“If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No; I will left them up, and in their own way too if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning; for truth will cut its own way.”
There is enough content in this brief quotation to justify numerous discussions and blog posts, but I’ll summarize just a couple of things here.
I like the way Joseph referred to persuasion. Let’s try some reasoning.
Which of the following two approaches to Book of Mormon geography is better?
1. A geography based on a New York Cumorah that supports and sustains what Joseph and Oliver taught, as affirmed by all of their contemporaries and successors (including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference).
2. A geography based on Cumorah being anywhere except New York, that frames Joseph and Oliver, as well as all their contemporaries and successors (including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference), as ignorant speculators who misled the Church by expressing personal opinions that were false (and, in the case of Joseph and Oliver, specifically identifying their false opinions as fact).
If you think option 2 is better, then you can teach at BYU, write for BYU Studies, and contribute to Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, etc.
If you think option 1 is better, your ideas are censored by the above institutions and publications.
Now, let’s consider the last part of the quotation.
If we have confidence that “truth will cut its own way,” we are happy to have people consider all the facts.
That’s why I cite the Mesoamerican sources so frequently. I want people to know what these intellectuals are saying.
In my experience, once they learn about Letter VII, few members of the Church knowingly reject what Joseph and Oliver taught there.
The ones who continue to reject Joseph and Oliver despite Letter VII are those who are so deeply imprinted with the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory that they literally “can’t unsee it,” to use the words of a BYU professor.
The only reason the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory has prevailed is because our LDS intellectuals have suppressed Letter VII and the teachings of the prophets and apostles who have affirmed what Joseph and Oliver taught about Cumorah being in New York.
Why do they do this?
Because they have persuaded themselves that their interpretation of the text is superior to unequivocal teachings of Joseph and Oliver about the Hill Cumorah.
Our LDS intellectuals don’t trust members of the Church to discern the truth on their own.
We will know that our LDS intellectuals believe that “truth will cut its own way” when they give their readers–and their students–all the information about the New York Cumorah.
At a minimum, this will require the following:
1. BYU offers students a version of their digital map that refers to Letter VII and shows Cumorah in New York instead of requiring them to learn a fantasy map that frames the Book of Mormon as fiction.
2. BYU Studies publishes an article about Letter VII and the prophets and apostles who have affirmed the New York Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.
3. Book of Mormon Central (https://bookofmormoncentral.org/) stops being Book of Mormon Central America and offers its readers all the research and information about the Book of Mormon, instead of pursuing its editorial position “to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex” (http://bmaf.org/about/mission_statement).
4. FairMormon invites proponents of the New York Cumorah to provide material to allow a side-by-side comparison of the two approaches: i.e., Cumorah in New York vs. Cumorah anywhere else.
Based on recent experience, I doubt these events will ever occur, at least not so long as the people currently in charge remain in charge.
Notice, I’m not even mentioning the Interpreter or Meridian Magazine, because the editors of those publications are even more intransigent than the ones I listed…
Source: Book of Mormon Wars