Watching Conference with BYU Professors–President Romney edition

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In 2017 the most popular post on this blog was “Watching General Conference with your BYU Book of Mormon professor.” Today I’m releasing a youtube version of the post. It’s at this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-63nlsdAPfo&feature=youtu.be

Many members of the Church don’t realize that some intellectuals at BYU/CES continue to promote the Meosamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (“M2C”). This is the theory that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were mistaken when they taught that the Hill Cumorah was in New York.

Instead, the intellectuals claim that Cumorah is in southern Mexico (or somewhere else) because they know better than Joseph and Oliver did.

Of course, the problem with M2C is that the New York Cumorah was established as a fact in 1835 when President Cowdery of the First Presidency wrote and published Letter VII. This teaching has been consistently and repeatedly taught by members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve for over 150 years–including in General Conference–and has never been contradicted by any member of those quorums.

The only ones who have contradicted the New York Cumorah are a handful of intellectuals in the Church. Unfortunately, these intellectuals have widespread influence because they’ve been teaching at BYU and CES for decades.

This video depicts the thinking of anonymous BYU-affiliated scholars, as reflected by their writing. Of course, not all BYU/CES faculty agree with the views depicted here, but these views reflect the “consensus” of the intellectuals about Book of Mormon geography.

Here’s a screen shot from the video to give you an idea:
_____

People ask me for the names of those who promote M2C, but this isn’t a personality issue or an ad hominem argument. I personally like and respect these intellectuals, who are all faithful Latter-day Saints. I’ve had classes from some and have learned a lot from their books and articles. I cite them in my own work.

I just think they are mistaken about this one issue.

And it’s a core issue for those who believe in the Book of Mormon and want to share it with the world.

I think M2C is destructive for the same reason Joseph Fielding Smith said; i.e., that it causes members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith. I also think it impedes missionary work for the same reason. Because it relies on the premise that the prophets and apostles are wrong, it’s a gateway drug to disbelieving the prophets and apostles on other issues.

To see M2C on display, read the web page and material put out by Book of Mormon Central America here: https://bookofmormoncentral.org/. They have a lot of good material, but they insist on M2C and thereby cause needless harm because they’re teaching people to disbelieve the prophets and apostles.

It is no secret who promotes M2C. They are publicly associated with Book of Mormon Central America, which you can see here: https://bookofmormoncentral.org/directory

You can also see M2C on display at Meridian Magazine, BYU Studies, the Interpreter, and other groups affiliated with these intellectuals. A good guide to promoters of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory is the Interpreter Foundation, here: http://interpreterfoundation.org/foundation/

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

How to share the Book of Mormon-web background

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From now on, this blog will assume everyone who believes the Book of Mormon accepts the words of the prophets and apostles about the Hill Cumorah in New York.

IOW, we’re moving on from the handful of intellectuals who apparently continue to reject the New York Cumorah and we’re going to explore ways to expand the consensus beyond Mormons.

The consensus we seek to establish is that (i) the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ and (ii) its divine authenticity as a true history of real people demonstrates God’s love for His children, His involvement in the world, and the ongoing vitality of His covenants.

The Book of Mormon was written for the entire world. According to the Title Page, it was written “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”

I’m interested in how this purpose is being accomplished.

The Internet is obviously a major component. I’m posting the following graphic depicting the top 100 websites so we can have a baseline for considering how the Internet will help the Book of Mormon testify of Jesus Christ to the entire world.

Think about your involvement with the Internet and what you can do to help the Book of Mormon fulfill its purpose.

http://www.visualcapitalist.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/top-100-websites.html

Source: Book of Mormon Concensus

Friction, missionary work, and the Book of Mormon

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Everyone who loves the Book of Mormon agrees that the spiritual messages are more important than questions about historicity/geography. But that doesn’t mean historicity/geography is unimportant to most people.

In fact, the only ones who don’t care about the historicity/geography are a subset of those who are currently active in Church. Let’s say 40% of Church members are active. That’s about 5 million people. Of them, maybe half don’t care about historicity/geography. That’s about 2.5 million people in the world of 7.6 billion people.

While it’s great that so many active members have such a strong spiritual testimony that they don’t care about historicity/geography, the numbers speak for themselves.

We saw recently on this blog that the British Mission in the 1840s baptized more members than they had copies of the Book of Mormon. [With over 150 million copies in print today (plus millions of electronic copies), an equivalent result would be over 200 million members instead of the reported 16 million.]

How did the Apostles accomplish this in the British Mission?

Parley P. Pratt, who published the Millennial Star, explicitly recognized that some people may need to know of physical evidence before they can exercise faith enough to read the book and receive a spiritual witness. Among other things, he published Letter VII, which declared unambiguously that the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place in New York. This grounded the Book of Mormon in reality.

When they wrote Letter VII, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery knew how important it was to ground the text in reality. Ignoring or rejecting what they wrote leads to confusion and doubt. This creates friction that deters people from reading the Book of Mormon.

The other day I heard a comment about friction.

Image result for friction“Any time you add friction to a process, people do less of it. So for example if you have a restaurant that doesn’t have good parking, you will get fewer people coming, even if you knew that they could all get parking, but in their minds they thought, ‘It’s kind of hard to park. It might take me a few minutes.'”

“If you add friction to anything, people change their behavior–and it doesn’t even take much friction.”
_____

Let’s consider friction in terms of missionary, retention and activation work.

We all want people to read the Book of Mormon. That’s a major point of doing missionary, retention, and activation work. But as we all know, people have a lot of demands on their time–as well as distractions.

Anyone who considers reading the Book of Mormon compares that activity with their alternatives. E.g., read the Book of Mormon or watch TV?

People make cost/benefit decisions. What are the costs of reading vs the benefits of reading? The higher the cost, the less likely they are to read. Or, the lower the anticipated benefits, the less likely they are to read.

Think of costs in terms of friction. Like in the restaurant example above, additional costs or impediments make people less likely to read the Book of Mormon.

Imagine an investigator who is looking at a copy of the Book of Mormon, wondering whether to read it. She has talked with the missionaries, maybe, or a friend. They told her the book relates the appearance of Jesus Christ in the Americas. Naturally she asked, “Where and when did this happen?”

They told her, “Soon after his resurrection.”

“But where?”

“We don’t know. Somewhere in the Americas. Probably in Central America, as the painting in the book shows.” The missionaries or friends show her the John Scott painting in the book they gave her.

Not knowing any better, she accepts that explanation. Maybe she is curious enough to read. Maybe she likes what she has heard and that’s enough motivation. But people today have all been trained to research things on the Internet.

She goes to the Internet and quickly sees a variety of opinions about the Book of Mormon that boil down to the question: Is it fiction or real?

If she looks into it more, she’ll discover that while all the prophets and apostles have taught that the Hill Cumorah is in New York, certain intellectuals in the Church teach that such a location is impossible. They teach the prophets and apostles were wrong.

Is that going to help our investigator believe the Book of Mormon is true? Or are the teachings of these intellectuals introducing friction to the process, creating impediments for investigators and less active members of the Church?
_____

When we reject what Joseph and Oliver said in Letter VII, we are introducing friction to the process. We will have fewer people read the book as a result.

And the only reason we’re rejecting Letter VII is because of the work of a handful of intellectuals who think they know more than all the prophets and apostles who have endorsed and taught what Letter VII proclaims about the Hill Cumorah in New York.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

Printable summary of Letter VII

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So many people have asked for a way to explain Letter VII to their friends that I’m posting this summary which you can print out and share with your friends and family. 

Here is the link:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mDizAWGkFDBR26gc9FsWGNPdhmTub3sc/view?usp=sharing

You can also print it and put it inside your copy of my Letter VII book when you share it.

There are a lot of details beyond this brief summary, of course. That’s why I wrote the book about it. I also have a lot of information on this blog.

Thanks to the efforts of certain intellectuals, most people have never heard of Letter VII. At first, they may be skeptical that one letter can make a difference. But when you learn about it, you discover this was much more than just “a letter.” This was a formal declaration of a series of facts, written by a member of the First Presidency (President Cowdery) and endorsed by the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve at the time. In the ensuing 150 years, every member of those quorums who has addressed the issue has affirmed Letter VII; no member of those quorums has ever contradicted Letter VII.

Below is the text of the file you can print from the above link: 

_____
Most members of the Church believe the Hill Cumorah is in New York. Church leaders have consistently taught this for over 150 years.
However, some intellectuals in the Church—including faculty at BYU and CES—claim there are “two Cumorahs.” They rationalize that New York is too far from Central America (Mesoamerica) for the hill in New York to be the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites.
Because these intellectuals have trained thousands of LDS students for decades, their ideas have permeated the Church. The “two-Cumorahs” theory is being taught in Church media and at Church visitors centers, but it has never been taught by a single member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve.
The efforts of the intellectuals have caused confusion among members and investigators.
Recent discoveries in Church history reaffirm the original teaching that there is one Cumorah and it is in New York. For example, there is a lot of information in the book titled Letter VII: Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery Explain the Hill Cumorah. 

In response, the intellectuals are teaching their students that the prophets and apostles are wrong.

This summary of Church history will help members understand the issue so they can support the Brethren when confronted with arguments against the New York Cumorah.
1. In 1834, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery decided to publish a series of letters about Church history in the Church newspaper titled The Messenger and Advocate. This was in response to anti-Mormon publications that were disrupting the missionary effort.
2. Oliver wrote the letters with Joseph’s assistance. They published eight letters between October 1834 and October 1835.
3. A section of Letter I is included as a footnote in the Pearl of Great Price at the end of Joseph Smith—History.
4. In December 1834, Joseph ordained Oliver Cowdery as Assistant President of the Church, explaining that this made him the spokesman. Joseph later referred to these letters as “President Cowdery’s letters.”
5. In Letter VII, published in July 1835, President Cowdery described the Hill Cumorah in New York. He explained that “at about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former” and declares it was a “fact that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.” He emphasized that “in this valley fell the remaining strength and price of a once powerful people, the Nephites.” “This hill, by the Jaredites, was called Ramah; by it, or around it, pitched the famous army of Coriantumr their tent… The opposing army were to the west, and in this same valley, and near by.” He also explained that Mormon’s depository of Nephite records (Mormon 6:6) was in the same hill.
6. The entire First Presidency at the time endorsed these letters. Joseph Smith had President Frederick G. Williams begin the process of copying all eight letters into his history, which you can read in the Joseph Smith Papers in History, 1834-1836. (go to www.josephsmithpapers.org and search for “Letter VII.”) President Sidney Rigdon separately approved of them.
7. All members of the original Quorum of the Twelve (they were called and ordained by President Cowdery and others in February 1835) who ever mentioned Cumorah affirmed what Letter VII teaches, including Parley and Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and William Smith.
8. Letter VII was originally published in the Messenger and Advocate (1835) and copied into Joseph Smith, History, 1834-1835, shortly thereafter. It was republished in the Millennial Star (1840), the Times and Seasons (1841), the Gospel Reflector (1841), a special pamphlet in England (1844), The Prophet (1844), and The Improvement Era. Joseph referred to it in D&C 128:20, which was originally a letter published in the Times and Seasons a year after Letter VII was published in the same newspaper.
9. Over the years, multiple members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, speaking in General Conference, have affirmed the New York Cumorah. Elder James E. Talmage in Articles of Faith affirmed it, as have other apostles, including LeGrand Richards in A Marvelous Work and a Wonder.
10. No member of the Twelve or First Presidency has ever said the Hill Cumorah was anywhere else.
11. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others explained that on multiple occasions, Oliver and Joseph had actually visited Mormon’s depository of records in the Hill Cumorah, which explains why President Cowdery wrote that it was a fact that Cumorah was in New York.
12. The intellectuals nevertheless have framed Letter VII as “Oliver Cowdery’s opinion,” characterizing it as a false tradition that Joseph Smith passively accepted. They claim that all the other prophets and apostles who have affirmed the New York Cumorah were perpetuating this false tradition. They claim that Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others were mistaken because Oliver had merely told them about a vision of a hill in Mexico.
13. The intellectuals have rejected the New York Cumorah because they think it contradicts their preferred theory that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica. To persuade their students to agree with them, they have made a series of claims about archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography, and they have insisted on an interpretation of the text that, they claim, makes the New York setting impossible. Lately, BYU and CES have been teaching students about the Book of Mormon by using a video-game-like fantasy map that depicts Cumorah in a mythical setting.
14. Although the consistent, repeated teachings of the prophets and apostles should be enough to settle this matter, there is evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography that supports the New York Cumorah as the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites. There are dozens of archaeological sites in western New York, dating to Book of Mormon times, that contain artifacts from the Ohio Hopewell civilization (the archaeological and anthropological term for the people who correspond to the Nephites). Bushels of stone weapons have been recovered from the vicinity of Cumorah. Research in the area is ongoing.

15. When the Mesoamerica/two-Cumorahs theory began to be accepted by LDS intellectuals, Joseph Fielding Smith, then Church Historian and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, released a statement that he later reiterated after he became President of the Quorum of the Twelve. He wrote, “Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.” His prophetic warning against the efforts of the intellectuals remains as valid today as it was when he originally published it.

Source: Letter VII

Printable summary of Letter VII

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So many people have asked for a way to explain Letter VII to their friends that I’m posting this summary which you can print out and share with your friends and family. 

Here is the link:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mDizAWGkFDBR26gc9FsWGNPdhmTub3sc/view?usp=sharing

You can also print it and put it inside your copy of my Letter VII book when you share it.

There are a lot of details beyond this brief summary, of course. That’s why I wrote the book about it. I also have a lot of information on the Letter VII blog, which is here:

http://www.lettervii.com/


Thanks to the efforts of certain intellectuals, most people have never heard of Letter VII. At first, they may be skeptical that one letter can make a difference. But when you learn about it, you discover this was much more than just “a letter.” This was a formal declaration of a series of facts, written by a member of the First Presidency (President Cowdery) and endorsed by the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve at the time. In the ensuing 150 years, every member of those quorums who has addressed the issue has affirmed Letter VII; no member of those quorums has ever contradicted Letter VII.

This is the text of the file you can print from the above link: 

_____
Most members of the Church believe the Hill Cumorah is in New York. Church leaders have consistently taught this for over 150 years.
However, some intellectuals in the Church—including faculty at BYU and CES—claim there are “two Cumorahs.” They rationalize that New York is too far from Central America (Mesoamerica) for the hill in New York to be the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites.
Because these intellectuals have trained thousands of LDS students for decades, their ideas have permeated the Church. The “two-Cumorahs” theory is being taught in Church media and at Church visitors centers, but it has never been taught by a single member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve.
The efforts of the intellectuals have caused confusion among members and investigators.
Recent discoveries in Church history reaffirm the original teaching that there is one Cumorah and it is in New York. For example, there is a lot of information in the book titled Letter VII: Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery Explain the Hill Cumorah. 

In response, the intellectuals are teaching their students that the prophets and apostles are wrong.

This summary of Church history will help members understand the issue so they can support the Brethren when confronted with arguments against the New York Cumorah.
1. In 1834, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery decided to publish a series of letters about Church history in the Church newspaper titled The Messenger and Advocate. This was in response to anti-Mormon publications that were disrupting the missionary effort.
2. Oliver wrote the letters with Joseph’s assistance. They published eight letters between October 1834 and October 1835.
3. A section of Letter I is included as a footnote in the Pearl of Great Price at the end of Joseph Smith—History.
4. In December 1834, Joseph ordained Oliver Cowdery as Assistant President of the Church, explaining that this made him the spokesman. Joseph later referred to these letters as “President Cowdery’s letters.”
5. In Letter VII, published in July 1835, President Cowdery described the Hill Cumorah in New York. He explained that “at about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former” and declares it was a “fact that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.” He emphasized that “in this valley fell the remaining strength and price of a once powerful people, the Nephites.” “This hill, by the Jaredites, was called Ramah; by it, or around it, pitched the famous army of Coriantumr their tent… The opposing army were to the west, and in this same valley, and near by.” He also explained that Mormon’s depository of Nephite records (Mormon 6:6) was in the same hill.
6. The entire First Presidency at the time endorsed these letters. Joseph Smith had President Frederick G. Williams begin the process of copying all eight letters into his history, which you can read in the Joseph Smith Papers in History, 1834-1836. (go to www.josephsmithpapers.organd search for “Letter VII.”) President Sidney Rigdon separately approved of them.
7. All members of the original Quorum of the Twelve (they were called and ordained by President Cowdery and others in February 1835) who ever mentioned Cumorah affirmed what Letter VII teaches, including Parley and Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and William Smith.
8. Letter VII was originally published in the Messenger and Advocate (1835) and copied into Joseph Smith, History, 1834-1835, shortly thereafter. It was republished in the Millennial Star (1840), the Times and Seasons (1841), the Gospel Reflector (1841), a special pamphlet in England (1844), The Prophet(1844), and The Improvement Era. Joseph referred to it in D&C 128:20, which was originally a letter published in the Times and Seasons a year after Letter VII was published in the same newspaper.
9. Over the years, multiple members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, speaking in General Conference, have affirmed the New York Cumorah. Elder James E. Talmage in Articles of Faith affirmed it, as have other apostles, including LeGrand Richards in A Marvelous Work and a Wonder.
10. No member of the Twelve or First Presidency has ever said the Hill Cumorah was anywhere else.
11. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others explained that on multiple occasions, Oliver and Joseph had actually visited Mormon’s depository of records in the Hill Cumorah, which explains why President Cowdery wrote that it was a fact that Cumorah was in New York.
12. The intellectuals nevertheless have framed Letter VII as “Oliver Cowdery’s opinion,” characterizing it as a false tradition that Joseph Smith passively accepted. They claim that all the other prophets and apostles who have affirmed the New York Cumorah were perpetuating this false tradition. They claim that Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others were mistaken because Oliver had merely told them about a vision of a hill in Mexico.
13. The intellectuals have rejected the New York Cumorah because they think it contradicts their preferred theory that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica. To persuade their students to agree with them, they have made a series of claims about archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography, and they have insisted on an interpretation of the text that, they claim, makes the New York setting impossible. Lately, BYU and CES have been teaching students about the Book of Mormon by using a video-game-like fantasy map that depicts Cumorah in a mythical setting.
14. Although the consistent, repeated teachings of the prophets and apostles should be enough to settle this matter, there is evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography that supports the New York Cumorah as the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites. There are dozens of archaeological sites in western New York, dating to Book of Mormon times, that contain artifacts from the Ohio Hopewell civilization (the archaeological and anthropological term for the people who correspond to the Nephites). Bushels of stone weapons have been recovered from the vicinity of Cumorah. Research in the area is ongoing.

15. When the Mesoamerica/two-Cumorahs theory began to be accepted by LDS intellectuals, Joseph Fielding Smith, then Church Historian and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, released a statement that he later reiterated after he became President of the Quorum of the Twelve. He wrote, “Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.” His prophetic warning against the efforts of the intellectuals remains as valid today as it was when he originally published it.

Source: Book of Mormon Concensus

Preview of upcoming video with President Monson

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In 2017 the most popular post on this blog was “Watching General Conference with your BYU Book of Mormon professor.” Next week I’m releasing a youtube version of the post.

As a preview, and in honor of President Monson’s funeral today, I’m sharing a still frame from the video that shows young Elder Monson sitting next to young Elder Hinckley. They are in the lower left corner, next to the silhouettes of our BYU faculty who are watching General Conference with us.

It’s an interesting shot because there are four Presidents of the Church visible: Kimball, Benson, Hinckley, and Monson.

President Romney is at the podium, with President Kimball to his right and President Benson to his left behind him.

President Hunter was present, but not visible from this perspective.

BTW, sitting next to President Benson behind Pres. Romney are Mark E. Petersen, Delbert L. Stapely, and LeGrand Richards.

In front of them you can see Boyd K. Packer and just a glimpse of Marvin J. Ashton.

For context, here are the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve at the time. President Monson outlived all the others.

First Presidency

Spencer W. Kimball, President
Nathan Eldon Tanner, 1st Counselor
Marion G. Romney, 2nd Counselor

Quorum of the Twelve

Ezra Taft Benson
Mark E. Petersen
Delbert L. Stapley
LeGrand Richards
Hugh B. Brown
Howard W. Hunter
Gordon B. Hinckley
Thomas S. Monson
Boyd K. Packer
Marvin J. Ashton
Bruce R. McConkie
L. Tom Perry

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

In defense of scribes and Pharisees

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In the New Testament, the Jewish scribes and Pharisees are portrayed negatively, to say the least.

But does that mean they had bad intentions? Were they trying to do the wrong thing, to subvert their own religion, to defy God?

No.

They had been trained from their youth to study the scriptures and strictly adhere to the law, as they understood it.

They “searched the scriptures,” not realizing that they testified of the very Christ who lived among them. Their study kept them from recognizing Christ because the interpretations they had learned their whole lives were deeply imprinted on their minds.

They could not “unsee” their own ideas of what Christ would be like. They had expectations, based on the scriptures. There was a scholarly consensus.

They couldn’t be wrong.

They were the experts.

The PhDs of their day.

And they convinced themselves they were doing the right thing because they had developed their consensus from the text itself.

Can we blame them for following the traditions of their fathers (and their teachers)?
_____

We have a similar situation today in the Church.

Many of our best LDS scholars believe their own interpretations of the text of the Book of Mormon instead of the declarations of the prophets and apostles. They, like the scribes and Pharisees in New Testament times, have developed a scholarly consensus based on their interpretation of the text.

They claim they have the best, most accurate interpretation of the text, which allows them to produce a fantasy map to teach BYU and CES students, based on their M2C interpretation.

That’s because they “can’t unsee” Mesoamerica in the text.

They have, with their eloquence, persuaded thousands of LDS people to also reject the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the Hill Cumorah in New York.


They have established M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) as the default (unofficial) position of the Church regarding the Hill Cumorah.

Because they have trained thousands of Church members to believe M2C–including most Church employees–they have managed to incorporate their dogma into Church media, visitors centers, etc.
_____

When we understand that the Biblical scribes and Pharisees were doing what they believed was correct, based on their traditions and their adherence to their interpretation of their sacred texts, we are more empathetic. But our empathy does not cause us to accept what they taught. Instead, we follow the Savior and his Apostles.

In our day, we are also empathetic with the latter-day scribes and Pharisees who are also doing what they believe is correct, based on their traditions and their adherence to their interpretations of our sacred texts. But our empathy does not cause us to accept M2C.

Instead, we follow the prophets and apostles, who have consistently and repeatedly taught that Cumorah is in New York.
_____

There’s a simple cure for the approach of the scribes and Pharisees.

Just read President Cowdery’s Letter VII.

You can read it in Joseph Smith’s own history here: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/83

Then read the teachings of the prophets and apostles who have consistently and unanimously taught that Cumorah is in New York. You can read Articles of Faith by Elder James E. Talmage or A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by Elder LeGrand Richards. You can read or listen to conference talks on the topic and lots of other sources.

Finally, decide whether you want to believe the prophets and apostles or instead you want to believe the latter-day scribes and Pharisees who promote M2C.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

M2C was not always popular

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M2C–the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory–is the favorite theory of some LDS intellectuals today, but it was not always popular.

In the 1960s, the Church formally disavowed it, as I’ll show below.

Today, you see it everywhere, from the North Visitors Center on Temple square to the splash page of BYU Studies (at the bottom of the page, under “Popular Pages,” click on “Charting the Book of Mormon,” then scroll down to “Plausible Locations of the Final Battles.”

It looks like this:

BYU Studies teaches M2C

Notice, the New York Cumorah is nowhere to be seen.

The narrative reads, “The hill Ramah/Cumorah, upon which both the Jaredites and Nephites fought their last battles (see Ether 15:11; Mormon 6:4–6), is shown here on the northwestern edge of the Tuxtla Mountains in Mexico, about ninety miles from a narrow pass (see Mormon 3:5). Other Jaredite locations, including Omer’s flight to Ramah (see Ether 9:3), are also shown here. Again, these locations are plausible, but not definite.”

By implication (and by explicit declaration if you read the works of the intellectuals), New York is not even a plausible location for the Hill Cumorah.

And, of course, BYU and CES students are taught the same thing with the fantasy map at BYU, which you can see here: http://bom.byu.edu/

In my view, New York is not only a plausible location, it’s the only location for the Hill Cumorah. One reason, of course, is because of Letter VII and the unanimous statements of every prophet and apostle who has spoken publicly about the issue. But other reasons are the geology, geography, history, anthropology, and archaeology relevant to that location.
_____

In the 1960s, the Presiding Bishopric sent out a monthly newsletter titled The Messenger about Church policy, activities, and statistics. (They even published the average fast offering donation for each stake in the Church, setting up some friendly competition).

Here is the article from newsletter for July 1960. Notice the last line: “This concept of two Cumorahs should not be taught as official Church doctrine.”

This is particularly interesting because it addresses the mere “inference” that there are two “Hills Cumorah.”

Now, BYU Studies isn’t satisfied with an “inference.” It outright teaches the M2C theory.

And, as we’ve seen, the North Visitors Center right on Temple Square teaches M2C.
https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2016/12/yes-they-do-teach-two-cumorahs-theory.html
_____

Quibblers might respond by saying “The concept of one Cumorah in New York should not be taught as official Church doctrine.”

Except if that’s the case, someone forgot to tell Joseph Smith, William Smith, Don Carlos Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, James E. Talmage, LeGrand Richards, Anthony W. Ivins, Joseph Fielding Smith, Marion G. Romney, Mark E. Petersen, etc.
_____

Lately, I’ve had people say they are “open” to the idea that these prophets and apostles were correct.

Seriously?

We’re good if we’re merely “open” to that idea?

Maybe that’s intended as an indication of an open mind, but the phrase has a connotation of a burden of proof; i.e., we think the prophets and apostles are wrong, but we’re “open” to the idea that maybe they were correct.

I suppose it’s better to be “open” to the idea that the prophets and apostles are correct, but to reach that point, if we are believing, faithful members who sustain Church leaders, we had to first be “open” to the idea that they were wrong and were thereby misleading both members of the Church and the world at large.

Consequently, I don’t see it as a big “concession” to be “open” to the idea that the prophets and apostles were correct. But, considering that promoters of M2C insist the prophets and apostles were wrong, I suppose the new approach of being “open” to the idea that they were correct is at least a move in the right direction.

Source: Letter VII

Speculation vs certainty-James Talmage edition

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One of the favorite rhetorical tactics used by the promoters of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory is to pretend everything about Book of Mormon geography is speculative.

This enables them to assert what they consider to be their academic superiority as greater authority than what the prophets and apostles have clearly taught from the beginning of the restoration.

Of course, I’m referring to FairMormon, BYU Studies, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, BYU and CES faculty, etc.

For example, these intellectuals reject Letter VII as merely the “opinion” or “speculation” of President Cowdery, who, at the time, was the ordained Assistant President of the Church, writing with the assistance of Joseph Smith, President of the Church.

It doesn’t matter that President Cowdery and President Smith were called and ordained as prophets and apostles; these men were, according to the intellectuals, merely farmers speculating about an obscure hill in New York.

It doesn’t matter that President Cowdery and President Smith had actually visited Mormon’s depository in the Hill Cumorah in New York; no, these men were, according to the intellectuals, merely farmers speculating about an obscure hill in New York.

It doesn’t matter that in these letters, President Cowdery and President Smith specifically distinguished between fact and speculation; no, these men were, according to the intellectuals, merely farmers speculating about an obscure hill in New York.

Etc.
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Okay, you already know this.

What you may not realize is how carefully other prophets and apostles have also distinguished between the certainty about Cumorah and the speculation about the rest of the geography.

This is the point that our LDS intellectuals keep trying to obscure. 

They want you to believe that because the prophets and apostles have noted that there is uncertainty about the location of Lehi’s landing, the land southward, Zarahemla, the River Sidon, etc., that means there is also uncertainty about where Cumorah is.

That is not, and has never been, the case. This alleged “uncertainty” about Cumorah is purely an invention of latter-day scribes and Pharisees who have determined, based on their own wisdom, education, and bias confirmation, that all of the prophets and apostles were wrong.

Former “Missionary Reference Library”

Today’s example is from Elder James E. Talmage’s Articles of Faith. This book was included in the “Missionary Reference Library” for many years.

It is not included in the current “Missionary Reference Library” presumably because the current generation doesn’t read as much.

Current “Missionary Reference Library”

Or maybe it was removed because Articles of Faith, like A Marvelous Work and a Wonder which also used to be in the Missionary Reference Library, both affirm Letter VII by teaching, unambiguously, that Cumorah is in the New York, which contradicts the intellectuals’ Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.

Here’s the passage from Articles of Faith that describes the people and places of the Book of Mormon. The entire passage is taken directly from the book as it is found in Gospelink. The parts in red are declarative, unambiguous statements about geography. The parts in blue are speculative. This same distinction is found throughout the teachings of the prophets and apostles, including the 1879 footnotes in the official editions of the Book of Mormon itself.

Elder Talmage and others mark the distinction with phrases such as “it appears,” “it is believed,” “it is traditionally believed,” “probably,” etc. None of these qualifiers have been used by the prophets and apostles with respect to the Hill Cumorah in New York, however.
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Talmage, Articles of Faith:

The Nephite Nation was the later, and in point of the fulness of the records, the more important. The progenitors of this people were led from Jerusalem in the year 600 B.C., by Lehi, a Jewish prophet of the tribe of Manasseh. His immediate family, at the time of their departure from Jerusalem, comprised his wife Sariah, and their sons Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi; at a later stage of the history daughters are mentioned, but whether any of these were born before the family exodus we are not told. Beside his own household, the colony of Lehi included Zoram and Ishmael, the latter an Israelite of the tribe of Ephraim. 4 Ishmael, with his family, joined Lehi’s company in the wilderness, and his descendants were numbered with the nation of whom we are speaking. It appears that the company journeyed somewhat east of south, keeping near the borders of the Red Sea; then, changing their course to the eastward, crossed the peninsula of Arabia; and there, on the shores of the Arabian Sea, built and provisioned a vessel in which they committed themselves to divine care upon the waters. It is believed that their voyage must have carried them eastward across the Indian Ocean, then over the Pacific to the western coast of America, whereon they landed about 590 B.C. The landing place is not described in the book itself with such detail as to warrant definite conclusions.

The people established themselves on what to them was the land of promise; many children were born, and in the course of a few generations a numerous posterity held possession of the land. After the death of Lehi a division occurred, some of the people accepting as their leader, Nephi, who had been duly appointed to the prophetic office; while the rest proclaimed Laman, the eldest of Lehi’s sons, as their chief. Thenceforth the divided people were known as Nephites and Lamanites respectively. At times they observed toward each other a semblance of friendly relations; but generally they were opposed, the Lamanites manifesting implacable hatred and hostility toward their Nephite kindred. The Nephites advanced in the arts of civilization, built large cities, and established prosperous commonwealths; yet they often fell into transgression, and the Lord chastened them by permitting their hereditary enemies to be victorious. It is traditionally believed that they spread northward, occupying a considerable area in Central America, and then expanded eastward and northward over part of what is now the United States of America. The Lamanites, while increasing in numbers, fell under the curse of divine displeasure; they became dark in skin and benighted in spirit, forgot the God of their fathers, lived a wild nomadic life, and degenerated into the fallen state in which the American Indians—their lineal descendants—were found by those who rediscovered the western continent in later times.

The final struggles between Nephites and Lamanites were waged in the vicinity of the Hill Cumorah, in what is now the State of New York, resulting in the destruction of the Nephites as a nation, about 400 A.D. The last Nephite representative was Moroni, who, wandering for safety from place to place, daily expecting death from the victorious Lamanites, wrote the concluding parts of the Book of Mormon, and hid the record in Cumorah. It was this same Moroni who, as a resurrected being, gave the records into the hands of Joseph Smith in the present dispensation.

The Jaredite Nation—Of the two nations whose histories constitute the Book of Mormon, the first in order of time consisted of the people of Jared, who followed their leader from the Tower of Babel at the time of the confusion of tongues. Their history was written on twenty-four plates of gold by Ether, the last of their prophets, who, foreseeing the destruction of his people because of their wickedness, hid away the historic plates. They were afterward found, about B.C. 122, by an expedition sent out by King Limhi, a Nephite ruler. The record engraved on these plates was subsequently abridged by Moroni, and the condensed account was attached by him to the Book of Mormon record; it appears in the modern translation under the name of the Book of Ether.

The first and chief prophet of the Jaredites is not specified by name in the record as we have it; he is known only as the brother of Jared. Of his people we learn that, amidst the confusion of Babel, Jared and his brother importuned the Lord that they and their associates be spared from the impending disruption. Their prayer was heard, and the Lord led them with a considerable company, who, like themselves, were free from the taint of idolatry, away from their homes, promising to conduct them to a land choice above all other lands. Their course of travel is not given with exactness; we learn only that they reached the ocean and there constructed eight vessels, called barges, in which they set out upon the waters. These vessels were small and dark within; but the Lord made certain stones luminous, and these gave light to the imprisoned voyagers. After a passage of three hundred and forty-four days, the colony landed on the American shores.

Here they became a flourishing nation; but, giving way in time to internal dissensions, they divided into factions, which warred with one another until the people were totally destroyed. This destruction, which occurred near the Hill Ramah, afterward known among the Nephites as Cumorah, probably took place at about the time of Lehi’s landing, near 590 B.C. The last representative of the ill-fated race was Coriantumr, the king, concerning whom Ether had prophesied that he should survive all his subjects and live to see another people in possession of the land. This prediction was fulfilled in that the king, whose people had been exterminated, came, in the course of his solitary wanderings, to a region occupied by the people of Mulek, who are to be mentioned here as the third ancient colony of emigrants from the eastern continent.

Mulek was the son of Zedekiah, king of Judah, an infant at the time of his brothers’ violent deaths and his father’s cruel torture at the hands of the king of Babylon. 5 Eleven years after Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem, another colony was led from the city, amongst whom was Mulek. The colony took his name, probably on account of his recognized rights of leadership by virtue of lineage. The Book of Mormon record concerning Mulek and his people is scant; we learn, however, that the colony was brought across the waters to a landing, probably on the northern part of the American continent. The descendants of this colony were discovered by the Nephites under Mosiah; they had grown numerous, but, having had no scriptures for their guidance had fallen into a condition of spiritual darkness. They joined the Nephites and their history is merged into that of the greater nation. 6 The Nephites gave to a part of North America the name Land of Mulek.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

Futility of focusing on the text–narrow neck of land edition

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I hope that in 2018 members of the Church can finally reach a consensus–achieve unity–on at least one aspect of Book of Mormon historicity/geography. We should all be able to agree that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.

To do so, we will have to overcome a major stumbling block put in place by LDS intellectuals.

These LDS intellectuals seek to figure out Book of Mormon geography by focusing exclusively on the text. This approach naturally appeals to their intellectual arrogance and allows them to ignore and reject what the prophets and apostles have taught about Cumorah.

I’m all in favor of seeking to interpret the text, but not if our basic premise is that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, James Talmage, Joseph Fielding Smith, Marion G. Romney, and so many others were wrong about Cumorah.
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As for reaching consensus and eliminating contention, the approach of these intellectuals is exactly the opposite of what Christ taught in 1 Nephi 11-12. The Lord didn’t encourage us to heed the intellectuals; he said, “Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you.”

My favorite example was the “conclave” of LDS scholars who met to decipher the text, which I discussed here: http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2016/08/the-council-of-springville.html. These intellectuals actually believe that members of the Church should heed them. This mentality is right out of the New Testament (Matthew 23).

That’s why these latter-day scribes and Pharisees reject Letter VII and all the prophets and apostles who have specifically endorsed it.*
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Today I want to give another example of the confusion that is inherent in the approach taken by these intellectuals. It involves the “narrow neck of land.”

Here is a typical approach to the “narrow neck of land.”

http://www.mormongeography.com/the-narrow-neck-of-land.html
The Narrow Neck of Land
The narrow neck of land, mentioned repeatedly in the Nephite record (Alma 22:32; Alma 50:34; 52:9; Hel. 4:7; Morm.3:5; Ether 10:20), is the key to Book of Mormon geography. Most researchers consider it to be an isthmus which connects the land southward and the land northward. If this geographic feature could be identified it would solve the riddle of Book of Mormon lands, and then all else would naturally fall into place. Many different possibilities have been suggested, from the Isthmus of Panama to a penisula between two of the Great Lakes. However, in my opinion all of the suggested sites fail to meet the criteria set forth in the Book of Mormon.

Notice the premise, which I bolded. The author claims all of these passages refer to the same geographic feature. I call this the “unitary interpretation.”

This is a common interpretation that the non-New York Cumorah advocates use. It’s one of the main reasons for their confusion. They are trying to find a real-world geographical feature that fits all of these descriptions.

BYU’s supposedly “neutral” Book of Mormon map
that adopts the standard Mesoamerican interpretation
of the text that is favored by many intellectuals because
it makes sure Cumorah is not in New York

My favorite example of this confusion is currently being taught at BYU to students who trust their professors to teach them the truth.

The professors don’t teach the students what the prophets and apostles have said. Instead, they have concocted an “abstract” map that crams these verses into a fantasy land, which you can see here.

A lot of people simply accept what these intellectuals teach without thinking about it for themselves.

For many years, I did the same. I was persuaded by my BYU professors that we were “sophisticated” because we were working with PhD archaeologists, linguists, geologists, etc., instead of relying on the naive speculations of a bunch of 1830s farmers (who happened to be ordained prophets and apostles, but were merely expressing false opinions about Cumorah)

But then I re-read the text and discovered that these verses describe different features. They were written at different times, from different perspectives, and even used different terminology.

Look at what the text actually says:

Alma 22:32
32 And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.

Alma 50:34
34 And it came to pass that they did not ahead them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east.

Alma 52:9
9 And he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side.

Helaman 4:7
7 And there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day’s journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country.

Mormon 3:5
5 And it came to pass that I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward.

Ether 10:20
20 And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.

We have a small neck, a narrow pass which led by the sea, a narrow pass that doesn’t mention the sea (Alma 50:34 and 52:9 could be referring to the same feature, but not necessarily), a line, a narrow pass described hundreds of years after the Alma reference, and a narrow neck of land.

I’m not saying these cannot all refer to the same feature, but as a rule of construction, a reader should assume authors use different terms to refer to different things. For example, a “narrow neck” commonly refers to a water feature. That’s why Ether 10:20 specifies that it was a “narrow neck of land.”

Throughout the Book of Mormon text, authors are writing from different locations at different times. To assume each of these references describes the identical feature is to impose an interpretation that the text does not require or even suggest. Not impossible, but not likely, either.

Certainly, this strained unitary interpretation is not so mandatory that it justifies rejecting the words of the prophets and apostles about the location of Cumorah.
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You see from the above citations that the term “narrow neck of land” is used only once in the entire text, in Ether 10:20. (Whenever people ask me where the “narrow neck of land” is, I always say it’s in Ether 10:20, because that’s the only place it appears. Some Mesoamerican believers doubt me because of what they’ve been taught, but when they check for themselves, they realize how much they’ve been indoctrinated.)

The term “narrow neck of land” is inherently subjective, anyway. Here’s a great example a reader sent me.

Ron Chernow recently published a book titled Grant, about Ulysses S. Grant. At Kindle location 9161, Chernow writes, “[Gen Beuregard]…driving him [Gen Butler] back down the river to a thin neck of land formed by the confluence of the James and Appomattox rivers.” 

To what geographic feature is he referring?


Here’s a map drawn in 1864 that illustrates the feature. You can see it at the Library of Congress here:
https://www.loc.gov/resource/gvhs01.vhs00178/

The confluence of the rivers is south of Richmond, Virginia.

(As an aside, the town built at the confluence happens to be named Hopewell. City Point, the oldest part of Hopewell, was settled in 1613. Hopewell/City Point “is the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in the United States, Jamestown no longer being inhabited.”)

It helps to see this map in more detail, so here’s a close-up.

The part I’ve highlighted is the “thin neck of land” described by Chernow.

Notice that the Civil War era cartographer (Robert Knox Sneden, 1832-1918) labeled two features: Jones Neck and Curl’s Neck. These are both narrow necks of land, separate from the “thin neck of land” described by Chernow.

By these applications of the term “narrow (or thin) neck of land,” we have three features just in this one area.

I like to imagine what kind of maps our friends who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (or the fantasy BYU map) would come up with based on Chernow’s description.

Without an actual map, and without our common knowledge about the Civil War and the names of these rivers, these intellectuals would be classifying Chernow’s “thin neck of land” as yet another instance of the infamous “narrow neck of land” that conflates all the descriptions in the Book of Mormon text of different features. Our LDS intellectuals would put the U.S. Civil War somewhere in Mesoamerica.
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By now, I hope it’s obvious that the approach taken by the promoters of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory is nonsense.

Actually, this is obvious to most LDS–except to the intellectuals who keep promoting this stuff. They are so steeped in Mesomania that they “can’t unsee it,” as they have said.

And that’s fine.

They can continue to conduct their conclaves and debate among themselves the meaning of the various passages of the text.

But I hope the rest of us don’t mistake their ruminations as anything but what they are: the futile musings of blind guides who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. I.e., they strain at Letter VII and swallow Mesoamerica.

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, I’m all in favor of seeking to interpret the text, but not if our basic premise is that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, James Talmage, Joseph Fielding Smith, Marion G. Romney, and so many others were wrong.

How about if we all, as members of the Church, agree that these prophets and apostles were not wrong, but instead they were putting us on a course that would–and hopefully will–lead to unity and a great understanding of, and appreciation for, the Book of Mormon in 2018.

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* I have previously discussed the various rationales for rejecting Letter VII here. I’ve addressed the archaeological objections as well in several posts, such as this one.

Source: Book of Mormon Concensus