Oliver’s qualifications to write Letter VII

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The LDS scholars and educators who try to discredit Letter VII because Oliver wasn’t qualified to write it generally base their position on the premise that Oliver never “claimed revelation” about the Hill Cumorah.

The obvious response is, why would Oliver claim revelation when he had personally visited Mormon’s depository of records, right there in the hill Cumorah in New York?

There’s another consideration.

On April 19, 1834, Joseph gave Oliver a special blessing related to writing and publishing.

Brothers Joseph, Sidney, and Zebedee then laid hands upon bro. Oliver, and confirmed upon him the blessings of wisdom and understanding sufficient for his station; that he be qualified to assist brother Sidney in arranging the church covenants which are to be soon published; and to have intelligence in all things to do the work of printing. 

Here’s the link to the original: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/journal-1832-1834/79

Aside from all his other qualifications, this blessing from Joseph Smith tells us that Oliver had “the blessings of wisdom and understanding” he needed to write the eight historical letters, including Letter VII.
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There are also some who oppose Letter VII who say that Joseph didn’t really help Oliver write the letters. Here’s one reason to think Joseph and Oliver worked together.

On August 17, 1835, the Presidency of the Church met to examine and approve the book of commandments and covenants, which had been compiled and written by the committee. This took place when Oliver was still writing and publishing the letters.

Here are the minutes:

General Assembly,
Convened in 

 August 17th. A.D. 1835 by the 

of the 

, for the purpose of Examining a book of commandments and covenants, which has been compiled and written by the following committee, which was appointed by a general assembly of the Church in 

Sept. 24th 1834 & instructing the writers of said Book. This committee was nominated, by the Speaker of the 

, seconded & voted into this office, by the whole body of the church then assembled. The names of the Committe are as follows Joseph Smith Junr. 

 & 

. This Committe having finished said Book according to the instructions given them, it was deemed necessary to call the general assembly of the Church to see whether the book be approved or not by the Authoroties of the church, that it may, if approved, become a law. unto the church, and a rule of faith and practice unto the same. Therefore, this assembly was called to order & organized as follows. First the Presidents of the church in 

, (Viz.)

}

present and took the lead of the meeting

}

Joseph Smith Junr.} absent
&

}

http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/minutes-17-august-1835/1

Joseph and Oliver worked on this committee to “compile and write” the revelations. It seems strange to argue that they did not also work together on the historical letters that Oliver was publishing in the same time frame.

Source: Letter VII

Noel Reynolds and authorship

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LDS Living published an article about Noel Reynolds and his article that explains Joseph Smith did not write the Lectures on Faith. You can see it here: http://www.ldsliving.com/Former-BYU-Professor-Shares-Evidence-the-Lectures-on-Faith-Were-Not-Written-by-Joseph-Smith/s/85893

Here’s a key passage:

Reynolds says there’s evidence to suggest that [Sidney] Rigdon was the book’s author. 
For instance, Reynolds’s asserts there is no proof Joseph Smith ever even looked at the lectures, the only statement that he did so was made by a secretary trying to fill 18 months worth of missing daily records from Joseph Smith’s life, with no first-hand accounts of Joseph Smith actually looking at the lectures or writing them. 
The second thing we can look at is did Joseph use the lectures, did he claim them, did he quote them, did he teach from them, did he ever repeat these teachings? The answer to that is no, not once,” Reynolds says. 
Though the author for Lectures on Faith remains to be known on the book cover as Joseph Smith, Reynolds holds to the evidence he has brought forward that it may, in fact, be Rigdon. 

____________

This is fascinating for three reasons.

First, the methodology Brother Reynolds used–comparing the Lectures on Faith with the respective writings of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon–is the same methodology I used to figure out who wrote the anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons that were the origin for the Mesoamerican theory. That methodology led me to Benjamin Winchester, as I explained in my books The Lost City of Zarahemla, Brought to Light, and The Editors: Joseph, William and Don Carlos Smith.

Second, Brother Reynolds looked at Joseph’s use of the lectures. His conclusion, which I bolded above, applies equally to the anonymous Mesoamerican articles. There is no proof Joseph Smith ever even looked at these articles (or the Stephens books they quoted), he never claimed them, he never quoted them, he never taught from them, and he never repeated them. In fact, not once did Joseph Smith ever link the Book of Mormon to any geography outside of North America.

Third, I’m informed that Brother Reynolds is a strong supporter of the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theory. Maybe I’m wrong and I’d like to know if I am.

This is especially ironic because the exact same misattribution that took place with the Lectures on Faith also took place with the Mesoamerican articles upon which the Mesomania scholars and educators rely.

If Brother Reynolds and other Mesomania scholars and educators applied the same methodology to the Times and Seasons as they applied to the Lectures on Faith, no one would be promoting the two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories any more.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

Check your biases – updated

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In the pursuit of a consensus about LDS Church history and Book of Mormon geography, I find it useful to understand the positions of the various groups.

This post lets you see which group you most closely agree with.

Scoring.

You can see which bias is closest to yours by adding up the number of x’s you put next to each bias. See the list below.
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Categories.

Many Church members don’t care about Church history and Book of Mormon geography because they accept the religion on its face (just like adherents to every religion). These members generally avoid the discussions about these issues.
Many other Church members think issues in Church history and Book of Mormon geography are important because of one or more of the following factors: (i) they’ve heard anti-Mormon arguments that focus on these issues: (ii) they know people who have left the Church over unresolved issues in these areas; (iii) they desire to know everything possible about the topics; (iv) they want to resolve the cognitive dissonance that results from the discrepancies between what they’ve been taught and what the facts seem to show.
Based on their publications, I find that most Church historians want to get the history correct as much as possible, but tend to avoid the topic of Book of Mormon geography because they think the issue is either (i) not important or (ii) not capable of resolution with the historical information we currently have.
Proponents of the Heartland or Moroni’s America setting seek to reconcile all the incidents in Church history, without censoring any. They also seek to interpret the text in light of statements by the early brethren, especially Joseph and Oliver, as well as in light of the D&C, PofGP, and evidence from anthropology, archaeology, geography, geology, etc.
Proponents of the Mesoamerican setting and the two-Cumorahs theory tend to disregard incidents in Church history except to the extent these incidents generate confusion and uncertainty, which they seek to resolve by interpreting the text of the Book of Mormon in light of evidence from anthropology, archaeology, geography, geology, etc. They also tend to disregard the D&C and PofGP as relevant to the geography questions.
Former and anti-Mormons regard the Book of Mormon as fiction. They think Church history supports their views because so many details are inconsistent or inexplicable.
___________________
Consensus.
I think members of the Church ought to reach a consensus about a few key issues, based on the historical evidence.
  1. Letter VII is accurate: there is one Cumorah and it is in New York.
  2. Cumorah in New York is the site of Mormon’s repository (Mormon 6:6) and the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites.
  3. The final battles of the Jaredites involved thousands of people, but fewer than 10,000. The final battles of the Nephites involved tens of thousands of people on all sides, but fewer then 100,000.
  4.  Joseph and Oliver translated two different sets of plates.
  5. The plates were “written and deposited” not far from Joseph’s home.

I think it is probably impossible to reach a general consensus about Book of Mormon locations other than Cumorah, partly because the text is ambiguous and partly because there are so many possible locations that it’s impossible to choose among them with certitude.
One obstacle to consensus about any issue is confirmation bias. People see what they want to see. As one scholar put it, Mesoamerican proponents “can’t unsee” Mesoamerica when they read the Book of Mormon.

Advocates of every alternative generally feel the same way about their own perspectives—including the detractors who don’t accept the Book of Mormon as an authentic divine translation of an actual history.

For many years, I, too, could not “unsee” Mesoamerica in the text. But that changed once I learned about a few critical facts and re-examined the text from another perspective.

Critics could say my biases changed, and all I’m doing is confirming my new biases.

Fair enough.

Let’s lay out our biases and let others see which biases they most closely identify with.

_____________________
Biases

Here are the respective biases as I understand them, based on writings, speeches, presentations and conversations. I’ve tried to be as accurate and succinct as possible. If I’m wrong about any of these, I’d like to know.

My bias is based on my own assessment of the evidence.
The Traditional bias is what I’ve seen reflected in Church history publications.
The Meso bias is the bias I’ve found in publications by promoters of the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theory.
The anti/former LDS bias is the bias typically expressed in publications by people who disbelieve in all the LDS Church truth claims.
Notice that in many cases, the Meso bias is basically the same as the anti/former LDS bias, at least with respect to some of these issues.

Put a checkmark next to the bias that is closest to yours.
___________________

Letter VII

Facts: Letter VII, published in 1835, was one of eight historical letters written by Oliver Cowdery with the assistance of Joseph Smith. Letter VII unequivocally declares that the New York Cumorah is (i) the scene of the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites, (ii) the location of Mormon’s repository of Nephite records, and (iii) the location of Moroni’s stone box that contained golden plates. Joseph subsequently directed his scribe to copy it into his own history, authorized Benjamin Winchester to publish it in the Gospel Reflector, gave it to Don Carlos Smith to publish in the Times and Seasons. Letter VII was later published in The Prophet in New York, in a special pamphlet in England, in the Millennial Star, and in the Improvement Era. The question is whether we should accept Letter VII as factual or speculative (and false) opinion.

__ My bias: I accept Letter VII’s teachings on Cumorah. Oliver Cowdery was credible and reliable because of his personal experience with (i) Joseph Smith, (ii) the plates, (iii) ministry of angels, (iv) his calling as Assistant President of the Church, and (v) his visits to the repository itself. I accept Oliver’s claim that Joseph Smith helped him write the eight historical letters, including Letter VII. I also think Joseph fully endorsed the letters on multiple occasions.

__ Traditional Church history bias: With respect to his claims about Cumorah in Letter VII, Oliver Cowdery may or may not have been correct because we don’t know where Cumorah is, and we don’t know why Joseph endorsed the historical letters.
__ Meso bias: With respect to his claims about Cumorah in Letter VII, Oliver Cowdery was not credible or reliable; instead, he was an ignorant speculator who misled the Church because Cumorah is actually in Mexico. Joseph Smith passively accepted this false tradition about the New York Cumorah and perpetuated it when he had it copied into his history, published in the Gospel Reflector, and published in the Times and Seasons.

__ Anti/Former LDS bias: Oliver Cowdery was not credible or reliable about anything, including Cumorah, and he was an ignorant speculator who misled the Church. Joseph Smith passively accepted and perpetuated a false tradition about the New York Cumorah.
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The Golden Plates and the Cumorah messenger

Facts: Joseph claimed he obtained a set of plates, a breastplate, and a pair of spectacles or translators from a box made of stone and cement. Oliver Cowdery described the box in detail.

__ My bias: Joseph translated all the plates from Moroni’s box (except the unsealed portion) in Harmony, returned them to a heavenly messenger who took them back to Cumorah (David Whitmer account) and got the plates of Nephi from the repository, which he then took to Fayette and gave to Joseph, which is why Joseph translated those plates in Fayette.

__ Traditional Church history bias: Joseph obtained only one set of plates from Moroni’s box, of which he translated part in Harmony and part in Fayette. David Whitmer may or may not have recalled the incident with the messenger accurately. Although they are not mentioned in the Title Page, the plates of Nephi were always in the set of plates Joseph originally got from Moroni. Witnesses described the plates differently because they were confused or just wrong. We don’t know why he translated the Title Page on the last leaf of the plates before he translated the plates of Nephi. D&C 10 tells Joseph he has to translate the plates of Nephi because they were a replacement for the Book of Lehi, but he had the plates of Nephi all along.
__ Meso bias: Because Cumorah is in Mexico, David Whitmer was not credible or reliable so he made up or misremembered the experience with the messenger going to Cumorah. Although they are not mentioned in the Title Page, the plates of Nephi were always in the set of plates Joseph originally got from Moroni. Witnesses described the plates differently because they were confused or just wrong. We don’t know why he translated the Title Page on the last leaf of the plates before he translated the plates of Nephi. D&C 10 tells Joseph he has to translate the plates of Nephi because they were a replacement for the Book of Lehi, but he had the plates of Nephi all along.

__ Anti/Former LDS bias: Basically the same as the Meso bias, except neither Joseph nor any of the witnesses were credible or reliable because there were no plates to begin with.

The Title Page.
Facts: The Title Page refers to two abridgments and Moroni’s sealing of the plates. Joseph translated the Title Page, which he said was on “the last leaf” of the plates, before he translated the plates of Nephi. The questions are (i) why doesn’t the Title Page mention original plates of Nephi and (ii) where and when did Joseph translate the Title Page.
__ My bias: The Title Page doesn’t mention the plates of Nephi because those plates were not in Moroni’s box; i.e., they were not part of the “original Book of Mormon” as Joseph put it in his explanation of the Title Page. Joseph translated the Title Page in Harmony before leaving for Fayette because he finished the translation of the first set of plates in Harmony. He had the Title Page printed (probably in Binghamton) and sent to the court to register the copyright. D&C 10 tells Joseph he has to translate the plates of Nephi because he didn’t have the plates of Nephi and would get them later.
__ Traditional Church history bias: The Title Page doesn’t mention the original plates of Nephi because Moroni didn’t know they were included or he forgot to mention them. Joseph translated the Title Page either in Harmony before leaving for Fayette or after he arrived in Fayette because he needed to get it printed and sent to the court to register the copyright. We don’t know where it was printed, but probably not in Grandin’s shop. D&C 10 tells Joseph he has to translate the plates of Nephi to replace the Book of Lehi, but he had the plates of Nephi all along. It’s not clear why he translated the last leaf before he translated the plates of Nephi.

__ Meso bias: The Title Page doesn’t mention the original plates of Nephi because Moroni didn’t know they were included or he forgot to mention them. Joseph translated the Title Page either in Harmony before leaving for Fayette or after he arrived in Fayette because he needed to get it printed and sent to the court to register the copyright. We don’t know where it was printed, but probably not in Grandin’s shop. D&C 10 tells Joseph he has to translate the plates of Nephi to replace the Book of Lehi, but he had the plates of Nephi all along. It’s not clear why he translated the last leaf before he translated the plates of Nephi.

__ Anti/Former LDS bias: None of this matters. Neither Joseph nor any of the witnesses were credible or reliable because there were no plates to begin with.

____________________

The repository in Cumorah

Facts. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others said there was a repository in the Hill Cumorah that was full of artifacts and metal records as mentioned by Mormon (Mormon 6:6). Orson Pratt said there were two departments in the hill Cumorah; one for the repository, and the other for Moroni’s box.

__ My bias: Brigham Young and others accurately reported what Oliver and others said about entering the records repository in the Hill Cumorah in New York. David Whitmer accurately explained that the plates were no longer in Cumorah but were not far from there. Oliver also said the plates were no longer in Cumorah.
__ Traditional Church history bias: Brigham Young and others may have accurately reported what Oliver and others said about entering the records repository in the Hill Cumorah in New York, but it was merely a vision of a hill somewhere that Oliver and the others shared multiple times. We don’t know what David Whitmer meant when he explained that the plates were no longer in Cumorah but were not far from there.

__ Meso bias: Brigham Young and others may have accurately reported what Oliver and others said about entering the records repository in the Hill Cumorah in New York, but it was merely a vision of a hill in Mexico, which these men shared multiple times. David Whitmer was unreliable and not credible when he explained that the plates were no longer in Cumorah but were not far from there because the plates were either taken by an angel or had never left the repository in Mexico.

__ Anti/Former LDS bias: Basically the same as the Meso bias, except neither Joseph nor any of the witnesses were credible or reliable because there were no plates to begin with, and no repository except, maybe, a “visionary” one.
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The Liahona and Sword of Laban

Facts: The Three Witnesses said an angel appeared and showed them the plates, turning them over one-by-one, and testifying that they had been translated correctly. At the time, none of the witnesses said they handled the plates, although they subsequently claimed they did. Joseph came home and told his parents he was relieved because now others had seen the plates. There was no mention of the Liahona or Sword of Laban at the time, nor did Joseph or Oliver ever say these artifacts were in Moroni’s stone box.

Much later, David Whitmer said when the angel appeared, there was a table piled with plates and the Liahona and Sword of Laban. D&C 17:1 promised the witnesses “you shall have a view of the plates, and also of the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord face to face, and the miraculous directors which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness, on the borders of the Red Sea.” No original copies of D&C 17 are extant, and the earliest version was copied not before 25 Nov. 1834. According to the Joseph Smith Papers, “John Whitmer copied this revelation circa March 1831 into Revelation Book 1, but the page on which it was copied was removed at some point from that volume and is no longer extant. For unknown reasons, printers of the Book of Commandments chose not to include this revelation text in that volume. Some language used in the version copied into Revelation Book 2 does not fit an 1829 context, suggesting that version was modified from the original, although the degree of modification cannot be known.”
__ My bias: I think Moroni’s stone box contained only one set of plates, the interpreters, and the breastplate. I also think the Three Witnesses accurately described their experience; i.e., the angel showed them the plates and testified to them. The explanation for the Liahona, Sword of Laban, and additional plates comes from an event after the angel appeared to the Three Witnesses, when David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery, at least, entered the repository and saw the piles of plates and artifacts, including the Liahona and Sword of Laban, as Brigham Young and others described. I think David knew he wasn’t supposed to talk about the repository, so he conflated his statement about the artifacts and plates with the original account of the Three Witnesses. I think D&C 17 originally referred only to the plates because verse 5 required them to testify about what they saw, and their official statement mentions only the plates. This is why we don’t have the original record of the revelation and why it was removed from Revelation Book 1. It was later modified to add the other artifacts because David and Oliver had spoken about them, and they were not supposed to talk about the repository.

__ Traditional Church history bias: Either the Liahona and Sword of Laban were in Moroni’s stone box all along and Joseph kept them hidden (as depicted in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square), or the angel miraculously produced them in June 1829 near Fayette, along with the table and piles of other plates that are not mentioned in D&C 17 or the official statement of the Three Witnesses.
__ Meso bias: Either the Liahona and Sword of Laban were in Moroni’s stone box all along and Joseph kept them hidden (as depicted in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square), or the angel miraculously produced them in June 1829 near Fayette, along with the table and piles of other plates that are not mentioned in D&C 17 or the official statement of the Three Witnesses.

__ Anti/Former LDS bias: None of these artifacts were in Moroni’s stone box or in any repository because they never existed.

_______________
Statements about Central America

__ My bias: Orson Pratt, Benjamin Winchester, WW. Phelps, William Smith, and others invoked the discovery of ancient ruins in Central America as evidence of the Book of Mormon to support their zealous missionary efforts. In addition, anonymous articles appeared in the Times and Seasons during 1842, when Joseph was the nominal editor. Joseph had nothing to do with these articles. Joseph never made a single direct link between the Book of Mormon and Central America, and actually made specific statements repudiating that theory. Alleged correspondences between the Book of Mormon and Central America are illusory because they are characteristics of most ancient societies. Joseph’s statements about North America fit the text and relevant anthropology, archaeology, geology, and geography.

__ Traditional Church history bias: Orson Pratt, Benjamin Winchester, WW. Phelps, William Smith, and others invoked the discovery of ancient ruins in Central America as evidence of the Book of Mormon to support their zealous missionary efforts. In addition, anonymous articles appeared in the Times and Seasons during 1842, when Joseph was the actual editor. Joseph actually wrote these articles, or at least edited and approved of them, because he didn’t know where the Book of Mormon took place. We don’t have enough evidence to know about the geography one way or the other.

__ Meso bias: Orson Pratt, Benjamin Winchester, WW. Phelps, William Smith, and others invoked the discovery of ancient ruins in Central America as evidence of the Book of Mormon to support their zealous missionary efforts. In addition, anonymous articles appeared in the Times and Seasons during 1842, when Joseph was the actual editor. Joseph actually wrote these articles, or at least edited and approved of them, because he didn’t know where the Book of Mormon took place and he expected scholarship to answer the question. Modern LDS scholars and educators know more about the Book of Mormon than Joseph did. Joseph’s statements about the North American setting are ambiguous and reflect his confusion and adoption of an early false tradition. Alleged correspondences between the Book of Mormon and Central America are reliable, especially when we realize that Joseph Smith used the wrong terms to translate the plates and thereby missed the Central American connections. The Mesoamerican models fit the text and relevant anthropology, archaeology, geology, and geography.

__ Anti/Former LDS bias: Basically the same as the Meso bias, except modern LDS scholars and educators can’t point to any evidence directly connecting the Book of Mormon text to Central America or anywhere else.
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Cumorah Statements by Joseph’s successors

Facts: 
Every one of Joseph’s contemporaries expressed or accepted the New York setting for the Hill Cumorah. Orson Pratt’s 1879 footnotes in the official edition of the Book of Mormon specified, unequivocally, that the Hill Cumorah was in New York, while he acknowledged his identification of other sites was speculative, or “believed to be.” Beyond Joseph’s contemporaries, Joseph Fielding Smith, Marion G. Romney, Mark E. Peterson and others reaffirmed the New York Cumorah, including in General Conference addresses, while no General Authority has ever contradicted the New York Cumorah in General Conference.

__ My bias: Every one of these prophets and apostles was correct about Cumorah.
__ Traditional Church history bias: We don’t have enough evidence to know whether these men expressed opinions or were correct or wrong about Cumorah.

__ Meso bias: Every one of these prophets and apostles was speculating about the New York Cumorah and was wrong.

__ Anti/Former LDS bias: Basically the same as the Meso bias, except the prophets and apostles were not only speculating and were wrong about Cumorah, but about everything else as well.

Score.

You can see which bias is closest to yours by adding up the number of x’s you put next to each bias.

Source: Book of Mormon Concensus

Mormon’s repository in Cumorah explained in Letter VII

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I find that many members of the Church are unaware of Mormon’s repository of records in the Hill Cumorah in New York, so I’m reviewing that here.

In Letter VII, Oliver Cowdery wrote that Mormon, “by divine appointment, abridged from those [Nephite] records, in his own style and language, a short account of the more important and prominent items, from the days of Lehi to his own time, after which he deposited, as he says, on the 529th page, [now Mormon 6:6] all the records in this same hill, Cumorah and after gave his small record to his son Moroni, who, as appears from the same, finished, after witnessing the extinction of his people as a nation.”

How did Oliver know that the Hill Cumorah in New York was the one Mormon described in Mormon 6:6? Was he just speculating, as many of our LDS scholars and educators claim?

Orson Pratt and others explained there were two separate departments in the Hill Cumorah in New York.

_______________

Brigham Young addressed this point in a sermon he delivered just two months before he died. He was organizing a stake in Davis County, Utah, on June 17, 1877, and he made these observations. [my comments in red].

“I believe I will take the liberty to tell you of another circumstance that will be as marvelous as anything can be. This is an incident in the life of Oliver Cowdery, but he did not take the liberty of telling such things in meeting as I take. 

[So far as we know, Oliver didn’t write anything about this except for what he wrote in Letters VII and VIII.]

I tell these things to you, and I have a motive for doing so. I want to carry them to the ears of my brethren and sisters, and to the children also, that they may grow to an understanding of some things that seem to be entirely hidden from the human family.

[Brigham thought this was important for people to know. We don’t know if he knew he was going to die two months later, but this was one of his last sermons.]

Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did.

[I’m not aware of another account of these instructions, so we’re limited to this statement. There are at least three times when “Joseph got the plates.” The first was in September 1827, when he retrieved the first set of plates from Moroni’s stone box. We have no account of Joseph being told to return them to the hill Cumorah on that occasion. The second time he obtained the plates was when they were returned to him after Martin Harris lost the 116 pages. We have no details about that. The third time Joseph received the plates was in Fayette. This is the most likely event that Brigham was referring to here because we already know that he didn’t return the plates to the hill Cumorah after the first two times he got them. The first time, after Harris lost the 116 pages, the plates were taken from Joseph. The second time, before he left Harmony, Joseph gave the plates to a messenger who in turn carried them to Cumorah. This leaves the third time, when Joseph got the plates from the angel in Fayette. These were the plates of Nephi, mentioned in D&C 10, which Joseph translated in Fayette. We know that shortly after he finished the translation, he showed a set of plates to the 8 Witnesses in the Palmyra area. His mother said Joseph got those plates from one of the 3 Nephites, but she doesn’t say when this occurred. It seems likely that it was one of the 3 Nephites who got the plates of Nephi from the Hill Cumorah, took them to Fayette, and instructed Joseph to carry them back to the hill Cumorah. Before doing so, Joseph showed them to the 8 witnesses. Alternatively, Joseph could have returned them to the hill Cumorah and then retrieved them again to show the 8 witnesses. Or, possibly, the Nephite gave Joseph the plates in the Palmyra area with instructions to return them to the hill Cumorah. Overall, this statement of Brigham’s corroborates the two-sets-of-plates scenario.]

Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room.

[This statement has caused some confusion, but it’s clear when understood in context. The room found on the Hill Cumorah that matches the description of the repository opens from the top. In that sense, the hill “opens” when you lift the lid. It’s not a magical opening door like the automatic sliding doors we see everywhere today. When Brigham says “a cave,” the term can refer to either a natural or artificial (man-made) hollow space within a hill or mountain. Others said the room was about 16 x 16, which fits Brigham’s description by comparison to many of the rooms in pioneer-era homes.]

He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day.

[This makes sense because the opening was in the ceiling. The sun would naturally shine inside, and as one’s eyes adjusted, it would be plenty bright.]

They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls.

[IMO, this is the same table and plates that David Whitmer described, except he (like Oliver) knew he wasn’t supposed to speak publicly about this repository. That’s why he retroactively claimed he saw these things when the angel appeared at the 3 Witnesses event. It’s also interesting that Brigham refers to “probably many wagon loads.” This appears to be Oliver’s first impression. Later, IMO, Oliver and others actually did move the plates on wagons.]

The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.”

[This is another example of the confusion David Whitmer caused when he claimed he saw the sword of Laban at the time the 3 Witnesses saw the plates. The sword of Laban was never in Moroni’s stone box. I don’t think the 3 Witnesses saw it when they first saw the plates for several reasons I’ve discussed before. Here, we learn it was hanging on the wall in Mormon’s repository. This statement also tells us that Joseph and Oliver, at least, visited the repository at least twice.]

[Note: in the FairMormon article discussed below, they omit the following portions of Brigham Young’s sermon.]

I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things. So is it with other circumstances in life.

[Oliver was not the only one familiar with the repository. It’s difficult to imagine anyone who had visited the repository forgetting about it, but apparently others had heard the same account from Oliver but had forgotten about it. It was to make sure people didn’t forget that Brigham gave this sermon, yet many Church members today still don’t know about this event.]

I relate this to you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost. 

[By now, if you didn’t know about this before, you’re wondering why not. The answer is simple. Our leading LDS scholars and educators (and their students who staff the Curriculum department) promote the two-Cumorahs theory, which claims that Mormon’s repository is somewhere in a Mexican mountain that is the “real” Cumorah. Later in this post I’ll show some examples of how they treat what Oliver and Brigham’ taught about the repository, but you can see this “two-Cumorahs” theory on display right now in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square, as I explain here.]

Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things.

[He’s referring to Don Carlos, Joseph’s younger brother who became the editor of the Times and Seasons. In 1841, Don Carlos republished Letter VII so everyone in the Church would know about the New York Cumorah, including Mormon’s repository. Our LDS scholars and educators think Don Carlos was merely repeating a false tradition about the New York Cumorah. Here, Brigham Young tells us that Don Carlos, like Oliver Cowdery, knew from personal experience that there was only one Cumorah and it was in New York.]

Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader.

[Unfortunately, Brigham doesn’t tell us exactly what things Joseph’s brothers saw.]

Now, you may think I am unwise in publicly telling these things, thinking perhaps I should preserve them in my own breast; but such is not my mind.

[Had Brigham not publicly told these things, he would have taken them to his grave two months later.]

I would like the people called Latter-day Saints to understand some little things with regard to the workings and dealings of the Lord with his people here upon the earth.

[So would I. And I hope you share this with people you know, as well.]

Here’s the reference for Brigham’s sermon: http://jod.mrm.org/19/36
_________________________

Now, what do our scholars and educators say about the repository?

Let’s start with FairMormon. They have an article on this here:

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_Is_there_a_cave_in_the_Hill_Cumorah_containing_the_Nephite_records%3F

I’ve spoken to FairMormon about this but they refuse to change the article or add additional material to it, so I think it’s important for people to know what they’re doing.

They quote part of Brigham Young’s sermon, omitting the part about other witnesses to the site and Brigham’s emphasis that he did not want this account to be forgotten and lost.

Then they make this awesome statement, followed by their comments (with mine in red):

The geologic unlikelihood of a cave existing within the drumlin in New York called “Hill Cumorah” suggests that the experience related by the various witnesses was most likely a vision [This is another example of how FairMormon and other Mesomaniacs keep telling people that our modern prophets and apostles are not trustworthy. I’ll defer comments to the explanations below.]

There are at least ten second hand accounts describing the story of the cave in Cumorah, however, Joseph Smith himself did not record the incident. [2] 
[FairMormon usually makes this logical error. When they claim “Joseph Smith himself did not record the incident,” what they really mean is “there are no extant written documents by Joseph about this incident.” Obviously, we can’t say Joseph didn’t record or relate the incident; we just don’t have a record of him doing so. However, FairMormon doesn’t tell you about Letter VII, which Joseph helped write and which he endorsed. As mentioned above, Letter VII verifies that the repository is located in the Hill Cumorah in New York.]
As mentioned previously, the Hill Cumorah located in New York state is a drumlin: this means it is a pile of gravel scraped together by an ancient glacier. The geologic unlikelihood of a cave existing within the hill such as the one described suggests that the experience related by the various witnesses was most likely a vision, or a divine transportation to another locale (as with Nephi’s experience in 1 Nephi 11:1). 
[Of course, this theory is rebutted by the discovery of an actual room in the Hill Cumorah that matches the description, but let’s set that aside to consider the reasoning here. Brigham and the others spoke of a room. Mormon says he deposited all the records, a point Oliver verified in Letter VII. Because these accounts contradict the two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories, our LDS scholars and educators seize upon Brigham’s use of the term “cave” and insist it must refer to a “natural cave,” even though the term applies to both natural and artificial (man-made) caves. Then they claim Oliver, Don Carlos, and the others who personally knew about the repository, as well as Brigham Young who heard about it, must have been relating some sort of mass “vision” or, even better, “a divine transportation to another locale.” And this happened not only once, with multiple people, but multiple times. And this happened after the angel told Joseph to “carry [the plates] back to the hill Cumorah.” One of many obvious questions is, why did Joseph, Oliver, Don Carlos, Hyrum and others have to be teleported to Mexico? Why didn’t the angel just teleport the plates? For that matter, why did the angel tell Joseph to carry the plates “back to the hill Cumorah” if Joseph was going to enjoy “divine transportation” to Mexico?
This is one of the prime examples of the absurd arguments that have to be concocted by our Mesomania scholars and educators to perpetuate their theories. In my view, this is just as bad as their basic premise that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah; i.e., now our scholars and educators want people to disbelieve Brigham Young as well.] 
John Tvedtnes supports this view:
The story of the cave full of plates inside the Hill Cumorah in New York is often given as evidence that it is, indeed, the hill where Mormon hid the plates. Yorgason quotes one version of the story from Brigham Young and alludes to six others collected by Paul T. Smith. Unfortunately, none of the accounts is firsthand.

[Seriously? Brigham Young prefaced his comments by explaining that Oliver didn’t speak about these things in public. With good reason, it turns out, as David Whitmer explained. Of course, the implication here is that Brigham is not to be trusted; he’s merely repeating hearsay. Our LDS scholars and educators who promote this line of reasoning never mention that Letter VII is as first hand as it gets.]

The New York Hill Cumorah is a moraine laid down anciently by a glacier in motion. It is comprised of gravel and earth. Geologically, it is impossible for the hill to have a cave,

[Here, he insists it had to be a natural cave, not a man-made cave, which is not required by the term itself, or the text. And, of course, he never mentions Letter VII.]

and all those who have gone in search of the cave have come back empty-handed.

[Hmm. It would be useful for the LDS scholars and educators who make this claim to provide a reference, wouldn’t it? Who has gone “in search of a cave” in the Hill Cumorah? When?] 

If, therefore, the story attributed to Oliver Cowdery (by others) is true, then the visits to the cave perhaps represent visions, perhaps of some far distant hill, not physical events.[3]

[Again, notice the questioning of Brigham Young and the others who related the account, as well as of Oliver Cowdery. Purely because the New York Cumorah contradicts their two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories, these LDS scholars and educators want you to believe that Joseph, Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church, repeating as actual events some “vision” of “some far distant hill” (presumably in Mexico), and “not physical events.” This is exactly the same argument made by anti-Mormons who think everything Joseph and Oliver said did not involve “physical events.”]

Given that the angel Moroni had retrieved the plates from Joseph several times previously, it is not unreasonable to assume that he was capable of transporting them to a different location than the hill in New York. As Tvedtnes asks, “If they could truly be moved about, why not from Mexico, for example?”[3]

[This might be my favorite spin of all. I’d like to see documentation for when “Moroni had retrieved the plates from Joseph several times previously.” The only two times I’m aware of where after the 116 pages were lost, and before Joseph left Harmony. We don’t know it was Moroni to whom Joseph gave them before he left Harmony, although some assume it was. But this was not a magical, “divine” transportation event. They met the messenger along the road to Fayette. He had the plates in his knapsack. He was physically carrying them back to Cumorah. 

I realize the Mesomanics want you to think these plates could be magically transported from Mexico to Palmyra, willy nilly, because they can’t otherwise explain these incidents in Church history. But that theory contradicts the text of the Book of Mormon as well as Letter VII and all the other accounts in Church history. If the plates (and other artifacts) were so easily transported, why did Moroni have to build a box of stone and cement and bury them all the way in New York 1400 years before Joseph could get them? 

I’m not going to take the time to show you more examples of the way the Mesomaniacs undermine faith in the founders of the Church, but you will find lots of examples if you look for them.]

Source: Letter VII

Columbus reconsidered

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The Columbus narrative articulated by FairMormon and others claims Nephi was referring to Columbus when he wrote what is now 1 Nephi 13. I think there are other possibilities, as I’ve discussed before, but here’s another thing to consider.
__________________

In 1 Nephi 18, Nephi describes his voyage across the sea and his arrival in the “promised land.”

22 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land.

23 And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land.
__________________

Now, compare this to how he describes “Columbus” in 1 Nephi 13:

12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.

13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.

IOW, both Nephi and the “man among the Gentiles” sailed to “the promised land.”

What if they went to the same region?
__________________

Here’s a map showing Columbus’ route of discovery. Nephi does not describe the “man among the Gentiles” making multiple voyages. He refers only to the first voyage that took him to “the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.” For that reason, I focus on the first voyage.

The green line in the map is Columbus first journey to the Americas. The pink line is his route home. The yellow line is the route of the Mulekites from Moroni’s America. The orange line is Lehi’s route from Moroni’s America.

I think Lehi landed in Florida for all the reasons I’ve explained in Moroni’s America. He may have sailed south of Cuba to get there because of ocean currents and wind, but it’s interesting that Mulek, Lehi and Columbus converge on the same areas.

Of course, the first people Columbus encountered were from Florida (they had inhabited the Bahamas). So if you want to believe Columbus was the man identified by Nephi, then the first people he encountered were not from Mesoamerica or South America; they were from North America, not far from where Lehi originally landed (in Florida).

If you have Mesomania, you’ll ignore Columbus’ first voyage, the only one Nephi described, and instead focus on his later voyages where he sailed along the coast of Honduras. Then you’ll say Honduras is “close enough” to Guatemala and southern Mexico.

You’ll also claim that although Lehi landed on the west coast of Central America (or Chile, or Baja, or Panama), and Columbus sailed by the east coast, they both went to the same promised land.

For me, Nephi’s description makes far more sense if Lehi, Mulek, and Columbus converged on the same basic place in the Caribbean. I even think Nephi’s vision of “Columbus,” which he had before they left the old world, helped him recognize the promised land once he arrived there.

But that’s just me.

🙂

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

The official position of the Church – part 3 (FairMormon and Letter VII)

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I have to preface this by clarifying that I don’t like being the bearer of bad news. I think there’s a serious need for a website such as FairMormon that would be truly honest and open (and neutral about Book of Mormon geography). But as I’ll show here, FairMormon is anything but that.

It’s unbelievable to me that a web site that has spent so much time and effort to explain Church-related issues would continue to promote the idea that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about something so basic as the New York Cumorah.

It’s a shame, really, but it is what it is.

If you go to FairMormon and search for “Letter VII” you get 11 hits, none of which quote from Letter VII except for

1. the Messenger and Advocate page that reproduces the entire newspaper and

2. the passage and commentary in the section below, which is quoted in two of their web pages:
___________________

Oliver Cowdery (Jul 1835): “A history of the inhabitants who peopled this continent, previous to its being discovered to Europeans by Columbus”

Oliver Cowdery to W.W. Phelps in Messenger and Advocate
A history of the inhabitants who peopled this continent, previous to its being discovered to Europeans by Columbus, must be interesting to every man; and as it would develope the important fact, that the present race were descendants of Abraham….[1]
Note that “this continent” refers to both North and South America; Columbus never set foot in the present day United States; he was confined to the CaribbeanSouth America, and Central America.(Click here for maps of Columbus’ voyages.)

Notes

  1. Jump up Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, “Letter VII,” (July 1835) Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 1:155-159. off-site

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Source:Oliver_Cowdery:Jul_1835:A_history_of_the_inhabitants_who_peopled_this_continent,_previous_to_its_being_discovered_to_Europeans_by_Columbus
____________________

This is fascinating for several reasons.

1. It shows that FairMormon can quote from Letter VII but chooses not to whenever Oliver and Joseph disagree with FairMormon’s editorial Mesomania. On the very next page from this quotation about Columbus, Letter VII explains that it was a fact that between the Hill Cumorah and the ridge a mile to the west, “the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.” That passage and the rest of Letter VII FairMormon does not want anyone to see because it repudiates their “two-Cumorahs” and Mesoamerican theories.

2. On the merits, FairMormon uses ellipses to take this excerpt out of context. In Letter VII, this Columbus sentence is part of a series of paragraphs that describe the temptations Joseph felt when he was walking to the hill Cumorah for the first time. The paragraph continues that these ideas running through Joseph’s mind “seemed to inspire further thoughts of gain and income from such a valuable history. Surely, thought he, every man will seize with eagerness, this knowledge, and this incalculable income will be mine.” These were Joseph’s thoughts before he even saw the plates for the first time. However, FairMormon quotes it here as authority for the idea that Oliver was teaching what the Book of Mormon taught.

3. Further on the merits, notice what Oliver says Moroni actually taught Joseph: “He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises  made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigines of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham.” This was in Letter IV, a passage FairMormon never quotes. Oliver uses the term “country” consistently throughout these letters to mean (i) the United States or (ii) a smaller local area or region. E.g., he wrote that the Priesthood “has been held in reserve to the  present century, as a matter of right, in this free country.” Referring to Cumorah, Oliver writes, “Why I say large, is, because it is as  large perhaps, as any in that country… The soil  is of the first quality for the country.” We have Oliver referring to both a region and a nation as a “country,” but neither of these mean an entire continent, let alone a hemisphere. Twice Oliver refers to continent (Savior’s ministry and the twelve) but of course an event occurring on a small parcel of land takes place in a country (region), a nation (U.S.) and a continent, all at once. It’s the difference between specific and general. When you specify the “country” you’re not specifying the continent, but when you specify the continent, you necessarily include all the countries and regions located on that continent.

IOW, Moroni told Joseph that the record gave a history of the “aborigines of this country,” meaning those who lived in the immediate area around Palmyra or in the “free country” of the United States, but when he was heading for the hill for the first time, Joseph was thinking how he could obtain “incalculable income” from a history of the “inhabitants who peopled this continent.”

4. As long as FairMormon considers Oliver as an authority about the contents of the Book of Mormon, note that Oliver continues in Letter IV with this: “He said this history was written and deposited not  far from that place [i.e., Joseph’s home].” Obviously, if the history was written near Joseph’s home in New York, it wasn’t written in Mesoamerica. FairMormon never quotes this sentence, either.

5. As for Columbus, when he “discovered” the “continent” on his first voyage, the first land he sighted was the island of San Salvador, now part of the Bahamas. He continued to Long Island, about 350 miles from the coast of Florida, before continuing to Cuba and Hispaniola. The Bahamas, which became a British colony like the 13 colonies that became the United States, fell to the Spanish during the Revolutionary war. In 1762, the British seized Cuba but traded it back to Spain in return for Florida.

Ironically, Florida is the most likely landing site of Lehi. Columbus came much closer to Florida (350 miles)  than to Central America (1,200+ to Guatemala or 1,400+ to Mexico). Neither Columbus nor Lehi ever visited Guatemala or Mexico. Not that this matters anyway–the Vikings “discovered” America long before Columbus, and the Lamanites living in New York at the time when Columbus “discovered the continent to the Europeans” were still inhabitants who peopled this continent.

Now, compare a real map of Columbus’ route to the one FairMormon links to here: https://pool.fairmormon.org/images/8/80/Columbus1.PNG. FairMormon goes so far as to cut off the part of the map showing Columbus’ first (and most northern) landing! You can’t make this stuff up.

6. This out-of-context quotation, combined with the omission of much more specific and relevant quotations, shows that FairMormon’s purported “neutral” position is a sham designed to mislead readers. Here’s their statement: “Summary: The geographical setting of the Book of Mormon has been the subject of serious study and casual speculation since before the book was first published. The Church has been neutral when it comes to issues relating to Book of Mormon geography, as is FairMormon.
https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Topical_Guide/Book_of_Mormon/Geography

Except, as I’ve showed here, FairMormon is anything but neutral.
__________________

I’ll leave it to readers to explore the other uses of Letter VII by FairMormon. My favorite is here:
https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_Where_is_the_Hill_Cumorah%3F

I’ve gone through this one before. It’s my favorite because of the out-of-context quotation from Letter VII discussed above, the omission of any of the relevant passages from Letter VII as mentioned above, and this line, which is an all-time classic:

“Despite this early “identification” of the Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon with the hill in New York, readers who studied the text closely would later conclude that they could not be the same.”

Can you believe that one?

“Readers who studied the text closely,” meaning if you believe Cumorah is in New York, you haven’t studied the text closely. I.e., Joseph and Oliver didn’t study the text closely.

They just translated it. Oliver wrote most of the entire text by hand, twice. He and Joseph visited Mormon’s repository in the New York hill. They communed with angels, handled the plates, etc.

But because they forgot to “study the text closely” the way our modern Mesomania LDS scholars and educators have, Joseph and Oliver misled the Church and all their contemporaries. If not for our modern Mesomania  LDS scholars and educators, we’d still be walking in the dark, thanks to Joseph and Oliver.

Or, as I believe, it’s the other way around. Joseph and Oliver were specific, declarative, and unequivocal because they knew, from personal experience, that the repository was in the New York hill. Meanwhile, our Mesomania LDS scholars and educators are trying to confuse people and characterize Joseph and Oliver as ignorant speculators who misled the Church.

By now, readers of this blog also know all about the phony Mesomania “requirements” set up for Cumorah.

And this is how our Mesomania scholars present “the official position of the Church.”

______________________

If anyone finds anything “neutral” about Book of Mormon geography on the FairMormon site, please send it to me ASAP. There’s always a chance for an editorial change at FairMormon. A slim chance, but I’d like to know about it if and when it happens.

As always, I’m eager to correct any errors on this or any other posts the moment anyone brings them to my attention.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

the deleware Nation of Lamanites

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Oliver Cowdery wrote a letter dated April 8, 1831, from Jackson County, Missouri, to the Saints in Kirtland. He described some of the events of the mission to the Lamanites.

I think everyone agrees that “early” members of the Church believed the American Indians in the U.S. and its territories were Lamanites. Here, Oliver refers to the Delaware Indians as the “deleware Nation of Lamanites.”

That fits pretty well with what the Lord said in D&C 28, 30 and 32.
_______________

Here is a short history of the Delaware nation:

The historically Algonquian-speaking Delaware refer to themselves as Lenni Lenape. At contact, in the early 17th century, the tribe lived along the Delaware River, named for Lord de la Warr,[4] territory in lower present-day New York state and eastern New Jersey, and western Long Island
The Delaware nation was the first to sign a treaty with the new United States. They signed the treaty on the 17th September 1778. Despite the treaty, the Delaware were forced to cede their Eastern lands and moved first to Ohio, later Indiana(Plainfield), Missouri, Kansas, and Indian Territory. The ancestors of the Delaware Nation, following a different migration route, settled in Anadarko. Other Delaware bands moved north with the Iroquois after the American Revolutionary War to form two reserves in Ontario, Canada.[4]
Traditionally the Delaware were divided into the Munsee, Unami, and Unalachtigo, three social divisions determined by language and location… 

__________________

Among other things, Oliver wrote:

“I this day received heard from the deleware Nation of Lamanites by the man who is employed by government a smith for that Nation he believes the truth and says he tha[n]ks God he does believe and also says that he shall shortly be baptized which I pray God may be the case for truly my brethren he is a man he also says that we have put more into the lamenites during the short time we we were permited to be with them (which was but a few days[)] then all the devels in the infernal pit and and and all the men on earth can get out of them in four generations he tells me that, that evry Nation have now the name of Nephy who is the son of Nephi & handed down to this very generation, there is only a part of that Nation here now but the remainder are expected this spring the principle chief says he believes evry word of the Book & there are many <more> in the Nation who believe and we understand there are many among the Shawnees who also believe & we trust that when the Lord shall open the <our> way we shall have glorious times for truly my brethren my heart sorrows for them for they are cast out & dispised and know not the God in whom they should trust we have traveld about in this country considerable and proclaimed repentence and very <many> are very anxious serious & honest.”

You can see the entire letter here:

http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-from-oliver-cowdery-8-april-1831/1

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

The official position of the Church – part 2

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FairMormon is a group that does a lot of good by answering questions and assembling references and resources. But their editorial position is full-fledged Mesomania, and they employ clever techniques to promote their two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories.

Which is why I can’t recommend FairMormon to anyone who has questions.

They also tend to make authoritative statements on behalf of the Church while they omit inconvenient sources and use sophistry to mislead readers, at least in my opinion. I’ve told them about my concerns but they’ve completely ignored them.

Here’s an example from their web page: “the Church has no official geography. No revelatory basis exists for any geographical scheme outside of the Book of Mormon text itself.”

That’s quite a statement to make about the D&C and Oliver’s historical letters, many of which describe heavenly visitations but, according to FairMormon, are not “revelatory.”

This FairMormon web page establishes the FairMormon/Mesomaniac position that an anonymous fax, plagiarized from an article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, overturns the explicit statements of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, all of their contemporaries, and other modern prophets and apostles who have spoken on the issue of one Cumorah in New York, including in General Conference.

See what you think after you go through this analysis.

I’m going to post their page below with my comments in red.
________________________________________

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_Did_the_First_Presidency_identify_the_New_York_%22Hill_Cumorah%22_as_the_site_of_the_Nephite_final_battles%3F

Question: Did the First Presidency identify the New York “Hill Cumorah” as the site of the Nephite final battles? Of course, the answer is unequivocally yes. Joseph was President of the Church and Oliver was Assistant President at the time they wrote and published Letter VII. But FairMormon won’t tell you that. Instead, they focus on an obscure letter written in modern times, as you’re about to see. 

The First Presidency’s secretary apparently answered a question according to his own understanding – No revelatory basis exists for this position. Notice how FairMormon characterizes Letter VII as not “revelatory” without informing readers that the letter even exists, let alone that Joseph and Oliver wrote it, that Joseph made sure every member of the Church in his day had access to it, that all of his contemporaries accepted it, and that no Church leader has contradicted it since. 

The First Presidency’s secretary apparently answered a question according to his own understanding, [consistent with Letter VII and multiple talks in General Conference] and then at the direction of the First Presidency later clarified/corrected his statement to indicate that while many Latter-day Saints have expressed opinions about the location of Cumorah (or other Book of Mormongeography issues), the Church has no official geography. No revelatory basis exists for any geographical scheme outside of the Book of Mormon text itself. [Emphasis mine. Remember this when we see what members of the First Presidency have actually said about Cumorah.] 

A letter from the Secretary to the First Presidency said that “that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon”

In 1990, F. Michael Watson (secretary to the First Presidency) sent a letter to a questioner which read as follows:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Office of the First Presidency
Salt Lake City, Utah 84150
October 16, 1990
Bishop Darrel L. Brooks
Moore Ward
Oklahoma City Oklahoma South Stake
1000 Windemere
Moore, OK 73160
Dear Bishop Brooks:
I have been asked to forward to you for acknowledgment and handling the enclosed copy of a letter to President Gordon B. Hinckley from Ronnie Sparks of your ward. Brother Sparks inquired about the location of the Hill Cumorah mentioned in the Book of Mormon, where the last battle between the Nephites and Lamanites took place.
The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities, [emphasis mine, because this includes Letter VII and the writings of all of Joseph’s contemporaries and every modern prophet and apostle since who has formally addressed the question] that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon.
The Brethren appreciate your assistance in responding to this inquiry, and asked that you convey to Brother Sparks their commendation for his gospel study.
Sincerely yours,
(signed)
F. Michael Watson
Secretary to the First Presidency
[This letter is clear and factual. Among the General Authorities who have written and spoken about this are Oliver Cowdery (with the assistance and approval of Joseph Smith), all of their contemporaries, including Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and others, Joseph Fielding Smith, Anthony W. Ivins, Marion G. Romney, and Mark E. Peterson. At the same time, no modern prophet or apostle has ever said Cumorah is anywhere else.]

Letter from F. Michael Watson sent 16 October 1990.

Two statements [they’re really one statement, as you’ll see] made available within the next three years clarified the Church’s opinion on the matter

It is apparent that Bro. Watson seems to have been speaking on his own understanding of the matter, and not as an official declaration of Church policy. [Because he referred to the writings of the Church leaders listed above, Bro. Watson was not speaking for himself. FairMormon takes the position that the statements of these prophets and apostles, including those made in General Conference, are not official Church policy because FairMormon believes on its own authority that Cumorah cannot be in New York. Why? Because FairMormon thinks Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church when they wrote and endorsed Letter VII.] 


Two statements made available within the next three years clarified the Church’s opinion on the matter. The first was the publication of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Although not an official statement of Church policy, two members of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elders Oaks and Maxwell, served as advisers during the production of the Encyclopedia. [Look at the logic here. Elder Watson referred to specific statements made by Joseph and Oliver, as well as others made in General Conference, including by members of the First Presidency. According to FairMormon, none of those constitute official statements. However, a self-serving article that made its way into the Encyclopedia of Mormonism is supposed to reflect the official position of the Church. (Although FairMormon also says it is “not an official statement of Church policy,” their claim that there is no official position on Cumorah is based on this article.) I say the article is self-serving because it was written by David Palmer, who wrote the book In Search of Cumorah that certainly reflects one form of official position–the official position of the Mesomaniacs. Does anyone think Elders Oaks and Maxwell realized they were conferring official policy status onto Palmer’s book by allowing this article to be published in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (assuming they even read it)?]   Thus, [this word carries a lot of weight here] we have the following statement published in 1992:

In 1928 the Church purchased the western New York hill and in 1935 erected a monument recognizing the visit of the angel Moroni (see Angel Moroni Statue). A visitors center was later built at the base of the hill. Each summer since 1937, the Church has staged the Cumorah Pageant at this site. Entitled America’s Witness for Christ, it depicts important events from Book of Mormon history. This annual pageant has reinforced the common assumption that Moroni buried the plates of Mormon in the same hill where his father had buried the other plates,

[The rhetoric here is clever. First, as I’ve mentioned, the entry in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism was written by David Palmer, who cites his own book as authority (FairMormon omits the citation at the end of the article, of course, possibly because they’re starting to realize how ridiculous the citation cartel is, and this entry on Cumorah is one of the most blatant examples of that.) Nowhere in Palmer’s article does he even mention Letter VII, despite it’s being the most explicit and unambiguous statement about Cumorah in Church history. (In his book, he alludes to Letter VII IN A FOOTNOTE, without quoting it, and citing only the Messenger and Advocate as if Letter VII was an obscure oddity. He doesn’t tell readers that Joseph helped write the letter and explicitly endorsed it at least three times.) Instead, in his article Palmer writes that the pageant has “reinforced the common assumption that Moroni buried the plates in the same hill where his father had buried the other plates.” Palmer, FairMormon, and all the Mesomaniacs want people to believe that Letter VII, which declared the New York Cumorah to be a fact, written by the Assistant President of the Church with the full approval of Joseph Smith, is nothing more that an expression of a “common assumption” that was wrong. This is how these Mesomaniacs are teaching that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah being in New York.]

thus equating this New York hill with the Book of Mormon Cumorah. Because the New York site does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Book of Mormon geography, 

[This statement is based on Palmer’s imaginary list of requirements, set forth in his book and designed to fit Mesoamerica, that include the necessity for volcanoes that never even appear in the Book of Mormon. His requirements also include this: “the hill must be large enough to provide a view of hundreds of thousands of bodies.” This is the same claim made by anti-Mormon critics, of course. But the text–and Letter VII itself–explain there were only “thousands” of Jaredites and “tens of thousands” of Nephites/Lamanites killed at Cumorah. Not “hundreds of thousands” (or millions). 

FairMormon wants you to believe that the Brethren take the official position that the Hill Cumorah in New York (labeled as “the New York site”) cannot possibly be what Joseph and Oliver said it was. It’s yet another way of telling the world that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church. And yet, when you go through the actual text and compare it to the archaeology, anthropology, geology and geography, the New York Cumorah fits nicely.]

some Latter-day Saints have looked for other possible explanations and locations, including Mesoamerica. [Notice how only one alternative is even mentioned, and no surprise, it’s Mesoamerica. This is how the Mesomaniacs have managed to infiltrate the Church, by suppressing information (Letter VII) and censoring any alternatives to their own theories.] Although some have identified possible sites that may seem to fit better (Palmer), [there’s his self-serving citation to himself that FairMormon wants you to believe Elders Oaks and Maxwell specifically approved] there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site that has been suggested.

—David A. Palmer, “Cumorah” in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

The Secretary to the First Presidency later clarified his earlier statement: “there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site”

On April 23, 1993, F. Michael Watson arranged for a clarification letter after a discussion with a FARMS staffer. The text is similar and consistent with [a nice euphemism; It was actually plagiarized from the article by just reordering some sentences] what was published in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism the previous year:
The Church emphasizes the doctrinal and historical value of the Book of Mormon, not its geography. While some Latter-day Saints have looked for possible locations and explanations [for Book of Mormon geography] because the New York Hill Cumorah does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Cumorah, there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site.[1]
Since the text of this letter was published in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, some critics have charged the FARMS authors with either manipulating the Church into sending the letter, or forging the letter text altogether. [Notice they never provide a copy of this letter. Maybe one exists. If so, plenty of people would like to see it. It’s exceptionally strange that the author of an article would claim to quote a letter that he does not possess and cannot explain who does possess it. Meanwhile, the actual letter from Elder Watson that started all of this does exist, as they show in this web page.]
Matt Roper of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship located a faxed copy of the same [how do we know it’s the “same” if we don’t have the original letter? Remember, this fax is plagiarized from Palmer’s EOM article] statement sent from the Office of the First Presidency, along with its cover page, and sent FAIR a copy with permission to post it. The 1993 fax was sent by Senior Executive Secretary for the Office of the First Presidency, Carla Ogden, to Brent Hall of FARMS. (Sister Ogden continues to serve in this position as of 2009). The text of the fax matches exactly the text reported to have been in the response by Watson as described in the FARMS Review. The cover letter reads as follows:
I thought you would be interested in this FAX from Michael Watson, secretary to the First Presidency. [Except Elder Watson’s name appears nowhere on the fax.] We have been receiving a number of questions from the Oklahoma, Texas area where anti-Mormons [This is exactly the problem. Anti-Mormons frequently point out that our own LDS scholars claim Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church. That is why it is critical that this issue be resolved, and I think it should be resolved by reaffirming what Joseph and Oliver said from the beginning.] are using a letter from Brother Watson to a Bishop where Brother Watson said that the Church supports only one location for Cumorah, and that is the New York location. [I’ve looked but have been unable to find a single instance of a Church leader repudiating Letter VII. Instead, I’ve only found multiple confirmations of what Joseph and Oliver said.] I talked with him on the phone the other day and told him of the questions that were coming to us. He responded that the First Presidency would like to clear up that Issue and he would FAX me with that clarification. [Maybe this is an accurate 

Thanks 

[signed] Brent [Hall]

[The fax says nothing about Elder Watson. It is nothing more than a plagiarized excerpt from the Palmer article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. FairMormon wants us to believe that this essentially anonymous, plagiarized fax constitutes official Church policy that overrules every statement by the modern prophets and apostles, starting with Joseph and Oliver, including those made in General Conference by members of the First Presidency. If you want to believe this is how the Church reveals official policy, feel free to do so. I’m, shall we say, skeptical.] 

Fax from the Office of the First Presidency to FARMS dated April 23, 1993.

(Phone and numbers have been redacted from these scans; they are otherwise unaltered. The top of the First Presidency’s fax had “Apr 23 ’93 12:25 PM FIRST PRESIDENCY SLC P.1” in fainter letters applied by the receiving fax, which does not appear on the scan.)

Notes

  1. Jump up Correspondence from Michael Watson, Office of the First Presidency, 23 April 1993. Cited with commentary in William J. Hamblin, “Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993): 161–197. wiki off-site GL direct link

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

Win win solutions

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The impediments of cognitive dissonance make reaching a consensus about Book of Mormon geography difficult. Today I propose another way to look at the issue.

The first hurdle involves the Hill Cumorah; i.e., some think there is one Cumorah and it is New York.. That’s what I think.

Others think the New York Cumorah is a false tradition, and that the “real” Cumorah is in Mexico, Baja, Panama, Chile, etc.

Originally, I thought Letter VII would eliminate this hurdle because I thought all LDS supported and believed what Oliver Cowdery taught. He was the Assistant President of the Church, one of the Three Witnesses, and claimed to have actually visited Mormon’s repository in the New York Hill Cumorah. Joseph Smith helped Oliver write Letter VII and explicitly endorsed it multiple times. Plus, all of their contemporaries and every modern prophet and apostle who has addressed the issue agreed with Joseph and Oliver. None have disagreed with Joseph and Oliver about the New York Cumorah.

Nevertheless, proponents of the non-New York Cumorah settings reject Letter VII and all the related teachings.

Instead of being a unifying document, Letter VII has become a major hurdle.

How to resolve this?
___________________

Recently Book of Mormon Central commented on the lost 116 pages, posting the question, “What if Martin Harris didn’t lose all of the 116 pages?”

https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/what-if-martin-harris-didn%E2%80%99t-lose-all-of-the-116-pages

I agree with the Lyon/Minson approach in the article, but let’s consider a related question: “What if the 116 pages were recovered?”

That may never happen, but as a thought experiment, what do you think is most likely, just from what we know now?

The 116 pages covered the first 400 years of Nephite history, roughly, so they wouldn’t have mentioned Cumorah (unless Mormon inserted editorial comments about the future and/or comments about the Jaredites). Nevertheless, the 116 pages likely gave more information about geography than the replacement from the plates of Nephi (which focused more on prophecy). Maybe they contained maps copied from the plates, which explains why Mormon’s geographical references were so vague. He wouldn’t have had to explain where various cities were if he included a map or two.

And we have the account of the person who heard someone read the 116 pages before they vanished, which I addressed in a previous post, who claimed they involved the Indian mounds. Plus we have Joseph’s sermon in Nauvoo that refers to the sacred burial mounds as mentioned in the Book of Mormon, except that’s not in our current Book of Mormon. Most likely, he was remembering what was in the 116 pages. Possibly the 116 pages gave more information about the plains of the Nephites that Joseph identified in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

With this in mind, do you think it’s likely that Joseph translated the 116 pages and remained confused and ignorant about Book of Mormon geography?

Do you think it’s likely that he and Oliver Cowdery would have written and endorsed Letter VII if they knew from the 116 pages that the first 400 years of Nephite history took place in Central America, Baja, or Chile?
________________

Anything is possible, but I think it is most likely that the 116 pages described the North American setting that Joseph and Oliver believed and taught. D&C 28, 30 and 32 tell us the Indian tribes in New York and Ohio were definitely Lamanites. Joseph said the remnant were the Indians living in this country, etc.

For these reasons and others, wouldn’t it make more sense for LDS scholars and educators to at least acknowledge multiple working hypotheses?

Why not have BYU Studies, Book of Mormon Central, BMAF, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, and the rest present multiple hypothesis about Book of Mormon geography?

I’ve been asking for this for years, as have others, with no response except refusal.

This would be an important first step toward academic freedom on this topic. It would introduce a tremendous amount of flexibility and openness that would give members of the Church options.

Currently, members are faced with the “consensus” that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah. That’s not a proposition most members willingly accept. It introduces tremendous cognitive dissonance, especially when Church media and LDS scholars and educators teach it so openly and pervasively.

In my view, Mesomania does a disservice not only to Joseph and Oliver but to every LDS educator who teaches it.

This includes every LDS educator who teaches the so-called “abstract map” of Book of Mormon geography developed at BYU, which is pure Mesomania in disguise because they use the traditional Mesoamerican interpretations, but just turn the map 90 degrees clockwise. (Actually, I think it’s worse than Mesomania because it teaches a fictional setting.)

There are few things more destructive than introducing deep cognitive dissonance into the minds of LDS students, and the monolithic teaching of Mesomania (and fictional maps) does exactly that because it forces students who read Letter VII to believe Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church.

Therefore, I see it as a win-win to open the discussion to alternative points of view. 

If more evidence surfaces in the future, or more prophetic direction, we would then have the academic flexibility to embrace the new information without causing yet more crises of faith due to the current dogmatic insistence on only one possibility, as the issue is currently framed.

Now, let’s see if the citation cartel is willing to do so.

Source: Book of Mormon Concensus