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, April 23, 2018

Rejecting false traditions

One of the great insights in the Book of Mormon involves the persistence of traditions and how people and societies preserve traditions through confirmation bias.

The classic example is the narrative of Nephi and his brothers. According to Nephi, leaving Jerusalem and taking the brass plates was God's will. According to Laman, the people of Jerusalem were righteous and Nephi was a usurper. Both sides cited the same facts, but had entirely opposite interpretations.*

These interpretations became the traditions, or narratives, that separated the Nephites from the Lamanites for centuries.

Today in the Church there are two traditions, or narratives, that cause division among Church members regarding the Book of Mormon. The persistence of this division causes confusion among youth, missionaries and investigators. 

It's time to resolve this.

Tradition A teaches that the prophets have been wrong about the New York Cumorah. 

Tradition B teaches that the prophets have been correct about the New York Cumorah. 

The best-known iteration of B is the Heartland. The best-known iteration of A is M2C--the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.

Tradition A is taught by BYU, CES, and the Departments in COB (the Church Office Building, such as the History, Correlation and Missionary Departments). It has never been taught in General Conference or by any prophet or apostle.

Tradition B is taught by various individuals, but is actively opposed by BYU, CES, and COB. It has been consistently taught by the prophets and apostles, including in General Conference, and has never been repudiated or even questioned by any prophet or apostle.

Basically, Tradition A claims the prophets and apostles who have taught the New York Cumorah were expressing their own ignorant opinions and were wrong because certain LDS intellectuals know more than the prophets and apostles. These M2C intellectuals think the New York Cumorah is a foolish tradition.

Tradition B claims the prophets and apostles who taught the New York Cumorah were correct and that it is the intellectuals who are expressing their own opinions and are wrong.

Prophets vs scholars, yet again.


It's easy to see the origins of Tradition B. Start with Letter VII and then read the teachings of the prophets and apostles.

It's not as easy to see the origins of Tradition A because it developed over time. It is not easy to persuade active, faithful LDS that the prophets and apostles are wrong. Even after decades of concerted effort through CES, BYU, and COB Departments, the M2C intellectuals have not persuaded all members of the Church that the prophets were wrong. In fact, the tide may be turning.

I've addressed these origins before, such as here (, but it isn't the origins that matter.

It's how we deal with the traditions.

The Zoramites explained their rejection of the traditions of their fathers this way:

Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children... we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren,

Helaman 5:19 shows that it is possible for people to reject false traditions.

Therefore they did speak unto the great astonishment of the Lamanites, to the convincing them, insomuch that there were eight thousand of the Lamanites who were in the land of Zarahemla and round about baptized unto repentance, and were convinced of the wickedness of the traditions of their fathers.

To reach unity on this topic, the only solution is to accept the teachings of the prophets and apostles, which means rejecting the false tradition A that repudiates those teachings.

The question is, how many M2C intellectuals are capable of doing this? How many are willing to?
* Zeniff explained this well in Mosiah 10:

11 Now, the Lamanites knew nothing concerning the Lord, nor the strength of the Lord, therefore they depended upon their own strength. Yet they were a strong people, as to the strength of men.

12 They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, believing in the tradition of their fathers, which is this—Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea;

13 And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea, and all this because that Nephi was more faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord—therefore he was favored of the Lord, for the Lord heard his prayers and answered them, and he took the lead of their journey in the wilderness.

14 And his brethren were wroth with him because they understood not the dealings of the Lord; they were also wroth with him upon the waters because they hardened their hearts against the Lord.

15 And again, they were wroth with him when they had arrived in the promised land, because they said that he had taken the ruling of the people out of their hands; and they sought to kill him.

16 And again, they were wroth with him because he departed into the wilderness as the Lord had commanded him, and took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, for they said that he robbed them.

17 And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi.

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