Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The possession of mankind

A year ago, Elder Christofferson taught that "The Book of Mormon is the possession of mankind."

The Title Page explains that the abridgments of the record of the people of Nephi and the people of Jared was provided "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations."

With these principles in mind, we can think of the Book of Mormon as a way to bring all people to Christ, regardless of their current beliefs and affiliations. People of all faiths--and no faith--can appreciate the Book of Mormon for the truths it teaches. 

To the extent we use the Book of Mormon primarily as a missionary tool, we may be building more barriers than bridges. 


Another approach would be sharing the Book of Mormon on its own merits. No one has to join any church to appreciate what the Book of Mormon teaches and how it brings people closer to Christ. 

Accepting the Book of Mormon for its merits would dissolve much of the disputes, contention and misunderstanding among various groups and individuals.

Because the Book of Mormon is squarely within the Christian tradition, MOBOM has a section on Why Christians need the Book of Mormon.


Recently, I did an interview with an evangelical who is interested in the Restoration movement. You can see it here:



I welcome your feedback. Email me at lostzarahemla@gmail.com and I'll discuss your feedback in this blog.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Back to the Future-Elder Dieter F. Uchdorf

 If you haven't seen this video, you should watch it.

Back To The Future | Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"Don't focus on the things you cannot do, focus on the things you can do."

Monday, April 19, 2021

Spiritual Resilience-an awesome new book

I'm participating in a blog tour of a wonderful new book by Sharla Goettl titled Spiritual Resilience: Leading our Youth to Go and Do.

The title resonated with me because I'm currently facilitating the Emotional Resilience course in our ward. The concept of resilience is empowering. If widely embraced by Latter-day Saints, resilience will help change the world. I recently discussed this on my How to Zion blog and Sharla Goettl has provided important insights into how to help youth acquire resilience in their lives.

The challenges faced by the youth in the Church today are well known. One of the best ways to help them become resilient is by relating to them by discussing the questions they have. Instead of providing rote answers, we encourage them to develop resilience by answering their questions themselves.

Sharla shows the way to do this by organizing her book with a series of questions that everyone can relate to. For example, Chapter one discusses these two:

How can I spiritually prepare for a future I can't predict?

How did Nephi's parents support him in becoming what the Lord needed?

The end of each chapter includes a brief summary and note-taking area that encourages readers to interact with the book. This is similar to the technique used in modern Church curriculum, including the Come Follow Me manuals, that is so effective in helping readers engage with the content and incorporate it into their lives.

Although the book's subtitle refers to youth, the concepts and examples Sharla includes in Spiritual Resilience are relevant and applicable to everyone. 

I highly recommend this book!

For more information, go to:

Affiliate link: https://amzn.to/2NVeZy9

Author’s website: www.sharlagoettl.com

Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/authorsharlagoettl

Instagram: @authorsharlagoettl

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/sharlagoettl

Rafflecopter giveaway!

*  EVERYONE can get a FREE gift at www.sharlagoettl.com  Click on the link at the top of the page for “The Goal Maker”.

Past and future participants in the tour.

April 12
April 13
April 14
April 15
April 16
April 17
April 18

May 1
May 2
May 3
May 4
May 5
May 6
May 7
May 8

April Liahona online extras and apologetics

The April Liahona has several articles exclusive to the online edition. Here's a link to one of them:


These are important articles that address the widespread (and growing) problem of faithful Latter-day Saints whose friends and family members leave the Church. 

As these articles point out, people join and leave the Church for a variety of individual reasons and under varying circumstances. We've discussed this before, such as here

Some people who leave cite doctrinal issues raised by the Gospel Topics Essays, or Church history topics such as those set out in Rough Stone Rolling, as factors in their decision. Others refer to CES Letter, MormonStories, or other similar websites.

We've known for a long time that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. Few people leave the Church with an intact testimony that the Book of Mormon is true. Meanwhile, surveys show that only about one-half of millennials in the Church today still believe the Book of Mormon is an authentic history. 

Youth and new converts are being taught the Book of Mormon by reference to a hypothetical geographic setting that teaches Cumorah is not in New York as had been consistently taught by prophets and apostles since the early days of the Church. 

Nearly a century ago, Joseph Fielding Smith warned that the idea that Cumorah is not in New York (M2C, the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) would cause members to become confused and disturbed in their faith. How could it be otherwise?

When he wrote the CES Letter, Jeremy Runnels hoped for a different perspective. Instead, LDS apologists stuck to M2C, SITH, and related theories. 

After many requests for a different response, I've started two blogs on the topics.

For the CES Letter, see https://cesanswers.blogspot.com/

For MormonStories, see https://mormonstoriesreviewed.blogspot.com/

These are works in progress that I'll update as time allows. 


It's interesting that these articles don't appear on the international online pages. For example, here's a comparison of the Liahona in English and French.

The red arrows show the articles in the English Liahona that correspond to the articles in the French Liahona. The area circled in blue are in English only.

(click to enlarge)

Maybe it was the difficulty of translating so much content that led to these articles being omitted from the foreign-language editions of the Liahona, but the same issues that disturb the faith of English-speaking Latter-day Saints disturb the faith of those who speak other languages.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A Puzzle, not a fight

The ongoing discussion about Book of Mormon historicity and geography should be reframed as a puzzle, not a fight, competition, or even problem.

The ultimate issue is the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. On that issue, there are two opposite, incompatible realities. There is only one road; each person has to decide which direction to travel.

1. For some, the Book of Mormon relates actual events that took place somewhere on Earth involving real human beings.

2. For others, the Book of Mormon is fiction, whether pious or fraudulent.

Each side includes numerous nuances. For example, while nearly all nonbelievers accept scenario #2, there are lots of active, believing Latter-day Saints (LDS) who accept the Book of Mormon as teaching correct principles, even though they disbelieve its authenticity as an actual history. The percentage of LDS who adopt that approach is increasing. Surveys show that only about 50% of active Millennials believe the Book of Mormon is an authentic history.

In my view, that's the inevitable result of teaching the Book of Mormon by referencing a fantasy map, as is being done at BYU and in CES. Two of the most popular LDS youtubers developed and teach the BYU fantasy map online as well as in the classroom.

For some LDS, Book of Mormon historicity is irrelevant. Obviously, one's belief about Book of Mormon historicity is not a temple recommend question. Anyone can actively participate in Church activities independent of what they think about the Book of Mormon.

For non-LDS, however, and for most former LDS, it is a core issue.

Recognizing this is one reason why historicity is an important issue to many LDS.

Book of Mormon Central, for example, claims "We build enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to people everywhere."

Many of us think they are doing the exact opposite by imposing their M2C* interpretation on the text. We find the M2C arguments not only unpersuasive, but destructive of faith. Rejecting the teachings of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and their associates about the New York Cumorah undermines the credibility of everything they taught, as we're seeing with the ongoing saga of SITH (the stone-in-the-hat version of the translation, which claims Joseph didn't really translate the plates).

Nevertheless, we're on the same side as our friends at Book of Mormon Central. 

We, like them, still believe the Book of Mormon relates actual history. We think the historicity of the Book of Mormon is foundational to its acceptance as scripture.

In that sense, we're on the same team.

Once we recognize we're on the same team, we can see Book of Mormon historicity as a puzzle to be solved, together, instead of a competition, fight, argument, debate, problem, etc. It is not a win/lose situation.

As teammates, we should support one another.

Despite the false representations made by my scholarly LDS critics, I have emphasized over and over on this blog that people can believe whatever they want. I'm happy to refer people to the M2C citation cartel because 80-90% of what they produce is pretty good. I like them personally and I think they have good intentions. 

I just think their M2C bias has blinded them and channeled them into bias confirmation. And I think that becomes obvious with side-by-side comparisons of the text itself, Church history, teachings of the prophets, and external evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc.

The only way to actually support one another is to make all the evidence available and show the different interpretations, assumptions and related psychology.

At one point a few years ago, we had actually reached an agreement to provide such comparisons, but one person in particular vetoed the project, which I'll be discussing in my book on LDS apologetics later this year. 

This has been my objection to the M2C citation cartel from the beginning. Censorship never prevails, especially in today's world.

In fact, the ongoing censorship by the M2C citation cartel is a gift to the critics such as CESLetter and MormonStories. 

For this reason, I'm going to provide more side-by-side comparisons in coming weeks.

We can solve this puzzle. We're on the same team.

Stay tuned.


*M2C is the "Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs" theory that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah. M2C teaches that their contemporaries and successors, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, who have taught the New York Cumorah were merely teaching their own incorrect opinions as men, and that modern LDS scholars have come up with the correct beliefs about Book of Mormon settings and historicity.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Hugh Nibley and the Book of Mormon

FAIRLDS has a nice blog series on the new book about Hugh Nibley. Here's the link to a post by Jeffrey Bradshaw that I highly recommend.


The excerpt below explains how people in Africa, and by extension people everywhere in the world, can relate to the universal themes in the Book of Mormon.

I hadn’t anticipated such great interest in the Book of Mormon in the heart of Africa — after all, I had not thought this was “their” story in the same way it was the story of many indigenous groups in the Americas and the Pacific islands. But we soon found out we were mistaken: the stories of continual violence, wars, and conflicts, endemic corruption, government leaders on the take, Gadianton robbers and assassins, courageous Christians, life-changing visions from heaven, and the Gospel being preached to the poor and poor in heart were indeed their stories, too — and it struck them to the heart to read them. After having lived in the Congo, many of the Book of Mormon stories became daily reality — as they are becoming reality in too many parts of the world.

This is another example of the important principle that Elder Christofferson taught in April 2020.

"The Book of Mormon is the possession of mankind."



Friday, March 26, 2021

Persuasion, education, and argument

There's a big difference between trying to persuade people, trying to educate people, and trying to change minds by arguing with them.

Readers here know that I frequently declare that as far as I'm concerned, people can believe whatever they want. I don't want to persuade people because persuasion techniques can involve manipulating facts (especially by hiding or censoring unfavorable facts). Arguing with people is pointless because people naturally resist any effort to change their minds.

But people usually are eager to learn new things and make up their own minds.

That's why my objective is to enable and empower people through education and rational analysis so they can make their own informed decisions.

It's not a difficult distinction, but sometimes people who feel threatened by evidence that contradicts their beliefs conflate the concepts. 

For example, a while back a well-known LDS author/educator, former Mission President, etc., sent an email to his list claiming that I was lying to people when I said I wasn't trying to persuade anyone of anything. I had brought up facts that contradicted what he had been teaching for his entire career. Two people on his list forwarded his email to me. I contacted him, and he apologized, but he didn't send a follow-up to his list.


I bring this up because I saw a nice article about the futility of arguing that readers here will enjoy. The author, a former professional boxer, makes some good points, although he unintentionally seems to justify a "closed-mind" approach to life, so I wouldn't read the article uncritically. 

Still, there are some thoughtful insights worth considering.

It's especially important to apply the concepts to ourselves. Are we the type of people for whom "the pain of ignorance is greater than the satisfaction of stubbornness," so what we are eager to improve our lives by readily accepting new information in a positive context, or are we more intent on confirming our biases regardless?

In the gospel context, I think more information is always better than less information. This is especially true for Church history issues, as we've discussed many times.



No matter how well-crafted your argument…

No matter how many points you make that can’t be refuted…

No matter how painfully obvious it is that your stance on the matter is, practically speaking, the correct one…

You will never convince someone who isn’t interested in being convinced.

Occasionally you may come across the rare individual who changes their mind in the face of new evidence, but these types of people go into a situation with an open mind and loosely held beliefs. Maybe calling their beliefs “loosely held” isn’t quite correct.

It’s more accurate to say that they realize they could be completely incorrect and for these people, the pain of ignorance is greater than the satisfaction of stubbornness.

The longer it takes you to realize that most people are never going to change their minds, the longer it will take you to thrive in this environment.

Until you get this, you will spend your days raging on the internet and debating in person over things that not only don’t matter, but even if they did, there’s nothing you can do about them and no prize you win for convincing the opposition otherwise.

The end.