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:


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.


  1. In your research, Jonathan, have you been able to determine whether Joseph or Oliver was the originator? And also, the source of that knowledge/revelation?

    I'm not disputing your case, I'm just wondering how far back we can map the causal chain.

    To use your own analogy of thinking past the sale, the sale this post skips past is establishing the revelation/event in which this special knowledge was imparted unambiguously.


  2. Two points. Since you've asked this before, and maybe other people haven't read my other posts, I'll restate them again.

    First, much if not most of what Joseph taught was not accompanied by an explanation of the revelation/event in which this special knowledge was imparted unambiguously. We could delete everything that's not in the standard works, I suppose (although parts of Letter I are in the PofGP and I've suggested part of Letter VII is in Joseph Smith-History). But then we don't need lesson manuals about the teachings of the Presidents of the Church or even General Conference, unless a speaker explains the revelation/event in which this special knowledge was imparted unambiguously.

    Second, Joseph and Oliver visited the records repository in the Hill Cumorah in New York, as attested by Brigham Young and others. That means they knew the Mormon 6:6 was in New York by personal experience.

    Of course, people can say this was a vision, that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who deceived the Church for over a century, etc., all to support the Mesoamerican advocates. That's why I encourage people to think for themselves.

    Read Letter VII, think of how often it was republished, and then compare it to what the Mesoamerican scholars say about it (and what they say about all the other prophets and apostles who have spoken about Cumorah in New York). The approach of Mesoamerican advocates is, "I support the prophets except when they disagree with me, at which point the prophets are speaking as men, giving their own opinions." You see this throughout their writing.

    I think most members of the Church, if they read Letter VII and make this comparison, will support what Joseph and Oliver said. But it's not a matter of majority vote, anyway. I'm fine with whatever people want to believe, just as long as they make informed choices.