Friday, April 21, 2017

Mesomania for the youth...

Last night I attended a presentation in Sandy by a well-meaning brother who wants to help the youth of the Church get and retain testimonies of the Book of Mormon.

But he's telling them things that aren't true.

That sounds harsh, and I'm sure he doesn't even realize it, but in two minutes on the Internet, kids will figure it out. There were around 120 people in the audience, of all ages. Grandparents with grandchildren, a YW group from a ward, etc.

On his web page, he solicits firesides and youth groups: http://bofmwitnesses.com/schedule-a-ward-or-stake-presentation

I really like the concept of public presentations about the Book of Mormon, geared toward the youth, but not if you're going to teach them the two-Cumorahs theory.

He promoted the event (one of a series) with this online ad:
 
The ad tells you all you need to know. This is full-blown, dogmatic Mesomania. The presenter listed the academics whose books he read, which become apparent during the presentation. They are the usual suspects who write for the citation cartel.
____________________

One of his first slides told the audience that Joseph Smith himself said the "primary homeland of the Nephites was Central America."


Readers know that I've written three detailed books about this, showing Joseph had nothing to do with these articles and instead opposed the idea.

I'm not aware of anyone who has studied the issue who thinks Joseph actually wrote those articles (apart from those who believe in black-box stylometry that confirms the biases of the researchers who won't share their database, assumptions, or software). Even those who think Joseph was actually editing the Times and Seasons don't claim Joseph wrote these articles.

And, of course, following good Mesomania practice, the presenter said nothing about Joseph Smith's actual statements about Book of Mormon geography.

Then you also have this claim in line 3: "The vast majority of LDS and non-LDS Experts, Archaeologists, and Scholars agree on Meso-America." Aside from the appeal to authority fallacy, consider what a youth reading this will think. Then he/she will go to the Internet and quickly learn that not a single non-LDS person (expert or otherwise) thinks the Book of Mormon has anything to do with Mesoamerica.
________________

I won't go through all the slides, but look at this one:


The "early Saints" had plenty of extrinsic evidence of the Book of Mormon. During Zion's Camp, Joseph and the others crossed "the plains of the Nephites" and picked up the skulls and bones from the mounds they left behind. Zelph was the most famous example, but not the only one. The lost 116 pages described the mounds as well. In that day, thanks to what Joseph and Oliver taught, every member of the Church knew the final battles had taken place at Cumorah in New York. Critics complained that Joseph was merely writing about the moundbuilders, with which they were all familiar. The irony is, he was!
_________________

Next, he told the audience that George Bancroft was writing about Mesoamerica.


The quote at the bottom of this slide appears to be from Bancroft's book, History of the Colonization of the United States, which you can see here. The slide says "In 1841, he states America was "an unproductive waste... destitute of highly organized civilizations, only peaceful tribal barbarians lived in North America." But the presenter told the audience Bancroft was referring to Mesoamerica.
______________

He told the audience that Joseph Smith was translating Mayan characters off the gold plates.



Once the kids check the Internet and discover Mayan has nothing to do with Hebrew or Egyptian, they will be "confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon," just as Joseph Fielding Smith warned.

Then we had a discussion of cement.





It's always fun when Mesomania causes people to read the text ("both of wood and of cement") as "both of stone and of cement." To put the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica, you have to substitute terms like this. Audiences are supposed to be too mesmerized by the splendor of the Mayan (and Aztec, in some cases) civilization to notice that the text doesn't line up with what they're being shown.

Predictably, he went through the illusory "correspondences" between Mayans and the Book of Mormon, including Izapa Stella 5 (tree of life) and Quetzalcoatl, both of which even most Mesomania scholars reject.
_____________

The presenter never mentioned Letter VII, of course. He never acknowledged that the New York Cumorah was universally accepted and understood during Joseph Smith's lifetime, including by all of his successors who lived during his lifetime. He never mentioned President Ivins or Romney who spoke about this in General Conference.

Anyone attending his presentation would have to wonder, at a minimum, how Moroni hauled the plates from Central America to New York, and returned to the repository in the "Mexican Cumorah" to get the Jaredite plates to translate, and then return again to get his father's records. (I realize the North Visitors Center portrays Moroni carrying these paper letters with him, along with the sword and Liahona. That's another post for another day.)
_____________

I've written to this fine brother to offer a meeting. We'll see what happens. Hopefully he will continue these presentations with a different approach once he studies the issues a little more.


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.