Friday, April 14, 2017

Someone is wrong on the Internet

Is it possible to resolve anything on the Internet?

Probably not.

Is it possible to reach a consensus on the Internet?

Almost surely not.

Then why write and read blogs?

For me, blogs are useful records of the things I'm working on, what I read, and my thoughts, a sort of easily accessible journal that, apparently, other people are interested in. So far, there have been about 150,000 hits on my blogs and hundreds of people read them every day, mostly from the U.S. but also from many other countries around the world.

Marketing experts know it takes many impressions to influence thinking and behavior. Most people are not going to change their minds even in the face of new information, but a few do. Impressions can accumulate until a tipping point can be reached. One blog post might make the difference, like the last snowflake that causes an avalanche.

There's a clever post about the challenge of persuasion on another blog, here. Ardis Parshall writes:

"This classic xkcd webcomic (#386, Duty Calls) captures the common online absurdity of exerting great effort to prove to a stranger that he is wrong and you are right about something that doesn’t matter to anyone. I mean, who would do something like that?"

So is there a reason to blog other than journaling?

I think so.

As I've discussed many times, one of the biggest obstacles to reaching consensus in any field is lack of open communication and exchange of ideas. Whenever possible, people tend to prefer confirming their biases as opposed to changing their minds. This may be even more true of scholars, academics and educators than of the general public, for the obvious reason that the intellectuals have much more invested in their beliefs.

To confirm their biases, scholars, academics and educators tend to establish and perpetuate closed systems. A college campus, for example, is a closed system; faculty are hired based on shared academic assumptions and credentials, and students are admitted based on shared objectives and beliefs in the value of the established academic assumptions and credentials.

The LDS citation cartel is a prime example, of course, since the cartel's concept of "peer review" is essentially "peer approval" by a small group of like-minded academics who resist intrusion (or even participation) by outsiders who challenge their shared assumptions.  

Because the academic citation cartel exists to confirm the shared biases of cartel members, the cartel is able to impose their assumptions and beliefs on others through the educational system. Their assumptions about Church history (i.e., that Joseph and Oliver were confused speculators who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah) and about Book of Mormon geography (i.e., that Mesoamerica is the only viable setting) have come to dominate LDS thought because the cartel members have successfully excluded alternative assumptions from BYU and CES. Consequently, everyone is taught the same assumptions, and they continue ad infinitum.

The Internet is one of the only ways to bypass the cartel and communicate new ideas. Cartel members understand this, which is why the citation cartel exists in the first place. They know that most members of the Church, when faced with a choice between the academics on one hand and Joseph and Oliver on the other, will choose Joseph and Oliver.

Given a choice, most members of the Church would reject the two-Cumorahs theory. For that reason, the citation cartel relegates the two-Cumorahs theory to isolated comments in academic writings and subliminal teaching such as the display on Temple Square and the images in the missionary editions of the Book of Mormon.

In Joseph Smith's day, everyone knew there was one Cumorah and it was in New York.

In our day, LDS academics reject what Joseph and Oliver said, replacing it with the idea that there are two Cumorahs; Mormon's Cumorah is in Mesoamerica, and Moroni's Cumorah in New York.


I doubt this post will be the snowflake that causes an avalanche, but hopefully it will add to the accumulation of ideas that weighs on the citation cartel. Eventually, I trust, a consensus about Church history and Book of Mormon geography will develop.


  1. I am one of those who reads all of your blogs almost every day. I also read almost every other blog related to Book of Mormon Geography to understand what others think. I was exposed to the North American Heartland Model of Book of Mormon Geography for the first time about 3 years ago, and quickly came to the realization that the Heartland Model is the only one that obviously and overwhelmingly makes sense. Armed with this blog information and slides acquired at Heartland Conferences I have made presentations to many small groups totaling about 400 people. Most of those people were hearing about the possibility of the Book of Mormon taking place in the Eastern United States for the first time. The vast majority of them also thought that it obviously made sense. A few staunch Mesoamerican's and others were unchanged. Before one of my presentations a Mesoamerican made the comment that "we don't want any Heartlanders speaking here" because she had personaly climbed to the top of the "true" Hill Cumorah in Central America. Following my presentation she changed her mind and said "I think I still have a lot to learn." Perhaps as many as 15 or 20 of those introduced to the Heartland model by me have sought out more information by attending conferences and buying books etc.

    So, perhaps your blogs can be the last snowflake that causes an avalanche.

    1. DeVon, You're not the only one who reads Jonathan's various blogs almost every day. And here I thought I was the only one. I only wish I had better health to contribute more to the cause.

  2. Well done! Make a list of any Mesomania objections I haven't fully addressed and I'll discuss them on the blog.

    One of the most common is the "personal spiritual experience" claim. People don't realize that other people, everywhere in the world, of whatever religion, also claim similar spiritual experiences. That's one of the main reasons why we have the Book of Mormon, actually. Because it is a real history of real people, previously unknown and unknowable because of the destruction of the people and their records, it could only have come to us through the power of God with Joseph Smith.