

Here it is. They want you to believe the scholars, not the prophets. 

They follow this with a long paragraph about how the prophets couldn't possibly be right, complete with a citation to the M2C Bible, Mormon's Codex, which declares that the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are "manifestly absurd."

Due to inconsistencies between the location of the hill described in the Book of Mormon and the real-world topography of western New York, as well as the lack of any archaeological evidence for the violent, mass destruction of hundreds of thousands of people in one concentrated location in that area through sustained warfare (cf. Mormon 6:10­–15), some have suggested that the location of the final battle took place somewhere other than the New York hill, such as in modern day Mexico just northwest of the isthmus of Tehuantepec.18 

The "inconsistencies" are between the M2C interpretation of the Book of Mormon and the topography. The M2C scholars have been interpreting the text so long they have lost sight of what it actually says. I've had some M2C followers tell me about the "narrow strip of mountainous wilderness" in the Book of Mormon, a term that is not in the text but is in Brother Sorenson's rendition of the text.  

The idea of "mass destruction of hundreds of thousands of people" is one possible interpretation of the text, but not the only one. Worse, it is not a plausible interpretation, and it contradicts Letter VII. The M2C interpretation requires a mountain, not a hill.

Because Moroni had to flee for his life, getting away from the area of the final battle and wandering wherever he could “for the safety of [his] own soul” (Moroni 1:1–3), and because he did not bury the plates until A. D. 421 (Moroni 10:1), which was 36 years after the final battle at the Nephite hill (Mormon 6:5), one could expect that thousands of miles might lie between that battle site and the final repository of the plates.

It is irrational to think that it would be safer or more prudent for Moroni to journey thousands of miles through unknown and treacherous wilderness instead of remaining in the land he knew well. "Wandering" is not "journeying a long distance to a destination."  The word means "To rove; to ramble here and there without any certain course or object in view." Furthermore, according to M2C Moroni traveled more in 36 years than the entire Nephite and Jaredite civilizations did in over 1,000 years.

“Those who assume that the final Book of Mormon events took place in what is now the northeastern United States believe that the hill in upstate New York is the only hill called Cumorah,” wrote one historian summarizing the issue. 

Of course, this states the point exactly backwards. It is not an assumption about where the events took place that drives the decision; it's accepting what the prophets have taught about Cumorah. Assumptions about other events derive from those teachings.  

“Others conclude there must be two hills called Cumorah: one in Central America, where they believe the final battles of the Book of Mormon took place; and the other in New York, where Moroni ultimately buried the gold plates he later delivered to Joseph Smith.”19

Notice the changed rhetoric that gives weight to the scholars. The M2C scholars "conclude" while the NY Cumorah believers merely "assume." 

The Church itself has no official position on this matter, leaving individual Latter-day Saints to decide for themselves which theory they prefer to follow.20

Of course, for over 100 years the Church did have an official position, as Joseph Fielding Smith pointed out when he explained that the Church taught Cumorah was in New York. It is only in recent years, as the M2C scholars have successfully trained students to disbelieve the teachings of the prophets, that the Church de-correlated the New York Cumorah.

And that's a wise position to take. People should be engaged learners, not lazy learners. But the M2C scholars reject the Church's position, as demonstrated by BOMC's continued use of its Mayan logo.



_____

When we read the polemical and agenda-drive no-wise such as #489, we are reminded of Orwell's NEWSPEAK and old Soviet Pravda articles. This no-wise is pure censorship, dressed up to look as if it is balanced or neutral. You have to read it carefully to detect what's going on, but the message is clear.

Book of Mormon Central doesn't want you to know what the prophets have taught. 

They want you to believe the scholars, who, according to the M2C intellectuals, have been hired by the prophets to guide the Church.

To reiterate: I write all of this with the greatest respect and kind feelings toward the M2C intellectuals, their followers and their victims. I have no personal animosity toward any of them. I think they're all great people, faithful members of the Church, etc. I just wish they would at least inform members of the Church about all the facts and let us make informed decisions instead of engaging in this sophistry designed to persuade us to believe the scholars instead of the prophets.

_____

Footnotes to the No-wise:


Further Reading

Rex C. Reeve, Jr. and Richard O. Cowan, “The Hill Called Cumorah,” in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: New York, ed. Larry C. Porter, Milton V. Backman, Jr., and Susan Easton Black (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1992), 71–91.

Sidney B. Sperry, “Were There Two Cumorahs?” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4, no. 1 (1995): 260–68.

Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 13, no. 1–2 (2004). [This entire issue of the journal is dedicated to topics surrounding the Hill Cumorah.]

Book of Mormon Central, “Where Did the Book of Mormon Happen?” KnoWhy 431 (May 8, 2018).

Jed Woodworth and Matt Grow, “Saints and Book of Mormon Geography,” online at www.history.lds.org

 

 

  • 1.David Palmer, In Search of Cumorah: New Evidences for the Book of Mormon in Ancient Mexico (Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers, 1981), 28–53, esp. 44–53; Matthew P. Roper, “Plausibility, Probability, and the Cumorah Question,” Religious Educator 10, no. 2 (2009): 135–158. These additional criteria for the location of Cumorah inferred from the text have been critiqued by Andrew H. Hedges, “Cumorah and the Limited Mesoamerican Theory,” Religious Educator 10, no. 2 (2009): 111–134.
  • 2.Jed Woodworth and Matt Grow, “Saints and Book of Mormon Geography,” online at www.history.lds.org.
  • 3.See Michael J. Dorais, “The Geologic History of Hill Cumorah,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 13, no. 1–2 (2004): 136–43, 173–74.
  • 4.William W. Phelps, “The Book of Mormon,” The Evening and the Morning Star 1, no. 8 (January 1833): 57.
  • 5.Oliver Cowdery, “Letter VII,” in Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 1, no. 10 (July 1835): 158–159.
  • 6.This is reflected in early Latter-day Saint popular culture, such as hymns which speak of Cumorah. See for instance “An angel came down from the mansions of glory,” in A Collection of Sacred Hymns, comp. Emma Smith (Kirtland, Ohio: F. G. Williams, 1835), #16; “An Angel from on high,” in A Collection of Sacred Hymns, comp. Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, and John Taylor (Manchester, England: W. R. Thomas, 1840), #197. Contemporaneous Latter-day Saint missionary publications likewise reflect this understanding. See Orson Pratt, A Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records (Edinburgh, Scotland: Ballantyne and Hughes, 1840), 22; Orson Pratt, “The Hill Cumorah,” The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 28, no. 27 (7 July 1866): 417–419.
  • 7.Letter to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” 6 September 1842 [D&C 128], 7.
  • 8.See History, circa Summer 1832, 4; History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834], addendum, 7; Elders’ Journal (July 1838): 43.
  • 9.See Matthew Roper, “Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations,” FARMS Review 16, no. 2 (2004): 225–275; “Joseph Smith, Revelation, and Book of Mormon Geography,” FARMS Review 22, no. 2 (2010): 15–85; Matthew Roper, Paul J. Fields, and Atul Nepal, “Joseph Smith, the Times and Seasons, and Central American Ruins,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22, no. 2 (2013): 84–97; Neal Rappleye, “‘War of Words and Tumult of Opinions’: The Battle for Joseph Smith’s Words in Book of Mormon Geography,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 11 (2014): 37–95; Matthew Roper, “John Bernhisel’s Gift to a Prophet: Incidents of Travel in Central America and the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 16 (2015): 207–253; Mark Alan Wright, “Joseph Smith and Native American Artifacts,” in Approaching Antiquity: Joseph and the Ancient World, edited by Lincoln H. Blumell, Matthew J. Grey, and Andrew H. Hedges (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2015), 119–140; Matthew Roper, “Joseph Smith, Central American Ruins, and the Book of Mormon,” in Approaching Antiquity, 141–162; Brant A. Gardner, Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2015), 375–379.
  • 10.Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, 11, bk. 3; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 104.
  • 11.Parley P. Pratt, Jr., ed., The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt (New York, NY: Russell Brothers, 1874), 59.
  • 12.David Whitmer Interview with Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith, 7–8 September 1878, in Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 2003), 5:44–45.
  • 13.Martin Raish, “Encounters with Cumorah: A Selective, Personal Bibliography,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 13, no. 1–2 (2004): 40; Brant A. Gardner, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2011), 129–131.
  • 14.Cameron J. Packer, “Cumorah’s Cave,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 13, no. 1–2 (2004): 50–57, 170–71.
  • 15.Packer, “Cumorah’s Cave,” 52. “With these reports of a cave in the Hill Cumorah comes the question, Was this a real cave that Joseph and others actually walked into, or was it a visionary, or ‘virtual,’ experience? The wording of the accounts leaves the issue open.” See also John A. Tvedtnes, “Review of Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon by Brenton G. Yorgason,” FARMS Review of Books 2, no. 1 (1990): 258–259; John E. Clark, “The Final Battle for Cumorah,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6, no. 2 (1994): 95–98.
  • 16.See for instance Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1956), 3:232–243; Marion G. Romney, “America’s Destiny,” Ensign (Nov 1975); Rod L. Meldrum, Exploring the Book of Mormon in America’s Heartland: A Visual Journey of Discovery (New York, NY: Digital Legend, 2011), 38–47.
  • 17.“Some say the Hill Cumorah was in southern Mexico (and someone pushed it down still farther) and not in western New York. Well, if the Lord wanted us to know where it was, or where Zarahemla was, he’d have given us latitude and longitude, don’t you think? And why bother our heads trying to discover with archaeological certainty the geographical locations of the cities of the Book of Mormon like Zarahemla?” Harold B. Lee, “Loyalty,” in Charge to Religious Educators, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City, UT: Church Educational System and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982), 65. See further the quotations from Church leaders collected and analyzed in Roper, “Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon,” 255–260; “Joseph Smith, Revelation, and Book of Mormon Geography,” 17–22.
  • 18.Palmer, In Search of Cumorah; John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1985), 44, 347–351; Sidney B. Sperry, “Were There Two Cumorahs?” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4, no. 1 (1995): 260–268; David A. Palmer, “Cumorah,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1992), 1:346–347; John E. Clark, “Archaeology and Cumorah Questions,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 13, no. 1–2 (2004): 144–51, 174; John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2013), 142–143.
  • 19.Rex C. Reeve Jr., “Hill Cumorah,” in Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, ed. Arnold K. Garr, Donald W. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2000), 481.
  • 20.F. Michael Watson, Secretary to the First Presidency, fax from the Office of the First Presidency to FARMS dated April 23, 1993, online at FairMormon: “The Church emphasizes the doctrinal and historical value of the Book of Mormon, not its geography. While some Latter-day Saints have looked for possible locations and explanations [for Book of Mormon geography] because the New York Hill Cumorah does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Cumorah, there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site.”
  • 21.See Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2018), 20–42.
  • 22.John A. Widtsoe, “Is Book of Mormon Geography Known?” Improvement Era, July 1950, 547. Compare Palmer, “Cumorah,” 1:347. “Because the New York site does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Book of Mormon geography, some Latter-day Saints have looked for other possible explanations and locations, including Mesoamerica. Although some have identified possible sites that may seem to fit better, there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site that has been suggested.”
  • 23.Widtsoe, “Is Book of Mormon Geography Known?” 547.
  • 24.Special Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign, April 2001, 19–20.
  • 25.Widtsoe, “Is Book of Mormon Geography Known?” 597.