“A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.” p. 4.
If’ you’re asking someone to do you the favor of listening to something you’ve just learned–for example, the North American setting for the Book of Mormon–you have to give them a reason to listen. You can say, “please listen because this is important to me.” And maybe they’ll listen.
So long as you provide a reason–any reason–people will be influenced by what you say. This has been called the “fake because.” The reason doesn’t matter; it’s the word “because” that people respond to. Social experiments show that people will accede to requests even when the reason given is nonsensical or irrelevant, solely based on the word “because.”
You have to realize that you might be able to get people to listen to you if you use the word “because.”
But they probably won’t change their minds.
They know that while you’ve just asked them to listen, what you really are asking is for them to change their minds, and that may be the single most difficult thing to ask of another person.
I commonly hear from readers that they encounter resistance and even antagonism when they discuss the topic of Book of Mormon geography with people who advocate (or passively believe in) the Mesoamerican setting (or any other non-New York Cumorah theory).
People wonder, “What does it take to change minds about Cumorah?” or “How can Mesomania be cured?”
Think of what is involved with changing one’s mind. People don’t like to do it and will engage in all kinds of semantic and intellectual games to protect their beliefs and confirm their biases. (Anyone who has served a mission knows this.)
It’s even worse for academics who have written books and papers and taken public positions on a topic and then later discover they were wrong.
This is why I’m suggesting that people don’t talk about Book of Mormon geography, at least not if Mesoamerican advocates are present. You’ll most likely get an emotional reaction–far more heat than light. They won’t listen to you because they feel threatened. Instead, they’ll bring up the irrelevant objections they’ve been taught such as snow and which way Sidon flows.
They need a reason to open their minds and reconsider their position, but they’ll never do it if they feel you are criticizing their professors or whomever taught them Mesomania. You’ll never win an argument about which way Sidon flows because once a person has Mesomania, he/she literally “can’t unsee” Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon. Even though it’s an illusion, these people literally read into the text all their own ideas and definitions of terms. (E.g., a “horse” is a “tapir,” a “tower” is a “massive stone pyramid,” etc.) They think they are sticking with the text, but they will be at a loss to show these things to you if pressed, which only makes them more defensive.
You have to give them a “because” powerful enough to make them think, but not so threatening that they will fight against it. The objective is to put them in a safe place where they can think clearly and rationally, and let the Spirit operate without the interference of intellectual and emotional objections.
Here’s what I recommend. Instead of talking about the geography, talk about Church history and let them reach their own conclusions.
Church history is not a “fake because.” It’s a legitimate “because.” Most Latter-day Saints have an affinity for Church history and want to know more about it. They especially enjoy explanations of Church history that reconcile contradictions and discrepancies.
However, in the context of Mesomania I call it a “fake because”since it does not directly challenge their Mesomania beliefs.
When you discuss three aspects of Church history, you’re on solid ground with the original sources:
1. The two sets of plates. (i.e., Joseph translated two sets of plates, the second of which came from the repository in Cumorah in New York).
2. Letter VII. (i.e., Cumorah is in New York, which everyone knew in Joseph’s day).
3. The Times and Seasons (i.e., Joseph was the nominal, not acting, editor, and he had nothing to do with the unattributed articles about Central America).
Each of these elements support the New York Cumorah. At the very least, they generate cognitive dissonance for those who believe in a non-New York Cumorah.
Eventually, people with Mesomania will recognize that their theory is incompatible with Church history. Often, they will wonder how to reconcile the two. Some may be content to live with the cognitive dissonance because of their allegiance to what they’ve been taught, their social circles, their friendships, their investments of time and money, etc. But many of them will study more and will eventually come to understand that Joseph Smith was consistent his entire life about the North American setting and never once linked the Book of Mormon to Central or South America.
Next, they will see how the North American setting makes sense. They will reach their own conclusion about the non-New York Cumorah theories.
They may even teach others about it.
Every person has a unique response to these issues; no single approach works for everyone. But you can avoid a lot of wasted time and emotional reactions if you discuss Church history instead of engaging in pointless discussions (or arguments) about snow, etc.
Source: Book of Mormon Wars