Friday, July 29, 2022

Structural stupidity

In an article in Atlantic, Jonathan Haidt observes the disintegration of society because of social media. He explains the problem of "Structural Stupidity" that arises when a consensus becomes immune from, and impervious to, contrary views, even from within the community.

It's the opposite of Joseph Smith's observation that "by proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-to-israel-daniel-rupp-5-june-1844/1 

Haidt predictably places his thumb firmly on the Left side of the scale, justifying and rationalizing the themes of the political left, but his description of the problem is useful and relevant nonetheless.

Our M2C and SITH citation cartels have created structural stupidity in much the way that Haidt describes here.

Structural Stupidity

Since the tower [of the metaphorical Babel] fell, debates of all kinds have grown more and more confused. The most pervasive obstacle to good thinking is confirmation bias, which refers to the human tendency to search only for evidence that confirms our preferred beliefs. Even before the advent of social media, search engines were supercharging confirmation bias, making it far easier for people to find evidence for absurd beliefs and conspiracy theories, such as that the Earth is flat and that the U.S. government staged the 9/11 attacks. But social media made things much worse.

The most reliable cure for confirmation bias is interaction with people who don’t share your beliefs. They confront you with counterevidence and counterargument. John Stuart Mill said, “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that,” and he urged us to seek out conflicting views “from persons who actually believe them.” People who think differently and are willing to speak up if they disagree with you make you smarter, almost as if they are extensions of your own brain. People who try to silence or intimidate their critics make themselves stupider, almost as if they are shooting darts into their own brain....

So what happens when an institution is not well maintained and internal disagreement ceases, either because its people have become ideologically uniform or because they have become afraid to dissent?

This, I believe, is what happened to many of America’s key institutions in the mid-to-late 2010s. They got stupider en masse because social media instilled in their members a chronic fear of getting darted. ... 

But when an institution punishes internal dissent, it shoots darts into its own brain....

American politics is getting ever more ridiculous and dysfunctional not because Americans are getting less intelligent. The problem is structural. Thanks to enhanced-virality social media, dissent is punished within many of our institutions, which means that bad ideas get elevated into official policy. ...

Depression makes people less likely to want to engage with new people, ideas, and experiences. Anxiety makes new things seem more threatening. As these conditions have risen and as the lessons on nuanced social behavior learned through free play have been delayed, tolerance for diverse viewpoints and the ability to work out disputes have diminished among many young people. For example, university communities that could tolerate a range of speakers as recently as 2010 arguably began to lose that ability in subsequent years, as Gen Z began to arrive on campus. Attempts to disinvite visiting speakers rose. Students did not just say that they disagreed with visiting speakers; some said that those lectures would be dangerous, emotionally devastating, a form of violence. Because rates of teen depression and anxiety have continued to rise into the 2020s, we should expect these views to continue in the generations to follow, and indeed to become more severe.


https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/05/social-media-democracy-trust-babel/629369/



The end

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

3 Nephi and the New Madrid earthquakes

From time to time, I still hear about M2Cers who claim the Book of Mormon describes volcanoes. A basic premise of M2C is that volcanoes mean the events had to take place in Mesoamerica and could not have taken place in the Midwestern U.S. where there are no volcanoes.

While I'm happy for people to believe whatever they want, I encourage people to make informed decisions. 

The first obvious problem with that argument is the text never mentions volcanoes. The M2Cers "see" volcanoes in the text because they have their own translation that lets them redefine terms to fit their theories about geography.

Another obvious problem with the M2C argument is their assumption that the destruction described in 3 Nephi could not have happened in the Midwest. 

Maybe in Utah people don't know much about the history and geology of the Midwest, but they can learn about it in this video about the New Madrid earthquakes in 1811-12.


(click to enlarge the screen captures below)











Monday, July 25, 2022

Read the books they want to ban

"Read the books they want to ban."

@naval
[Note: I originally posted this before I finished the point because I had an early tee-time. After playing golf, tennis, pool, etc., I realized I needed to add the balance of the content.]
I'm applying Naval's tweet to the LDS context. Some LDS intellectuals want the Latter-day Saints to read only their own work. They lack confidence in the viability of their own theories and dogma.
By contrast, I want people to compare multiple working hypotheses.
I encourage people to read what the M2C and SITH citation cartels publish because I encourage people to make informed decisions. Definitely, read Mormon's Codex, From Darkness Unto Light, the Interpreter articles, the Kno-Whys on Book of Mormon Central, the entries on FAIRLDS.org, etc.
But notice that the SITH sayers don't want you to read A Man that Can Translate or Infinite Goodness.
The M2Cers don't want you to read Between these Hills, Letter VII, Whatever Happened to the Golden Plates?, or even The Lost City of Zarahemla.
That's why I say, read the works the M2C/SITH citation cartel want to ban.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Answering My Gospel Questions class

I know you readers are all eager for the next part of the series on From Darkness Unto Light (and it's awesome), but I'm delaying it by a day because the new Religion 280 class has been in the news a bit. I mentioned it before. Here are some links.

 https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2022/07/21/latest-mormon-land-class/

and

https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/new-institute-class-teaches-young-adults-how-to-find-answers-to-their-gospel-questions

This course is another very positive development for the establishment of Zion.

Here's a link to the teacher material:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/answering-my-gospel-questions-teacher-material?lang=eng

I'd like to see this course added to the Self Reliance program along with the Emotional Resilience course, which every Latter-day Saint should take.

This class, like the Emotional Resilience class, will elevate the Latter-day Saints who take it above the logical and factual thinking errors we see among both our LDS apologists and our critics.

_____

A good example is the section "Microtraining 3, How to Assess the Reliability of Sources."

I wish every Latter-day Saint would read and re-read this section. It articulates exactly what I've advocated ever since I started this blog. Like the introduction to the Gospel Topics Essays, this microtraining is the antithesis of the M2C/SITH citation cartel's approach.

While people are free to believe whatever they want, it's easy to assess the relative reliability of the teachings of the prophets vs. the teachings of the scholars.

No scholar alive today was present when Joseph and Oliver translated the plates, when they received the Priesthood, etc. 

Section 2 below suggests we ask: "How closely connected is the author to the events being described? When a source addresses something from Church history, ask yourself how far removed the source is from the event it is discussing. Stories based on second- or thirdhand accounts are often less reliable." 

Let's see how well SITH and M2C survive this guidance.

We have Joseph and Oliver both explaining, multiple times, that Joseph translated the record with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. Yet our modern scholars teach that Joseph and Oliver misled everyone because they, the modern scholars, know that Joseph actually didn't use the plates or the Urim and Thummim but instead Joseph merely read words that appeared in the stone in the hat (SITH). 

We have Oliver explaining it was a fact that Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in New York, we have Joseph's mother explaining that Moroni identified the hill as Cumorah the first time he met Joseph, we have David Whitmer explaining that one of the Nephites took the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah, etc., but our modern scholars reject all of that. Why? Because they teach that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled everyone until they, our modern scholars, figured out that there were "two Cumorahs" and that the real Cumorah is somewhere in southern Mexico.

Seriously, how more obvious could this be?

In section 3 below, we read this: "Does the author intentionally ignore available evidence in order to mislead? Some authors deliberately omit important facts and ignore critical evidence to support their particular point of view."

To promote both SITH and M2C, our modern scholars deliberately omit important facts and ignore critical evidence to support their points of view. We've seen how the book From Darkness Unto Light does this, and the next installment will provide more examples. The citation cartel consistently omits evidence that contradicts M2C and SITH. Even the Gospel Topics Essay on translation omits what Joseph and Oliver said about the translation in favor of the theories of the scholars who wrote the essay. 

_____

As the principles of this new course permeate LDS culture, we will see a lot of new approaches to Church history and other topics. More and more Latter-day Saints will see that the evidence supports and corroborates the teachings of the prophets.

Who knows? Maybe even our scholars will someday value the teachings of the prophets over their own theories.

Patrick Mason was quoted in the article. He made a good point, but it's a bit self-congratulatory, seeing that he's a professional historian himself. 

Sources are key. Patrick Mason, head of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University, recently told The Salt Lake Tribune that those researching church history, for instance, should stick with primary sources and the work of professional historians.

“Go look at the original stuff and make your own judgments,” he said. “Don’t just rely on what somebody on the internet happened to say about it.”

To the extent professional historians provide access to primary sources, they're awesome. But to the extent they present their opinions as fact, they're counterproductive. I discussed a significant example here: 

https://www.academia.edu/67756647/Agenda_driven_editorial_content_in_the_Joseph_Smith_Papers

_____

Here's the link to microtraining 3.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/answering-my-gospel-questions-teacher-material/4-appendix-a/19-microtraining-3?lang=eng

How to Assess the Reliability of Sources

Define

Display the following statement by President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency:

We live in a time of greatly expanded and disseminated information. But not all of this information is true. We need to be cautious as we seek truth and choose sources for that search. (Dallin H. Oaks, “Truth and the Plan,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018, 25)

Model

Provide students with the following handout, and discuss how these questions can help us identify reliable sources.

Questions for Evaluating Sources

Answering My Gospel Questions—Microtraining 3: How to Assess the Reliability of Sources

  1. What are the qualifications, intentions, and possible biases of the author?

    President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency taught that we should “be cautious about the motivation of the one who provides information. … Our personal decisions should be based on information from sources that are qualified on the subject and free from selfish motivations” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Truth and the Plan," Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018, 25).

  2. How closely connected is the author to the events being described?

    When a source addresses something from Church history, ask yourself how far removed the source is from the event it is discussing. Stories based on second- or thirdhand accounts are often less reliable.

  3. Does the author intentionally ignore available evidence in order to mislead?

    Some authors deliberately omit important facts and ignore critical evidence to support their particular point of view.

  4. Are the teachings and events addressed in this source presented in the proper context of their time, place, and circumstance?

    Some teachings and historical events can become confusing when they are taken out of the context of their time and place. Historical context also includes other events happening at the time (such as wars, economic crises, and social and political movements) and the culture and demographics of a given time and setting.

  5. Are the teachings and events supported by additional reliable sources?

    Support from other reliable sources helps establish the accuracy of doctrine and historical events.



Tuesday, July 19, 2022

From Darkness Unto Light and Mormonism Unvailed part 1

In this post and the next one, we'll discuss the way the book From Darkness Unto Light handles the book Mormonism Unvailed

The book quotes or cites Mormonism Unvailed 31 times. We'll look at those references in part 2, but today let's look at how Joseph and Oliver dealt with Mormonism Unvailed

[BTW, an editorial note: I fixed the formatting of the post about the Interpreter on TikTok: 

https://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2022/07/the-interpreter-on-tiktok.html]

_____

The 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed made a big impact on the Church. It set out the Spalding theory that dominated the national media in the 1800s. It also spelled out the "stone-in-the-hat" theory (SITH) which modern LDS intellectuals have embraced.

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery responded to Mormonism Unvailed in a series of eight essays about Church history, published as letters in the Messenger and Advocate in 1834-5. Joseph had his scribes copy these essays into his own history as part of his life story. An excerpt from Letter I is found in the Pearl of Great Price. Letter VII explains that it is a fact that the Hill Cumorah in western New York is the same Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.

The essays were not Joseph's only response to Mormonism Unvailed and related anti-Mormon literature. He wrote a serialized letter to "To the Elders of the Church of the Latter Day Saints" that was published in the Messenger and Advocate in September, November and December 1835.  In the November issue, he explained that "I have been drawn into this course of proceeding, by persecution, that is brought upon us from false rumor, and misrepresentations concerning my sentiments." (Messenger and Advocate II.2:209 ¶2)

Before reading the excerpt from the December issue below, think compare Joseph's treatment of Mormonism Unvailed with the way our modern LDS apologists and historians have embraced that book. 

Joseph used phrases such as "the enemy of righteousness," "pitchfork of lies," "adversary of truth," and "cloud of darkness."

Behold, then, is not this the kingdom of heaven that is raising its head in the last days, in the majesty of its God; even the church of the Latter day saints,—like an impenetrable, immovable rock in the midst of the mighty deep, exposed storms and tempests of satan, but has, thus far, remained steadfast and is still braving the mountain waves of opposition, which are driven by the tempestuous winds of sinking crafts, have and are still dashing with tremendous foam, across its triumphing brow, urged onward with redoubled fury by the enemy of righteousness, with his pitchfork of lies, as you will see fairly represented in a cut, contained in Mr. Howe’s “Mormonism Unveiled?”

And we hope that this adversary of truth will continue to stir up the sink of iniquity, that people may the more readily discern between the righteous and wicked. We also would notice one of the modern sons of Seeva, who would fain have made people believe that he could cast out devils by a certain pamphlet (viz. the “Millennial Harbinger,”) that went the rounds through our country, who felt so fully authorized to brand Jo Smith, with the appellation of Elymus the sorcerer, and to say with Paul, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord! We would reply to this gentleman—Paul we know, and Christ we know, but who are ye? And with the best of feelings, we would say to him, in the language of Paul to those who said they were John’s disciples, but had not so much as heard there was a Holy Ghost, to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins by those who have legal authority, and under their hands you shall receive the Holy Ghost, according to the scriptures.

... We might invite the gentleman to a public investigation of these matters; yea, and we do challenge him to an investigation upon any or all principles wherein he feel opposed to us, in public or in private.

We might farther say that, we could introduce him to “Mormonism Unveiled.” Also to the right honorable Doct. P. Hurlburt, who is the legitimate author of the same, who is not so much a doctor of physic, as of falsehood, or by name. We could also give him an introduction to the reverend Mr. Howe, the illegitimate author of “Mormonism Unveiled,” in order to give currency to the publication, as Mr. Hurlburt, about this time, was bound over to court, for threatening life. He is also an associate of the celebrated Mr. Clapp, who has of late immortalised his name by swearing that he would not believe a Mormon under oath; and by his polite introduction to said Hurlburt’s wife, which cost him (as we have been informed) a round sum. Also his son Mathew testified that, the book of Mormon had been proved false an hundred times, by Howe’s book: and also, that he would not believe a Mormon under oath. And also we could mention the reverend Mr. Bentley, who, we believe, has been actively engaged in injuring the character of his brother-in-law, viz: Elder S. [Sidney] Rigdon.

Now, the above statements are according to our best information: and we believe them to be true; and this is as fair a sample of the doctrine of Campbellism, as we ask, taking the statements of these gentlemen, and judging them by their fruits. And we might and [add] many more to the black catalogue; even the ringleaders, not of the Nazarenes, for how can any good thing come out of Nazareth, but of the far-famed Mentor mob: all sons and legitimate heirs of the same spirit of Alexander Campbell, and “Mormonism Unveiled,” according to the representation in the cut spoken of above.

The above cloud of darkness has long been beating with mountain waves upon the immovable rock of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and notwithstanding all this, the mustard seed is still towering its lofty branches, higher and higher, and extending itself wider and wider, and the charriot wheels of the kingdom are still rolling on, impelled by the mighty arm of Jehovah; and in spite of all opposition will still roll on until his words are all fulfilled.

Our readers will excuse us for deviating from the subject, when they take into consideration the abuses, that have been heaped upon us heretofore, which we have tamely submitted to, until forbearance is no longer required at our hands, having frequently turned both hand the right and left cheek, we believe it our duty now to stand up in our own defence. 

[I reposted the entire letter here: 

https://www.lettervii.com/p/1835-letter-by-joseph-smith-in.html

A facsimile of the original issue of the Messenger and Advocate is here:

https://archive.org/details/LDSMessengerAndAdvocate18341837/page/n225/mode/2up

A copy of the letter is available in the Joseph Smith Papers here: 

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-b-1-1-september-1834-2-november-1838/101.]

_____


the end


Monday, July 18, 2022

From Darkness Unto Light--omitting sources to revise history

A little over five years ago I discussed this book, From Darkness unto Light

https://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2018/05/from-darkness-unto-light.html

I pointed out there that the book omits important historical references that contradict the authors' theories. 

Now, five years later, people are still citing and quoting the book as authoritative. People who rely on this book, or the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation, have no idea about what Joseph and Oliver actually taught about the translation.

In a time when so many are confused by the stone-in-the-hat (SITH) theory, this is a good time to revisit the book.
_____

The first time I read the book, I thought it was insightful and offered some new interpretations based on original documents from Church history. After all, the authors are two of the editors of Volume 1 of the Documents series of the Joseph Smith Papers. They are even cited in note 16 in the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation.

Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Grand Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley, eds., Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, vol. 1 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, Richard Lyman Bushman, and Matthew J. Grow (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2013)

With this pedigree, we might expect the book to be an open-minded analysis of the relevant historical documents. However, as we'll see here, it is less a book about history than an argument for the authors' interpretation of history (basically SITH), bolstered by their penchant for ignoring important historical references.  

_____

This book was published in 2015 and, so far as I know, has never been revised. I'm continually amazed that any current scholars would cite this book now that the authors' omissions are so obvious and well known.

The authors set out their thesis as fact in this sentence at the end of Chapter 4.

With the “gift and power of God” Joseph read the translated words that appeared on the seer stones and his scribes recorded them as the text of the Book of Mormon, a concept that will be further elaborated upon in following chapters.

Notice how the authors present their theory (their "concept") as a statement of fact, without qualification.

Now let's read that sentence in the context of the entire paragraph, with commentary.

Joseph declared throughout the remainder of his life that he translated by the power of God. 

This sentence is technically accurate but misleading by omission because the authors omitted Joseph's declaration that he translated by means of the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates, as we'll see below. 

Beginning in the preface of the Book of Mormon, he wrote, “I would inform you that I translated, by the gift and power of God.” 

This is another example of misleading by omission; i.e., the authors simply deleted the rest of Joseph's sentence without even using an ellipsis to inform readers. The reason why becomes apparent when we read the complete sentence:

"I would inform you that I translated, by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written, one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from the Book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon."

Here, Joseph explained that he translated 116 pages that he "took from the Book of Lehi." By declaring the source of the translation--the Book of Lehi which was on the plates--Joseph contradicted rumors that he had not used the plates or that he had merely read words that appeared on a seer stone.

The authors of From Darkness Unto Light were familiar with the entire sentence; they quoted in in note 58 of Chapter 5 in a discussion of how many pages Martin Harris actually lost. But they don't explain why they truncated Joseph's sentence in the passage above.

If they had an argument against the plain language Joseph provided in this Preface, they should have made it instead of misleading readers by omitting it.  

The paragraph continues.

That statement [from the preface] was distributed with the first five thousand copies of the Book of Mormon, and Joseph reiterated it in 1842 when he declared, “With the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God.”58 (emphasis added)

Note 58 cites the Wentworth letter, the source of this quotation, which anyone can read here:

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/times-and-seasons-1-march-1842/5

While the authors accurately observe that Joseph reiterated his claim that he "translated the record by the gift and power of God," they fail to discuss the important clarification Joseph provided--again, because it contradicts their thesis.

Recall that Joseph wrote the letter at the request of Mr. Wentworth, who was asking on behalf of his publisher friend Mr. Bastow. Joseph explained, "As Mr. Bastow has taken the proper steps to obtain correct information all that I shall ask at his hands, is, that he publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation." (Times and Seasons, March 1, 1842, III.9:706 ¶5)

The "correct information" Joseph provided here includes his specific claim that he translated the records (the plates) "through the medium of the Urim and Thummim" which he found "with the records." 

Thus, there is no room in Joseph's statement for a seer stone he found in a well.

Surprisingly, the authors do not explain how they reconcile their claim about the seer stone with this key point about the origin, name and use of the Urim and Thummim. Nor do they quote or discuss this passage anywhere else in their book. 

The authors entirely omitted two additional important statements by Joseph about the translation. 

First, they forgot to tell readers that the Wentworth letter was later republished in 1844 as "Latter Day Saints" with some modifications, but the paragraph about the translation remained unchanged except for omitting the final comma.

With the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called “Urim and Thummim,” which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim on a bow fastened to a breastplate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record, by the gift and power of God.


Second, they forgot to quote and cite what Joseph explained when he answered a question in the 1838 Elders' Journal. Here, he reaffirmed that he translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates:

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon? 
Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County New York, being dead; and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon.

Continuing with the excerpt :

As the Book of Mormon prophesied, the word of God “shall shine forth in darkness unto light.”59 

When read in context, the passage refers to a stone: "And the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light, that I may discover unto my people who serve me, that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren, yea, their secret works, their works of darkness, and their wickedness and abominations." (Alma 37:23)

The authors refer to "Gazelem" seven times in their book, stating at one point that "it is likely that the brown stone was the one referred to as Gazelem, which the Book of Mormon prophesied had been prepared to help translate ancient Nephite records like the Book of Mormon." 

Whether that is a "likely" interpretation is subjective, but there are two problems with the claim. 

First, as we saw above, in words as plain as words can be, Joseph clarified that he translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. He didn't qualify his statements by saying he translated some of the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates, or that he used two or more different instruments.

Second, the passage in Alma goes on to explain that the prophecy in verse 23 was already fulfilled: "And now, my son, we see that they did not repent; therefore they have been destroyed, and thus far the word of God has been fulfilled; yea, their secret abominations have been brought out of darkness and made known unto us." (Alma 37:26) 

There is no statement, suggestion or implication that this stone would be used in the future.

[Some have been confused by the term "interpreters" in verses 21 and 24; e.g., "And now, my son, these interpreters were prepared that the word of God might be fulfilled, which he spake, saying:" (Alma 37:24) In the original text, the term used in this passage was "directors." The term was changed for the 1920 LDS edition but the RLDS/Community of Christ edition retains the original reading. Thus, when Oliver said Joseph "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), he was not referring to Alma 37.]

By the way, here's how the authors deal with Oliver's statement, which they partially quote twice in their book.

They truncate the quotation after "Interpreters" to omit Oliver's statement that Joseph "translated... the history or record called the 'Book of Mormon'." Unsuspecting readers would not realize that Oliver actually said Joseph translated the history or record, which is much different from saying Joseph read words off a stone. [Later, in note 44 of chapter 7, they provide the entire quotation without comment.]

Nevertheless, after quoting the truncated passage from JS-H, note 1, they write, "Whether he was using the spectacles or an individual stone, Joseph apparently used either instrument by placing it in the bottom of a hat in order to block out the ambient light so he could read the words that appeared on the stone." [672 of 1233]

Obviously, nothing in Oliver's statement states, suggests or implies any such practice. 

This leads to another important historical source that the authors omitted from their book. Oliver reiterated his first-person testimony when he rejoined the Church in 1848.


I wrote with my own pen the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet as he translated it by the gift and power of God by means of the Urim and Thummim, or as it is called by that book, holy interpreters. I beheld with my eyes and handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was translated. I also beheld the Interpreters. That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet.

Here again, nothing in Oliver's statement states, suggests or implies that Joseph used a stone he found in a well and placed in a hat. This 1848 statement is all the more meaningful because on that occasion, Oliver possessed the brown stone that Joseph supposedly used. But he neither referenced it nor displayed it. Instead, he referred to the interpreters and the plates. 

_____

Now we return to the authors' thesis:

With the “gift and power of God” Joseph read the translated words that appeared on the seer stones and his scribes recorded them as the text of the Book of Mormon, a concept that will be further elaborated upon in following chapters.

The authors elaborate upon this "concept" by invoking a variety of sources, which is fine. But they simply omit the sources that disprove their thesis.

Readers should at least be alerted that the historical record includes sources that support and corroborate what Joseph, Oliver, and their successors in Church leadership have always taught about the translation.



the end

Sunday, July 17, 2022

BYU's fantasy map moved

BYU map showing that
Cumorah is definitely not in New York
Because I've mentioned it a few times and provided links, readers should know that the BYU fantasy map of Book of Mormon geography has been moved to this site:

https://virtualscriptures.org/book-of-mormon-map/

You can still see the old site here:

https://web.archive.org/web/20210303204715/http://bom.byu.edu/

The map itself hasn't changed. It still teaches students that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah, including President Oliver Cowdery, and Joseph Smith's own mother, close associates, and successors, as well as members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.



Notice how they've changed the description of their map. The new description is an improvement in the sense that they have stopped claiming their fantasy map "matches" the text "as closely as possible." 

However, they are still putting their finger on the scale of "neutrality" by teaching students that the Hill Cumorah cannot be in New York as the prophets have taught.


Original

New (July 2022)

The Church and BYU stay neutral in questions of exactly where the Book of Mormon took place. The Lord could have removed all questions regarding the exact locations of these events but he did not. For that reason, our design team has chosen to develop an internal map that shows relational directions and approximate distances that match the approximately 550 geography descriptions in the text as closely as possible. These are artistic renditions.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not officially endorse any one particular geographical model for where the events in The Book of Mormon transpired in the New World. For that reason, we have designed and prepared this artistic rendering in such a way that you can get a basic idea of approximate directions and theoretical relationships between various geographical features mentioned in the stories.


Notice also the distinction between "any one particular geographical model" and their outright repudiation of the New York Cumorah. This is a euphemism, of course. A "model" is a framework for the overall geography. 

The prophets have always taught that we don't know where Book of Mormon events took place, with the exception of the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6. That makes sense because other than Cumorah, there are numerous ways to interpret the text and the extrinsic evidence; i.e., multiple working hypotheses.

Even when we accept the New York Cumorah, there are multiple working hypotheses about the rest of the locations mentioned in the text.

Although people have a variety of interpretations regarding geography, the New York Cumorah was well established as a fact if you read authentic documents from Church history. It wasn't until L.E. Hills published a map in 1917 that scholars began teaching that there must be "two Cumorahs."

By now, "two Cumorahs" is the de facto standard because it is being taught throughout the Church.

L.E. Hills 1917 map

L.E. Hills book

Cumorah detail from L.E. Hills

Cumorah detail from BYU's map


Sorenson/Welch map moving Cumorah
a little east from the L.E. Hills map


Cumorah detail from CES map


Friday, July 15, 2022

The rising generation, SITH and M2C

Yesterday I discussed the way SITH affects the "rising generation." The rising generation is smart. They can see the ramifications of SITH--as can the critics who bring it up all the time.

The rising generation (and everyone else) would greatly benefit from a simple new approach to LDS apologetics:

We should interpret Church history and the text of the Book of Mormon through the lens the prophets have provided, instead of interpreting the history, text, and the teachings of the prophets through the lens the scholars have provided.

_____

One obvious problem with SITH is how it detaches the Book of Mormon from the plates, giving rise to claims Joseph composed, copied or performed the text. But there's another more fundamental problem.

There's no getting around the plain reality that SITH says Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery lied about the translation. 

Joseph expressly refuted SITH on specific occasions, yet our modern LDS apologists have revived it and are now aggressively pushing it, as we saw in the absurd Witnesses movie from the Interpreter Foundation.

I give Royal Skousen credit for being the most honest about the implications of SITH when he wrote that Joseph and Oliver deliberately misled people about the translation. Other LDS apologists and historians try to skirt this reality by employing clever sophistry. For example, people often cite the book From Darkness Unto Light to support SITH. We'll discuss that book next week. 

_____

Joseph and Oliver were familiar with the SITH narrative because it was a rumor that started as early as September 1829, published in local New York newspapers. The 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed openly ridiculed SITH. Whatever Joseph did with the stone-in-the-hat, it wasn't translating the Book of Mormon.

We can't know how many times Joseph and Oliver responded to SITH verbally, but they did leave published writings that unambiguously refute SITH.

For example, in 1838 Joseph answered a question in the Elders' Journal by reaffirming that he translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates:

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon? 

Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County New York, being dead; and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon.

SITH sayers try to cram the peep stone into that statement by arguing that when Joseph wrote "Urim and Thummim" he actually meant the peep stone he found in a well years earlier. Yet anyone can see that he specified he obtained the Urim and Thummim with the plates.

Maybe Joseph anticipated the sophistry of our modern LDS apologists and historians when he repeated his declaration in 1842 when he wrote the Wentworth letter.

With the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called “Urim and Thummim,” which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift, and power of God.

The modern revival of SITH by LDS scholars is a fascinating story. As I've mentioned, I've been working on a book about LDS apologetics in which SITH plays a major role. Due to my other interests and activities, I thought I wouldn't take the time to publish the book because a few blog posts would suffice to cover the topic. However, based on the interest the topic has generated, and the ongoing nonsense emanating from the SITH apologists, it looks like the book-length treatment would be useful. 

But hope springs eternal, and if (as I hope) the upcoming FAIRLDS conference announces a course correction in LDS apologetics, the book won't be necessary. 

_____

Yesterday I mentioned a previous post about The Next Mormons.

https://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2019/03/the-next-mormons-by-jana-riess.html  

BYU Fantasy/mythology map of
the Book of Mormon
In that post, I noted that it is difficult for young people to believe the Book of Mormon as a literal historical account when their BYU professors tell them that the best reconstruction of the setting is a computer-generated fantasy world that has more in common with a video game than any location in the real world.

The BYU map even depicts Cumorah in a fantasy location. 

The promoters of this map don't tell their students that the prophets have long taught that Cumorah--the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6--is in western New York. 

The New York Cumorah has been erased from Church history in the Saints book, volume 1, in the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon geography, in the Book of Mormon videos, and pretty much everywhere else.

Except they can't erase it from the historical record.

People can and will believe whatever they want, and that's fine. Some people believe M2C, others believe other theories based on the "two-Cumorahs" idea, such as a setting in Baja or Panama or Chile or Malaysia or pretty much anywhere else in the world.

The reason the M2Cers don't tell their followers what the prophets have taught is that, to believe any "two-Cumorahs" theory, people have to reject the express declaration of fact by Oliver Cowdery, writing as Assistant President of the Church with the assistance of Joseph Smith, when he wrote Letter VII.

Anyone can read this in Joseph's own history right in the Joseph Smith Papers. 

http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/90

Anyone can read the other references to the New York Cumorah, including General Conference addresses by members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. 

It should not be surprising that some Latter-day Saints still believe what Joseph and Oliver and their successors taught about the New York Cumorah. 

Even among these Latter-day Saints, there are multiple working hypotheses regarding the rest of the geography. This is consistent with the teachings of the prophets because other than Cumorah, they have not identified any specific site for Book of Mormon geography in the new world. That makes sense because there are so many possible matches even among archaeological sites that have been preserved, not even counting the untold numbers of sites that have long since been destroyed, overbuilt, etc.

But that doesn't avoid the plain reality that we should interpret the text of the Book of Mormon through the lens the prophets have provided, instead of interpreting the text (and the teachings of the prophets) through the lens the scholars have provided.


Thursday, July 14, 2022

The Rising Generation, SITH and the GTE

Let's discuss the "rising generation."

Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers. (Mosiah 26:1 )

In our day, there are "many of the rising generation that cannot understand the words" of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery because our LDS apologists "have rejected the words of the prophets" (1 Nephi 3:18) because of "the simpleness of their words" (2 Nephi 3:20). Not only has Cumorah been censored from the Saints book, volume 1, but the teachings of Joseph and Oliver about the Urim and Thummim have been all but erased as well. 

A prime example is the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation as we'll discuss below. This essay has been criticized by outsiders, but it is more problematic from a faithful perspective.

There are two aspects of the Gospel Topics Essays that people seem to overlook. 

1. They were written by committee, published anonymously, and are not canonized.
2. They are subject to revision at any time without notice, and have been revised from time to time in the past. 

These two aspects lead me to hope and propose that the essays continue to be improved. As it is now, the Translation essay misleads readers--particularly the rising generation.

In all our discussion of LDS apologetics, we remember this important observation by Tad Callister:

If I were to ask my good Christian friends how they unquestionably know the Bible is the word of God, I do not believe they would cite archaeological discoveries or linguistic connections with ancient Hebrew or Greek as their prime evidence; rather, they would make reference to the Spirit. It always comes back to the Spirit. The Spirit that helps me know the Bible is true is the very same Spirit that helps me know the Book of Mormon is true.

https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/tad-r-callister/book-mormon-man-made-god-given/

_____

Joseph Smith used the term "rising generation" three times when he translated the Book of Mormon. (It's a term Jonathan Edwards used numerous times as well.) 

Joseph used the term once in the Doctrine and Covenants, in this verse: And also it is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart— (D&C 123:11)

We all owe a duty to the rising generation to give them good information to help them make informed decisions. As President Nelson taught, "good inspiration is based upon good information."

Some of that good information includes the original sources for what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught about the events of the Restoration.

_____


Two years ago I blogged about the book The Next Mormons

One datapoint the authors reported was the percentage of Latter-day Saints who believe the Book of Mormon is a literal, historical account. 

The numbers are declining in younger generations.


SITH (the stone-in-the-hat theory) is one reason why so many of the "rising generation" disbelieve the Book of Mormon is an authentic historical account.

When Joseph Smith said he translated the plates--that he took his translation from the plates--he directly tied the text to an actual ancient document. 

SITH explicitly separates the text from the plates. That's why critics promoted SITH in the first place. Detaching the text from the ancient record undermines its authenticity.

In his preface to the 1830 edition (which was omitted from subsequent editions, including the one we use today), Joseph wrote: 

I would inform you that I translated, by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written, one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from the Book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon.

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/book-of-mormon-1830/9

It's difficult to imagine more plain and simple language than this. Joseph "took" the translation from the Book of Lehi. He did not state or imply that he "took" the text from a stone he found in a well. 

Actually, he never said or implied that he dictated the Book of Mormon from words that appeared on the stone in the hat (SITH).

But the rising generation does not know any of this. 

They are not being taught to refer to original sources but instead are led to the Saints books and to the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation.

That essay omits and edits important, relevant original sources, including the teachings of the prophets, to promote the narrative generated by David Whitmer and others, contrary to the plain teachings of Joseph, Oliver, and their successors in Church leadership.

For instance, readers cannot tell from this Gospel Topics essay that neither Joseph nor Oliver ever once said or implied that Joseph dictated a text that appeared on the seer stone he found in a well.

I've discussed this essay in more detail before, offering line-by-line analysis, but in this post, we'll focus on one short paragraph that omits a key point:

The Mechanics of Translation

In the preface to the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith wrote: “I would inform you that I translated [the book], by the gift and power of God.” 

Notice how the essay omits the rest of the sentence in the Preface quoted above, in which Joseph explains he took the text from the Book of Lehi.

It's also interesting that "gift and power of God" is a nonbiblical phrase that occurs in only a handful of obscure pre-1830 sources. Not even Jonathan Edwards used it. Below we'll see where it originated.

The essay continues:

When pressed for specifics about the process of translation, Joseph repeated on several occasions that it had been done “by the gift and power of God”24 and once added, “It was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the book of Mormon.”25

Here, the essay repeats the excerpt from the 1830 Preface, again omitting the rest of the sentence

The paragraph is misleading in several ways, as we can see by looking at the two notes.
_____

Note 24Preface to the Book of Mormon, 1830 edition.

The note references the Preface but doesn't even provide a link so readers can see it--in context--for themselves. 

And although the essay refers to "several occasions," it doesn't quote, list or provide references to those occasions. Readers have to wonder why not. 

If you search in the Joseph Smith Papers for the phrase, you will see that there are only four documented "occasions" when Joseph repeated that phrase outside of the Book of Mormon. There are a few additional statements from Joseph relating to the translation that don't use the phrase "gift and power of God." It is inexplicable that none of the sources below are quoted or cited in the essay, even though they each deal directly with the translation.

Maybe the essay omits these references because, in the best known of these occasions (the Wentworth letter), Joseph specifically explained that he translated with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. His explanation leaves no room for confusion with a seer stone he found years earlier while digging a well.

With the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called “Urim and Thummim,” which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift, and power of God.


The Wentworth letter was later republished in 1844 as "Latter Day Saints" with some modifications, but the paragraph about the translation remained unchanged except for omitting the final comma.

With the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called “Urim and Thummim,” which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim on a bow fastened to a breastplate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record, by the gift and power of God.


In another direct, clear statement, Joseph answered a question in the 1838 Elders' Journal by reaffirming that he translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates:

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon? 
Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County New York, being dead; and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon.

_____

The first known "occasion" for which Joseph used the term "gift and power of God" was when he translated the Title Page, which he said was "a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated."*

Because this was a "literal translation" of a specific part of the plates, we can reasonably infer that the phrase "gift and power of God" originated with Moroni and was not drawn from Joseph's lexicon. 

Written, and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed;  to come forth by the gift and power of God, unto the interpretation thereof; sealed by the hand of Moro­ni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by the way of Gentile; the interpretation thereof by the gift of God...
(Title Page)

Here, the "gift and power of God" involves the coming forth of the record, while the interpretation thereof is by the "gift of God." That distinction will be relevant in the discussion below.

The next reference was in the text of the Book of Mormon, specifically in the plates of Nephi which Joseph translated in Fayette.

And  it  came  to  pass  that  the  people  of  Zarahemla,  and  of Mosiah,  did  unite  together;  and  Mosiah  was  appointed  to  be their king.  And it came to pass in the days of Mosiah, there was a  large  stone  brought  unto  him,  with  engravings  on  it ;  and  he did  interpret  the  engravingsby  the  gift  and  power  of  God
And  they  gave  an  account  of  one  Coriantumr,  and  the  slain of  his  people. 
(Omni 1:19–21, or page 150 in the 1830 edition)

Here we see that Mosiah interpreted the engravings on the large stone. These engravings gave an account of Coriantumr. Nothing in this passage states, suggests or implies that Mosiah put a stone in a hat and read words that appeared on the stone. He could have done that without the people bringing the large stone to him. Instead, he interpreted the engravings on the large stone.

In his 1832 History, Joseph explained that he, too, translated characters: "the Lord had prepared spectacles for to read the Book therefore I commenced translating the characters."


Similarly, Joseph later explained that "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."
(Joseph Smith—History 1:62)

Returning to the phrase "gift and power of God," the next reference comes from 4 January 1833, when Joseph wrote a letter to Noah Saxton.

The Book of Mormon is a reccord of the forefathers of our western Tribes of Indians, having been found through the ministration of an holy Angel translated into our own Language by the gift and power of God, after having been hid up in the earth for the last fourteen hundred years containing the word of God, which was delivered unto them, By it we learn that our western tribes of Indians are desendants from that Joseph that was sold into Egypt, and that the Land of America is a promised land unto them, and unto it all the tribes of Israel will come. with as many of the gentiles as shall comply with the requesitions of the new co[v]enant.


In this letter, Joseph's brief outline of the discovery and translation of the record didn't mention either the plates or the Urim and Thummim. The existence of both was well known at the time, however.

The claim that the text is a record "of the foregathers of our western tribes of Indians" and that these tribes are descendants from Joseph of Egypt is controversial among modern scholars. Perhaps that is why the Gospel Topics Essay omits this reference. 

Yet every Latter-day Saint who studies the scriptures should know that the "western tribes of Indians" were the same tribes identified by the Lord as Lamanites in D&C 28, 30 and 32. These are the Lamanites to whom Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and Peter Whitmer, Jr., were called to preach.

The next reference comes in a journal account of conversations with Robert Matthews, 9–11 November 1835.

I went and found the place, where the plates were, according to the direction of the Angel, also saw them, and the angel as before; the powers of darkness strove hard against me, I called on God, the Angel told me that the reason why I could not obtain the plates at this time was because I was under transgression, but to come again in one year from that time, I did so, but did not obtain them also the third and the fourth year, at which time I obtained them, and translated them into the english language; by the gift and power of God and have been preaching it ever since.


Here again, Joseph did not mention the Urim and Thummim, or any other translation instrument, but he affirms that he "translated them into the english language." That leaves little room for an alternative translator (the Mysterious Incognito Supernatural Translator, or MIST, that supposedly put the words on the stone in the hat for Joseph to read).

Other sources relate Joseph translating by the gift and power of God, also referring to the Urim and Thummim, such as this anonymous article in the Times and Seasons:

and that the Book of Mormon had come forth as an “ensign to the nations,” containing an account of the gospel in much plainness, being translated by the gift and power of God by the use of the Urim and Thummim, that had come forth with the plates that contain the record


This reference reiterates the plain teaching of the Wentworth letter, published a few months earlier in the same Times and Seasons

Oliver Cowdery provided this statement in 1834, which now appears as a note in Joseph Smith-History:

* 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)

Oliver reiterated his first-person testimony when he rejoined the Church in 1848.

I wrote with my own pen the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet as he translated it by the gift and power of God by means of the Urim and Thummim, or as it is called by that book, holy interpreters. I beheld with my eyes and handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was translated. I also beheld the Interpreters. That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet.


In conclusion regarding Note 24, while the Gospel Topics Essay accurately states that Joseph said he translated "by the gift and power of God," it is misleading by omission. A partial truth is not helpful when it obscures the whole truth, particularly here when the partial truth is used to support SITH, which expressly contradicts the plain meaning of what Joseph and Oliver actually taught. 

The essay misleads readers by omitting Joseph's own explanations that he translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. It should be revised to quote, cite and link these direct statements from Joseph and Oliver regarding the translation, instead of misleading readers by omitting them and relying instead on the speculations of scholars and the statements of those who never saw the plates or the Urim and Thummim during the translation because they were not authorized to do so.

Whatever Joseph may have done with the stone he found in a well, he and Oliver left no room in their accounts for its use in connection with the translation.
_____

Note 25: Minutes, Church conference, Orange, OH, Oct. 25–26, 1831, in Minute Book 2, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, available at josephsmithpapers.org; Welch, “Miraculous Translation,” 121–9.

Here, the note gives us a link to the cited reference, which consists of minutes of a conference from October 1831:


Recall the passage from the essay that includes this note:

When pressed for specifics about the process of translation, Joseph repeated on several occasions that it had been done “by the gift and power of God”24 and once added, “It was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the book of Mormon.”25

When we read the actual reference in context, though, we see that Joseph was not "pressed for specifics about the process of translation."

Br. Hyrum Smith said that he thought best that the information of the coming forth of the book of Mormon be related by Joseph himself to the Elders present that all might know for themselves.
 
Br. Joseph Smith jr. said that it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the book of Mormon, & also said that it was not expedient for him to relate these things &c.

The minutes here are incomplete, as we can see from the "&c." at the end of the sentence. When considered in context and in light of subsequent events, the incomplete minutes of Joseph's 1831 statement likely meant that it was not expedient at that meeting for Joseph to relate these things. 

No reasonable historian can say that the 1831 statement precluded later statements about the "coming forth of the Book of Mormon," particularly because Joseph himself did provide more details in the later statements. Other participants in the 1831 meeting, including Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, Orson Pratt, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer, certainly did not understand Joseph's statement to preclude future discussions about the translation. They discussed it publicly.

This meeting took place in 1831. Joseph didn't produce his first known account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon until 1832. The first detailed account was not published until 1834-5 (Oliver Cowdery's eight historical essays, with which Joseph assisted). The Elders' Journal account of the translation was published in 1838. Joseph's own detailed account was not compiled until 1838, and wasn't published until 1842. The Wentworth letter was also published in 1842, and the Latter Day Saints article was published in 1844.

Recall that Joseph's 1842 History was prompted by extrinsic events:

Owing to the many reports which have been put in circulation by evil-disposed and designing persons, in relation to the rise and progress of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all of which have been designed by the authors thereof to militate against its character as a Church and its progress in the world—I have been induced to write this history, to disabuse the public mind, and put all inquirers after truth in possession of the facts, as they have transpired, in relation both to myself and the Church, so far as I have such facts in my possession.
(Joseph Smith—History 1:1)

The phrase "coming forth of the Book of Mormon" encompasses more than just the translation, and may not even include the translation. After all, the Title Page itself distinguishes between the coming forth and the interpretation, as we discussed above. 

The gradual release of information about the "coming forth of the Book of Mormon" makes sense because circumstances changed. The growth and expansion of the Church meant that fewer people could have personal interactions with Joseph Smith. He and Oliver needed to document their experiences for future generations as well. 

We can see from the 1834 Mormonism Unvailed that various accounts of the translation were circulating. That book pointed out that the idea of a "translation" produced by reading words of the stone in the hat (SITH) without reference to the plates not only undermined the credibility of the narrative Joseph provided, but made the testimony of the witnesses about those plates irrelevant.  

Ultimately, the historical record establishes that Joseph and Oliver wanted people to know that Joseph Smith translated the engravings on the plates by means of the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates; i.e., that God had prepared the special instrument that Joseph used to translate the ancient record. This meant that there was no possibility of a source for the text that was not divine.

By omitting and editing original sources, the Gospel Topics Essay deprives readers of the very knowledge Joseph and Oliver tried so hard to impart.

_____

* Joseph's full explanation was published in the Times and Seasons as part of the serialized History of Joseph Smith:


I wish also to mention here, that the title page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated; the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general; and that, said title page is not by any means a modern composition either of mine or of any other man’s who has lived or does live in this generation. Therefore, in order to correct an error which generally exists concerning it, I give below that part of the title page of the English version of the Book of Mormon, which is a genuine and literal translation of the title page of the Original Book of Mormon, as recorded on the plates.

The irony today is that another error generally exists concerning the Title Page (and the rest of the Book of Mormon) because some of our own LDS intellectuals actually teach that Joseph didn't use the plates when he translated! 

Yet here Joseph tells us specifically which part of the plates he translated. And he specifies that this was a genuine and literal translation. These claims would be pointless if Joseph was merely reading words off a stone in the hat.

One wonders what else Joseph and Oliver could have said or written to prevent the SITH error.