Thursday, March 16, 2017

Two Comic Cons and Beating a Dead Tapir

Two Comic Cons and Beating a Dead Tapir

I'm conflicted between two similar events next week. I have friends going to both. I've attended both in the past. I think it's going to boil down to when Weird Al Yankovic makes his appearance.*

Maybe some of the readers here are trying to decide as well, so here are my thoughts.

The Salt Lake Comic Con is March 17-18, 2017. Here's the link:
http://saltlakecomiccon.com/












The Provo Comic Con is March 18, 2017. Here's the link:
https://bookofmormoncentral.org/content/bmaf-2017










Ooops, did I write Provo Comic Con? I meant the BMAF Conference. Sorry.

I got confused because there are both serious and comical elements at each event.

Comic con SLC has serious panels about the industry but also lots of people dressed up in costumes having fun.

Comic con Provo has serious panels about the Book of Mormon but also people having fun by beating dead tapirs.

One of the big conflicts is on Saturday morning:

Comic Con Salt Lake: "Finding Habitable Planets in Outer Space."
Comic Con Provo: "The Search for Ramah/Cumorah in Veracruz."

Because we're far more likely to find habitable planets in outer space than to find Cumorah in Mexico, I guess I'll have to go to the Salt Lake Comic Con. But I would also like to hear about the comical search for Cumorah in Mexico.

Here's my guess. They'll make up a bunch of "requirements" for Cumorah that are not in the text of the Book of Mormon but are only satisfied by Veracruz, Mexico. Then they'll claim they found the hill (mountain) that fits their requirements. I appreciate clever circular reasoning as well as the next person, but I've heard this before. I've heard it for decades. They're beating a dead horse tapir.

Another fun event at Comic Con Provo would be "Frauds and Hoaxes: the Michigan Relics." This is another event beating a dead horse tapir that I'm sorry to miss.

Everyone knows there were fraudulent Michigan relics related to Soper and Savage, etc. What no one seems to talk about is the artifacts found in Michigan before Soper and Savage were even born; i.e., what were those guys copying? If there was an answer to that, I'd skip the Salt Lake Comic Con and attend the Provo Comic Con. But I think we all know we're not going to hear that answer at either Comic Con, so I'll have to stick with Salt Lake Comic Con.

Probably...

:)

*Weird Al is appearing Friday at noon, so technically it's not a conflict. But the real Walking Dead event is at noon Saturday in Salt Lake, and I'd rather see that than the Walking Dead Mesoamerican/Two Cumorahs theory on display in Provo.

Monday, February 6, 2017

If you've never changed your mind...

Confirmation bias--the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories--is a well-known and ubiquitous problem that affects our pursuit for truth. Another term for it is motivated reasoning. There's a good article about that here:
http://psy2.ucsd.edu/~mckenzie/nickersonConfirmationBias.pdf

Excerpt: "we seldom seem to seek evidence naturally that would show a hypothesis to be wrong and to do so because we understand this to be an effective way to show it to be right if it really is right... Inasmuch as a critical step in dealing with any type of bias is recognizing its existence, perhaps simply being aware of the confirmation bias--of its pervasiveness and of the many guises in which it appears--might help one both to be a little cautious about making up one's mind quickly on important issues and to be somewhat more open to opinions that differ from one's own than one might otherwise be."

If you've never changed your mind about Book of Mormon geography issues. maybe it's because of confirmation bias.

Mesomania is one of the best examples of confirmation bias that I'm aware of. I've been reading publications from the LDS citation cartel for decades. It wasn't until I became alarmed by the academic bullying of the Heartland model of Book of Mormon geography that I stepped back to reassess whether I had been lulled into accepting the Mesoamerican theory because of my own confirmation bias.

Did I want the Mesoamerican model to be true? In retrospect, I think I did. The Mesoamerican advocates long ago painted themselves into a corner that excludes the New York Cumorah. I went along with this for decades, probably because every LDS scholar and educator I knew subscribed to that model.

I know of well-known LDS scholars who refuse to entertain any ideas that contradict their Mesoamerican theory. Some say they've had "spiritual experiences" that confirm their beliefs. I'm still waiting to learn about any theory of Book of Mormon geography that lacks associated "spiritual experiences."

In my view, spiritual experiences can lead us to greater truth, but usually that happens because the Spirit gives us insights that we can then corroborate with physical evidence and rational argument.

A classic "tell" of confirmation bias is that you've never changed your mind about a particular topic. 

It's okay to stick with what you've always thought so long as you've fully assessed it from other perspectives and considered contradictory arguments and data, but in my experience reading the citation cartel publications, LDS scholars and educators in the citation cartel consider contradictory arguments and data just enough to dismiss them. The LDS citation cartel screens submissions to confirm their biases; their editorial boards all think alike as well.

To some degree, the LDS citation cartel characterizes people who disagree with them about Mesoamerica as apostates. Alternatively, they condescendingly consider people who disagree with them as uneducated, uncredentialed, easily misled, etc. This is especially troublesome because these the LDS scholars and educators also characterize modern prophets and apostles as men who have subscribed to a false tradition about Cumorah in New York and who have thereby misled the Church.

Even in 2017, when the Mesoamerican model should have long since been discarded, too many LDS people actually equate the Mesoamerican model to Church doctrine. I hear anecdotal examples of this all the time.

Worse, some LDS scholars and educators continue to promote the Mesoamerican model, including the two-Cumorahs theory.

That's how we end up with the disastrous two-Cumorahs exhibit in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square.

Bottom line, the Mesoamerican model contradicts what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said about Cumorah--along with what every modern prophet and apostle who has spoken about Cumorah has said.

Thanks to my research into Church history, I now see that Joseph Smith never once mentioned, let alone endorsed, a model of Book of Mormon geography that extended beyond North America (and no, in this context, Central America is not part of North America).

Thanks to my research into the text and relevant sciences of archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography, I now see that the Book of Mormon describes North America very well.

So I'm happy to say that I've changed my mind about Book of Mormon geography. I've overcome the confirmation bias I relied on for the decades when I accepted the Mesoamerican model.

I invite anyone who still believes in a Mesoamerican setting to at least step back and re-evaluate that theory in light of Church history, the text, and the relevant sciences.

See if you can overcome your confirmation bias.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Being nice

I haven't posted much on here lately because apparently some people were getting offended by the very idea of Mesomania and I don't want to give offense. By now, readers here know how pervasive Mesomania is among LDS scholars and educators and what I think about that.

What prompted this post is a recent incident. After a fireside a Sister came up to tell me she had talked about the North American setting in her new ward, and the next Fast and Testimony meeting, a long-time member of the ward took the opportunity to tell the ward that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and the idea that it took place in North America was false doctrine that should not be allowed in Church.

Some way to greet a new ward member, huh?

I hear these anecdotal stories all the time. They reflect the scholarly arrogance I've seen in the writings of many LDS scholars and educators, as I've documented over the last two years or so. I have a long list of additional examples, but I'm being nice and I don't see any point in continuing the debate because I think the question of Book of Mormon geography is moot now, anyway, as far as I'm concerned. The scholars will no doubt continue debating about what a "horse" is and what constituted a "narrow neck of land," but those semantic debates can never be resolved by relying on human reasoning alone.

That's why we have prophets and apostles, and that's why Joseph and Oliver told us where Cumorah is a long, long time ago.

Any proposed geography that doesn't include one Cumorah in New York, IMO, is false on its face.

This Sister told me she had never mentioned Book of Mormon geography again after being so publicly reprimanded, so she was very happy to come to the fireside. That's another thing I often hear. Members of the Church are relieved and happy to see how the North American setting, with one Cumorah in New York as Joseph and Oliver said, makes sense.

As I've been saying for years, I'm fine with people believing whatever they want. What I oppose is the prevailing attitude among LDS scholars and educators that:

1) censors any mention of Letter VII, the Heartland, Moroni's America, or other ideas about the North American setting (and strongly attacks these if anything does break through) and

2) refuses to give members of the Church a fair comparison between the Mesoamerican and North American theories so members can make up their own minds.


Friday, December 23, 2016

December 23

Joseph Smith was born on December 23, 1805. This was the day after the winter solstice that year; i.e., Joseph was born on the day after the shortest, and darkest, day of the year. 

Beautiful symbolism for the light he helped bring to the Earth and all of humanity.

It's up to each one of us to help bring light to the Earth through the our actions and words. 

I hope we each take a moment today to think about whether we're adding light or extinguishing it.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Mesomania video on lds.org

An alert reader pointed me to an awesome example of mesomania, right on lds.org.

The video is a response to the Book of Mormon musical. It "gives a short but poignant view of The Book of Mormon and it's relevance to each of us." It's fast-paced and fun. Undoubtedly effective. So I get the artistic idea, but it summarizes the entire Book of Mormon history with a backdrop of Mayan temples!

Check it out:


This is yet another demonstration of the subliminal influence of the Arnold Friberg painting of Christ descending to the Nephites next to a massive Mayan stepped pyramid with a temple on top and a steep staircase up the center.

I get it. The style of the video compares New York with this Mayan city, and it's merely an artistic representation of the Americas that people can quickly identify.

But look at the message. The narration says: "Where's the setting? The Americas."

Which is illustrated by these Mayan temples.

The Church media department is telling the world the Book of Mormon took place in Central America. 

Mesoamerica.

Which, in turn, means the two-Cumorahs theory and all that entails.

If this video motivates people to request a copy of the Book of Mormon, they'll get the blue book that includes even more illustrations from Mesoamerica.

But when they read the book, they won't find a single mention of jungles, pyramids, Mayans, and the rest.

No wonder so many people are confused and disturbed in their faith.

This would all be so easy to correct if we as a people would simply heed what Joseph and Oliver told us about Cumorah way back in 1835.
_____________________

Look how the entire narrative of the Book of Mormon plays out against the backdrop of Mayan pyramids:








_____________________

You can watch it here.

https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2015-00-1010-what-is-the-book-of-mormon-a-60-second-overview?category=topics/scriptures&lang=eng


Friday, December 2, 2016

Thinking past the sale

People wonder how a small group of LDS scholars were able to persuade most of the Church to repudiate the prophets and apostles and embrace a limited geography in Mesoamerica. The KnoWhy about stone thrones that I discussed today made me think of this. I'm going to show you not only how they did it originally, but how they've been able to keep the scam going.

Think about what we're really dealing with here. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were the founding apostles of the restoration. They were the first two Apostles and Elders of this dispensation (D&C 20:2-3). Together, they translated the Book of Mormon, received the keys of the Priesthood (Aaronic and Melchizedek), the keys of the gathering (D&C 110), etc. Together, they wrote the history letters, including Letter VII, which specifically identifies the New York hill as the Mormon 6:6 Cumorah.

Yet LDS scholars and educators specifically and adamantly repudiate what Joseph and Oliver wrote and endorsed on multiple occasions.

Not even gullible, naive BYU students who adore their professors would accept this if it was taught openly.

So instead, these scholars and educators use a technique commonly called "thinking past the sale."

Here's how it works. Let's say you want to persuade someone to do something they probably wouldn't do if they consciously thought about it. You manipulate them into thinking about choices they would make "past the sale," meaning taking the sale as already done.

Apologies to Bernie, but it was too perfect an image not to use.
The car dealer doesn't try to get you to buy a car. If you're interested, he'll start talking about all the wonderful options, so you're focused on those enticing alternatives, with the mutual unstated assumption you're going to buy the car.

You hardly think about the purchase because now you're focused on whether or not to get the Nav system or the upgraded audio.

Donald Trump did that recently when he said millions of illegals voted. He forced the media and the public to think past the sale (the idea that non-citizens voted) and focus on "how many voted?" Now it is widely accepted that non-citizens voted and people are arguing about how many of them did.

Another great example is the character who assures us that he has said nothing about Father.

Now, look how the Mesoamerican proponents have framed the debate.

Like car dealers and the other examples, they've got you thinking about the options, gliding right past their repudiation of Joseph and Oliver.

Look at all these shiny options. They have a great variety of uniformly Mesoamerican artwork, starting with Friberg and incorporated into their logos, their publications, and their web pages. They've developed a lively charade of scholarship by engaging for decades in debates about which river in Mesoamerica is the Sidon, which Mayan or Olmec site relates to which named city in the Book of Mormon, etc. They give speeches and write papers about how the "narrow neck" fits in Central America. They generate all kinds of illusory "correspondences" between the text and Mayan/Olmec culture.

But these scholars and educators don't tell you that all of these debates, papers, books and presentations are based on their premise that Joseph and Oliver were confused speculators who deceived the Church for a hundred years.

Instead, they've done everything possible to suppress Letter VII.

One of my favorite examples is the book In Search of Cumorah by David Palmer. This is a 254-page book that makes the case for the "two-Cumorahs" theory. Far from quoting and discussing Letter VII--far from even mentioning it--he writes merely "We have only the scantiest of inferences that Joseph Smith ever called the hill 'Cumorah.' (D&C 128:20). However, he does not appear to have corrected Oliver Cowdery, who may have been the one to first name the New York hill 'Cumorah.' (Cowdery, 1835)." Then his reference is "1835, Messenger and Advocate, July, pp. 158-159."

That's as close to a whitewash as possible. Then, Brother Palmer wrote the entry "Cumorah" in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

This annual pageant has reinforced the common assumption that Moroni buried the plates of Mormon in the same hill where his father had buried the other plates, thus equating this New York hill with the Book of Mormon Cumorah. Because the New York site does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Book of Mormon geography, some Latter-day Saints have looked for other possible explanations and locations, including Mesoamerica. Although some have identified possible sites that may seem to fit better (Palmer), there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site that has been suggested.

This is the passage that was plagiarized by the secretary in the office of the First Presidency on the infamous fax she sent to FARMS, which they have used ever since as evidence to support their theories.

This book is cited all the time, and that's as far as any of these Mesoamerican proponents have discussed Letter VII until this year (2016).

And it has worked quite well. The "thinking past the sale" technique usually works, as my three examples show.

The question is, does it work when someone points out that the sale hasn't been made?

Are you going to buy that car because your mind was lured into thinking about the options, or are you going to step back and say, "Wait a minute. I never agreed to buy this car in the first place?"
______________________

Thousands of Church members have read Letter VII during 2016. Probably the most who have read it since it was published in the Improvement Era in 1889.

But it's not enough.

I think every member of the Church needs to read Letter VII, and next year is the ideal time because we're going to be studying Church history. I'll have an announcement about that soon.

If you haven't read it, do it now. If you have, share it with someone else. You can start at this link:
http://www.lettervii.com/

_______________________

If you're at the car dealer and you stop the discussion of the options and say, "I haven't decided to buy this car in the first place," what does he/she do?

First, you'll hear about how amazing the options are. Everyone's getting them. The new air bags are safer. You get better mileage. The hands-free driving is required by law, etc. You'll hear about how easy it is to buy, how low the payments are, how great a deal you're getting on the trade-in. Everyone is buying this car because it's so popular.

Maybe you'll hear about how bad the car you have now is.

But you can still walk away.

And that's what I encourage you to do whenever these Mesoamerican scholars and educators try to get you to join them in repudiating Joseph and Oliver.

_______________________

Lately BMAF and Book of Mormon Central are trying to get people to look past the sale by claiming Joseph and Oliver never claimed revelation, so they were only ignorantly deceiving their readers. Maybe that's supposed to be easier for us to accept; i.e., they were just young lads, naive, innocently doing the best they could, well-meaning, etc. But it still boils down to deception on the part of Joseph and Oliver, because they said it was a fact that the final battles took place at that hill in New York.

So maybe this latest argument means we're supposed to repudiate Joseph and Oliver because, unlike the Mesoamerican scholars, the first two apostles of this dispensation just lacked a formal education.

I leave it to you to reflect on the implications of that.








Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Scholars: Prophets keep getting it wrong

Mesomania is so deeply ingrained you can find it throughout LDS literature, scholarly and popular. I hope by now you can spot it yourself. I could write several posts a day just catching up on what has already been written, but new stuff comes out almost daily.

For example, readers have asked me to comment on this blog post:
http://bookofmormonresources.blogspot.com/2016/11/prophets-human-and-inspired.html

In my view, this blog is the best one written by the Mesoamerican advocates. If I still believed the Mesoamerican theory (as I did for decades), I'd probably agree with this blog because of the quality, thoughtfulness and detail of the analysis.

But here's an example of the problem that Mesomania causes. The blog post says:

"Joseph Fielding Smith in 1939 expressed his opinion that the Jaredite Ramah/Nephite Cumorah was in upstate New York. Rigidly orthodox and archly conservative, he espoused the "one Cumorah" theory in the wake of liberal new ideas coming up from BYU. Was Smith perpetuating a false tradition as part of his human nature? I believe he was (see the article Ramah/Cumorah), although I revere Joseph Fielding Smith as a Prophet who held the keys of the Kingdom of God on the earth for 2 1/2 years from 1970 - 1972."
______________________

Think about this a moment.

In 1939, Joseph Fielding Smith had been Church Historian for around 15 years. He had been an apostle for 20 years. His father, Joseph F. Smith, republished Letter VII in 1899 when he was editor of the Improvement Era. (Joseph F. was First Counselor in the First Presidency at the time.)

Joseph Fielding Smith "expressed his opinion" by quoting from Letter VII and noting that it had been published in the Messenger and Advocate and the Times and Seasons. He likely didn't even know that Joseph Smith had directed his scribes to copy it into his personal history (we know this thanks to the Joseph Smith Papers project), or that Joseph Smith had specifically authorized Benjamin Winchester to reprint it in the Gospel Reflector. Joseph Fielding may not have known that William Smith reprinted it in The Prophet in New York City, or that it was reprinted in England in 1844. But he knew his father had reprinted it in the Improvement Era.

This wasn't a one-off random "opinion" either. Joseph Fielding warned the Saints that the "two-Cumorahs" theory would cause members to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. In our day, who is unaware of the realization of that warning? 

(Well, okay, the scholars who promote the two-Cumorahs theory are in denial about that, but most of us know people who have left the Church because of the confusion the theory causes, and those involved with missionary work know the impediment it is for investigators.)

When he became President of the Quorum of the Twelve in the 1950s, Joseph Fielding Smith republished his "opinion" about Cumorah, complete with the warning to the Saints about the "two-Cumorahs" theory. Obviously, the scholars weren't impressed. Because President Smith's "opinion" contradicted their theories about Mesoamerica, they determined he was "perpetuating a false tradition."
___________

I don't understand the point of the blog post. Why do we sustain the Quorum of the Twelve and the counselors in the First Presidency as prophets, seers and revelators if we can disregard what they say because they are "perpetuating a false tradition as part of [their] human nature?" Why listen to conference if we only accept what they say if we already agree with it?

Rejecting the prophets and apostles is the essence of the Mesoamerican theory, actually, as this blog post spells out.

That said, I do recognize the aphorism quoted in the blog post that "Catholics say the Pope is infallible, but nobody believes it. Mormons say the Prophet is fallible, but nobody believes it." However, a corollary is even more important: "LDS scholars say they are fallible, but they don't believe it."

In this case, we are not talking about an isolated statement made by one of the Q12 or 1st Presidency. We are talking about a clear, unambiguous, specific teaching that Cumorah was in New York, made by Oliver Cowdery, with the assistance and repeated approval of Joseph Smith. Two of Joseph's brothers reprinted Letter VII. Every one of Joseph's contemporaries accepted it. Joseph F. Smith reprinted it. Joseph Fielding Smith cited it. President Marion G. Romney reiterated it in General Conference in 1975, followed by Elder Mark E. Peterson in 1978. So far as I've been able to determine, not a single member of the Q12 or 1st Presidency has contradicted or repudiated Letter VII.

All the opposition to Letter VII has come from LDS scholars and the CES educators they've trained.

Here's a preliminary table that helps explain the impact of Mesomania, from the perspective of these scholars and educators:

People who perpetuate a false tradition about Cumorah being in New York
People who teach the truth about Cumorah not being in New York
Joseph Smith
LDS scholars who promote a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon
Oliver Cowdery
LDS scholars who promote a Baja Californian setting for the Book of Mormon
David Whitmer
LDS scholars who promote a Panamanian setting for the Book of Mormon
Lucy Mack Smith
LDS scholars who promote a Peruvian setting for the Book of Mormon
Brigham Young
LDS scholars who promote a Chilean setting for the Book of Mormon
John Taylor 

Heber C. Kimball

Wilford Woodruff

Orson Pratt

Parley P. Pratt

Joseph F. Smith

Heber J. Grant

George Albert Smith

Joseph Fielding Smith

Marion G. Romney

Mark E. Peterson




I don't know how to make this any clearer. We have a series of scholars and educators who insist they are teaching the truth, even though they strongly disagree with one another. They have created a "mass of confusion."

On the other hand, we have a specific, unified and clear teaching by the modern prophets and apostles, but these scholars characterize that as "perpetuating a false tradition."

It really defies credulity, doesn't it?

The problem is even more serious than this blog post describes. I'll come back to that in the future when I get some time.