A fair chance

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Accepting and living the gospel can be a challenge, so I continue to wonder why we make it harder for investigators (and members) than it needs to be.

The Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theories are ubiquitous in the Church, thanks to the Arnold Friberg paintings and Christ Visiting the Americas featured in meetinghouses, temples, and the missionary and foreign-language editions of the Book of Mormon itself.

It’s not just the illustrations. These theories have been taught at BYU (all campuses) and throughout CES (Church Educational System) for decades. They have been featured in the Ensign, New Era, Friend, and Liahona. They are in all the visitors centers, etc. They are the “consensus” among LDS scholars even today.

Look at what these theories ask investigators (and members) to believe.

1. Joseph Smith was a prophet who translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God.
2. The Book of Mormon is an actual history of real people.
3. We don’t know where the Book of Mormon took place, but we do know that Joseph Smith was an ignorant speculator who misled the Church when he and Oliver taught that Cumorah was in New York.

I realize that sounds harsh, but that’s the reality of what is going on right now. 

As long as this continues, I don’t think investigators (and members who have questions) have a fair chance to evaluate the Book of Mormon, Joseph as a prophet, and everything else that flows from there.

A basic gospel principle recognizes that people are free to choose. But freedom to choose is premised on meaningful alternatives. Imperfect alternatives are one problem inherent in mortality, but what if none of the alternatives available to you are viable?

Let’s say you’re diabetic and the only food source available to you is a candy store. Does it really make any difference which candy you choose?

What if you grow up in a society that presents choices that are mostly “evil” in terms of the gospel, but some are less evil than others? As a society degenerates to the point where all choices are evil, maybe free agency becomes an illusion and you end up with a Noah’s flood scenario.

Now, think of the choices available to an investigator.

Choice 1. You can stick with one of the many beliefs put forward by the world, all of which contradict Mormonism–including the beliefs you grew up with.

Choice 2. You can consider Mormonism.

Let’s say you’re one of a tiny percentage of Earth’s inhabitants who chooses Choice 2.

If you’re already Christian, you accept the general idea of God and Jesus Christ as taught in the Bible. So far, so good.

But if you’re Christian, you probably have trouble with the idea of Joseph Smith as a modern prophet. And if you’re not Christian, you have the same trouble.

The missionaries ask you to read the Book of Mormon to find out if it’s true. If it is, they say, then Joseph was a prophet and all is right in the world of Mormonism.

The first thing you do is open the book and see the illustrations. You recognize the Mayan motifs and ask the missionaries where the Book of Mormon people lived.

“Central America,” one companion says. “We don’t know,” the other says. Or, if the investigators are lucky, one missionary will say “North America, with Cumorah in New York.”

The confusion is apparent to the investigator even before he/she starts reading.

Worse, the more the investigator learns, the more he/she comes to recognize the basic inconsistency of what the missionaries expect him/her to believe. 

Investigator: “If Joseph was a prophet, why would he mislead everyone about Cumorah being in New York?”

Mesoamerican promoter: “He didn’t.”

Investigator: “But I saw this article about Letter VII online and–“

Mesoamerican promoter: “You’re not supposed to read that.”

Investigator: “But it’s right here, Look.” (pulling it up online)

Mesoamerican promoter. “Okay, since you insist, I admit it’s true that Oliver Cowdery explicitly said Cumorah was in New York in his Letter VII. It’s also true that Joseph helped write the letter and fully endorsed it on multiple occasions. But later Oliver left the Church. Joseph changed his mind and said the Book of Mormon took place in Central America.”

Investigator: “He did? Where?”

Mesoamerican promoter: “In a series of anonymous letters in the Times and Seasons. But don’t read those, either, because Joseph identified Quirigua as Zarahemla, which obviously can’t be correct, so Joseph simply didn’t know what he was talking about.”

Investigator: “I thought you said he was a prophet.”

Mesoamerican promoter: “He said he was only a prophet when he spoke as a prophet. When he spoke about Cumorah, he obviously was not a prophet.”

Investigator: “That sounds… doesn’t that seem to bring everything he said into question?”

Mesoamerican promoter: “No. Joseph was a prophet about everything except about things our scholars disagree about. Our scholars have a consensus that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica. That’s why you see the illustrations in the book we gave you. That’s why they’re hanging up at the chapel. You don’t need to worry about a thing. When Joseph Smith was wrong about something, our scholars have corrected him.”

Investigator: “I see… Thanks for your time, but I won’t be needing this.”
(hands the Book of Mormon back).

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

Serious obstacle to consensus-Translations of the Book of Mormon obscure meaning

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One obstacle to consensus is changing the text of the Book of Mormon itself. 

I’ve referred to the “Sorenson” translation before, when Brother Sorenson and like-minded people use terms that aren’t actually in the text. The best known example is replacing the phrase “head of Sidon” with “headwaters of Sidon.” Another is the phrase, “narrow strip of mountainous wilderness.” Mountainous does not appear in the text.

When I recently translated the pocket edition of Moroni’s America into French, I discovered something I hadn’t noticed before.

The translation of the Book of Mormon into French uses the Sorenson translation.

Wherever the text uses a variation of the phrase “head of the river Sidon,” the translation first converts the English into “source of the river Sidon” and then translates it that way.

Look at Alma 22:27. “the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west.”

In French: “les régions frontières du désert qui était au nord près du pays de Zarahemla, à travers les régions frontières de Manti, près de la source du fleuve Sidon, allant de l’est vers l’ouest.”

This is not a literal translation!

Instead, it’s an interpretation.

The literal translation of the French back into English would be: near the source of the river Sidon.

Of course, that’s the Sorenson translation, meaning, that’s the translation that Mesoamerican advocates wish Joseph Smith had used, and the one they prefer. They think Joseph should have written “headwaters” instead of “head” of Sidon.

I’ve discussed this Sidon several times on this blog. You can find the posts by searching for “head of Sidon.” Here is one example:


The Mesoamerican activists need the Sidon river to flow northward because the only two rivers in Mesoamerica that they can possibly identify as Sidon both flow northward. Therefore, they reason, “head of Sidon” means “headwaters of Sidon,” which means “source of Sidon.”

The Mesoamerican activists have successfully educated people throughout the Church about the Sorenson translation (i.e., headwaters of Sidon), and the translator used Sorenson’s translation, not Joseph Smith’s, when he/she translated the Book of Mormon into French.

A literal translation into French would be: À la tête de la rivière Sidon.

The same thing has been done in the translations into other languages.

I’m sure the translators think “head of the river” is too vague to translate, so they put it in words that convey a specific meaning; i.e., they changed the text to read the “source of the river.” 

Joseph knew the word source. He used it here, in 2 Nephi 25:26: “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

Had the Nephite text referred to the source of the river Sidon, Joseph could have used that word. I think he would have used that word. He would have dictated “source of Sidon.”

Instead, he chose the phrase “head of Sidon.”

The Mesoamerican activists think Joseph translated this incorrectly. They think he should have dictated “headwaters” or “source.” They can’t change the original text (fortunately), but they can change the foreign language texts by influencing the translators.

Consequently, unless you read English, you will think Joseph translated the plates using the term “source” in connection with the River Sidon. 

But he did no such thing.

A related problem is the small neck of land, the narrow neck of land, the narrow neck, the narrow pass, and the narrow passage. In English, each of these is a distinct term. But in French, they are conflated into one term, the way the Sorenson translation does.

Alma 50:34 – 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.

French – là ils les devancèrent, près du passage étroit qui menait près de la mer jusque dans le pays situé du côté du nord, oui, près de la mer, à l’ouest et à l’est.

Mormon 2:29 – And the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. 

French – Et les Lamanites nous donnèrent le pays situé du côté du nord, oui, jusqu’au passage étroit qui menait au pays situé du côté du sud.

Notice how in French, both are translated as passages, even though the term passe is the French translation of the English pass

Alma 63:5 – launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward.

French – et le lança dans la mer de l’ouest, près de la langue étroite qui menait au pays situé du côté du nord.

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

French – Et ils construisirent une grande ville près de la langue étroite de terre, près de l’endroit où la mer divise le pays.

Both of these are translated as a “narrow tongue,” not as a “narrow neck.”

Alma 22:32 – 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.

French – le pays de Néphi et le pays de Zarahemla étaient presque entourés d’eau, une étroite bande de terre existant entre le pays situé du côté du nord et le pays situé du côté du sud.

Notice here that the French does not say a “small” neck of land, but a “narrow strip of earth.” This seems to refer back to verse 27, another narrow strip, but it also links it to the previous narrow places.

Alma 22:27 – by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, 

French – par une étroite bande de désert, qui allait de la mer de l’est jusqu’à la mer de l’ouest,

The French translation uses “désert” for wilderness (which means desert in English) instead of a more accurate translation, “région sauvage.”

Source: Book of Mormon Concensus

Current state of the consensus

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I continue to think it would be possible to reach a consensus about Book of Mormon geography if everyone sat down and discussed the issues openly.

But that isn’t happening.

The proponents of Mesoamerica don’t even want Church members to know about the North American setting. This is easy to understand.

As it stands today, there are two basic groups.

Group A thinks Cumorah is somewhere other than in New York. Adherents think Joseph and Oliver were wrong when they identified the hill in New York as Cumorah. They think scholarship can identify the Hill Cumorah and other sites.

Group B thinks Cumorah is in New York, based on what Oliver Cowdery wrote in Letter VII. Adherents think Joseph and Oliver knew Cumorah was in New York because they had visited the repository of Nephite records in the hill, because of the two sets of plates, because Moroni identified it as Cumorah, etc.

I don’t think the choice between these two views is even close. Most members of the Church, when presented with the choice, choose Joseph and Oliver over the scholars.

This explains why the scholars and educators who promote the Mesoamerican setting refuse to present their theory alongside the North American setting. The only way their theories endure is by excluding the North American setting from their publications, conferences, web pages, and classrooms.

Instead, you’ll read 2D arguments about which way the river Sidon flows, which “correspondences” are closer to which interpretation of the text, etc.

But you won’t read the 3D argument about accepting or rejecting Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

The current status of the consensus is this: people who accept what Joseph and Oliver said about Cumorah accept the North American setting, while people who think Joseph and Oliver didn’t know what they were talking about accept another setting (Mesoamerica, Baja, Panama, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, etc.).

IOW, the status hasn’t changed much.

Except that thousands of people are changing their minds about the setting, switching from Mesoamerica to North America.

Source: Book of Mormon Concensus

Zombie geography at BYU

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Some ideas just won’t die. They’re zombies. They don’t know they’re dead, and they are mere shells of living beings, but they keep on coming.

The Mesoamerican theory of Book of Mormon geography is a zombie. It continues to prowl around BYU.

The textbook definition of a zombie is: a will-less and speechless human held to have died and been supernaturally reanimated.

In the world of software, a zombie is “A process or task which has terminated but was not removed from the list of processes, typically because it has child processes that have not yet terminated.”

The Mesoamerican theory is like zombie software. It is dead, but it has child processes that still live, like little zombies.

Here are some of the reasons why the Mesoamerican theory died.

1. Its origin–the anonymous articles in the Times and Seasons, wrongly attributed to Joseph Smith–has been exposed as a historical mistake.

2. Thanks to Letter VII, few people even try to defend the two-Cumorahs theory any more. (The Mesoamerican theory claims the “real” Cumorah is in Mexico, so it was a mistake to give the hill in New York the name Cumorah.) Once members of the Church realize that accepting the Mesoamerican theory requires you to also believe that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ignorant speculators who misled the Church, most members reject the Mesoamerican theory quickly.

3. The illusory “correspondences” between Mesoamerica and the text of the Book of Mormon are really just ordinary characteristics of most human civilizations that are not evidence of the purported link between Book of Mormon peoples and the Mayans.

Although the Mesoamerican theory is dead, Mesomania lives in its children. Once we finish them off, we will be rid of the zombie geography. But to finish them off, we have to first identify them, starting with BYU connections.

1. BYU Studies, “the premier Mormon academic journal since 1959,” continues to promote the zombie Mesoamerican setting, right on its main page.
Go to the bottom of the page under “Popular Pages” and click on the first one, titled “Charting the Book of Mormon.” Scroll to section 13 and read the entries, including 13-161, here.

Presenting BYU’s zombie geography map of Mesoamerica!

2. Officially, BYU is supposed to be neutral about Book of Mormon geography. And that would be fine, in a vacuum. But for years, BYU promoted the Mesoamerican theory, including taking faculty to Mesoamerica on educational “Book of Mormon” trips. The zombie theory was widely taught for decades. To claim “neutrality” with this history would be like a strip mining company suddenly claiming “neutrality” after cutting all the trees and shearing the mountaintops. It’s not neutral when the damage is not remediated. The zombie children of the Mesoamerican theory are present throughout the University (on all the campuses). Besides, faculty are not really neutralHere is a discussion of an article by a BYU Professor who claimed BYU destroyed Ancient (Mesoamerican) Book of Mormon Studies:
Other current BYU Professors have written extensively about the zombie Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon.

3. BYU students are taught to understand the geography of the Book of Mormon as presented by the abstract map I blogged about here: 

It is obviously designed to look like Central America, because it interprets the text according to the Mesoamerican theory. 

That map is not Central America!
Faculty have been told not to link the text to any real-world site. Instead, they came up with this “virtual reality” version. But it teaches the same thing as the two-Cumorahs theory; i.e., Cumorah is not in New York and Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church.  
4. Let’s say BYU finishes off the on-campus zombie geography somehow. Will that solve the problem? 


The children of the zombie Mesoamerican theory live in the minds of most of the students who have been educated at BYU for decades. That’s why we see the Arnold Friberg Mesoamerican paintings everywhere. It’s why Mesomania is ubiquitous.

Whenever you see these books and paintings, you are looking at zombie Mesomania.

It’s up to each of us to help deal with the zombie geography of Mesoamerica.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

If ye are not one

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One oft-quoted scripture on the topic of consensus is this:

“I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” D&C 38:27
I’ve heard this quoted many times to support the idea that people should agree on doctrinal matters, including interpretations of geography of the Book of Mormon and Church history. And that’s fine, provided the agreement is on something that is true.
But look at the first part of the verse:
“Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”
What is the Lord referring to here?
Verse 26 is the parable, but it refers,in turn, to the preceding verses.
Verse 26: “For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?”
In the preceding verses, the Lord explains that he created the Earth, that he has taken “the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom,” and that “all flesh is corrupted before me, and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth.” 
Then the Lord says, “And for your salvation I give unto you a commandment, for I have heard your prayers, and the poor have complained before me, and the rich have I made, and all flesh is mine, and I am no respecter of persons. And I have made the earth rich, and behold it is my footstool, wherefore, again I will stand upon it…. And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me. And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself.”
This principle is so important that the Lord repeats it twice, right before giving the parable of the unjust father.
In my view, Section 38 teaches about the basic Zion principle of equality; i.e., it is not just that some people are rich while others are poor. The Lord clarifies that he has made the rich; they may think they have “earned” it and therefore “deserve” it, but it is God who has given them the gifts and opportunities to become rich. 
A few months later, on June 15, 1831, the Lord explained further. 
“Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!”
The parable of the unjust father who tells one son to be clothed in robes while the other must be clothed in rags applies to the Latter-day Saints who seek to establish Zion. 
The Lord has told us that he has made the rich, and he has told the rich that they must give their substance to the poor. Enabling some of his children to create wealth is the Lord’s way of providing for the poor. As D&C 104 puts it, “this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.”
This is what D&C 38 means. 
And to the extent that we fall short of becoming one in terms of wealth, we are not His.

Source: Book of Mormon Concensus

Sharing posts

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I’ve been asked how to share my posts on social media. I had forgotten about my twitter account, so it was a good reminder.

At the end of every post on this blog there is a sharing icon. It looks like this:

You just have to click on the icon for the social media you want to use. For example, if you want to share a post on twitter, click the twitter icon.

Here’s an example from my BeyondTheRivers twitter account:


You can retweet from BeyondTheRivers as well.

(For those new to the blog, “BeyondTheRivers” is an allusion to Isaiah 18:1, which explains how Nephi knew he’d have to sail around Africa to get to the promised land.)

Happy Tweeting!

Of course, you can also use the Facebook icon to share on Facebook, Printerest icon to share on Printerest, etc.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

Book of Mormon Translation

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I get a lot of questions about how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. I have a section on that topic in the Whatever Happened book.

Today I want to mention three points to consider.

1. Only the Title Page is a literal translation. 

Joseph Smith’s History, circa June – October 1839 [Draft 1], here, reads,

“I would mention here also in order to correct a misunderstanding, which has gone abroad concerning the title page of the Book of Mormon, that it is not a composition of mine or of any other man’s who has lived or does live in this generation, but that it is a literal translation taken from the last leaf of the plates, on the left hand side of the collection of plates, the language running same as the <all> Hebrew <wr[i]ting> language <in general>. And that no error can henceforth possibly exist I give here the Title so far as it is a translation.”

With some wording changes, the same passage appears in History, circa June 1839-circa 1841 [Draft 2], here.

“I wish also to mention here, that the Title Page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated; and not by any means the language of the whole running same as all Hebrew writing in general; and that, said Title Page is not by any means a modern composition either of mine or of any other man’s who has lived or does live in this generation. Therefore, in order to correct an error which generally exists concerning it, I give below that part of the Title Page of the English Version of the Book of Mormon, which is a genuine and literal translation of the Title Page of the Original Book of Mormon, as recorded on the plates.”

In History, circa 1841, fair copy, in the handwriting of Howard Coray, Joseph Smith’s history reads:

“I wish to mention here that the title page of the book of Mormon is a literal translation taken from the last leaf on the left hand side of the collection of plates which contained the record that has been translated. The language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writings writings; and that said title page is not a modern composition. Therefore in order to correct an error which generally exists concerning it I give below that part of the title page which is a genuine and literal translation of the title page of the book of Mormon recorded on the plates.”

Those who have read Whatever Happened to the Golden Plates? know the significance of the phrase “Original Book of Mormon.” It was not in the 1839 draft, but it was in Draft 2. Howard Coray omitted it, but it appears in the Times and Seasons, Oct. 15, 1842, here.

“I wish also to mention here, that the title page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated; the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general; and that, said title page is not by any means a modern composition either of mine or of any other man’s who has lived or does live in this generation. Therefore, in order to correct an error which generally exists concerning it, I give below that part of the title page of the English version of the Book of Mormon, which is a genuine and literal translation of the title page of the Original Book of Mormon, as recorded on the plates.”

This is significant for two reasons. First, it refutes the idea that Joseph merely read the words off the stone in the hat. He was making a “literal translation” from the plates themselves.

Second, it implies that the rest of the translation may not have been literal. I’ll discuss this more in upcoming posts.

2. Gospel Topics essay on Book of Mormon translation.

The essay, found here, is a good overview. Unfortunately, it starts off with the inaccurate quotation of Joseph Smith, which was actually Wilford Woodruff’s summary of a day’s teaching and not a direct quotation. I’m working on an annotated version of the essay.

3.. Conference in Logan.

In March 2017 there was a conference at Utah State (Logan, Utah) titled “New Perspectives on Joseph Smith and Translation.” I had a conflict so I couldn’t attend, but videos from the session are now available. Info is here: http://religionnews.com/2017/05/03/mormon-scholars-debate-joseph-smiths-role-in-translation/

I’ll have more to say on this soon, but I just wanted to give the information now.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

the first question to ask

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If you’re interested in Book of Mormon geography, the first question to ask is this:

Where is Cumorah?

The answer, of course, is in western New York, where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said it was. If someone tells you it’s somewhere else, or that there are “two Cumorahs,” you know they are repudiating Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

For me, there’s no point in considering geography theories that put Cumorah anywhere else but in New York. This also applies to the “abstract maps,” including those being taught at BYU.

You will find dozens, even hundreds, of different maps if you look online. You can assess them easily by seeing how they treat Cumorah.

One of the best known is the one at BYU Studies, here. https://byustudies.byu.edu/

Scroll to the bottom of the page. The first item under “Popular Pages” is “Charting the Book of Mormon.” Click on that.

You’ll find some useful material here, but there is also some misleading material. Scroll to

Section 13: Geography in the Book of Mormon

Here’s the direct link: https://byustudies.byu.edu/charts/13-149-ten-essential-features-book-mormon-geography

This entire section is a disaster, IMO, Look at this one, for example.

13-149 Ten Essential Features of Book of Mormon Geography

These “Essential Features” have little if anything to do with the text. They are pure Mesomania, an effort to persuade people that the text actually described Mesoamerica.

The first one says “A narrow neck (isthmus) separated the land northward from the land southward and was flanked by an east sea and a west sea.”

Of course, the text never uses the term isthmus. This is classic for Mesomania. The text doesn’t describe anything about Mesoamerica–no jungles, no volcanoes, no huge stone pyramids, and even no Mayans–so the Mesoamerican advocates have to change the wording in the text to make it work.

You can go through all of the items in Section 13, and you’ll see how they use this substitution technique throughout to justify their Mesoamerican theory.

This is just one example of how far afield people can get when they ignore what Joseph and Oliver said about Cumorah in New York.

You’ll find plenty more. But you can avoid all of that by going to http://moronisamerica.com/

As always, I’m interested in anyone who can come up with a better explanation of Book of Mormon geography with Cumorah in New York.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

Brother Scott’s Book of Mormon Witness Presentation

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Yesterday a friend gave me a cutout from the newspaper:

You might want to attend, or not. You might want to tell your friends, or not. I’m just making you aware of what’s going on. (I blogged about this already here, complete with illustrations.)
“Brother Scott” is holding these events every Thursday from May 11-Jun 1 from 7-8:30 pm in Sandy. You can get the info from his web page here:
I applaud the effort to make the Book of Mormon better known. I found Brother Scott to be engaging and enthusiastic. Apparently he went on one of the infamous “Book of Mormon tours” to Central America and is on fire now.
Unfortunately–very unfortunately–Brother Scott is promoting the Mesoamerican setting with lots of classic Mesomania. He’s telling people Izapa Stela 5 is Lehi’s dream, that Joseph wrote the articles in the Times and Seasons, etc. 
Of course, he forgets to tell the audience about Letter VII, Zion’s camp, the numerous General Conference addresses, President Joseph Fielding Smith’s warning about the two-Cumorahs theory, and anything else that contradicts his theories.
Brother Scott didn’t want to hear what I have to say.
He’s actively soliciting invitations to come speak at firesides, as you can see here:
I’m sure he’ll have no problem getting invitations, and I’m also sure he’ll have no problem presenting his material in Church buildings because he’s promoting Mesoamerica. As long as you promote the two-Cumorahs theory, you’re good to go. You can even use the artwork on the walls of the Church buildings as illustrations. As well as the illustrations in the missionary edition of the Book of Mormon itself.
But if his audience thinks carefully about his presentation, or spends 5 minutes on the Internet, they’ll soon realize that he, like all good Mesoamerican advocates, is saying Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah being in New York, the plains of the Nephites being in Ohio, etc.
I think Brother Scott could do a lot of good if he would simply consider an alternative to Mesoamerica and focus on critical aspects of Church history, such as Letter VII.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

"From a hill in Manchester Township"

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Even when the Joseph Smith Papers editors quote Letter VII, they won’t identify the hill in New York as Cumorah. The reason, apparently, is that they favor the Mesoamerican setting which requires that Cumorah be located in Mexico.

Here’s the latest example: footnote 5 to the Preface to Book of Mormon, circa August 1829. It reads:

“In September 1827, JS removed the plates from a hill in Manchester Township. (See JS History, vol. A-1, 8; and Oliver Cowdery, “Letter VII,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, July 1835, 1:158.)”

Here’s the link: 


In Letter VII, Oliver Cowdery not only identified the Hill Cumorah as the hill where Joseph found the plates, but he also stated it was a fact that the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place in the mile-wide valley to the west.

This makes it all the more striking that the note refers to “a hill” as though the generic hill had no name and was not a critical location in Church history and Book of Mormon geography.

I came across this bizarre omission in footnote 5 because I was noticing something fascinating in this Preface. Joseph was explaining the lost 116 pages and the commandment he received from the Lord to “translate from the plates of Nephi” to replace what was lost. The Preface paraphrases parts of D&C 10 and quotes other parts but without quotation marks.

For example, D&C 10:41 says, “you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi,” but the Preface says, “thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi.”

In my view, both passages refute the popular narrative that Joseph kept the plates under a cloth the entire time, as depicted in the latest movies you can see on request on Temple Square. The Lord told Joseph to “translate the engravings” and “translate from the plates.” You can’t do either if the plates are under a cloth or somewhere else.

More to the point of this post, in the Preface Joseph mentions two sets of plates. First, he mentions the “plates of Lehi” from which Mormon abridged the “Book of Lehi” that was on the 116 pages. Second, he mentions the “plates of Nephi” which he, Joseph, translated. He doesn’t mention the plates containing the abridgment (the “Harmony” plates he originally obtained from Moroni’s stone box).

At the end of the Preface, Joseph writes, “I would also inform you that the plates of which hath been spoken, were found in the township of Manchester, Ontario county, New York.” This is where footnote 5 kicks in, with the “a hill” comment.

What I find significant here is that Joseph is explaining he used different plates–the plates of Nephi–to replace the Book of Lehi. He found it necessary to explain to readers of the Preface that these plates of Nephi “were found” in Manchester township.

Think about this a moment.

It was widely known at the time and in the area that Joseph got the original plates from the stone box in the Hill Cumorah. People tried to steal them from him. He had to move to Harmony to translate the original plates to get away from the would-be thieves. There was no need for Joseph to explain where the original plates came from–and he did not.

The Preface is an explanation for why Joseph translated a second set of plates–the plates of Nephi. He explains these plates were found in the township of Manchester, Ontario county, New York.

Notice he doesn’t say he found them.

Instead, he writes they “were found,” using the passive voice.

That’s important because it’s another indication that Joseph did not find the plates of Nephi. Instead, the divine messenger delivered these plates to Joseph after Joseph arrived in Fayette.

IOW, Joseph found the original plates–the ones containing the abridgments written by Mormon and Moroni–in the stone box on the Hill Cumorah, as directed by Moroni. These plates contained “the original Book of Mormon” as Joseph called it. He took these plates to Harmony and translated all of them, from the Book of Lehi through the Book of Moroni, including the “last leaf” which was the Title Page. Then he gave the plates to a divine messenger and left for Fayette with David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery.

After Joseph arrived in Fayette, the messenger delivered the plates of Nephi. Joseph translated these as 1 Nephi through Words of Mormon. In this Preface, Joseph is telling readers that these separate plates were also found–albeit, not by him–in Manchester township. (The Hill Cumorah is in the Manchester township.)

It’s pretty cool to see how the Preface itself explains the two sets of plates. Now, if only we could get the Joseph Smith Papers to acknowledge that the Hill Cumorah–the only Hill Cumorah–is in New York, we could make some good progress.

Source: Letter VII