The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards “The Book of Mormon does not supplant the Bible. It expands, extends, clarifies, and amplifies our knowledge of the Savior. Surely, this second witness should be cause for great rejoicing by all Christians.” - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Friday, April 15, 2016

Fact-based consensus

Although this blog focuses on seeking a consensus about Book of Mormon geography and historicity, it's a mistake to seek consensus solely for the sake of achieving a consensus. If everyone agrees on something that is false, what's the value of unity?

For this reason, I'm hoping to first achieve consensus about a few basic facts, starting with the Hill Cumorah. People can make their own inferences about the significance of the facts, but we should all be able to agree on these facts:

1. Oliver Cowdery's letter VII specifically identified the New York Hill Cumorah as the scene of the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites. He said this was a fact.

2. Letter VII was published in the Messenger and Advocate (1835), the Times and Seasons (1841) and the Gospel Reflector (1841).

3. Joseph Smith helped Oliver write the letters and had them copied into his personal journal (1835).

4. Orson Pratt published parts of Letter VII in his 1840 pamphlet "An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions" that was used as the template for the Wentworth letter, including the Articles of Faith.

5. The letters were republished in a single volume in Liverpool (1844) in response to frequent solicitation from members of the Church.

Can everyone agree with this? If so, let's see the citation cartel start including these facts in their publications, web pages, and presentations.


The issue of Letter VII is fascinating to me. Every member of the citation cartel has known about Letter VII, but they have carefully avoided mentioning it. A Church History Symposium at BYU in 2006 was titled "Days Never to be Forgotten," a quotation from one of Oliver's letters to W.W. Phelps. The proceedings were published in a 403-page volume. Several of Oliver's letters to Phelps were quoted and discussed, but not once was Letter VII or VIII mentioned. This is a significant omission because Oliver's letters were his best-known compositions in the early days of the Church, having been republished so many times in response to public demand.

The Book of Mormon Reference Companion by Dennis L. Largey, published by Deseret Book in 2003, has an entry on Cumorah that repeats the citation cartel's mantra. First, it cites Palmer's two-Cumorah book. Then the entry says this: "Just when this New York hill was first called Cumorah is difficult to determine, but by 1835 the name Cumorah seemed to be well-known, at least among Church members." Letter VII is never mentioned, of course.

The only citation cartel article I've found that does mention Letter VII misrepresents it. I pointed out here that the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies published an article by Martin Raish that quoted Letter VII and Letter VIII, but also claimed that Oliver didn't refer to the site by the name Cumorah. Not only did Oliver refer to Cumorah several times in those letters, but he did so in the sentence immediately following the one Raish quoted! Unsuspecting readers would never know the truth from reading this article.

For those interested, over on the other blog, I'm documenting facts I'm finding in the things published by the citation cartel that aren't quite what they should be, if we're going to apply facts and rational argument to the issues. People can believe whatever they want, of course; I just object when they don't accurately report facts and when they write logical fallacies under the guise of scholarship. I realize there is a consensus among many LDS scholars (and CES people) about the Mesoamerican geography, but I'm showing that this consensus has been built with factual errors and omissions, logical fallacies, and mistaken inferences about Church history.

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