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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Consensus on Cumorah

Although there are plenty of criticisms of the idea of consensus, I still believe consensus is important.

I also believe that scholars, leaders, and members of the Church will reach consensus about Book of Mormon geography.


But why wait? 

We can reach consensus right now about the location of Cumorah in Mormon 6:6.

This should be easy.

But apparently it's not because it hasn't happened yet.

The process may be driven by any of three main groups.

If enough members of the Church become educated on the topic, such as by reading Letter VII, that will eventually lead to consensus. Church leaders could encourage consensus by focusing on this topic. And the scholars could promote consensus by rejecting the false two-Cumorahs theory.

At this point, I think the driving force will be the members. 

It is the members of the Church who, on a daily basis, confront the issue. They have to decide what to teach their children, and the current confusion that reigns is uncomfortable at best and ultimately unacceptable. People are dealing with their cognitive dissonance by ignoring the implications (and by insisting a spiritual witness is all that matters), but that's a short-term response that is ultimately counterproductive for many people (and the vast majority of investigators).

For some people, the spiritual witness is sufficient. But let's get real. After all, every religion is based on a spiritual witness of its holy books and teachings. Ask any believing Christian, Muslim, or Hindu if they have a spiritual witness. Or just read 2 Nephi 29:12.

The Book of Mormon is uniquely true because of its historicity, not in spite of it.

If members are involved in reactivation or missionary work in any way, they know the two-Cumorahs theory is a common tool used by the opposition (whether anti-Mormon or former Mormon). I've had investigators tell me that of course they will get a spiritual witness by praying about the Book of Mormon because it contains so many quotations from the Bible, but they say that doesn't mean the parts that aren't quoting from the Bible are true. If we can't explain where the events took place--if we can't even agree among ourselves where they took place--if we don't even accept what Joseph and Oliver had to say about it--why should they accept the non-Biblical parts of the Book of Mormon?

Anyone with Internet access and curiosity about the Book of Mormon learns quickly that LDS scholars formally repudiate what Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer said about Cumorah.

How do you think that goes over with investigators?

Or even young adults in the Church?

Or the inactive people on your home/visiting teaching lists?

When the illustrations in the missionary editions of the Book of Mormon themselves falsely promise a narrative of jungles, pyramids, and Mayans that appear nowhere in the text, we should all recognize we have a major problem.

In my view, LDS scholars undermine the otherwise good work they do when they continue to insist that:

1) Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery didn't know what they were talking about regarding Cumorah,

2) Joseph and Oliver speculated about (and thereby deceived) all of their contemporaries when they collaborated on Letter VII.

3) David Whitmer provided false testimony later in his life.

4) Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball and others related false accounts of the records repository in the New York hill.

All of these problems and more would be eliminated if we could simply reach consensus that Joseph and Oliver and their contemporaries were correct about Cumorah in New York.

The debate about the extent of Nephite territory beyond the New York Cumorah can continue, of course. People can propose that Zarahemla is in New York, Iowa, Louisiana, or even southern Mexico, Baja, or Quirigua for all I care.

But that debate doesn't undermine the credibility and reliability of the founders of the Church.

So how about it? Can we at least agree on the New York Cumorah?

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