Simplifying with 3 syllogisms

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In my ongoing effort to simplify the discussion about Book of Mormon geography, I’ve been focusing on the Hill Cumorah, meaning the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.*

Is it in New York or elsewhere?

This topic has been debated for decades, without resolution.** The debate focuses on different interpretations of 1) the text, 2) various statements by Joseph’s contemporaries, and 3) real-world evidence. Each of these offers enough variety that scholars are in a neverending loop that is confusing to many people.

This confusion has obscured the fundamental premises of the two positions about Cumorah.

I propose three sets of syllogisms*** to simplify and clarify the discussion. Due to time constraints, I put them in a video, here. It’s faster to talk through them than to write everything out in this blog.
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Below is the first set of syllogisms (syllogism A) to give you an idea of the approach.

I frame the arguments in terms of  true/false and equals/not equals. In the video I explain how the syllogisms are constructed and applied. Each set begins with a premise both sides agree with. Premise 2 reflects the different assumptions made by each side, which logically lead to the conclusions each side reaches.

The syllogisms represent the views of two major groups. One, Mesoamerican, represents all those who agree the Hill Cumorah is not in New York. This includes Mesoamerica, Baja, Panama, Chile, and many other variations of non-New York models. The other, Moroni’s America, represents all those who agree the Hill Cumorah is in New York. This includes Heartland, North American, and many other variations of New York based geographic models.

Based on published material, I think both groups will agree with each point I make in the syllogisms once they go through the explanations. I’ve tried to be fair and accurate, so I welcome additional ideas and corrections.

Important: The syllogisms do not produce a right or wrong conclusion. The designations of True and False are terms of logic, not a comment on the merits of the premises or conclusions. 

The objective is to clarify the assumptions and logic both sides use to reach their respective conclusions, not to say one is right and one is wrong.

For example, in syllogism A, Premise 1 shows that both sides agree that Joseph, Oliver, and other Church leaders claimed Cumorah was in New York.****

This is shown by “Joseph, Oliver, etc. = New York Cumorah.”

In Premise 2, the Moroni’s America approach assumes Joseph and Oliver were correct (Joseph, Oliver, etc. = true), which logically leads to the conclusion that Cumorah is in New York (New York Cumorah = true).

In Premise 2, the Mesoamerican approach assumes Cumorah is not in New York (New York Cumorah = false), which logically leads to the conclusion that Joseph and Oliver were incorrect (Joseph, Oliver, etc. = false).

Here’s syllogism A.

Moroni’s America approach – syllogism A

Premise 1:   Joseph, Oliver, etc.  = New York Cumorah
Premise 2:   Joseph, Oliver, etc. = True
Conclusion:   New York Cumorah = True
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Mesoamericanapproach – syllogism A

Premise 1:   Joseph, Oliver, etc.  = New York Cumorah
Premise 2:   New York Cumorah = False
Conclusion:   Joseph, Oliver, etc.  = False
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Again, I emphasize that the syllogisms use true/false as terms of logic. They are not characterizing either approach as true or false.
The conclusion, “Joseph, Oliver, etc. = False,” relates only to their statements about the New York Cumorah. The Mesoamerican literature uses softer terms such as speculating, changing their views, relying on tradition, etc. 
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Now that this syllogism makes the two positions clear, members of the Church are able to choose which one to accept without getting lost in the fog of rhetoric from both sides.
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The obvious next step is to examine Premise 2 for both sides. 
The Moroni’s America approach assumes Joseph, Oliver, etc. were accurate (true in terms of logic) on the ground that they were accurate in everything else they wrote and said about the Book of Mormon. 
The Mesoamerican approach assumes the New York Hill Cumorah is incorrect (false in terms of logic) for two reasons. First, it is linked to the hemispheric model which both sides agree is false. Second, it is incompatible with the Mesoamerican model.
The subsequent syllogisms explain this logic.

syllogism B
Mesoamericanapproach
Premise 1:   Hemispheric model = False
Premise 2:   Hemispheric model = New York Cumorah
Conclusion:   New York Cumorah = False

syllogism B
Moroni’s America approach

Premise 1:   Hemispheric model = False
Premise 2:   Hemispheric model ≠ New York Cumorah 
Conclusion:   New York Cumorah = True

syllogism C
Mesoamericanapproach
Premise 1:   Meso model ≠ New York Cumorah
Premise 2:   Meso model = True
Conclusion:   New York Cumorah = False

syllogism C
Moroni’s America approach

Premise 1:   Meso model ≠ New York Cumorah
Premise 2:   New York Cumorah = True
Conclusion:   Meso model = False
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Another factor in the Mesoamerican Premise 2 of syllogism A is extrinsic evidence, mainly from David A. Palmer and John Clark, that claims the archaeology does not support the New York Cumorah. I’ve addressed those before, concluding that their work is unpersuasive for several reasons. I’ll discuss those in terms of syllogisms soon.    
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*I have to clarify that we’re talking about the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 because some scholars and educators have confused the issue by means of the two-Cumorahs theory. They have concocted the idea that there are two hills named Cumorah. They claim the one in New York, where Joseph found the plates, was mistakenly named Cumorah by Joseph’s contemporaries. Joseph supposedly adopted this false tradition. This is Moroni’s hill. They claim the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is somewhere in southern Mexico. That’s Mormon’s hill. Any time you see a painting, map, or scholarly article that claims the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica, you’re seeing the two-Cumorahs theory, although the scholars and educators don’t emphasize that point.
**LDS scholars and educators have claimed a consensus on this issue, but, as John Sorenson admitted in Mormon’s Codex, “[t]here remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York.” As long as any such Latter-day Saints “remain,” the issue is not resolved. Brother Sorenson finished his sentence by writing “but any such idea is manifestly absurd.” That appears to be the view of many, if not most, current LDS scholars and educators.
***I used the true/false, equals/not equals form instead of the formal modus ponens and modus tollens form of syllogism. The result and the logic are the same, but it is less wordy.
If I restated Moroni’s America syllogism A in modus ponens, it would read like this:
1. If Joseph, Oliver, etc. are reliable and credible, then Cumorah is in New York.
2. Joseph, Oliver, etc. are reliable and credible.
3. Therefore Cumorah is in New York.
 If I restated Mesoamerican syllogism A in modus tollens, it would read like this:
1. If Joseph, Oliver, etc. are reliable and credible, then Cumorah is in New York.
2. Cumorah is not in New York.
3. Therefore Joseph, Oliver, etc. are not reliable and credible.
****Remember, this is a simplified analysis; I realize some say Joseph never wrote the word Cumorah in his own handwriting, but he wrote little and never wrote the terms BibleMoroni, or many other important terms. The historical record is clear that Oliver wrote and published Letter VII with the assistance of Joseph Smith, and that Joseph endorsed Letter VII multiple times. I don’t think it’s a credible argument to say Joseph never linked the New York hill to Cumorah.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

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