Group B: Point of view that the Book of Mormon took place nowhere because it is fiction
Premise 1: If Joseph, Oliver, etc. are reliable and credible, then Cumorah is in New York.
Premise 2: Cumorah is not in New York.
Conclusion: Therefore, Joseph, Oliver, etc. are not reliable and credible on anything.
You can see how, once someone successfully impeaches Joseph, Oliver, etc., on the issue of Cumorah, it becomes much easier to impeach them on other issues. This is particularly true when it is LDS scholars and educators themselves who are doing the impeaching.
Imagine an LDS student who listens to his/her teachers insist Joseph and Oliver were wrong about Cumorah but right about everything else.
Now imagine what it’s like for an investigator to have the missionaries explain that Joseph and Oliver were wrong about Cumorah but right about everything else. It’s bad enough for missionaries to have to explain why the Book of Mormon never mentions the jungles, leopards, and pyramids depicted in the artwork inside the copy the missionaries gave them, but imagine what investigators think when they learn that the missionaries themselves don’t believe what Joseph and Oliver wrote about something as basic as Cumorah.
I’ve had some LDS people tell me that students and investigators never ask about this because educators and missionaries don’t emphasize it (or may not even realize this is what they’re teaching when they refer to Central America or use Church-provided artwork). And I suppose that may be true.
But it doesn’t mean it’s not a big issue.
Students and investigators know what the Internet is. They double-check what they’re told. Anti-Mormon sites love to point out the discrepancy between what Joseph and Oliver (and other modern prophets and apostles) taught about the New York Hill Cumorah on one hand, and what LDS scholars and educators and missionaries teach on the other hand.
If you’re a student or investigator and you come across this obvious discrepancy, are you going to ask your teacher or missionaries about it?
No one likes a confrontation. People like to be polite.
You’ll choose to i) accept Joseph and Oliver and reject what your teachers and missionaries are telling you, ii) accept living with the cognitive dissonance it creates, or iii) veer toward Group B.
I hope everyone chooses option i), but realistically, we know a lot of people choose option ii). Sadly, option iii) seems to be the most popular choice.
Frequent readers of this blog know that this is exactly the problem that Joseph Fielding Smith warned would arise as a result of the two-Cumorahs theory. I won’t revisit that now, but I hope LDS scholars, educators, students, missionaries and members generally will think more carefully about this serious issue. If you still believe Cumorah is not in New York, you need to come up with better reasons than anyone else has so far.
In the meantime, think of how powerful it would be if LDS scholars and educators would abandon their effort to impeach Joseph and Oliver.
If they would simply accept the New York Cumorah, we would eliminate a major stumbling block for members and investigators.
People could still choose to disbelieve Joseph and Oliver, but at least their disbelief wouldn’t be a logical progression from what LDS scholars and educators are teaching.
Maybe at that point we could also clean up the misleading Book of Mormon art and eliminate the confusion readers get when they compare the text to the illustrations and wonder where all the jungles, pyramids, jaguars and Mayans are.
As always, I welcome input and correction if I’ve misstated anyone’s positions here.
* There are some faithful LDS who believe the Book of Mormon is an inspired parable, which would make it fiction, but many of them accept Joseph as a prophet anyway. I can’t follow their reasoning so I don’t know how it would fit in this analysis, if at all.