There is potential to reach a consensus about Book of Mormon historicity/geography through visual persuasion and presuasion. However, just the opposite is currently happening.
Tuesday I visited Temple Square to admire the exhibit of two-Cumorahs that repudiates what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught in Letter VII.
This exhibit also repudiates what every prophet and apostle has taught about Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.
Most LDS people prefer to follow the prophets instead of the intellectuals, so how have the intellectuals prevailed in pushing their theory?
Because of visual persuasion–and presuasion.
The saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But for the Book of Mormon, a picture is worth 269,510 words (the number of words in the text).
Millions of visitors to Temple Square see this exhibit. Millions more see the ubiquitous painting of Christ visiting the Mayans, which is featured in the missionary edition of the Book of Mormon, in chapels and media worldwide–and even on the Temple Square Instagram page.
|Temple Square instagram page
Far more people (members, investigators, and the general public) see these images than will ever read the words in the Book of Mormon. But if people get around to actually reading the text, they will interpret it in a Mayan setting because of visual persuasion and visual presuasion.
On one level, these display and paintings are designed to persuade viewers that the Lord visited the ancient people in North America. The scenes are dramatic and interesting, no doubt. Perhaps they may persuade some people to read the text to learn about all these Mayan ruins and jungles.
(This was the same reason why Benjamin Winchester, William Smith, the Pratt brothers and others promoted the same things in the 1840s, but this zealous missionary idea was just as wrong then as it is now).
If and when people actually read the text, they find no references to jungles, massive stone temples, or any other descriptions of Mayan culture.
If they investigate further, they quickly discover that no non-LDS expert on Mayan culture finds any connection to the Book of Mormon.
They also discover that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and all their contemporaries and successors declared that the Hill Cumorah was in New York.
Then they realize this entire Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory was concocted by LDS intellectuals who have trained LDS students at BYU and in CES for decades–including the people who produced the art, media and displays.
This creates the cognitive dissonance that causes members to become confused and disturbed in their faith. It also causes investigators to stop meeting with missionaries.
When we were on Temple Square the other night, we passed a guy speaking with two of the sisters. He was asking them about archaeological evidence. Of course, they have no answer. They are defenseless, because our intellectuals have persuaded so many people that Joseph and Oliver were wrong.
It is well known that people’s ideas are influenced by what they see, even subconsciously. For example, if you make sure people pass by an American flag before you ask them about political questions, they will give more patriotic answers than if they don’t see the flag first.
When you show Christ visiting Mayans before they read the Book of Mormon, they will “see” Mayan ruins and jungles even though the words don’t appear in the text.
But then when they discover Letter VII and all the corroborating evidence that supports what Joseph and Oliver taught, they question what they’ve learned at the visitors centers and from the media and artwork, which they incorrectly attribute to an official Church position that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and that the “real” Hill Cumorah is in Mexico.
Fortunately, many people who have left the Church or drifted into inactivity return to activity when they discover that the bizarre Mayan stuff was invented by intellectuals and never taught by the prophets. They are enthusiastic to discover there is evidence to support what Joseph and Oliver taught.
But think how much more effective it would be to use visual persuasion and presuasion to support what Joseph and Oliver taught!
|Christ visiting earthworks, not Mayan stone pyramids