long ago ideas

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

Friday, March 15, 2024

Scripture Central: aspiration vs reality

This is a legacy post that I never published, but it seems relevant now. I write this in the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding. Clarity is first because without clarity, understanding is impossible. And we emphasize charity in the sense of giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and assuming people act in good faith, as they define it. But sometimes people evade clarity for what they think are good reasons.


I've done several podcast interviews recently on a variety of topics. Many people have commented that they never heard this information or these interpretations before and they wonder why.

The basic answer is that the dominant LDS academic and media organizations have created a thick bubble of intellectual groupthink that is impervious to alternative faithful interpretations, to the point where they don't even want Latter-day Saints outside the bubble to know the relevant facts and interpretations.

M2C bubble

Fortunately, the Internet makes it impossible for academics to control information the way they once did. This is why Latter-day Saints around the world are learning about aspects of Church history and extrinsic evidence that corroborates what the prophets have said about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon. 

We would think that academics would encourage open inquiry and truth seeking that would encourage and foster examination of alternatives, but that's not the case among certain LDS academics who, thanks to their positions of trust and influence at BYU and the Church History Department, have the resources to promote their own theories of M2C and SITH. 

[M2C=Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory; SITH=stone-in-the-hat theory.]


Today let's discuss Scripture Central for a moment.

Scripture Central, including Book of Mormon Central, publishes lots of great stuff. They spend millions of dollars producing content intended to build faith and knowledge among Latter-day Saints and other interested people.

However, their editorial policy of promoting M2C and SITH exclusively leads them to contradict basic principle of truth-seeking. 

Scripture Central has no room for thousands of faithful Latter-day Saints around the world who disagree with the editorial board's views on the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon. Those of us who still believe what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon are excluded from the conversations at Scripture Central. Our views are censored and mischaracterized. 

Years ago, the co-founder of Scripture Central, John W. (Jack) Welch, wrote an outstanding article on the role of evidence in religious discussion.

Unfortunately, Scripture Central does not live up to the aspirations he outlined here. We remain ever hopeful that someday, Scripture Central will take these aspirations to heart for the benefit of everyone involved. 

Original in blue, my comments in red.


While many interesting things continue to surface, all the evidence still is not in yet. Good science takes time. Much careful work remains to be done. In the mean time, we may need to wait for conclusive answers that now evade us. Indeed, in all matters of faith, important evidence will always be lacking. The result will always be a hung jury, as arguments can be made on both sides. 

Both sides have faithful interpretations, but Scripture Central does not accommodate any arguments--even faithful arguments--on any side other than M2C and SITH.

These are surely debatable subjects. 

Except not at Scripture Central. 

One should not expect these examinations to be any more conclusive than the inconclusively arrayed approaches in biblical and Christian studies generally. Full agreement on religious issues will probably always remain elusive, but that does not excuse fair-minded people from striving to state the evidence clearly and to seek to achieve agreements where possible.

With regard to the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon, Scripture Central refuses to either (i) state the evidence clearly or (ii) seek to achieve agreements where possible. 

When agreements are not possible, the appropriate solution is to present all the facts along with alternative interpretations and enable people to make informed decisions. 

Yet Scripture Central refuses to do this.

In the mean time, the choice remains in the hands, minds, and hearts of all those who care and who seek to increase their knowledge and faith. 

People cannot make informed choices when they don't know all the evidence and are unaware of alternative interpretations.

“Of all our needs,” President Hinckley has said, “the greatest is an increase in faith.” [80] Anything that truly helps in that process, even a little bit, should be useful to us. 

For thousands of Latter-day Saints around the world, it helps to increase faith when they see ways to corroborate what Joseph and Oliver said about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon. They find it troubling to faith when they see LDS scholars teaching that Joseph and Oliver were wrong about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon.

As a young man and still today, I have always felt very satisfied in my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught and revealed in the Bible and LDS scripture. At first, I believed that there was little or no evidence of any kind at all. Never expecting to find great proofs or evidence for the gospel, I have been astonished and richly satisfied with what the Lord has done.

It seems clear enough that the Lord does not intend for the Book of Mormon, the Bible, or any other sacred matters to be open-and-shut cases intellectually, either pro or con. If God had intended this, he could have left more concrete evidences one way or the other. 

Scripture Central treats M2C and SITH as open-and-shut cases that cannot be questioned, challenged, or even compared with alternatives. 

Instead, it seems that the Lord has maintained a careful balance between requiring people to exercise faith and allowing them to find reasons that affirm the stated origins of his revealed word. Instead, the choice is, then, entirely ours. Ultimately, evidences may not be that important; but then again, it is always easy to say that a parachute is irrelevant after you are safely on the ground.

Latter-day Saints who still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon have to look outside of Scripture Central to find reasons that affirm their faith.

It's a completely avoidable tragedy that Scripture Central continues to contradict the worthy and commendable aspirations set out in this article.


Note: Scripture Central generally keeps its "hands clean" by burying the criticism in the database and leaving it up on affiliate sites, such as BMAF.org. But their employees, volunteers, and contributors use social media, podcasts, and newspaper interviews to criticize us as zealots, anti-science, anti-academia, and even apostates, etc. Then Scripture Central excuses this activity by saying they have no control over what their people do.

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