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.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Knowns, unknowns, and the M2C Bubble

The M2Cers* have constructed an elaborate theoretical scaffolding inside the M2C bubble to support their theory that the prophets were wrong about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon. 


To understand how and why, we first have to clarify that the question of Book of Mormon geography has two knowns and one unknown.

Known #1: The prophets have always taught that the New World setting for the Book of Mormon is "the Americas," which is a modern term that encompasses the terms used in Church history sources, including General Conference: "this country," "America," "this continent," the "Western Hemisphere," etc.

Known #2: The prophets have always taught that the hill Cumorah/Ramah (Mormon 6:6, Ether 15:11) is the same hill that Moroni identified as the location of the record that was "written and deposited" not far from Joseph's home near Palmyra, New York. There are multiple working hypotheses based on the known location of Cumorah/Ramah.

Unknowns. All the other locations in the New World that are mentioned in the text of the Book of Mormon. Apart from a few indications from Church history (the plains of the Nephites, Zarahemla, etc.), the prophets have always taught that we don't know the specific locations of Book of Mormon cities and features. This makes sense because so many archaeological sites throughout the Americas have been destroyed, disturbed, overbuilt, etc. 

It is the unknowns that have led to a wide range of theories about "Book of Mormon geography," as the entry on Book of Mormon geography explains. 

https://www.ldshistoricalnarratives.com/p/book-of-mormon-geography-essay.html 

_____

Key point: because Known #2 (Cumorah/Ramah) does not fit their models, the M2Cers have transferred Known #2 into the realm of the Unknown. They have accomplished this through a series of cascading assumptions, starting with the premise that Joseph and Oliver and their contemporaries and successors must be wrong about Cumorah because...

well, because the New York Cumorah just doesn't fit the geography models based on the M2C interpretation of the text!

There is no other reason to reject what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah/Ramah.

We are happy for people to believe whatever they want. But the M2Cers claim to be the intellectual superiors among Latter-day Saints. In any other context, the irrationality of the M2C approach would be quickly recognized and M2C would be rejected.

The New York Cumorah/Ramah doesn't eliminate Mesoamerica, per se, as one of multiple working hypotheses. I've seen several hypotheses about Book of Mormon geography that include both the New York Cumorah/Ramah and Mesoamerica.

But as for M2C itself, we are reminded of what George Orwell once wrote: "One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool."

_____

*M2Cers are those scholars and their followers who have adopted the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory that originated with RLDS scholar L.E. Hills in 1917.

RLDS scholar L.E. Hills, 1917


BYU Studies map

CES map
BYU fantasy map

Scripture Central map




Thursday, July 11, 2024

Podcast with Backyard Professor

I've been on several podcasts in the last year. I'm happy to have conversations with anyone about any topic because conversations are one way we can pursue clarity, charity and understanding.

Some podcasters, both believers and nonbelievers, don't welcome faithful views that differ from their own agendas. Such podcasters focus on confirming their biases. They seek conformity instead of encouraging their listeners and viewers to make informed decisions by considering multiple working hypotheses.

Fortunately, other podcasters are interested in clarity, charity, and understanding. Those are the ones I enjoy having conversations with.

For example, I recently had a conversation with the "Backyard Professor."


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYeZGZb3xBg&t=18s

The Backyard Professor, Kerry Shirts, was one of the founders of FAIR (FAIRLDS) and their director of research. Then he came to disbelieve the truth claims. He knows lots about the Restoration, although he sees it through the FAIR lens (M2C, SITH), a lens that many people find difficult to believe.

That's why I offer reframes in my book The Rational Restoration.

Kerry and I disagree about lots of things, and that's fine. As I always say, I'm fine with people believing whatever they want. Kerry and I are more interested in understanding one another than in trying to change one another's minds. I'd like to see more of that everywhere.

In this video, we discussed the FAITH model (Facts, Assumptions, Inferences, Theories and Hypotheses), as well as the recent Tyler Griffin interview with Pastor Jeff and other topics.

We'll probably have more conversations in the future.

_____

And who knows? Maybe someday even our scholars at the Interpreter, Scripture Central, and their allies would be interested in having a conversation.

So far, they've declined when I've offered. But hope springs eternal...

:)

 

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Update to "What if Oliver told the truth"

I updated my post to incorporate the graphic on the BYU Studies website, created by John W. Welch, that claims 2 million people died at Ramah.

https://www.lettervii.com/2024/07/what-if-oliver-cowdery-told-truth.html


"as plain as words can be"

By now, most Latter-day Saints presumably understand the distinction between "Book of Mormon geography," which is subjective and speculative, and the well-known and established prophetic teachings about the Americas and Cumorah.  

The Essay on Book of Mormon Geography focuses on the subjective and speculative aspects, as I discussed here:

https://www.ldshistoricalnarratives.com/p/book-of-mormon-geography-essay.html

Simply put, the prophets have long taught that (i) Book of Mormon events in the New World took place in "the Americas" and (ii) the Hill Cumorah/Ramah is the hill in western New York where Joseph obtained the plates. Thus, neither of those elements is the subject of speculation and are not encompassed by the term "Book of Mormon geography" as used in the essay.

In other words, the prophets have established these two elements "in plainness, even as plain as word can be" (2 Nephi 32:7).

The question every Latter-day Saint should ask is whether we will or will not "understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be." (2 Nephi 32:7)

_____

One of the "plain and precious" truths regarding the Book of Mormon relates to its divine authenticity as an actual history.

In 1835, President Oliver Cowdery spelled out this truth "as plain as words can be" when he wrote the first detailed history of the Restoration with the assistance of Joseph Smith. Responding to critics who claimed the Book of Mormon was fiction, President Cowdery emphasized the fact that the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place in the mile-wide valley west of the hill where Moroni had deposited the plates; i.e., the hill Cumorah in western New York. 

We can all read this account right in Joseph Smith's own history, here:

The contemporaries of Joseph and Oliver knew about Cumorah because Moroni had identified the hill as Cumorah when he first met Joseph, as Joseph's mother Lucy Mack Smith explained when she related what Moroni told Joseph. 

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


One of the reasons we know the events took place in the Americas and that Cumorah is in New York is because Moroni explained that to Joseph Smith the first night they met. 

He [Moroni] gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country...
He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.


Church leaders who knew Joseph and Oliver, as well as those who succeeded Joseph, reiterated the truth about the Americas and Cumorah repeatedly and consistently. A partial list is here: https://www.mobom.org/modern-prophets-on-cumorah

With all this "great knowledge," we repeat the question every Latter-day Saint should ask: will we or won't we "understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be." (2 Nephi 32:7)


Monday, July 8, 2024

Kno-Why 739

This Kno-Why 739 deserves a separate post. The pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding requires us to focus on clarity first precisely because without clarity, there can be no understanding. (Charity always applies, and we assume here, as always that the authors of this Kno-Why are acting in good faith.)

I first commented on it at the end of my previous post, but it's a little buried there. And I didn't point out another important point.

Let's look at KnoWhy 739, released just a few days ago.

Here's the link:

https://scripturecentral.org/knowhy/what-counsel-have-church-leaders-given-about-the-study-of-book-of-mormon-geography?

Actually, there's no need to read the whole thing. Just search for "Cumorah" and you'll see it's exactly what I predicted in my previous post.

It's all about "Book of Mormon geography" and never once explains or even cites the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah.

Instead, we get these two references.

Even the location of the Hill Cumorah, where the Jaredites and the Nephites were destroyed, was not considered a settled matter—certainly many assumed it was at the hill in New York, but at least one person proposed that it was in Honduras.[4]

[4] See “Mormonism,” Fredonia Censor, New York, 7 March 1832; Plain Facts, [1887], 3, [5]. Plain Facts is the earliest published suggestion that the Hill Cumorah, traditionally assumed to be in New York, may have been in Central America.

This KnoWhy, like so many others, is an insult to our intelligence. 

Rather than quote or even cite the teachings of the prophets, the KnoWhy dismisses Cumorah by saying "many assumed it was at the hill in New York." 

As if the prophets are a bunch of know-nothings who merely assume things they teach as facts.

It's beyond ridiculous, but it's consistent with the way some LDS historians violate their standards of professional ethics by refusing to cite, quote, or even address historical sources that contradict their theories.

Even the sole reference to Cumorah is laughable. The authors can't be bothered to give us a link so we can see the cited source in context, but it doesn't matter because we can all see it's absurd. 

In fact, if the article from 1887 accurately quotes the article from 1832, it should be obvious that when President Cowdery wrote Letter VII in 1835, specifically declaring it is a fact that Cumorah/Ramah is the hill in New York where Joseph obtained the plates, he was not only refuting the claim in Mormonism Unvailed that the Book of Mormon was fiction but was refuting this non-Mormon claim that Cumorah was in Honduras.

And yet, this Kno-Why passes for scholarship in some circles....

Now you know why I used to call these "No-wise" instead of Kno-Whys.

_____

Here's the clincher. Look at their graphic:


Not only do they feature the M2C fantasy map, but they actually quote 3 Nephi 26:9!

As if the Lord is promising us "the greater things" if we will only accept this fantasy map!

It's astonishing. Maybe the pinnacle of M2C hubris.

(We hope.)

The M2C cognitive dissonance blinds them to the simple reality that this verse applies directly to the setting of the Book of Mormon. 

Instead of traipsing around southern Mexico in search of the "real Cumorah" and concocting myriad theories about why the prophets were wrong about Cumorah/Ramah in New York, what if these scholars actually received and believed what the prophets have taught?

In my view, Joseph and Oliver taught the New York Cumorah originally because that's what Moroni told Joseph the first time they met and because they had visited the repository of Nephite records in the same hill. It's simple. We can all read the historical sources for ourselves.

Then, in response to claims the Book of Mormon was fiction (the Spaulding theory), Oliver and Joseph memorialized Cumorah as a fact in Letter VII, which was copied into Joseph's personal history and republished in all the Church-affiliated newspapers during Joseph's lifetime.  

Then, Joseph's successors in Church leadership reiterated the New York Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.

In terms of 3 Nephi 26:9, we could say "this" refers to the New York Cumorah, which the prophets gave us to try our faith. But because our scholars have rejected the prophets, and because many Latter-day Saints have chosen to follow the scholars instead of the prophets, "the greater things" have not been made manifest, just as the scripture warns.

But there is still time for all of us, as Latter-day Saints, to embrace the teachings of the prophets, with or without the scholars, in the hope and expectation that if/when we do so, the greater things will be made manifest unto us.

BMC's cognitive dissonance

All Latter-day Saints seek "no more contention." We all recognize that living and sharing the gospel is far more important than whether we agree on particular interpretations, theories, etc.

Yet BMC (the umbrella acronym for Book of Mormon Central, Scripture Central, ScripturePlus, etc.) continues to produce social media and other content that accentuates differences of opinion. They plant their social media with triggers that lead people ask me about the content. I usually ignore the BMC content because it's so repetitive, but when enough people ask me about it, I take a look. 

Lately, the cognitive dissonance BMC exhibits is becoming maybe worse than ever.

Let's discuss the latest content in the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding.

_____

Last week we saw Tyler Griffin's cognitive dissonance on display during his interview with Pastor Jeff.

https://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2024/07/tyler-griffins-cognitive-dissonance.html

The script for another media production by BMC's ScripturePlus is another example of BMC's cognitive dissonance.

Which very much resembles Tyler's cognitive dissonance.

This gives us an opportunity to specifically discuss the "Book of Mormon geography" meme.

_____

The first thing to note is the content is from ScripturePlus.

For those who may not know what ScripturePlus is, it's a superfluous app developed by BMC that 

(i) directly competes with the Church's Gospel Library app (which, by focusing on scripture instead of narrative, is actually neutral on geography) and

(ii) adamantly promotes M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory that claims the "real Cumorah/Ramah" is somewhere in southern Mexico, as opposed to what they deem to be the "false tradition" that the hill in New York was the actual Cumorah/Ramah).

Featured M2C art from ScripturePlus

Now let's look at the script.

_____

ScripturePlus July 5

The original transcript in blue, my comments in red.

I find it concerning that so many members of the church make Book of Mormon geography such a point of contention. 

As the host of the nomorecontention website, I fully agree with this concern. But the BMC script ignores on the source of the contention.

It's easy to eliminate contention when we value clarity, charity and understanding. But clarity seems to be the most difficult pursuit, so let's start with clarity in terminology.

Contention. We should point out that the term "contending" is often used in a pejorative sense to imply that "contention" is negative, counterproductive, etc. A common definition: "Contend means to compete for something or to claim something is true." Thus, we are commanded to contend:

Contend thou, therefore, morning by morning; and day after day let thy warning voice go forth; and when the night cometh let not the inhabitants of the earth slumber, because of thy speech. (Doctrine and Covenants 112:5)

It is contention "with anger" (3 Ne. 11:29) that is problematic, and surely that's what BMC's script means. When people have different ideas, a collaborative discussion, exchange, or comparison is productive, not contentious. 

Ideally, we would all seek "no more contention" through understanding instead of seeking to convince or coerce. That's why we encourage, instead of resist, comparisons and cordial dialog. We wish every individual and group would seek such dialog and comparisons in the pursuit of understanding.  

Terminology. "Book of Mormon geography" has become a euphemism for avoiding the underlying topic of Cumorah. We saw Tyler avoid the topic, and now this BMC script is doing the same.

"Book of Mormon geography" is a hobby, basically. Lots of people have lots of ideas on the topic. To the extent anyone is "contending" about geography, it's an intellectual clash of egos that can be easily alleviated by simple comparisons, combined with the pursuit of understanding and informed decisions instead of the pursuit of conformity, compliance, deference to scholars, etc. 

It's possible that BMC was referring to the internal M2C contention about which river in Mesoamerica is the Sidon, etc. Maybe Tyler's fantasy map, which incorporates the basic M2C beliefs, is a way to mitigate or minimize the internal M2C contention. If so, that's none of my concern.

But given this script comes from BMC, it more likely is referring to the same differences that Tyler did; i.e., Heartlanders vs M2Cers. 

Ideally, to avoid contention, we would have collaborative discussions, exchanges, and comparisons among the different ideas. But the BMC script glides right over the reality that BMC refuses to provide or accommodate such comparisons. 

That's why, in this context, the term "Book of Mormon geography" is a red herring that obfuscates the specific topic of Cumorah.

Backdrop. In one production, they used a map of the world along with Tyler Griffin's BYU fantasy map, which is based on the M2C interpretation of the text. For a discussion of that, see the end of this post.

It’s not a matter of salvation. 

In a sense, this statement is axiomatic--or should be. But BMC does not treat the topic this way. 

The BMC problem. If BMC is really concerned about contention, they should start by changing the organization's methods.

Far from deeming "Book of Mormon geography" as unimportant, BMC spends millions of dollars to promote M2C.  M2C is embedded in Scripture Plus. BMC refuses to acknowledge alternative faithful interpretations that embrace, instead of repudiate, the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah. If BMC didn't think the geography was so important, there's no justification for their obsession with M2C. 

And that gets to BMC's cognitive dissonance.

Like Tyler and BMC generally, this script fails to point out that to the extent there is "contention" it revolves around the credibility of the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah.

But even that is not really the source of contention. People can believe whatever they want. Some Latter-day Saints still believe what the prophets have taught; others don't. There's no reason for anyone to contend angrily about the topic. Everyone can simply own their beliefs. Live and let live.

The contention arises partly from the lack of clarity; i.e., the obfuscation generated by Tyler and other M2Cers who avoid clarity on the issue.

This is why the primary instigator of contention on this topic is BMC, including its management, employees, and donors. BMC insists that the prophets were wrong about Cumorah. The M2Cers have convinced themselves that (i) the Mesoamerican setting is the only permissible one and (ii) the "hill in New York" is too far away from Mesoamerica to be Cumorah/Ramah. 

In the memorable words of John Sorenson (co-founder of FARMS), 

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

Mormon's Codex, p. 688.

BMC still adheres to this portrayal of the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah. It should be obvious to every Latter-day Saint why some of us find that portrayal objectionable.

Most of us who still believe the teachings of the prophets don't feel a need to contend about it. We're fine with people believing whatever they want. But we also face the reality that BMC has set itself up as the "experts" on Book of Mormon and other scriptural topics, and we're frequently confronted by M2Cers who vociferously complain that we disagree with the scholars. And we also face the reality that BMC employees/affiliates publicly misrepresent what we believe.

[Note: It is a common motif for scholars to set themselves up as authorities. Think about the name Scripture Central. It declares itself the "center" for the scriptures, as if the Church (and the scriptures themselves) should not be the central source for studying the Gospel. And we can't forget the Interpreter, as if those scholars are the ones authorized to interpret the scriptures for the rest of us who are not part of the "credentialed class."] 

Contrary to their claims of neutrality, BMC still refuses to accommodate alternative faithful interpretations.

For more on BMC, see the end of this post.

To reiterate, if BMC sincerely seeks to eliminate contention, BMC (including Scripture Central and ScripturePlus) will:

1. Readily, openly, and unambiguously acknowledge that they reject, repudiate, and otherwise supplant the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah/Ramah because those teachings contradict their own theories of Book of Mormon geography; and

2. Readily, openly and unambiguously acknowledge that other faithful Latter-day Saints can and do accept, embrace, and rely upon the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah/Ramah, which they consider corroborated and supported by extrinsic evidence of anthropology, archaeology, geology, geography, etc.

We can all see that such changes at BMC would eliminate the source of all contention on this topic. 

It does not affect the truth claims of the church, or Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet. 

This framing skirts the issue. It's axiomatic that modern ideas about geography have no bearing on historical facts. But that's not the point.

We can all see that Oliver Cowdery, as Assistant President of the Church and with the assistance of Joseph Smith, declared it is a fact that the hill in New York is the Cumorah/Ramah of the Book of Mormon. By repudiating what he wrote, BMC is directly undermining the credibility of both Oliver and Joseph. 

Likewise, we can all see that Moroni told Joseph the record was "written and deposited not far from" Joseph's family home near Palmyra, that it was Moroni who told him the record was deposited in the "hill of Cumorah," etc. References.

The M2C cognitive dissonance arises from the inconsistency between these twin beliefs: 

(i) Joseph and Oliver were reliable, credible, and honest witnesses of the restoration but 

(ii) Joseph and Oliver misled the Church (and the world) about the New York Cumorah/Ramah (as well as the translation; i.e., SITH).

And the Church has made its position on Book of Mormon geography exceptionally clear. 

Here, BMC uses the term "Book of Mormon geography" to obfuscate the issue. The script proceeds to discuss "geography" without mentioning Cumorah, just as the article being quoted does.

In the earliest days of the Church, most members and leaders subscribed to what we call a hemispheric geography, meaning they supposed the Book of Mormon may have taken place all over the Americas, with central America acting as the “narrow neck” of land the text describes. 

By now I'm sure everyone can see how this is a red herring. While some Church authors wrote about the "hemispheric" geography, it was never stated as a fact. 

Even when Orson Pratt created the footnotes in the 1879 official edition of the Book of Mormon, he clearly differentiated between speculation (e.g., it is believed...) and fact (the Hill Cumorah is in New York). See https://www.mobom.org/orson-pratts-1879-footnotes

That distinction was always in effect. That's why people refer to "Book of Mormon geography" as a speculative topic separate from Cumorah, which is a topic the prophets have explicitly taught. 

It took time and serious study to determine that based on the text of the Book of Mormon, it had to have taken place in a much smaller geographical area. 

M2C theory: Joseph Smith studying Stephens and Catherwood instead of the plates
 
Here, BMC's cognitive dissonance is evident. First, because BMC has repudiated what Joseph and Oliver taught about the New York Cumorah/Ramah, here BMC implies that we can reject what they said because they lacked "time and serious study," as if their personal experiences were irrelevant.

Second, the "time and serious study" that led to M2C was the work of L.E. Hills, an RLDS scholar who published the first M2C map in 1917. (See his map below.) The work of John Sorenson, Jack Welch, and the rest of the M2Cers was derivative of Hills' work.

Third, the script frames M2C as a fact ("it had to have taken place"), not one of many theories. 

But even then, church members have always had a diversity of opinions and have never declared a single official Book of Mormon map. 

This is true regarding "Book of Mormon geography" but not regarding the New York Cumorah, which was taught from the outset and repeatedly reaffirmed. Once we clearly define terms, we can all see how this deflection works. 

In 1890 First Presidency member George Q. Cannon said that the First Presidency has never consented to make a map and no one in the Twelve would undertake to do so without further information. 

This is another axiomatic statement that everyone can, or should, agree with. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of possible Book of Mormon sites, not even counting those that have been long since destroyed, plowed over, etc. But again, it's irrelevant to the question of Cumorah. 

In 1920 the Church removed modern geographical references to the Americas that Orson Pratt had added in 1879 because the Church felt it could not present as demonstrable fact any map of Book of Mormon lands. 

Another red herring. The committee was led by Elder James Talmage, who, like other Church leaders, repeatedly taught that Cumorah was in New York. Knowing Cumorah/Ramah is in New York does not resolve the locations of other sites, so no reliable map can be constructed based on the text alone. Every map ever created is based on a series of assumptions about what the text means, not on any facts. The only clear, unambiguous fact taught by the prophets is the New York Cumorah/Ramah.

Previous and current church leaders continue to emphasize that while we can and should study the text of the Book of Mormon and form our own opinions, we should not present them as definitively true or inspired. 

Everyone involved with this discussion follows this advice regarding our own opinions. But the teachings of the prophets are not our own opinions.

The Church’s most recent statement says, 

Individuals may have their own opinions regarding Book of Mormon geography and other such matters about which the Lord has not spoken. However, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles urge leaders and members not to advocate those personal theories in any setting or manner that would imply either prophetic or Church support for those theories. All parties should strive to avoid contention on these matters. 

This is a 100% accurate and awesome statement that fully applies to personal theories; i.e., the question of "Book of Mormon geography." 

To the extent that is a topic of contention, we all agree it is more of a sport that no one should take too seriously, and certainly not as a question of truth vs error because it's based on assumptions.

But notice that the statement never mentions Cumorah. This reiterates and enforces the clear distinction between "Book of Mormon geography" and Cumorah.

After all, the First (initial) First Presidency wrote and endorsed Letter VII, and every member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve who has ever publicly addressed the issue has reaffirmed the New York Cumorah/Ramah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference. 

Anything beyond the New York Cumorah/Ramah is "Book of Mormon geography" that consists of personal theories, as the statement clearly recognizes and we should all embrace.  

To dive in deeper on the Church’s history with Book of Mormon geography, read KnoWhy 739 at Scripture Central. 

Again with the reference to Scripture Central as the authority. 

Before reading KnoWhy 739, I can predict its content. But we already know that because it comes from BMC, the KnoWhy will (i) promote M2C and (ii) implicitly repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah/Ramah without actually mentioning those teachings.

BTW, it's cool that the website kno-why.com, which is not affiliated with BMC, includes a mission statement that BMC would do well to emulate. I remain ever hopeful to see the day when BMC actually comes to believe in transparency and collaboration!

We believe in transparency and collaboration.

There are no “black-box” approaches to our work.  A lot of what we do is specialized and takes training to understand, and we will always work with you to make sure you see how things were done, why they were done that way, what the tradeoffs or limits might be, and what steps we took to address those limits.  Every process we engage in is open, and everything we produce is the result of a collaboration between us and our clients.   With this approach, our reports and findings remain useful and understandable long after the projects are completed. 

I'm also curious who BMC considers as its "clients." At least so far, BMC has rejected as "clients" all faithful Latter-day Saints who still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon.

Hopefully that will change one day.

_____

Okay, now let's look at KnoWhy 739, released just a few days ago.

Here's the link:

https://scripturecentral.org/knowhy/what-counsel-have-church-leaders-given-about-the-study-of-book-of-mormon-geography?

Actually, there's no need to read the whole thing. Just search for "Cumorah" and you'll see it's exactly what I predicted in this post.

It's all about "Book of Mormon geography" and never once explains or even cites the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah.

Instead, we get these two references.

Even the location of the Hill Cumorah, where the Jaredites and the Nephites were destroyed, was not considered a settled matter—certainly many assumed it was at the hill in New York, but at least one person proposed that it was in Honduras.[4]

[4] See “Mormonism,” Fredonia Censor, New York, 7 March 1832; Plain Facts, [1887], 3, [5]. Plain Facts is the earliest published suggestion that the Hill Cumorah, traditionally assumed to be in New York, may have been in Central America.

This Kno-Why, like so many others, is an insult to our intelligence. 

Rather than quote or even cite the teachings of the prophets, the Kno-Why dismisses Cumorah by saying "many assumed it was at the hill in New York." 

It's beyond ridiculous, but it's consistent with the way some LDS historians violate their standards of professional ethics by refusing to cite, quote, or even address historical sources that contradict their theories.

Even the sole reference to Cumorah is laughable. The authors can't be bothered to give us a link so we can see the cited source in context, but it doesn't matter because we can all see it's absurd. 

In fact, if the article from 1887 accurately quotes the article from 1832, it should be obvious that when President Cowdery wrote Letter VII in 1835, specifically declaring it is a fact that Cumorah/Ramah is the hill in New York where Joseph obtained the plates, he was not only refuting the claim in Mormonism Unvailed that the Book of Mormon was fiction but was refuting this non-Mormon claim that Cumorah was in Honduras.

And yet, this Kno-Why passes for scholarship in some circles....

__________________

Additional material:

M2C background of BMC

 


From its inception, even going back to its predecessor at FARMS, BMC used a logo that represented the Book of Mormon with a Mayan glyph. Recently they changed the logo, but it still adorns their publications and some of their websites.

BMC's corporate owner, Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum (BMAF.org) is a long-time Mesoamerican advocate that still hosts articles attacking alternative faithful interpretations.




BMC features a Spanish-language site that explicitly teaches M2C.

The fantasy map.

For one example of how the fantasy map uses the M2C definition, it portrays the "narrow neck" as an isthmus that connects continents and conflates the scriptural terms "narrow neck," "small neck," and "narrow neck of land." Other interpretations treat different terms as different features, and incorporate the ordinary usage in Joseph Smith's time, such as how George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others used the terms to describe local features.

The fantasy map portrays the Hill Cumorah/Ramah as being located along a seacoast in proximity to the isthmus that connects two continents; i.e., definitely not in New York.

Cumorah according to Tyler's fantasy map

Cumorah according to the CES map

Cumorah according to BYU Studies, BMC, and the rest of the M2Cers

The origin of M2C: the 1917 map by RLDS scholar L.E. Hills.



Thursday, July 4, 2024

Independence Day 2024

 From a WSJ editorial by Karl Rove:


Some people today describe America as a third-world dystopian hellhole. That’s a slur. Though a flawed people, we’re also deeply compassionate and generous. We’ve built the world’s most innovative, prosperous economy. We cherish liberty and the rule of law. In this century, we’re the bulwark against tyranny in the world; in the last one, we rescued civilization at enormous cost. In return, we didn’t seek reparations, only enough land to bury our dead.

The world knows it. Go anywhere and people understand the American dream. It means the opportunity to work hard, think big, live in liberty, and be part of a great and grand story. Sure, we have challenges, but still people around the globe want to invest, study and live here more than any other place on the planet. We’re a light of freedom and hope. If we forget that, we surrender an important part of what it means to be an American.

So Happy Independence Day. Be sure to read the Declaration.


https://www.wsj.com/articles/my-only-in-america-story-fourth-of-july-immigration-patriotism-history-5d562627?st=j0o0qfzv90j5jvo&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Tyler Griffin's cognitive dissonance

The other day I was astonished to watch what Tyler Griffin said on the Hello Saints channel with Christian Pastor Jeff McCullough. 

Jeff has been working his way through the Book of Mormon. He's going through the last three books with Tyler.

I highly commend both Tyler and Jeff for sharing their exchange. We all hope for more conversations such as this because they lead to "no more contention" through clarity, charity and understanding.

(click to enlarge)

Tyler is awesome. So is Jeff. Both are great guys, sincere, devoted, capable, polished, doing lots of good in the world, exemplary, professional, etc. During their conversation, Tyler and Jeff openly and cordially exchanged their points of view and interpretations of the text.

What struck me during their interview was the level of cognitive dissonance Tyler demonstrated when asked about Cumorah.

In the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding, let's use this conversation to illustrate the ongoing problem that arises when people avoid clarity because of cognitive dissonance.

As always, we charitably assume that Tyler and Jeff are sincere and well meaning. We seek to understand, not to persuade. We're fine with people believing whatever they want.

But "no more contention" has to start with clarity or the conversations are illusory diversions and avoidance that solve nothing.

As always, originals in blue, my comments in red.

_____

For those unfamiliar with the term "cognitive dissonance," we can use the wikipedia explanation. 

Leon Festinger proposed that human beings strive for internal psychological consistency to function mentally in the real world. A person who experiences internal inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable and is motivated to reduce the cognitive dissonance. They tend to make changes to justify the stressful behavior, either by adding new parts to the cognition causing the psychological dissonance (rationalization), believing that “people get what they deserve” (just-world fallacy), taking in specific information while rejecting or ignoring others (selective perception), or by avoiding circumstances and contradictory information likely to increase the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance (confirmation bias).

_____

During the interview, Jeff and Tyler discussed Mormon chapter 6. Chapter 6 includes these passages:

2 And I, Mormon, wrote an epistle unto the king of the Lamanites, and desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people unto the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle.

3 And it came to pass that the king of the Lamanites did grant unto me the thing which I desired.

4 And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites.

5 And when three hundred and eighty and four years had passed away, we had gathered in all the remainder of our people unto the land of Cumorah.

6 And it came to pass that when we had gathered in all our people in one to the land of Cumorah, behold I, Mormon, began to be old; and knowing it to be the last struggle of my people, and having been commanded of the Lord that I should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni.

(Mormon 6:2–6)

Here's how Jeff raised the question about Cumorah.

at the 20:10 mark: 

Jeff: you have now in 385 the Nephites gathering in chapter 6 to battle at the hill Cumorah. This is like a full final, essentially Armageddon-like battle that's taking place, so I have to ask is there an understanding, a widespread agreement as to the geographic location of Hill Cumorah? 

In the pursuit of clarity, this is obviously a "gotcha" question because Jeff knows perfectly well that he is talking to Tyler, a BYU professor and a representative of Book of Mormon Central (Scripture Central) who, like Scripture Central, categorically rejects what the prophets have taught about Cumorah. This is the cause of Tyler's cognitive dissonance, which we will observe as the conversation progresses.

The subtext of the question may not be evident to casual viewers, but Tyler and Jeff both know that the Cumorah issue has long been 

- (i) a focal point of critics who say there is no extrinsic physical evidence to support the Book of Mormon, and 

- (ii) a source of controversy among believers, some of whom still believe what the prophets have taught about Cumorah despite the efforts of Tyler and other faithful LDS scholars who have been teaching for years that the prophets were wrong about Cumorah.

Jeff seems to recognize the "gotcha" nature of the question so he softens it as though he's "only asking" because of the name of the hill in New York today.  

Andonly ask because of the name of The Hill Cumorah that is in New York, and that Mormon who is bearing these records buries them, I think, prior to this battle and that becomes sort of the, the repository that even Moroni eventually puts the final records into. 

Next, Jeff askes the question directly.

20:57

So is it believed, is it understood then that Cumorah that is in Palmyra, New York, is the hill of Cumorah being referred to here?

Jeff's question naturally arises from the text. Every reader who engages with the text wonders about this. Where is this land of Cumorah they are referring to? Where is this "hill which was called Cumorah" to which the people gathered? 

Anyone familiar with the origin of the Book of Mormon knows that Joseph Smith obtained the plates from a hill in New York that Joseph and his contemporaries (and successors) referred to as the Hill Cumorah. Even today, the Visitors Center there is named the "Hill Cumorah Visitors Center." 

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/learn/locations/hill-cumorah?lang=eng

Jeff's question is clear and straightforward. But let's look at Tyler's response (and if you watch the video, you can observe his body language).

Tyler: So this is, this has been a point of some, of many discussions among members of the church and it is not, um, that there is not a consensus among members of the church.

Tyler begins by framing the Cumorah question as a matter of "discussions" and "consensus among members of the church." 

But Tyler carefully avoids the point that both he and Jeff are fully aware of; i.e., that the question of Cumorah was raised by critics and answered directly by Oliver Cowdery, who, writing as Assistant President of the Church in 1835, and with the assistance of Joseph Smith, declared it is a fact that the Hill Cumorah in New York where Joseph obtained the plates is the same Hill Cumorah/Ramah referred to in Mormon chapter 6. http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/90

Tyler and Jeff both know that the contemporaries of Joseph and Oliver, as well as their successors in church leadership, uniformly taught that Cumorah/Ramah is in New York. None disputed or questioned that.

They both know that an RLDS scholar named L. E. Hills rejected what the prophets said and claimed the "real Cumorah" is somewhere in southern Mexico. He published a map in 1917 showing Cumorah in southern Mexico that is the basis for what Scripture Central teaches today (as well as what Tyler teaches with his fantasy map that he discusses later in the interview). 

They both know that LDS leaders, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, have explicitly reaffirmed the New York Cumorah/Ramah, while popular LDS scholars (including Tyler) have repudiated those prophets by embracing the L.E. Hills theory. 

And they both know that portraying Joseph and Oliver as ignorant speculators who misled the Church about the hill Cumorah/Ramah undermines their overall credibility regarding the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon. 

Jeff, as a Christian who rejects the Book of Mormon as actual history and legitimate scripture, has no problem with Tyler avoiding the real issue because he knows his viewers get the point. Tyler has a different reason for avoiding the real issue. As a faithful Latter-day Saint, he understands the problem with repudiating what the prophets have taught. 

This is the cognitive dissonance that leads him to deflect from the real issue.

Tyler: You're going to have a group of people often referred to as the heartlanders that believe that the Book of Mormon events took place in the United States today in, um the area around the Great Lakes for instance, and so for them the hill in New York is the hill Cumorah mentioned here.

Here we see how Tyler's cognitive dissonance affects his language. He says "for them the hill in New York is the hill Cumorah mentioned here." This fits his framing that the question is purely one of discussions and consensus among members and has nothing to do with the teachings of the prophets. If he pursued clarity instead of obfuscation, he would explain that the "heartlanders" still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught; i.e., that the hill in New York is the Cumorah/Ramah of the Book of Mormon.

21:31

You have others who believe in one of, you know, a handful, five, six, seven, eight different models in meso America for a variety of reasons.

Again, Tyler frames the issue as one of belief based on "a variety of reasons." And yet, we can all see that he avoided the reason why the "heartlanders" accept the New York Cumorah. He (and probably Jeff) know that the reason why the "heartlanders" accept the New York Cumorah is because they still accept the teachings of Joseph, Oliver, their contemporaries and successors. 

Instead, Tyler gave zero reasons for why the "heartlanders" believe what they do.

But now, he's going to give a series of reasons to support the "models in meso America." 

We call all these models "M2C" for the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory because, while they recognize the historical Cumorah in New York, they claim the "real" Cumorah is somewhere in southern Mexico and that the New York Cumorah was named in homage to the real Cumorah, that it led to a false tradition that took on a life of its own, and that Oliver Cowdery specifically, and Joseph by at least passive acceptance, misled everyone about Cumorah/Ramah.

21:43

The way the text talks about certain movements of the people and the land that, for Instance, King Limhi's group escapes and the army of the the Lamanites follows them and after one day they get lost in the wilderness and they can't find their way home. They're lost and they wander and they can't even find their way back to where they started a day ago and so it lends itself to maybe a geography that might be a little more jungle like. 

That this is the example Tyler cites first is surprising because it is is one of the more bizarre rationales offered for M2C. We can all read the text and see it never mentions jungles. Besides, it does not require a jungle to get lost in a forest; in fact, the less dense the trees, the more likely one is to get lost, because if you hack your way through a jungle, your steps are easy to retrace. This is an argument against a jungle, not in favor of one.

Others would say, well, there's not a single mention of anything cold or freezing or snow or winterlike in the Book of Mormon, probably not taking place in New England area or the Great Lakes area.

This common argument is fallacious for several reasons, such as the lack of weather information in the text generally, the wearing of "thick garments," Nephi's reference to snow as an adjective, and the absence of snow in the New Testament (except as a metaphor like Nephi's), despite snow and cold in Israel and Turkey.

22:26

So there are those arguments. 

Tyler's cognitive dissonance leads him to present these rhetorical arguments, but we can all see that they merely mask the fundamental issue: do we support and corroborate the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, or do we, like Tyler, reject and repudiate those teachings? 

Others would say no, it took place in Baja California. Others would say no, it took place in South America.

Tyler inadvertently raised another important point here. He limited possibilities to the Western Hemisphere. But the text never mentions the Western Hemisphere, or America, or the Americas, or any other modern geographical site.

M2Cers emphasize that they rely on the text of the Book of Mormon. Yet the text of the Book of Mormon could describe locations around the world.

Why then do they focus on the Western Hemisphere?

The sole reason is because the prophets have said that Lehi sailed to the Western Hemisphere.

By confining their search for the setting of the Book of Mormon to the Western Hemisphere, Tyler and other M2Cers have admitted they cannot rely on the text alone.

But there is no principled rationale for accepting the teachings of the prophets about the Western Hemisphere (the "Americas") while rejecting the teachings of those same prophets about the New York Cumorah. 

That's why the church has an essay on Book of Mormon geography that says don't spend too much time trying to push a pin in the map because if you're not careful you'll miss the whole point.

The "pin in the map" is another indication of Tyler's cognitive dissonance. We all know that the "pin in the map" is the New York Cumorah. 

None of the M2Cers has ever identified a single person, let alone a group, that has ever "missed the whole point" of the Book of Mormon by seeking to understand and corroborate the teachings of the prophets about the setting of the Book of Mormon. It's a straw man argument.

This happens all the time over in biblical stories as well, where people get more excited about trying to identify a specific location than they care about identifying what God wants us to understand from that story.

Not only does this not "happen all the time," it never happens. If there was anyone other than a straw man who gets more excited about Bible geography than what the Bible teaches, it should be easy to quote or cite such a person, but we never see such quotations or citations.

This is another manifestation of cognitive dissonance. When Tyler and other M2Cers sense the inherent cognitive conflict between (i) believing the prophets teach the truth but (ii) rejecting what the prophets say when it conflicts with their own M2C beliefs, they have to resolve that cognitive dissonance somehow.

One way is to concoct an imaginary person (or group) who is/are "more excited about trying to identify a specific location" than they care about the teachings of the Bible or the Book of Mormon. 

This tactic of diminishing the relevance of the setting of the Book of Mormon is a standard method of addressing cognitive dissonance. 

Another tactic is simply ignoring the underlying cause of their cognitive dissonance; i.e., their repudiation of the teachings of the prophets. As we saw in the wikipedia definition, they can resolve cognitive dissonance "by avoiding circumstances and contradictory information likely to increase the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance (confirmation bias)."

It is fascinating to observe even someone of Tyler's expertise and experience demonstrate a classic case of cognitive dissonance.

Next, he explains how he's formalized his remedy for cognitive dissonance.

Tyler's "internal map" aka the "fantasy map"

So that's why I've done all my work on an internal map through virtual scriptures.org. So it's just an internal map based on, it says things like, if you're in Zarahemla, it's east of the river Sidon is the city of Gideon or the land of Gideon so I put it to the East and there's a river and then to the West is Melek and then three days journey northward is Ammonihah and so there's this this uh relational map that people would then have to squeeze or twist or compress to fit whatever Geographic geography but at the end of the day your Ammonihah better be 3 days walk north of your Melek wherever you're putting that, kind of an as an example.

Jeff: That makes sense. 

Does it really make sense? Tyler states it is a three days' walk, but the text doesn't say that. 

So that when he had finished his work at Melek he departed thence, and traveled three days’ journey on the north of the land of Melek; and he came to a city which was called Ammonihah.

(Alma 8:6)

Tyler merely infers or assumes that Alma walked because that's how M2Cers interpret the text, but if Alma's journey involved travel by boat on a river, the distance could be much greater. The text doesn't even say he went north. It says he traveled "three days' journey on the north of the land of Melek." If he traveled "on the north of the land" he could have been traveling east/west along the north boundary.

Like other ancient texts, the Book of Mormon is vague about directions and distances. That's evidence of its authenticity, actually. Yet the M2Cers think their precise interpretation is the only acceptable one, and Tyler has de facto canonized it at BYU and Scripture Central with his fantasy map based on the M2C interpretation instead of providing a variety of fantasy maps that reflect alternative interpretations of the text.

Next, Tyler explains how he's rationalized M2C.

Tyler: So in this case if you were to go with a meso American or a Baja or a South American model then The Hill Cumorah in New York would then have to be named after The Hill Cumorah where the repository of all the plates were kept by Mormon and Moroni is only taking the plates of Mormon. 

Again, he avoids the teachings of the prophets that are the source of his cognitive dissonance. 

Here he uses the "named after" argument for Cumorah in New York. In addition to Oliver Cowdery's explanation, Apostle Orson Pratt addressed this specific argument when he explained that there were two departments in Cumorah: one for the repository and one for Moroni's stone box. 

But Tyler simply ignores the teachings of the prophets and Jeff doesn't call him out on it, presumably because he's being charitable, but possibly also because his informed viewers can see exactly what is going on.

Jeff: So it's believed in that it it is true that Mormon buries the plates prior to the battle um but then after everything happens... 

Tyler: Doesn't bury the plates. They're kept in a repository and the way Joseph Smith and others talk about it in vision is that it's Mormon's cave, with all of the records that got transferred from the the hill Shim in the land Antium, over to Cumorah.

One of the fundamental claims of the M2Cers is that neither Joseph nor Oliver ever claimed a specific revelation about the Hill Cumorah, so I don't know to what Tyler refers here when he says "the way Joseph Smith and others talk about it in vision." Possibly he's referring to Heber C. Kimball's statement "How does it compare with the vision that Joseph and others had, when they went into a cave in the hill Cumorah, and saw more records than ten men could carry?"

Assuming Tyler was referring to this statement, let's take a moment to discuss it.

First, Brigham Young and others related what Oliver told them as an actual experience of entering the repository multiple times. After all, Oliver stated it was a fact that the hill in New York is the Cumorah/Ramah referred to in the text. Unless he was lying, he wouldn't state it as a fact unless he knew it was a fact from personal experience. Oliver was always careful to distinguish between fact and speculation, especially in his essays on Church history including Letter VII.

Second, if Tyler is relying on HCK's word choice to claim that Joseph and others had a supernatural vision of the Cumorah repository instead of a physical experience, what does that mean for the First Vision? Are we now to infer that because we refer to it as a "vision" Joseph did not actually see God and Christ? That it was all in his mind?

Webster's 1828 dictionary recognizes that a synonym for "vision" is "actual sight." Thus, we generally (I hope) believe that Joseph's "First Vision" involved an actual physical experience in the grove and not merely something imaginary. 

All this means that when HCK referred to "the vision that Joseph and others had," we should infer he used the term as a synonym for "view." IOW, Joseph and others had a view of the repository when they went into the cave in the hill Cumorah.

Third, when read in context it is obvious that HCK was referring to a physical experience.

Brother Mills mentioned in his song, that crossing the Plains with handcarts was one of the greatest events that ever transpired in this Church. I will admit that it is an important event, successfully testing another method for gathering Israel, but its importance is small in comparison with the visitation of the angel of God to the Prophet Joseph, and with the reception of the sacred records from the hand of Moroni at the hill Cumorah.

How does it compare with the vision that Joseph and others had, when they went into a cave in the hill Cumorah, and saw more records than ten men could carry? There were books piled up on tables, book upon book. Those records this people will yet have, if they accept of the Book of Mormon and observe its precepts, and keep the commandments.

(1850s1856, HCK Emigration ¶3–4 • JD 4:105)

Here, HCK refers twice to the hill Cumorah; once when Joseph received the records from Moroni there, and once when Joseph and others went into the cave there. There is no hint, suggestion, inference, or any other reason to infer that HCK was referring to two different locations.

Jeff: okay cuz then it says, cuz in verse six he hid up in the hill Cumorah the record so it doesn't necessarily say all the records

24:40

Tyler: So he hides them all up and then from there you get just the plates that represent what we now have plus that which was lost in the translation, so that one stack of plates, not the full repository, is what Moroni carries with him for 21 to 36 years. We don't know the exact timing.

Nothing in the text states, implies, or even suggests that Moroni carried the abridged plates around with him for 21 to 36 years. This is purely an assumption. And it's not even a reasonable assumption, given that he could have been killed at any moment or could have otherwise died, leaving the plates available to anyone who came along. 

Far more reasonable is the assumption that the record was "written and deposited not far from" Joseph's home near Palmyra. Actually, this isn't merely an assumption. It's what Moroni told Joseph Smith. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/69.

As long as our scholars are rejecting what Joseph and Oliver said about the origin (SITH) and setting (M2C) of the Book of Mormon, they might as well reject what Moroni told Joseph here, too. 

But if in fact the record was written not far from Joseph's home, then the rational thing for Moroni would have been to wander in the general area for the safety of his life (Moroni 1:3) and return when possible to supplement the record (first with the account of the Jaredites and then with his own account) and, eventually, deposit the abridged plates in the stone box on the Hill Cumorah, separately from the repository.

That also is rational, because Moroni knew that Joseph Smith was going to be strongly tempted by the abridged plates. He warned Joseph about that temptation and made him wait for four years to overcome the temptation. Moroni could rationally expect that if the abridged plates were such a problem, the entire repository of Nephite records would be an insurmountable temptation at that stage of Joseph's life. Only after Joseph and Oliver had translated the abridged plates in Harmony and had received the priesthood, with the accompanying revelations about the future, could Joseph handle the realization that the repository was also in Cumorah. That appears to explain why he blanched when the messenger told David Whitmer he was going to Cumorah.

BTW, notice that Moroni said he wandered "withersoever" he could for his own safety. He didn't say he "wandered" with the plates over a long distance to a specific destination to deposit them far away in New York. 

Regarding the plates: many Latter-day Saints now believe that Joseph translated two separate sets of plates as directed in D&C 10; i.e., the abridged plates he obtained from Moroni's stone box, which he returned to the messenger before leaving Harmony, and the plates of Nephi (the small plates) that the messenger picked up from the repository in Cumorah before taking them to Fayette for Joseph to translate, which Joseph returned to the repository in Cumorah as described by Oliver Cowdery.

Jeff: so then that in a way doesn't solve the problem but within that context um when you have this massive battle you have waves of people coming, dying by the tens of thousands 

Tyler: Tens of thousands.

Jeff: We don't necessarily need to be looking for bodies in Palmyra, New York, because that geography isn't settled as far as where that

Tyler: Correct.

Tyler agrees with Jeff that "tens of thousands" died at Cumorah, presumably based on the improbable ideas that (i) the groups of "ten thousand" enumerated in Mormon 6 are literal numbers instead of military units and (ii) they were all killed at Cumorah instead of during the final war and series of retreats that started years earlier, or even during Mormon's career starting when he was a teenager. 

This is another traditional interpretation that arose by ignoring what Oliver Cowdery explained back in 1835. 

It is far more rational to infer that (i) "ten thousand" is not a precise number but merely a designation of a military unit that could comprise far fewer than 10,000 (for which there are lots of examples in history) and that (ii) at the end of his life Mormon would reflect back on all the military leaders he had commanded over his career, or at least recognize all those who had fallen during the final retreats from the Lamanites, starting with the time when he agreed to resume command of the Nephite armies (Mormon 5).

I've addressed the question of numbers in several posts, collected here:

https://www.lettervii.com/p/cumorah-and-population-numbers.html

Summary:

It's useful and important to have conversations about all of these topics. But they should pursue the objectives of clarity, charity and understanding.

Because of his cognitive dissonance, in this conversation Tyler completely obfuscated the fundamental question about Cumorah--the opposite of clarity.

Consequently, Pastor Jeff and his viewers were left uninformed about the Cumorah issue. Yet informed Christians (and Latter-day Saints) can immediately see how Tyler dodged the question.

Let's hope that in the future, Tyler and other LDS scholars will seek clarity instead of confusion, all in the hope that we can achieve "no more contention" in the spirit of charity and understanding, without feeling any compulsion to persuade, convince, or prevail.

As always, I'm fine with people believing (and advocating) whatever they want. But I think it's unproductive for people to pursue obfuscation instead of clarity.

And I think those entrusted with the education of Latter-day Saints, whether at BYU, throughout CES, or even in separate organizations such as Scripture Central, have a fiduciary responsibility to teach the truth instead of promoting their private beliefs through censorship and confusion. 

IOW, I'm fine with Tyler and other M2Cers teaching people that the prophets were wrong about Cumorah, if that's what they want to do. However, I'm not fine with them obscuring their beliefs by keeping their students and viewers ignorant of what the prophets have taught, as Tyler did in this interview.

Along the same lines, if they're going to cite evidence and arguments in favor of M2C, they should do the same for other interpretations of the text, even those they don't agree with. 

FWIW, I'm happy to refer people to the M2C sites such as Scripture Central and the Interpreter. I want everyone to see what they are teaching and how they carefully misinform their readers and viewers the way Tyler did here.

I remain hopeful that Tyler and the other M2Cers (and SITH sayers) will someday join me in the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding.

Let's lay out all the Facts, along with our respective Assumptions, Inference and Theories that lead to our respective Hypotheses. This FAITH model helps everyone understand the reasons for our faith and enables them to compare alternatives by making informed choices.

At that point, we are in the position Lehi described: "all things are given them which are expedient."

Which, ultimately, should be what the Gospel is all about.

Because we are not "free to choose" when we are ignorant.