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, April 24, 2018

Why scholars oppose the prophets

We might think that the answer to Book of Mormon geography/historicity is to accumulate all the facts and apply the best reasoning. It seems logical that the best informed and "smartest" people would most easily reach agreement on issues. After all, facts are facts; the more facts we have, the closer we should be to the truth, and the better trained and the smarter we are, the better we should be able to understand and apply the facts.

But in real life, it doesn't work out that way.

People engage in "motivated reasoning" all the time. They seek to confirm their biases. And the more cognitive capacity you have, the more you engage in motivated reasoning.

In her book, The Influential Mind, Tali Sharot makes this observation after summarizing experiments in which those people who were the most analytical were the worst at assessing data:

These findings debunk the idea that motivated reasoning is somewhat a trait of less intelligent people. To the contrary, the greater your cognitive capacity, the greater your ability to rationalize and interpret information at will, and to creatively twist data to fit your opinions. 

Ironically, then, people may use their intelligence not to draw more accurate conclusions but to find fault in data they are unhappy with. This is why, when arguing with others, our instinct for offering facts and figures that support our views and contradict theirs may not be the optimal approach. Even if the person in front of you is highly intelligent, you may find it difficult to change their mind with counterevidence. (p. 24, emphasis added)

Really, this should be obvious to Latter-day Saints. The people we should trust the least are the intellectuals, especially when they say the prophets are wrong.

The fundamental question about Book of Mormon geography is whether we follow the prophets or the intellectuals and scholars.

President Benson warned,  "The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them, otherwise the prophet is just giving his opinion—speaking as a man..."

There are lots of reasons why the "learned" (the scholars, intellectuals, etc.) prefer their own ideas over those of the prophets. I've discussed these previously in a series of posts, including this one:

When we see how vigorously the intellectuals fight against the prophets' consistent and persistent teachings about the New York Cumorah, we see an excellent example of what Shaort observes in her book. 

This is how we end up with employees at BYU, CES, and the Church Departments convincing members of the Church that the prophets are wrong. No amount of evidence can or will persuade them otherwise. Every teaching of the prophets that contradicts the views of these intellectuals will be rationalized away.

But members of the Church who follow the prophets accept the New York Cumorah. Then they are open to all the corroborating evidence that is coming forth.

The only possible consensus about Book of Mormon geography/historicity lies in acceptance of the unambiguous, clear, persistent and consistent teachings of the prophets.

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