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

Thursday, April 28, 2016

How the citation cartel handles Cumorah

To resolve the issue of Book of Mormon geography and reach a consensus, it's important to reach a consensus about the Hill Cumorah in New York, as described by Oliver Cowdery's Letter VII.

I think there is zero chance for a consensus until everyone involved deals with Letter VII. If people want to reject Letter VII, that's fine. But let's deal with it directly.

The citation cartel, so far, has completely ignored it. Even knowing President Smith cited it, the citation cartel ignored it when they discussed Cumorah here, and instead promoted a compound hearsay statement from 50 years ago to disregard President Smith's analysis.

Those who have read the book on Letter VII, available here and online here, know that Joseph Fielding Smith specifically rejected the two-Cumorah theory on which the Mesoamerican theory depends. (This is the theory that the hill in New York was merely where Joseph found the plates, and not the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites.)

Here is a summary of how the issue has been addressed over the years. (The detail is on another blog for those interested. I've edited that post for this blog.)

In 1938, as Church Historian and a 28-year member of the Twelve, Joseph Fielding Smith writes an extensive analysis rejecting the two Cumorah theory and declaring that it has led members of the Church to "become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith of the Book of Mormon."

In 1956, now as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, President Smith releases Doctrines of Salvation, compiled by Bruce R. McConkie, that includes the republication of his analysis rejecting the two-Cumorah theory.

In 2010, the Citation Cartel claims that President Smith told Sidney Sperry he could write whatever he wanted, including the two-Cumorah theory, and from that they conclude "It seems clear, then, that Elder (later President) Smith did not regard his views as the product of revelation, nor did he regard it as illegitimate to have a different view of the matter."

What is the basis for this rejection of what President Smith wrote?

"Recollection of John Fugal of Orem, Utah, to Matthew Roper, 15 May 2010. Fugal was a student in a BYU Book of Mormon class where Sperry recounted the experience."

I am not making this up. All the citations are listed here, with online links.

To reject Joseph Fielding Smith's analysis, the citation cartel publishes what Brother Roper says Brother Fugal told him that Brother Sperry said President Smith told him sometime in the 1960s.

You pick which side has more credibility.

Better, follow President Smith's analysis and add more recent discoveries from the Joseph Smith papers, then contrast that with the multiple layers of hearsay that the citation cartel relies upon.

(BTW, isn't it obvious to any Latter-day Saint familiar with Article of Faith 11 that Joseph Fielding Smith was merely recognizing Brother Sperry's own free agency and academic freedom? Nothing in this compound--and self-serving--hearsay recollection from 50 years ago implies that President Smith changed his mind on this topic. If anything, his analysis has become more relevant thanks to the Joseph Smith Papers.)


  1. I, for one, am grateful that you're calling the Mesoamerica "citation cartel" out for their "errors." It feels good to finally read the "real story."

  2. I get a lot of comments through email along the same lines. When I got into this 18 months ago, I knew a lot of the late-year FARMS stuff was pretty bad, but I had no idea how pervasive it was.