long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Awe of credentials? Mike Parker and Gerrit Dirkmaat

It was nice spending 3 weeks in Eastern Europe, far from the contention emanating from LDS apologists in Utah. However, when I was in Europe, someone sent me a screenshot of a post by Mike Parker.* 

Because I favor recognition of multiple working hypotheses and I seek clarity and understanding, I've taken a few moments here to address the points Mike raised.

Mike's post may offer an explanation for everything he's written.

Basically, he's in awe of credentials. 

Understanding this may help defuse some of the contention as we seek "no more contention."

And this episode helps us understand how and why some Church historians manipulate the historical evidence to promote their own narratives instead of helping Latter-day Saints understand the complete historical record.

(*Mike Parker is aka Peter Pan (the boy who doesn't grow up), aka Richard Nygren (the racist, fake Black apologist)


In his post, Mike promotes a podcast by Gerrit Dirkmaat called "The Standard of Truth." Mike explains that Gerrit "has a PhD in American history and worked on the Joseph Smith Papers Project as a historian and writer." 

These are valid, relevant credentials. And Gerrit is undoubtedly a fine scholar, a faithful Latter-day Saint who is exemplary and articulate. But lots of people have lots of credentials, and they are just as prone to differences of opinion, confirmation bias, and cognitive dissonance as anyone else.

In my view, Mike Parker's awe of credentials has led him (and other like-minded M2C/SITH* proponents) to suspend rational thought in deference to the scholars he so admires. 

*for an explanation of acronyms, see 



The credentialed class (the "Interpreters") encourage this type of deference. They get paid for their expertise, after all. And no doubt, some people seem to feel "smart" by agreeing with and parroting experts. 

The logical fallacy, of course, is that when we defer to credentialed experts, we're merely confirming our own biases by choosing which experts to follow. As any trial lawyer knows, there are experts on every side of most issues. That's why lawyers can hire experts to support either side of a case.

Mike Parker has chosen to follow the experts who confirm his biases. Nothing wrong with that; we all rely on experts in areas we don't have time to pursue ourselves. 

And, as I've explained before, I used to do the same thing. I used to follow the FARMS publications. I thought Jack Welch and Dan Peterson were awesome. Too busy with life to do my own research, I deferred to them because I thought they were open and honest and dependable. So I'm empathetic with Mike Parker and the other Interpreters.

Mike's post helped me realize that for some people it is important to cling to their experts. This is why he gets offended on their behalf and spends so much time trying to defend them. 

But at some point, people should accept responsibility by making informed decisions instead of relying on an expert who confirms their bias.

When they become disillusioned upon realizing how Jack, Dan and other apologists promote agendas, some people lose their faith and become critics. 

Others (like me) take another look at the evidence and discover a different narrative that is more faith-affirming than what Jack and Dan promoted. Obviously, this is all subjective; we can all reach different conclusions based on the same evidence. But that is why, IMO, it's important to recognize multiple working hypotheses and why it is inexcusable for Jack and Dan to refuse to do so.

By now, everyone interested in these issues can see that the Interpreters are promoting an agenda that consists, apparently, of preserving their reputations and the narratives they've taught for decades to thousands of Latter-day Saints. That's why they perpetuate false stereotypes about Heartlanders, for example.

(For another fun example of the credentialed class, look at how Book of Mormon Central promotes their credentials on their M2C-promoting, Spanish-language "Book of Mormon Geography" page, here:



Back to Mike's post. After citing Gerrit's credentials, Mike says "He is, in my estimation, better acquainted with the life and teachings of Joseph Smith than just about any other living historian."

With this "estimation," it's no wonder that Mike is in awe of Gerrit's credentials. 

Let's set aside the absurdity of Mike deciding which living historian is best "acquainted with the life and teachings of Joseph Smith." It's unlikely--let's say, impossible--that Gerrit Dirkmaat has access to any secret teachings of Joseph Smith that no one else has. IOW, we're all dealing with the same historical evidence. 

It's not a question of being acquainted with historical evidence. It's a question of what we do with that evidence, as we'll discuss below.

For purposes of this blog, though, let's assume that Gerrit does know more about Joseph Smith than anyone else.

That makes his manipulation of the evidence all the more inexcusable.


BTW, if you find it difficult to believe that anyone would actually write such a statement, here's part of the screen shot of Mike's blog post that was sent to me (click to enlarge):


The historians and other experts at the Joseph Smith Papers have produced an outstanding reference. I encourage everyone to use it.


As I've discussed before, The Joseph Smith Papers project is exemplary in the way it has compiled, organized, and presented historical documents. We are all grateful to everyone who participated in that project.

However, the editorial commentary is not so exemplary. While mostly factual, the editors slipped in numerous examples of editorial bias to promote their interpretive agenda. I discussed some of these before.


Part of that agenda is M2C, but another part is SITH.

I think it is inexcusable for these experts to use their editorial commentary to manipulate the historical evidence the way they have. I'd like to see revisions that are more factually correct. (I'd like to see similar improvements to accuracy in the Saints books and the Gospel Topics Essays, too.)

This leads directly to Mike's blog post. Here's another part of the screen shot (click to enlarge):


Mike says Dirkmaat discussed "a rising trend/movement among Church members [who] adamantly reject that Joseph Smith used seer stones placed into a hat (in order to block out the light) to translate the Book of Mormon."

[The subtext is whether Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim, as he claimed, or whether he actually used the stone-in-the-hat (SITH) instead of the plates and the U&T.]

According to Mike, Dirkmaat was referring to the book by the Stoddards as well as my books.

For purposes of this post, let's assume Mike correctly represented what Gerrit said.

I won't comment on the Stoddards' book. I don't agree with some of their conclusions, but that's the nature of historical analysis. There is a large element of subjectivity in reading historical documents. 

If someone polled all the historians/experts who have assessed the life of Joseph Smith, we'd find a full spectrum of conclusions, driven largely by their respective biases. Using exactly the same evidence,, nonbelieving scholars would reach different conclusions than believing scholars would. Among believing scholars there would be a range of views.

All of that is normal.

But for Gerrit Dirkmaat to claim there is a "rising trend/movement" in favor of U&T over SITH is a misleading and contradicts the historical record.

Until a few years ago, there was nearly universal acceptance among Latter-day Saints of U&T over SITH.

Thanks to the efforts of scholars such as Gerrit Dirkmaat and the Interpreters who follow them, there is a "rising trend," but that trend is the promotion of SITH among young Latter-day Saints and the rejection of the traditional U&T narrative in favor of SITH.

Still, if Gerrit perceives there is a "rising trend" in favor of U&T, then that's great news. It means more people are learning what Joseph and Oliver actually said. It means more people are seeing through the spin provided by the SITH sayers who prefer David Whitmer's "An Address to All Believers in Christ" over the Wentworth letter.


To be clear, I'm fine with the Interpreters disagreeing with my conclusions.* 

I'm also fine with them promoting SITH (as well as M2C). 

I just ask that they provide clarity instead of obfuscation, understanding instead of acrimony, and openness instead of censorship.

Last year I discussed the book Gerrit co-authored that's at the core of the SITH promotion. In that book, the authors simply omitted the historical evidence that contradict their thesis. Last I checked, they haven't revised the book.


It's easy to promote a historical narrative when you simply omit contrary historical information. That's why in my books, I try to include all the evidence. I cite people who disagree with me because I favor clarity and understanding. I encourage people to make informed decisions.

That's why I keep talking about multiple working hypotheses.

Let's hope that Mike Parker's post leads to greater clarity and understanding, which will in turn lead to no more contention.


*It is funny, though, that the Interpreters are so insecure about their own positions that they resort to manipulative tactics. For example, when Mike Parker and his fellow Interpreters wrote two long critiques of my books last summer, they didn't give me any notice or a chance to respond. When I contacted an editor at the Interpreter, he agreed to let me respond within a word count restraint that was far shorter than the original articles. And then they delayed publication of my response until Mike and his fellow Interpreters could prepare a rejoinder to publish alongside my response, in which they raised issues I hadn't addressed. When I asked to respond to the rejoinder, the editors refused, saying I could make comments if I wanted. Online comments are not part of the journal, leaving readers of the Interpreter with a series of misleading and unanswered criticisms. 

Which readers of the Interpreter are used to, actually, given the pattern established by Dan Peterson (Slander Dan) over many years.

All of this is the opposite of seeking clarity and understanding, which is (or should be) the point of authentic academic exchanges. 

But this all passes as "scholarship" among LDS apologists.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

a difference of opinion = enemies?

Yesterday I commented on a presentation by Ben Spackman at the FAIRLDS conference in 2019.

During his presentation Spackman quoted Brigham Young's colorful comment about the bag of cats. The original context looks a little more fundamentalist than Spackman acknowledged. Notice, for example, that our current crop of LDS apologists teach that Joseph Smith was a money digger, just as Brigham Young anticipated.

As we saw, Spackman perpetrated the false Interpreter narrative that "heartlanders" marry a geography model "with a right-wing constitutionalist politics, young Earth creationism, an authoritarian view of of prophets that is absolutely absolutist... and they claim that anyone who disagrees with them is apostate."

Although Spackman quoted Brigham Young, he apparently forgot to read the part where Brigham Young explained how he was happy to share a meal with people who disagreed with him.

Contrary to Spackman and his fellow Interpreters, I (like every Heartlander I know) is happy to treat everyone as a friend, and, with Brigham, we do "feel much better than if we suffered a difference of opinion to make us enemies."

When this Church first commenced, I used to say to the people, “If you do not like my preaching, when I do the best I can, I cannot help it, but if you will let us alone, and suffer us peaceably to enjoy our religion, we shall enjoy ourselves better together, as friends, neighbors, and citizens. 

If you will come to my house, I will give you your dinner and your supper, I will treat you hospitably, as one friend ought to treat another; and when I come into your neighborhood, do the same to me, for, in pursuing this course, we shall feel much better than if we suffered a difference of opinion to make us enemies. 

We've already seen that Mike Parker, Dan Peterson, and the other Interpreters thrive by making enemies over a difference of opinion, refusing to share a meal, etc. I've never met Ben Spackman, but I hope he differs from his fellow Interpreters at least to the extent he would be willing to follow Brigham's advice.

Maybe he would even publicly apologize for his contentious and false accusations about Heartlanders?


Brigham Young:

I will now say, not only to our delegate to Congress, but to the Elders who leave the body of the Church, that he thought that all the cats and kittens were let out of the bag when brother Pratt went back last fall, and published the Revelation concerning the plurality of wives: it was thought there was no other cat to let out. But allow me to tell you, Elders of Israel, and delegates to Congress, you may expect an eternity of cats, that have not yet escaped from the bag. Bless your souls, there is no end to them, for if there is not one thing, there will always be another.

Do you suppose that this people will ever see the day that they will rest in perfect security, in hopes of becoming like another people, nation, state, kingdom, or society? They never will. 

Christ and Satan never can be friends. Light and darkness will always remain opposites. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan will always remain two kingdoms; and so long as they are, you will find from time to time that the citizens of Satan’s kingdom will be telling you of cats that are ready to leap out of the bag, of something that is wonderful and alarming in its nature, as much so as the circumstance which brother Bernhisel touched at, which created a great excitement in Washington—that we had revolted from the parent Government, and hoisted the flag of our independence. I know how that report originated. The letter containing this startling intelligence, and purporting to have been received at California from this place, was written in Washington. After the originators had failed in their object, they supposed that nothing more would be said about it, but the whole of the United States believed the report to be true, and thought that all the citizens in Utah were rebels.

Do you understand the reason why such feelings exist against this people? Go to the United States, into Europe, or wherever you can come across men who have been in the midst of this people, and one will tell you that we are a poor, ignorant, deluded people; the next will tell you that we are the most industrious and intelligent people on the earth, and are destined to rise to eminence as a  nation, and spread, and continue to spread, until we revolutionize the whole earth. If you pass on to the third man, and inquire what he thinks of the “Mormons,” he will say they are fools, duped and led astray by Joe Smith, who was a knave, a false Prophet, and a money digger. 

Why is all this? 

It is because there is a spirit in man. And when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached on the earth and the kingdom of God is established, there is also a spirit in these things, and an Almighty spirit too. When these two spirits come in contact one with the other, the spirit of the Gospel reflects light upon the spirit which God has placed in man, and wakes him up to a consciousness of his true state, which makes him afraid he will be condemned, for he perceives at once that “Mormonism” is true. 

“Our craft is in danger,” is the first thought that strikes the wicked and dishonest of mankind, when the light of truth shines upon them. Say they, “If these people called Latter-day Saints are correct in their views, the whole world must be wrong, and what will become of our time-honored institutions, and of our influence, which we have swayed successfully over the minds of the people for ages. This Mormonism must be put down.” So priestcraft presents a bold and extended front against the truth, and with this we have to contend, this is our deadliest foe.

Why should there be any more excitement when a public officer is chastised in Utah for publicly insulting a loyal people, than there would be if a similar occurrence transpired in Oregon, Minnesota, or any other territory? It is because we are Latter-day Saints. And let me tell you the Devil has put the whole world on the watch against us. It is impossible for us to make the least move without exciting, if not all the world, at least a considerable portion of it. They are excited at what we do, and, strange to relate, they are no less excited at what we do not do.

You will find that there will be cats and kittens leaping out of the bag continually. “What can come next I wonder!” I do not know; but this I know, the Lord Almighty will not suffer the Saints, neither the world, to slumber upon their oars. The time is past for them to fold their hands, and say, “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands.” 

This people will never see that day, for the Lord will keep them on the alert all the time; they will continually have something to contend with to keep them from dropping to sleep, and it is no matter to me as to what means He may use to do it.

Inasmuch as we send brother Bernhisel back to Washington, I say to him, Fear not their faces, nor their power, for we are perfectly prepared to take all the nations of the earth on our back; they are there already, and we will round up our shoulders, and bear up the ponderous weight, carry the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, gather Israel, redeem Zion, and continue our operations until we bind Satan, and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ; and no power can hinder it.

I care not what may come, I will do the work the Lord has appointed unto me. You do the same, and fear not, for the Lord manages the helm of the ship of Zion; and on any other ship I do not wish to be. As I once said to Sidney Rigdon, our boat is an old snag boat, and has never been out of snag harbor, but it will root up the snags, run them down, split them up, and scatter them to the four winds. Our ship is the old ship of Zion. Nothing that runs foul of it can resist the shock and fire.

The hue and cry in the world about this people is—“What an awful set of people these Mormons are! Why,  they are a dreadful people!” What makes them so? “They are Mormons.” And that is all the people can say about the matter.

Do you know what it is that scares the world? 

As I have already said, it is the Spirit of the Lord that is placed in man, and the reflection of light from it upon his spirit wakes up the sensibilities in him, and creates conviction. That Spirit, with the Gospel of Christ, interrupts the whole world in their common career, in every capacity of life. That Spirit does not chime in and harmonize with any earthly kingdom or government, either in their political or religious institutions; but it seems to put a check upon everything, to throw into disorder the best laid plans of the wise and farseeing among men; in short, it turns the whole current of earthly calculations back upon the world, and deluges it in the dark waters of confusion.

As this kingdom of God grows, spreads, increases, and prospers in its course, it will cleanse, thoroughly purge, and purify the world from wickedness. He who supposes his house to be built upon a rock, and well calculated to withstand any test that may be applied to it, finds, when it is tried by the Gospel of the kingdom, that its foundation proves to be sand, and the whole fabric appears nothing in which a man may securely trust for salvation. One of the weakest of our Elders, I mean one of our boys, who is conversant with the Bible, is well qualified to instruct the learned priest, confound in Bible doctrine the greatest theologians upon the earth, and throw into confusion, and interrupt, and fill with contradictions and inconsistencies, their choicest theories.

Imagine to yourselves a learned doctor of divinity, securely surrounded with the bulwarks of his religious lore, pampered with the applause of thousands who hang on his skirts for religious instructions; he is satisfied that he knows and understands the Bible from the beginning to the end of it, and is capable of withstanding all creation upon Bible doctrine, and is as well skilled in theological researches as a man can be—imagine this great man sailing triumphantly over the sea of time, and the little unassuming bark, the boy, darts along, and strikes this proud hulk, this great, tremendous vessel, and pierces it through below the water mark; it begins to sink, and turns to make battle, but the little craft hits it on the keel and capsizes it, sinking it in shame and bitter disappointment. Such will be the fate of all who will oppose the truth.

The report of the Gospel of Jesus Christ terrifies the people, it goes forth with such gigantic strides. When this Church first commenced, I used to say to the people, “If you do not like my preaching, when I do the best I can, I cannot help it, but if you will let us alone, and suffer us peaceably to enjoy our religion, we shall enjoy ourselves better together, as friends, neighbors, and citizens. If you will come to my house, I will give you your dinner and your supper, I will treat you hospitably, as one friend ought to treat another; and when I come into your neighborhood, do the same to me, for, in pursuing this course, we shall feel much better than if we suffered a difference of opinion to make us enemies. I will tell you what we will do—we will preach the Gospel, and revolutionize the whole earth, that is, if you will let us alone, but if you persecute us, we will do it quicker.” This places the wicked in the same circumstances as the drunken man, who would fall down if he tried to stand, and fall if he tried to walk. So, if they will let us alone, we will evangelize the whole earth; and if they do not, we will do it the quicker.

How often, to all human appearance, has this kingdom been blotted out from the earth, but the Lord has put His hand over the people, and it has passed through, and come out two, three, and four times larger than before. Our enemies have kicked us and cuffed us, and driven us from pillar to post, and we have multiplied and increased the more, until we have become what we are this day, in possession of a territory with an appropriate government. 

Let them still continue to persecute us, and who cares? If they will let us alone, we will preach the Gospel to all nations, and gather Israel. If they continue to abuse us, we will overrun them entirely, until all shall be brought in subjection to the will of heaven.

Do not be afraid, whether you are at Washington or anywhere else, for we will progress. I say to brother Bernhisel and everybody else, Put your shoulders to the wheel, and do not go from this place with your hearts in your mouths, you that go to the nations, and be so faint that you have need to carry a bottle of camphor with you, but go like men of great hearts, and say, in the midst of your enemies—I stand here in the name of Him who sent me, and who has called me to defend the truth, which I am determined to do, whether I live or die.

God bless you all, brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

(1850s1853, BY Where Wicked ¶16–29 • JD 1:188–JD 1:191)

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

A Prince of Contention: Ben Spackman

A few days ago, FAIRLDS posted a presentation from their 2019 conference on youtube. People have been sending me the clip in which Ben Spackman labels "heartlanders" as "dangerous fundamentalists," which starts here:


There's a lot to like in Spackman's presentation. I think he does a good job explaining an aspect of scriptural interpretation and the process of revelation that everyone should be familiar with.

It's one of the multiple working hypotheses that I like to understand with clarity.

However, Spackman starts and ends with a contentious premise and motivation: his antipathy toward so-called "fundamentalists" whom he identifies as the "Heartlanders." 

Because of its relevance to the problem of contention, I posted a discussion of Spackman's presentation here:



To help eliminate contention, from time to time, we will look at some of the Kings of Contention, but today we'll look at a Prince of Contention. I refer to Spackman as merely a Prince of Contention because, as he said in his presentation, he did not make the cut in this meme he presented:

I don't recall ever seeing this meme before, and I don't know its origin. I don't recognize all the people in the collage, either, but some I recognize I wouldn't call contentious. But there are a few on there who qualify as Kings of Contention, as we'll discuss in upcoming posts.

The meme makes a good point, though. We could simply ignore everyone in the collage and have a perfectly harmonious and functional Church family. 

And yet, I agree with the scholars that academic discussion plays a useful role for many people (myself included).

The question I ask is, can the people in the collage interact with mutual respect, clarity, and understanding?

As Spackman's presentation demonstrates, some of them seem incapable of doing so. So far. But I hope to see the day when they do.

Hence my post: 



BTW, undoubtedly my NPC critics (the typical M2C/SITH Interpreters) will claim that I'm a King of Contention, but anyone who has read my work (as opposed to the caricatures created by my NPC critics) can see that I'm fine with people believing and teaching whatever they want, so long as they are clear about and own what they teach. Unlike my NPC critics, I don't think it's contentious to expect clarity and understanding to help everyone make informed decisions. I oppose censorship and obfuscation, not alternative perspectives, ideas, and interpretations.

Anyone who shares my desire for clarity and understanding does not, in my view, contribute to contention. Others are free to disagree, of course.


I had actually mentioned Spackman's anti-Heartlander comment in a post in 2019 because I had attended part of the conference (albeit not Spackman's presentation). 


In my 2019 post, I mentioned something I'd been told about the Q&A at the end of a session I didn't attend. I didn't mention the speaker or the title of the presentation, but after watching this video clip, I now can see it was Ben Spackman's. Here's what I wrote then.

The second funny incident was during another Q&A. The speaker was asked what he thought about the Heartland movement. I'm told he replied, "They're a bunch of crazy fundamentalists."

That comment says it all. Now, if you still believe what the prophets have taught, you're ridiculed by the FairMormon intellectuals as a "fundamentalist."

That pretty well sums up the M2C citation cartel.

Because I never read his blog, I didn't know at the time that my NPC critic Peter Pan (aka Mike Parker, aka Richard Nygren) accused me of lying because Spackman actually said the heartlanders were "dangerous fundamentalists," not "crazy fundamentalists." As usual, Peter Pan misrepresented what I wrote. Because I didn't attend the session and clearly explained that I was repeating what I'd been told (which after all was a fair summary of Spackman's rant) I wasn't lying about what Spackman said. I was reporting what I had been told he said. But NPCs don't actually think.

To make it even more fun, yet another anonymous person ("On the Other Hand") made a comment on the FAIRLDS youtube video referring to "Robert Boylan" as "a great and knowledgeable member of the Church." Boylan created the infamous racist false identity "Richard Nygren" for Mike Parker's Peter Pan, which Bill Reel exposed as we discussed here. 


Given the proclivity for pseudonyms Mike Parker and his friends have demonstrated, we can reasonably infer that Mike and/or his fellow Interpreters made the gratuitous comment praising Boylan.

The fun continues...


Friday, May 26, 2023

Glad tidings from Romania

In the last 3 weeks, we visited a dozen countries in Eastern Europe. We visited missionaries and branches of the Church in most of those countries. Lots of interesting things to discuss, obviously, but in this post I'll mention a famous painting that is still in use in Romania.

The 1999 painting by Simon Dewey was on the cover of the Ensign in February, 2001. 

Here it is on the wall of a branch in Romania.

(Hopefully my mention of this location doesn't lead to getting the painting removed.)

It's a significant painting because it has been used as an example of the supposedly "false" narrative that the Church taught for nearly 200 years, before modern LDS scholars determined that the old SITH narrative from Mormonism Unvailed was actually "correct" while Joseph and Oliver misled everyone.

I'm one of many Latter-day Saints who still believe what Joseph and Oliver claimed instead of the SITH narrative, so it was cool to see this painting still in use at least somewhere in the world.


This painting was featured in an article by Jana Riess about the shift away from the Urim and Thummim toward the stone-in-the-hat (SITH) narrative. Her caption to the photo claims


In her article, she cited "a Gospel Topics essay on the issue in December 2013 that conceded that:

1. Joseph Smith also used his seer stone to seek buried treasure, and

2. He translated much of the Book of Mormon by placing the seer stone in a hat to block out the ambient light, then proceeded to simply recite whatever words appeared on the stone."

It's clever rhetoric to frame these claims as a "concession," but the so-called "concession" directly contradicts what Joseph and Oliver themselves said.

Which is no surprise because the Gospel Topics Essay itself never quotes what Joseph and Oliver said, except for a misleading, truncated quotation, as I've discussed before.

The SITH narrative as taught by Dan Peterson, Jack Welch, and other LDS scholars, was first articulated in Mormonism Unvailed back in 1834. 

The translation finally commenced. They were found to contain a language not now known upon the earth, which they termed "reformed Egyptian characters." The plates, therefore, which had been so much talked of, were found to be of no manner of use. After all, the Lord showed and communicated to him every word and letter of the Book. Instead of looking at the characters inscribed upon the plates, the prophet was obliged to resort to the old ''peep stone," which he formerly used in money-digging. This he placed in a hat, or box, into which he also thrust his face. Through the stone he could then discover a single word at a time, which he repeated aloud to his amanuensis, who committed it to paper, when another word would immediately appear, and thus the performance continued to the end of the book.


Notice that, apart from the term "old 'peep stone'," this description from Mormonism Unvailed is essentially what the Interpreters advocate today. Dan Peterson even made a movie teaching this to the world.

In response to the SITH narrative, Joseph and Oliver both denounced Mormonism Unvailed and explained clearly and unambiguously that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates--not with any seer stone.


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

State media and SITH/M2C

I rarely mention politics on this blog, but this story involves media collusion that reminds me of the M2C/SITH citation cartels (or, as I now refer to them, the Interpreters).

Jonathan Turley has an excellent piece about the "state media" and the blackout on Biden corruption.


The entire article is worth reading. Excerpt:

Despite showing nine Biden family members allegedly receiving funds from corrupt figures in Romania, China and other countries, The New Republic quickly ran a story headlined “Republicans Finally Admit They Have No Incriminating Evidence on Joe Biden.”

For many of us, it was otherworldly. A decade ago, when then-Vice President Joe Biden was denouncing corruption in Romania and Ukraine and promising action by the United States, massive payments were flowing to his son Hunter Biden and a variety of family members, including Biden grandchildren.


This reminds me of the citation cartels because they also refuse to cover the stories about M2C and SITH, as I've discussed many times on this blog. Naturally, the same Interpreters wrote the anonymous content in the Gospel Topics Essays and the Saints books. Then they use the material they wrote to convert their theories and interpretations into official Church doctrine by attributing their agenda to Church leaders.

Think about the reality that the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation never even quotes (or cites) what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said about the translation? 


Or that the Saints book censored all original historical sources about Cumorah?


It's no wonder that so many Latter-day Saints are confused and disturbed in their faith.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Eastern Europe lessons

People have been asking about my current trip through Eastern Europe. I've posted a few times on Facebook if you're interested.


I use Facebook for items of personal interest unrelated to religious or other topics.

But I do recognize the relevance of Eastern Europe to some of the topics I cover on this blog, such as here:


It's quite the phenomenon that the Albanians and Macedonians can share a meal but our M2C and SITH apologists refuse to even have a lunch with Heartlanders...

The joys of dealing with LDS apologists...


Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Yet another meeting...

Recently I was in yet another meeting on the subject of "helping the rising generation get on and stay on the covenant path." 

I've been in several of these in recent years.

During this meeting, one brother brought up the point that all of his grandchildren were returned missionaries who married in the temple but who had recently left the Church, claiming the Church had lied about its history.

Others reported similar experiences in their families for the same reasons.

The reality, IMO, is not that the Church has lied about its history.

It's that critics and LDS scholars alike are changing the narratives to make it appear that the Church has lied, when all along the Church was honest and truthful.

The narrative behind this faith crisis is that Joseph Smith never really translated the plates but instead read words that appeared on the  stone in the hat (SITH).

That's the narrative promoted by the CES Letter, Mormon Stories, as well as by FAIRLDS, Book of Mormon Central, and the Interpreter.


Thanks to these organizations, the rising generation doesn't have a fair chance.

Even older generations are confused and disturbed in their faith. They know that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery both repeatedly claimed that Joseph translated the plates by means of the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates.

But thanks to the SITH-sayers, the rising generation never learns what Joseph and Oliver claimed.

The rising generation, like everyone else, would benefit from being taught the truth, directly from Joseph and Oliver. 

Instead, they get a steady diet of David Whitmer's SITH claims. And if they look up the references provided by the SITH-sayers, they learn that David also claimed lots of other things that contradict what Joseph and Oliver claimed, including the restoration of the Priesthood.

The SITH narrative follows the same trajectory as the M2C narrative. The LDS Interpreters decide that what Joseph and Oliver taught is not credible, so it was merely their opinion, so the Interpreters, by virtue of their superior credentials and collective wisdom, decide what the truth is and enforce their interpretations.


And if anyone dares to talk about what Joseph and Oliver actually said, our own LDS Interpreters are on the lookout to attack. 

Fun times...

Friday, May 5, 2023

Futility of contention and the Italian Front

Lake Bled, Slovenia

We're traveling through Eastern Europe for a few weeks, so I'm posting occasional thoughts. For example, I posted some comments about the Italian Front in World War I on the NoMoreContention page, here:


I've discussed the futility of contention before. I'm hopeful that the approach of seeking clarity and understanding instead of compliance and conformity will help to eliminate contention.

Recently there have been some promising steps in that direction, as I've discussed on the NoMoreContention blog.


In the interest of clarity, I've posted reviews of some of the major contention generating websites, including the following. Always lots more work to do, but at least here's a start.

CES Letter:


Mormon Stories:




Wednesday, May 3, 2023

All, some, none

For clarity and understanding purposes, I've revised my three classifications.

Believe what Joseph and Oliver claimed




Believe what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Believe some, but not all, of what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Disbelieve what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Everyone who is interested in these issues can now see exactly where the various opinions fit relative to other opinions.

In upcoming posts we'll show how this framework applies.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

The Backyard Professor and I discuss No More Contention

I had a delightful conversation with the Backyard Professor, Kerry Shirts, recently. The video is here:


Among other things, we discussed the No More Contention website (https://nomorecontention.blogspot.com/). 

Both of us find this approach of seeking understanding and clarity far more enjoyable and productive than the old model of apologists and critics arguing over stuff, playing gatekeepers, and all the other shenanigans we saw in the Peter Pan fiasco.

At one point, we gave an example of how we completely disagree about a specific topic (a short video by President Oaks), but by discussing our different perspectives we gained a better understanding of one another with zero animosity, offense, defensiveness, etc.

Some of the Interpreters even object to the NoMoreContention page!

I mentioned that some of the Interpreters had objected that I went on Kerry's channel in the first place and also objected that on this blog I had included a link to Bill Reel's video about Peter Pan. They "warned" me against these critics, saying they would use me to attack the Church somehow.

I pointed out that none of the Interpreters have ever invited me to be on their podcasts or radio shows, although they have discussed me there. They've never invited me to speak at any of their events or even to their small groups. 

By contrast, Heartlanders have invited some of the Interpreters to speak at their conference. Heartlanders are interested in understanding other points of view. They are interested in clarity. They recognize the value of multiple working hypotheses that help people make informed decisions.

The Interpreters reject all of these values. They don't want their audiences to know what I actually think. Instead, they filter and misrepresent what I've said and written to keep their audiences and followers in line with their M2C and SITH agendas.

It's pathetic, really. I can't tell whether the Interpreters don't trust their audiences or they are so insecure about their own beliefs that they have to control the narrative. Probably a combination.

But it doesn't matter anyway. Thanks to the Peter Pan disaster that Dan Peterson promoted so heavily, fair-minded people, regardless of their beliefs, can see that the Interpreters' brand of apologetics is unpersuasive, uncharitable, and undesirable. 

Worse, it does nothing for clarity and mutual understanding.

I look forward to more conversations based on No More Contention. 

I hope some of the Interpreters will join the effort. It would be a welcome change in direction.

But meanwhile, we'll keep moving forward in a positive direction toward unity in diversity, mutual understanding, clarity, and finding common ground wherever we can as we all strive to make the world a better place and contribute to the progress of the Restoration and all that entails.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Who are the Interpreters?

To clarify some confusion that exists, when I refer to people (not the Urim and Thummim) as Interpreters, I'm not referring to everyone who proposes interpretations of Church history, the Book of Mormon, the teachings of the prophets, etc. Quite the opposite.

Everyone has the right and responsibility to do study and interpret for themselves, as the scriptures, Church leaders (and common sense) explain.  

The term Interpreters as applied to individuals is also not pejorative, argumentative or contentious. It is merely descriptive. I use the term Interpreters to promote clarity and understanding, not to generate controversy or argument. It is an easy shorthand way to describe the underlying philosophy and agenda of those who fit the description.

I use the term Interpreters to designate a mentality or worldview shared by those who claim the privilege of interpreting for others and acting as gatekeepers based on their claims of superior knowledge by virtue of their credentials, their good intentions, their allegiance to consensus, and (in some cases) their positions of employment in positions of trust (such as teaching at BYU or for CES).* 

Thus, the term Interpreters is not contentious, but their approach to apologetics is inherently contentious.

Although the term originated with the Interpreter Foundation, it does not refer to everyone associated with that organization and is not limited to those associated with that organization. Nor does it apply to everyone involved with the Book of Mormon Central, FAIRLDS, or any other group.

This graphic explains the concept.

Interpreters are found within these organizations (especially at the leadership and editorship levels), but many people affiliated with them are not Interpreters.

For example, Book of Mormon Central hosts many Interpreters.

Here is an outstanding example of the Interpreter mentality embedded in the title of a Kno-Why:

How Are Oliver Cowdery’s Messenger and Advocate Letters to Be Understood and Used?


also here:


The article, which is replete with misdirection and errors, purports to tell the world how to understand and use the teachings of a member of the First Presidency, actually the Assistant President of the Church, Oliver Cowdery. 

The audacity of the anonymous authors of this piece is breathtaking.

That's what makes them Interpreters. And, naturally, the article features the M2C logo, the telltale sign that the article will do everything possible to promote and defend M2C at the expense of accuracy and reason. 

The opposite approach is encouraging people to make informed decisions for themselves, based on good information and consideration of multiple working hypotheses. As President Nelson has taught, "good inspiration is based upon good information."

Gatekeeping organizations such as the Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central, and FAIRLDS oppose presenting a variety of faithful interpretations. That's what makes them organizational Interpreters.

At NoMoreContention.com, we will use examples of the Interpreter mentality to demonstrate a better way to avoid and eliminate contention for the benefit of everyone.


*Obviously this does not mean duly called and sustained Church officers acting within the scope of their responsibilities.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Another podcast and No More Contention

Recently I did another podcast with my co-author, James Lucas, on Mormon Book Reviews. We discussed our book, By Means of the Urim and Thummim: Restoring Translation to the Restoration

I encourage everyone to watch it and give feedback, pro or con. 


As always, anyone interested can email me at lostzarahemla@gmail.com


Today I'm also announcing a new blog that will be my main focus going forward. The name is No More Contention, taken from Mosiah 1:1.

And now there was no more contention in all the land of Zarahemla, among all the people who belonged to king Benjamin, so that king Benjamin had continual peace all the remainder of his days.

(Mosiah 1:1) 

If the Book of Mormon had been published in the order of translation, this would have been the first verse.

I wish it was.

(In fact, I usually ask new readers to start with Mosiah instead of 1 Nephi.)

The link is 


For now, the link forwards to https://nomorecontention.blogspot.com/. We may expand it into a more comprehensive website eventually.

The objective of No More Contention is to promote understanding and clarity. We're not focusing on trying to persuade anyone of anything--except for encouraging people to make informed decisions. Too often, people make decisions based on ignorance, but as President Nelson has said, "good inspiration is based upon good information."

Obviously, people who consider the identical facts reach different conclusions. I've set out a spectrum of belief in three general categories, all based on the identical information. We'll discuss why the spectrum exists and how we can make better, more informed decisions that are congruent with our values and ideals. 

We will discuss multiple working hypotheses by applying the FAITH model of analysis: Facts, Assumptions, Inferences, Theories, and Hypotheses. I've explained the FAITH model in previous podcasts and in my upcoming book, The Rational Restoration

Building Zion.
In my view, despite the complaints of naysayers, the Restoration is accomplishing the critical objective of uniting people around the world through faith in Jesus Christ. As I've discussed on my Zion blog, Latter-day Saints are dedicating their time, talents and means toward educating people around the world, giving them hope and optimism, economic opportunity, stronger family and community ties, and helping them become self-reliant and confident, all the while bringing them closer to Christ. 

In other words, we are establishing Zion, and it's awesome.

This is a project I've worked on over the years. Not this new blog, per se, but the approach of considering multiple working hypotheses and the psychology of belief, contention, and working toward Zion. 

The events of the last few weeks prompted me to finally set up the website and get going with it.


Apologists. As readers here know, there has been a controversy recently about the activities of certain LDS apologists and their critics. I had hoped the controversy would lead to a positive outcome in terms of a course correction. We were, I thought, finally on the verge of an open dialog, a respectful and friendly exchange of views, and a mutually agreed-upon comparison of multiple working hypotheses.

But it didn't turn out that way, at least not yet.

Ever since I entered this arena (focusing on the keystone of our religion, the Book of Mormon), I've been surprised at the way apologists and critics approach these issues. Emotions seem to prevail, with people giving and taking offense, getting angry, mindreading, etc. Not coming from an academic background, I greatly underestimated the emotional attachment people have to their various theories and worldviews. 

The walls of intransigence and defensiveness are difficult to breach. Surely there is an element of simple self-interest; after all, for the academics, this is an occupation. They have reputations to uphold. They have thousands of students they have taught. Some have elicited donations and funding. To change course now may be unthinkable to them. Maybe even impossible. 

Grievance grifters. And then there are the grievance grifters who, like the media industry, have a business model that thrives from the misfortunes of others. With over 31,000 congregations led by Bishops and Branch Presidents, the grifters can always find a few leaders and members who have made mistakes. But fair-minded people recognize that tactic for what it is.

Flexibility. Everyone who reads my blog or books can see that I favor an open, flexible approach to these issues. After all, I was an avid follower of FARMS for decades. I bought into the whole M2C (Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs) theory promoted by John Sorenson, Jack Welch, Dan Peterson, and the other FARMS people. (In one of my books, I even incorporated SITH until I revised it based on more information.)

I deferred to their expertise because, as a student, I trusted them. Then I was too busy with life to question their assumptions or the facts they presented.

Eventually, though, I had more time to spend on these issues. With the new information I learned, and upon more reflection and thought, I realized the M2C advocates were just that: advocates for a particular point of view. 

Interpreters. Over time, FARMS morphed into the Maxwell Institute, the Interpreter Foundation, and Book of Mormon Central, with BYU Studies providing an academic journal and FAIRMormon (now FAIRLDS) providing a less academic forum for the same group to publish anonymously. These organizations include interchangeable players, which explains why they cite one another (the citation cartel). For ease of reference, I refer to this group generically as the Interpreters because they relish their role as gatekeepers and enforcers of compliance with their own interpretations of scripture and history.

[To its credit, the Maxwell Institute has detached itself from the M2C crowd.]

Despite their pretenses, the Interpreters were not (in my opinion) legitimate scholars who pursued the truth wherever it led (at least not in this arena). I assume they are fully competent, forthright scholars in their other academic pursuits. And to be sure, they followed the conventions of legitimate scholarship in this arena, using a form of peer review, complete with citations (to one another). But they often resorted to sarcasm, obfuscation, sophistry, and censorship to promote their agendas. They focused on combatting nonbelieving critics, but they also used their status as the "credentialed class" to attack fellow Latter-day Saints who disagreed with their interpretations.

As we saw just in the last few weeks through the Peter Pan fiasco, they devolved into a clown circus.

What to do. The question for me became, what to do?

Some of the apologists associated with these organizations became disenchanted with the tactics of the Interpreters and turned into critics. As I understand it, Bill Reel, Kerry Shirts, and Corbin Volluz (RFM) were all believing apologists at one time. They are "former Interpreters." Now they host critical podcasts in connection with John Dehlin (whom we'll discuss below). 

Ironically, they use the same tactics they learned as Interpreters to promote their new agendas: sarcasm, obfuscation, sophistry and censorship. But it's also easy to understand their motivation and bias. It's easy to see why they are persuasive to some people, just as it's easy to see why the current Interpreters are persuasive to some people.

It's difficult to fault either the current Interpreters or the former Interpreters, given their respective worldviews. And no doubt, both groups would strongly disagree with my framing here, but it seems obvious to me.

So, what to do? 

The third way. The key for me was realizing this is not a binary choice. There is a third way.

The one thing I noticed about both the current Interpreters and the former Interpreters: they all rejected what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery claimed, just in varying degrees.

What if, I thought, someone actually accepted what Joseph and Oliver claimed?

I decided to test the hypothesis. That experiment has led to around 10 books and innumerable blog posts, articles, presentations, etc.

So far, at least for me, accepting what Joseph and Oliver claimed has become a solid working hypothesis. One of multiple hypotheses, of course, but the one that makes the most sense to me and best aligns with the evidence. 

It works so well that I feel no "threat" when discussing these issues with either current or former Interpreters. I'm fine with them believing whatever they want and I feel no urgency to have anyone agree with me. 

I don't object to having conversations with anyone. I'm happy to meet with anyone who is willing and interested to exchange views. And I encourage everyone to make their own informed decisions for themselves.

This led me to the continuum of belief. Because I can't speak for anyone else or read minds, I based this continuum on what I and the others have published. (I've modified it from the one I posted before.)


Current Interpreters

Former Interpreters

Believe what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Believe some, but not all, of what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Disbelieve what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

This continuum will be the framework for understanding multiple working hypotheses with no more contention.

I'm not going to argue for or against any of these. Instead, I seek clarity and understanding in the pursuit of informed decisions.

People naturally want more specifics about who said what on these issues. I'll provide quotations, annotations, citations, etc. And I hope anyone interested will send corrections if I misstate any positions. 


Continuum example. This month (April) marks the tenth anniversary of the release of the CES Letter. Again, it's easy to understand why Jeremy Runnels was frustrated at the lack of answers to the questions he raised. 

We can see how the continuum explains the various responses to the CES Letter.

The Interpreters engaged the CES Letter, but as Runnels pointed out, they agreed on some of the key points, such as SITH (the stone-in-the-hat explanation for the Book of Mormon).

2023 also marks the tenth anniversary of John Dehlin's "Faith Crisis Report" and the first of the Gospel Topics Essays. The Faith Crisis Report proposed a way of "Breaking the cycle of disaffection."

1) Mitigating Faith Crisis for Future Generations

Mitigating Faith Crisis for future generations is possible but will require bold steps. The key is to ensure future generations no longer become shocked by gaps between our official LDS narrative and our uncorrelated history.

These so-called "gaps" included SITH vs. the Urim and Thummim explanation that Joseph and Oliver provided. 

The SITH sequence can be summarized this way.

1. In 1834, the book Mormonism Unvailed set out the SITH narrative this way:

The translation finally commenced. They were found to contain a language not now known upon the earth, which they termed "reformed Egyptian characters." The plates, therefore, which had been so much talked of, were found to be of no manner of use. After all, the Lord showed and communicated to him every word and letter of the Book. Instead of looking at the characters inscribed upon the plates, the prophet was obliged to resort to the old ''peep stone," which he formerly used in money-digging. This he placed in a hat, or box, into which he also thrust his face. Through the stone he could then discover a single word at a time, which he repeated aloud to his amanuensis, who committed it to paper, when another word would immediately appear, and thus the performance continued to the end of the book.


Notice that, apart from the term "old 'peep stone'," this description from Mormonism Unvailed is essentially what the Interpreters advocate today. Dan Peterson even made a movie teaching this to the world.

2. Starting in 1834, Oliver Cowdery wrote 8 essays about Church history to refute the claims of Mormonism Unvailed (including Letter VII about Cumorah).

In December, 1835, Joseph Smith wrote a letter to the Elders of the Church about Mormonism Unvailed, including it as part of the "black catalogue" and describing it as a "cloud of darkness." 

(I've posted excerpts of all these rebuttals here: https://www.ldshistoricalnarratives.com/2023/04/mormonism-unvailed-then-and-now.html.)

In 1836, Orson Hyde wrote to the Messenger and Advocate, observing that even opposers of Mormonism didn't quote Mormonism Unvailed because they were ashamed of it.

In 1837, one missionary wrote a letter to the Messenger and Advocate, explaining that Mormonism had little influence.  

The 1838 Elders' Journal included a discussion of Mormonism Unvailed., noting that the authors, "Hurlburt and the Howes are among the basest of mankind, and known to be such and yet the priests and their coadjutors hail them as their best friends and publish their lies, speaking of them in the highest terms." 

3. Starting in October 2011, a team organized by John Dehlin conducted a survey and prepared an analysis about the so-called "faith crisis" among Latter-day Saints, emphasizing SITH.

4. April 2013. Runnels released the CES Letter that, among other things, questions the historicity of the Book of Mormon and presents SITH as the "actual" origin of the Book of Mormon instead of the traditional narrative of the translation by means of the Urim and Thummim.

5. August 2013. Dehlin and his team presented the final "Faith Crisis Report" to Church leaders.

6. November 2013. The first Gospel Topics Essays were published on the Church's website, justifying SITH without even quoting what Joseph and Oliver said about the translation with the Urim and Thummim.

Ever since, on his Mormon Stories podcast John Dehlin has used SITH as a means to undermine faith, citing the Gospel Topics Essays themselves.

The Interpreters also embrace and promote SITH, claiming Joseph didn't use the U&T or the plates, but differing with the critics in the sense that they claim Joseph was inspired by God, while the critics claim Joseph composed the text and lied about the Urim and Thummim and the plates.

In my view, pursuant to the "third way" on the faith spectrum, what Joseph and Oliver said about the translation makes more sense and is better supported by the evidence than what the SITH sayers claim. 


The Ringleader. Recently I suggested I would discuss the ringleader of the clown circus. It's possible, even likely, that the participants in the Peter Pan fiasco did what they did without the explicit approbation of someone they respect. But they obviously thought their activities were appropriate, and the Interpreters have circled their wagons to support them. We have to wonder, why?

Some may think Dan Peterson is the ringleader, but I don't see it that way. He's a great guy, sincere, devoted, smart, working hard, etc. While he's the founder and face of the Interpreter, and thus definitely one of the leading Interpreters, from my perspective he has always served in the role of the class clown, making wisecracks at FAIRMormon events, writing his blog as sort of a lovable, pompous buffoon who enjoys giving and taking offense. And I assume this is all role-playing on Dan's part, his effort to promote a brand of apologetics that he somehow things serves a good purpose. The "real Dan," when not playing a role as an apologist, is undoubtedly thoughtful, considerate, temperate, and generous. That's why I don't mind his criticisms. It's merely theater, a dog and pony show to keep his followers entertained.

I can't imagine that any serious young scholar would see Dan's act as an example to emulate. (Although, apparently some do, as we've seen in the Peter Pan fiasco.)

I don't see John Sorenson as a ringleader at all. He was a nice guy, a careful scholar, but didn't seem to me to be manipulative or vindictive. He just said what he thought and was happy for others to disagree, although he did get a little snippy at times. For example, in his book Mormon's Codex, he famously wrote, 

There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundred of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history. 

Mormon's Codex, p. 688.  

We can all see that John was operating under the assumption that the events of the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica. Given that assumption and worldview, it easy to understand why John thought it was absurd to believe that Cumorah is in New York.

But of course we can all see that John failed to challenge his basic assumption. He was blind to his blind spot. 

As are the rest of the M2C advocates.

Which leads us to John W. (Jack) Welch.


Jack Welch is an enigma to me. 

On one hand, he is an exceptionally meticulous scholar. He writes clearly and precisely. He has published probably more useful books and articles than any other living Latter-day Saint scholar. 

I dedicated my book Moroni's America to Jack and John Sorenson out of respect for their contributions in the field of Book of Mormon studies. Notwithstanding their focus on M2C, they have helped make the Book of Mormon more meaningful and useful.

Jack once published an outstanding analysis of the use of evidence in religious contexts. 


As I read it, the article supports the concept of multiple working hypotheses.

In a religious setting, no arbiter prescribes or defines the level of evidence that will sustain a healthy faith. All individuals must set for themselves the levels of proof that they will require. [66] Yet how does one privately determine what burden of proof the Book of Mormon should bear? Should investigators require that it be proved beyond a reasonable doubt before experimenting with its words to learn of its truth or goodness? Should believers expect to have at least a preponderance of the evidence on their side in order to maintain their faith? Or is faith borne out sufficiently by a merely reasonable or plausible position, perhaps even in spite of all evidence? Few people realize how much rides on their personal choice in these matters, and that their answer necessarily originates in the domain of faith.


It seems clear enough that the Lord does not intend for the Book of Mormon, the Bible, or any other sacred matters to be open-and-shut cases intellectually, either pro or con. If God had intended this, he could have left more concrete evidences one way or the other. Instead, it seems that the Lord has maintained a careful balance between requiring people to exercise faith and allowing them to find reasons that affirm the stated origins of his revealed word. Instead, the choice is, then, entirely ours. Ultimately, evidences may not be that important; but then again, it is always easy to say that a parachute is irrelevant after you are safely on the ground.

On the other hand, Jack seems to have an obsession with Mesoamerica that defies explanation or credulity, apart from his long-time friendship and collaboration with John Sorenson.

He created Book of Mormon Central as a center for faithful resources, but he steadfastly refuses to accommodate interpretations of Church history, the text, and extrinsic evidence that support alternative faithful views.

To the contrary: Book of Mormon Central professes neutrality to its English readers and donors while aggressively indoctrinating Spanish-language users in M2C.

Jack has modified Church history to accommodate M2C.

I used to think Jack was operating out of loyalty to John Sorenson, but John has passed away. There's no excuse, really, for continuing to impose M2C as a litmus test.

Setting M2C aside, Jack's influence on current LDS scholars is enormous. Through Book of Mormon Central, he controls millions of dollars of funding. 

It's the golden rule: he who has the gold, rules. 

His organization includes many of the most prominent current LDS scholars.


Few if any LDS scholars--certainly none on the BMC team--would dare publish anything that Jack Welch disagrees with in any fundamental way. 

People on the BMC team continue to publicly promote the narrative that Heartlanders are racist nationalists. The anonymous "Kno-Why" articles advocate M2C and unfairly characterize alternative faithful interpretations of the text and Church history. Collaborators at the Interpreter and FAIRLDS continue to use social media to ostracize and belittle fellow Latter-day Saints.

With the snap of a finger, Jack Welch could completely change the course of LDS apologetics. He could recognize multiple working hypotheses, welcome all faithful interpretations, and bring about greater unity and charity for all Latter-day Saints.

He could even tell his foreign language audience the same thing he tells his English audience.

Yet he refuses.

That's why, in my view, he is the ringleader of the clown circus.

And I'm ever hopeful that will change.


Predictably, my critics (the NPC critics at least) will say that this blog post contradicts the notion of no more contention.

I disagree. I don't feel or express any anger in any of this. I'm not arguing with anyone about any of this. I'm just saying that people should be open and clear and not resort to surrogates and anonymity to preserve plausible deniability.

I hope to see a change among not only the current Interpreters, but also among the former Interpreters.

The element of entertainment in the various claims and counterclaims generates views. When understood as playful and perhaps tongue-in-cheek, these debates are akin to playing video games; i.e., vicarious violence.

But these debates can also have real-world consequences. 

Hopefully the "no more contention" approach will mitigate the negative consequences and enhance the positive consequences of these discussions.

As we focus on understanding and clarity, we can find unity in diversity and all work together to make the world a better place for everyone.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Interpreters and the Pharisees

I realize most of us don't want to think about, let alone deal with, the internecine debates about Book of Mormon origins and setting. We prefer to focus on positive topics, such as living the Gospel and sharing the joy, building Zion, etc.

Nevertheless, the Internet is full of these claims going back and forth and it's important to at least try to clarify the issues to help people make informed decisions.

This table summarizes the spectrum of belief among the three groups who discuss issues regarding the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon.




Believe what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Believe some, but not all, of what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Disbelieve what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

When we understand this, it's easy to see why the Interpreters try to deflect attention from their core teachings by continuing to misrepresent the Heartlanders with false charges of racism, nationalism, using fake artifacts, and all the rest. 

Tomorrow I'll announce a new approach to clarifying these issues for everyone to see.

In the meantime, here's a brief observation about the Interpreters.

This year as we study the New Testament, we encounter the Pharisees and Sadducees.** The New Testament mentions the Pharisees 86 times, sometimes with the scribes and sometimes with the Sadducees. Individual Pharisees are mentioned 11 times.

As we read the Bible, we wonder how any group could have been so hard-headed and hard-hearted as the Pharisees. They constructed strict social boundaries, they were easily offended, and they insisted on compliance with their own rules and interpretations. They considered their oral traditions equal in authority with (if not superior to) the scriptures.

They were the Interpreters of their day.

At one point, the Pharisees asked the disciples, "How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?" 

Episode 8 of Season 3 of The Chosen illustrated this mentality when the Jewish leaders asked in amazement, "He breaks bread with Gentiles?"

As I've mentioned here before, I had a similar experience with a well-known Interpreter, Mike Parker (aka Peter Pan), who refused to have lunch with me because he was vicariously offended on behalf of Dan Peterson.


The fallout from the "Peter Pan" fiasco continues. It has exposed the core problem with LDS apologetics: arrogance. As self-designated "Interpreters," Dan Peterson and his followers think they are working for the restoration by gatekeeping, demonizing "the other" (including faithful Latter-day Saints who disagree with them on some issues) and circling their wagons to defend and protect bad behavior.

Most Latter-day Saints have not watched the Bill Reel video about Peter Pan and the other Interpreters, titled "LDS Apologists & The Invention And Coverup Of Richard Nygren," but they should if they want to see how the Interpreters are polluting the message of the Restoration. 

Naturally, Dan and the rest of the Interpreters don't want you to watch it. 

They scream "anti-Mormon video" to deter Latter-day Saints from learning about how the Interpreters operate. 

When I first heard about the video, I assumed there would be another side of the story. Even after I watched the video, I assumed there must be another side. I would have welcomed a good explanation that mitigated the problems Bill Reel brought out in the video. But as we've seen, the "defense" offered by Mike Parker skirted the issues, disclaimed any responsibility, and boiled down to the old defense no one buys any longer: "it's anti-Mormon." 

And, to be sure, I wouldn't recommend most videos from the Mormon Discussions channel because I find them just as misleading and agenda-driven as the material put out by the Interpreter Foundation. But this video is an exception because it lays out clearly, for everyone to see, the type of shameful apologetics the Interpreters have been engaged in for many years.

The video is long. I'd like to see a 15-minute highlight version that would be easier for people to watch. Here are some still images that summarize some of the points and the people involved.

Some of the Interpreters and their racist "joke" (click to enlarge)

Some of the Interpreters' "jokes" (click to enlarge)

Mike Parker is amused by the racist Nygren persona (click to enlarge)

Dan Peterson and Stephen Smoot play along (click to enlarge)

I had hoped that the Peter Pan disaster would have led to a course correction by the Interpreters, but instead they are doubling down on their demonizing rhetoric as they seek to justify their tactics.

The rest of us can move on to better things as we rejoice in and share the message of the Restoration.

* By Interpreters I refer to the principals at the Interpreter Foundation and Book of Mormon Central who pursue a dogmatic, exclusionary editorial agenda to promote M2C and SITH. They are all undoubtedly fine Latter-day Saints who think they are doing good in the world because they have convinced themselves that their interpretations are correct. 

We discuss the Interpreters on this blog: https://interpreterpeerreviews.blogspot.com/

**There's a good explanation here:

The Pharisees and the Sadducees were both religious sects within Judaism during the time of Christ. Both groups honored Moses and the Law, and they both had a measure of political power. The Sanhedrin, the 70-member supreme court of ancient Israel, had members from both the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

The differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees are known to us through a couple of passages of Scripture and through the extant writings of the Pharisees. Religiously, the Sadducees were more conservative in one doctrinal area: they insisted on a literal interpretation of the text of Scripture; the Pharisees, on the other hand, gave oral tradition equal authority to the written Word of God. If the Sadducees couldn’t find a command in the Tanakh, they dismissed it as manmade.

Given the Pharisees’ and the Sadducees’ differing view of Scripture, it’s no surprise that they argued over certain doctrines. The Sadducees rejected a belief in the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23Mark 12:18–27Acts 23:8), but the Pharisees did believe in the resurrection. The Sadducees denied the afterlife, holding that the soul perished at death, but the Pharisees believed in an afterlife and in an appropriate reward and punishment for individuals. The Sadducees rejected the idea of an unseen, spiritual world, but the Pharisees taught the existence of angels and demons in a spiritual realm.

The apostle Paul shrewdly used the theological differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees to escape their clutches. Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem and was making his defense before the Sanhedrin. Knowing that some of the court were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, Paul called out, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23:6). Paul’s mention of the resurrection precipitated a dispute between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, dividing the assembly, and causing “a great uproar” (verse 9). The Roman commander who watched the proceedings sent troops into the melee to rescue Paul from their violence (verse 10).

Socially, the Sadducees were more elitist and aristocratic than the Pharisees. Sadducees tended to be wealthy and to hold more powerful positions. The chief priests and high priest were Sadducees, and they held the majority of seats in the Sanhedrin. The Pharisees were more representative of the common working people and had the respect of the masses. The Sadducees’ locus of power was the temple in Jerusalem; the Pharisees controlled the synagogues. The Sadducees were friendlier with Rome and more accommodating to the Roman laws than the Pharisees were. The Pharisees often resisted Hellenization, but the Sadducees welcomed it.

Jesus had more run-ins with the Pharisees than with the Sadducees, probably because of the former’s giving preeminence to oral tradition. “You ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition,” Jesus told them (Mark 7:8, NLT; see also Matthew 9:1415:1–923:51623Mark 7:1–23; and Luke 11:42). Because the Sadducees were often more concerned with politics than religion, they ignored Jesus until they began to fear He might bring unwanted Roman attention and upset the status quo. It was at that point that the Sadducees and Pharisees set aside their differences, united, and conspired to put Christ to death (John 11:48–50Mark 14:5315:1).

The Sadducees as a group ceased to exist after the destruction of Jerusalem, but the Pharisees’ legacy lived on. In fact, the Pharisees were responsible for the compilation of the Mishnah, an important document with reference to the continuation of Judaism beyond the destruction of the temple. In this way the Pharisees laid the groundwork for modern-day Rabbinic Judaism.