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

Monday, August 14, 2017

A fair characterization?

I'm hearing some people don't think it's a fair characterization when I say that proponents of the Mesoamerican and two Cumorahs theories claim that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about the Hill Cumorah being in New York.

Whether it's fair or not may be in the eye of the beholder, but it is accurate. 

At any rate, I'm not trying to be unfair. I'm trying to summarize the position of the Mesoamerican proponents as succinctly as I can. I'd be happy to change the wording if someone can email me a more succinct, descriptive, and accurate clause.

The basic premise of the "two-Cumorahs" theory is that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church because in Letter VII they declared it was a fact that the final battles took place in the valley west of the Hill Cumorah in New York. They also said that Mormon's depository (Mormon 6:6) was in the same hill.

Letter VII and the Mesoamerican theory are directly incompatible. Mesoamerican proponents have to believe Letter VII is false. That's why they invented the "two-Cumorahs" theory in the first place.

In Mormon's Codex, John Sorenson wrote “There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd." (Emphasis added.) 

I don't know any Mesoamerican advocates who disagree with Brother Sorenson about that.

To the contrary, major LDS scholars and educators have endorsed and praised Mormon's Codex

Terryl Givens wrote the Foreword, claiming that "John Sorenson has again upped the ante with what will immediately serve as the high-water mark of scholarship on the Book of Mormon."

The book was published by Deseret Book Company and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU.

Brant Gardner and Mark Alan Wright reviewed Mormon's Codex, stating that "Sorenson’s name has become synonymous with a specific geographic correlation between the Book of Mormon and a Mesoamerican geography." They criticized elements they disagreed with, but not Brother Sorenson's condemnation of the idea of the New York Cumorah. Which is no surprise, because like other Mesoamerican advocates, they too reject Letter VII.

Book of Mormon Central frequently cites Mormon's Codex in its "KnoWhy" series.

On its home page, BYU Studies links to Brother Sorenson's maps from his book, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, which are essentially the same ones used in Mormon's Codex.

Brother Sorenson isn't the only one who has written about this idea that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah being in New York. In fact, if there are any Mesoamerican proponents who disagree--that is, who accept Letter VII as accurate--I'd very much like to know about them. 

I've discussed this point with many of the main Mesoamerican proponents at FairMormon, the Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central, BYU, and BMAF. They all think the New York Cumorah was a false tradition. They all think Joseph and Oliver didn't know where the Book of Mormon took place, that they speculated, that Letter VII was just their opinion, that Joseph changed his mind later in life, and that he and Oliver were wrong about Cumorah being in New York. 

Because Letter VII was reprinted so many times, even at Joseph's specific request, and because every one of Joseph's contemporaries agreed with the New York Cumorah, Mesoamerican proponents claim Joseph and Oliver misled the Church about Cumorah being in New York. (Some try to soften the claim by instead asserting that Joseph passively adopted a false tradition, but that doesn't account for his repeated endorsement of the letters.)

The Mesoamerican advocates also say David Whitmer was wrong when he said he met the messenger carrying the plates to Cumorah, that Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball and others were relating an amazing joint "vision" of a hill in Mexico when they spoke about how Joseph, Oliver, and others entered the depository in the Hill Cumorah in New York on multiple occasions, etc.

Furthermore, Mesoamerican advocates claim that Joseph Fielding Smith, Marion G. Romney, Mark E. Peterson and others who have formally and specifically spoken or written about the New York Cumorah were all sharing their own opinions--and they were wrong, even when they spoke about it in General Conference.

If anything I've written in this post is inaccurate, I'd be happy to correct it. 

Meanwhile, right now the most egregious example or rejecting Letter VII, in my opinion, is the abstract map all new BYU students have to learn. It not only teaches that Cumorah is not in New York (i.e., that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about that), but that it is in no real-world location

If you can't see Cumorah on this resolution, I put an enlargement below.

The BYU map all new BYU students must learn.

According to BYU, Cumorah is anywhere except in New York.
By comparison, here's a map of Tolkein's Middle Earth.

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