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, December 20, 2021

Ardis Parshall and misinformation

Ardis Parshall is another voice who is ignorantly slandering the Heartlanders.

This is an opportunity for every Latter-day Saint to assess the performance of LDS historians. In my view, they have completely failed their readers because their personal political views and personal relationships with members of the M2C citation cartel have outweighed their duty of candor.

Readers here may not know Ardis. She's an awesome historian who helps us all appreciate historical figures. She has a great blog here:

The Salt Lake Tribune's Mormonland did a nice feature back in 2020:

I follow Ardis and I appreciate much of what she writes.

But Ardis has bought into the fake M2C narrative about Heartlanders, just as Hanna Seriac and others have done. It's difficult to tell whether this fake narrative is driven by ignorance, animus, or just a desire to be woke and politically correct by targeting undesirables, but none of those reasons justify this misinformation.

Her approach toward the Heartlanders is all the more puzzling given her otherwise reasonable explanations of religious topics, such as here:


Here is Ardis' recent post on Facebook in a comment to a post by Peggy Fletcher Stack (links below). Original in blue, my comments (my peer review) in red.

Ardis E. Parshall

The whole Heartlander model comes straight out of white nationalism 

Ardis doesn't write this as an opinion. It's her statement of fact. 

Actually, as anyone can see if they spend a couple of minutes researching the topic, the "Heartlander model" comes straight out of the teachings of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery about the New York Cumorah, which as everyone can see was unambiguously taught from the beginning of the Restoration. (Some links to historical sources are here.) Heartlanders simply seek to figure out the setting of the Book of Mormon using the New York Cumorah as a starting point, a pin in the map.

For a historian to deliberately mislead readers the way Ardis does here is inexcusable.

Certain LDS scholars insist Joseph and Oliver, their contemporaries and successors, misled the Church by expressing incorrect private speculation when they taught about the hill Cumorah in New York--even though they expressly said it was a fact!

These scholars teach that the prophets were wrong because (in the opinion of these scholars) the Book of Mormon must have taken place in Mesoamerica, and New York is simply too far away for Cumorah to be located there. Instead, according to these scholars, there are "two Cumorahs;" i.e., the false one in New York and the real one somewhere in southern Mexico (and although they don't know where it is, they speculate it's one of the mountains there). Hence the term M2C (Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory).

Ardis doesn't explain why she sides with these scholars. We would think that, as a careful historian, Ardis would at least acknowledge that all the historical evidence shows that Joseph and Oliver taught that Cumorah was in New York. Joseph's mother remembered that Moroni identified the hill by name the first time he met Joseph in 1823, and that by early 1827, even before Joseph got the plates, the entire family knew the name of the hill. 

When Ardis claims the Heartlander model "comes straight out of white nationalism" she's inventing fake history to make a political claim.  

-- these nutters want the Book of Mormon history to have occurred within the borders of the United States to limit the "promised land" to this political entity, and to strip any claim the non-white inhabitants of Central America might have.

This is not only anti-historical; it doesn't make logical sense. 

First, Ardis deliberately misinforms her readers by conflating "borders of the United States" with what Heartlanders actually say; i.e., that the borders of the United States are irrelevant when we're discussing Book of Mormon geography. No one claims that either the Jaredites or the Nephites observed or were confined to modern political boundaries. There are diverse "Heartland" ideas, but none consider modern political boundaries when interpreting the text of the Book of Mormon to ascertain the location of scriptural sites. 

Second, Ardis, like other M2C advocates, conflates the Heartland model (which has no political origins) with the well-established LDS doctrine that the United States was established to facilitate the Restoration. E.g., "The United States is the promised land foretold in the Book of Mormon—a place where divine guidance directed inspired men to create the conditions necessary for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was the birth of the United States of America that ushered out the Great Apostasy, when the earth was darkened by the absence of prophets and revealed light. It was no coincidence that the lovely morning of the First Vision occurred just a few decades after the establishment of the United States." 

This role of the United States is unambiguously established by the historical facts. The history of the Church is a history of conflicting interactions with the United States, during which the federal government was as much an enemy as an ally. While some "Heartlanders" express conservative U.S. political views, many American "Heartlanders" have different political views, and many Heartlanders couldn't care less about American politics because they live in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and Latin America. 

Heartlanders find affinity by what they think about Book of Mormon historicity and setting, not by any political beliefs, by any skin color, by any nationality, by any race, etc. 

Besides, Heartlanders fully embrace the modern prophetic teaching that the gathering place for Latter-day Saints is their respective nations; i.e., today, the entire world is the promised land because the gospel is available everywhere. China, Tunisia and Guatemala are just as much promised lands as the U.S.

Third, Ardis' slanderous (and delusional) accusations that Heartlanders "want... to strip any claim the non-white inhabitants of Central America might have" is itself racist. The M2C theory is perpetuated today by elitist white LDS intellectuals based on Utah (such as Ardis) who insist they are protecting the "claims" of "non-white inhabitants of Central America."

Working with Ardis' framing of this as a racial (or skin-color) issue, we see that one fallacy of Ardis' accusation is ignoring that "Heartlanders" embrace the identification of the Lamanites that Joseph Smith (and the Lord) made; i.e., D&C 28, 30, and 32, along with what Moroni first told Joseph Smith, what Joseph wrote in the Wentworth letter ("the remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country"), etc. Unless Ardis also thinks the Native Americans in North America are the "whites" who want to strip the claims of "non-whites," her racist accusation is baseless.

Another fallacy of Ardis' accusation: no Heartlander wants to strip anyone of any claim, and she can't find any source for her accusation (apart from the musings of M2C intellectuals). Heartlanders accept the obvious reality that during and after Book of Mormon time frames, ancient Americans migrated and intermarried throughout the hemisphere. In this sense, anyone living anywhere in the hemisphere could, potentially, have a Lehite ancestor (whether or not it shows up in an individual's DNA). 

The larger problem is the false expectations raised by the M2C intellectuals, who, by insisting that the Book of Mormon could have happened only in the limited geography of Mesoamerica, have painted themselves (and by extension, many Latter-day Saints) into the proverbial corner. M2C by definition teaches that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah. This alone undermines the credibility and reliability of Joseph, Oliver, and their contemporaries and successors. 

But worse, decades of teaching M2C has led many people in Central America to inextricably link their faith to M2C. Book of Mormon Central even offers a Spanish-language website that identifies specific sites in Central America as Book of Mormon sites, contrary to the Church's policy of neutrality.

When the DNA issue forced a modification of Church teachings, it caused considerable faith crises, especially in Central America. But now, when Central American Latter-day Saints learn what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, a second faith crisis results. They feel they've been kept ignorant of Church history, if not lied to. 

Because they have been.

When Ardis and her like-minded M2C proponents perpetuate these stereotypes, they are exacerbating the problem. 

A far more productive approach (particularly for a historian) would be to teach and deal with the historical facts honestly and openly, then recognize multiple working hypotheses (interpretations), pending additional discoveries.

All Latter-day Saints who are at all interested in Book of Mormon historicity should be familiar with Letter VII and the other teachings about Cumorah, no matter what language they speak or where they live. These are all relevant historical facts. Once fully informed, Latter-day Saints can then assess the various interpretations or hypotheses.

But we don't see that. Instead of informing readers, we see intellectuals such as Ardis deliberately misinforming readers in an effort to prop up their personal ideologies and agendas.

Let the hate from Meldrum's sycophants begin.

The last gasp for an irrational, counterfactual argument is to assign hate to one's opponents. We can all see from Ardis' rhetoric where the hate originates.


Original statement and links:

Ardis E. Parshall

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