Wednesday, February 7, 2018

More FairMormon omissions

One of the reasons we are having trouble reaching consensus is that the M2C intellectuals simply refuse to tell their readers all the facts.

Not that facts change anyone's mind, of course; I've been explaining confirmation bias on my other blogs. Because the M2C proponents have chosen to follow the intellectuals instead of the prophets, there is literally nothing any Church leader can say that will change their minds, and nothing that any intellectual can say that will change the minds of those who follow the prophets. 

However, if we believe the Book of Mormon, we cannot reach unity unless we heed the words of the prophets and apostles. 

I've yet to have an M2C proponent explain to me how we can reach consensus by following the intellectuals. Actually, at this point, I don't think they even want consensus. 

But we should at least agree to all the same facts.
_____

FairMormon is one of the worst examples of imposing their editorial views on their readers. They simply hide information they don't like. I've shown lots of examples before, but because they continue to refuse to follow the Church's policy of neutrality, I'll show another one today.

M2C intellectuals like to quote President George Q. Cannon's statement about Book of Mormon geography. 

FairMormon has it here:

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon/Geography/Statements/Nineteenth_century/After_Joseph%27s_death

This is the first paragraph of FairMormon's edited excerpt: 

There is a tendency, strongly manifested . . . among some of the brethren, to study the geography of the Book of Mormon. . . . We are greatly pleased to notice the . . . interest taken by the Saints in this holy book. . . . But valuable as is the Book of Mormon both in doctrine and history, yet it is possible to put this sacred volume to uses for which it was never intended, uses which are detrimental rather than advantageous to the cause of truth, and consequently to the work of the Lord. . . .

I quoted Cannon's statement in full here:


When you read it in context, he says nothing about questioning the New York location of Cumorah. But he does make an interesting comment about geography generally.

The First Presidency has often been asked to prepare some suggestive map illustrative of Nephite geography, but have never consented to do so. Nor are we acquainted with any of the Twelve Apostles who would undertake such a task. The reason is, that without further information they are not prepared even to suggest [a map]. The word of the Lord or the translation of other ancient records is required to clear up many points now so obscure....

For these reasons we have strong objections to the introduction of maps and their circulation among our people which profess to give the location of the Nephite cities and settlements.

Does this refusal to prepare or approve of a map mean President Cannon did not accept the New York Cumorah, as some have suggested?
_____

From 1880 to 1901, George Q. Cannon served as First Counselor in the First Presidency to John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow. The Second Counselor in the First Presidency who served with him the entire time was Joseph F. Smith. 

[Historical note: After Cannon died in April 1901, Joseph F. Smith was called and sustained as First Counselor in the October conference, but Snow died 4 days later and Joseph F. Smith was never ordained First Counselor. He was ordained President instead.]

Cannon published his editorial in the Juvenile Instructor in 1890. 

Joseph F. Smith was the Editor of the Improvement Era. In July 1899 he published Letter VII in the Improvement Era!


IOW, 9 years after Cannon's editorial that said the First Presidency opposed maps of Book of Mormon geography, another member of the same First Presidency--a future President--published Letter VII, which declares that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.

This sequence makes the point that other Church leaders have made (including James E. Talmage and Orson Pratt); i.e. that the teaching about the New York Cumorah is consistent with the First Presidency's refusal to speculate beyond Cumorah.

Of course, FairMormon will never tell its readers about this.
_____

It's also interesting to read about Joseph F. Smith and George Albert Smith collecting arrowheads at Cumorah as evidence:

_____

Back to President Cannon. He referred to Cumorah once in his journal. He was going to meet someone in New York City and he wrote:

I reached New York a little after 4 oclock, but found Bro. Hart absent. The hotel people did not know where he had gone, but I learned from two of the brethren whom I met that he had gone to visit Cumorah. 


Obviously, this isn't a declaration about Mormon 6:6, but it does show that Cannon considered the hill in New York to be Cumorah.

This journal only goes up to 1883, but they're planning to publish the rest eventually. He died in 1901. Perhaps subsequent entries in his journal will give more insight into the 1890 editorial.
_____


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

How to share the Book of Mormon-web background

From now on, this blog will assume everyone who believes the Book of Mormon accepts the words of the prophets and apostles about the Hill Cumorah in New York.

IOW, we're moving on from the handful of intellectuals who apparently continue to reject the New York Cumorah and we're going to explore ways to expand the consensus beyond Mormons.

The consensus we seek to establish is that (i) the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ and (ii) its divine authenticity as a true history of real people demonstrates God's love for His children, His involvement in the world, and the ongoing vitality of His covenants.

The Book of Mormon was written for the entire world. According to the Title Page, it was written "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations."

I'm interested in how this purpose is being accomplished.

The Internet is obviously a major component. I'm posting the following graphic depicting the top 100 websites so we can have a baseline for considering how the Internet will help the Book of Mormon testify of Jesus Christ to the entire world.

Think about your involvement with the Internet and what you can do to help the Book of Mormon fulfill its purpose.



http://www.visualcapitalist.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/top-100-websites.html

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Printable summary of Letter VII

So many people have asked for a way to explain Letter VII to their friends that I’m posting this summary which you can print out and share with your friends and family. 

Here is the link:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mDizAWGkFDBR26gc9FsWGNPdhmTub3sc/view?usp=sharing

You can also print it and put it inside your copy of my Letter VII book when you share it.

There are a lot of details beyond this brief summary, of course. That's why I wrote the book about it. I also have a lot of information on the Letter VII blog, which is here:

http://www.lettervii.com/


Thanks to the efforts of certain intellectuals, most people have never heard of Letter VII. At first, they may be skeptical that one letter can make a difference. But when you learn about it, you discover this was much more than just "a letter." This was a formal declaration of a series of facts, written by a member of the First Presidency (President Cowdery) and endorsed by the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve at the time. In the ensuing 150 years, every member of those quorums who has addressed the issue has affirmed Letter VII; no member of those quorums has ever contradicted Letter VII.

This is the text of the file you can print from the above link: 
_____

Most members of the Church believe the Hill Cumorah is in New York. Church leaders have consistently taught this for over 150 years.

However, some intellectuals in the Church—including faculty at BYU and CES—claim there are “two Cumorahs.” They rationalize that New York is too far from Central America (Mesoamerica) for the hill in New York to be the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites.

Because these intellectuals have trained thousands of LDS students for decades, their ideas have permeated the Church. The “two-Cumorahs” theory is being taught in Church media and at Church visitors centers, but it has never been taught by a single member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve.

The efforts of the intellectuals have caused confusion among members and investigators.

Recent discoveries in Church history reaffirm the original teaching that there is one Cumorah and it is in New York. For example, there is a lot of information in the book titled Letter VII: Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery Explain the Hill Cumorah. 

In response, the intellectuals are teaching their students that the prophets and apostles are wrong.

This summary of Church history will help members understand the issue so they can support the Brethren when confronted with arguments against the New York Cumorah.

1. In 1834, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery decided to publish a series of letters about Church history in the Church newspaper titled The Messenger and Advocate. This was in response to anti-Mormon publications that were disrupting the missionary effort.

2. Oliver wrote the letters with Joseph’s assistance. They published eight letters between October 1834 and October 1835.

3. A section of Letter I is included as a footnote in the Pearl of Great Price at the end of Joseph Smith—History.

4. In December 1834, Joseph ordained Oliver Cowdery as Assistant President of the Church, explaining that this made him the spokesman. Joseph later referred to these letters as “President Cowdery’s letters.”

5. In Letter VII, published in July 1835, President Cowdery described the Hill Cumorah in New York. He explained that “at about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former” and declares it was a “fact that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.” He emphasized that “in this valley fell the remaining strength and price of a once powerful people, the Nephites.” “This hill, by the Jaredites, was called Ramah; by it, or around it, pitched the famous army of Coriantumr their tent… The opposing army were to the west, and in this same valley, and near by.” He also explained that Mormon’s depository of Nephite records (Mormon 6:6) was in the same hill.

6. The entire First Presidency at the time endorsed these letters. Joseph Smith had President Frederick G. Williams begin the process of copying all eight letters into his history, which you can read in the Joseph Smith Papers in History, 1834-1836. (go to www.josephsmithpapers.org and search for “Letter VII.”) President Sidney Rigdon separately approved of them.

7. All members of the original Quorum of the Twelve (they were called and ordained by President Cowdery and others in February 1835) who ever mentioned Cumorah affirmed what Letter VII teaches, including Parley and Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and William Smith.

8. Letter VII was originally published in the Messenger and Advocate (1835) and copied into Joseph Smith, History, 1834-1835, shortly thereafter. It was republished in the Millennial Star (1840), the Times and Seasons (1841), the Gospel Reflector (1841), a special pamphlet in England (1844), The Prophet (1844), and The Improvement Era. Joseph referred to it in D&C 128:20, which was originally a letter published in the Times and Seasons a year after Letter VII was published in the same newspaper.

9. Over the years, multiple members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, speaking in General Conference, have affirmed the New York Cumorah. Elder James E. Talmage in Articles of Faith affirmed it, as have other apostles, including LeGrand Richards in A Marvelous Work and a Wonder.

10. No member of the Twelve or First Presidency has ever said the Hill Cumorah was anywhere else.

11. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others explained that on multiple occasions, Oliver and Joseph had actually visited Mormon’s depository of records in the Hill Cumorah, which explains why President Cowdery wrote that it was a fact that Cumorah was in New York.

12. The intellectuals nevertheless have framed Letter VII as "Oliver Cowdery's opinion," characterizing it as a false tradition that Joseph Smith passively accepted. They claim that all the other prophets and apostles who have affirmed the New York Cumorah were perpetuating this false tradition. They claim that Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others were mistaken because Oliver had merely told them about a vision of a hill in Mexico.

13. The intellectuals have rejected the New York Cumorah because they think it contradicts their preferred theory that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica. To persuade their students to agree with them, they have made a series of claims about archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography, and they have insisted on an interpretation of the text that, they claim, makes the New York setting impossible. Lately, BYU and CES have been teaching students about the Book of Mormon by using a video-game-like fantasy map that depicts Cumorah in a mythical setting.

14. Although the consistent, repeated teachings of the prophets and apostles should be enough to settle this matter, there is evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography that supports the New York Cumorah as the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites. There are dozens of archaeological sites in western New York, dating to Book of Mormon times, that contain artifacts from the Ohio Hopewell civilization (the archaeological and anthropological term for the people who correspond to the Nephites). Bushels of stone weapons have been recovered from the vicinity of Cumorah. Research in the area is ongoing.


15. When the Mesoamerica/two-Cumorahs theory began to be accepted by LDS intellectuals, Joseph Fielding Smith, then Church Historian and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, released a statement that he later reiterated after he became President of the Quorum of the Twelve. He wrote, “Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.” His prophetic warning against the efforts of the intellectuals remains as valid today as it was when he originally published it.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Futility of focusing on the text--narrow neck of land edition

I hope that in 2018 members of the Church can finally reach a consensus--achieve unity--on at least one aspect of Book of Mormon historicity/geography. We should all be able to agree that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.

To do so, we will have to overcome a major stumbling block put in place by LDS intellectuals.

These LDS intellectuals seek to figure out Book of Mormon geography by focusing exclusively on the text. This approach naturally appeals to their intellectual arrogance and allows them to ignore and reject what the prophets and apostles have taught about Cumorah.

I'm all in favor of seeking to interpret the text, but not if our basic premise is that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, James Talmage, Joseph Fielding Smith, Marion G. Romney, and so many others were wrong about Cumorah.
_____

As for reaching consensus and eliminating contention, the approach of these intellectuals is exactly the opposite of what Christ taught in 1 Nephi 11-12. The Lord didn't encourage us to heed the intellectuals; he said, "Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you."

My favorite example was the "conclave" of LDS scholars who met to decipher the text, which I discussed here: http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2016/08/the-council-of-springville.html. These intellectuals actually believe that members of the Church should heed them. This mentality is right out of the New Testament (Matthew 23).

That's why these latter-day scribes and Pharisees reject Letter VII and all the prophets and apostles who have specifically endorsed it.*
_____

Today I want to give another example of the confusion that is inherent in the approach taken by these intellectuals. It involves the "narrow neck of land."

Here is a typical approach to the "narrow neck of land."

http://www.mormongeography.com/the-narrow-neck-of-land.html
The Narrow Neck of Land

The narrow neck of land, mentioned repeatedly in the Nephite record (Alma 22:32; Alma 50:34; 52:9; Hel. 4:7; Morm.3:5; Ether 10:20), is the key to Book of Mormon geography. Most researchers consider it to be an isthmus which connects the land southward and the land northward. If this geographic feature could be identified it would solve the riddle of Book of Mormon lands, and then all else would naturally fall into place. Many different possibilities have been suggested, from the Isthmus of Panama to a penisula between two of the Great Lakes. However, in my opinion all of the suggested sites fail to meet the criteria set forth in the Book of Mormon.

Notice the premise, which I bolded. The author claims all of these passages refer to the same geographic feature. I call this the "unitary interpretation."

This is a common interpretation that the non-New York Cumorah advocates use. It's one of the main reasons for their confusion. They are trying to find a real-world geographical feature that fits all of these descriptions.

BYU's supposedly "neutral" Book of Mormon map
that adopts the standard Mesoamerican interpretation
of the text that is favored by many intellectuals because
it makes sure Cumorah is not in New York
My favorite example of this confusion is currently being taught at BYU to students who trust their professors to teach them the truth.

The professors don't teach the students what the prophets and apostles have said. Instead, they have concocted an "abstract" map that crams these verses into a fantasy land, which you can see here.

A lot of people simply accept what these intellectuals teach without thinking about it for themselves.

For many years, I did the same. I was persuaded by my BYU professors that we were "sophisticated" because we were working with PhD archaeologists, linguists, geologists, etc., instead of relying on the naive speculations of a bunch of 1830s farmers (who happened to be ordained prophets and apostles, but were merely expressing false opinions about Cumorah)

But then I re-read the text and discovered that these verses describe different features. They were written at different times, from different perspectives, and even used different terminology.

Look at what the text actually says:

Alma 22:32
32 And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.

Alma 50:34
34 And it came to pass that they did not ahead them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east.

Alma 52:9
9 And he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side.

Helaman 4:7
7 And there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day’s journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country.

Mormon 3:5
5 And it came to pass that I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward.

Ether 10:20
20 And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.

We have a small neck, a narrow pass which led by the sea, a narrow pass that doesn't mention the sea (Alma 50:34 and 52:9 could be referring to the same feature, but not necessarily), a line, a narrow pass described hundreds of years after the Alma reference, and a narrow neck of land.

I'm not saying these cannot all refer to the same feature, but as a rule of construction, a reader should assume authors use different terms to refer to different things. For example, a "narrow neck" commonly refers to a water feature. That's why Ether 10:20 specifies that it was a "narrow neck of land."

Throughout the Book of Mormon text, authors are writing from different locations at different times. To assume each of these references describes the identical feature is to impose an interpretation that the text does not require or even suggest. Not impossible, but not likely, either.

Certainly, this strained unitary interpretation is not so mandatory that it justifies rejecting the words of the prophets and apostles about the location of Cumorah.
_____

You see from the above citations that the term "narrow neck of land" is used only once in the entire text, in Ether 10:20. (Whenever people ask me where the "narrow neck of land" is, I always say it's in Ether 10:20, because that's the only place it appears. Some Mesoamerican believers doubt me because of what they've been taught, but when they check for themselves, they realize how much they've been indoctrinated.)

The term "narrow neck of land" is inherently subjective, anyway. Here's a great example a reader sent me.

Ron Chernow recently published a book titled Grant, about Ulysses S. Grant. At Kindle location 9161, Chernow writes, "[Gen Beuregard]...driving him [Gen Butler] back down the river to a thin neck of land formed by the confluence of the James and Appomattox rivers." 

To what geographic feature is he referring?


Here's a map drawn in 1864 that illustrates the feature. You can see it at the Library of Congress here:
https://www.loc.gov/resource/gvhs01.vhs00178/

The confluence of the rivers is south of Richmond, Virginia.

(As an aside, the town built at the confluence happens to be named Hopewell. City Point, the oldest part of Hopewell, was settled in 1613. Hopewell/City Point "is the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in the United States, Jamestown no longer being inhabited.")

It helps to see this map in more detail, so here's a close-up.

The part I've highlighted is the "thin neck of land" described by Chernow.

Notice that the Civil War era cartographer (Robert Knox Sneden, 1832-1918) labeled two features: Jones Neck and Curl's Neck. These are both narrow necks of land, separate from the "thin neck of land" described by Chernow.

By these applications of the term "narrow (or thin) neck of land," we have three features just in this one area.

I like to imagine what kind of maps our friends who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (or the fantasy BYU map) would come up with based on Chernow's description.

Without an actual map, and without our common knowledge about the Civil War and the names of these rivers, these intellectuals would be classifying Chernow's "thin neck of land" as yet another instance of the infamous "narrow neck of land" that conflates all the descriptions in the Book of Mormon text of different features. Our LDS intellectuals would put the U.S. Civil War somewhere in Mesoamerica.
_____

By now, I hope it's obvious that the approach taken by the promoters of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory is nonsense.

Actually, this is obvious to most LDS--except to the intellectuals who keep promoting this stuff. They are so steeped in Mesomania that they "can't unsee it," as they have said.

And that's fine.

They can continue to conduct their conclaves and debate among themselves the meaning of the various passages of the text.

But I hope the rest of us don't mistake their ruminations as anything but what they are: the futile musings of blind guides who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. I.e., they strain at Letter VII and swallow Mesoamerica.

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, I'm all in favor of seeking to interpret the text, but not if our basic premise is that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, James Talmage, Joseph Fielding Smith, Marion G. Romney, and so many others were wrong.

How about if we all, as members of the Church, agree that these prophets and apostles were not wrong, but instead they were putting us on a course that would--and hopefully will--lead to unity and a great understanding of, and appreciation for, the Book of Mormon in 2018.


_____
* I have previously discussed the various rationales for rejecting Letter VII here. I've addressed the archaeological objections as well in several posts, such as this one.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Persuading by presenting facts as "consensus"

A common persuasion technique is to present "facts" as a "consensus" of experts. This is often done in scientific debates. It is especially persuasive to more educated people.

This is the same technique used by proponents of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory. They frequently cite the "widespread consensus among believing scholars," to use Terryl Givens' phrase.

But as Mark Twain wrote, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."
_____

The appeal to consensus is psychologically powerful. It is more effective than presenting facts. Researchers tell us that people resist evidence that challenges their worldview directly, but their perceptions are more malleable. If they perceive that a norm in science and society is changing, they "adjust their core beliefs over time to match."

In the Church, people have a core belief that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were reliable and credible witnesses. Because of that, their teaching about the New York Cumorah (Letter VII) was accepted as a fact because Joseph and Oliver said it was a fact. All of their contemporaries accepted this. All of the prophets and apostles who have spoken or written about the topic since have concurred.

This has been a problem for proponents of the Mesoamerican theory because they have concluded that New York is too far away from Mesoamerica. That's why they developed the two-Cumorahs theory; i.e., the theory that the "real" Cumorah (Mormon 6:6) is in Mexico. The hill in New York, they say, was merely the place where Joseph found the plates.

But their theory contradicts what Joseph and Oliver taught.

This creates cognitive dissonance that they resolve by teaching that Joseph and Oliver were wrong.

Basically, it works like this:

BYU/CES teachers encounter Letter VII










It's easy to see how this approach will ultimately backfire on the teachers when their students, who retain their core belief in the credibility and reliability of Joseph and Oliver, eventually learn about Letter VII.

BYU/CES students encounter Letter VII










The intellectuals seek to avoid this outcome by suppressing Letter VII and the words of the prophets and apostles, but with the Internet, that's a losing strategy.

So instead, they resort to the "consensus as fact" approach.

One analysis explains it this way:

In the murk of post-truth public debate, facts can polarise. Scientific evidence triggers reaction and spin that ends up entrenching the attitudes of opposing political tribes.

Recent research suggests this phenomenon is actually stronger among the more educated, through what psychologists call ‘motived reasoning’: where data is rejected or twisted – consciously or otherwise – to prop up a particular worldview.

However, a new study in the journal Nature Human Behaviour finds that one type of fact can bridge the chasm between conservative and liberal, and pull people’s opinions closer to the truth on one of the most polarising issues in US politics: climate change.

Previous research has broadly found US conservatives to be most sceptical of climate change. Yet by presenting a fact in the form of a consensus – “97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused global warming is happening” – researchers have now discovered that conservatives shift their perceptions significantly towards the scientific ‘norm’.

In an experiment involving over 6,000 US citizens, psychologists found that introducing people to this consensus fact reduced polarisation between higher educated liberals and conservatives by roughly 50%, and increased conservative belief in a scientific accord on climate change by 20 percentage points.

Moreover, the latest research confirms the prior finding that climate change scepticism is indeed more deeply rooted among highly educated conservatives. Yet exposure to the simple fact of a scientific consensus neutralises the “negative interaction” between higher education and conservatism that strongly embeds these beliefs.

We can compare those members of the Church who have a core belief in the reliability and credibility of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to those who are skeptical of climate change. (We're not equating the two beliefs; we're merely showing how the psychology works).

In the climate change debate, the proponents want to change attitudes, but the facts are all over the place, so instead they resort to the "consensus" argument. [Note: I agree wit those who say the 97% consensus study is bogus, and I think anyone who digs into it agrees. But it has been repeated so often in the media that it has acquired a truth status apart from its merits.]

Likewise, the Mesoamerican proponents have to change attitudes among LDS people. They have to overcome the core belief in the reliability and credibility of Joseph and Oliver. They know the facts (geography, archaeology, anthropology, and geology) are all over the place and that they'll never persuade LDS to change their minds by citing facts. So instead, they cite the "widespread consensus among believing scholars" as Terryl Givens did in his Foreword to Mormon's Codex.

And they've been quite successful among the more educated LDS, just as the study quoted above would predict.

Then these educated LDS become the BYU/CES teachers and perpetuate the whole scheme.
_____

Fortunately, Letter VII appears in the Joseph Smith papers, right in History, 1834-1836. Anyone can go read it here: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/83

In a sense, Letter VII is ubiquitous again, just as it was in Joseph's day when it was published in every Church newspaper, through the Improvement Era.

It's also fortunate that the facts--archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography--corroborate what Joseph and Oliver said was a fact; i.e., that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.

I think the tide is turning on the consensus approach. Confidence in Joseph and Oliver will, eventually, outweigh confidence in the intellectuals.

At that point, we'll reach a consensus among the LDS that supports Joseph and Oliver instead of repudiates them.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Visual persuasion--and presuasion

[Note: for administration purposes, I'm reposting this entry from a few days ago.]

Visual persuasion--and presuasion

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!

Fortunately, there are some examples on lds.org of this, such as the Scriptures Legacy video you can watch here: https://www.lds.org/church/news/new-church-video-honors-scriptures-legacy?lang=eng.

Christ visiting earthworks, not Mayan stone pyramids

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Prophets vs Scholars-Cumorah edition

This blog hopes to promote a consensus about Book of Mormon geography/historicity.

It turns out, there is already a consensus, at least regarding Cumorah. Everyone agrees that the prophets and apostles have taught one thing, while our LDS intellectuals teach something else.

Another way to say it is, there are two consensuses.

All the prophets and apostles who have addressed the issue agree that Cumorah is in New York. Their consistent teachings have focused on New York like a laser, as depicted below.

Many LDS intellectuals, particularly those who claim to be "Book of Mormon scholars" and who run Book of Mormon Central, BYU Studies, FairMormon, the Interpreter, etc., and who teach at BYU, have reached a consensus that the prophets and apostles are wrong. Instead of the prophets' laser-like focus on New York, the intellectuals in the Church teach people to search somewhere in southern Mexico (or in a fantasy world map) for the "real Cumorah," as shown below.*

The two consensuses

Members of the Church are left to decide which consensus they agree with.

For me, it's an easy choice. I go with the prophets and apostles.

I think most Church members, when presented with a choice, will also agree with the prophets and apostles.

That's why the intellectuals don't want to give members a choice. They actively suppress information about the New York Cumorah in all their publications, presentations, and even in classes at BYU and in CES. They censor comments on their web pages that refer to the New York Cumorah, seek to prevent people from speaking about the New York Cumorah, and promote obfuscation and confusion on their web pages about Cumorah.

Eventually, that will change; thanks to the Internet, it is becoming more difficult for the intellectuals to prevent members of the Church from learning the truth. But in the meantime, you should think carefully and make up your own mind.

As always, if I've erred in any way on the facts in this post, let me know and I'll promptly correct any errors.
_____
* While most LDS intellectuals promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, I know of some who actually believe the prophets and apostles, but they don't speak out because of the united front of opposition they face from the Mesomaniacs. There are also some intellectuals who promote other non-New York Cumorahs, such as Cumorahs in Baja, Panama, Chile, etc. Plus there is the infamous BYU "abstract map" that teaches students that Cumorah is in a fictional fantasy land, which you can see here: http://bom.byu.edu/. This map is an obvious ruse for teaching the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory because it is based on the standard Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs interpretation of the text.