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.

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(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?

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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.

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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

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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.
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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.
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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.



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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.

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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.

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