Alarming news from BYU Education Week

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I’ve attended a lot of great classes at Education Week in the last few days, but I need to alert readers to an alarming development.

Now BYU is promoting the fantasy map of the Book of Mormon for Seminary students!

If you go to this link http://virtualscriptures.org/, this is what you will see:

BYU Fantasy Map now to be taught in Seminary

It was bad enough that every BYU student now has to learn the Book of Mormon by following the events in the text on a fantasy land map, but now Seminary students will have to learn this thing. At this rate, it will appear in Primary classes in no time.

The map is being unofficially canonized.

This fantasy map is even worse than the Mesoamerican maps we used to have to learn when I was at BYU. At least those were grounded in the real world.

This development means that LDS youth around the world are going to learn that the Book of Mormon is fiction.

Why do I say that?

Because this map is indoctrinating LDS youth regarding a specific interpretation of the Book of Mormon that not only contradicts what Joseph and Oliver taught (more on that later), but that excludes the entire planet from consideration.

There is no place on the planet that looks like this fantasy map. 

Our youth will be taught to interpret the scriptures by reference to this fantasy map. This means future missionaries going to the world, teaching that the Book of Mormon took place in a fantasy world.
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Imagine your son or daughter learning this thing. Then they go on a mission. The conversation goes
something like this:

Investigator: You say Joseph Smith got these plates from the Hill Cumorah in New York. That’s where these people lived?

Missionary: No, we know the real Cumorah can’t be in New York, despite what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said, because their statement was never canonized. They were mistaken. It was their opinion, and they were wrong. Our scholars have figured this out.

Investigator: But you said Joseph was a prophet.

Missionary: Yes, we testify of that, but he was wrong about some things, like Cumorah.

Investigator: I see. You told me Lehi left the Middle East and sailed to the New World. Where did he land?

Missionaries teaching fantasy map-
adapted from Preach My Gospel

Missionary (pulling out an iPad with the BYU map on it): Right here, on the west coast.

Investigator: Where is that?

Missionary: The land of first inheritance.

Investigator: No, I mean in the real world.

Missionary: Oh, this isn’t the real world. This is a fantasy map, based on the text.

Investigator: You’re saying your Book of Mormon describes a fantasy world? Like Lord of the Rings or the Narnia Chronicles?

Missionary: Yes! Exactly! See how cool it is when you go to a verse and you can see where the event took place? Let’s turn to Alma 43 and I’ll show you how this little dial works.

Investigator: Uh, I’m sorry Elders (or Sisters), but this doesn’t work for me. You testified it was a true history, but now you’re saying it took place in a fantasy world?

Missionary 2: No, see, we’re saying it’s a real history, but the geography it describes doesn’t fit anywhere on this Earth. So our scholars made this abstract map so we could understand it and explain it to people who haven’t read the Book of Mormon before. You can twist it and squeeze it, pull it and stretch it anyway you want so it works for you.

Investigator: [speechless]
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In my view, this “abstract” map takes the Book of Mormon out of the realm of actual ancient history and plants it firmly on the fiction shelf. Even the BYU professor who presented it at Education Week compared it to the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia. You can take university courses on those works of fiction that teach all kinds of moral principles, too.
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Mormonism Unvailed by E.D. Howe

In October 1834, the first anti-Mormon book was published in Painesville, Ohio, not far from Kirtland. Written by E.D. Howe, the book was titled Mormonism Unvailed, and it portrayed the Book of Mormon as fiction (claiming it was copied from a romance novel by Solomon Spalding). Even today, critics of the Church make this claim, now called the Spalding theory.

Imagine what Howe would have done if Joseph Smith had produced a fantasy map like this BYU map. It would be on the frontispiece instead of these illustrations.

When we look at Church history, how did Joseph and Oliver, the President and Assistant President of the Church, respond to Mormonism Unvailed?

They wrote a series of eight historical letters and published them in the Messenger and Advocate. In the first issue, published in October 1834 like as Mormonism Unvailed, Oliver explained that “our opponants [opponents] have cried an alarm, and used every exertion to hinder the spread of truth; but truth has continued its steady course, and the work of the Lord has rolled on.”

He introduced the series of historical letters by writing, “we have thought that a full history of the rise of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and the most interesting parts of its progress, to the present time, would be worthy the perusal of the Saints…

That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J. SMITH jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensable. With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative, well worth the examination and perusal of the Saints.-To do justice to this subject will require time and space: we therefore ask the forbearance of our readers, assuring them that it shall be founded upon facts.

This is a rational and effective response to the allegation in Mormonism Unvailed that the Book of Mormon was fiction. What better way to confront error than with facts?

Among the facts that Oliver and Joseph presented was the detailed explanation that Cumorah was in New York. They explicitly stated it was a fact that the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place in the mile-wide valley west of the hill where Joseph first obtained the plates from Moroni. They said Mormon’s depository (Mormon 6:6) was in the same hill. And they named it Cumorah.

But our BYU scholars reject what they wrote, claiming that these were not facts but opinions, and that they were wrong.

The latest objection is that these letters were never canonized. This is a stunning argument. It makes the presumption that not only should we question everything that hasn’t been canonized, but we should presume anything that hasn’t been canonized is wrong.

Now, anything that was not canonized should not be believed. (Of course, part of Letter I was canonized in the Pearl of Great Price, but our scholars carve that out as an exception. We’re not supposed to believe the rest of these letters. In fact, we’re not supposed to even know about them.)

Think of the implications of that argument. If we’re supposed to disbelieve anything that wasn’t canonized, we must throw out everything we have learned as Church history that’s not in Joseph Smith-History. Nothing in the Joseph Smith Papers, for example, has been canonized except the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants. For that matter, no General Conference talks have been canonized.

If we’re rejecting everything that hasn’t been canonized, including what Joseph and Oliver stated were facts, even after Joseph had these facts republished multiple times so all the Saints in his day could learn them, what is left?

Today, BYU is going the opposite direction from where Joseph and Oliver went when they responded to Mormonism Unvailed and other critics. Instead of using the facts Joseph and Oliver gave us that tie the Book of Mormon to the real world, our BYU scholars are teaching students that the text fits nowhere but on a fantasy map.

It’s difficult to think of a more alarming development than this, short of outright proclaiming that the Book of Mormon is fiction.
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You might wonder why our LDS scholars are so adamant about rejecting these letters, including Letter VII. The sole reason is their proprietary interest in their Mesoamerican theory, which this abstract map is really teaching. The “abstract map” is a transparent ruse to evade the mandate from BYU administration to avoid teaching any particular geography.

Why do I say it’s a ruse? Because all of the interpretations of the text used to develop this map are based on the Sorenson translation of the Book of Mormon. Even at the Education Week presentation, the presenter explained the River Sidon flows north because the “headwaters” are near Manti. This is a long-held belief among Mesoamerican advocates, but readers of the Book of Mormon know the term “headwaters” never appears in the actual text. It’s a Sorenson translation. Same with the hourglass shape of the “narrow neck,” the claim that the “wilderness” is a mountain range, etc.

The real tragedy here is that all the computer technology could be used to corroborate and vindicate what Joseph and Oliver taught, if our scholars would simply accept what they wrote about Cumorah. 

Instead of deferring to Joseph and Oliver, our scholars outright reject what they said was a fact about the New York Cumorah.

Consequently, they insist on teaching our youth a fantasy geography modeled after Central America. At the same time, they insist the youth should not be taught what Joseph and Oliver taught. 

No one attending BYU Education Week this year will learn of the existence of these historical letters, let alone the contents of Letter VII. 

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

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