Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Rational Restoration is coming


My next book is titled The Rational Restoration

It will be released May 15, 2022, along with a website that will be my main focus going forward.

I can't wait to tell you all about it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Weaponization of stigma

One tactic our M2C friends employ to obfuscate the reality that they reject the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah is by weaponizing stigma. 

There are various terms for this tactic: Stigma manufacturing. Directed stigma. Prisoner of stigma. 


Weaponizing stigma is a common political strategy of making a person, group, or idea unacceptable by associating it with a mark of disgrace. Some recent infamous examples were Hillary Clinton's "deplorables" caricature, Donald Trump's "crooked Hillary," "Sleepy Joe" and "Basement Biden" epithets, or Biden repeating the "fine people" hoax over and over. 

Weaponizing stigma is a form of psychological warfare, designed to deflect from the substantive issues. 

For many years, our M2C friends tried to pigeonhole "Heartlanders" as naive, undereducated and uncredentialed, thus unworthy of consideration. They still pursue that tactic, but it backfires because the academic arrogance of the credentialed class is not only obvious but distasteful to most Latter-day Saints.

Lately they've resorted to manufacturing a stigma based on claims that "Heartlanders" are right-wing white nationalists who oppose immigration.

For example, FAIRLDS contributor and former Maxwell Institute researcher Hanna Seriac claims “Christian nationalism fuels their interpretation of everything.... They tend to be anti-vaxxers and to post about QAnon and are just prone to conspiratorial thinking.”

She's apparently oblivious to her own conspiratorial thinking she expresses here. 

Worse, she knows perfectly well that there is no monolithic "Heartlander" political ideology and that there are Heartlanders around the world who not only don't know much about American politics, but couldn't care less. She knows because she and I have discussed this. But she won't say it publicly because it contradicts the narrative she is promoting to further her career.

Non-American "Heartlanders" are simply ordinary Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets and want to learn about extrinsic evidence that corroborates those teachings. 

Just like many American Latter-day Saints of various political persuasions. Some of us are more liberal or conservative than others. Some have different national origins, cultural backgrounds, experiences, beliefs, priorities, etc.

IOW, Heartlanders are diverse and embrace diversity of all forms. We seek unity through diversity.

Nevertheless, Hanna relies on a particular blogger to perpetuate her caricature of "Heartlanders" so she can manufacture a stigma that, she hopes, will deter Latter-day Saints and others from learning about and considering the merits of what "Heartlanders" are saying about the Book of Mormon and Church history overall.  

Not that Hanna is alone in her efforts. Brant Gardner, webmaster for the Interpreter and author of many M2C-promoting books and articles, assiduously opposes the "Heartlander" ideas and embraces the stigma tactic. “It has allowed a very jingoistic, very racist approach to the Book of Mormon,” Gardner said. “And there are a lot of people that resonates with.” 

While the type of virtue signaling Hanna and Brant express undoubtedly comforts the M2Cers and reinforces their sense of intellectual and credentialed superiority, it perpetuates stereotypes and generates further division.

To be clear, I like Hanna and Brant personally. They're good people, sincere, and undoubtedly doing what they think is necessary to promote their own beliefs. I like and respect most people with whom I disagree because to me, none of this is personal. We're all in this together; everyone is seeking truth, trying to make the world a better place, etc. 

In my view, though, creating and weaponizing stigma is counterproductive. We are dealing with two separate issues: politics, and Book of Mormon historicity.

I favor plurality and consideration of multiple working hypotheses. 

I like to lay out all the facts, spell out the various assumptions people make about that evidence, draw inferences and interpretations, thread them together, and then articulate the hypotheses. That lets everyone make informed decisions.

But in my experience, the M2Cers not only don't want such openness, they actively oppose it. 

Even if they have to weaponize stigma to confuse people so they can retain their status as the "Interpreters" for those they deem (and stigmatize as) lesser Latter-day Saints.
.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The M2C citation cartel interview


Readers here are familiar with the terms M2C (Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) and citation cartel (the scholars who promote M2C at Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, FAIRLDS, etc.).

I did an interview with Gospel Tangents to discuss all of this which you can see on youtube here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hqhjyx0eBY

These interviews are live and unscripted, so if you have any questions or problems with what I've said, email me at lostzarahemla@gmail.com and I'll clarify.


Here are some popular M2C memes:





Monday, March 21, 2022

Impossible to change an academic's mind

Many Latter-day Saints are perplexed at the way Book of Mormon Central continues to spend millions of dollars to try to persuade them that the prophets were wrong about Cumorah, the translation of the Book of Mormon, and other issues.

The rest of the citation cartel, including the Interpreter, FAIRLDS, and other LDS intellectuals, spend less money but seek the same outcome.


Once we realize that these intellectuals are deeply invested in M2C, SITH, etc., their activities make sense. They've been teaching and promoting M2C and SITH to BYU students and other Latter-day Saints for many years. They've embedded M2C in their logo.


They can hardly change course now.

They are so deeply invested they don't even want the Latter-day Saints to know what the prophets have taught, let alone learn about the evidence that corroborates those teachings.
_____

A citation in a recent tweet explains that "highly educated people have larger stores of information from which to selectively search for information supporting a desired belief. Thus, it is nearly impossible to change an academic's mind about anything important, particularly in his own field of study.

This problem is epitomized by the "Kno-Whys" (which in many cases are "no=wise") articles from Book of Mormon Central, particularly those that try to rationalize repudiating the teachings of the prophets.

From the tweet:

"high intelligence may worsen prospects for obtaining a true belief...a biased person uses intelligence and education as tools for rationalizing beliefs...highly educated people have larger stores of information to search to support a desired belief"






Thursday, March 17, 2022

Interview series

Gospel Tangents is posting a series based on an interview we had in December. Here is a link to the first in the series:

https://gospeltangents.com/2022/03/nevilles-church-history-background/

Friday, March 11, 2022

Lehi's Land Bountiful in Oman

Two weeks ago I was in Salalah, Oman, to take a look at one of the candidates for Lehi's land Bountiful in Arabia. 

The discussion on wikipedia is an excellent summary:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bountiful_(Book_of_Mormon)

I discussed this on the Mormon Book Reviews youtube channel, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCR4n8jie1E

_____

I think Khor Rori makes the most sense, but reasonable people can reach different conclusions. The area around Salalah and Khor Rori has plenty of water and abundant honey, fruit, etc. Even when we visited in February, well into the dry season, waterfalls were running. 

Nephi explained that "Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men." (1 Nephi 18:2)

As I read this, I picture Nephi employing people to help build the ship, people who kept saying "this isn't how we build ships." But Nephi did not emulate their work. That's why his ship was able to cross the Atlantic to America. 

It's also interesting that, ss the wikipedia page on Khor Rori explains, the site was not known to the western world until it was discovered in 1895.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khor_Rori

The explanation at the visitor's center is a nice depiction of how I see Lehi's ship departing:

(click to enlarge photos)

The cliffs on both sides of the harbor are natural, as you can see in some of the other photos I showed in the video on Mormon Book Reviews:

Wadi Darbat in the mountains north of Khor Rori, the source for the river the flows out to the sea.

Khor Rori viewed from the mountains

The ruins at Khor Rori

Ruins in the foreground

Display of ship


Our guide


The ancient trade routes.


It's easy to see how Lehi would have sailed south
along the east coast of Africa before sailing west to America,
as Isaiah described in Isaiah 18:1.

Overview of location of Oman

Seaside cliffs

Our guide





Friday, March 4, 2022

The two maps: an overview

From time to time it's useful to review overall concepts.

In my view, the New York Cumorah is so well established by the teachings of the prophets, starting with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, that there's no viable alternative, unless we want to explicitly repudiate the teachings of the prophets. http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html

I'm happy for people to believe whatever they want. Once people reject the New York Cumorah, they can and will believe the Book of Mormon took place in Malaysia, Africa, Baja, Chile, Peru, Panama, Mesoamerica, or any other location--or no location (such as the BYU fantasy map depicts). So long as they're relying on good information, that's all fine with me. I only want people to make informed decisions, regardless of whether they reach the same conclusions I do, because, as President Nelson has taught, good inspiration is based upon good information.

Those who reject the New York Cumorah (particularly the M2C apologists at FAIRLDS, the Interpreter, and Book of Mormon Central) are uncomfortable with the truth of the historical record, so they claim the prophets never taught the New York Cumorah, despite the unambiguous historical record. The M2C apologists say, "Who are you going to believe, us or your lying eyes?"

Because they know the historical record directly contradicts M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory), the M2C apologists and the historians who accommodate them have been working to purge the New York Cumorah using Orwellian tactics to revise Church history.

They omitted the New York Cumorah from the Saints book, volume 1. Thus we have a book subtitled "The Standard of Truth" that deliberately omits the truth. https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-historians-explain-censorship-in.html

They omitted the New York Cumorah from the Gospel Topics Essays, and from all curriculum and media since around 2001. 

Consequently, younger Latter-day Saints have a gap in knowledge, similar to the one regarding the translation that we saw in the FAIRLDS response to the CES Letter.

The knowledge gap makes young and uninformed Latter-day Saints susceptible to such instructional materials as BYU's fantasy map of Book of Mormon geography that explicitly repudiates the teachings of the prophets in favor of the teachings of the M2C scholars.

Such censorship and misdirection works only for lazy learners who defer to their teachers. Latter-day Saints who are engaged learners can see for themselves that the historical record presents a problem for the M2C apologists. The Joseph Smith Papers are making the historical documents readily accessible. Church leaders encourage the Latter-day Saints to study Church history. When people follow that counsel and read the actual history, they can quickly spot the fake revisionist history.

This is why the M2C apologists resort to the second phase of their Orwellian tactics: they claim the prophets were only expressing their private opinions, that they were speculating, and that they were wrong. Our current LDS scholars are working hard to persuade everyone that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah as well as the translation of the plates. 

And, to be sure, there are many Latter-day Saints who, after reviewing the complete historical record, come to agree with the M2C apologists that the prophets were wrong. And that's fine with me, because that's an informed decision. I'm all in favor of multiple working hypotheses. I support systems that set out all the facts, offer a variety of interpretations, and let people choose for themselves. 

The M2C citation cartel still refuses to do this. That's my only problem with them, and they know it, but they continue to resort to censorship and disinformation nevertheless.
_____

Those Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets know that the text of the Book of Mormon describes a setting that is consistent with what Joseph and Oliver taught. The only certain site is the New York Cumorah. Starting with the New York Cumorah, there are hundreds of possible sites for various Book of Mormon locations. Here's one example.



The principal alternative is the M2C map that puts the "real" Cumorah in southern Mexico with the understanding that the Cumorah in New York was the result of ignorant speculation that misled Church leaders and members for over 150 years until the M2C scholars rescued everyone from such ignorance. 

It was originally set forth in a graphic in 1917 by RLDS scholar L.E. Hills. In subsequent decades, LDS M2C scholars made some modifications, but they kept the same general idea. 



Now, Hills' 1917 map can still be seen on the web page of BYU Studies, here: 



Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, and FAIRLDS together spend millions of dollars a year in their efforts to persuade the Latter-day Saints to disbelieve the teachings of the prophets. But no matter how much money they spend, no matter how sophisticated their social media efforts, and no matter how convoluted their sophistry, Latter-day Saints who are engaged learners can discover the truth for for themselves. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Scott Gordon and the CES Letter

Scott Gordon is the head of FAIRLDS. He's a great guy, faithful, hard-working, etc. But he's also a long-time promoter of M2C and SITH, among other things. 

A few days ago I received his email update, which included this section.


Sarah Allen has been blogging responses to the CES Letter for a year now! We are so grateful she'd share her scholarship, insight and testimony with us here at FAIR! If you haven't taken the opportunity fo read her work, now is a great time! Follow the link to find a list of the posts we have published.

Subscribe to the blog here - you don't want miss a single issue.

You can find the entire series of articles here.

It has always seemed strange to me that CES never responded to Jeremy Runnels' questions. 

Jeremy was entitled to answers to his questions (at least, to his original, non-snarky questions).

Instead, he gets silence from CES and a torrent of sophistry from FAIRLDS and other apologists.

There are simple answers, after all. I started offering some on my blog (https://cesanswers.blogspot.com/) but I soon realized the problem is not the CES Letter.

The problem resides with the LDS apologists who have generated the confusion by repudiating the teachings of the prophets in favor of their academic speculations. 

It serves little purpose for me to offer simple answers based on the teachings of the prophets when our LDS scholars themselves are repudiating what the prophets have taught. (It's even more fun that many of the apologists mischaracterize what I write so they can implement their typical straw man and ad hominem attacks.)

Throughout the CES Letter, Jeremy's questions boil down to this: why do modern LDS scholars repudiate what the prophets have taught?

The CES Letter is the inevitable product of someone who accepted the modern scholars as the authority. 

Looking at it from the opposite perspective, LDS apologists agree with the faulty premises of the CES Letter. They then resort to nuances and sophistry to try to lead people through the thickets of their theories. But it doesn't work well. Their theories are so full of snags that people get stuck at every turn.

By touting themselves as the "Interpreters" to claim superiority over the mere prophets, they've pushed Latter-day Saints (and prospective Latter-day Saints) who have questions toward the CES Letter and similar sources. And by comparison, the CES Letter is clearer and more rational.

The teachings of the prophets are even more clear and rational.

Yet FAIRLDS sticks with the sophistry of the scholars instead.

_____

A good example is the FAIRLDS response to the translation issues.

https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/blog/2021/09/15/the-ces-letter-rebuttal-part-8

CES Letter (Jeremy) makes a straightforward observation:

Unlike the story I’ve been taught in Sunday School, Priesthood, General Conferences, Seminary, EFY, Ensigns, Church history tour, Missionary Training Center, and BYU…Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat for translating the Book of Mormon.

The FAIRLDS response by Sarah Allen is nearly 6,000 words of self-contradictory, confusing, and speculative rhetoric that never once even quotes what Joseph and Oliver said on the topic. It's literally unbelievable. 

Sarah starts by questioning whether Jeremy was honest or clear about what he was taught. Maybe that's because Jeremy was taught to believe the scriptures. 

Sarah writes as though she never heard of such basic scriptures as these (which she never cites or quotes):

34 He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;

35 Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book. (Joseph Smith—History 1:34–35)

62 By this timely aid was I enabled to reach the place of my destination in Pennsylvania; and immediately after my arrival there I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them, which I did between the time I arrived at the house of my wife’s father, in the month of December, and the February following. (Joseph Smith—History 1:62)

* Oliver Cowdery describes these events thus: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’ 
(Joseph Smith—History, Note, 1)

It would not be surprising that Sarah is unaware of these scriptures, given her affiliation with FAIRLDS. The book Saints, Volume 1, doesn't quote these passages. The Gospel Topics Essay doesn't quote them, either. These verses are part of the "plain and precious things" that our scholars are systematically taking away from Church history.

Those who promote the SITH (stone-in-the-hat) narrative avoid these scriptures, except when they resort to sophistry to explain away their plain meaning.

These passages from Joseph Smith-History are not the only times when Joseph and Oliver explained that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates, but you won't find those accounts in the SITH narratives either. 

Bottom line: Joseph and Oliver were consistent and reliable. Neither of them ever once suggested or implied, let alone taught, that Joseph used a seer stone he found in a well to produce the Book of Mormon. Neither of them ever suggested, implied, or taught that Joseph didn't use the plates.

Why, then, does Jeremy assert that "Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat for translating the Book of Mormon" in his letter?

Because of the work of our LDS apologists and the revisionist historians.

As we saw at the outset, Jeremy's question is legitimate. What he's really asking is, why do modern LDS scholars repudiate what the prophets have taught?

It's a good question that Sarah doesn't even address. Instead, as she's been trained to do by FAIRLDS and the rest of the SITH citation cartel, she tries to pretend the prophets (and the scriptures) never taught what we can all see they did, actually, teach.

_____

The SITH narrative arose from what others (the SITH sayers, such as David Whitmer) claimed. 

Some people think the SITH sayers were all liars. 

Others, such as Sarah and FAIRLDS, think the SITH sayers were honest and accurate, even though they contradicted what Joseph and Oliver said about the Urim and Thummim.

The scholars Sarah and FAIRLDS rely upon have tried to reconcile the apparent conflict between the two narratives (SITH vs U&T) by claiming the stone Joseph found in the well was actually the Urim and Thummim to which Joseph and Oliver referred. As Sarah shows in her article, the scholars have successfully persuaded their gullible followers to accept SITH by omitting the scriptures and other contemporary sources, such as Mormonism Unvailed, which unambiguously distinguished between the "peep stone" and the Urim and Thummim. 

Despite the efforts of the SITH apologists, there is no need to ignore or reject the scriptures to reconcile the historical accounts. In my view, for all the reasons I've explained elsewhere, the SITH sayers probably told the truth about what they observed, but as witnesses commonly do, they mingled their observations with their own assumptions and inferences. In other words, whatever Joseph did with the stone in the hat, it was not translating the Book of Mormon. That should be clear from the scriptures and from the testimonies of Joseph's contemporaries and successors in Church leadership.  

After all, Joseph was expressly commanded not to display the plates or the Urim and Thummim until after the translation was completed (at which point he showed the items to the designated witnesses). That commandment was superfluous if Joseph didn't use the plates or U&T to produce the Book of Mormon. There would have been no reason for Joseph to even relate that commandment in the first place except to explain why no one (other than his scribes behind a curtain or screen) saw him translate. 

_____

This is a fairly straightforward example of the problem that arises from LDS apologists rejecting the teachings of the prophets in favor of their own theories. 

The most notorious example is the way FAIRLDS and the rest of the M2C citation cartel has repudiated the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. That has led to all kinds of mischief and confusion, not the least of which is the CES Letter.

As I wrote above, Jeremy was entitled to answers to his questions. 

Instead, he gets silence from CES and a torrent of sophistry from FAIRLDS and other apologists.

_____

A few months ago I visited Scott Gordon at the new offices of FAIRLDS. Apparently they needed to have a physical location to qualify as an organization that can have missionaries assigned to help out. Which is another topic to discuss someday.

I told Scott I'd like to work with him to upgrade FAIRLDS. While I can't realistically expect them to jettison years of apologetic efforts to promote M2C and SITH, I do expect them to represent the full range of faithful views.

So far, Scott has refused to do that.

As a result, we end up with these convoluted, confused responses to the CES Letter.

So I'll ask again, and anyone who knows Scott can relay the message.

How about expanding FAIRLDS to include all faithful approaches to the issues?

How about making FAIRLDS inclusive instead of exclusive?

And how about finding a way for FAIRLDS to corroborate, rather than repudiate, the teachings of the prophets?





 





Tuesday, March 1, 2022

M2C apologists vs reality

The M2C citation cartel continues to stigmatize Heartlanders as right-wing nationalists. It's a patently ridiculous claim, but it's typical of the way many M2C apologists have operated for years. Rather than engage the issues on the merits, or even have a civil, respectful dialog, they resort to ad hominem and other logical fallacies, obfuscate the facts and mislead their followers.

We'll focus on this more in upcoming posts, but an editorial in the Wall St. Journal made an apt observation that applies to the latest crop of M2C apologists.

From the WSJ:

Suddenly, when our political debate is characterized by so much moral posturing, manufactured outrage and sanctimonious preening, it’s illuminating to see what real honor in the face of real adversity looks like.

Our polarized and angry domestic politics are dominated by virtue-signaling egoists. In Ukraine, the virtue doesn’t need to be signaled.

While privileged young people in America express their outrage at microaggressions in the workplace because someone used the wrong pronoun, the youth of Kyiv are gathering in bunkers to make Molotov cocktails in a last, desperate act to defend their beleaguered city—street by street if necessary—against the most violently macro of aggressions.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-invades-invasion-putin-kyiv-ukraine-europe-germany-nord-stream-nato-virtue-signaling-woke-cancel-culture-microaggression-11646068302