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.

Monday, July 31, 2023

BMC intellectual ancestry: BMAF explains origins of M2C

In the interest of clarity, charity and understanding, we'll take a moment to look at the origins of M2C.

Because Book of Mormon Central (BMC) has raised millions of dollars to repackage and promote M2C and SITH, BMC has done a good job papering over its own intellectual ancestry. 

But when we look at that ancestry, we understand it's shallow origins and why BMC continues to promote M2C and SITH as the only acceptable beliefs about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon.

BMC is actually a subsidiary of BMAF (Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, Inc.). Glance through the articles on the BMAF website and you'll discover all you need to know about BMC's obsession with M2C and SITH.

Here, for example, is an undated article that purports to explain "The Origin of the Mesoamerican Model."


It begins with an illustration adapted from an RT Barrett painting of Joseph Smith examining the plates (which is historically accurate). This painting was published by BYU as recently as 2005.


Joseph Smith examining the plates (JS-H 1:62)

In an article on the origins of the Mesoamerican model, BMAF (again, the corporate owner of BMC) modified the painting to show Joseph reading not the plates, but instead large books, presumably those written by John Lloyd Stephens (Stephen’s Incidents of Travel in Central America).

Joseph Smith examining John Lloyd Stephens (BMAF/BMC)

This revised illustration epitomizes the claims of both (i) anti-Mormon critics and (ii) the M2C and SITH scholars. They all claim that Joseph learned about the Book of Mormon by reading secular sources including the Stephens books.

It's easy to see why critics promote these ideas.

It's less easy to see why LDS scholars promote these ideas, except that framing Joseph as an ignorant speculator who didn't know much about the Book of Mormon setting and who got the words from a stone in a hat puts them, the credentialed scholars, in a superior position. It entitles these M2C and SITH scholars to reject what Joseph and Oliver actually said in favor of their own theories.

For those of us who still believe what Oliver and Joseph taught about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon, this depiction of Joseph learning about the Book of Mormon by reading the Stephens books is absurd. 

Not only absurd, but destructive.

I discussed this article several years ago, here:


Soon we'll take another look at this article to see why M2C persists at Book of Mormon Central.


Friday, July 28, 2023

Saints Unscripted: another "just move on" effort

Saints Unscripted recently posted a video about SITH (the stone-in-the-hat theory) titled "Did the Church hide the truth about Joseph Smith’s seer stone?" | Ep. 201


Saints Unscripted produces great videos, with effective graphics and commentary. 

But ultimately, this one is another "just move on" approach, similar to that taken by many of the references provided in the notes. Avoiding the issue by minimizing and trivializing seems short-sighted and ultimately ineffective. 

Screen shot from Saints Unscripted

Some people adopt the "just move on" approach, of course, and that's fine with me. 

But the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding to achieve no more contention leads me to discuss how this video is another example of classic cognitive dissonance. 


As suggested by the title, the video attempts to respond to critics who claim "the Church" somehow "hid" the so-called "truth" about Joseph's seer stone.

As you can see, the title is laden with assumptions. The video makes a decent case that "the Church" has not "hidden" claims that Joseph used SITH to produce the Book of Mormon. But to imply, as the video does, that SITH is "the truth" is a leap of fact and logic--and a concession to the critics, which undermines the premise of the video itself.

There's a good reason why critics tout SITH as a major problem with "Mormonism." 

The question is not whether "the Church" hid the historical record about the seer stones, but whether Joseph Smith misled everyone.

IOW, SITH is a challenge to the credibility and reliability of Joseph and Oliver, a point the video completely ignores.

In the past, everyone knew that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery claimed openly and publicly that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates.

In recent years, though, Church historians have moved away from that claim. Instead, they've argued that Joseph actually dictated words that appeared on a seer stone he found in a well years earlier. Some even say he didn't use the plates at all, especially after losing the 116 pages. Instead, once he prepared spiritually, he dictated words that appeared on the stone-in-the-hat (SITH).

The discrepancy--SITH vs Urim and Thummim--was articulated in the 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed. In our day, some faithful LDS scholars, along with most critics of the Church, claim that the SITH account in Mormonism Unvailed is "the truth" about the origin of the Book of Mormon. 

Many people don't realize that Joseph Smith denounced Mormonism Unvailed, as I discussed here:


Consequently, the discrepancy between SITH and U&T persists to this day, despite the unambiguous declarations by Joseph and Oliver that should have clarified the issue (at least, for those who believe them).


The discrepancy generates obvious cognitive dissonance in both believers and nonbelievers.

- If Joseph actually used the U&T to translate the plates, then unbelievers have a big problem when they reject the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Hence their insistence that Joseph did not use the U&T and did not use the plates.

- If Joseph dictated words that appeared on the stone-in-the-hat (or through vision or composition), then believers have a big problem because the SITH narrative (i) contradicts what Joseph and Oliver said, (ii) undermines the viability of the plates/U&T narrative, and (iii) calls into question the source of the words (whether they appeared on the stone, or in Joseph's mind by revelation, or by some other means, there is no direct link to the plates and thus the source of the text could range from divine to human to devilish, depending on what one wants to believe). 

It is well known that there are four strategies to reduce the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. People take one or more of these strategies to resolve the SITH/U&T dissonance:

1. We trivialize the inconsistency altogether, making it less important and less relevant.

2. We add other (consonant) thoughts that justify or reduce the importance of one thought and therefore diminish the inconsistency.

3. We change our behavior so that it is consistent with the other thought.

4. We change one of the dissonant thoughts in order to restore consistency. 

1. Trivialize the inconsistency. Some believers trivialize SITH/U&T dissonance altogether by saying, in effect, "it doesn't matter how Joseph produced the Book of Mormon because I have a testimony it is true, because the words in the text are evidence of their divine origin, because no ignorant farm boy could produce the book, etc."

This is the approach taken in the video.   

5:57 the evidence isn't overwhelmingly straightforward. If I die and find out that Joseph never used his Seer Stone to translate I'm not going to lose any sleep. Frankly, I don't really care which Stones Joseph used. It's just a rock. 

We'll discuss this more in the section below, but it's easy to see how the video concludes the evidence isn't straightforward. It simply ignores what Joseph and Oliver said in favor of the confusing, inconsistent statements from others.

2. Add consonant thoughts. Some believers add other consonant thoughts, such as the idea that Joseph used both the U&T and SITH and/or used the term "Urim and Thummim" to refer to both. That approach may be soothing for those who are unaware of the details of the historical record, but the record defies both consonant thoughts. 

Contrary to the thought that Joseph used both, the SITH witnesses said that Joseph used only SITH (except possibly for the 116 pages), while Joseph, Oliver, Lucy Mack Smith, and John Whitmer said Joseph used only the U&T to translate. One historian who interviewed David, Emma and others pointed out that Joseph used a seer stone to "satisfy the awful curiosity" of his supporters, but not to translate. 

Contrary to the thought that Joseph used the term "Urim and Thummim" to refer to both the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone, the 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed clearly delineated between the two alternative explanations. David Whitmer, Emma Smith, and others likewise distinguished the two alternatives whenever they addressed the topic. Joseph himself resolved the confusion with his specific declaration that he used the U&T that came with the plates.

3. Change behavior. Some believers deal with the SITH/U&T dissonance by changing their behavior; i.e., unable to reconcile SITH and U&T, they stop learning about Church history and put the topic "on the shelf" so they can ignore it. 

Others accept SITH and leave the Church on the ground that they've been misled by the teachings about the U&T. Responding to that response is one of the ostensible objectives of the video, but because the video resorts to strategy 1, it doesn't offer much for those who respond to cognitive dissonance with strategy 3. 

4. Change dissonant thoughts. Some believers change one of the dissonant thoughts by rejecting either SITH or U&T. 

Some believers reject U&T and embrace SITH as "cool" or a faith-promoting narrative. They turn a "bug" into a "feature," to use the software metaphor.

Some believers reject U&T and embrace SITH, leading them to change their behavior accordingly as discussed in 3. above.

Other believers reject SITH and embrace U&T for various reasons, such as accusing the SITH witnesses of lying. 

I think #4 is the most rational and evidence-based approach to resolving cognitive dissonance, but I don't think it is rational or evidence-based to simply conclude one side or the other was outright lying.

My detailed examination of the historical record, combined with my experience with witnesses and evidence as a lawyer, indicated to me that the SITH witnesses were not outright lying, but (i) they had a strong motivation to use SITH to defend against the Spalding theory and (ii) they developed a SITH narrative that was apparently based on a demonstration event that may not have even involved the text of the Book of Mormon. As witnesses do, they relied on hearsay, assumptions, and inferences to coordinate a narrative they thought was useful.

For me, this is an easy, obvious, and straightforward resolution that is supported by the evidence. Basically, I believe what Joseph and Oliver taught for all the reasons I've explained elsewhere.


How does trivializing the conflict resolve cognitive dissonance?

The trivializing approach in this video works (sort of) because of two key rhetorical tricks.

First, the title. The question is not whether "the Church" hid "the truth," but whether Joseph Smith hid "the truth" about the origin of the Book of Mormon. By focusing on "the Church," the video can find isolated examples of Church leaders and authors mentioning the seer stone and thereby refute claims the Church has hid "the truth."

Of course, everyone with even cursory understanding of the issue knows this is a dodge because the isolated statements quoted in the video were far outside the mainstream teachings in General Conference and Church materials, all of which reiterated Joseph's claim that he translated the plates by means of the U&T that came with the plates. 

This brings up the second trick.

The video never quotes what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said about the translation. This is the same tactic used in the Gospel Topics Essay, the MacKay/Dirkmaat books, and the other SITH sayer sources.

By simply ignoring the source of the cognitive dissonance--the clear, unambiguous declarations by Joseph and Oliver--the video downgrades the conflict into a vague fog of confusing historical accounts that can't be reconciled and aren't important anyway. 

That's why the "just move on" approach is unsatisfactory to many people, both believers and nonbelievers. 


My comments I posted on youtube:

Although this video is a good effort to respond to some critics, the title of this video is misleading because the issue isn't whether "the Church" hid "the truth" but whether Joseph Smith "hid the truth."

One reason people consider this issue important is that it goes directly to the credibility and reliability of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, who always said (including in published statements) that Joseph translated the record with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. Those who claim instead that Joseph found a stone in a well, used the stone-in-the-hat (SITH) to produce the text, and didn't even use the plates, are explicitly repudiating what Joseph and Oliver said.

People can believe whatever they want, but no one can make informed decisions without considering all the relevant information.

Notice that this video and the SITH sayer references in the notes (including the Gospel Topics Essay) all ignore the simple, clear, and unambiguous answer Joseph gave to this question, a question which he said arose daily as he traveled from Kirtland to Missouri in 1838. The question persisted partly because of the 1834 publication of Mormonism Unvailed, which clearly distinguished between the seer stone (peep stone) and the Urim and Thummim (contrary to the MacKay/Dirkmaat theory mentioned in the video that the terms were interchangeable).

"Question: How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon?
Answer: Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead; and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were, and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them, by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the Book of Mormon." (Elders’ Journal, July 1838)

This clear, definitive answer should suffice for believers.

There is no room in that answer for a seer stone (or peep stone) he found in a well. All the obfuscation efforts of the SITH sayers cannot overcome the direct, consistent statements from Joseph and Oliver on this question. Bottom line, do we believe what Joseph and Oliver said and published, or do we believe the contradictory statements of others?

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

"just move on" from SITH and M2C

There is an interesting parallel between a current political issue and the issue of SITH and M2C within the Church.

While I'm fine with people believing whatever they want, and I favor no more contention (see nomorecontention.com), I also think SITH and M2C are major scandals based on false premises. For that reason, SITH and M2C promoters oppose clarity, charity, and understanding.

Jonathan Turley wrote an editorial about how the media and Democrats want to "just move on" from the Biden scandals, despite the unfolding evidence.

In similar manner, the SITH and M2C promoters want Latter-day Saints to "just move on" from the scandalous origins (and ramifications) of their theories.

They don't want Latter-day Saints to inquire into these topics. They don't want Latter-day Saints to even know about the facts. That's why the Gospel Topics Essays, the Saints books, and the publications and websites from Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, etc., continue to censor what Joseph and Oliver taught. The SITH and M2C promoters obfuscate instead of clarify the relevant facts.

Despite their efforts, more and more people are becoming educated about SITH and M2C.

In our day, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery are the whistleblowers on the SITH and M2C narratives.

And eventually Latter-day Saints everywhere will be able to make informed decisions that reinvigorate their faith in what Joseph and Oliver taught, despite SITH and M2C.


Excerpt from Turley's article:

I wonder after this plea happens if you would advise your party to move on?”

That question from CBS’s “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan to Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie was raised just days before a former business associate of Hunter Biden, Devon Archer, gives potentially explosive testimony to a House committee in the Biden corruption scandal.

The media’s desire to “move on” from the scandal is reaching an almost frantic level, as millions in foreign payments and dozens of corporate shell companies are revealed, and incriminating emails are released.

The same plaintive demand was made in congressional hearings.

What was most striking about the last hearing involving two respected IRS whistleblowers was how Democratic members avoided virtually any specific questions....

Members and the media were literally citing a plea bargain as dispositive, even as two lead investigators were saying it was fixed and politically influenced.

Some in the media attacked these two IRS veterans as “so-called whistleblowers” (just as members previously attacked “so called journalists” for discussing censorship records).

Others insisted that the allegations were still “unproven” or “unverified” while showing the same lack of interest in establishing the truth.

Notably, these same media outlets did wall-to-wall coverage of the false Russian collusion claims in the Steele dossier.

They are now simply shrugging off what could be one of the most serious corruption scandals in modern history despite the testimony of highly credible whistleblowers and thousands of pages of supporting evidence.

None of this is going to work, of course. The public has long ago lost trust in the media. Indeed, the “Let’s Go, Brandon” movement is as much a mocking of the media as it is the President.

Polls show that the public is not “moving on” and now view this as a major scandal. A majority believes that Hunter has received special protection in the investigation. While the media can continue to suppress the evidence and allegations within their own echo-chambered platforms, truth like water has a way of finding a way out.

The scandal is moving forward with or without the media.


Friday, July 21, 2023

Updates on other blogs July 2023

When I'm not cutting trees, walking on the beach, working on a book, preparing for an upcoming art exhibition, traveling, golfing, teaching, fishing, kayaking, etc., I engage with readers about various topics and I make notes.

I realize it may be difficult to keep track of all my blogs, but I use them as notes when I get ideas and the topics vary. I don't expect anyone to read all of what I write, but people seem interested, so here are a few updates to some of my blogs/websites.


I've added some relevant links and new pages.


I added an article on how historians choose narratives to promote, using Cumorah as an example.


I added a post about pre-Columbian civilizations in North America.


I added a comment about euphemisms for censorship.


I updated the Cumorah overview.


I added an article from the WSJ about how we will never run out of resources.


I added a link to a podcast by Naval Ravikant.


I added an excerpt about "sandy foundations," another non-Biblical Book of Mormon term.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Intransigent M2C scholars at Book of Mormon Central

People often ask why Book of Mormon Central (BMC) betrays its mission and misleads its donors by focusing on M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) to the exclusion of other faithful concepts about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon and in defiance of the Church's policy of neutrality on that issue. 

The short answer is because John W. (Jack) Welch insists that BMC promote M2C exclusively. He could single-handedly change the organization into a legitimate scholarly resource that accommodates the full spectrum of faithful Latter-day Saints, but he refuses to do so.

In the interest of clarity, charity and understanding, let's discuss this important question.


Q1. Does BMC teach M2C as the only acceptable setting? 

A1. Yes. One look at their Spanish-language website clarifies their position:


A closer look at the BMC site shows how they attack alternative faithful settings. I won't provide the links, but they are easily searchable here: https://bookofmormoncentral.org/


Q2. Why does BMC teach M2C as the only acceptable setting?

A2. Because of their "scholarly consensus."

When we ask these scholars why they fight against the Church's policy of neutrality on the setting of the Book of Mormon, the common answer is that there is a scholarly consensus about M2C; i.e., according to the scholars at Book of Mormon Central, all the relevant, credentialed scholars agree that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorh, so their focus on M2C is justified.


Q3. Why would legitimate scholars at BMC censor alternative faithful viewpoints?

A3. Censorship is based on insecurity, fear and mistrust. Censors are insecure about their own beliefs/positions, they fear openness and comparison to alternatives, and they mistrust their followers (and donors) who might reject the censors if they could make fully informed decisions. 

All of the people at BMC are undoubtedly awesome, smart, educated, faithful, etc. But they do share this intransigence about M2C, apparently as a condition of employment/affiliation.

In the academic world, a heightened concern about reputation and legacy also plays an important role that often outweighs the fundamental principle of legitimate scholarship: clarity and openness. 

BMCs refusal to engage in clarity and openness undermines the credibility of the organization. BMC is an M2C advocacy group, not a legitimate scholarly organization.

Clarity. When we understand the history of BMC, their M2C advocacy makes sense (sort of). BMC is a subsidiary of BMAF (Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, http://bmaf.org/) which was a long-time M2C advocacy group founded in 2004. BMAF published harsh attacks on alternatives to M2C and touts its M2C advocacy in its logo and on its website (http://bmaf.org/about/why_mesoamerica).

Well before BMAF was organized, Jack Welch founded FARMS in 1979. He adopted a logo that taught M2C and, in collaboration with John Sorenson and many others, has promoted M2C for decades. (For an overview, see https://www.templestudy.com/2012/06/25/rise-fall-farms/).

Charity. Everyone can understand the deep psychological investment in M2C that arises from teaching M2C to thousands of faithful Latter-day Saints over 4 decades. We are empathetic with such an investment.

Understanding. Understanding why BMC does what it does helps us appreciate the dynamics of BMCs ongoing censorship and opposition to basic principles of legitimate scholarship. But we have to ask, do those reasons justify exclusion of alternative faithful views from what is supposed to be Book of Mormon Central?

Friday, July 14, 2023

Clarity antonyms

Some Latter-day Saints seek clarity, charity and understanding, as discussed on nomorecontention.com.

Others seek the opposite of clarity, often in the ongoing effort to promote SITH and M2C. We'll look at a couple of examples below.


Here are some antonyms of clarity.









Let's look at some examples from Book of Mormon Central. There are dozens of such examples from Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, etc. 

In every case, the scholars seek to repudiate the teachings of the prophets by introducing uncertainty, ambiguity, confusion, etc.

The M2C/SITH scholars continually stir up contention and controversy because their contrived theories of SITH and M2C are so obviously and directly refuted by the unambiguous statements from Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

Fortunately, more and more Latter-day Saints are educating themselves about the actual teachings of the prophets instead of relying on these scholars to "guide" them.


Ambiguity, confusion, equivocation, etc.

Oliver Cowdery: “the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.”


Not much is known about the land and hill Cumorah…. There is a controversy, however, about the Hill Cumorah–––not about the location where the Book of Mormon plates were found, but whether it is the hill under that name near which Nephite events took place.”https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/knowhy/where-is-the-location-of-the-hill-cumorah

Lucy Mack Smith: “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 pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars <​of cement​>— then the angel left him.” https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1844-1845/41

There is “no historical evidence that Moroni called the hill ‘Cumorah’ in 1823” during his first encounter with the Prophet Joseph Smith…. Since these statements are somewhat late recollections, coming after the identity of Cumorah as a hill near Palmyra, New York, had become widespread, they should be used cautiously.” https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/knowhy/where-is-the-location-of-the-hill-cumorah



Joseph Smith: “I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated

the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon.” https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/elders-journal-july-1838/11

Unfortunately, the historical sources on Joseph’s use of these instruments during the translation are sometimes contradictory or ambiguous. For example, even eyewitness participants in the translation of the Book of Mormon sometimes confused the terminology in their descriptions of the event. “These two instruments—the interpreters and the seer stone—were apparently interchangeable and worked in much the same way such that, in the course of time, Joseph Smith and his associates often used the term ‘Urim and Thummim’ to refer to the single stone as well as the interpreters.” https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/knowhy/why-was-a-stone-used-as-an-aid-in-translating-the-book-of-mormon



Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Heber C. Kimball visit to Cumorah

In the interest of clarity, charity and understanding, we want everyone to know what Heber C. Kimball said about Cumorah.

Heber joined the Church in western New York in 1832. Before leaving for Kirtland, he visited Cumorah because of its historic significance as the site of the final battle of the Nephites and Jaredites.

Few M2C promoters/believers know about Heber's experience. To the extent they do, they simply claim Heber was speculating and was wrong, just like Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, David Whitmer, Lucy Mack Smith, and everyone else who contradicted the M2C theory.

In a way, it's funny to see the M2Cers deny what we can all see plainly. But in another way, it's tragic.

The M2Cers are not the only ones who oppose clarity, charity and understanding with respect to the New York Cumorah. Church historians forgot to include Cumorah in the Saints books. The historical record about the New York Cumorah has never been included in Church historical exhibits at Cumorah in New York or anywhere else. 

In September, for the 200th commemoration of Moroni's visit to Joseph Smith, the Church History Department won't even mention the actual historical record about Cumorah, including Heber's account.

The book Life of Heber C. Kimball relates the account (click to enlarge):



Heber remarks that the death-bed scene of this zealous and devoted Saint was to him another testimony of the truth and power of the everlasting gospel. Vilate Kimball took charge of Miriam's two little daughters, and, thenceforth, until after they removed from Mendon, the families of Brigham and Heber were as one.

In the meantime, the latter had been ordained an Elder, under the hands of Joseph Young, and labored with him and Brigham in the ministry. They visited Genesee, Avon and Lyonstown, baptizing many and building up branches of the Church. The following incident, related by Heber, shows how powerfully the Holy Ghost wrought through him in his ministrations :

"Brother Ezra Landon preached in Avon and Genesee, baptized eighteen or twenty, and being afraid to confirm them and promise the Holy Ghost, he requested me to confirm them, which I did according to the best of my knowledge, pronouncing but a few words on the head of each one, and invariably saying, 'receive ye the Holy Ghost in the name of Jesus Christ. ' Immediately the Holy Ghost fell upon them, and several commenced speaking in tongues before they arose from their knees, and we had a joyful time. Some ten or twelve spoke in tongues, neither of whom had ever heard any person speak in tongues before, they being the first baptized in that place."

The region in which he was laboring is thus interestingly described :

"From the time Father Bosley located near Avon, he found and plowed up axes and irons, and had sufficient to make his mill irons, and had always abundance of iron on hand without purchasing. .

"In the towns of Bloomfield, Victor, Manchester, and in the regions round about, there were hills upon the tops of which were entrenchments and fortifications, and in them were human bones, axes, tomahawks, points of arrows, beads and pipes, which were frequently found ; and it was a common occurrence in the country to plow up axes, which I have done many times myself.

"I have visited the fortifications on the tops of those hills frequently, and the one near Bloomfield I have crossed hundreds of times, which is on the bluff of Honeyoye River, at the outlet of Honeyoye Lake.

"In that region there are many small deep lakes, and in some of them the bottom has never been found. Fish abound in them.

"The hill Cumorah is a high hill for that country, and had the appearance of a fortification or entrenchment around it. In the State of New York, probably there are hundreds of these fortifications which are now visible, and I have seen them in many other parts of the United States."

Readers of the Book of Mormon will remember that in this very region, according to that sacred record, the final battles were fought between the Nephites and Lamanites. At the hill Cumorah, the Nephites made their last stand prior to their utter extermination, A. D.,

Thus was Heber preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, above the graves of the ancients of Israel, whose records with the fullness of that Gospel, and the relics of their prowess and civilization, were now "whispering from the dust."

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Some youtube videos

I was recently asked for a list of all my youtube interviews and videos. It's a good idea that I hadn't thought of compiling before. 

Usually people ask about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon; i.e., the translation and Cumorah. I'm happy to participate in the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding. 

You may notice that while a variety of people have had me on their shows, none of the M2C/SITH promoters have invited me. Instead of having me on to explain my views directly, they prefer to criticize from a distance and misrepresent me to their viewers. Which is what we've come to expect from the M2C/SITH crowd, sadly.

Nevertheless, there are many viewing options on youtube already. Until I have a chance to compile more of them, here are a few.


Webinar with ScriptureNotes from two days ago on Restoring Translation to the Restoration:


Mormon Book Reviews on Heartlanders, critics, etc.


Mormon Book Reviews on Jonathan Edwards.

Gospel Tangents on Lehi's crossing the Atlantic. This is one part of several that I've done with Gospel Tangents.


CWIC Media conversation about Cumorah. We also had a conversation about the translation.


Backyard Professor (Kerry Shirts) on Heartland geography.


Several years ago I uploaded some videos on the Moroni's America channel. They could stand some updating, but they're still useful.

Here's one on Scholars vs Prophets.


Monday, July 10, 2023

Cumorah: 1823, 1923, 2023

It's quite interesting to compare the treatment of Cumorah over two centuries. In upcoming posts, we'll comment further on Cumorah in 2023. This post is a brief overview.

In 2023, we hope to see a change in the Church History Department toward more accuracy and openness, with less promotion of current academic agendas (such as M2C and SITH).

1823. Moroni tells Joseph Smith about Cumorah.

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 pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars <​of cement​>

The identity of Cumorah is well-known during Joseph's lifetime and taught as a fact (in sharp and direct contrast to speculation about other Book of Mormon settings).

1923. The Church's efforts to purchase the Hill Cumorah, starting in 1909, remained unsuccessful (but would succeed in 1928). 

Elder B.H. Roberts became the Mission President in the Eastern states.

Having previously served as assistant Church historian, Roberts selected the Eastern States mission because “it had the attraction of including within it the territory of the early activities of the church . . . and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.”5

After a general mission tour, President Roberts announced in 1923 an ambitious mission conference. With the permission of Pliny Sexton, all of the 140 missionaries scattered across 11 states gathered for three days in September at the Smith Farm and Hill Cumorah in honor of the centennial of Moroni’s first visit to Joseph Smith in September 1823. The missionaries were expected to preach along the way, wearing bright blue banners with “Cumorah” printed in bold, white letters. The conference was so successful that afterward an annual “Palmyra Celebration” was on the mission calendar.

Cumorah missionaries in 1923

2023. As the 200th anniversary of Moroni's visit nears, we naturally expect the Church History Department to offer open, candid, and complete information about the Hill Cumorah.

So far, it doesn't look good.

In recent years, the Church History Department has exhibited a determined effort to mislead Latter-day Saints about the history of Cumorah. 

Having diminished Cumorah as merely "a hill in New York" in the Saints book, volume 1, the Church History Department continues to obfuscate the historical record regarding the hill Cumorah in New York.

Let's start with a few examples.

Example 1. The Cumorah entry on the Church's website misrepresents the origin of the name and avoids citations to the actual historical record.

"In the 1820s, the hill did not have a name. It later became known as Hill Cumorah because Moroni, the Book of Mormon’s final author and the angel who met with Joseph Smith, wrote that he had hidden the gold plates in a hill called Cumorah (see the introduction to the Book of Mormon)."

Note that they refer to the "introduction to the Book of Mormon." Here's the passage:

After Mormon completed his writings, he delivered the account to his son Moroni, who added a few words of his own and hid up the plates in the Hill Cumorah.

We can all see that the passage in the Introduction does not state what the Church historians claim. Why would they cite the "introduction" instead of the actual reference?

The actual historical reference for Moroni explaining he deposited the plates in Cumorah is Lucy Mack Smith's account, quoted above. But that contradicts the claim by the historians that "in the 1820s, the hill did not have a name." Actually, as we see in Lucy's statement, Moroni identified the hill as Cumorah in 1823. It was so well known that Joseph referred to it as Cumorah even before he got the plates and his parents knew exactly which hill he referred to.

Misrepresentations such as this, right on the Church's website, cause confusion and even disbelief.

A historically accurate explanation would read like this:

Current explanation


In the 1820s, the hill did not have a name. It later became known as Hill Cumorah because Moroni, the Book of Mormon’s final author and the angel who met with Joseph Smith, wrote that he had hidden the gold plates in a hill called Cumorah (see the introduction to the Book of Mormon).

The historical record indicates that the hill became known as Cumorah when Moroni identified it as such during his first visit to Joseph Smith in 1823. Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, related what Moroni told Joseph that night: “the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place.”



We won't hold our breath waiting for this correction on the Church's website, but we'll watch to see if it does get corrected.


Example 2.

Here, the caption to a historical photo not only ignores the historical identification of the hill in New York as the actual Cumorah/Ramah, but seeks to separate it from the Book of Mormon's Cumorah/Ramah.


George Anderson


Cumorah is the hill and area recorded in the Book of Mormon where the Nephites and Lamanites fought a final battle in which the Nephite people were annihilated. Moroni reported that Cumorah was also the site where the Jaredites were earlier destroyed. In our era, the Hill Cumorah is a drumlin-hill between the towns of Palmyra and Manchester, New York, where the gold plates of the Book of Mormon, deposited by an ancient religious leader in a stone box, was unearthed, translated by the American Prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., and published in 1830. In 1928 the LDS Church purchased the site and in 1935 erected a monument commemorating the visit of the Angel Moroni. Later, the Church built a visitors center at the base of the hill. Since 1937, the Church has produced the annual outdoor Cumorah Pageant. This image looking southwest a century ago, was taken when the hill was less wooded than today.

THE HILL CUMORAH - George Anderson


Example 3. The inexcusable, deplorable censorship of Cumorah from the Saints book (Vol. 1), continues, with no perceptible effort to correct the problem or revise the text. 

Some years ago, two of the historians responded to my posts about Saints but in so doing only exacerbated the problem, as I discussed here: https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-historians-explain-censorship-in.html.


Thursday, July 6, 2023

Webinar this Sunday, July 9, 2023

I'm doing a webinar this Sunday with ScriptureNotes. For details, see this link:


We'll discuss the scriptural and historical evidence about the translation of the Book of Mormon. During these webinars, participants can make comments and ask questions. I look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, July 3, 2023

Moroni's America and the 4th of July

In the interest of clarity, charity and understanding, I thought we should review something I've discussed before about the 4th of July. On the 4th of July in 1854, Orson Hyde explained that Moroni is the guardian angel of the United States of America.

That's one reason why I titled my book on the setting of the Book of Mormon Moroni's America.

Most Latter-day Saints who know anything about Orson Hyde know he was the Apostle who dedicated Israel for the gathering of the Jews.

Not many know he was President of the Quorum of the Twelve from December 27, 1847, to April 10, 1875. That makes him by far the longest-serving President of the Quorum.

In my view, Orson Hyde has far more credibility than our modern politically correct M2C advocates who falsely accuse the "Heartlanders" of being motivated primarily by "nationalism."

See what you think.


Orson Hyde
Orson Hyde joined the Church in Kirtland, Ohio, in October 1831. He served several missions, marched with Zion's Camp, participated in Church leadership in Kirtland, and was ordained an Apostle in February, 1835, as one of the original members of the Quorum of the Twelve.

The Joseph Smith Papers has a short biography here: 


Wikipedia also has a short biography here:


(click to enlarge)
He is well known in Church history as the Apostle who dedicated Israel for the ingathering of the Jews in October, 1841. 

The Orson Hyde Memorial Garden in Jerusalem commemorates the event. 

When I first visited Jerusalem many years ago, the garden featured a metal plaque inscribed with Hyde's prayer in both English and Hebrew. The last few times I visited there the plaque was gone because it had been vandalized. 

The stone marker that explains the name of the park still stands, however. It is written in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. (Unfortunately, there's a typo in the engraving that you can see if you enlarge the photo.)


At a July 4th celebration in 1854, Orson Hyde spoke about Moroni. This was seven years before the Civil War began.

He reviewed American history briefly and noted the role Moroni played.

In those early and perilous times, our men were few, and our resources limited. Poverty was among the most potent enemies we had to encounter; yet our arms were successful; and it may not be amiss to ask here, by whose power victory so often perched on our banner? It was by the agency of that same angel of God that appeared unto Joseph Smith, and revealed to him the history of the early inhabitants of this country, whose mounds, bones, and remains of towns, cities, and fortifications speak from the dust in the ears of the living with the voice of undeniable truth. This same angel presides over the destinies of America, and feels a lively interest in all our doings. 


Would to God that we could forget this part of our experience in the land of our fathers! But we cannot forget it. It is incorporated in our being. We shall carry it to our graves, and in the resurrection it will rise with us. Had the United States been as faithful a guardian to the Latter-day Saints as the angel of God has been to them, she would never know dissolution, nor be humbled in dishonor by the decrees of any foreign powers.

I ask no earthly being to endorse this my testimony, or to adopt it as his own sentiment. A little time will prove whether Orson Hyde alone has declared it, or whether the heavenly powers will back up this testimony in the face of all the world.

When Justice is satisfied, and the blood of martyrs atoned for, the guardian angel of America will return to his station, resume his charge, and restore the Constitution of our country to the respect and veneration of the people; for it was given by the inspiration of our God.


The full text:


An Address by Elder Orson Hyde, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, July 4, 1854.

Reported by Unknown.

Respected Friends and Fellow Citizens—I am called upon, by the wishes and voice of many persons, to be one of your speakers on this ever memorable day. While I congratulate myself upon the honor which you have done me by this selection, I sincerely regret that I am not more amply qualified to answer your expectations. But humble as my efforts may be on this occasion, they are the more freely offered, knowing that the ears and hearts of a generous people will make every allowance for any deficiency that may appear in the style and subject matter of my discourse.

The bursts of eloquence that have thundered from this stand this morning cannot fail to have awakened in the minds of the audience notions and views so enlarged, that it becomes a very difficult task for your present speaker to sustain and carry forward the interest and excitement with which your minds have already been fired by the speakers that have preceded me.

We are met, fellow citizens, to celebrate one of the most important events that ever embellished the pages of political history—an event of which every American heart is proud to boast, in whatever land or country he perchance may roam—I mean the bold, manly, and daring act of our fathers in the Declaration of the Independence and Sovereignty of these United States—an act worthy to be engraven in letters of living light upon the tablets of our memory, and to be transmitted to our children, with the sacred charge that they teach it to their children, and to their children’s children, till the “stripes and stars” float over every land, and are mirrored on the crest of every passing billow. They had not only the moral courage to sign the Declaration of our nation’s Independence, but hearts of iron and nerves of steel to defend it by force of arms against the fearful odds arrayed against them—the well-disciplined armies and mercenary allies of the foolish and tyrannical George the III, King of Great Britain.

The progressive spirit of the times, on the one hand, and the chains of cruelty and oppression, on the other, inspired the apostles of American freedom to raise the standard of liberty, and unfurl its banner to the world as a warning to oppressors, and as the star of hope to the oppressed. The very name of America causes a thrill of patriotic devotion to her best interests to quiver in the heart of every citizen of Utah, with a zeal and a pride for the welfare of our country that does honor to the memory of those departed heroes whose ashes are mingled in our soil, and made rich and dear to us by their own blood.

Remember Lexington, and Bunker Hill, and lastly Yorktown, with all the intermediate scenes as narrated in the history of the American Revolution! Remember the immortal Washington, chosen to lead our infant armies through the perils and hardships of an unequal contest, to the climax of victory and the pinnacle of fame! His name, embalmed in the never-dying sympathies of his grateful countrymen, will be heralded in the melody of song, “while the earth bears a plant or the ocean rolls a wave.” While Columbia’s sons and daughters regret and mourn his exit hence in accents like the following—

“Cold is the heart where valor reigned,

Mute is the tongue that joy inspired,

Still is the arm that conquest gained,

And dim the eye that glory fired,”

They will comfort themselves and quiet the pangs of their bereaved hearts by chanting like this—

“Too mean for him a world like this;

He’s landed on the happy shore,

Where all the brave partake of bliss,

And heroes meet to part no more.”

In those early and perilous times, our men were few, and our resources limited. Poverty was among the most potent enemies we had to encounter; yet our arms were successful; and it may not be amiss to ask here, by whose power victory so often perched on our banner? It was by the agency of that same angel of God that appeared unto Joseph Smith, and revealed to him the history of the early inhabitants of this country, whose mounds, bones, and remains of towns, cities, and fortifications speak from the dust in the ears of the living with the voice of undeniable truth. This same angel presides over the destinies of America, and feels a lively interest in all our doings. 

He was in the camp of Washington; and, by an invisible hand, led on our fathers to conquest and victory; and all this to open and prepare the way for the Church and kingdom of God to be established on the western hemisphere, for the redemption of Israel and the salvation of the world.

This same angel was with Columbus, and gave him deep impressions, by dreams and by visions, respecting this New World. Trammeled by poverty and by an unpopular cause, yet his persevering and unyielding heart would not allow an obstacle in his way too great for him to overcome; and the angel of God helped him—was with him on the stormy deep, calmed the troubled elements, and guided his frail vessel to the desired haven. Under the guardianship of this same angel, or Prince of America, have the United States grown, increased, and flourished, like the sturdy oak by the rivers of water.

To what point have the American arms been directed since the Declaration of our National Independence, and proven unsuccessful? Not one!

The peculiar respect that high Heaven has for this country, on account of the promises made to the fathers, and on account of its being the land where the mustard seed of truth was planted and destined to grow in the last days, accounts for all this good fortune to our beloved America.

But since the Prophets have been slain, the Saints persecuted, despoiled of their goods, banished from their homes, and no earthly arm to interpose for their rescue, what will be the future destiny of this highly-favored country? Should I tell the truth as it clearly passes before my mind’s eye, my friends might censure me, and I might be regarded as an enemy to my country. If I should not tell the truth, but withhold it to please men, or to avoid giving offense to any, I might be regarded, by the powers celestial, as the enemy of God. What shall I do under these circumstances? Shall I be guilty of the crime of hesitating for a moment? No. Neither time nor place to hesitate now.

Were I called upon to give evidence before a court of justice in a case to which my own father was a party litigant, the foolish might regard me as opposed to my father, if conscience, justice, and truth directed me to testify against his interest; but the wise would regard me as possessing that integrity that kindred ties could not swerve nor decoy from the truth and facts in the case. My testimony in relation to the country that gave me birth, that gave birth to my father and my father’s father, is given upon the same principle, and prompted by a similar motive.

So sure and certain as the great water courses wend their way to the ocean, and there find their level—so sure as the passing thundercloud hovers around yonder Twin Peaks of the Wasatch Mountains, and upon their grey and barren rocks pours the fury of its storm, just so sure and certain will the guardian angel of these United States fly to a remote distance from their borders, and the anger of the Almighty wax hot against them in causing them to drink from the cup of bitterness and division, and the very dregs, stirred up by the hands of foreign powers, in a manner more cruel and fierce than the enemies of the Saints in the day of their greatest distress and anguish; and all this because they laid not to heart the martyrdom of the Saints and Prophets, avenged not their blood by punishing the murderers, neither succored nor aided the Saints after they were despoiled of their goods and homes.

Would to God that we could forget this part of our experience in the land of our fathers! But we cannot forget it. It is incorporated in our being. We shall carry it to our graves, and in the resurrection it will rise with us. Had the United States been as faithful a guardian to the Latter-day Saints as the angel of God has been to them, she would never know dissolution, nor be humbled in dishonor by the decrees of any foreign powers.

I ask no earthly being to endorse this my testimony, or to adopt it as his own sentiment. A little time will prove whether Orson Hyde alone has declared it, or whether the heavenly powers will back up this testimony in the face of all the world.

When Justice is satisfied, and the blood of martyrs atoned for, the guardian angel of America will return to his station, resume his charge, and restore the Constitution of our country to the respect and veneration of the people; for it was given by the inspiration of our God.

One positive decree of Jehovah, respecting this land, is, that no king shall ever be raised up here, and that whosoever seeketh to raise up a king upon this land shall perish. The spirit of this decree is that no king shall bear rule in this country. And the islands contiguous to this land belong unto it by promise, for they are a part and parcel of the land of Joseph, and they geographically belong to it—belong to it by the covenants of the fathers: they also philosophically  incline to this nearer and greater land.

Europe may look with a jealous eye upon the movements of this country, and contemplate the settlement and adjustment of a “Western question.” But at present there is an Eastern question pending; and it may be wisdom and policy for the United States’ Government to press the adjustment of the Western question simultaneously with that of the Eastern question. If the Western question is settled at all, now is the time for the United States to settle it to the best advantage.

In case of a general war, nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, which we have every reason to expect, it will be remembered that we have an extensive coast to defend, not only east and southerly, but also in the west. The transportation of troops will be unavoidable; and the sad and melancholy fate of many destined for the western coast by sea, around the southern cape, should admonish the Government to spare no pains or expense to construct a railroad with all dispatch across the continent, passing through the head and center of Utah Territory; particularly as the transportation of soldiers and the munitions of war are among the less weighty reasons why a railroad should be constructed, connecting the Missouri River with the Pacific coast.

But to confine ourselves for a moment to things within our own Basin. Since the celebration, last year, of our nation’s birth, two of our great and good men have fallen by the hand of death—Doctor Willard Richards and Patriarch John Smith. In them the citizens of Utah have lost true and devoted friends; the country, patriots; the Church, able advocates and defenders; and large families, kind and affectionate husbands and fathers; also several most excellent men shot down by the hostile savage from his ambush. Much suffering has been occasioned by the Indian war. Many of our crops went to waste last year, by reason of it, which has occasioned rather a scanty supply of food. But thanks be to God, never have the fields of the valleys smiled with such glowing prospects of abundant harvest as at the present time.

It is true that some of our settlements lost almost every head of stock they had, by the Indians, last summer, and have been compelled to cultivate their lands with few horses and oxen; yet the extensive fields of wheat now waving in the breeze and fast ripening in the sun are almost incredible.

Praise and thanksgiving be unto our God! This year we have had peace with the red men, and plenty is about to crown the labors of the husbandman.

If the United States are dissatisfied with the expenditure of the twenty thousand dollars appropriated for the building of a State House in this Territory, because a house was purchased that was already built, instead of building one, I have no hesitancy in expressing my conviction that a Government draft on us for the amount would be duly honored ten days from sight, or ten minutes, perhaps. Our Indian wars and other necessary and indispensable drafts upon our time and money in this new country have prevented us from building a house; and we, therefore, have been under the necessity of purchasing a very good and commodious one, built before our Indian troubles were so serious. My voice would be to pay back the twenty thousand dollars! And as the expenses of the war have been wholly borne by us, without a dime’s appropriation for that purpose having yet reached us, we may expect to rely wholly on our own resources and upon the arm of our God.

If we are deemed abundantly able to foot the bill of the entire expenses of the war, pay back the twenty thousand dollars to the Government, build our own State House, or occupy the one already built, and even then support whole omnibuses full of wives and children, though proscribed as we are from the benefits of the Land Bill, the people of the United States must allow that we far excel all other portions of their population in real smartness.

God and our country, now and forever, one and inseparable!

(1850s1854, OH Celebration–OH Celebration ¶25 • JD 6:367–JD 6:371)