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

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A Puzzle, not a fight

The ongoing discussion about Book of Mormon historicity and geography should be reframed as a puzzle, not a fight, competition, or even problem.

The ultimate issue is the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. On that issue, there are two opposite, incompatible realities. There is only one road; each person has to decide which direction to travel.

1. For some, the Book of Mormon relates actual events that took place somewhere on Earth involving real human beings.

2. For others, the Book of Mormon is fiction, whether pious or fraudulent.

Each side includes numerous nuances. For example, while nearly all nonbelievers accept scenario #2, there are lots of active, believing Latter-day Saints (LDS) who accept the Book of Mormon as teaching correct principles, even though they disbelieve its authenticity as an actual history. The percentage of LDS who adopt that approach is increasing. Surveys show that only about 50% of active Millennials believe the Book of Mormon is an authentic history.

In my view, that's the inevitable result of teaching the Book of Mormon by referencing a fantasy map, as is being done at BYU and in CES. Two of the most popular LDS youtubers developed and teach the BYU fantasy map online as well as in the classroom.

For some LDS, Book of Mormon historicity is irrelevant. Obviously, one's belief about Book of Mormon historicity is not a temple recommend question. Anyone can actively participate in Church activities independent of what they think about the Book of Mormon.

For non-LDS, however, and for most former LDS, it is a core issue.

Recognizing this is one reason why historicity is an important issue to many LDS.

Book of Mormon Central, for example, claims "We build enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to people everywhere."

Many of us think they are doing the exact opposite by imposing their M2C* interpretation on the text. We find the M2C arguments not only unpersuasive, but destructive of faith. Rejecting the teachings of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and their associates about the New York Cumorah undermines the credibility of everything they taught, as we're seeing with the ongoing saga of SITH (the stone-in-the-hat version of the translation, which claims Joseph didn't really translate the plates).

Nevertheless, we're on the same side as our friends at Book of Mormon Central. 

We, like them, still believe the Book of Mormon relates actual history. We think the historicity of the Book of Mormon is foundational to its acceptance as scripture.

In that sense, we're on the same team.

Once we recognize we're on the same team, we can see Book of Mormon historicity as a puzzle to be solved, together, instead of a competition, fight, argument, debate, problem, etc. It is not a win/lose situation.

As teammates, we should support one another.

Despite the false representations made by my scholarly LDS critics, I have emphasized over and over on this blog that people can believe whatever they want. I'm happy to refer people to the M2C citation cartel because 80-90% of what they produce is pretty good. I like them personally and I think they have good intentions. 

I just think their M2C bias has blinded them and channeled them into bias confirmation. And I think that becomes obvious with side-by-side comparisons of the text itself, Church history, teachings of the prophets, and external evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc.

The only way to actually support one another is to make all the evidence available and show the different interpretations, assumptions and related psychology.

At one point a few years ago, we had actually reached an agreement to provide such comparisons, but one person in particular vetoed the project, which I'll be discussing in my book on LDS apologetics later this year. 

This has been my objection to the M2C citation cartel from the beginning. Censorship never prevails, especially in today's world.

In fact, the ongoing censorship by the M2C citation cartel is a gift to the critics such as CESLetter and MormonStories. 

For this reason, I'm going to provide more side-by-side comparisons in coming weeks.

We can solve this puzzle. We're on the same team.

Stay tuned.


*M2C is the "Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs" theory that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah. M2C teaches that their contemporaries and successors, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, who have taught the New York Cumorah were merely teaching their own incorrect opinions as men, and that modern LDS scholars have come up with the correct beliefs about Book of Mormon settings and historicity.


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