What I'm referring to in the context of Book of Mormon historicity and geography is the ongoing effort by LDS scholars and educators to persuade people that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about the Hill Cumorah being in New York.
Short of outright calling Joseph and Oliver liars, what could be more destructive of faith than to characterize Joseph and Oliver this way?
And yet, that teaching is implicit in everything the Mesoamerican advocates are doing. Not just the Mesoamerican advocates, but the advocates of every non-New York Cumorah, including those who promote abstract maps, the Baja theory, the Panama theory, the South American theory, and all the rest.
The entire issue boils down to whether we are going to accept Joseph and Oliver as reliable and credible witnesses (the New York Cumorah) or whether we are going to reject them as ignorant speculators who misled the Church about this essential point.
As I've examined the history of the debate between the various theories of Book of Mormon geography, it has become apparent to me that much of the disagreement is word thinking.
One topic that has consumed a lot of energy has been the discussion about what is the "promised land" and where the "promised land" is located. Proponents of the Heartland and Mesoamerican theories both think they are interpreting the terminology about the "promised land" correctly, and neither side can "see" what the other side is saying.
I happen to agree with the Heartland interpretation, but I also understand the Meso position, having accepted it for decades. That semantic debate never gets resolved. Both sides interpret the various scriptural passages and statements from Church leaders in a way that confirms their respective biases. Such word thinking can never lead to a consensus. It's like the never-ending debates between Mormons and Christians in which both sides use the same terms but with different meanings attached to the terms. These debates are inherently contentious and frustrating. They turn people off.
This word thinking is two-dimensional. It looks real, it seems meaningful, but it misses the main point. Debating the meaning of words is surface-level thinking. Additional examples are the debates over the interpretation of the "narrow neck of land," whether a "narrow neck" is the same thing as a "narrow neck of land," whether these are the same as a "small neck of land," and so forth. Such debates cannot lead to consensus because they are merely exercises in bias confirmation.