Wednesday, February 27, 2019

What is a narrow pass?

One way to reach a "consensus" is to have everyone agree on definitions of terms.

But if the definitions are not required by the text, and especially if they aren't even likely, any resulting consensus is phony. Such a consensus is merely the result of circular thinking.

M2C intellectuals have reached a "consensus" by agreeing on definitions of terms. For example, they say every usage of the terms narrow pass and narrow passage refers to the same geographical feature that is found within the narrow neck of land, which they say is the same as the narrow neck and the small neck.

I think these terms refer to different features. That's why they're different terms.

I'm not saying anyone is "right" or "wrong." People can interpret the text however they want. Here, I want to give some context for one of these terms: "narrow pass" so you can make your own informed decisions.


The term "narrow" is subject to a variety of interpretations because it is relative; i.e., "narrow" compared with what? As an adjective, the term means "(especially of something that is considerably longer or higher than it is wide) of small width; limited in extent, amount, or scope; restricted."

As a noun, it means "a narrow channel connecting two larger areas of water," but in the Book of Mormon it is used as an adjective.

One example of the term suggests a common usage in Joseph Smith's environment.

In 1779, Caleb Brewster wrote a letter to Benjamin Tallmadge. Brewster was a spy for George Washington in the Revolutionary War. He was reporting his observations from Long Island, New York when he wrote:

Dear Sir. I have returned from the Island this day. Genl. Erskine remains yet at Southampton. He has been reininfoced [sic] to the number of 2500. They have three redoubts at South and East Hampton and are heaving up works at Canoe Place at a narrow pass before you get into South Hampton. They are building a number of flat bottom boats. There went a number of carpenters down last week to South Hampton. It is thought by the inhabitants that they will cross over to New London after the Continental Frigates.

Those familiar with Long Island will recognize these place names (I've visited Riverhead, where my grandparents lived, and I have ancestors who lived in New York in the 1600s).

Here's a map of the area:

The distance from Canoe Place, where the British were "heaving up works" and South Hampton, where they had a redoubt or stronghold, is about 6.4 miles.

The "narrow pass" to which Brewster referred is about 3/4 of a mile wide. This is .75 miles or 1.26 kilometers.

The pass is a little over 3 miles long, depending on where you place the two ends.

"Narrow pass" strikes me as a good description of this geographical feature.

There are lots of features that constitute "narrow passes" throughout the world. On Long Island itself, there are several. That's why Brewster qualified the term "narrow pass" by referring to Canoe Place and South Hampton so his reader would know the location of the pass.

In the Midwestern U.S. and western New York, there are innumerable features that could be described as a "narrow pass" in relation to water (Great Lakes or seas, lakes, rivers, etc.) and land (mountains, ravines, etc.). It is the large number of features that align with the Book of Mormon description that make it impossible to say, with certainty, which real-world feature corresponds to a particular passage in the Book of Mormon.

But many work well with the New York Cumorah.

from Mormon's Codex
5 is the narrow pass or passage
Now, for comparison sake, let's look at how the M2C citation cartel interprets the term "narrow."

In Mormon's Codex, Brother Sorenson equates narrow neck of land with narrow neck and small neck. That's how he derived the well-known hourglass shape.

Important point: The M2C intellectuals have all agreed on definitions that interpret the text of the Book of Mormon to fit Mesoamerica.

That's all fine. Seriously, I'm not saying they are wrong. The only thing the prophets have taught for sure is that Cumorah is in New York. Everything else is open to discussion and consideration.
BYU fantasy map conflating "narrow" terms
the same way Sorenson's map does

Still, their interpretation is difficult to fit in the real world.

Hence, the BYU/CES fantasy maps, which apply the M2C definitions to create a mythological fantasy map with the hourglass shape.

This conflation of different terms into one meaning leads Brother Sorenson to make statements such as this: "The adjective narrow is, of course, a subjective term. We cannot establish absolute limits on the basis of such a term alone. The account of Limhi's exploring party establishes that a party of 'diligent men' could pass twice through the "narrow neck" without realize the fact. This clearly says something important about how 'narrow' the neck was and was not." 

The footnote to this sentence reads in part "It would have been possible for Limhi's explorers to pass through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec without detecting that it was a 'neck' at all."

Sorenson claims that "In Alma 22:32 we learn that the width of the narrow neck was 'a day and a half's journey for a Nephite... Given such a range of possible travel distances, the Nephite 'day and a half's journey' would not be implausible for the actual distance across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec of about 118 miles."

While I'm not saying M2C is wrong, we have to recognize that when our best M2C intellectuals reach the conclusion that "narrow" could mean 118 miles across, we might have a problem with credibility.

To be sure, Brother Sorenson identifies a feature within the "narrow neck" as the "narrow pass or passage" (conflating those terms). It is an "elevation" of sandstone and gravel "that runs east-west, often forming a distinct ridge... this feature qualifies in every respect as the narrow pass of the Book of Mormon. When commander Mormon considered this ridge a 'narrow passage,' he certainly got it right in saying that if his Nephite army could hold it, the Lamanites from across the river could "not get possession of any of our [northward] lands" (Mormon 3:5)."

This is a reasonable interpretation that could be applied to dozens, or hundreds, of sites in the Western Hemisphere. What makes it fit in Mesoamerica is the separate interpretation of "narrow" meaning 118 miles in width.

IOW, to make the Book of Mormon text "fit" in Mesoamerica, we have Brother Sorenson and CES/BYU using a flexible interpretation of "narrow" that ranges from ridge suitable for foot traffic to an isthmus 118 miles wide.

For decades, I believed what Brother Sorenson and the other members of the M2C citation cartel taught, so I understand how alluring M2C can be.

And, actually, I have no problem with people continuing to believe M2C. People choose to believe what they want and then rationalize it; we've just seen how easy it is to persuade oneself that a 118-mile-wide isthmus is "narrow."

I offer my perspective not to persuade you of anything, but to give you additional information so you can make your own informed decisions.

FWIW, here's how I approach the text.

I ask myself, does it make more sense for the term "narrow" to apply to a geographical feature less than a mile wide, as Brewster used the term, or to be about 118 miles wide, as Sorenson and CES/BYU use the term?

Does it make more sense to interpret Book of Mormon terminology according to:

(i) the ordinary usage of the terms around the time (1779-1829) and place (New York area) where Joseph used them when he translated the text, or

(ii) the usage supplied by Mesoamerican scholars working in Utah about 180 years after Joseph translated the text?



The phrase "narrow pass" occurs three times in the Book of Mormon, but not in any other scriptures.

Results of search for "narrow pass" on

Old Testament (0)
New Testament (0)
Book of Mormon (3)
Doctrine and Covenants (0)
Pearl of Great Price (0)

If you look carefully at the usage of the phrase (see the verses below), you see that each usage is unique.

1. the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward (Alma 50:34) [Note: the qualifier "by the sea" implies there was at least one other "narrow pass" that people were familiar with. Here, the Nephite army headed the people of Morianton who were marching to the borders of the land Desolation.]

2. the narrow pass which led into the land northward (Alma 52:9) [Note: this passage makes no reference to the sea. If it referred to the same pass as the one in 50:34, it wouldn't make sense; i.e., the 50:34 pass was between two seas. Fortifying the pass would not prevent invasion because the Lamanites could simply use boats to bypass the fortification. Plus, this chapter involved events two years after chapter 50 and doesn't mention the land Desolation.]

3. the narrow pass which led into the land southward (Mormon 3:5) [Note: this was in a different context and hundreds of years after the Alma references]

I'm not saying it is "right" or "wrong" to interpret these passages are referring to the same feature or to different features. I'm suggesting that we need to ask ourselves these questions and not defer to someone else's "consensus" interpretations.

Below are the verses in the Book of Mormon containing the term "narrow pass."

Alma 50:34

34 And it came to pass that they did not head 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

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.

Mormon 3:5

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.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Peace, love, and unity

Here's hoping that in 2019, everyone interested in the Book of Mormon and the Restoration can find peace, love and unity as we all strive to move the work forward.

I discussed this a while back, here:

Saturday, December 8, 2018

"Consensus" is not a great cause

From a speech by Margaret Thatcher:

When I asked one of my Commonwealth colleagues at this Conference why he kept saying that there was a “consensus” on a certain matter, another replied in a flash “consensus is the word you use when you can't get agreement” ! 
To me consensus seems to be —the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no-one believes, but to which no-one objects. —the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead.
What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner “I stand for consensus”?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

How consensus persists, even when wrong

I saw this on twitter:

How consensus works :

Scientist A believes something because he thinks scientist B believes it.
Scientist B believes something because he thinks scientist C believes it.
Scientist C believes something because he thinks scientist A believes it.

repeat loop endlessly .....


This describes the way the M2C "consensus" operates. It's another version of the academic cycle:

One way to break the cycle is for people to think for themselves. But to do that, they need accurate and complete information.

So long as the M2C citation cartel engages in censorship, people will not be able to make informed decisions and thereby break the endless consensus loop.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Why does M2C continue to refuse unity?

The other night we went out with the missionaries to visit a family. I let everyone out of the car because I have to park right next to the wall on the narrow street so cars can pass by. While the missionaries were waiting for me to park, a many walked up and asked if they were Mormon missionaries. They said they were. He explained he was a member but had not been to Church in years. He wanted to come back and asked if they had a Book of Mormon. They didn't have a physical one, but promised to bring him one to Church. He said he would come this Sunday. He didn't have a phone, and had apparently moved long ago, so his Church records were not up to date. The missionaries accompanied him to his house down the street and had a good visit before returning for our previously scheduled appointment.

This is just the latest example of how the Lord works with his missionaries. It's no coincidence that we arrived at this street just at the moment when this long-lost member of the Church happened to be walking by. In fact, we were a little late for our appointment because google maps had taken us through narrow, windy, unlit streets at night in an area where I had never driven before. And, of course, I'm driving a stick-shift car on the left side of the road.

This is also an example of how the Lord works with those who serve him. These wonderful Elders were in the right place at the right time, despite the many obstacles that would have made it easier to not go there that night.

Plus, our scheduled visit was awesome.

The point is, I think the Lord wants to bless everyone involved with sharing and testifying about the Book of Mormon.

For years, I have sought to work with the M2C advocates, including the M2C citation cartel. I think it's counterproductive to have online debates, but they refuse to meet and discuss these things privately. They refuse to inform members of the Church about alternatives to M2C.

In my view, they are more concerned about defending their M2C agenda than anything else.

I'm told some of them are offended by my blog posts and books, but they know perfectly well that I have always wanted to work with them and sort out all these issues. We can agree to disagree, but we can work together anyway.

If they want to.

I appeal to them, once again, to work as colleagues on the issues of the Book of Mormon geography and historicity.

The battle M2C wants

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Why doesn't the world know?

Last week on a missionary split here in Africa we visited an awesome man who is investigating the Church and who made some profound statements. Our entire conversation was in French, but I'll summarize the key points.

The missionaries found this individual by doing door-to-door contacting.

He said he had been interested in religion a long time. He had studied the Bible and gone to several churches. But in his entire life, he had never heard that there is a prophet alive today. He had never heard of the Book of Mormon.

He also said that he thinks there are many people in this country who would be excited to learn about this and who would join the Church.

Then he asked, "Why aren't you telling people? Why doesn't the world know?"

I explained that the Elder I was with had come on his mission specifically to tell people about it.

"But I'm just one person who happened to be home when the missionaries knocked on my door. What about the rest of the world? Why aren't you telling everyone about this?"

I've wondered about that question for a long time, but when this investigator posed it, it caused me to reflect some more.

Why does such important information remain unknown to most people on Earth?*

One reason is that members of the Church are reluctant to talk about their beliefs. There are as many reasons as there are individuals, but one common reason is hesitation about the Book of Mormon.

BYU's fantasy map of the
Book of Mormon
There is a lot of confusion about the Book of Mormon among Church members. Current generations have been taught at BYU and CES to think of the Book of Mormon in terms of a fantasy world. Older generations, such as mine, were taught to think of it in terms of Mesoamerica.

Prior generations also considered a variety of alternatives, but they had one common pin in the map: the New York Cumorah. They were united in accepting what the prophets and apostles had taught about the Hill Cumorah in western New York.

Today's Church members don't know what to think. 

Do we believe the prophets and apostles? Do we believe the M2C scholars? Do we believe the fantasy maps of CES and BYU?

Is insisting that it doesn't matter the only option, when obviously it does matter to most people in the world?

This uncertainty has a serious impact on missionary work.

Every missionary knows that one of the most common questions posed by people who are introduced to the Book of Mormon is, "Where did these events take place?"

As it stands right now, missionaries and members can only say, "Somewhere in the Americas, but we don't know where."

That is such an implausible response that I'm always amazed when people continue investigating anyway.

Not amazed, really. The Spirit will bear witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon even when people are skeptical about it's historicity. But skepticism is a serious hurdle, as we can tell from the tiny percentage of people who join the Church and remain faithful.

Worse, of course, is the response our M2C intellectuals advocate; i.e., that the Book of Mormon events took place in Central America. Any investigator with access to the Internet is going to discover in less than five minutes such web pages as this:

M2C is not only implausible because it's based on illusory evidence and confirmation bias, but because it contradicts the teachings of the very prophets and apostles whom the missionaries are encouraging the investigators to accept. Most people will wonder why they should accept the teachings of the prophets and apostles when intellectuals in the Church repudiate them.

Contrast this to the early days of the Church, when Apostles went on their mission to England and converted more people (5,000) than they had copies of the Book of Mormon (3,000). Elder Lorenzo Snow gave a copy of the Book of Mormon to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1841. By 1850, there were more Church members in Britain than in the U.S., even after 7,500 people had emigrated to the U.S. from the U.K.

There are many reasons for this missionary success, but one surely was the way the Apostles grounded the Book of Mormon in the real world. They explained that Cumorah was in New York and that there was plenty of evidence of ancient civilizations in the New World.**

First volume of the
Millennial Star
Beginning with the second issue of the Millennial Star in 1840, Parley P. Pratt published President Cowdery's historical essays under the heading, "A Remarkable Vision."

You can read a digital copy of Letter VII in the October 1840 issue of the Millennial Star here:

Go to that link and scroll down to record 16, which is page 152, to read about the New York Cumorah.

In response to strong demand for President Cowdery's letters, early Church leaders in England published a pamphlet that consisted entirely of Oliver's eight letters.

In Nauvoo, New York City, and Philadelphia, Church newspapers republished Letter VII so everyone, both members and non-members, at least learned about the New York Cumorah.

When he wrote Letter VII, President Cowdery was responding to claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction. He knew the truth because he, Joseph and others had actually visited Mormon's depository of Nephite records in that hill in New York where Joseph found the plates in Moroni's stone box. That should have resolved this question long ago.

Imagine how much more effective the message of the Restoration would be if the entire Church were united on accepting the clear, consistent, and persistent teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah. 

*When we lived in Utah, we had the sense that everyone knew about the Church, the Book of Mormon, etc. Everywhere I've lived in the U.S. (California, Washington, Arizona, Utah, Illinois, Tennessee, New York) is about the same. Most Americans know at least something about "Mormons" if only from their study of American history and the settlement of the west.

I've lived in Europe for 8 years and in Asia for nearly 2 years. Now I live in Africa. I've visited 70 countries and every continent, and I've worked in a dozen or more countries. Outside the U.S., the story is the same. Few people have heard of Mormons, unless it's because of polygamy or unless they happen to know a member of the Church. Thanks to the Broadway show, many people in major cities know about the Book of Mormon. But far, far fewer have any idea of the existence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And almost nobody knows there is a living prophet today. That is changing thanks to media coverage of President Nelson's visits in many countries, but as he said, he can't go everywhere. And the message has difficult breaking through.

Right here where we live, we constantly see banners featuring images of religious leaders who are visiting town, holding conferences, selling books, etc. They all profess to represent God in some way, whether they are Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or something else.

**The Pratt brothers, Orson and Parley, often said that the indigenous people throughout Latin America were descendants of Lehi, which led to the widespread adoption of this notion. What most Church members forget is that Joseph Smith edited out those theories when he wrote the Wentworth letter. His declaration in that letter that the remnant of Lehi's people are the Indians that now (1842) live in this country (the U.S.) should have ended the speculation, but historians and scholars have ignored what he said. In fact, some M2C intellectuals have insisted that when Joseph wrote "this country" he was actually referring to Central America!

Worse, the Correlation Department edited the Wentworth letter to remove Joseph's identification of the remnant of Lehi's descendants. Current members of the Church and future generations will never learn what the Prophet Joseph Smith taught on this important topic, solely because of the influence of the M2C intellectuals.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Correcting an error

In Canada recently, President Nelson made this comment about the name of the Church:

“We’re correcting an error that has crept in over the ages.”

When I read that I thought, "Wouldn't it be awesome to correct another error that has crept in? The error being the repudiation by the M2C intellectuals of the prophets' consistent and persistent teaching that the Hill Cumorah is in New York."

We'll see.

There's still time for the M2C intellectuals to correct the error, but they don't seem to be inclined to do so.