Monday, August 20, 2018

In our hearts first

In my passport I noticed this quotation from Dwight D. Eisenhower:

Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America.

I'd like to paraphrase that for the Church.

Whatever Latter-day Saints hope to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of the Latter-day Saints. 

This applies to every aspect of establishing Zion. Because this blog focuses on the Book of Mormon, I'll narrow the quotation even more: If we expect the world to accept the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, we Latter-day Saints better accept its divine authenticity first. 

Because I think we have to accept the prophets to establish the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, this means we as Latter-day Saints should all embrace the teachings of the prophets that Cumorah is in New York.

Also, because the M2C intellectuals repudiate the prophets regarding the New York Cumorah, I think M2C is impeding our efforts to take the Book of Mormon to the world.

Imagine if every member of the Church was aligned with the prophets on the Cumorah question. That would be one connection between the Book of Mormon and the actual New World that would unify our message to the world about the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

M2C in the Joseph Smith Papers - maps

One obstacle to consensus is lack of awareness of bias.

M2C is so pervasive that most LDS scholars don't even realize how deeply it has permeated their worldview. Like a fish that doesn't know what water is until it is caught and yanked into the atmosphere, LDS scholars take M2C for granted and never challenge their assumptions.

I've shown examples of this from the Joseph Smith Papers before, but it's been a while so it's time to look at them again, along with some new examples.

The first one is a map. You can see it here:

This is the map and explanation:

Notice the heading: "Mission to the Indians."

The headings to D&C 28, 30, and 32, which were the revelations calling these brethren on their mission, reflect the language used in the revelations.

We don't read about a mission to the Indians. Instead, we read this:

D&C 28 -  8–10, Oliver Cowdery is to preach to the Lamanites;

D&C 30 - 5–8, Peter Whitmer Jr. is to accompany Oliver Cowdery on a mission to the Lamanites

D&C 32 - 1–3, Parley P. Pratt and Ziba Peterson are called to preach to the Lamanites and to accompany Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer Jr.

The heading to D&C 32 even says this:

Great interest and desires were felt by the elders respecting the Lamanites, of whose predicted blessings the Church had learned from the Book of Mormon. 

According to M2C, the "real" Lamanites are the Mayans, who have little genetic or anthropological connection to the tribes in the Northeastern U.S.

Yet the Lord designated the tribes in New York, Ohio and the Midwest as Lamanites. To this day, these are the only people formally designated by revelation as Lamanites.

Notice how, in the explanation of the map, the editors of the Joseph Smith Papers decided to put the scriptural language in quotations. This frames it as a folk tradition, as if to say, the so-called Lamanites. Meanwhile, the heading, in much larger print, identifies the people simply as Indians.

I realize this may seem a subtle, nit-picking complaint, but it is typical of how the editors of the Joseph Smith Papers are rewriting Church history to accommodate M2C.

Monday, August 13, 2018

M2C manipulation

There's a nice piece at Vanity Fair about how Stephen Miller is manipulating the federal government to accomplish is personal objectives. It reminded me of the way the M2C intellectuals are manipulating the Church to promote M2C by framing the issue to their advantage.

Here's a key paragraph:

Perhaps as significantly, sources say, Miller has been able to help frame the issue for Trump, both by communicating the administration’s policies to the media and by quietly suppressing information that doesn’t comport with his narrative. “He claims to be speaking for the president all while manipulating the information the president receives, so the president never hears alternative views or arguments.

The M2C intellectuals have successfully misled their students and Church employees into thinking there is no evidence of the Book of Mormon in New York or anywhere in the United States. Another passage from the article explains how Miller uses the same technique:

When the Department of Health and Human Services completed a report that found refugees had boosted government revenues by $63 billion over the past decade, for instance, Miller reportedly had the study suppressed. “The president believes refugees cost more, and the results of this study shouldn’t embarrass the president,” he reportedly instructed officials at the agency. (At the time, White House spokesperson Raj Shah dismissed the report as a leak “delivered by someone with an ideological agenda” and insisted refugees are “not a net benefit to the U.S. economy.”)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

How long halt ye between two opinions?

Today in Sunday School we discussed Elijah and the famous verse, 1 Kings 18:21. This chapter relates the way in which Elijah generated a consensus among the people of Israel regarding the truthfulness of what the prophet Elijah taught.

The verse reads:

"And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word."

Isaiah and the priests of Baal
That led to the famous showdown between Elijah and the priests of Baal.

One of the most fascinating elements of this passage is that the people had no answer. They didn't know whom to follow.

Why were they so confused?

On the one hand, they had the prophet of God.

But on the other hand, they had the popular leaders, the priests of Baal who purported to speak for God, who taught the people that the prophets were wrong, just as the M2C scholars are doing today.

The verse could be rephrased this way:

"And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the prophets be true, follow them: but if the M2C scholars [be true], then follow them. And the people answered him not a word."

We each get to choose.

We each must choose.

[Note: the M2C intellectuals will object that I'm comparing them to the priests of Baal because they're entire approach depends on obfuscation and confusion. True, I am comparing them to the priests of Baal, but only in a limited sense. That's how we always apply the scriptures to our own circumstances. Here, I'm limiting the comparison to the question of whether to follow the prophets or to repudiate the prophets. I'm not comparing M2C to all the things the priests of Baal taught and practiced, but the M2C intellectuals openly try to get members of the Church to reject what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.]

How long will members of the Church continue to halt between the two geographical models?

It's not a difficult choice. Whichever model you choose, you can confirm your bias by interpreting the text to match your model and by considering relevant archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc. that confirms your bias.

Really, the only difference is whether you agree with or disagree with the prophets.

Either Cumorah is in New York, as the prophets have consistently and persistently taught, or it's elsewhere, in which case it doesn't really matter much where it is, does it? 

If the prophets have been wrong all along, we might as well accept the fantasy maps currently being taught to LDS youth by CES and BYU. 

Inevitably and irreversibly, that will lead to the metaphorical interpretation of the Book of Mormon, which seems to be the ultimate objective of the M2C scholars anyway (although they claim otherwise).

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Self image and ideas

One of the big obstacles to reaching consensus is taking offense when someone questions, challenges, or criticizes our ideas.

Joseph Epstein has a wonderful piece in the Wall St. Journal today. Although he was writing specifically about politics, his point applies very well to religious discussions.

The subtitle of his article is "Our self-image is no so bound up in ideology that any disagreement feels like a personal attack."

Think of a missionary sharing the gospel. Many investigators will take the mere existence of a missionary from another church as a criticism of his/her own beliefs. Because our self-image is "bound up in ideology," the investigator may feel offended (or personally attacked) whenever the missionary offers a "better" religion, such as the "fullness of the gospel" which implies the investigator doesn't have the fullness. The missionary may feel personally attacked when others oppose what he/she is teaching.

Even within the Church, people conflate their ideological beliefs with their self-image. People who have strong views on issues of Church History or Book of Mormon geography often consider these views as part of their self-image and therefore become defensive when others disagree with their views.

Recognizing this would go a long way to resolving the problem.

Here are excerpts from Epstein's piece:

There’s Too Much Virtue in Politics

Our self-image is now so bound up in ideology that any disagreement feels like a personal attack.

Here is an excerpt that gets to the heart of his argument:

When politics isn’t a quest for personal gain or power, it’s a clash of virtues. Look behind a person’s political views and you will discover his idealized picture of himself. The liberal sees his virtue in speaking up for the underdog, hungering for social justice, showing a spirit of empathy. The conservative finds his virtue in advocating liberty and maximal freedom as most likely to induce achievement, prosperity, and, most important, strong character. ...
The main point is that in declaring my politics I am declaring my virtue, so when you oppose my politics you oppose my highest view of myself. This explains why political arguments so quickly get to the shouting stage. If you disagree with me about a candidate or policy, you are in effect telling me that I am (pick one) selfish, naive, insensitive, foolish. Disagree with my politics, and you offend, insult, attack me personally.

I hope everyone can recognize that our ideas are not us.

We all disagree with others about various issues. Usually people can't even agree on the relevant facts because we all engage in confirmation bias. We filter out information that doesn't confirm our biases. We actually perceive the world differently because our of these psychological filters.

But recognition is the first step to resolution. 

When it comes to matters of Church history and the Book of Mormon, everyone is on the same "team" in the sense of being a faithful member of the Church who wants to do good, live the Gospel, and share our faith in Christ.

But that doesn't make us immune from conflating our self image with our ideas.

In my view, one of the most important roles of a prophet is to break through confirmation bias. That's why, for me, it is foolish to repudiate what the prophets have taught, including what they've taught about the hill Cumorah in New York.

The sooner we reach consensus that the prophets teach the truth, the sooner we'll reach consensus about the New York Cumorah. And from there, the rest is easy.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sunk costs - of mice and men

The academic cycle that must be
disrupted to stop M2C
In May I posted comments about how certain intellectuals continue to promote M2C because of sunk costs; i.e., they've invested so much time, effort and money into M2C that they feel compelled to stick with it, even to the point of repudiating the prophets they otherwise revere.

This is another manifestation of the academic cycle; i.e., M2C is perpetuated by persuading new students to invest in M2C so they, too, succumb to the sunk cost fallacy.

The sunk cost rationale is irrational, of course.
One explanation puts it this way:

The Truth: Your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it.

In the context of M2C, the sunk cost fallacy arises when we have BYU/CES teachers and COB employees who have long taught and promoted M2C. They are responsible for imprinting M2C on the minds of thousands of faithful Latter-day Saints--as well as thousands who have lost their faith in the Book of Mormon because of the two-Cumorahs theory, as Joseph Fielding Smith warned.

These teachers and employees have made tremendous emotional investments in M2C. Every year, these teachers at BYU/CES are making even greater emotional investments as they teach their students that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah.

We recognize that such investments would make it very difficult for the BYU/CES teachers to change their mind, but one would think they would nevertheless value the teachings of the prophets over their own M2C ideology.

Now there's a study that shows how other species, including mice, are affected by sunk costs. This suggests that the sunk cost fallacy has such a deep impact on the BYU/CES/COB employees that they actually cannot adjust their thinking.

They have sunk so many costs into M2C that they literally cannot change their minds.

Here is the abstract of the article. Look how well it explains M2C:

Sunk costs are irrecoverable investments that should not influence decisions, because decisions should be made on the basis of expected future consequences. Both human and nonhuman animals can show sensitivity to sunk costs, but reports from across species are inconsistent. In a temporal context, a sensitivity to sunk costs arises when an individual resists ending an activity, even if it seems unproductive, because of the time already invested. In two parallel foraging tasks that we designed, we found that mice, rats, and humans show similar sensitivities to sunk costs in their decision-making. Unexpectedly, sensitivity to time invested accrued only after an initial decision had been made. These findings suggest that sensitivity to temporal sunk costs lies in a vulnerability distinct from deliberation processes and that this distinction is present across species.

The "initial decision" in this case is the M2C dogma that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica, that there are "two Cumorahs," and that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah being the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.

Having made their decision, the M2C intellectuals have a sunk cost that influences future decisions, including the decision whether or not to repudiate the prophets.

Another way to look at this is that M2C is not the product of a deliberation process. It's a product of an initial decision, usually based on what a trusted teacher claimed, followed by investment of time, energy and reputation.

These sunk costs prevent M2C intellectuals from changing their minds in response to the teachings of the prophets and the abundant evidence in North America that corroborates what the prophets have taught, beginning with Letter VII.

While we understand how powerful the sunk cost fallacy is, and we empathize with the M2C intellectuals who are trapped by this thinking, we are not bound by compassion to simply accept their teachings. The sunk cost fallacy makes it all the more important for us to break the academic cycle that perpetuates M2C so that future generations do not succumb to the sunk cost fallacy.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Examples of M2C confirmation bias

Literally everything you read about M2C is confirmation bias.

When we analyze what these M2C intellectuals are saying, we realize why so few people in the world take the Book of Mormon seriously. 

M2C is a major impediment to missionary and reactivation work. We can remove the impediment and give people everywhere a fair chance to accept the Book of Mormon, but only if we recognize what these M2C intellectuals are doing.

M2C scholars have a list of justifications for their repudiation of the prophets.

For example, I've addressed a recent list of justifications here:

Among the rationalizations are these "correspondences" between ancient Mayan civilization and the Book of Mormon:

1. Cities.
2. Flags, banners, etc.
3. Volcanoes.
4. Cutting off arms.
5. "Requirements" from the text, such as these from BMAF/Book of Mormon Central America:

BMAF supports a Mesoamerican context for the major Book of Mormon sites. Other locations may meet some of the following criteria, but only Mesoamerica meets all these elements required by the book itself.  This list of criteria is not a cafeteria list.  Any Book of Mormon lands proposal must be able to demonstrate all.

  A Narrow Neck of land and 4 seas (east, west, north, and south)
  A major river running south to north from a narrow strip of wilderness
  A high civilization with cities, kings, artisans, military, and priests
  An agricultural base large enough to support several millions of people
  A highly literate (written language) society with scribes as important officers
  Functional calendar and dating systems
  A merchant class using weights and measures
  Engineers to build houses, temples, towers, and highways using cement
  Highly skilled craftsmen working with precious metals and stonework
  A warrior society involved in large battles using trained soldiers and sophisticated fortifications
  Legends of a white, bearded God

Most people outside the M2C bubble easily recognize the circular reasoning here. The M2C intellectuals concoct a set of "criteria" based on Mesoamerica, not the text, and then transform these "criteria" into requirements. Let's look at each one, starting with the BMAF list.

The "narrow neck of land" is mentioned exactly once, in Ether 10:20. It's a description of the location of a great Jaredite city. But M2C conflates this passage with other passages that use different terms.

Nowhere does the text say "a major river" runs south to north. That said, there is a north-flowing river right in North America that M2C intellectuals don't know about.

A "high civilization" is ubiquitous in human history, including in North America.

The Book of Mormon never claims there were millions of Nephites. The largest enumerated army was only 42,000 (Mormon 2:9), and this was after the Nephites had been driven out of their lands and were collected together in one body. It was a time of blood and carnage, a time for "all hands on deck." Plus, we can look at the Bible for comparison. The Book of Mormon refers to a few places as "great cities." One is Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:4; 2:13; 10:3; 11:13), which had a population of only around 25,000 when Lehi lived there. There is the "great city" Zarahemla. There is the great city of Ammonihah (Alma 16:9). There is Amulon's great city also called Jerusalem (Alma 21:2). And there are unnamed "great cities" round about (Helaman 7:22). These suggest a Nephite population of a couple of hundred thousand at most. Of course, the Nephite population could have been much larger, but there's nothing in the text that requires or even implies that. (Ether 15:2, which refers to two millions of mighty men who had already being slain, probably refers to the entire history of Coriantumr's people because Coriantumr was reflecting on what Ether had told him.)

The written language was expressly not Mayan, and from Enos through Moroni, the prophets explained that the Lamanites sought to destroy the Nephite records. That's why Mormon had to hide them in the depository in the hill Cumorah. Any society with abundant ancient written records cannot, by definition, be a Nephite society.

Calendars and dating systems are ubiquitous in human society. In North America, ancient people created earthworks that aligned with celestial events for this purpose.

Systems of weights and measures are ubiquitous among humans.

Cement is mentioned only briefly in Helaman 3 because the Nephites preferred to build with wood and earth. The text never mentions building with stone and cement, only with wood and cement. The only known Nephite cement is the material Moroni used to construct the stone box on the hill Cumorah in western New York.

Most human societies feature works of precious metal and stone, including those in North America.

Warfare and fortifications are ubiquitous among human societies, including in North America.

Legends of a white, bearded God... Seriously?

Now let's look at the other items.

1. Cities. The Book of Mormon refers to cities, villages and towns. What's the distinction among these terms?

When we assess Book of Mormon terminology, we look at the 1828 Webster's Dictionary and the usage in the King James Bible (references at the end of this post).

A "city" is a collection of buildings protected by a wall. (Towns and villages lacked walls.) In England, it was a community that had a bishop and a cathedral. This definition is interesting because there were seven churches in the land of Zarahemla, which the text says are "many churches" (Mosiah 25:22-23). Does that mean that "many cities" are actually "seven cities" or an equally small number? In Alma 51:26, a list of six cities is called "many cities."

We can't know for sure what the Nephites considered a city, or how many cities there were. But we do know that the indigenous people in North America built walls of wood and earth around their communities, which qualifies as cities, and there were many of these.

2. Flags, banners, etc. The Book of Mormon refers to the title of liberty, and Mayan culture also had flags or banners. But what human societies does not have flags or banners?

3. Volcanoes. M2C intellectuals insist that the destruction in 3 Nephi could only have been caused by volcanoes, but the text never mentions volcanoes. In reality, the destruction could only have been caused in Mesoamerica by volcanoes, but in North America, the destruction not only theoretically could have been caused by earthquakes; we have actual recorded accounts of such destruction taking place in the Mississippi river valley.

4. Cutting off arms. There are Mayan descriptions of cutting off arms. But this is a widespread practice in human societiesTrophy taking is ubiquitous among human societies. It's an ancient custom. Arm-taking specifically has been found in France (, among the Timucua Indians of Florida, etc. Herodotus described the practice among the Scythians. It's part of the mythology of the Ossetians (Caucasus mountains). It still occurs today among tribal wars in Africa. In ancient Egypt, they cut off arms to prove to the Pharoah how many enemies they killed, until the Pharoah ordered them to produce genitals to get a more accurate count (I've seen the stone engraving of amputated genitals near Karnak). Even in the Afghan war, the U.S. military collected body parts to get counts of the enemy dead. They Cheyenne Indians identified themselves with a sign meaning "cut arms," referring to a practice of cutting strips of skin from their arms as a sacrifice, which has ancient origins. In the Book of Mormon there is only one account, and it was not even part of a war; Ammon was "disarming" his enemies because that was the only way to stop them. We don't have any accounts of Nephites or Lamanites severing and collecting arms as war trophies. But we do have scalping (Alma 44) specifically as a war trophy, a common practice among the North American Indians that the Lord designated as Lamanites.

You can do the same analysis for any of the "correspondences" cited by M2C intellectuals.

This is not to show that the M2C intellectuals are "wrong."

The point is, these "correspondences" are illusory, and thus not an adequate justification for repudiating the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

VIL'LAGEnoun A small assemblage of houses, less than a town or city, and inhabited chiefly by farmers and other laboring people. In England, it is said that a village is distinguished from a town by the want of a market.
In the United States, no such distinction exists, and any small assemblage of houses in the country is called a village
1. Originally, a walled or fortified place; a collection of houses inclosed with walls, hedges or pickets for safety. Rahab's house was on the townwall. Joshua 2:15.
town that hath gates and bars. 1 Samuel 23:7.
2. Any collection of houses, larger than a village. In this use the word is very indefinite, and a town may consist of twenty houses, or of twenty thousand.
3. In England, any number of houses to which belongs a regular market, and which is not a city or the see of a bishop.
town in modern times, is generally without walls, which is the circumstance that usually distinguishes it from a city.
In the United States, the circumstance that distinguishes a town from a city, is generally that a city is incorporated with special privileges, and a town is not. But a city is often called a town
1. In a general sense, a large town; a large number of houses and inhabitants, established in one place.
2. In a more appropriate sense, a corporate town; a town or collective body of inhabitants, incorporated and governed by particular officers, as a mayor and aldermen. This is the sense of the word in the United States. In Great Britain, a city is said to be a town corporate that has a bishop and a cathedral church; but this is not always the fact.
Village - a small assemblage of houses, less than a town or city