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I've uploaded another video about the Hill Cumorah Pageant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQm_RFcPXtI

Turtle Island (North America)
In this video, we visit the Skanonh Great Law of Peace Center in Liverpool, NY (outside of Syracuse).

http://www.skanonhcenter.org/

The guide discusses the creation story, including the formation of Turtle Island which is North America. We can compare this to 2 Ne. 10:20: we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.

Some people are confused by that, concluding that Lehi's promised land must be an island. There are several ways to interpret/understand this passage, but the Native American concept of Turtle Island fits pretty well.

Port Byron
Next we pass through Port Byron, where Brigham Young lived for a while. The town has a historical marker to that effect.

The house where some believe he lived is still standing, as we see in the video.



Peter Whitmer cabin
After that, we visit the Peter Whitmer farm where Joseph and Oliver translated the plates of Nephi that Joseph received from the messenger who brought them from the Hill Cumorah.





Finally, we end up at the first night of pageant (dress rehearsal). There were some great protesters outside. You can see them on the video. There were around 5,000 people, which is a big crowd for the rehearsal. Unfortunately, it rained pretty hard, but I didn't get that in the video.

Enjoy!
_____

The reconstructed cabin in the video was long thought to be built on the original foundation of the Whitmer home. This was always a little problematic because the cabin had only two small bedrooms upstairs, one of which Joseph and Oliver used to translate the plates of Nephi.

In the last year or so, Church archaeologists have found evidence of more buildings on the property. It now appears that the Whitmer home was a double cabin, twice as large as the one that was rebuilt that we walk to in the video. It's not yet clear which building(s) were the Whitmer home, but the current cabin always seemed a little small for all the events that took place there, including the organization of the Church in 1830.

This is also the home in which David Whitmer described people sitting around the table when Joseph demonstrated how he translated the plates by putting a stone in a hat and reading off words. That's much different than the actual translation, of course, for which Joseph used the Urim and Thummim and the actual plates.

Mary Whitmer and the plates
The messenger was
"Brother Nephi,"
not Moroni.
BTW, the missionaries are telling everyone the phony story of Moroni showing Mary Whitmer the plates. Mary did see the plates, but it wasn't Moroni who showed them to her. The M2C intellectuals want you to think it was Moroni because they don't want people to know about the Hill Cumorah in New York.

According to Mary, it was "Brother Nephi," one of the 3 Nephites, who showed her the plates. David said it was the same person who took the Harmony plates to Cumorah.

The phony story about Moroni was invented by Mary's grandson, but Church historians and M2C intellectuals liked it better so they incorporated it into the Saints and now we have everyone in the Church learning false history, all because the M2C intellectuals don't want people to even know about the New York Cumorah.

Sad.

I've explained all of this here

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-mary-whitmer-problem.html

here

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2018/09/the-inside-mole-working-on-saints.html

and here

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2017/12/opening-heavens-but-censoring-history.html.
Have a great day! 
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The latest video shows some of the set up for the 2019 Cumorah pageant and a visit to the awesome Latter-Day Harvest Bookstore in Palmyra.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNOHhe58ufs

Subscribers to the Moroni's America channel get automatic notifications of new videos.
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So often, organizations and people lose focus when they forget the fundamentals.

Those who have questions about Church history should remember this advice from twitter:

When in doubt, go back to the fundamentals. When you're sure, build on the fundamentals. When not making progress, go back to the fundamentals. When you are making progress, build on the fundamentals. The fundamentals never go away. If anything, they become more pronounced.
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Fundamentals in Church history:

1. Joseph Smith obtained metal plates from a stone box on the Hill Cumorah in western New York.

2. Using the Urim and Thummim that were in the stone box, he translated the engravings on the plates into English while in Harmony, PA.

3. He returned the Harmony plates to a divine messenger who took them back to the Hill Cumorah.

4. In Fayette, NY, Joseph translated the plates of Nephi.

5. The Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the same hill in New York from which Joseph got the plates.

Very simple.
_____

Here's an example from football.
“This is a football.”
In his best-selling book, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life Of Vince Lombardi, author David Maraniss explains what happened when Lombardi walked into training camp in the summer of 1961.
He took nothing for granted. He began a tradition of starting from scratch, assuming that the players were blank slates who carried over no knowledge from the year before… He began with the most elemental statement of all. “Gentlemen,” he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand, “this is a football.”
Lombardi was coaching a group of three dozen professional athletes who, just months prior, had come within minutes of winning the biggest prize their sport could offer. And yet, he started from the very beginning.

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Most of the Mormon Stories articles I've read so far are rational, based on the author(s)' assumptions, but they are sometimes misleading because they reflect an unstated bias, don't make assumptions clear, and don't acknowledge alternative interpretations of the facts that are equally rational. There always seems to be enough evidence to confirm one's biases, whatever they are.

Once we know what bias is being confirmed by what facts, we can compare it with our own bias and how our bias explains the same facts. We can try to be as objective as possible. Or not.

What I hope to do in this series is offer people alternative, rational, fact-based interpretations so that undecided people can make informed choices.

Today we'll look at the Mormon Stories article titled "Cultural Context Preceding the Book of Mormon," which you can see here:
https://www.mormonstories.org/truth-claims/the-books/the-book-of-mormon/cultural-context-preceding-the-book-of-mormon/

_____

This article is pretty long but if I omit any of it, we run the risk of later changes in the original and/or claims that we're avoiding issues. You might want to scan for my comments (in red).

I summarize this article by observing that it offers evidence of both composition and translation; i.e., whether Joseph composed or translated the text, the language in the text would be the same.

In my view, Joseph Smith was prepared for his role as translator through his exposure to his environment in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York. This article discusses some of that preparation.

Whether or not the historical narrative in the text is an accurate account of actual history, the ensuing legends about the moundbuilders would be the same because the Europeans were observing the remains of the ancient inhabitants but had no records from the ancient people.

IOW, the ancient inhabitants of America had a history. They left behind evidence, but no written records. Because there are no historical records other than the Book of Mormon to explain that history, people have to decide whether the Book of Mormon is an actual record of those inhabitants or not.

The article seeks to portray the Book of Mormon as fiction. That's the same argument, articulated in the 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed, that Oliver Cowdery addressed in Letters VII and VIII by citing facts.

(Of course, modern LDS scholars who promote M2C make the same arguments as Mormonism Unvailed, so the analysis here addresses the M2C arguments as well.)

We have to look at other indicia to distinguish between composition and translation, a topic not covered in this article.





CULTURAL CONTEXT PRECEDING THE BOOK OF MORMON
While Europeans grew weary of ongoing wars and economic stagnation, vanquishing Napoleon in 1815, America remained for them the land of promise and discovery. Lewis and Clark first glimpsed the Pacific Ocean in 1805; and the Erie Canal, the most significant industrial marvel of its time, would soon expand passage to the Great Lakes, bringing commerce and religious fervor to upstate New York. Immigrants from all parts of the world harbored visions of fertile land and opportunity.
The Second Great Awakening rose, in part, as a response to the industrial revolution in America and age of scientific skepticism that swept across Europe. Fear that men were becoming too secular and losing their spiritual path motivated evangelical preachers to ride on horseback throughout the western frontier, preaching spiritual rebirth and urgently warning of the end-of-times. As America expanded its borders to the west, speculation grew over the great mounds in the Mississippi and Ohio valleys, leading to numerous tales of America’s ancient inhabitants and their possible connection to the Old World. Free Masonry, which once enjoyed prestige among America’s founding fathers, became increasingly scorned as secretive and anti-democratic after exposé writer William Morgan’s suspected murder in 1826. Each of these themes is prominent throughout the Book of Mormon.
This is an effective introduction because the rest of the article merely expands on this idea. The implication is that Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon to address issues he was concerned with. This is a common assertion by critics (and M2C scholars). My response is two-fold because I separate the question of themes from the question of the language in which the themes are expressed in the text.
Language. All evidence of composition (the claim that Joseph composed the Book of Mormon) is also evidence of translation (the claim that Joseph translated the ancient plates). It is axiomatic that whether we compose or translate, we can produce a text only from our individual mental language bank.  Consequently, whether Joseph composed or translated the text, and whether it was inspired or not, the text would necessarily reflect "the manner of his language." IOW, we expect Joseph to express ideas and themes using language particular to his own environment.

(Note: I don't accept the theory that Joseph didn't really translate the plates, but instead simply read words that appeared on a stone in a hat, but that's a topic for another post.)
Themes. Those who claim the text focuses on themes local to Joseph Smith's environment, such as Masonry, are reading these themes into the text. Nowhere does the text refer to Masonry. People usually see what they want to see. It's called bias confirmation. To a hammer, everything is a nail, etc. 
Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon addresses universal themes that arise in most human cultures throughout time. That's why scriptures endure through the ages.

Don't confuse terminology with underlying meaning. For example, what human civilization has not had some form of "secret combinations" (Ether 8)? Are they absent in today's America? 10th century China? Colonial Africa? Of course not. What human has no secrets? What society has no groups of people who combine to accomplish objectives? It would be far more surprising if these things were absent in the early 1800s than that they existed in Joseph Smith's environment. 
We'll look at each of these specifically below. 
EVANGELICALISM
Theological debates and sectarian division raged in colonial America as numerous sects jockeyed for superiority. Puritan dominance gave way to the five mainline Protestant religions: Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Congregationalist. The Cane Ridge Revival of 1801 sparked waves of charismatic spiritual outpourings, while popular ministers Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone preached a return to the earliest Christian practices. On the margins of society, religious diversity increased with German Anabaptist, Lutheran, and Catholic immigration, alongside religious-economic experiments such as the Shakers and Cochranites. Rationalism and Romanticism inspired less-dogmatic movements such as Universalism and Unitarianism.
This is all true, but it was called the Second Great Awakening because it followed the Great Awakening of the 1700s. Religious debates are ubiquitous among human societies around the world. The Bible relates religious debates throughout. There are "numerous sects" among every religious tradition. While the Book of Mormon uses terminology from the 1700s and early 1800s, the principles are common to all human societies.
Joseph Smith Jr. came of age in this fertile religious environment. Richard Van Wagoner described “dissatisfaction with the existing order” as the “fertile soil from which sprang the Mormon revolution.” He continued: “Smith’s dynamism drew the displeased and disappointed to him with vivid, compelling new revelation of a better life.”[1] 
Again, religious diversity and debates are the norm. It's possible (but questionable) that the early 1800s were more "fertile" by some measures than other periods of time, but "dissatisfaction with the existing order" is an ordinary human experience (as every parent of a teenager knows).
Joseph Smith experienced the discord of religious differences within his family. His father, Joseph Sr., a practicing Free Mason who remained aloof to formal religious membership, leaned towards universalism. His mother, Lucy, raised Congregationalist, held Spiritualist views and, along with Joseph’s three eldest siblings, joined the Presbyterians in 1826. Lucy recounts young Joseph telling vivid stories of the ancient inhabitants of America to the family, conversing with an angel and using his gift as a seer to read from golden plates hidden away in a hillside that contained teachings of relevance to his family. 
This would be a good place for a citation so readers could see what she actually reported instead of this paraphrase.
Within a few years, Joseph would reportedly acquire the golden plates and begin work on a religious text that would become the cornerstone of a new religious movement.
Notice the rhetorical bias here. Lucy "recounts" but Joseph "reportedly acquires." Joseph's account of obtaining the plates is even more direct and specific than Lucy's vague statement, but the authors accept her statement as fact while questioning Joseph's.
Claimed to be written for our day, the Book of Mormon addressed many significant topics of debate during the Second Great Awakening, including questions over the nature of God, free will, infant baptism, eternal punishment, eternal progression, the state of matter and intelligence, democracy, secretive societies, and more. The Book of Mormon proposed answers to questions about the origin of America’s native people while supporting the popular legends of the day that told of a superior white race that once dwelt upon the land and built great cities and temples, but who were ruthlessly murdered by dark-skinned savages.
Anyone can see that the Book of Mormon contradicts the popular legends of the day. First, no racial element is stated or implied regarding the Jaredites, about whom there were no popular legends. Second, contrary to the legend of whites killed by dark-skinned savages, the Book of Mormon explicitly states that, whatever the racial composition prior to the visit of Christ, afterward there were no more -ites, but they were all one people. Later, they were distinguished by religious, not racial, differences. 
No legend framed the destruction in terms of wicked vs. wicked. Oliver Cowdery explained this distinction when he wrote that "It was not the wicked who overcame the righteous; far from this: it was the wicked against the wicked, and by the wicked the wicked were punished." 
Many of Smith’s contemporaries were understandably skeptical of the book’s modern tone and claimed ancient origins, questioning if pre-Columbian Indians were indeed the authors of the work. E. D. Howe, in his 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed, deemed the Book of Mormon a “cursory account of the popular doctrines which have been agitated since the Reformation. To give credit to the pretense, that Nephi, living six hundred years before the christian era, could, or would, have had the name of Jesus and John revealed to any other prophet, is repugnance to common sense” (31). He continued: “Who can be credulous enough to believe, that a preacher, five hundred and fifty years before the ministry of the Savior and his apostles. . . did preach and instruct not only the same principles, but the very words and phrases were used to convey the sentiments which are found in the evangelical [New Testament] writings?” (50). “The author,” Howe concluded, “doubtless had some knowledge of the revivals of religion” (61).
This is a good example of how evidence of composition is also evidence of translation. In either capacity, Joseph would have necessarily drawn on his own mental language bank, consisting largely (but not solely) of KJV vocabulary and religious speech derived from that.
Alexander Campbell, successful preacher and Sidney Rigdon’s mentor prior to his affiliation with Joseph Smith, dismissed the Book of Mormon outright, writing: “This prophet Smith, through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in this book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years. He decided all the great controversies;—infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of free masonary, republican government, and the rights of man. All these topics are repeatedly alluded to.” [2] 
Campbell had a motive to attack Mormonism because many of the early converts near Kirtland came from his congregation, including Sidney Rigdon. Others have pointed out that Campbell's list is both over- and under inclusive. Note (i) many of the terms he uses that are not in the text (trinity, transubstantiation, penance, masonary [sic], republican) and (ii) the topics he lists are universal in nature, although he naturally presents them in a Christian context. Infant baptism, for example, is a proxy for the universal social question of how and when infants become part of society in addition to their place in a family. All religions have something to say about the fate of the soul, etc. That these are framed in Christian terms is to be expected, whether Joseph composed or translated the text, because of his personal mental language bank. 
LEARN MORE:
DARTMOUTH COLLEGE
Hyrum Smith, Joseph’s older brother, attended Moor’s Academy, a prep school for Dartmouth College, from 1811 to 1815.  At the time of this writing, Dartmouth’s website states that “Dartmouth’s founder, Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, a Congregational minister from Connecticut, established the College as an institution to educate Native Americans.” Their website reiterates: “In 1972…Dartmouth reaffirmed its founding mission and established one of the first Native American Programs in the country.” Along with many institutions, Dartmouth believed that it was Christianity’s duty to civilize and educate the Indian.
Before Hyrum’s arrival, John Smith, cousin of Asael Smith (Joseph’s Grandfather), established and ran the theology department. He became a professor of learned languages, studied exotic dialects and published Hebrew Grammar in 1803. John Smith was even a pastor of the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College until 1804. Dartmouth also established a School of the Prophets.
While at the Dartmouth campus, Hyrum Smith studied the ideology and theological questions that Mormonism would mirror. Other notable Dartmouth alumni include Solomon Spaulding (class of 1785), author of Manuscript Found, and Ethan Smith (1790), author of View of the Hebrews. Hyrum’s Dartmouth acquaintances also included Nathan Smith, the surgeon who performed Joseph Jr.’s leg operation in 1813.
This background is consistent with Joseph both as composer and translator. I have a chapter on this in my upcoming book. 
MANIFEST DESTINY / AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM
In addition to heavy immigration from Great Britain, France, and Germany, filled with impoverished families who sought a land of opportunity and freedom from political and religious exploitation, America’s borders were pushing westward. “Manifest Destiny,” a phrase later coined to describe a sense of inevitable expansion of the United States to the western ocean, was more than a political sentiment. Along with physical expansion came the expansion of Protestant ideas and values throughout Indian territory. Many Protestants believed God’s hand was at work in the expanding United States, which also gave them license to forcibly remove what they believed to be the degenerate heathen race of the America’s indigenous people. Much of this sentiment centered on the notion of American Exceptionalism, or America as “God’s chosen land” or “promised land,” given to God’s chosen prior to the Lord’s Second Coming.
As America pushed to the west, discovery of ancient mounds and earthworks that laced the Mississippi and Ohio valleys sparked public imagination. From the earliest days of colonial exploration, myths circulated about the mysterious society that built the mounds. As local tribes offered no legends or frame of reference as to their origins, many postulated that the earthworks must have been created by a great society that vanished without a trace. While some argued that migration came from the Bering Strait, connection to the Old World and the legendary lost Ten Tribes of Israel was a more popular belief. Legends abounded of a great Hebrew society that was eventually annihilated by dark-skinned savages. Puritan ministers would use the stories of the conquered people as a “Jeremiad,” which is a type of sermon calling people to repentance in order to be spared from God’s wrath. Preachers warned that God’s wrath upon them would loose the savage Indian to defile their women and murder their children. These ominous stories led to the first popular literature series to be born in America: captivity narratives.
Myths and legends about the origin of America’s first inhabitants flourished over the next two centuries. Mound expeditions were as frequent as digs for buried Spanish pirate treasure, and often employed the same crews. Early American treasure diggers remained unaware that the largest hills, such as Cumorah, were naturally occurring glacial drumlins. Unlike the treasure digs, Indian burial mound digs did often yield some artifactual results, as the custom was to bury the deceased along with their possessions, much of which came through trades with Spanish explorers centuries prior. However, without the benefit of modern science and carbon dating, many of the artifacts only further supported the belief that a great unknown society had possessed advanced metallurgy. This supported the racist theory that these ancients must have been white, and perhaps even pre-Columbian Christians.
Another variant of the great pre-Columbian society began to emerge: that the American Indians didn’t merely destroy the ancient society, but indeed were their descendants. However, through their wickedness, they had fallen into heathenism and idolatry. Christian clergy during the 1800s frequently supported the notion of the American Indian as a Lost Tribe because it not only validated the Biblical tale, it also encouraged their perceived right to colonize America and expand westward while Christianizing or relocating Native Americans.
One example of the widely-circulated theories of Indian origins is Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews: American Antiquities, Discoveries in the Westpublished in 1823, which reminded readers: “The opinion that the American Indians are descendants of the lost ten Tribes, is now a popular one, and generally believed.” Native Americans represented a fertile mission field to be harvested before Jesus could usher in his glorious return. 
LDS leader B. H. Roberts affirmed, “such common knowledge existed throughout New England and New York in relation to American Indian origins and cultures.” See Richard Van Wagoner, Natural Born Seer, (p. 376) for an extensive listing of contemporary books propagating the notion that the Indians were Hebrew, of one race, divided by savages.
Such ideology may seem misguided by modern standards, but it carried great significance in the early-nineteenth century. It served to supplant rich Native American history with a predominantly white, old world view. It also fostered the ongoing cultural genocide, as it was much easier to displace and exterminate a people who “loved murder and would drink the blood of beasts” (Jarom 1:6). For early converts to Mormonism, The Book of Mormon not only affirmed popular suspicions of American Indian origins but also supported perceptions of the Native as “led by their evil nature that they became wild, ferocious, blood thirsty…full of idolatry and filthiness…continually seeking to destroy” (Enos 1:20).
On May 26, 1830, weeks after Joseph Smith printed his book and founded his church, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, forcing the largest Native tribes to migrate west of Mississippi. Latter-day Saints, along with most other whites, viewed their displacement as “God’s work,” fulfilling prophecy regarding their gathering. W. W. Phelps declared: “It is not only gratifying but almost marvelous to witness the gathering of the Indians. …through the instrumentality of the Government of the United States.” [3] 

This background is all consistent with both theories: Joseph as translator, and Joseph as composer. If the narrative in the Book of Mormon relates an actual and accurate history, these same legends would have arisen because, as the text explains, the Lamanites destroyed every Nephite record they could get and didn't keep records of their own. 
ABUNDANT BOOKS
Through the advent of modern stereotype printing, books and ideas flowed freely across the emerging American landscape. Europeans and Americans considered themselves to be living in the age of enlightenment. Newspapers flourished and carried popular stories, histories, opinions, politics, and religious discourse across the land.
The Smiths’ Palmyra home was situated three miles from the Erie Canal, affording them access to the latest periodicals of the day. The canal even boasted of a floating library named The Encyclopedia of Albany. “It is used as a bookstore and lottery office, and contains about two thousand well selected volumes, and a quantity of stationary. It is accompanied by two wagons, for the purpose of extending their trade to those villages, which are a short distance from the canals. The owners sell for money where they can find purchasers, but they calculate that a barter for rags will be the principal part of their trade.” [4] 
When not working on labor contracts or treasure digs, Smith Sr. was also employed as a school teacher. Although learning was rudimentary and infrequent, with many students receiving only primary education, a rich culture of written and oral literature supported learning beyond the school room. Owning books was considered a luxury for poor subsistence farmers, but most families owned at least a family Bible and some works of William Shakespeare, both of which were likely passed down through generations. Cheaply-produced novels, which told daring tales of adventure, were a..
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Once upon a time, back in 1972, the Ensign made it clear...

The Book of Mormon is a history of a related primitive church, and one may well ask what kind of remains the Nephites would leave us from their more virtuous days. 

A closer approximation to the Book of Mormon picture of Nephite culture is seen in the earth and palisade structures of the Hopewell and Adena culture areas than in the later stately piles of stone in Mesoamerica.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1972/09/ancient-temples-what-do-they-signify?lang=eng


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I'm not a good golfer, but yesterday I made this putt for a birdie.

I took the photo only because I was waiting for my buddies to hit their balls and it was such a clear day in Salt Lake Valley.

If you can't see the ball, it's on the left side of the photo. You can see it in the close-up, circled in red.

I mention this because ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Not that this was extraordinary, really, but making this putt was pure luck. I couldn't make it again if I tried ten times.

The Fourth of July is a good time to remember that ordinary people decided to take control of their lives and their country.

They declared independence.

In our world, there are many people who want to control you by channeling your thoughts into the canal they choose for you. Think about that on this holiday, whether or not you live in the USA.
_____

Good advice from Naval:

Craft a thousand tweets before ten blog posts before one novel. Skim a dozen books before absorbing one. Make many small investments before a few big bets. Build many small products before starting a company. Explore, then exploit.

https://twitter.com/naval/status/1052856864965152769

I have a twitter feed, but I use it mainly as an archive. I'll announce a new twitter feed in August.
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This is the first post of the new focus of this blog. We're going to examine the positions taken by critics of the Book of Mormon itself.
_____

We're going to start with Mormon Stories. (Mormon Stories, along with CES Letter, are two of the most prominent critics of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.) I don't know how popular or influential Mormon Stories is, but a lot of people read/view their materials.

Here is one measure: youtube subscribers.

Mormon Stories channel: 16,845 subscribers, 728 videos
Book of Mormon Central: 9,755 subscribers, 637 videos

Remember, Book of Mormon Central has spent millions of dollars to develop and promote its content. I doubt Mormon Stories has spent more than a couple hundred thousand dollars.

(Note: BMC Studios has 4,238 subscribers and 7 videos. BMC en Espanol has 19,319 subscribers with 653 videos. BMC videos in Spanish have far more views than their videos in English, a topic we'll discuss soon on this blog: http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/)
_____

We shouldn't be surprised if Mormon Stories has more influence among English-speakers than Book of Mormon Central. 

Critics of the Book of Mormon have effectively used M2C as a tool for years. (M2C is the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory that claims the "hill in New York" where Joseph got the plates was not the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6, despite the teachings of prophets and apostles.)

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith warned in the 1930s that M2C would cause members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. He repeated that warning when he was President of the Quorum of the Twelve. The fulfillment of his teaching is evident all around us today.

In a courtroom, lawyers object when their opponents badger witnesses by asking the same questions over and over. They stand and say "Asked and answered," and the judge usually sustains the objection. You'll see that many of the arguments by the critics were "asked and answered" in 1834-5. The answers are in the eight historical letters that Oliver Cowdery wrote, including Letter VII on the Hill Cumorah.

The questions persist because LDS intellectuals don't accept the answers Oliver gave, including his declaration that it is a fact that the final battles took place at the hill in New York.
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Long-time readers here know this blog started as an evaluation of M2C.

M2C was developed in the late 1800s by faithful RLDS scholars. It was part of the doctrinal competition between the RLDS and LDS churches. The LDS Church, under President Joseph F. Smith, sought to purchase the Hill Cumorah in New York. The RLDS Church said, in effect, "go ahead, that's not Cumorah anyway."

Over the objection of LDS leaders, faithful LDS scholars adopted the RLDS position (often without acknowledging it originated with the RLDS). In the 1970s-1980s, M2C prevailed among scholars at BYU, who began teaching it to students.

Because of the academic cycle, M2C was promulgated through CES and was enthroned as the default explanation for the geography of the Book of Mormon.

Now, M2C is implicit in LDS artwork, media, visitors centers, curriculum at CES and BYU, and, well, just about everywhere. You see it displayed in LDS chapels around the world, in the illustrations in the missionary edition of the Book of Mormon, and even at the Missionary Training Center in Provo.

In my view, M2C is a mistake, even a hoax, for all the reasons I've explained on my other blog:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/
_____

Our first Mormon Stories article to review is found here:

https://www.mormonstories.org/truth-claims/the-books/the-book-of-mormon/hill-cumorah/

When I do these reviews, I put the original in blue so it's easy to identify, with my comments in red. My notes are lettered and found at the end.

[Note: For new readers, I consider President Oliver Cowdery's 1835 Letter VII as the single most authoritative explanation of the Hill Cumorah, as corroborated by teachings before and after that letter was published. Letter VII was republished many times, at least twice at the direction of Joseph Smith, and was copied into Joseph's journal as part of his life history. For more, see: http://www.lettervii.blogspot.com/]
_____

My first observation: this article is anonymous. That's good in a sense because none of my comments are personal anyway; I focus on the words, the facts, and the arguments made. I don't care who wrote them.

Anonymous articles are problematic, though, when cited as authority. Two examples come to mind:

The 1842 Times and Seasons articles that the M2C citation cartel constantly cites, and the LDS Gospel Topics Essays that are subject to change at any moment without notice.

This Mormon Stories article could be changed at any time, which is another reason why I archived it here. Maybe my review here will prompt some corrections.

One thing they definitely need to do is provide actual links to their references.
_____

The gist of this argument is the same as that made by the M2C intellectuals.

Both groups claim that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 cannot be in western New York. Like the M2C intellectuals, Mormon Stories uses a misinterpretation of the text to claim huge numbers of combatants, claims there is no evidence of the battles, and claims that the depository could not be located in the hill in New York.

_____


HILL CUMORAH
LDS Prophets and numerous Apostles over generations have provided abundant official declarations identifying the hill in New York as the exact site of both epic Book of Mormon battles, where millions of warriors perished with their metal armaments. 
[This is a common rhetorical technique that we find among both critics and M2C scholars. They conflate different teachings or theories into one, thereby misleading readers.
The first part of this sentence is completely accurate. The clause after the comma is not. The notion that "millions of warriors perished" is based on a misreading of Ether 15:2 and contradicts Letter VII, as we'll see below.]
Joseph Smith believed the numerous mounded earth hills located throughout the upstate N.Y. region, now known to be glacial drumlins, to be man-made Indian burial mounds. 
[This is mind-reading, not based on any evidence. No one believed this, actually, although many did find Indian ruins, weapons, and burials on these hills. Heber C. Kimball, for example, described the ruins he observed while living in western NY, including the embankment around the Hill Cumorah.(a)
Statements such as this make us wonder if Mormon Stories is intentionally misleading readers, or is simply unaware of the facts.]  
He repeatedly stated that the largest of all, the very Hill Cumorah, marked the site of the final battles of two civilizations.
[If Mormon Stories knows of any account of Joseph saying this, I'd like to have it. The only one I know of is when he told his mother the name of the hill even before he got the plates. D&C 128:20 refers to Cumorah in the context of other sites of early Church history. Most of the information about Cumorah comes from Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, along with subsequent prophets who joined the Church after Joseph and the saints left the Palmyra area for Ohio.
That said, there is no doubt that all of Joseph's contemporaries accepted the New York Cumorah. All of his successors who have ever spoken or written publicly about the topic have also accepted the New York Cumorah. To date, none has repudiated or even questioned the New York Cumorah.]
The massive battles depicted in the Book of Mormon represent the largest in human history. 
[This is disinformation on two counts. First, it relies on the misreading of Ether 15:2 and contradicts the teachings of Letter VII. In reality, the largest enumerated Nephite army in the text is 40,000 people. I discussed this here: http://www.lettervii.com/2017/08/question-about-numbers-at-cumorah.html.
Second, no one knows the size of the "largest" battle in human history. At most, we have records and estimates of some battles. It's a technical point, but important because of the hyperbole Mormon Stories uses here.]
The Church maintains a large Hill Cumorah Visitor Center, hosting an annual pageant which reiterates the Lamanite narrative and final battle location.
[The pageant does not reiterate the final battle location in New York; to the contrary, the pageant uses a stage and costumes based on a Mayan theme. It actually depicts M2C! Fortunately, this year's pageant (2019) is the next-to-last.] 
ESTABLISHING CUMORAH IN NEW YORK
As recently as 1990, The Office of the First Presidency of the LDS Church confirmed that Cumorah is in New York. Almost every LDS Prophet since Joseph Smith has reiterated the same narrative.
[Correct.]

FIRST PRESIDENCY LETTER TO BISHOP DARRELL BROOKS, OCT 16, 1990
THE CIVIL WAR COMPARISON
The U.S. Civil War, one of the bloodiest episodes in human history, killed 600,000 men over 4 years. The Book of Mormon asserts triple that number in very short order; even 2,000,000 dead (Ether 15) and later hundreds of thousands using steel weapons and armor (Mormon 6). If true, this would be the largest battle in human history. Yet Cumorah yields no bones, no metal or armor, no roads or fortifications.
[Here, they at least acknowledge the Ether 15 reference, but they still misread it. Ether 15:2 is Coriantumr reflecting on the loss of 2 millions of his men, plus their wives and children, long before Cumorah. It's not clear if he's thinking about all those killed during his lifetime, or going back generations (which is my interpretation), but the millions of casualties has nothing to do with Cumorah. If you take the specific number Ether provides later in that chapter and extrapolate backward, the total number of Jaredite deaths at Cumorah is under 10,000, which is what President Cowdery wrote in Letter VII.
The second problem here is the claim that "Cumorah yields no bones, no metal or armor, no roads or fortifications." Already I've shown that Heber C. Kimball observed fortification and metal in the area. The text does not mention roads; in both cases, the Jaredites and Nephites were in a rapid retreat and never had a permanent settlement at Cumorah. Unburied bones do survive in that area for thousands of years; if so, there would be deer carcasses everywhere. We do have accounts of people finding stone axes and arrowheads on and around Cumorah, including at least one account of a metal axhead.]
POPULATION PERSPECTIVE[Note: This entire section is based on the false reading of Ether 15; it's merely a straw man logical fallacy. I think we can all agree that if the text actually said millions of people died at Cumorah in one battle, we would not find it believable.]
No known ancient population base has been sufficiently large and concentrated enough to sustain the massive numbers suggested in the Book of Mormon. Human survival was long a precarious struggle, starvation a constant threat. Prior to industrialization, large scale agriculture, energy production, medicine and the domestication of animals, it was not possible to sustain such a vast civilization in one location. There is simply no evidence supporting any population growth of remotely similar scale anywhere in the world.
The notion of 2,000,000 warriors feeding themselves in a single nomadic location, while fighting a protracted war, merits additional consideration. Even if we grant advanced metal weaponry, anyone who has ever hunted wild game will immediately comprehend the myriad compounding problems of such a massive endeavor. Within just a few days, every living creature within walking distance would have either fled or been consumed.
Envision the City of Phoenix relying upon primitive hunting and gathering to sustain its hungry population while leaving absolutely no trace behind.

A GATHERING OF FEWER THAN 1,000,000 PEOPLE




B.H. ROBERTS QUESTIONS CUMMORAH
“This time it will have to do with so important a matter as a war of extinction of two peoples, the Nephites and the Jaredites, on the self same battle site, with the same ‘hill’ marking the axis of military movements. By the Nephites this hill was called the ‘Hill Cumorah,’ by the Jaredites the ‘Hill Ramah’; it was that same ‘hill,’ in which the Nephite records were deposited by Mormon and Moroni, and from which Joseph Smith obtained the Book of Mormon, therefore the ‘Mormon Hill,’ of  today—since the coming forth of the Book of Mormon—near Palmyra, New York. [1]
“According to the Book of Mormon, the Hill Cumorah of the Nephites – the Ramah of the Jaredites – must be regarded as a natural monument overlooking ancient and extensive battle fields. Around it, early in the Sixth Century B.C., the Jaredites were destroyed. Here, also, a thousand years later, at the close of the fourth century A. D., the Nephites met with practical annihilation in a battle which, whether judged by the importance of the changes it wrought in the affairs of one of the world’s continents, or the number slain, ranks as one of the world’s great battles. 
[It's not clear if Roberts is stating his own opinion or expressing the opinions of others, but here he is contradicting Letter VII and the text itself.]
In view of these Book of Mormon facts, one would naturally expect to find some evidences in this section of the country for such wonderful historical events. Here one has a right to expect the evidences of military fortifications; for, though a thousand years had elapsed between the destruction of the Nephites and the discovery of America by the Europeans, still some military monuments would doubtless survive that length of time.” [2]
[As we've seen, there was evidence of the fortification at least in the early 1830s. There is still a remnant viewable on topographical maps.]
“Only one more reference to Nephite wars will be necessary…mentioned here because it will bring us once more face to face with that strange parallelism we have found so many times in Book of Mormon events. This time it will have to do with so important a matter as a war of extinction of two peoples…on the same battle site, with the same hill. For identification of the Hill Cumorah…Hill Ramah of the Jaredites (Mormon 6:1-11 and Ether 15:11). Also in Oliver’s letters on “Early scenes and Incidents in Church History” there is an identification of Cumorah and Ramah.” [3]
[Here, he mentions Letter VII but not regarding the numbers killed.]


THE HILL CUMORAH IN 1800’S
LDS CHURCH CONFIRMS N.Y. LOCATION
If David Whitmer is to be trusted as one of the three primary Book of Mormon witnesses, should we not also rely upon his assertion that the golden plates were returned to a cave within the Hill Cumorah, “In the State of New York.” [4]
[Definitely, we should rely on David Whitmer's assertion, but the M2C scholars reject what David said. All of this section is accurate.]
Oliver Cowdery, another of Smith’s primary witnesses, described how he personally accompanied Smith multiple times to return the plates into the Hill Cumorah. He reported that a cave opened before them, containing the sword of Laban upon a table, and “wagon loads” of plates stacked high around the cavern. [5]
LDS prophets consistently spoke of that very hill near Joseph’s home, such as when Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “It is known that the Hill Cumorah where the Nephites were destroyed is the hill where the Jaredites were also destroyed.  This hill was known to the Jaredites as Rama…and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites.”
“It must be conceded that this description fits perfectly the land of Cumorah in New York, as it has been known since the visitation of Moroni to the Prophet Joseph Smith, for the hill is in the proximity of the Great Lakes and also in the land of many rivers and fountains.  Moreover, the Prophet Joseph Smith himself is on record, definitely declaring the present hill called Cumorah to be the exact hill spoken of in the Book of Mormon.”
“Further, the fact that all of his associates from the beginning down have spoken of it as the identical hill where Mormon and Moroni hid the records, must carry some weight. It is difficult for a reasonable person to believe that such men as Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, David Whitmer, and many others, could speak frequently of the Spot where the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the plates as the Hill Cumorah, and not be corrected by the Prophet, if that were not the fact. That they did speak of this hill in the days of the Prophet in this definite manner is an established record of history….” [6]
  • Gordon Hinkley stood at the hill in 1977 and repeated that it happened there.
  • Elder George Albert Smith, Conference Report, April 1906, 56.
  • Apostle Orson Pratt, Feb. 11, 1872 Journal of Discourses Vol. 14, 331.
  • President Marion G. Romney, LDS General Conference, October 4, 1975, Ensign Nov. 1975, 35.
  • Apostle LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, ch 7.
  • Elder George Reynolds, The Story of the Book of Mormon, ch.69, 325.
[So far, so good. These accounts are all on the record.]

“Cumorah, the artificial hill of North America, is well calculated to stand in this generation, as a monument of marvelous works and wonders. Around that mount died millions of the Jaredites; yea, there ended one of the greatest nations of this earth. In that day, her inhabitants spread from sea to sea, and enjoyed national greatness and glory, nearly fifteen hundred years. — That people forsook the Lord and died in wickedness. There, too, fell the Nephites, after they had forgotten the Lord that bought them. There slept the records of age after age, for hundreds of years, even until the time of the Lord.” (The Latter-day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Vol.2, No.2, p.221) “The hill, which was known by one division of the ancient peoples as Cumorah, by another as Ramah, is situated near Palmyra in the State of New York.” [7]
[This is another example of misreading Ether 15. There is more background to E. Talmage's book that I discussed here. http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2018/01/speculation-vs-certainty-james-talmage.html]
“The great and last battle, in which several hundred thousand Nephites perished was on the hill Cumorah, the same hill from which the plates were taken by Joseph Smith, the boy about whom I spoke to you the other evening.” [8]
[Orson Pratt misreading the text and ignoring Letter VII.]
“We visited the Hill Cumorah…We were delighted to be there. Looking over the surrounding country we remembered that two great races of people had wound up their existence in the vicinity, had fought their last fight, and that hundreds of thousands had been slain within sight of that hill.” [9]
[George Albert Smith relying on Orson Pratt, misreading the text and ignoring Letter VII.]
“These records were carried by Ether from the hill Ramah, afterwards called Cumorah, where the Jaredites were destroyed, as well as the Nephites.” [10]
[No problem.]
“Thirty-six years prior to this time his nation was destroyed in what we term the State of New York, around about a hill, called by that people the Hill of Cumorah, when many hundreds of thousands of the Nephites-men, women and children, fell, during the greatest battle that they had had with the Lamanites.” [11]
[Orson Pratt misreading the text and ignoring Letter VII.]
“It will be, next Thursday night, 54 years since the Prophet Joseph Smith, then but a lad, was permitted by the angel of the Lord to take the gold plates of the Book of Mormon from the hill Cumorah, as it was called in ancient times, located in the State of New York.” [12]
[No problem.]
“Finally, they became so utterly wicked, so fully ripened for destruction, that one branch of the nation, called the Nephites, gathered their entire people arountario County; and the Lamanites, the opposite army, gathered by millions in the same region.  The two nations were four years in gathering their forces, during which no fighting took place; but at the end of that time, having marshalled all their hosts, the fighting commenced, the Lamanites coming upon the Nephites, and destroying all of them, except a very few, who had previously deserted over to the Lamanites.” [13]
[Orson Pratt misreading the text and ignoring Letter VII.]
“The passages which I have quoted from the Book of Mormon and the more extended discussion of this subject by Elder B. H. Roberts which was published in The Deseret News of March 3, 1928, definitely establish the following facts: That the Hill Cumorah, and the Hill Ramah are identical; that it was around this hill that the armies of both the Jaredites and Nephites, fought their great last battles; that it was in this hill that Mormon deposited all of the sacred records which had been entrusted to his care by Ammaron, except the abridgment which he had made from the..
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We made a quick video tour of Cumorah in preparation for the next-to-last-pageant (2019).

See it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CWPTM0fivo
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This week we took some sunset photos at the Hill Cumorah. I used one to illustrate a post about sacred places, here: http://www.lettervii.com/2019/06/sacred-places.html
_____

People keep asking about the Interpreter article about Bayesian analysis of the Book of Mormon. I did mention it before in this blog, but my detailed review is here:


I've updated that review a little.
_____

We'll have some fun news early next week. Stay tuned.

And if you haven't subscribed to http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/ you're missing the latest blogs.


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Maybe it's time to go ahead and write off the next generation completely?

Watch this video, especially starting around 2:30.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=11&v=q1esI8cbCtc

Notice, they don't even quote Joseph and Oliver:

Two days after the arrival of Mr. Cowdery (being the 7th of April) I commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, and he began to write for me. JS-H 1:67


Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’(Note after JS-H 1:75, excepted from Letter I, Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1 (October 1834), pp. 14-16.

There is a direct conflict between these statements and the statements about the stone-in-a-hat.

The revisionist Church historians choose to disbelieve Oliver Cowdery.

Some people choose to disbelieve the stone-in-a-hat statements.

The obvious way to reconcile the accounts is that Joseph used the stone-in-a-hat to demonstrate how the translation worked, not that he was demonstrating the actual translation.

I discussed this here:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2019/06/m2c-impact-on-church-history.html
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