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, June 22, 2021

Going forward because something has changed

 From Seth Grodin's blog (click on link)

A new decision based on new information

People don’t say yes or change their minds because you persist.

That’s because we don’t like to admit we were wrong.

If we’re going to go forward, it’s because something has changed. It might be that our situation is different, that the story we tell ourselves is different, that the times have changed or that your offering has. It might be that we trust you more.

Monday, June 14, 2021

High-level education and humility

Some of my Chinese university students are wiser than our M2C scholars and their followers. These students recognize the utility and importance of intellectual flexibility.

Here's one student's explanation:

No one likes failure, but failure exists objectively. The greatest significance of failure lies in humility. People are often too proud to see the whole world. Only humility can always remind a person to leave a gap in the world in his eyes. The light in that gap can break the old prejudice and bring a glimmer of vitality to his mind.

Recognizing this "gap in the world" allows people to change their minds when they come across new information, better explanations, etc. 

It's impossible for some of these M2C academics to change their minds because of their long-term commitment to M2C. Seriously, how could Book of Mormon Central ever embrace the Church's position of neutrality when their own logo insists that M2C is the only explanation for the Book of Mormon?


More wisdom from Ed Latimore along the same lines.

It’s easy to correct someone when they’re wrong. A mediocre teacher stops there. The real challenge is correcting the thinking that leads to incorrect conclusions, and to do so without judgement. This is what a high-level educator attempts to accomplish.

Instead of such intellectual honesty and humility, our scholars give us this:

Friday, June 11, 2021

Is your opinion assigned to you? The Witnesses movie, etc.

People who have seen the Witnesses movie tell me it has a lot of good elements but it also promotes SITH (the stone-in-the-hat). In other words, it is assigning the belief in SITH to its viewers.

We'll discuss that below, but first let's talk about how we form opinions.

Most opinions people think they make up their own minds, develop their own opinions, etc., all based on "the facts." 

The reality is much different. 

In many cases, people don't have all the facts. They have different facts because they consult different sources (mainly media or experts they trust). Consequently, most of our opinions are assigned to us by the sources we choose to listen to.

Even when people have all the same facts, they interpret them differently. They think this is because of their own independent judgment, but they are merely accepting the interpretations assigned to them by the media or experts they trust. 

One test of whether our opinions are assigned to us is whether we believe completely inconsistent ideas.

Let's consider two examples from current events in which people's opinions have been assigned to them by the media they choose. It happens on both sides of the political spectrum on nearly every issues. Because I'm using examples from both sides, you may object to one example or the other, but that's the point.

And I emphasize that people can believe whatever they want. This is just a mental experiment to illustrate the point that we usually don't recognize the source of our opinions.

First, COVID. How many people do you know who believe these two things to be true?

1. The pandemic started with a deadly, man-made virus that escaped the Wuhan lab.
2. The virus is basically just a bad seasonal flu and authorities overreacted.


1. The pandemic started with a secretly created virus escaping from a Chinese lab.
2. It's more risky to take a vaccine tested and designed by American companies than catch this virus. 

Second, "fine people." How many people do you know who believe President Trump called neo-Nazis fine people?

The fine people hoax was created for political reasons by editing a video. Anyone who cares can see the entire video or read the transcript showing that Trump said just the opposite. Yet there are still people today who insist he said that because they tell themselves "I saw it with my own eyes." They don't realize they've been fooled by fake media and that their opinions were assigned to them. 

The assigning of opinions applies as well to LDS topics. Let's apply the test.

How many people do you know who believe these two things to be true?

1. We believe Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were honest and correct in what they related about their experiences with the translation, the plates, the restoration of the Priesthood, the receipt of keys in the Kirtland temple, etc.
2. We believe Joseph and Oliver misled everyone about the translation (SITH) and the location of Cumorah in New York (M2C).

If you are a faithful Latter-day Saint who accepts these two inconsistent claims, you have probably also adopted the rationalizations given by the same experts who assigned you those opinions in the first place.  

People can believe whatever they want, but if you hold those two inconsistent opinions, it is good evidence that your opinions have been assigned to you.

This is an example of cognitive dissonance. People like to think their worldviews are consistent. When faced with contradictions such as the examples above, they employ rationalizations and/or ignore or deny the evidence. 

M2C believers, for example, range from those who deny the prophets ever taught the New York Cumorah, to those who say the prophets were merely ignorant speculators who were wrong, to those who say the silence of current Church leaders constitutes a repudiation of the teachings of their predecessors. 

SITH believers have come to convince themselves that SITH is a feature, not a bug. When faced with the consistent and persistent claims by Joseph and Oliver that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim, they simply redefine terms; i.e., the "Urim and Thummim" becomes the seer stone Joseph found in a well, the plates vanish beneath a cloth, where they sit untouched, and "translation" becomes a "revelation" of words on a stone that Joseph merely read. Wittingly or not, they adopt the reasoning of Mormonism Unvailed

Look at the Witnesses movie. It is assigning the belief in SITH to its viewers.

Dan the Interpreter insists that SITH (the stone-in-the-hat) is a feature, not a bug. 

Dan's argument: "Sure, Joseph and Oliver said Joseph translated the plates, but we don't believe that any longer because other people said he merely read words that appeared on a stone in the hat."

This is the argument made as early as 1834 in Mormonism Unvailed. Oliver and Joseph specifically refuted that (see JS-H for example), but our modern scholars reject what Joseph and Oliver said in favor of what Mormonism Unvailed says. 

Hence, we have the Witnesses movie teaching the world to believe Mormonism Unvailed instead of Joseph and Oliver (and the D&C).

There are multiple operating hypotheses to explain the evidence. Here are a few. Ask yourself which one makes the most sense, which is consistent with the historical evidence, and what leads you to prefer one over the other?

The one I think is best supported by historical evidence is in bold below.

1. Joseph used only SITH and never used the plates or the U&T. Words appeared on the stone and he read them out loud to his scribes. When the revelations spoke of translating the engravings, they really meant reading words off the stone. When Joseph and Oliver referred to the U&T, they really meant the seer stone and thereby misled everyone. But modern scholars have figured out what "really happened" in history, and the Witnesses movie tells the whole truth.

2. Joseph translated the engravings on the plates with the U&T and anyone who said otherwise was a liar.

3. Joseph translated the engravings on the plates with the U&T, but Joseph also conducted a demonstration with SITH for the benefit of the group gathered at the Whitmer home. Observers later claimed they witnessed the actual translation instead of a demonstration. They thought this would refute the Spalding theory that was prevalent at the time.

4. Instead of using the seer stone from the well, Joseph dismantled the U&T and put one stone in the hat, but he still read words he saw on the stone (or in a vision).

5. Joseph performed a saga that he had developed for years, using mnemonic devices employed by many preachers and storytellers of his day.

6. Joseph read the Spalding manuscript from behind a curtain and his followers were in on the hoax.

What other hypotheses can you think of?

Email me if you have other hypotheses so I can add them to the list.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Five great signs of intelligence

This is another way of describing the Second Reality. 

Prof. Feynman
Five great signs of intelligence: • You're not afraid or ashamed to find errors in your understanding of things. • You take mistakes as lessons. • You don't get offended with accepting the facts. • You are highly adaptable and very curious. • You know what you don't know.