This is the second part of the Mike Parker clarification. For Part I, see
Again, I appreciate Mike's willingness to discuss these issues, and I think he has done a good job summarizing the M2C position. I welcome any additional input by other M2C advocates, if any.
Jonathan Neville’s synopsis of
faithful contemporaries and successors in Church leadership reaffirmed
the truth about Cumorah in New York, including members of the First
Presidency speaking in General Conference.
faithful contemporaries and successors in Church leadership, like Joseph
Smith, passively adopted Oliver Cowdery’s false theory about
Cumorah and thereby misled everyone for decades until the scholars found the
Smith and Oliver Cowdery’s contemporaries and successors shared the same
assumptions about the text that they did, and they taught and testified in
good faith based on these assumptions. These assumptions became traditions,
but just because something is traditional does not make it true (as has been
seen in the Church’s recent disavowal of
theories that for over a century were used to explain the priesthood ban).
location of the hill Cumorah is not a matter that pertains in any way to
salvation; therefore, no one has been “misled” by general authorities who
expressed their belief that the hill in New York is the hill Cumorah of the
Book of Mormon.
Mike: 1. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery’s contemporaries and successors shared the same assumptions about the text that they did, and they taught and testified in good faith based on these assumptions. These assumptions became traditions, but just because something is traditional does not make it true (as has been seen in the Church’s recent disavowal of theories that for over a century were used to explain the priesthood ban).
My Response: There is no historical evidence to support Mike's theory that the NY Cumorah was a mere "assumption." Instead, the historical record shows that the NY Cumorah originated with Moroni telling Joseph the name of the hill the first night they met. This is also the most parsimonious explanation for why everyone accepted the NY Cumorah.
Neither Oliver nor Joseph ever framed the New York Cumorah as a mere "assumption." Oliver unambiguously declared it was a fact. In his eight essays about the origins of the Church, Oliver made clear and repeated distinctions between speculation and fact.
Joseph assisted Oliver in writing these essays, had his scribes copy them into his own journal as part of his life story, and approved their republication in the Gospel Reflector and Times and Seasons. During Joseph's lifetime, they were also republished in the Millennial Star and The Prophet, each time reiterating that it is a fact that the hill in New York is the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6. Joseph wrote D&C 128:20 in this context.
The comparison to the priesthood ban is inapposite and pejorative. The New York Cumorah has a definite origin: Moroni's first visit to Joseph Smith. It is corroborated by many historical sources and is contradicted by no historical sources. It has been clearly articulated by Church leaders including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.
By contrast, the origins of the priesthood ban are murky. The justifications involved a variety of explanations, none of them official. The elimination of the priesthood ban was a direct result of revelation.
In early June of this year, the First Presidency announced that a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church.
(Doctrine and Covenants, OD 2, 2)
My response: By this logic, no one can be misled by anything that does not pertain to salvation. This is news to anyone who has ever been misled about finances, advertising and product claims, interpersonal relationships, politics, science or any other topic (including pseudonyms).
Underneath the faulty logic, though, are two important issues.
First, because no one says the location of Cumorah is essential to salvation, Mike makes a straw man argument; i.e., he argues against a position no one holds. Straw man arguments are useful for distracting people from the real issues, and we can all see why Mike avoids the real issue here.
In this case, the important question that Mike avoids is why did Oliver declare it was a fact that Cumorah is in New York? For that matter, why did Moroni identify the hill as Cumorah the first time he met Joseph?
Oliver was responding to the book Mormonism Unvailed, which, among other things, claimed the Book of Mormon was fiction derived from Solomon Spaulding's lost manuscript. To refute the charge, Oliver explained the historical fact--the reality--that the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place in a known location: the mile-wide valley west of Cumorah.
While it is true in a sense that the historicity of the Book of Mormon "does not pertain in any way to salvation," it is also true that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. If it is not what it claims--if the Book of Mormon is actually fiction, even if pious--then the keystone collapses.
Does that pertain to salvation? Apparently, Mike thinks it does not. People can decide for themselves.
Second, what pertains to salvation?
This Cumorah issue implicates the credibility of Oliver Cowdery more generally. If he deliberately lied about Cumorah by declaring it was a fact when he either did not know it was a fact or knew it was not a fact, then his credibility about everything else is called into question--including the restoration of the Priesthood, the restoration of temple keys, the translation of the Book of Mormon, etc.
Presumably Mike would agree that the restoration of the Priesthood and temple keys pertains to salvation. Then why does Mike seek to undermine the credibility of Oliver Cowdery, who was the only witness of these things other than Joseph Smith? And why does Mike seek to undermine the credibility of other Church leaders who have reaffirmed Oliver's declaration of fact?
So far as we can tell, the only reason Mike undermines their credibility is because he personally believes the "real Cumorah" is somewhere in Mesoamerica.
Those interested in this issue can weigh for themselves the relative credibility of Oliver Cowdery and the other historical evidence vs. the personal opinion of Mike Parker.
People can believe whatever they want. For me, though, it's no contest.
I still accept what Oliver, Joseph, Lucy Mack Smith, David Whitmer, Brigham Young, and everyone else said about Cumorah.
Next, part III.