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, December 1, 2016

Burden of Proof and LDS scholars

So far as I can tell, LDS scholars and educators continue to resist the New York Hill Cumorah. They're saying Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery deceived generations of Saints by perpetuating a false tradition.

I can't think of another example where a set of LDS scholars seeks to impeach the founding prophets of the Restoration by resorting to nothing but their own private opinions.

That should be unbelievable, and it's entirely unacceptable to me, but it's been going on for decades so apparently enough people are fine with it to allow it to continue. I think members of the Church should educate themselves by reading Letter VII, at a minimum, and reject the teachings of scholars and educators who say Letter VII is a false tradition.

Another way to look at this is from the burden of proof perspective.

Oliver Cowdery wrote most of the latter-day scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, some of the D&C and the Book of Moses. Notice I wrote wrote, not authored, because Joseph dictated these words. Presumably, LDS scholars and educators accept the canonized scriptures as reliable and credible.

Oliver also wrote Letter VII. He says he did it with the assistance of Joseph Smith. We have lots of evidence to corroborate that. We don't know whether Joseph dictated any of it, or whether Oliver took what Joseph said and wrote all the letters in his own words, but Joseph had his scribes copy Letter VII into his personal history. He gave specific permission to Benjamin Winchester to reprint it in the Gospel Reflector. His two brothers, Don Carlos and William, reprinted it in newspapers they edited (the Times and Seasons and The Prophet, respectively). In January 1844, it was reprinted in England for the Saints living there. It was reprinted in the Millennial Star and the Improvement Era. The New York Cumorah was specifically identified in the footnotes of the 1879 Book of Mormon for over 40 years. The New York Cumorah was taught in General Conference as late as the 1970s.

And getting back to canonized scripture, part of Letter I is in the Pearl of Great Price.

Despite this extensive and long-lasting endorsement of Letter VII which raises a strong presumption of legitimacy, LDS scholars have completely ignored the explicit and unambiguous teaching about the New York Cumorah.

We've seen scholars write entire articles, if not books, about what they claim is a teaching of Joseph Smith but which they know Joseph never said or wrote, including the "most correct book" quotation and the "Try the Spirits" article.

And now, when forced at last to at least admit it exists, they continue to ignore Letter VII or, even worse, say it's a false tradition.

In my view, LDS scholars and educators have a heavy burden of proof to disqualify Letter VII. In legal terms, they must impeach Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith.

Against all of this evidence and more, what do the Meosamerican advocates offer as impeachment?

Their own private interpretation of the text.

That's it.

For decades, they cited the anonymous Times and Seasons articles, but the historical evidence shows Joseph had nothing to do with those (and they don't mention Cumorah anyway). So that argument is gone.

For decades, they cited their own list of "requirements" for Cumorah that are transparently designed to point to Mesoamerica and are not based on the text. So that argument is gone.

They've cited a "fax from the First Presidency's office," but that has been exposed as plagiarism from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, which in turn was written by the guy who came up with the phony list of "requirements" in the first place. So that argument is gone.

They've cited John Clark's articles about archaeology in New York, but those articles have been exposed as unfounded bias confirmation (because plenty of artifacts have been found in the area and on the Hill Cumorah itself). So that argument is gone.

I repeat: I can't think of another example where a set of LDS scholars seeks to impeach the founding prophets of the Restoration by resorting to nothing but their own private opinions.

Can you?

Can the scholars and educators?

No doubt, they'll try. I'm eager to see what they come up with.

In the meantime, I hope every member of the Church considers this situation seriously. 

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