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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

General Conference, revelation, and Cumorah

I'll be traveling this week so I don't plan to post anything for a few days, but with General Conference arriving, I wanted to point out something from the last conference.

Elder Dale G. Renlund provided "A Framework for Personal Revelation." His framework is the best explanation of revelation that I know of. It is well worth re-reading often.

Consider these excerpts:

When we ask for revelation about something for which God has already given clear direction, we open ourselves up to misinterpreting our feelings and hearing what we want to hear....

If God has answered a question and the circumstances have not changed, why would we expect the answer to be different? ...

Joseph learned, as the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob taught: “Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For … he counseleth in wisdom.”25 Jacob cautioned that unfortunate things happen when we ask for things we should not. He foretold that the people in Jerusalem would seek “for things that they could not understand,” look “beyond the mark,” and completely overlook the Savior of the world.26 They stumbled because they asked for things they would not and could not understand.

Because this blog discusses the historicity of the Book of Mormon, let's apply these principles to what we know (or should know). 

1. "When we ask for revelation about something for which God has already given clear direction, we open ourselves up to misinterpreting our feelings and hearing what we want to hear...."

While many different views/interpretations/opinions have been expressed about Book of Mormon historicity and the setting for the events, we have had clear direction about one site from the first night Moroni visited Joseph Smith: Cumorah is in New York.

How does the Lord provide clear direction if not through the channels He has established in the Church? Lest there be any confusion about Cumorah, Oliver Cowdery, as Assistant President of the Church, formally, clearly, and unambiguously declared it is a fact that the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the hill in New York where Joseph found the plates. He published his declaration in the Messenger and Advocate in 1835 as part of a series of eight essays he wrote, with the assistance of Joseph Smith, about Church history. 

Joseph Smith had his scribes copy Oliver's essays into his journal as part of his life history. You can read it in the Joseph Smith Papers here:


In ensuing years, Joseph approved the publication of Oliver's essays in the Gospel Reflector and the Times and Seasons. They were republished in England in the Millennial Star and separately as a popular booklet. They were republished in New York in The Prophet and in Salt Lake City in the Improvement Era.

The New York Cumorah has been taught repeatedly and consistently ever since, including by members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference. 

Nevertheless, some LDS scholars explicitly reject these teachings and seek to persuade others to also reject them. Which leads to the next point.

2. If God has answered a question and the circumstances have not changed, why would we expect the answer to be different? 

We can legitimately ask, have any circumstances changed since the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah?

Obviously, the history and geography has not changed. The Hill Cumorah in New York is still in the same location, just as Oliver described it, along the road between Palmyra and Manchester. The mile-wide valley west of the hill is still there. Thus, we should not expect God's answer to be different today.

But one circumstance has changed. For most of Church history, members accepted the clear direction we've been given about Cumorah, but a handful of influential scholars have used their positions of trust to persuade members to reject these teachings.

This leads into the third point from Elder Renlund.

3. Joseph learned, as the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob taught: “Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For … he counseleth in wisdom.”25 Jacob cautioned that unfortunate things happen when we ask for things we should not. He foretold that the people in Jerusalem would seek “for things that they could not understand,” look “beyond the mark,” and completely overlook the Savior of the world.26 They stumbled because they asked for things they would not and could not understand.

In the early 1900s, RLDS scholars Stebbins and Hills concluded that the Hill Cumorah was not in New York because New York was too far from the Mesoamerican setting they assumed for the events of the Book of Mormon. They began to "look beyond the mark" and concocted the Mesoamerican/Two-Cumorahs theory (M2C). In 1917, Hills even published a map showing the "real" Cumorah in southern Mexico.

LDS scholars gradually adopted the same rationale. They rejected the counsel from the prophets about Cumorah and they, too, chose to "look beyond the mark." 

Alarmed at the development, Joseph Fielding Smith, then Church Historian and an Apostle for 20 years, declared:

“This modernistic theory of necessity, in order to be consistent, must place the waters of Ripliancum and the Hill Cumorah some place within the restricted territory of Central America, notwithstanding the teachings of the Church to the contrary for upwards of 100 years. Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

When he was President of the Quorum of the Twelve, Joseph Fielding Smith reissued his warning about the two-Cumorahs theory. 

However, LDS scholars and educators rejected this counsel, claiming his warning was based on his personal opinion that was wrong. Instead, according to them, their own M2C ideas were correct. 

President Marion G. Romney was assigned to attend the Hill Cumorah pageant. In the following General Conference, he reported on his experience, reaffirming yet again the well-established setting of Cumorah. The teachings of these two leaders was included in the Institute manual for many years, as we saw here: https://www.lettervii.com/p/origin-and-rationale-of-m2c.html

But the scholars persisted. Even now, in 2023, LDS scholars and educators actively teach that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah being in New York. They teach that Joseph adopted a false tradition about Cumorah, and that all the Prophets and Apostles who reaffirmed the teaching of Letter VII were also expressing personal opinions—even when they spoke in General Conference.

We saw an example of this within the last week, which we discussed here:


The teachings of the M2C scholars has degenerated to the point that they castigate anyone who still believes the teachings of the prophets!


Now we're seeing the fulfillment of President Smith's warning. Because of M2C, many members of the Church are confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. 

Instead of accepting the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah and interpreting the text accordingly, the M2C scholars have rejected those teachings and are stumbling about, searching not only in Mesoamerica but around the world for the Cumorah that we've known all along is in western New York.

The rejection of the prophetic teachings about Cumorah reminds us of several scriptural teachings. Alma explained how, when people reject clear direction, they stumble and lose the knowledge they once had.

9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; 

(Alma 12:9–11)

Lots of other passages explain how rejecting the teachings of the prophets leads to confusion. Here are some.

7 Behold, if they will not believe my words, they would not believe you, my servant Joseph, if it were possible that you should show them all these things which I have committed unto you.

(Doctrine and Covenants 5:7)

31 Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?

32 I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.

33 Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above.

(Doctrine and Covenants 58:31–33)

 18 But, behold, Laman and Lemuel would not hearken unto my words;
(1 Nephi 2:18)

But behold, they would not hearken unto his words; but there arose contentions among them,
(Mosiah 7:25)

6 Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know;

(Alma 10:6)

Monday, March 27, 2023

"most people would go with the Heartland"

Some time ago I was in a conversation with several well-known M2Cers. The topic of alternative models of Book of Mormon geography arose. During the discussion, one M2Cer asked, "Why don't we just create a comparison chart that shows all the major models, with pros and cons?" 

Their leader shook his head. "I'll never allow that," he said.

"Why not?" she asked.

"Because most people would go with the Heartland."


It's easy to see why most Latter-day Saints would "go with the Heartland" when we watch the defense of M2C that Brant Gardner provided on the CWIC Media show the other day.

At the outset, I emphasize that Brant is an awesome guy. I like him. He's nice and personable, as well as a smart, knowledgeable, faithful Latter-day Saint who has written as much as anyone about Book of Mormon origins (translation) and setting (Mesoamerica). He undoubtedly means well and is obviously convinced of his worldview. His M2C theory is a legitimate working hypothesis. 

However, before considering the CWIC Media interview, we need to provide some context. Brant is a regular participant in the M2C citation cartel, which continues to misrepresent the so-called Heartland theory and tries to deter people from considering it by falsely linking it to racism.

Last year, during an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, he repeated a deplorable stereotype about the so-called Heartlander theory: “It has allowed a very jingoistic, very racist approach to the Book of Mormon,” Gardner said. “And there are a lot of people that resonates with.” 

The article continued: 

Offline support [for the Heartlander ideas] also appears to be gaining ground, according to Brant Gardner, a Book of Mormon scholar who has written numerous books in defense of the Mesoamerican model. “I see it frequently in wards and talking to people,” Gardner, who lives in New Mexico, said. “It’s a lot more prominent than it was.”

Exactly how popular the Heartland model has become is hard to say. As a reference, [Wayne] May points to the crowds he is able to draw when speaking at private events, estimating anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 might attend the lectures over three days.

“There are a lot of Saints out there that are very, very interested in what we’re doing,” May said, “and they’re paying close attention.”

To this, Gardner grudgingly agreed. “We can’t get that many people to any of our conferences,” he said, referring to his own community of supporters of the Mesoamerican model. “It’s a point of envy.”

Envy explains a lot of the actions of the M2Cers. I discussed the interview here:



With that background, let's consider the interview. 

If you don't want to read all of this, here's the summary:

The basic M2C rule of historical analysis: No matter who says it, or when, or in what context, if they say Cumorah is in New York, their claim is, by definition, misleading, ignorant, speculative, and definitely wrong.


Brant started right off with his racist worldview at 3:39: "we really would like selfishly to have the Book of Mormon be ours and and be in a place where frankly we white people have been." 

Race a bizarre fixation of the M2Cers. Brant's not the only one, as you can see if you follow the writings of the M2C apologists. It's a goofy red herring fallacy.

Moving on, Brant next claims (4:31) "you have to have a narrow neck of land." 

Of course, we can all see that the only "narrow neck of land" in the text is in Ether 10:20, but the M2Cers conflate that with a "narrow neck" without noticing the qualifier "of land," and also conflate it with a "small neck of land" without noticing the difference between "narrow" and "small." While it's not unreasonable to conflate these three features, it seems more reasonable to me that three different terms refer to three different features. 

IOW, the traditional "hourglass" shape is not required or specified by the text, but instead by the conflation of three different terms. Again, not unreasonable, but also not a justification for excluding other interpretations of the text.

The M2C interpretation assumes that "land northward" and "land southward" are proper nouns referring to specific locations. I can only speak for my view, which is that these are relative terms depending on the reference point; i.e., the location of the speaker/writer using these terms. Thus, Salt Lake City can be a "land southward" if you are in Logan, or a "land northward" if you are in Provo. That seems so obvious to me that it is self-evident, but the M2Cers disagree. 

Which is fine. 

But this shows why a side-by-side comparison of these issues would be so productive and useful.

I won't detail all of Brant's theories, but you can see he is repeating the traditional M2C interpretation to constrain the possibilities to Mesoamerica instead of what the text actually says. I refer to this as the "Sorenson translation" of the Book of Mormon.

For example, he conflates the term "sea" with "ocean" instead of looking at the way the term is used in the KJV, where it means a large body of water (e.g., Sea of Galilee) as well as a "mighty river" (e.g., the Nile). 

At 8:10, he ironically claims "you have to do some real interesting linguistic work to take the headwaters of the sidon and make it a Confluence of rivers," yet the text itself never uses the term "headwaters." That's another Sorenson translation. It's audacious "linguistic work" to change the text to fit your preconceived ideas and then pass that off as a requirement of the text! 

Then he says, "the text of the Book of Mormon says that the land of Nephi is higher than the land of Zarahemla if you've got a river that's going between those two areas fluid dynamics tells you it has to go downhill which means it has to go north so the text says you need a North Flowing River."

This presents us with a dilemma. Is he merely ignorant of the Heartland model, or is he deliberately misleading his viewers/listeners? 

Because Brant's a good guy, I chalk this up to ignorance. Most Heartlanders agree with the M2C inference that the land of Nephi is higher in elevation than the land of Zarahemla, and that there is a river between them. However, the M2Cers further infer that this must be the river Sidon, but the text doesn't say or imply that.

We've explained for years that you do get to the land of Zarahemla (Illinois) from the higher land of Nephi (Tennessee) by going downhill on a north-flowing river (the Tennessee River). It's an easy solution. I suspect not many M2Cers have lived in Tennessee (as I have) or are even familiar with the geography and river systems there, which may explain why they overlook this simple point.

He refers to Brian Hales' upcoming work that apparently states the obvious: it's easier and faster to go downstream than upstream. Brian's a great guy, and I'm sure his paper will be peer-approved by the Interpreter, but why bother? 

The rest of Brant's interview replows the same old ground, but let's look at what he says about Joseph and Oliver.


at 17:15, Brant articulates the M2C approach of "Joseph Smith, follower" theory, based on the "Oliver Cowdery, deceiver" theory.

Seriously, look at this. They actually teach that Oliver Cowdery misled Joseph Smith about Cumorah!

He says, "the historians who've looked at Joseph Smith using terminology, he doesn't start using that until I think 1838 is the time we first get Joseph Smith recorded as saying it was, you know, the hill Cumorah, but why is he calling it The Hill Cumorah? Well because everybody else is. You know Oliver Cowdery was early doing that, so Joseph picked up on the vocabulary. It's the same thing we'll talk about with the Urim and Thummim, you know that's a late vocabulary Joseph didn't use it for a long time then eventually did. He picked up the language that everybody else was using he's no different than the rest of us he's lived in a community and when the community starts using a certain term for something he ended up using it.

This is the same theory Stebbins used back in 1911. I've written about this, and some people have challenged me to show where our M2C scholars teach it. They've spelled it out explicitly in several places, but it is implicit in everything they write about Cumorah. 

Now you have Brant laying it out for everyone to see. 

Here's how Stebbins explained it back in 1911, as I discussed here:


Stebbins claimed that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were speculating on Book of Mormon geography as an excuse for the actual Hill Cumorah being in Central America.

I know that in Doctrine and Covenants 10 : 20 it reads, "glad tidings of Cumorah," but it is in a letter from Joseph Smith, evidently after the idea had become fixed that because records were hidden in Cumorah therefore the one in New York must have been the same hill.

In his "Letters," pages 29, 33, Oliver Cowdery calls it Cumorah, evidently from the same idea, not from any divine or angelic statement that it was Cumorah. Certainly the idea did not originate with any careful student of the Book of Mormon. There may not have been any real study of the book at that time. The book appears to have been largely taken on trust by the old Saints, without great examina­tion or study.

If you've read the writings of the modern M2C scholars, they have adopted the Stebbins rationale instead of accepting the teachings of the prophets. 

The interviewer, Greg, pointed out to Brant that Lucy Mack Smith says Moroni identified the hill as Cumorah during his first visit: "the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone..."

Note: You can read this in the Joseph Smith Papers here:


Brant's response is to reject what Lucy wrote, not because she wouldn't have known, or is not a credible witness, but because it contradicts Brant's own narrative! 

Brant, confronted with Lucy's explanation, says:


Brant: that is actually not known. The record of that comes late. the record of it speaking back to that period yeah and and that's part of the problem you... 

Greg: so you say and I'm sorry to interrupt you but you were saying that Moroni doesn't say Cumorah? 

Brant: at least we do not know exactly what he said because they say it later. You know, that later designation, by the time that gets written down everybody's saying Cumorah and that's the way everybody knows the hill and so that term gets put into the historical record.

According to the M2Cers, everything in Church history that contradicts M2C is a false narrative, while everything that somehow supports M2C is a true narrative--including Sorenson's revised translation of the text!

That's the basic M2C rule of historical analysis. No matter who says it, or when, if they say Cumorah is in New York, it is by definition misleading, ignorant, speculative, and definitely wrong.

It's amazing.


You can go through the interview and find more of the same, but one we should spend a moment on is Brant misquoting the Wentworth letter. We'll end with this.

Brant claims Joseph wrote "continent" when he actually wrote "country," then he says there is "a big important difference between continent and country." 

We can all agree with Brant that there is a big difference between continent and country, which is why the Wentworth letter is so important.

First, recall that Mr. Wentworth had learned about Cumorah in 1841, as I discussed here:


Second, we might wonder, how could Brant have made such an obvious error?

Maybe he relied on the M2C orientation of the lesson manual that deliberately omitted this portion of the Wentworth letter in a lesson focused on the Wentworth letter!

You can see how it is edited here:


You can see how this has been edited in all the language versions. For example, the French version is here:


I've been informed that the editors of the manual did this to avoid a discussion of the implications of this passage, which is another fascinating topic to discuss some day, but the omission in the lesson manual doesn't justify M2C scholars changing the language of the Wentworth letter (the way they do with the Sorenson translation).

This is a serious issue because non-English speakers have access to the teachings of the prophets mainly, if not exclusively, through this lesson manual. And most English speakers won't look beyond the lesson manual anyway, so they are susceptible to the M2C spin about the Wentworth letter.

This is the antithesis of the openness we've come to expect, but it is particularly egregious here because Joseph started the letter by writing "all that I shall ask at his hands, is, that he publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation.”

Joseph didn't need to worry about the editors in 1842. Today, in 2023, we can't even get the Curriculum Department to publish the account entire.

Here's the link where I discussed this before:


[My critics say I'm criticizing Church leaders when I criticize this lesson manual, but that's false. No Church leaders favor censoring the explicit teachings of Joseph Smith the way this chapter in this manual does.] 

An excerpt:

If you want to read the entire letter, you can see it in the Times and Seasons link above, or on lds.org at this link: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/07/the-wentworth-letter?lang=eng

But you can't read the entire letter in the lesson manual because the following passage was omitted:

Direct quotation from the lesson manual (note the ellipses):

“Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God.… This book … tells us that our Savior made His appearance upon this continent after His resurrection;"

Direct quotation from the original letter (with the omitted portions in red): 

"Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God.

"In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Savior made His appearance upon this continent after His Resurrection;"

It turns out, Joseph didn't need to worry about Mr. Barstow declining to "publish the account entire." Instead, he needed to worry about the Curriculum Department.

It's bad enough that they deleted the important passage in red, but they even deleted the "also" so readers would have no idea that the Book told us something else important.

First podcast with Backyard Professor

Yesterday I did a live interview with Kerry Shirts (aka the Backyard Professor) and Steven Pynakker of Mormon Book Reviews. Both of them are great guys who focus more on understanding others' points of view than on arguing about who is correct.

I'm happy to see this type of openness and recognition of multiple working hypotheses. 

We can lay out the available facts, let everyone articulate the assumptions they make when interpreting those facts and the inferences they use to fill the gaps in the narratives, then set out the theories they use to explain their views of reality, and finally propose the hypotheses they adopt for additional inquiry.

In other words, everyone can show their work and then everyone else can assess it according to their individual worldviews, biases, incentives, interests, etc. A comparison chart would be especially useful.

Maybe someday even LDS apologists will adopt this approach?

Here's the link:


We only had time to answer a few questions at the end. In future podcasts we'll spend more time on audience questions.


Some people have questioned my appearance on a Mormon Discussion podcast, since most of their podcasts are cynical and critical. But not all hosts are the same, and the two hosts on this podcast are thoughtful, insightful, and fun.

I'm happy to talk with anyone, but especially those who share my interest in understanding one another; i.e., having discussions about multiple working hypotheses. I'd be happy to speak at a FAIRLDS conference, for example, but so far they haven't wanted to hear alternative faithful interpretations. 

I'm happy to speak with evangelicals, Hindus, atheists, Muslims, or anyone else who seeks mutual understanding.  

In my view, instead of constantly trying to argue about who is correct, it's more interesting and more productive to seek to understand one another and find ways to work together to improve society.

I look forward to future podcasts with these guys!

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

CWIC Media Cumorah interview comments

Some of the comments on the video are typical of what our M2C friends teach. (M2C = Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.) 

I'm all in favor of people believing whatever they want, but I encourage people to make informed decisions. Because some of the comments reflect a lack of knowledge about the relevant topics, I'll discuss some of the comments here with more explanation than I could put in the YouTube video comments. You can find the original comments at the youtube site.



Comment 1. 

Howard W Hunter was a proponent of the Hill Cumorah (where the final battles took place) in MesoAmerica.  This is what opened my mind initially to there being two Cumorahs - one in MesoAmerica and one in New York State.

This comment is typical of the "Mormon Chess" game of citing one Church leader's personal, unofficial views to support whatever one wants to believe. Regardless of what Howard W. Hunter personally believed at any given point, he did not announce either a departure from his predecessors on this issue or any new knowledge/revelation to justify such a departure.

It's important to recognize what President Oaks has taught.

Elder Christofferson taught: “It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.”

In the following conference, Elder Andersen taught this principle: “The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk.”

(2019, October, Dallin H. Oaks, ‘Trust in the Lord,’ Liahona, November 2019, ¶ 11–12)


Regarding Cumorah, President Cowdery, as Assistant President of the Church and with the assistance of Joseph Smith, declared in the official Church publication in Kirtland, the Messenger and Advocate, that it was a fact that the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 and the hill Ramah is the very hill in western New York where Joseph Smith obtained the plates. The entire first Presidency at the time endorsed the statement, and Joseph approved its republication multiple times, including in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo. Subsequent Church leaders, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, have reaffirmed the New York Cumorah.

Comment 2: 

A detailed reading of the book of mormon will get you to that conclusion, Joseph Smith didn't originally refer to the hill in new york as Cumorah, it was Oliver Cowdery who started that, by 1842, in D&C Joseph Smith uses the word Cumorah, but at that time the idea had already been cemented in church culture.

This comment (I call it the anti-Cowdery theory) reflects what our M2C friends have been telling their followers/students/donors. But they apparently forgot to tell their followers/students/donors that they are merely paraphrasing what RLDS scholar Henry Stebbins said back in 1911.

I know that in Doctrine and Covenants 10 : 20 it reads, "glad tidings of Cumorah," but it is in a letter from Joseph Smith, evidently after the idea had become fixed that because records were hidden in Cumorah therefore the one in New York must have been the same hill.

In his "Letters," pages 29, 33, Oliver Cowdery calls it Cumorah, evidently from the same idea, not from any divine or angelic statement that it was Cumorah. Certainly the idea did not originate with any careful student of the Book of Mormon. There may not have been any real study of the book at that time. The book appears to have been largely taken on trust by the old Saints, without great examina­tion or study. 

For more info on the origin of M2C, go to this link:


The anti-Cowdery theory requires believers to make several assumptions. And I'm fine with people making these assumptions if they want to, but they should be open and explicit about the basis for their beliefs. Everyone should ask why they hide these assumptions from their followers/students/donors.

Some of the anti-Cowdery assumptions required to support M2C:

1. As Assistant President of the Church, and with the assistance of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery deliberately misled the Church (and the world) by declaring the New York Cumorah as a fact, when (according to the anti-Cowdery proponents) he was merely expressing an ignorant, speculative, and wrong opinion. 

2. We can trust what Oliver Cowdery said about everything except what he said about Cumorah (and the translation of the Book of Mormon).

3. President Cowdery also misled Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others when he told them about the times when he (Oliver) and Joseph entered the repository of Nephite records inside the Hill Cumorah.

4. Lucy Mack Smith, David Whitmer, Martin Harris, and other contemporaries of Joseph Smith who related their separate experiences with Cumorah were misleading everyone by expressing their faulty (or false) memories.

5. Heber C. Kimball lied when he said he visited the Hill Cumorah in New York shortly after being baptized in 1832 and said he saw the embankments still there.

6. Every Church leader who reaffirmed the New York Cumorah was also expressing an ignorant, speculative, and wrong opinion.

7. We know these people were all wrong because a handful of self-appointed "experts" on the Book of Mormon, starting with RLDS scholars Stebbins and Hills in the early 1900s and continuing to Jack Welch and Dan Peterson and their followers/students/donors in 2023, have correctly interpreted the text of the Book of Mormon to reveal that the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in southern Mexico.


Comment 3. 

I will add that Joseph and Oliver also believed in a hemispheric model and Neville's Heartland is a limited geographical model so he also decides what to pull and take from JS & OC.

It's true that Orson Pratt and Benjamin Winchester promoted a hemispheric model with the focus on Central America. However, nothing Joseph or Oliver wrote in their published writings supports a hemispheric model. In the Wentworth letter, Joseph rejected Orson Pratt's speculation about Central America by writing "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."

Joseph's statement is consistent with D&C 28, 30 and 32 (identifying the Indians in New York and Ohio as Lamanites,  as well as the New York Cumorah and the "plains of the Nephites" being in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, etc. 

I discussed all of this here:


Furthermore, even Orson Pratt admitted that his theories about Lehi's landing place in Chile, Zarahemla in Colombia, etc., were speculative, while the location of Cumorah in New York was certain. (See his footnotes in the 1879 Book of Mormon, discussed here:


Other Church leaders have pointed out that while we know where Cumorah is, we don't know the location of other sites. This makes sense because there are hundreds of possible Book of Mormon sites in North America and even more that have been destroyed beyond recognition.

Comment 4.

Hi Greg Love listening to your shows how ever on this one the Heartlanders have a flawed foundation and it is important to note that most of the scholars and professors in the church believe it happened in Meso America. 

An appeal to authority is a classic logical fallacy, but in this case it is a compound fallacy. 

- If one appeals to authority by counting "experts," then the overwhelming number of experts in the world, in all fields, reject the historicity of the Book of Mormon. 

- If one appeals to authority by counting "Book of Mormon experts" it is a circular argument because those who claim to be "experts" are self-appointed. Anyone who reads the Book of Mormon can be an expert, regardless of academic credentials and background, because the text speaks for itself. There is no underlying text to re-translate. While there are many "experts" who promote their particular theories based on their academic specialty, in every case they are merely expressing academic opinions.

The only known "experts" with first-hand experience were Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, as we'll discuss below.

The second part of the comment makes another typical M2C misdirection. 

The foundation for the heartland theory is the belief that Joseph Smith was given revelation about the location of the Book of Mormon 

This is part word thinking and part denial of the historical record.

Word thinking: was it a revelation or an experience when John the Baptist conferred the Aaronic Priesthood? Would the event have been more authoritative if it had been a revelation instead of an experience? 

Most believers would say the experience itself--the visit of a resurrected being who physically conferred the Priesthood--would outweigh a spiritual (intangible) revelation of the Priesthood being restored.

The foundation for the Heartland theory is the historical record; i.e., that Moroni identified the hill as Cumorah the first night they met, that Joseph referred to it as Cumorah even before he got the plates, that the messenger took the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah before taking the plates of Nephi to Fayette, that Joseph and Oliver visited the repository of Nephite records in the hill multiple times, and that President Cowdery explicitly stated it was a fact that Cumorah is in New York, a statement that was republished at least 4 times during Joseph's lifetime after being copied into his own journal as part of his life history. 

Upon that foundation, we have the teachings of the successors and contemporaries of Joseph Smith.

And upon that foundation, we have the extrinsic evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography which corroborates what Oliver explicitly taught.

how ever 3 Prophets have stated that the lord has not yet reveled the location of the Book of Mormon.

Other than the Hill Cumorah, that is accurate, which is why there are multiple working hypotheses based on the New York Cumorah.

Please also interview an expert with the Meso American view. Love your shows.


And let's have the expert go through the 7 assumptions I laid out above.

Friday, March 17, 2023

CWIC Media interview, part 2

The second part of the interview is available now. In this one we discussed the question, "Did Joseph Smith Really Use A Seer Stone?"


This is a timely interview because, although we didn't discuss it in this interview, our book about the translation is being formally released soon. My co-author and I will be doing interviews about the book and its contents, and the usual critics will do their thing.

Readers of this blog know that I believe what Joseph and Oliver said, not only about Cumorah, but also about the translation of the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. 

Others disagree.

Which is fine with me. 

I've said repeatedly that I'm happy for people to believe whatever they want. I encourage people to make informed decisions, but if they don't want to, that's also fine with me. 

Most people just want to confirm their biases. That's why Fox News and CNN/MSNBC succeed in creating silos of increasingly dogmatic partisans.

That's also why Dan Peterson and John Dehlin (who completely agree about SITH) have their loyal followers who resist alternative interpretations of historical evidence.  

In fact, many if not all of those who disbelieve what Oliver wrote about Cumorah--that it is a fact that the final battles took place in western New York--also disbelieve what Oliver and Joseph said about the translation.

That's how we ended up with both M2C and SITH (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory and the stone-in-the-hat theory, respectively).


Someone sent me a video from a critic, the Backyard Professor, who released a video yesterday about the translation. It's titled "Backyard Professor Responds to Propaganda Video of Elder David A Bednar on Priesthood Restored."

In his video, he quotes the usual suspects, the SITH advocates including David Whitmer, Brant Gardner, Mike MacKay, Dan Peterson, and Royal Skousen. He could just as easily have read from the Gospel Topics Essay or Mormonism Unvailed--or FAIRLDS, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, etc.  

What none of these sources quote is what Joseph and Oliver said, because they specifically excluded the seer stone from the translation narrative. 

But since these scholars reject what Joseph and Oliver taught about Cumorah, it makes sense that they would also reject what Joseph and Oliver said about the translation. 

Here's the place in the Backyard Professor's video in which he agrees with John Dehlin that FAIRMormon (now FAIRLDS) is better at causing people to have doubts than even he is! 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

CWIC media interview, part 1

The other day I spent some time with Greg Matsen at CWIC Media. He's an awesome, well-informed, thoughtful host who covers a range of topics. If you haven't subscribed to his show, you should.

Here's the link to the first part of our interview:


We discussed Cumorah, LDS scholarship, and related topics. Greg explains that he has no horse in this race. He just wants to see more open and respectful dialogue on these issues, which is exactly what I want to see.

I'd like everyone, Latter-day Saint or not, to make fully informed decisions on these issues, based on facts and not obscured by M2C/SITH gatekeepers or the critical gatekeepers who also prevent their readers/viewers from having all the facts.

Keep up the good work, Greg!

BTW, if you look closely, you'll see that my screen says Beverly Neville. It's not a pseudonym. I was using my wife's office and forgot to change the name! 

My bad...


The show notes include relevant links.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Resources for answering questions

I frequently hear from readers and viewers who have specific questions about Church history, Book of Mormon historicity, etc. Often they seek a way to explain the issues to their family, friends, associates, and social media contacts.

In most cases, I direct them to the materials on my lettervii.com website. For readers of this blog who find it on moronisamerica, amazon, or another redirected site, you may not know about the Pages on the lettervii.com site.

For example, here's a page about the origins and rational of M2C.

Here is a list of all resources currently in the Pages section of that blog. I add to them as people ask specific questions not already covered in the Pages.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

The citation cartels and unapproved opinions

It's no secret why the M2C/SITH citation cartels* don't want people to read, or even know about, what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery actually taught. That's why they react so strongly when people discover and read Letter VII in the Joseph Smith Papers, the complete Wentworth letter from the Times and Seasons, and the rest of the material in the BYU packet for the first time.

The last thing these cartels want is people making informed decisions. Instead, they filter and manipulate information so their readers and followers will arrive at the conclusions that have been approved by the M2C/SITH scholars.

For that matter, the critical cartels** do the same thing. They just censor different information so their readers and viewers can't make informed decisions. Instead, they filter information so their readers and followers will arrive at the conclusions that have been approved by the leading critics.

That's why on this blog we discuss everything.

We trust people to make good decisions when they make fully informed decisions. After all, "good inspiration is based upon good information."


Which reminds us of something else in the news...


Democrats Warn That Anyone Watching Unedited Jan 6 Footage Could Arrive At Unapproved Conclusion

U.S.·Mar 8, 2023 · BabylonBee.com

U.S. — Democrat leaders have issued a dire warning to Americans, saying that anyone who watches unedited clips of the footage from January 6 runs the risk of arriving at a conclusion that hasn't been approved by Democrat leaders.

"This is a very dangerous situation," said Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer. "We work hard every day to make sure Americans all have all the correct opinions. With thousands of hours of footage being given to the American public with no filter, we're in grave danger of some people not agreeing with us, or worse — not giving us politicians more and more unchecked power. This is an existential threat to democracy."

Mitch McConnell, another Democrat Senator, agreed. "I'm terrified right now," he said. "What if everyone starts thinking we're lying frauds? I'm not saying we are, but it would be terrible if people came to such a scary — and unapproved — conclusion."

Experts also weighed in, warning that if unapproved opinions are allowed to spread, it may lead to unapproved leaders being elected for unapproved reasons. "As experts, we wouldn't approve of this," said one expert.

At publishing time, Democrats released findings from the intelligence community stating the Jan 6 tapes were unapproved Russian disinformation.


*The Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central, Meridian Magazine, BYU Studies under Jack Welch, FAIRLDS, the old FARMS.

** CES Letter, Mormon Stories, etc.