Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Tours and psychology

I think one reason so many BYU/CES educators continue to promote the Mesoamerican theory (whether they believe it or not) is because they themselves were educated during an era when it was "common knowledge."

For example, BYU itself used to host tours to "Book of Mormon lands" in Mesoamerica.

That's right. In the past, CES educators were actually taken on tours to Central America and taught this stuff. (Even for those who didn't actually go on the tours, this endorsement of the theory was powerful from a persuasion standpoint.)

I've spoken to plenty of people who have been on Mesoamerican "Book of Mormon" tours. Some come away convinced they've just visited the City of Nephi. Others come away more confused than ever. No matter how you look at it, linking the Book of Mormon text to Mesoamerica is problematic.

From a psychological perspective, it is completely understandable that the CES educators who went on these tours were convinced. They were sponsored by BYU. Participants were all faithful LDS, reinforcing their beliefs in what the educators were telling them. They had spiritual experiences that linked them emotionally to the places they visited. Usually the tour leaders quoted the 1842 Times and Seasons articles, claiming they were written by Joseph Smith.

And they never told the travelers about Letter VII.

(Which brings up another topic for another day. I've met missionaries serving in Nauvoo who have never heard of Zelph's mound. Missionaries serving at Church history sites, including Cumorah, have never heard of Letter VII. It's unbelievable.)

There's a term for giving people only part of the information they would need to make informed decisions, but I can't think what that is...

If you (or someone you know) have been a CES educator, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about here.

To be sure, I have no objection to tours. I actually love tours and think they are one of the most productive ways to learn--probably the most productive way. Tours are great fun, plus you get to know new people pretty well, plus you get a great education, plus you see things you wouldn't on your own or if you stayed home. So I fully support the tour industry and encourage people to take tours.

If you go on a tour, though, be aware that you don't have to believe everything that is taught. Retain some healthy skepticism and ask questions. Don't be rude, but don't be docile, either. Insist that you get the full story. If you go on a Mesoamerican Book of Mormon tour and they don't explain Letter VII and the other issues, ask. If you go on a North American Book of Mormon tour and they don't discuss the Mesoamerican material, ask. The more you know, the better.

When BYU discontinued these tours, another group, BYU Travel Study, took over. Then Murdock Travel bought that business. (They offered a tour in 2012, here, but I don't know if they are still doing them.)

The wholesale operator for these tours was Book of Mormon Tours, operated by the Allen family. The history is here. The web site includes several pages of "education" about the Mesoamerican theory. Check out the one on Cumorah, here. They justify the "two-Cumorah theory" without even mentioning Letter VII; in fact, they write "As far as we know, no valid information has come forth between 1823 when Moroni first appeared to Joseph Smith to the present time to suggest that Joseph Smith ever stated that the hill in New York is the hill Cumorah/Ramah where the last battles of the Nephites/Lamanites and Jaredites took place. Further, as far as we know, when Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith yearly over a four-year period, Moroni never referred to the New York hill as the hill Ramah or hill Cumorah."

(This brings up another topic for another day. Dr. Joseph L. Allen published his book, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, in 1989. It was actually used as a textbook at BYU! Some day I'll discuss what has been taught over the years at BYU, including classes I took. The perpetuation of Mesomania makes sense when you consider all this history.)

Such Book of Mormon tours are less common today, fortunately. But you can still find them if you search for them. For example, FunForLessTours offers a tour titled "Book of Mormon 'Land Cruise'" that lets you study Mayan ruins as if they had something to do with the Book of Mormon. Here's the link:

Don't misunderstand. Fun For Less Tours is an awesome company that offers tremendous experiences, but on this one, they're causing problems for people who aren't told anything about the North American setting on these tours, who are being told Joseph wrote the Times and Seasons articles, etc..

Here's another example of a group that tells people Joseph wrote those Times and Seasons articles.

If you go on any of these "Book of Mormon Lands" tours to Central America, you can be sure you will not learn about Letter VII or any of the other evidence for the North American setting.

By all means, visit Mesoamerica. It's a great place. But be very, very cautious about what you're being told by LDS guides down there.

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