The so-called Heartland model for the geography of the Book of Mormon is built on a foundation of fraud. Fraudulent artifacts, fraudulent science, fraudulent theology, and fraudulent history secured in place by racist ethno-nationalism are the four cornerstones of Heartlanderism.1 (By Heartlanderism I do not mean general belief in a North American setting for the events of the Book of Mormon, but specifically the movement started by Rod Meldrum.) The fraudulence of the history promoted by Heartlanderism is evident in how its proponents treat historical sources such as Oliver Cowdery’s letters published in the Messenger and Advocate in the years 1834–1835.
Book of Mormon Central published a KnoWhy today explaining what these eight letters are and how they are significant for the Book of Mormon. One of the letters, published in July 1835 as “Letter VII,” is worth discussing because in it Oliver Cowdery (despite Mormon 6:6) identified the drumlin in western New York where Joseph Smith obtained the golden plates as the same Hill Cumorah where the Nephites perished in their last battle with the Lamanites.
Heartlanders such as the monomaniacal Jonathan Neville have latched onto Letter VII as some kind of silver bullet that disproves the Mesoamerican model of the Book of Mormon. With an inquisitorial and self-righteous fanaticism, Neville has denounced, variously, Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute, the Religious Education Department at BYU, the LDS Church History Department, LDS Seminaries and Institutes, and the Correlation Committee of the LDS Church (which, perhaps Neville is unaware, includes the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve) as useful idiots at best or subversive fifth columnists at worst in spreading apostate views of the Book of Mormon that undermine faith, sow confusion and discord amongst the Saints, retard the Church’s growth, hinder the Church’s missionary efforts, and compromise confidence in Joseph Smith and other prophets. What, you may be wondering, is the shocking crime of these heretical culprits? Failure to pay unwavering obeisance to Letter VII—and thereby Heartlander geography—as the final arbiter in Book of Mormon geography debates.
While the Book of Mormon Central KnoWhy (of which I was the principal author) urges caution in uncritically using Cowdery’s letters, what it doesn’t do is directly address the fraudulent way in which Heartlanders use them, including especially Letter VII, as sources in reconstructing what early Mormons thought about Book of Mormon geography.
But here, on my personal blog, I am happy to oblige.
So consider, if you will, these seven reasons why Letter VII is not some magical silver bullet for Book of Mormon Heartlanders.
I. Joseph Smith did not write Letter VII
Heartlanders often claim that Joseph Smith assisted Oliver Cowdery in composing the Messenger and Advocate letters, including most importantly Letter VII. Therefore, they reason, the letters are authoritative and reflect Joseph Smith’s inspired views on Book of Mormon geography.2 As evidence for this, they point to a letter written by Joseph Smith and published in the Messenger and Advocate in December 1834 which, they claim, indicates the Prophet’s participation in writing the letters. But this text specifically tell us how Joseph intended to help Oliver in composing the letters and it wasn’t in matters related to Book of Mormon geography. Instead, because anti-Mormon publications were alleging that Joseph had a disreputable character, Joseph informed Oliver that he was going to provide him with a brief history of his early youth. He wrote:
I have been induced to give you the time and place of my birth, as I have learned that many of the opposers of those principles which I have held forth to the world, profess a personal acquaintance with me, though when in my presence, represent me to be another person in age, education, and stature, from what I am. (italics added)
Joseph’s early history is not discussed in Letter VII, but it is included in Letter III (December 1834). In other words, the extent of Joseph Smith’s involvement with the authorship of these letters was to provide Oliver with details about his early life which would refute anti-Mormon accusations of illicit behavior during his youth.
As such, contrary to Heartlander assertions, beyond this “there is no evidence that Joseph Smith assigned Cowdery to write the letters,” including Letter VII.3
II. Joseph Smith did not give Letter VII special treatment
Related to the claim made by Heartlanders that Joseph Smith allegedly helped write Letter VII is their claim that he must have found it particularly inspired or useful because he had it copied into his 1834–1836 history. While it’s true that Letter VII was copied into Joseph’s history, Heartlanders typically don’t bother to mention that all of the letters were copied into the history, not just Letter VII. And, what’s more, they were copied as a block of text, with no perceived effort to make any corrections or changes to the contents, including even factually problematic claims in the letters which contradicted other parts of Joseph’s history (more on this in a moment).
It is clear that “the transcription of [these] letters into [Joseph Smith’s] history was evidently conceived in terms of the entire series, not as a piecemeal copying of the individual letters.”4 It is also clear which scribes were tasked with composing this history: Frederick G. Williams, Warren Parrish (who copied Letter VII), and Oliver Cowdery himself. Contrary to the misleading impression given by Heartlanders, this is not a case of Joseph selectively giving preference to Letter VII as some sort of uniquely inspired text worthy of preservation. Rather, it’s a matter of Joseph outsourcing the task of composing his history to scribes who then made use of a large chunk of already accessible material. So the 1834–1836 history “serve[d] as a repository—more permanent than unbound newspapers—for a copied compilation of the entire series” rather than a shrine to the sui generis inspiration of Letter VII.5
III. Letter VII was never published under the supervision of Joseph Smith
There is little doubt that Oliver Cowdery’s letters were popular during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. This can be seen in the many times they were republished beginning in 1840:
- The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star6
- Times and Seasons7
- A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions8
- The Gospel Reflector9
- Letters by Oliver Cowdery, to W.W. Phelps on the Origin of the Book of Mormon and the Rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints10
- The Prophet11
Heartlanders argue that this is evidence that Joseph Smith must have accepted the legitimacy of their contents, including the location of the Hill Cumorah in New York. Several glaring problems with this argument are at once apparent.
First, of the letters that were republished in Joseph Smith’s lifetime, at least half were published in the United Kingdom, far from the Prophet’s supervision. None of these republications of the letters had Joseph’s editorial oversight.
Second, when the letters were republished in the Times and Seasons in 1840–1841 they were done not while Joseph was editor of the paper, but rather under the editorship of his younger brother, Don Carlos Smith. (Joseph would not assume editorship of the paper until February 19, 1842.) This point is especially ironic, since Heartlanders go to great lengths to desperately explain away the Times and Seasons editorials affirming a Mesoamerican connection to the Book of Mormon that appeared under Joseph’s editorial direction between June–October 1842 (see note 1 below). In other words, as my friend Neal Rappleye perceptively observed, according to Heartlanders, publications which appeared in the Times and Seasons at a time when Joseph wasn’t the editor of the paper are more authoritative than ones which appeared when he was the editor! Why? For the simple reason that they affirm the Heartland geography.
Third, the republication of the letters in the Gospel Reflector and The Prophet took place in Philadelphia and New York City, respectively, both outside of the supervision of Joseph Smith. (This is to say nothing of the fact that the letters republished in The Prophet appeared two days after Joseph Smith’s death.) One cannot help but appreciate the additional irony of Heartlanders using The Gospel Reflector, the organ of their arch-nemesis Benjamin Winchester, as evidence for their theory.12
None of this denies that Oliver’s letters were influential, or even that Joseph Smith may have been influenced by them—they certainly were influential among early Mormons.13 Rather, the publication venues contradict the Heartlander claim that Joseph gave them his imprimatur.
IV. Letter VII was never canonized
This point is simple enough: if Letter VII is so foundational, so fundamentally important, so essential in definitively settling the supposedly revealed geography of the Book of Mormon as Heartlanders insist it is, why was it never canonized? It’s not like there has ever been want of opportunity to do so. Two editions of the Doctrine and Covenants were prepared during Joseph Smith’s lifetime: one in Kirtland in 1835 and the other in Nauvoo in 1844 (although the latter finally appear in print only shortly after the Prophet’s death). In neither of these editions of the D&C (nor in any edition up to the present, for that matter) has Letter VII appeared as canonical revelation, despite the fact that other texts attributed to Oliver Cowdery were canonized during Joseph’s lifetime, including declarations on marriage and government.
The fact that Letter VII remains uncanonized today, even after multiple editions of the Doctrine and Covenants have added and removed material,14 should indicate that the letter is either not scripturally binding or Neville and the Heartlanders know something about it that generations of prophets, seers, and revelators overseeing the canon apparently have missed.
V. Oliver Cowdery’s Messenger and Advocate letters contain factual errors and embellishments (which Heartlanders conveniently ignore)
A problem with the Cowdery letters that Heartlanders routinely ignore or downplay is the fact that they contain glaring errors and embellishments. The most obvious example of this is that Oliver was completely silent about the First Vision. The way Oliver tells the story in Letters III and IV, in the year 1823 (!) Joseph Smith was confused by the religious sects and denominations fighting for converts around him and so retired to his bedroom, prayed, and was visited by the angel Moroni, which event kicked off the Restoration. This version of events contradicts Joseph Smith’s own official history, his 1832 journal entry (written in his own hand), and his private retellings of the First Vision, in which he placed the religious excitement in the years 1818–1820 and was visited by God the Father, Jesus Christ, and a host of angels—not a solitary visit from Moroni. The reason Cowdery didn’t mention of the First Vision is unknown. Roger Nicholson has a plausible theory, but it must remain tentative without more definitive evidence.
In addition to his factual errors, Oliver also embellished aspects of Joseph Smith’s early history. This is especially clear in Letter VIII, in which Oliver attributed to Moroni a verbatim quote (!) of well over 1,000 words:
All this is shown, the good and the evil, the holy and impure, the glory of God and the power of darkness, that you may know hereafter the two powers and never be influenced or overcome by that wicked one. Behold, whatever entices and leads to good and to do good, is of God, and whatever does not is of that wicked one: It is he that fills the hearts of men with evil, to walk in darkness and blaspheme God; and you may learn from henceforth, that his ways are to destruction, but the way of holiness is peace and rest. You now see why you could not obtain this record; that the commandment was strict, and that if ever these sacred things are obtained they must be by prayer and faithfulness in obeying the Lord. They are not deposited here for the sake of accumulating gain and wealth for the glory of this world: they were sealed by the prayer of faith, and because of the knowledge which they contain they are of no worth among the children of men, only for their knowledge. On them is contained the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it was given to his people on this land, and when it shall be brought forth by the power of God it shall be carried to the Gentiles, of whom many will receive it, and after will the seed of Israel be brought into the fold of their Redeemer by obeying it also. Those who keep the commandments of the Lord on this land, desired this at his hand, and through the prayer of faith obtained the promises, that if their descendants should transgress and fall away, that a record might be kept and in the last days come to their children. These things are sacred, and must be kept so, for the promise of the Lord concerning them, must be fulfilled. No man can obtain them if his heart is impure, because they contain that which is sacred; and besides, should they be entrusted in unholy hands the knowledge could not come to the world, because they cannot be interpreted by the learning of this generation; consequently, they would be considered of no worth, only as precious metal. Therefore, remember, that they are to be translated by the gift and power of God. By them will the Lord work a great and a marvelous work: the wisdom of the wise shall become as nought, and the understanding of the prudent shall be hid, and because the power of God shall be displayed those who profess to know the truth but walk in deceit, shall tremble with anger; but with signs and with wonders, with gifts and with healings, with the manifestations of the power of God, and with the Holy Ghost, shall the hearts of the faithful be comforted. You have now beheld the power of God manifested and the power of satan: you see that there is nothing that is desirable in the works of darkness; that they cannot bring happiness; that those who are overcome therewith are miserable, while on the other hand the righteous are blessed with a place in the kingdom of God where joy unspeakable surrounds them. There they rest beyond the power of the enemy of truth, where no evil can disturb them. The glory of God crowns them, and they continually feast upon his goodness and enjoy his smiles. Behold, notwithstanding you have seen this great display of power, by which you may ever be able to detect the evil one, yet I give unto you another sign, and when it comes to pass then know that the Lord is God and that he will fulfil [sic] his purposes, and that the knowledge which this record contains will go to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people under the whole heaven.-This is the sign: When these things begin to be known, that is, when it is known that the Lord has shown you these things, the workers of iniquity will seek your overthrow: they will circulate falsehoods to destroy your reputation, and also will seek to take your life; but remember this, if you are faithful, and shall hereafter continue to keep the commandments of the Lord, you shall be preserved to bring these things forth; for in due time he will again give you a commandment to come and take them. When they are interpreted the Lord will give the holy priesthood to some, and they shall begin to proclaim this gospel and baptize by water, and after that they shall have power to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of their hands. Then will persecution rage more and more; for the iniquities of men shall be revealed, and those who are not built upon the Rock will seek to overthrow this church; but it will increase the more opposed, and spread farther and farther, increasing in knowledge till they shall be sanctified and receive an inheritance where the glory of God will rest upon them; and when this takes place, and all things are prepared, the ten tribes of Israel will be revealed in the north country, whither they have been for a long season; and when this is fulfilled will be brought to pass that saying of the prophet-‘And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord’-But, notwithstanding the workers of iniquity shall seek your destruction the arm of the Lord will be extended, and you will be borne off conqueror, if you keep all his commandments. Your name shall be known among the nations, for the work which the Lord will perform by your hands shall cause the righteous to rejoice and the wicked to rage: with the one it shall be had in honor, and with the other in reproach; yet, with these it shall be a terror because of the great and marvelous work which shall follow the coming forth of this fulness [fullness] of the gospel. Now, go thy way, remembering what the Lord has done for thee, and be diligent in keeping his commandments, and he will deliver thee from temptations and all the arts and devices of the wicked one.-Forget not to pray, that thy mind may become strong, that when he shall manifest unto thee, thou mayest have power to escape the evil, and obtain these precious things.
Oliver Cowdery didn’t so much as even know Joseph Smith in 1827—the two men first met in April 1829—when these words he attributed to Moroni were spoken, let alone witness firsthand the recovery of the plates and the interview between the Prophet and the angel. As a secondhand source publishing eight years after the event, Oliver was certainly embellishing details about the interview supplied to him by Joseph Smith. This would not be out of character for Oliver. Others have already noted his “florid romantic” language and his pedantic and flamboyant literary habits (as opposed to Joseph Smith’s own simple and straightforward authorial style) in these letters and elsewhere.15 “The rhetorical flourishes” in Oliver’s letters published in Messenger and Advocate “carried over into a way of describing events that put himself in the forefront. His feelings and thoughts are always on display, making the story more Oliver’s than Joseph’s.”16
Heartlanders want to selectively claim that some parts of Oliver’s letters are inspired (e.g., the location of the Hill Cumorah) while others are not (e.g., failure to mention the First Vision and embellishing the account of Moroni’s visit to Joseph Smith) for completely arbitrary and self-serving reasons. They are free to do so if they desire, but they’re not accomplishing credible scholarship.
VI. The location of the Hill Cumorah remains open (as does the rest of Book of Mormon geography)
The fact is that “Church leadership officially and consistently distances itself from issues regarding Book of Mormon geography.”17 Neville and other Heartlanders excitedly call attention to general authorities like Joseph Fielding Smith who accepted at face value Oliver’s identification of the Hill Cumorah in New York.
Elder Smith and other general authorities were and are certainly free to offer their personal opinions on the location of the Hill Cumorah and many other subjects that have not been definitively established by revelation. Presumably this would also include Church leaders such as President Harold B. Lee, who said in 1966, “Some say the Hill Cumorah was in southern Mexico (and someone pushed it down still farther) and not in western New York. Well, if the Lord wanted us to know where it was, or where Zarahemla was, he’d have given us latitude and longitude, don’t you think? And why bother our heads trying to discover with archaeological certainty the geographical locations of the cities of the Book of Mormon like Zarahemla?”
The identification of the drumlin in upstate New York as the Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon has been and is very common in the Church, but it is not an official position of the Church for the simple reason that the Church has no official Book of Mormon geography. “The Church emphasizes the doctrinal and historical value of the Book of Mormon,” F. Michael Watson, secretary to the First Presidency, clarified in 1993, “not its geography. While some Latter-day Saints have looked for possible locations and explanations [for Book of Mormon geography] because the New York Hill Cumorah does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Cumorah, there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site.”
Traditionally—but not always—Church leaders have assumed a hemispheric Book of Mormon geography while over time granting space for alternate theories (such as the Mesoamerican theory) in Church publications like the Ensign and general authority supervised publications like the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. It’s simply disingenuous for Heartlanders to claim there is revealed consensus on Book of Mormon geography and the location of Cumorah among modern Church leaders.
VII. Joseph Smith (like Oliver Cowdery) was not a Heartlander
Finally, Letter VII cannot be used as evidence that Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdery were Heartlanders since neither of them believed the events of the Book of Mormon took place exclusively in the continental United States. Certainly Oliver believed the Hill Cumorah was in New York, and Joseph probably did as well later in his life,18 but the historical record is abundantly clear that, like most of their Mormon contemporaries, both Joseph and Oliver believed in a hemispheric geography for the events described in the Book of Mormon.19 “Joseph Smith never showed any interest in creating a geographic model for the Book of Mormon,” notes one scholar. “Any and all artifacts from virtually anywhere in the Americas were treated equally as evidence for the book’s divine authenticity.”20
Heartlanders cannot pick up one end of the stick without picking up the other end when it comes to what Joseph and Oliver thought about Book of Mormon geography. They cannot selectively decide which of Oliver’s and Joseph’s views on geography they’re is going to believe (e.g. Zelph and the location of the Hill Cumorah) and which ones they’re going to discard (e.g. Mesoamerican connections and the landing place of Lehi in Chile). Individuals are free to accept early Mormon speculation on Book of Mormon geography to whatever extent they are willing, but if Heartlanders have a shred of integrity, they must not consider Joseph or Oliver within their ranks.
Because I know how many Heartlanders will react to this post (assuming any of them ever read it), I will conclude by affirming my total commitment to the historicity of the Book of Mormon, its divinity, its coming forth “by the gift and power of God,” and the inspiration and seership of Joseph Smith, its translator. If it isn’t obvious from my previous blog posts, podcast discussions, publications, and video interviews, I am a firmly committed believer in the Book of Mormon. I am also a committed and active member who sustains the current leaders of the Church.
I am inspired by the testimony of Oliver Cowdery relative to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. By no means do I wish to diminish his sacred calling as one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon or as the Second Elder of the Church of Christ. I am touched and inspired whenever I read his testimony found in Letter I: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as [Joseph] translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’”
I am not, however, beholden to Heartlanders’ misappropriation of Oliver’s letters. No matter how much any Heartlander may think me an apostate for insisting otherwise, I reject their pretensions to being the gatekeepers of orthodoxy, faithfulness, and commitment to the Book of Mormon, and refuse to bow to their interpretation of Letter VII as if it were a modern golden calf. Heartlanders are free to believe that I am afflicted by a deranged “Mesomania,” as Jonathan Neville calls it, but until he or they can demonstrate that they have even the slightest desire to handle the primary historical evidence responsibly, and aren’t just waging ideological warfare against perceived enemies of their cult, I am free to dismiss their arguments as fraudulent.
Letter VII is not a silver bullet to the heart of the Mesoamerican geography theory. In the hands of Heartlanders it is, rather, no more harmful than a paper cap in a plastic toy gun.
- For refutations of Heartlander arguments, see “Reviews of DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography,” FairMormon; Gregory L. Smith, “Often in Error, Seldom in Doubt: Rod Meldrum and Book of Mormon DNA,” The FARMS Review 22, no. 1 (2010): 17–161; Ugo A. Perego, “The Book of Mormon and the Origin of Native Americans from a Maternally Inherited DNA Standpoint,” FARMS Review 22, no. 1 (2010): 191–227; Matthew Roper, “Joseph Smith, Revelation, and Book of Mormon Geography,” FARMS Review 22, no. 2 (2010): 15–85; “Losing the Remnant: The New Exclusivist ‘Movement’ and the Book of Mormon,” FARMS Review 22, no. 2 (2010): 87–124; Matthew Roper, Paul J. Fields, and Atul Nepal, “Joseph Smith, the Times and Seasons, and Central American Ruins,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22, no. 2 (2013): 84–97; Matthew Roper, “How Much Weight Can a Single Source Bear? The Case of Samuel D. Tyler’s Journal Entry,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22, no. 1 (2013): 54–57; Neal Rappleye, “‘War of Words and Tumult of Opinions’: The Battle for Joseph Smith’s Words in Book of Mormon Geography,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 11 (2014): 37–95; Mark Alan Wright, “Heartland as Hinterland: The Mesoamerican Core and North American Periphery of Book of Mormon Geography,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 13 (2015): 111–129; Matthew Roper, “The Treason of the Geographers: Mythical ‘Mesoamerican’ Conspiracy and the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 16 (2015): 161–205; “John Bernhisel’s Gift to a Prophet: Incidents of Travel in Central America and the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 16 (2015): 207–253; Matthew Roper, “Joseph Smith, Central American Ruins, and the Book of Mormon,” in Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World, edited by Lincoln H. Blumell, Matthew J. Grey, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015), 141–62; Matthew Roper, Paul Fields, and Larry Bassist, “Zarahemla Revisited: Neville’s Newest Novel,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 17 (2016): 13–61.
- As a corollary to this argument, anybody, like evil Mesoamericanists, who doesn’t accept the letters as such are, obviously, out to throw Joseph Smith under the bus and deceive victims into disbelieving inspired prophets.
- Karen Lynn Davidson et al., eds., The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844 (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church Historian’s Press, 2012), xxi.
- Davidson et al., eds., The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 1, 39.
- Davidson et al., eds., The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 1, 39, emphasis added.
- “A Remarkable Vision,” The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 1, no. 2 (June 1840): 42–44; “A Remarkable Vision,” The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 1, no. 5 (September 1840): 105–109; “A Remarkable Vision,” The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 1, no. 6 (October 1840): 150–154; “A Remarkable Vision,” The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 1, no. 7 (November 1840): 174–178.
- “Copy of a Letter written by O. Cowdery,” Times and Seasons 2, no. 1 (November 1, 1840): 199–201; “Letter II,” Times and Seasons 2, no. 2 (November 15, 1840): 208–212; “Letter III,” Times and Seasons 2, no. 3 (December 1, 1840): 224–225; “Letter IV,” Times and Seasons 2, no. 4 (December 15, 1840): 240–242; “Letter VI,” Times and Seasons 2, no. 11 (April 1, 1841): 359–363; “Rise of the Church,” Times and Seasons 2, no. 12 (April 15, 1841): 376–379; “Letter VIII,” Times and Seasons 2, no. 13 (May 1, 1841): 390–396.
- Orson Pratt, A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (Edinburgh: Ballantyne and Hughes, 1840), 8–12)
- “O. Cowdery’s Letters to W. W. Phelps,” Gospel Reflector 1, no. 6 (March 15, 1841): 137–176.
- Letters by Oliver Cowdery, to W.W. Phelps on the Origin of the Book of Mormon and the Rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Liverpool: Ward and Cairns, 1844).
- “O. Cowdery’s Letters to W. W. Phelps,” The Prophet 1, no. 7 (June 29, 1844).
- Roper, “The Treason of the Geographers,” 161–205.
- Contrary to Neville’s bald assertion, however, there is no evidence that Joseph Smith quoted Letter VII in his 6 September 1842 letter to the Saints.
- See Richard E. Turley Jr. and William W. Slaughter, How We Got the Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2012).
- Davidson et al., eds., The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 1, 38. See also Arthur Henry King, The Abundance of the Heart (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1986), 204.
- Richard L. Bushman, “Oliver’s Joseph,” in Days Never to Be Forgotten: Oliver Cowdery, ed. Alexander L. Baugh (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009), 7.
- John E. Clark, “Book of Mormon Geography,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1992), 1:176.
- The Prophet waffled on the location of the hill Cumorah throughout his life. In his 1832 history, Joseph spoke only of an unnamed “place . . . where the plates [were] deposited.” History, circa Summer 1832, p. 4. Six years later he described the location where he found the plates as merely “a hill of considerable size.” History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834], addendum, p. 7. That same year Joseph spoke only of “a hill in Manchester, Ontario County New York” as the location where he found the plates. Elders’ Journal (July 1838): 43. The Prophet first speaks of the location as Cumorah in a letter dated 6 September 1842, where he poetically describes heading “Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, An Angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets.” “Letter to ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,’ 6 September 1842 [D&C 128],” p. 7. It’s reasonable to assume that Joseph eventually accepted the identity of the hill Cumorah as the hill in Palmyra after this theory became popular amongst Latter-day Saints. Even so, there’s nothing in the historical sources to suggest Joseph came to identify the Palmyra drumlin as Cumorah because of revelation.
- See Matthew Roper, “Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations,” FARMS Review 16, no. 2 (2004): 225–275. Mark Alan Wright, “Joseph Smith and Native American Artifacts,” in Approaching Antiquity, 119–140.
- Wright, “Joseph Smith and Native American Artifacts,” 130–131.
161 thoughts on “Seven Reasons Why Letter VII Is Not A Heartlander Silver Bullet”
BOOM! goes the dynamite. Well done, Stephen.
Every conceivable element of Heartlanderism is built on misreading, misinterpretation, and/or (all too often) outright fraud. It starts with a foundation of American Exceptionalism and then tries to ram that square peg into the round holes of the text of the Book of Mormon, LDS Church history, and the authoritative statements of Church leaders. When the hole doesn’t fit the peg (as it often doesn’t), Heartlanders turn to elevating personal opinions of Church leaders to canon status and ignoring inconvenient truths that run contrary to their pre-established beliefs.
Heartlanderism is a gnostic cult within Mormonism that, ultimately, can only lead to frustration, disappointment, and loss of testimony.
Hi Mike. It’s fine with me that you think Church leaders have committed fraud when they’ve taught the New York Cumorah, not only in Letter VII but in General Conference addresses by members of the First Presidency. It’s also fine with me that you claim the prophets teach their personal opinions. President Benson explained that mentality: “The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them, otherwise the prophet is just giving his opinion—speaking as a man.”
However, I have to question something you wrote. As a sort of Heartlander, I would be very interested in any “inconvenient truths that run contrary” to my “pre-established beliefs.” This would be instructive since I was a committed M2C’er for decades before I learned what the prophets have actually taught (my CES/BYU professors neglected to teach that) and how the text and relevant sciences support the prophets’ teachings about the New York Cumorah.
Actually, my “pre-established beliefs,” thanks to my education through CES and BYU, were that there are two Cumorahs, that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica, and that the prophets were wrong. Fortunately, I didn’t settle for the beliefs that were imprinted by CES/BYU, but apparently you have.
Please email these “inconvenient truths” to email@example.com
The list of “inconvenient truths” is at least a mile long. Let me start with the low-hanging fruit:
• In order to claim that the prophets and apostles know the Book of Mormon took place in the “Heartland,” you have to conveniently ignore the fact that millions of copies of the “blue sky Moroni” Book of Mormon were published in the 1960s and 1970s with photographs of Mesoamerican sites as an insert in the introduction. How could the First Presidency have allowed such a thing if they knew, for a fact, that the Book of Mormon took place in the American Midwest?
• In order to claim that the prophets and apostles know the Book of Mormon took place in the “Heartland,” you have to conveniently ignore the fact that they allowed Dr. John Sorenson to publish a two-part series in the Ensign in September and October 1984 about the Book of Mormon taking place in Mesoamerica (less than a year before his landmark book “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon” was published through Church-owned Deseret Book). You also have to ignore additional Ensign articles about a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon in June 1985, February 1988, October 1988, June 1989, and January 2000. Were the prophets just asleep at the wheel? Did they not know what was being published in the Ensign, the Church’s official English-language magazine?
(I completely suspect that Mr. Neville would respond to these two points by appealing to his usual conspiracy theories about ill-informed Church employees who were “following the scholars instead of the prophets,” and so forth, which would indicate that he believes the prophets and apostles are unaware of the day-to-day operations of official Church publications, including the Church’s signature scripture and its official mouthpiece. But perhaps I’m wrong and he’s got a more creative explanation.)
Hi Mike. I was going to let your mindreading go, but because you’ve conflated the basic teachings of the prophets, I’ll have to comment.
The prophets have consistently and repeatedly taught two things:
(i) There is one Cumorah and it is in New York; and
(ii) We don’t know where the rest of the events took place.
Consequently, I’m open to any geography theory that is consistent with these two teachings; i.e., Cumorah is in New York, and everything else is open to discussion, study, and prophetic teachings. As I’ve said before, so long as Cumorah is in New York, the Mesoamerican setting is not out of the question (although the M2C advocates have insisted it’s inconsistent with the New York Cumorah). That’s why illustrations from anywhere in the Americas are fine, except to the extent they are used to teach that Cumorah is outside of New York. I don’t understand how any position that contradicts the prophets can be accepted without repudiating the prophets (or ascribing their teachings to their ignorance, which is the same thing).
When I accepted M2C for decades, I shared your intellectual arrogance that I and my fellow M2C believers were smarter or more knowledgeable or better educated than the prophets. But the older I get, the clearer it is to me that the prophets were right all along.
If you know of any prophet (including apostle) who has officially repudiated the teachings of his predecessors about Cumorah, please let me know.
For everything other than the New York Cumorah, the field is wide open. This means Meso, Baja, Heartland, Panama, Peru, Chile, Eritrea–whatever you want to believe. There is plenty of evidence to confirm whatever bias you want.
Mr. Neville, the reductionism in your response, above, is simply staggering. On your dozens of blogs, you’ve consistently and repeatedly argued the the Mesoamerican theory is not only wrong but dangerous and heretical. Now you come here claiming that you’re “open to any geography theory that is consistent with…Cumorah [being] in New York”?
Do you even read what you write?
Neville, your insistance that prophets have been clear about Hill Cumorah doesn’t make sense in light of the fact that the Church that has been very supportive of organizations that lean to a Mesoamerican setting, and even a few Church Leaders who have said thinks like:
“Well, if the Lord wanted us to know where [Hill Cumorah] was, or where Zarahemla was, he’d have given us latitude and longitude, don’t you think?” -Harold B. Lee
“The fact is, the Book of Mormon does not give us precise and definite information whereby we can locate those places with certainty” -James E. Talmage
“As far as can be learned, Joseph Smith, translator of the book, did not say where, on the American continent, Book of Mormon activities occurred.” -John A. Widtsoe
Of course, I’ve heard all types of conspiracy theories from heartlanders about these statements. I’ve read most of them and don’t find them convincing, but farfetched. Sometimes they get crazy. Just as crazy as your interpretation that Elder Holland was condemning Book of Mormon Central, at a Book of Mormon Central and BYU conference! I’m just grateful Church leaders today are contextually minded. It’s not looking good for the overly literalistic view of heartlanders when the Church is so supportive of places that promote a Mesoamerican setting. Gratefully, we have prophets today that help steer us in the right direction. Scholarship is obviously one of those much needed directions.
I’ve read plenty of your blogs about Zelph, the Promised Land, DNA, the Lamanite Mission, and all the standard Heartlander misunderstandings. You simply promote your Cumorah theory more than anything else. It obvious that it doesn’t end at that debate.
Furthermore, the fact that some prophets have openly supported Mesoamerica, tells me that the heartlander doctrines aren’t really correct doctrines, considering prophets have had the same information, the same scriptures, and even more Spirit than all of us combined, and still interpreted things differently, sometimes in support of Mesoamerica. For example, Howard W. Hunter said, “in the heart of the Mayan area of Mesoamerica, which has such great significance in the Book of Mormon history.” I’d like to see heartlanders explain that away haha. Sure, other prophets had different opinions about Cumorah and the geography. That’s fine. Opinions are opinions. But opinions aren’t always doctrines. The point is that it’s simply not as revealed as you and your peers think it is. That’s all that matters.
You may think that people are leaving the Church due to not accepting heartland interpretations, but really, I think you’ll find that people leave the Church due to such overly dogmatic thinking and interpretations forced upon them as absolute truths.
Since I’m thinking about this subject at the moment, allow me to add two other small items that don’t really prove anything, but I think they say something important:
• Book of Mormon Central is among a select few non-Church organizations the Church’s Seminaries and Institutes department has recommended to its instructors as a place to find answers and resources. (Link below.) I note that not a single Heartlander site or resource made that list.
• Last year Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke at Book of Mormon Central’s conference. It seems rather odd to me that an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ—one who supposedly knows the truth about Book of Mormon geography and the location of the hill Cumorah—would give his support to an organization that believes in a Mesoamerican core. I further note that neither Elder Holland nor any other apostle has ever spoken at a Heartlander conference.
Didn’t you know, Mike, that Elder Holland was secretly rebuking Book of Mormon Central at that conference?
Just ask Neville, who was the only one in “a room full of unbelievers” wise enough to discern the true message behind Elder Holland’s remarks: a direct rebuke at BMC scholars for their disbelief in Letter VII.
No, I’m not making this up. Neville is that full of himself.
It’s gotta be difficult when facts and evidence and words and actions all combine against one’s pet theory.
I agree with this blog post The only point I would make is that we need to do some work to make sure Heartlanders do not leave the Church if/when their theory is destroyed. They have placed their faith in a very dubious theory, rather than the BoM and the prophets, and that is a shame. But we should reach out to them with charity as they work their way through this issue. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that all Church members maintain their testimonies.
I liked your article because it offers us to find ways to be mindful of looking before you leap. I am of the understanding of President Harold B. Lee if the Lord thought it was important he would reveal it. Although it is important the Lord is more interested in having us develop by faith not by reason. I personally urge caution with people trying to choose a camp of believing where the Book of Mormon is. I also take issue that you seem to be making the assumption that because most church sources study the Mesoamerica model would logically mean that it is the location. I am in the middle of it could be either in both. I also say one can see the potential of the heartland model but not take the extreme views of Mr. Meldrum and Mr. Neville. I am such a person I do not agree with their views of calling the church to repentance because they are right. Indeed this is very dangerous territory for them. Also someone can be right and just go about it wrong.
I am sure the Prophet Joseph Smith was too busy building the kingdom of God, the temple, travelling from the East to the West, missions, farming, lawsuits and learning doctrine than to try to establish the where of the Book of Mormon. I eagerly wait for the day when everything will be explain though I see that it will be when the Lord says it and not by a room full of intellectuals making reasoned conclusions. I view the Church leadership is tacitly holding the view of the Mesoamerican model but it seems they are using it as means of a lab experiment rather than confirm doctrine. I say these things because on personal note my wife and stepped away from the church and uses a lot of the counterarguments to the Mesoamerican model. I would say that the Heartland breathed fresh air and perspective that the where of the Book of Mormon is not settled. I simply believe we do not know nearly enough to make the call that one model is false and one is true both have compelling theories and detraction to the theories. If you have sources that say otherwise I would like to review.
Hi Geoff. You needn’t worry about “Heartlanders” leaving the Church. It’s ironic that you consider the teachings of the prophets to be “a very dubious theory.” The only thing the “Heartlanders” claim to be settled is the New York Cumorah. Everything else is open to further study, exploration and revelation.
Both elements have also been the consistent teaching of the prophets for nearly two centuries. I don’t think the prophets are going to repudiate their predecessors; so far, only the M2C intellectuals have done that.
In fact, there is serious concern that as more and more Church members learn what the prophets have actually taught, those whose testimonies are tied to M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) may lose confidence in what they’ve been taught. I recently blogged about that here, for example.
As I mentioned to Steve, most of this discussion is an exercise in futile confirmation bias. Maybe you’d be willing to host a rational, fact-based exchange on your blog?
So tell us how you really feel, Stephen. 🙂
All archaeological issues aside, I stopped taking the Heartlanders seriously the first time I read one of them (Neville, I think) saying, in essence, that their interpretation of where the Book of Mormon _had_ to take place took priority over what the book itself actually indicates — in effect, the same pattern that Stephen outlines above (and Mike notes as well). That’s both bad scholarship and bad religion.
I have noted elsewhere the curious relationship of the Heartlanders with bad science as well (e.g., the bizarre “Universal Science Model” promoted heavily at the FIRM Foundation Expos), which in turn ties into young-earth creationism and a recent universal Flood.
I’ll leave aside for now the question of how much Meldrum supports himself hawking this stuff.
Hi bfwebster. I’m very interested in your comment because I wonder where I wrote anything like what you’re claiming I’ve said. Could you give me a citation? If not, please stop making false accusations. You’re welcome to prefer caricatures over reality, but you’re not welcome to lie about what I’ve written.
Thank you for the post you have made. I did enjoy it and I hope we will all patiently wait on the answers from the Lord. I have some reservations against the Heartland model too but I also have some against the other models that are south of the border. I think we need to be careful otherwise we are getting into a pride-pissing match to see who is the more reasonable latter-day saint. I know the Mr Medlrum and Mr. Neville are incorrect in that they need to call the Church to repentance for not following their model. In the Heartland model I mostly favor Wayne May’s arguments but seeing that they do not have the keys to receive revelation from the Lord concerning these matters I take it with a grain of salt. The same goes for all the postulating intellectuals in FARMS, CES and others. I think the Mesoamerican model is more a lab experiment rather than doctrine so that is why I urge caution. I know of at least a few of the Heart-lander theory are prodigals coming back to the church after the holes in Mesoamerican model were revealed. Did they lack faith? Maybe. Are they wrong to question those who use the Mesoamerican model? No. I see no problem in questioning both sides and remember the Lord will reveal in His own due time. If you have resources that are definitive proof of revelation from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve neither theory at this point is fact. The only fact is that the Book of Mormon is true.
Hi Andrew. Could you give me a citation where I’ve called the Church to repentance for not following my model? I don’t recall ever saying or suggesting any such thing, mainly because even I don’t say my model is “correct.” I’d have to call myself to repentance for not following my model.
All I say is that Cumorah is in New York. Beyond that, we’re all using our best judgment as we interpret the text and apply the relevant sciences. I’m open to any geography that recognizes the prophets are correct about Cumorah. In my book Moroni’s America I proposed the model that makes the most sense to me, but throughout I recognize other interpretations are possible. I don’t even categorically reject the Mesoamerican models so long as they incorporate the New York Cumorah.
If you don’t have a citation, then please represent my views accurately going forward. Thanks!
“Could you give me a citation where I’ve called the Church to repentance for not following my model?”
Good grief. Simply look at virtually any post on any one of Mr. Neville’s 47 blogs and you’ll find copious examples of him condemning BYU religion professors, missionaries, Church visitors centers, Church pageants, and virtually every other Church group or organization for teaching a Mesoamerican Book of Mormon geography.
If that’s not “calling the Church to repentance,” I don’t know what is.
haha, this is another classic technique used by the M2C citation cartel. “I can’t give you a citation, but I know you’ve done it.”
Good grief. You want examples? They are legion. Here’s one I found in your July 25, 2018, blog post on your experience at this year’s Hill Cumorah Pageant.
Remember, Mr. Neville is writing about a Church-sponsored event that is organized and run from Church headquarters, with the oversight of general authorities.
The day after the final presentation of the Hill Cumorah Pageant I took this photo of the Mayan temple being dismantled.
I hope they never construct it again, unless the Mesomaniacs at BYU and Book of Mormon Central finally locate the “real Cumorah” in southern Mexico and they haul this stage down there. That’s where this stage belongs.
Sadly, thanks to the Correlation Department and the intellectuals at BYU/CES, the Hill Cumorah Pageant is an outward repudiation of all the prophets who have stood on this hill in New York and declared it to be the scene of the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredite.
So, according to Mr. Neville, the Correlation Department (which is headed by members of the Quorum of the Twelve) and BYU (whose board of trustees is composed of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve) and CES (also directed by the Twelve) are repudiating “of all the prophets who have stood on this hill in New York.”
That’s one example that took me less than 15 seconds to find. Would you like me to come up with more? It’s a target-rich environment on all of your dozens of blogs.
Mike, I don’t see a reply button by your comment so I’m responding here.
Your example from the pageant does not “call the Church to repentance for not following my model,” as you accused me of doing. The teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are definitely not “my model.”
Wow. Just . . . wow.
If saying “thanks to the Correlation Department and the intellectuals at BYU/CES, the Hill Cumorah Pageant is an outward repudiation of all the prophets” isn’t a call to repentance, I don’t know what is.
I feel like I’m arguing with someone who looks at the sky and swears it’s green.
I agree with your 7 arguments. If Letter 7 was the only issue maybe I might not be so much against the models that claim a New York Mormon 6 battle. But their models are filled with problems. Their false arguments and hard stance of being the only ones that understand reminds me of flat earthers.
On the other hand, I see the “gatekeepers” of the Mesoamerican models coming down on the South American models as a similar problem. They will find one thing that they will immediately bring up — claiming that one thing totally disproves these models — and then fight to shut down any more discussion of the models.
I challenge the Mesoamerican model proponents to at least consider all the strong points in Dowdell’s model with this 33 post article: https://goo.gl/fP1yCS
(To go to the next post, use the menu on the right side of the webpage.)
Hi Steve. One of my readers suggested I respond to your post, so here I am. Thanks for paying a little attention to a point of view and some facts that don’t confirm your bias. But you’ve merely attacked a straw man of your own creation, as I point out here:
Maybe now that this is off your chest we can engage in a serious, rational discussion of the actual facts and what I’ve actually written instead of your caricature. I’ve offered to participate in such a discussion and exchange for years now, but the M2C intellectuals have refused. Instead, they rely on obfuscation, censorship and disinformation to keep their readers ignorant of what the prophets have taught about Cumorah.
The comments here by Mike, Geoff, Heber, Andrew, etc. reflect the disinformation the M2C intellectuals have disseminated. For example, I’ve never called the Church to repentance and I’ve never criticized the Brethren; to the contrary, the principal difference between “Heartland” (which I did not fully accept as it had been articulated in the past) and M2C is whether or not we believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.
Your M2C theory is based on the premise that the prophets have misled the Church by persistently (and ignorantly) teaching that Cumorah is in New York. I disagree because I accept what the prophets have taught, which is corroborated by the text and the relevant sciences (archaeology, anthropology, geography, geology, etc.).
Most of the literature on this topic is pure confirmation bias. That’s why opponents on each side (and investigators) find it completely unpersuasive. As the comments here show, people choose sides and prefer caricatures over honest exchanges.
Another way to state the fundamental question is, which bias do you seek to confirm? My bias is that the prophets teach the truth. Your bias is that, at least with respect to the New York Cumorah, the prophets are wrong. Then we each marshal facts and logical arguments to confirm our respective biases.
My second bias is I think most members of the Church, if fully informed, would choose the prophets over the scholars. That’s why I favor full disclosure and why I encourage people to read M2C literature to see for themselves what the M2C intellectuals teach. I link to BOMC all the time, but BOMC never links to contrary views. That’s not only intellectually dishonest, but it demonstrates the weakness of the M2C position.
It’s telling that in this very blog post, you didn’t cite a single article, book, or blog post of mine. Nor did you in your BOMC Kno-why. You don’t want your readers to know what I have actually written because it’s easier to attack your straw man. Judging by the comments here, your readers also prefer confirming their biases by reading your caricature instead of what I’ve actually written.
I think the M2C intellectuals share my belief that Church members would choose the prophets over the scholars. That explains why they don’t want Church members to know what the prophets have taught and how it is consistent with the sciences.
As I said, I’ve long sought an M2C proponent who is intellectually honest enough, and self-confident enough, to engage in a serious discussion of the facts and relevant sciences. Breaking through the respective confirmation bias filters is the only way to reach unity, or at least agree to disagree on actual facts instead of caricatures. Perhaps you are now willing to undertake such a project?
BTW, for anyone interested, I have an entire blog dedicated to Letter VII, which you can see here: http://www.lettervii.com/
You have abundantly proven that you are not somebody who can have a rational argument in good faith with an “M2C intellectual.” You have, repeatedly, demonized and belittled and cast aspersion on anybody who doesn’t accept your dogmatic interpretation of early Mormon historical sources relevant to Book of Mormon geography. This isn’t just a matter of having differences of opinion. As your blog posts have more than demonstrated, you have a personal vendetta against the “citation cartel” (which is, in reality, peer reviewed academic scholarship, as opposed to your own brand of trashy Internet pseudo-scholarship) and anybody who is out of step with your narrow and uncompromising Heartland apologetics.
I suspect I know why you are so personally angry and upset at “M2C intellectuals.” It must be very frustrating that your pseudo-scholarship which you’ve invested so much time and energy into is not making mainstream inroads in Mormon studies. It must be frustrating to be a laughingstock at the Church History Department and amongst BYU faculty. It must be frustrating that the best you can do is publish semi-coherent ramblings on obscure personal blogs or with no-name presses. But just know that it isn’t anything personal: it’s because both your Mormon history and your Book of Mormon geography are nonsense and you’re a deeply unpleasant person to interact with..
I don’t know why you have chosen to become such a fanatic over this one issue, but I will say that it is genuinely sad that your testimony is so fragile that even the slightest contradiction of your pet theory causes your cognitive dissonance to flair up like lights on a Christmas tree.
I am content with what I wrote in my post and in the KnoWhy, and I’ll allow readers to decide for themselves which explanation they find more persuasive. I will not, however, waste further time or attention on your shenanigans. Like I said, since you refuse to engage people who disagree with you in good faith, and since you’re a close-minded fanatic, it would be utterly pointless for me to engage you any further.
I will just say this one thing: for all of your self-righteous preening about how you accept the apostles and the prophets, and how “M2C intellectuals” are subversive apostates, it is breathtakingly hypocritical for you to lambast the Church History Department and BYU faculty and Seminaries & Institutes faculty for not kowtowing to your theories, since all of them are ultimately hired by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is astoundingly hypocritical for you to criticize the “Correlation Department” of the Church, which approves “M2C” artwork and videos and articles in Church publications, when, again, the First Presidency and the Twelve are a part of Correlation. It is monstrously hypocritical of you to accuse Saints of being “revisionist history” attempting to deceive people about Book of Mormon geography when Saints has been authorized, reviewed, and approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve.
So please, Jonathan, spare us all the self-righteous BS about how “M2C intellectuals” are trying to get people to disbelieve the prophets and apostles.
Because guess what: as long as you keep doing what you’re doing, you are, in fact, doing the exact same thing. As long as you keep screaming about “M2C intellectuals” ruining the Church, you’re actually telling people to disbelieve the modern prophets and apostles who keep hiring them to work for the Church and guide the Church’s membership in intellectual and historical matters.
“Physician, heal thyself!”
Sadly, Stephen speaks the truth about Mr. Neville’s Don Quixote-like mission to convince the entire Church that everyone is out of step but him, and that he’s the one who’s actually “following the brethren” while all of the Church’s departments and organizations are teaching falsehoods and “rejecting the prophets.”
His worldview is nonsense, of course, but when one’s views are so fantastical that they’re beyond rational belief, conspiracy theories are only place one can turn to. (See also: moon landing hoax, 9/11 was an inside job, shooter on the grassy knoll, Elvis is still alive.)
Hi Steve. Thanks for the response. I sincerely hoped you weren’t too thin-skinned to have a detailed, rational, fact-based exchange and comparison where we could put everything out there and let readers decide, but I see instead that you are resorting to avoidance coping.
It’s a lost opportunity, but no sense pushing on a string. If, down the road, you become confident enough in your views to have an open exchange, I’ll still be ready, willing and able to participate.
Your response deserved a detailed response, but this blog format doesn’t allow interlinear comments, so I posted my response here: http://interpreterpeerreviews.blogspot.com/2018/07/steve-smoot-demonstrates-m2c-tactics.html
Please spare me the passive aggressiveness. It’s beneath even you.
I have absolutely no inclination to have an “exchange” with a vindictive fanatic who is so enamoured with his own inflated sense of self-importance and brilliance that he can, with utmost confidence, unilaterally dismiss the Church History Department as producing “revisionist history” for no other reason than they refuse to countenance his ludicrous theories.
Also, just so you know, you’re not really doing anything to disprove my calling you monomaniacal by writing entire blog posts responding to individual comments of mine.
FYI, this is all an exercise in psychology for me. I’m continually trying to understand the psychology of Mesomania, and you’re revealing a lot.
I’ve pointed out with specificity the problems with Saints. The historians are demonstrably revising the history, which is part of a pattern of conduct that you’ll see in an upcoming post. If you think I’m wrong about that, explain the error in detail. Your wild generalizations and mind-reading are detracting from whatever point you want to make.
“FYI, this is all an exercise in psychology for me.”
If your psychoanalytic skills are as good as your historical criticism, then I hope, for your sake, that you don’t quit your day job.
“The historians are demonstrably revising the history,”
And that “revisionist history” is being approved by the First Presidency.
So pray tell, Jonathan, do you think the First Presidency is just stupid, being taken in by the M2C intellectuals, unable to discern the truth you have access to, too lazy to recognize the errors being foisted on the Church, or something else?
I mean, surely one who prides himself as a faithful “follower of the prophets and apostles” has a good explanation for how M2C revisionism is getting past the First Presidency.
I see a lot of this kind of name calling by the M2C intellectuals on this site. Why must you resort to name calling and mocking? Is your opinion so important that you forget how the Savior himself called the intellectuals of His day a “nest of vipers.” You need to repent of your pride or it will be your downfall. “Fools mock, but they shall mourn” Ether 12:26.
Also, Mike, you keep using the phrase “If that’s not “calling the Church to repentance,” I don’t know what is.” Perhaps you don’t know after all.
I would suggest that everyone stop with the arrogant attitudes and have a respectful discussion.
I do not claim to be an expert on this subject. But I do claim to have a testimony of the teachings of the Prophets. I too have researched their remarks on Cumorah–and every single Prophet or Apostle who has addressed this subject in General Conference (and there have been a number of them) has said the New York Hill Cumorah is the Cumorah/Ramah of the Book of Mormon, the place of the last battles and the place of the repository of numerous plates and the Sword of Laban. Beyond that identification they do not give names to other locations. And Joseph did, in his own hand, write to Emma while on Zion’s Camp and say they were: “wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionally the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity,”
He also said, speaking of the Book of Mormon people in the Wentworth letter: “The first were called Jaredites, and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit _ this country._”
One of my favorite talks was given by Pres. Ezra Taft Benson (though this was not in General Conference) where he stated:
“Many great events have transpired in this land of destiny. This was the place where Adam dwelt; this was the place where the Garden of Eden was located. It was here that Adam met with a body of great high priests at Adam-ondi-Ahman shortly before his death and gave them his final blessing, and the place to which he will return to meet with the leaders of his people. This was the place of three former civilizations: Adam’s, the Jaredite, and the Nephite. This was also the place where our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith inaugurating this great and last dispensation.
“The Lord has also decreed that this land should be ‘the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, . . . the holy sanctuary of the Lord’ (Ether 13:3). Here is our _nation’s_ destiny! To serve God’s eternal purposes and to prepare this land and people for America’s eventual destiny, he “established the Constitution of _this land,_ by the hands of wise men whom [he] raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (D&C 101:80).
“No man, however brilliant and perceptive, shall have a complete perspective of our _nation’s_ history without this understanding and conviction. He must be persuaded by God’s truth if he is to obtain a true and complete picture of our _nation’s_ origin and destiny. Secular scholarship, though useful, provides an incomplete and sometimes inaccurate view of our history. The real story of America is one which shows the hand of God in _our nation’s_ beginning.” (emphasis added)
If I had never red anything about this subject, I would be completely turned off by the hostile, rather nasty, and unfair remarks about Jonathan Neville here. I know him. He is a mild-mannered, kind man, who does NOT make the personal attacks on others you accuse him of making. He, on his blog moronisamerica.com, has repeatedly stated he likes the men who subscribe to M2C on a personal level. He just strongly disagrees with many of their conclusions. He has simply asked for equal time on sites like Book of Mormon Central to share his views- which request has not been granted. The attacks I read here are very personal, and tell me more about the person making them than the object of their words. How sad there can’t be a reasoned discussion of an important subject.
The points you raise (standard Heartland talking points) have been thoroughly addressed in the sources cited in footnote 1.
For instance, Joseph Smith identifying “this continent” and “this country” as being the location of Book of Mormon events does not automatically rule out Mesoamerica. We have contemporary sources, even from Joseph Smith himself, speaking of Mesoamerica as being on “this continent,” or the antiquities of “this country” being those from Guatemala and Mexico, etc.
I would encourage you to consult the sources cited in footnote 1, despite the ramblings about a “citation cartel” from Neville.
“If I had never red anything about this subject, I would be completely turned off by the hostile, rather nasty, and unfair remarks about Jonathan Neville here. I know him. He is a mild-mannered, kind man, who does NOT make the personal attacks on others you accuse him of making.”
Who was it that began calling their ideological opponents apostates who are undermining faith in the Book of Mormon and bringing ruin to the Church? It wasn’t John Sorenson or Matt Roper. It was Jonathan Neville. So excuse me if I cannot accept this talk of Neville being a “mild-mannered” and “kind” man who doesn’t make personal attacks. He has repeatedly demonized the men and women he supposedly has such fondness for. He has repeatedly attacked “M2C intellectuals” at BYU and elsewhere as apostates. He has even compared John W. Welch to Kim Jong Un and created a meme comparing Welch to an accusatory attorney arguing against Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (a meme for which he had to apologize for and issue clarification because of how easily it was perceived as a personal attack on Welch).
Just yesterday he called Book of Mormon Central the modern day Council of Nicaea (i.e. that thing that in popular Mormon discourse was responsible for the Great Apostasy).
Actions speak louder than words, and Neville’s actions demonstrate that he is a mean-spirited, vindictive, and petty man who cannot stand to have his pet theories contradicted.
“He has simply asked for equal time on sites like Book of Mormon Central to share his views- which request has not been granted.”
I can tell you about this, since I work at Book of Mormon Central.
Initially we did house his book on Letter VII on our archive as a gesture of goodwill and in an attempt to reach across the aisle, as it were. But then Neville repeatedly accused BMC of apostasy and undermining faith in the Book of Mormon and early Church leaders. Because of this, it was apparent that he was not willing to reciprocate the goodwill, and so we took down his material from our archive. We are under no obligation to give a platform to a man who has repeatedly demonized us at Book of Mormon Central because we don’t agree with his theories.
Contrary to the narrative Neville must apparently be spreading amongst his followers, this is not a case of BMC censoring him out of fear of his ideas, but because he has, repeatedly, slandered and attacked BMC employees and researchers. As long as he keeps doing this, we’ll have nothing to do with him.
“How sad there can’t be a reasoned discussion of an important subject.”
The reason for this is because Neville out of the gates poisoned the discourse with his toxic accusations of “M2C intellectuals” being apostates trying to dissuade people from believing the prophets. It is impossible to conduct reasoned discussion with someone like Neville who assumes the worst in his ideological opponents.
So the fault for this is squarely on the shoulders of your mild-mannered friend.
Leslie, you see how Brother Smoot misrepresents what I write, both my views and my approach. I have never once labeled anyone an apostate (that I recall–but if I’m wrong, surely Brother Smoot can provide a citation). At any rate, I admire and respect all the people involved, including the members of the M2C citation cartel. I just oppose their dogma and their tactics and I think they would too if they could do it over again, but they have too many sunk costs at this point.
I got involved with this issue because of the abuse these M2C intellectuals were heaping onto Rod Meldrum and Wayne May. As the saying goes, they can dish it out but they can’t take it. And then they accuse me of “poisoning the discourse,” oblivious to the irony. It’s transparent avoidance coping on their part, along with projection, but it satisfies their disciples and prevents them from having to confront the repercussions of what they’ve been doing these last few decades.
“I have never once labeled anyone an apostate”
You have, variously, accused “M2C intellectuals” of:
1. Encouraging people to “disbelieve the prophets”
2. Being responsible for the hinderance of missionary work.
3. Being responsible for apostasy of millennials
4. Being responsible for backsliding amongst Church members in Central America.
5. Writing “agenda-driven revisionist history” that causes “confusion” and ultimately disbelief in the Book of Mormon.
6. Being responsible for students “being deliberately misled” on geography.
7. Teaching “the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture” and “a false narrative” about the Book of Mormon.
You have publicly called me and others at BMC “unbelievers,” and claimed that we received apostolic rebuke for “[our] disbelief in what Joseph and Oliver taught.”
You have publicly said: “The Mesoamerican theory has done more to undermine the Book of Mormon than the faulty anti-Mormon attacks based on North America.”
You have award BMC and other organizations with your dubious Benjamin Winchester Awards, named after a man with a “rotten heart” who would “injure the Church as much as he could.”
Yesterday you called Book of Mormon Central the modern-day Council of Nicaea (that thing which in popular Mormon discourse is responsible for the Great Apostasy) guilty of breaking 2 Peter 1:20.
And now, just now, literally, you accused me of having a “deceitful agenda” aimed at getting people to “disbelieve the prophets.”
And the fruits of all of your toxic discourse? The other week I was told, to my face, by one of your fanboys that I and other “intellectuals” at BYU must be in apostasy because we refuse to “believe the prophets.” This same individual confided in my father after I left that he “can’t understand why they [me and my ‘M2C intellectual’ associates] haven’t been excommunicated for apostasy.”
Just how stupid do you think your readers are, Jonathan?
“At any rate, I admire and respect all the people involved, including the members of the M2C citation cartel.”
Yeah. You respect them so much that you compare them to Kim Jong-Un and make memes of them keeping people shackled in Plato’s cave.
Forgive me, but you have a rather deranged sense of “respect.”
“and prevents them from having to confront the repercussions of what they’ve been doing these last few decades.”
Literally in the same comment where you deny ever calling “M2C intellectuals” apostates you accuse them of apostasy.
Again, bald accusations without citations. Impossible for me to respond, but even in your unsourced quotations, you don’t list “apostate.”
If someone else believes you or anyone else is an apostate based on what you teach, that’s their conclusion, not mine. How many times do I have to explain that I think M2C is harmless? It’s the tactics used to perpetuate it that are the problem.
This is all a fascinating exercise in psychology. Apparently “apostasy” is a trigger for you, but you’re the one using it, not me. I think the term is inflammatory, which is why I don’t use it (and why, if I have used it, I’d like to know so I can correct that).
As long as we’re discussing the impact of M2C, look at what it’s done to you. You are so defensive and insecure that you refuse to discuss any criticism of your position or address the substance of my positions. Instead, you complain about being offended, while having no problems with making accusations of fraud, creating straw men to attack, and misrepresenting what I’ve actually written. This is the M2C pattern established by FARMS years ago, and you’re merely perpetuating it as you’ve been taught.
Throughout my work, I’ve solicited feedback and correction whenever someone notices an error of fact or logic. I’ve frequently edited my books in response to such comments. I extend the same invitation to you, but if you’re merely obsessed with being offended, I don’t suppose you’ll have much substance to offer.
“Again, bald accusations without citations. Impossible for me to respond, but even in your unsourced quotations, you don’t list “apostate.””
Okay, here are the citations:
1. Among many, many other places: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/01/getting-real-about-cumorah-part-3-many_26.html
BMC as full of “unbelievers”: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/08/interlude-elder-hollands-powerful-talk.html
“The Mesoamerican theory has done more to undermine the Book of Mormon than the faulty anti-Mormon attacks based on North America.”: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2015/06/guide-to-geography.html
Benjamin Winchester Award: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/03/benjamin-winchester-award-2017-silver.html
BMC Council of Nicaea: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/07/m2c-intellectuals-terrified-of-letter.html
“deceitful agenda” aimed at getting people to “disbelieve the prophets.”: see above
So are you going to continue to lie about what you’ve said? Why? Is preserving your fabricated image of just being a friendly jokester to M2C intellectuals so important that you are willing to compromise your honesty and integrity? Or is there some other reason that makes you allergic to being able to admit that you’ve been caught publicly in a lie?
Whatever the reason, it’s sad. Genuinely.
“Apparently “apostasy” is a trigger for you, but you’re the one using it, not me.”
How do you suppose you’d feel if people started making these claims about you? Think about it for just one second. Even someone as callous as you should be able to empathize even a little bit.
“I think the term is inflammatory, which is why I don’t use it (and why, if I have used it, I’d like to know so I can correct that).”
No, of course not. You just flat out make inflammatory accusations about your ideological opponents. Like all the ones documented above.
“As long as we’re discussing the impact of M2C, look at what it’s done to you. You are so defensive and insecure that you refuse to discuss any criticism of your position or address the substance of my positions.”
My defensiveness has nothing to do with M2C and everything to do with having calumnies spoken of me in public.
“You are so defensive and insecure that you refuse to discuss any criticism of your position or address the substance of my positions.”
Right. It’s not like a wrote an entire blog post responding to you or anything like that.
“Instead, you complain about being offended,”
And you’ve obliging gaslighted me.
“while having no problems with making accusations of fraud”
Accusations which I stand by, and which you have yet to refute.
Well my patience for all of this is running dry, and I have better things to do than sit here and endlessly argue with you. I think I’m done here. I’ll let you respond to the last batch of comments directed at you if you desire and then after that I’ll probably disable the commenting option on this post, since things have run their course. We’ll see.
Jonathan- I missed seeing your replies earlier. In honesty I didn’t realize I could hit the reply button to post to each individual comment. I do not spend a lot of time responding to online blogs 🙂 (Except at times through personal emails. i repeat- I’m OLD!)
I can only say we have known each other for years, and I have spent a lot of time with you and your amazing wife, and I have never heard you be nasty about any of those who disagree with you. In our conversations about this subject you have always expressed to me the personal traits you admire about each of your critics, while feeling frustrated that they seem unwilling to even consider the “Heartland” model, or allow material on their sites which present any material that disagrees with their stated positions.
You’ve especially been concerned over the dismissive attitude to the teachings of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young and other Prophets and Apostles on the site of the Hill Cumorah spoken of in the Book of Mormon. I share thata concern. And am acquainted with youn people who have left the Church after being convinced Joseph lied about just such subjects.
I find it fascinating that there is an unwillingness to hold a public forum of some kind where those on each side could, in a civil manner, present the reasons for their conclusions. I see so much of this attitude in the politics of our day where some refuse to even listen to those with opposite views, at times even using forceful means to shut down any disagreement with their view. How sad -on so many levels..
BTW, Steve, it’s not me you’re hurting by taking down the Letter VII book. It’s your readers who deserve to know more than the M2C dogma. If you were intellectually honest as an institution, you would host a variety of viewpoints and trust readers to make up their own minds instead of directing them into your groupthink by falsely purporting to follow the Church’s position of neutrality and instead enforcing a strict M2C editorial filter.
On top of that, I had agreed to work with BOMC in a collegial manner to provide readers with comparison charts and additional resources, but BOMC reneged. Now it’s just as dogmatic about M2C as its corporate owner, BMAF.
Don’t forget, I’ve consistently expressed my appreciation and respect for most of what BOMC does. I drive traffic to BOMC not only because I want to expose the M2C tactics but also because many of the Kno-Whys are excellent. I still think BOMC has tremendous potential to do good, but not when it is relegated to the current deceitful agenda of promoting exclusively M2C and teaching people to disbelieve the prophets, as you did with your kno-why.
“If you were intellectually honest as an institution, you would host a variety of viewpoints and trust readers to make up their own minds instead of directing them into your groupthink by falsely purporting to follow the Church’s position of neutrality and instead enforcing a strict M2C editorial filter.”
I suppose, in addition to your Letter VII dogma, you also expect us to give some airtime to the flat earth theory, the “9/11 was an inside job” conspiracy, and tales about lizard people underneath the Salt Lake temple.
You know, to be consistent and give everyone an equal chance to share their views.
I guess having 500 different little .blogspot.com websites just doesn’t cut it these days. Sad!
“Don’t forget, I’ve consistently expressed my appreciation and respect for most of what BOMC does.”
Oh I know how much you love BMC! You love us so much that you gave us an award named after a man who, as you point out, was said by Joseph Smith to have “a rotten heart and would ‘injure the Church as much as he could.'”
We really felt the love and appreciation for that one.
Ah, the absurd absolute fallacy. Now we can check that one off. There aren’t many logical fallacies left for you to resort to.
Seriously? You’re offended by the Winchester award? Is this just you or everyone at BOMC who has thin skin? The Winchester award was mild compared with some of the attack literature in your archive.
Your response here demonstrates that you do recognize that BOMC is not intellectually honest as an institution. Your defensiveness leads me to infer that you also recognize M2C cannot withstand scrutiny or comparison to other interpretations of the text, the sciences, and the teachings of the prophets.
We’re learning a lot about BOMC.
“Seriously? You’re offended by the Winchester award? Is this just you or everyone at BOMC who has thin skin? The Winchester award was mild compared with some of the attack literature in your archive.”
Not by itself, no.
But the thousand injuries of Fortunato pile on pretty quickly when dealing with your particular brand of “humor.”
“Your defensiveness leads me to infer that you also recognize M2C cannot withstand scrutiny or comparison to other interpretations of the text, the sciences, and the teachings of the prophets.”
LoL. As if you’d have the slightest clue about any of those topics.
Your comment entails a logical fallacy known as “begging the question”—a circular argument.
You assume that prophets and apostles who have declared that the drumlin in western New York is the hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon learned that information by revelation, when it’s also possible (bordering on near certainty) that, through a misreading of the text, early Church members *assumed* the two were the same and that interpretation became the common belief that few people bothered to question.
Also, WRT your claim that Mr. Neville “is a mild-mannered, kind man, who does NOT make the personal attacks on others you accuse him of making,” I invite you to read through his blog posts and see his constant refrain of attacks on Church employees and missionaries who “follow the scholars instead of the prophets,” and his mocking of Book of Mormon Central (along with other organizations) by calling their KnoWhys “no-wise,” referring to their peer review process as a “cartel,” and so forth.
Hi Mike. I assure you that my “mocking” of BOMC is mild and in good fun, as is my description of the M2C citation cartel, compared to what I could be writing, given the tactics the M2C intellectuals have deployed over the years.
On a personal level, I like every participant in the citation cartel. They’re all great people. None of what I write is mean-spirited, but I do admit I’m not used to dealing with such thin-skinned people who are super-defensive about their own theories because, I suspect, they realize how indefensible they really are. I know because for decades, I, too, was an M2C’er.
“None of what I write is mean-spirited”
Of course not!
When you compared Jack Welch to a genocidal dictator it was all just for a lark. A couple of guffaws.
Just like when you made that fun meme about “Jack Welch tell[ing] the prophets they are wrong.” You know, the one that went completely over the heads of your humourless readers.
All for some lighthearted LoLz.
Give me a freaking break.
So that’s what is bothering you, Steve? Surely Jack wasn’t offended by any of that. He appreciates humor and parody, even if you’re too thin-skinned to do the same.
Once you spend some time in the real world, you’ll look back on all of this and find it difficult to believe you were ever offended by such mild criticism and parody.
Besides, the parody made a point that, apparently, hit home with you. Just as I intended.
“Surely Jack wasn’t offended by any of that.”
As a matter of fact, I was in the room both times when Jack watched your parody video and when he saw your meme of him “arguing” before the prophets.
He was not amused by either attempt at humour. Not in the slightest.
Maybe you don’t know Jack as well as you think you do.
Or maybe in addition to be a liar (denying things you have repeatedly said) you’re also someone who gaslights people when they call you out for your abuse.
“It was just a joke!”
“Don’t be so thin-skinned!”
“You shouldn’t be offended!”
Well, pardon me, but when I’m told to my face that I’m an apostate by one of your devoted followers for no other reason than because I work at Book of Mormon Central, then it stops being funny to me.
“Once you spend some time in the real world, you’ll look back on all of this and find it difficult to believe you were ever offended by such mild criticism and parody.”
Ah yes. You know, claims that my efforts are undermining faith in the Book of Mormon worse than anti-Mormons, causing people to leave the Church, instilling disbelief in the prophets, and deceiving impressionable young victims.
You know, “mild” stuff like that.
“Besides, the parody made a point that, apparently, hit home with you. Just as I intended.”
Oh so you did intend to mock and insult people who disagree with you. Glad to have that on the public record.
Your “it’s all in good fun” excuse rings hollow, Mr. Neville, when the evidence from your own writings is that you believe that all these individuals whom you claim to be “great people” are apostates who are leading the Church astray by rejecting the prophets and apostles.
You keep alluding to “evidence” but never provide a citation. Now you’re specifically accusing me of labeling people as apostates, again without a citation.
Regardless of your delusions, I wouldn’t presume to label any faithful member of the Church as an apostate. The M2C theory, by itself, is harmless. In fact, I encourage people to read the writings of the M2C intellectuals for themselves. I object to the tactics used to perpetuate it, and its insistence that the prophets are wrong, but that doesn’t translate into labeling proponents apostates.
Don’t play games, Mr. Neville. To claim that people are rejecting the prophets and apostles IS to claim that they’re in apostasy. That’s what apostates do—they reject the teachings of the ordained leaders of the Church.
And the phrase “reject the prophets” is one of your favorites. According to Google, you’ve used it in 73 different blog posts in just one of your dozens of blogs:
There is entirely too much time, energy, and contention spent on Book of Mormon geography! No one really knows where it happened, so why argue over it. It is time to let this go! There is no advantage to continuing these contentious arguments except Rod Meldrum may have to get a job.
So you are basically saying “just pick an isthmus?”
Agreed, yes your all pretty, now start reading the scriptures and focus on the doctrine. Be nice to each other and stop with the name calling.
You mentioned that you have read Neville’s blog Moroni’s America and assert that he is mild-mannered and doesn’t make personal attacks. Did you know that he actually has 56 different blogs?! I encourage you to look through some of his other blogs and see if the character you describe matches the content that he posts about on all of his different blogs.
Hi Tim. Can you provide a citation to any comment I’ve made that’s mean spirited or a personal attack? If there is one, I’ll be happy to edit it because everything I write is intended to focus on content, not individuals. I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for everyone involved with this topic, all of whom I consider brothers and sisters.
I’m trying to get myself more acquainted with LDS scholarship specifically on the Mesoamerican model for Book of Mormon geography. I really am digging all the things both John Sorenson, Brant Gardner, and Jerry Grover are saying about it. Though I don’t know enough about the South American model in Chile. Heber above posted about it, but are there any merits to the Nephi Code project? Anywho, thanks for the interesting article!
I am unfamiliar with the Nephi Code project so I cannot speak to its credibility. My interests in Book of Mormon geography lie predominantly along the lines of Heartland-Mesoamerica debates.
Good luck with your studies!
Hi Steve. I am current friends of Rod Meldrum and Jonathan Neville. I have only been following them for a few years now and I find they make so much sense. I have studied the Mesoamerican theory all my life and loved it very much. I was fascinated with the pyramids and all the discoveries in Central America. Recently however I feel strongly in one very import aspect. With all the information in the Book of Mormon talking about the Promised Land I feel strongly that is speaking about our Constitution and the Unites States of America. That doesn’t mean we are better than any other country, but we have made a covenant with the Lord to share the gospel and if we don’t we will be punished greater than anyone in other countries who don’t share the gospel. With our covenant we have been richly blessed but with that blessing comes stronger curses if we fail in our promise with the Lord.
Please share with me why it seems so many people deride Rod and Jonathan and say they are as you describe, “so-called Heartland model for the geography of the Book of Mormon is built on a foundation of fraud. Fraudulent artifacts, fraudulent science, fraudulent theology, and fraudulent history secured in place by racist ethno-nationalism are the four cornerstones of Heartlanderism.” I am especially troubled how you say they are racist for expressing their belief that this Unites States of America is an exceptional nation and we are under a covenant with God unlike any other nation in the world. I interpret this as being under a covenant like the Jews of the Land of Israel were and still are. The Jews rejected Christ so they were smitten and scattered, but the Land of Israel has and will always be a promised land, just like the USA is and will always be a Promised Land. Just because Libya and Jordan are connected to Israel doesn’t mean they are part of that covenant land. It doesn’t matter what race or color we are, it is those that live in the USA and join that banner of freedom that this covenant is with all. There is no special covenant with any other country except Israel. Of course, God loves us all equally, but we are allowed here in the USA to survive only as we are righteous.
Please address where you think I am wrong about this great nation the USA. I also believe that Adam-Ondi-Ahman by revelation was in Missouri and by revelation the New Jerusalem will be in Missouri, this is a sacred land. None of those sacred events are talked about in Mesoamerica. I served a mission in Fiji and love them as my own, but by no means do I feel they live in “THEE” promised land spoken of in the Book of Mormon, but I know God loves them as much as He loves me. They live in a most beautiful land, but it wasn’t a land set apart for the preaching of the gospel and the establishment of the Church. I love Pres Nelson’s talk before he was a prophet that says,
“The Book of Mormon reveals that Joseph, the son of Jacob who was once sold into Egypt, foresaw the Prophet Joseph Smith and his day and noted that there would be many similarities in their lives. Centuries later, the Prophet Joseph stated, “I feel like Joseph in Egypt.” The Book of Mormon reveals that the inheritance of Joseph, son of Israel, was not forgotten when land was distributed to the tribes of Israel, as promised in the Abrahamic covenant. Joseph’s inheritance was to be a land choice above all others. It was choice not because of beauty or wealth of natural resources, but choice because it was chosen to be the repository of sacred writings on golden plates from which the Book of Mormon would one day come. It was choice because it would eventually host the world headquarters of the restored Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days. And it was choice because it is a land of liberty for those who worship the Lord and keep His commandments.” The Book of Mormon: A Miraculous Miracle President Russell M. Nelson President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles June 23, 2016
For these reasons I don’t believe Mesoamerica is “THEE” Promised Land and I don’t believe there could be a second hill Cumorah somewhere other than in up-state New York. I would appreciate your comments.
“Please share with me why it seems so many people deride Rod and Jonathan and say they are as you describe, “so-called Heartland model for the geography of the Book of Mormon is built on a foundation of fraud. Fraudulent artifacts, fraudulent science, fraudulent theology, and fraudulent history secured in place by racist ethno-nationalism are the four cornerstones of Heartlanderism.””
The sources cited in footnote 1 make this abundantly clear.
At several points Heartlanders like Meldrum have been refuted by mainstream LDS scholars. On DNA. On geography. On early Mormon history. On the authenticity of artifacts they (especially Meldrum) use as evidence for the Heartland. Again and again. And again and again they refuse to consider that the criticism they encounter is valid. They stop their ears and close their eyes and act as if nothing ever happened.
Heartlanderism is fraudulent. That’s a criticism I’ll publicly stand by and make until I see Meldrum discontinue his use of pseudo-science and forgeries.
“I am especially troubled how you say they are racist for expressing their belief that this Unites States of America is an exceptional nation and we are under a covenant with God unlike any other nation in the world.”
It’s more than that. Heartlanders have said countries like Mexico or Guatemala positively cannot be the land of promise because they’re full of crime and corruption. I’ve heard this with my own two ears from Heartlanders. “How could a country like Mexico possibly be the land of promise with all the problems going on with it?”
The implicit (and sometimes explicit) conclusion is that those countries full of criminals (brown people) aren’t good enough to be the land of promise, unlike the good ole’ US of A (at least when it’s not being run by a secret Kenyan communist like Obama).
“Please address where you think I am wrong about this great nation the USA.”
I don’t have to do that. Just go ahead and read what Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had to say about the “great” USA in the Council of Fifty minutes.
But okay. I’ll say something.
You’re conflating the arbitrary and imaginary political borders drawn on maps by corrupt and powerful Gentiles with guns with the soil of the American continent. Church leaders since Joseph Smith have made it abundantly clear that all of North and South America are a part of the land of promise. Yes, the physical “center place” of Zion is to be what is now Jackson County, Missouri. But it was the foretold New Jerusalem before the US acquired Missouri from the French in 1803, and will be after the United States, like the other kingdoms of this earth, have been smashed to pieces with the ascendency of the Kingdom of God upon Christ’s return.
It just so happens that the political state which controls the land prophesied as the New Jerusalem is the United States. But before that it was France. And before that, Spain. And before that, it belonged to indigenous Indian peoples. Why is it that somehow it’s the US that has special, divine privilege, and none of these other nations?
I’m well aware, and believe, that the Lord was behind the founding of the United States as a means to the end of establishing Zion, the Kingdom of God, and as means to the end of creating an environment in which the Restoration of the gospel could come to pass. But I do not believe that the Lord was behind the founding of the United States as an end to itself.
My point is you (like other Heartlanders) are saying the geo-political entity the United States of America has a special covenant or destiny. I reject those claims as misunderstanding the prophecies in the Book of Mormon and the teachings of Joseph Smith and other prophets, who affirm the entire continent of America (North and South) is under the covenant of which you speak, not just the United States.
Hence my mentioning the racist ethno-nationalism of Heartlanderism, which mistakenly gives divine credence to the United States and its predominantly white leaders and population at the expense of the remnant of the house of Israel found scattered throughout Lehi’s seed in all of North and South America.
That’s just the start of my many problems with Heartlanderism.
Now that you brought up your “racist, ethno-nationalism” meme, I’ve addressed it with interlinear comments here:
Unfortunately, heartlanders have a deep misunderstanding of what the Promised Land is. They interpret it to mean the United States, but really, as one prophet stated, “to the Latter-day Saints the Promised Land, the land of Zion, includes all of North and South America.” -Ezra Taft Benson
The Church website also says that “Often in the Book of Mormon, the promised land spoken of is the Americas.”
Once you realize these things, you realize that the Heartland model is based on a misunderstanding, and your concerns about Americas exceptionalism doesn’t have the support you thought it did.
Sure, the United States is prophesied in the Book of Mormon, but that is simply as a nation for the gospel to be restored. That can be separate from the Land of Promise concept. As Elder Holland said in his talk titled “The Promised Land”, “Temporarily, we call it America […] It has not always looked the same geographically nor has it always been governed the same politically. But that all seems appropriate since the meaning of America, in its most theological sense, is something more than borders and boundaries, something above nativism and nationalism. It is an ideal, a thing of the spirit.”
Can you explain these statements away? Not unless you go through the great conspiracy explanations that heartland leaders tend to do, and then you find yourself going against the direction the Church is going. Here are some more statements.
“We thank Thee that Thou didst bring Father Lehi and his family to this Land of Promise and Thou didst establish Thy people, the Nephites and the Lamanites and their Book of Mormon.” –Spencer W. Kimball at the São Paulo Brazil Temple Dedicatory Prayer. Here is a prophet calling Brazil the Promised Land.
Heartlanders often like to quote Elder L. Tom Perrys about his statement about the United States and the Promised Land, but they don’t realize that Elder Perry has also said things like, “Archaeologists have confirmed the existence of a great pre-Aztec civilization on the American continent. The Book of Mormon is a record of this civilization.” Why would he even mention the pre-Aztec if he thought everything happened in the United States? The reason is because to him, the Nephites Promised Land could have extended to the pre-Aztecs.
Of course, heartlanders bring up topics about the “Land of Liberty” and “No Kings”, but just as I have quotes for prophets who supported a Promised Land in Brazil, Mexico and other places, I also have quotes from prophets who interpreted references to “Land of Liberty” and “No Kings” as being in Mexico.
Based on all this data, you can see why Meldrum’s Promised Land theory is based on cherry picked statements and ideas, and not on the full context of the entire Americas (North, Central and South) as being the Promised Land.
Wow, I’m somewhat taken aback by the boldness in which you proclaim your views as established fact. I find it interesting to learn from you how the Heartland model was built, rather than my own personal experience.
From my experience, the Heartland model geography was built upon looking for an answer to the dna questions being thrust upon the church due to the complete lack of any genetic evidence in Mesoamerica for any Hebrew population(s). After finding mainstream journal articles stating that a new Haplotype (Haplogroup X) had been found among Native American populations, and the same markers being found in many Jewish populations including the Ashkenazi and Shepardic Jews, the Druze of Israel and others I felt that other members and scholars would like to know and pursue it. To my dismay, because the Native American populations having these markers weren’t found in Mesoamerica, but rather amongst the Algonquian populations to which the Lord through Joseph Smith send the first missionaries (see D&C 28, 30 and 32) I was attacked personally and my referenced main-stream peer-reviewed based research as well. The primary difficulty was (and is) the dating of the arrival time of the Haplogroup X dna type, which originally was said to have happened 40,000 years ago, then revised to about 25,000 years ago and more recently to about 13,000 years ago, all based on the underlying genetic assumption that humans evolved from apes 5-6 million years ago. For more info download the free PDF 160+ page book, ReDiscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA at http://www.bookofmormonevidence.org.
Based on what I understand the scriptures, prophets and apostles to have written and spoken regarding our coming from Adam and Eve rather than lower life forms, I seriously question the validity of the genetic dating which is founded upon that assumption. I found that if the observed rate of dna change is utilized, rather than the theoretical dating methods, that it places the arrival of Haplogroup X to America consistant with the Book of Mormon account. Unfortunately, geneticist Ugo Perego, an unabashed believer in the humans from apes evolutionary theories (he was a featured speaker at the Mormon Transhumanist Association Conference in 2012 in which he openly and proudly proclaimed his evolutionary beliefs see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ilin4lt0nQ wherein at 9:45 he states “We believe as scientists that about 6 million years ago there was a common ancestor to apes and humans” and that humans descended from Eukaryotic cells 3.2 billion years ago at 28:50). So if you, like Ugo accept that you came from apes and slime, then it makes it easier to accept the dating derived from that viewpoint. I don’t accept that, so you call me a scientific fraud. If accepting the words of the scriptures and prophets puts me at odds with science that tells me my ancestry derives from apes and slime, I’m going with the scriptures and prophets, even if others, like yourself, declare me a fraud. Those reading this blog can decide for themselves which they prefer to believe in. But I’m not the one calling names.
After discovering what Joseph Smith said in many instances and the complete lack of anything authoritative from Joseph regarding Mesoamerica, and putting that up against the revelations Joseph claimed regarding the first missionaries, his vision on Zelph’s mound, his discussions with North American Indians proclaiming the book to be their history, etc. I realized that there is not a single solitary historical instance that can be authenticated by official church history, in which Joseph indicated anything other than North America as the lands of the Book of Mormon.
After this, I began researching the ancient civilizations that once existed in North America and using non-LDS, mainstream archaeology and the dating of these civilizations, found them to fall within the proper time-frames as outlined in the Book of Mormon, along with many evidences that correlate well with it. This lead to finding many artifacts that remain controversial because of their having Hebrew writing, which mainstream archaeology does not yet accept for various reasons we’ve discussed at length in other articles and books. That there has been a deliberate attempt to hide certain aspects of this ancient history can be demonstrated.
I have no idea what ‘fraudulent theology” you are refering to, so I can’t address that, but calling us racists reminds me of the hue and cry of progressives against conservatives in our national political scene. I guess there are enough duped Mesoamerican advocates who will believe such dribble on its face, but the vast majority of church members, like those of a more conservative viewpoint, see your name calling and rants as the sure sign of an attempt to defend the indefensible, so you have to resort to name calling and personal attacks to try to convince the uninformed to believe you without question and without looking into it for themselves. Unfortunately, this has been the mantra of the ‘citation cartel’ of which you are a part. This is not peer review, but rather a group of back-slapping buddies backing each other up no matter how bad the research. Real peer review requires opposing points of view to be given a chance to respond, to corroborate and be heard. The Mesoamerica theory proponents have consistently done just the opposite. They deliberately hide the things that undermine their promotion and they don’t allow critical review, which is why Jonathan and I and others have had to use our own blogs and websites to address the citation cartels allegations.
I have been following your movement since you began it back around 2006 or 2007 (as I recall). In fact, you and I have met. I sat down with you, my father Stephen Smoot, and Richard Holzapfel in Richard’s living room in Provo and listened to you personally present your case for the Heartland model.
At the time I was 16 and was initially impressed with what I saw. But then over time I began to see the cracks, and then I witnessed your enterprise crumble under the weight of its own unsustainability.
I see from your comments here that you have doubled down on each of my categories: fraudulent science (young earth creationism and evolution denialism), fraudulent history (a misuse of the Zelph incident and other statements from Joseph Smith), fraudulent archaeology (the forgeries you rely on to make your case for Hebrew in pre-Columbian North America), and fraudulent theology (your American exceptionalism and the promotion of Tim Ballard’s “American covenant” doctrine).
You are, of course, free to persist in your errors. But as long as you do, you will be met with opposition by those such as myself and others who take the Book of Mormon too seriously to let your fraudulent claims go uncontested in the public square.
I will merely ask you this question: if you are, in fact, someone who accepts the words of the prophets, as you claim to be, then do you accept the words of the modern prophets who supervised the publication of these words?
“Much as critics and defenders of the Book of Mormon would like to use DNA studies to support their views, the evidence is simply inconclusive. Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples. Even if such information were known, processes such as population bottleneck, genetic drift, and post-Columbian immigration from West Eurasia make it unlikely that their DNA could be detected today.”
Sorry to just now respond to this- I’ve been helping care for 6 very active young grandsons today.
Stephen, I realize it is probably foolish for me to continue this conversation, because neither of us will convince the other. But I will just point out a few things to explain why I feel the “Heartland” model is right. I realize “this continent” would have included Mesoamerica- but don’t feel as comfortable with asserting “this country” includes them. I would say we are different countries. And Pres. Benson definitely said “this nation.”
Also, the Book of Mormon clearly states in 3 Nephi 21 that in the day the record we now have as the Book of Mormon was taken to Lehi’s descendants, the work of gathering would begin among all the scattered tribes of Israel. Missionary work. And it was to the Native American Indians in the Heartland and New York to whom Joseph first sent missionaries. Then the work spread out to the rest of the world. (D&C 28:8-9,14; 30:5-6; 32:2; 54:8;557:4 ) Missionaries were not sent to Mexico until 1875, and it was 1941 before missionaries were assigned to Central America.
I have read some- but not all- of the footnotes you cited. As for the DNA article by Perego, it was published in 2010. I found the article published in National Geographic and a number of other magazines in 2013 about the Native Americans more interesting., They pointed out the “new discovery” that about a third of those native people, primarily those coming from the region around the Great Lakes, carry the DNA of Western Eurasians. As for the Bernhisel letter, even the Church Historian’s Office admit they don’t know who wrote that letter- even though the name Joseph Smith is signed. They say it was definitely not his handwriting. And the letter was written a few short days after he received the 600 pages, two-volume travel books. Joseph was NOT known as a fast reader! And was very busy at that time. He did not write that.
I won’t take time to go through the problems I found with some of the other footnoted articles. Just would point out a few things that really struck me. Ancient Meso temples are filled with altars of stone- covered in carvings The Lehites lived the Law of Moses until the Savior came- which specified altars had to be made of completely uncut stones. (Deu. 27:5-6, Exo. 20:25) Altars in those Meso temples are reached by a series of step/stairs. Exodus 20:26 forbade that, calling for ramps. This doesn’t even get into the animals–like sheep- NEVER found in ancient Meso sites- but now found in digs in the New York area. Where did the Lamanites get all those dyed-in-blood sheepskins? How could they practice the Law of Moses without lambs for sacrifice? There are many other animals and plants mentioned in the Book that have never yet been found in Mesoamerica, but have been in the Heartland of America.
Stephen I’m a old lady, a great-grandmother, but I have been seriously studying and learning all I could about the Book of Mormon since I was 13. I appreciate greatly the work of Jonathan Neville and others, but long before I read their work I gained a personal conviction of not only the truth of the Book of Mormon, but it’s importance in understanding the mission given the “promised land which is choice above other lands.” The place where freedom was to be established so the Gospel could be restored.
Do I think that means none of the rest of North America is a covenant or promised land? No. I have no problem believing it is also a wonderful and special land with wonderful people. I believe the descendants of those people whose history we find in the Book of Mormon have spread over both North and south America. But I think it is obvious that only in the United States were conditions brought about to allow a restoration of the Gospel. And it was Pres. Benson who said the US. is: “the place where Adam dwelt; . . . the place where the Garden of Eden was located. It was here that Adam met with a body of great high priests at Adam-ondi-Ahman shortly before his death and gave them his final blessing, and the place to which he will return to meet with the leaders of his people. This was the place of three former civilizations: Adam’s, the Jaredite, and the Nephite. This was also the place where our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith inaugurating this great and last dispensation.
“The Lord has also decreed that this land should be ‘the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven” He went on to say all this was part of OUR NATION’S history and destiny. I find it very offensive that you would call this ethno-nationalism, implying racist. So it’s racist to believe Native Americans are the descendants of Lehi and responsible for the incredible mound cities and other great structures which once stood on this land?
And Mike Parker, I do assume that Joseph knew where the Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon was located. He spent many hours with Moroni learning even about the clothing and means of travel for those people. Do you honestly believe he didn’t ask where those momentous events took place? I give him much more credit than that! And when Oliver wrote his 8 letters, he was the Assistant President of the Church, second only to Joseph in authority. He did say that Joseph’s help in writing them was “indispensable” and added, “we therefore ask the forbearance of our readers, assuring them that it shall be founded upon facts.”
Joseph did see Letter VII published several times in different Church Publications, and did ask scribes to hand copy the letters into his own personal history. Pretty sure he would have spotted as big a “mistake” as describing the place of the final great battles of two great nations in the wrong location! Or maybe I just have more faith in his intelligence and perception than some others. “None of this denies that Oliver’s letters were influential, or even that Joseph Smith may have been influenced by them But, ”Joseph was influenced by Oliver to believe the last battles took place near the NY Hill Cumorah”?? Give me a break!
And Tim, I have read through many of Jonathan Neville’s blogs. I have also spent a lot of time with him, and I wouldn’t change a thing I’ve said about his character or his honesty or his desire to have some honest discourse on all this with scholars who refuse to allow that to happen. True scholars wouldn’t avoid this just because they felt he had insulted them.
I’m well aware my words will not make a whit of difference to those who have made up their minds that Mesoamerica is the site of Hill Cumorah. (Jonathan Neville, though offering places he thinks fit well with many B of M cities, has only insisted on one actual site- the one Letter VII describes in New York, and that has been reaffirmed as true by one Prophet after another. Interesting that even Orson Pratt- the one Apostle who seemed to give several speeches placing some of the history of the Book in Central and South America, nevertheless ALWAYS insisted that the final battles took place near the Hill Cumorah in New York! (And yes I do believe some of them are speaking as a result of revelation on that subject. None of them said “maybe.”) But the only reason I kept this going was in the hope that some readers will honestly consider all Joseph himself said, the account Pres. Cowdery gave with “help from Joseph Smith,” the testimony Brigham Young bore shortly before his death about several of early brethren actually entering a room in the hill where the records and sword of Laban were, at that time, kept, and the testimony of many other Prophets and Apostles on the Hill’s location and history..
Take your time, Leslie. No rush. My blog will be around for a while (hopefully).
Much of what you say here is a reiteration of points already addressed in the body of my post, or in the KnoWhy. I will therefore simply direct readers’ attention to such to judge for themselves whether your claims have any merit.
You are probably correct that we are not going to convince each other. I do, however, want to go on the record as pointing out the following:
1. The authorship of the Bernhisel Letter, like the Times and Seasons editorials in mid-1842 while Joseph Smith was editor affirming a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon, really isn’t in dispute. The Joseph Smith Papers includes it among Joseph’s documentary record. By any reasonable standard it is a Joseph Smith document: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-to-john-m-bernhisel-16-november-1841/1
Frankly, attempts by Meldrum and Neville to make it not be a JS document is little more than obfuscation employed out of necessity to save a failing theory.
2. The timing and sequence of LDS missionary work to certain groups of Native Americans is irrelevant. There is nothing special about the fact that the Book of Mormon went first to the group of Native Americans closest to earliest Mormon missionaries. This idea, in fact, even contradicts the teachings of scores of prophets and apostles, starting with Joseph Smith, who have affirmed that Lehi’s remnant is found throughout the peoples of North and South America.
3. The DNA studies you mention from post-2013 are inadmissible as evidence for the Book of Mormon, as discussed by Ugo Perego in a study published in 2015:
I’m sorry, I really am, but contrary to Heartlander claims, DNA does not prove that modern North American Indian tribes are descendants from Hebrews.
4. Claims about Mesoamerica not fulfilling certain requirements of the Law of Moses are overplayed. On the issue of the animals you specifically mention, for instance, see Miller and Roper (2017): 156–159.
5. Your arguments about the United States being the “land above all other lands” and therefore Book of Mormon lands have been addressed by Roper in footnote 1. See for instance here: https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1467&index=4
The rest of your points about Oliver Cowdery’s letters (including Joseph Smith’s participation in composing them and their republication) have been addressed already in the body of my blog post. I find you merely repeating the original arguments I refuted in my blog post unconvincing.
You’re perfectly free to personally believe early Church leaders were speaking from revelation on BoM geography. Just as I am free to believe that they weren’t. But you’re begging the question by using such as evidence that Heartlanderism is therefore true.
Finally, I would wager dollars to donuts that the reason Jonathan Neville is so nice and pleasant towards you is because you agree with him and are cordial to his theories. I would implore you, for just one minute, to put yourself in my shoes and the shoes of my friends and associates (like Neal Rappleye, Matt Roper, and John W. Welch, and others) whom Neville has incessantly mocked and derided with the most mean-spirited, condescending, snide, and self-righteous words I have yet to see from a Heartlander.
So, forgive me, Leslie, but I simply don’t buy it. The evidence is there for all to see: despite his pretended feelings of goodwill and respect towards “M2C intellectuals,” Neville is, deep down, a spiteful and vindictive and unpleasant fellow.
Thank you for your comments on my blog, and keep up your study of the Book of Mormon!
p.s. expect a KnoWhy in the near future on the Hill Cumorah, including the phenomenon known today as “Cumorah’s Cave.”
Leslie, you said you don’t think references to “this country” could refer to Mexico. But in Josephs own letter, he says this about a Mesoamerican book,
“of all histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct luminous & comprihensive.”
Here you have a letter, signed “everlasting covenant Joseph Smith”, stating that to him, Mexico was part of “this country”. I understand that Heartlanders try to explain away this letter, but the fact is that this letter is there for all members to see. It’s at least a reflection of 1830 thought. There are other examples of this.
As far as your concern about the “Lamanite Mission”, you should know that even the missionaries who served on this mission thought the Lamanites lived elsewhere. Parley P. Pratt would later say that: “Four-fifths, or perhaps nine-tenths of the vast population of Peru, as well as of most other countries of Spanish America, are of the blood of Lehi.” Oliver Cowdery, who also served on this Lamanite mission, would also claim that Lehi landed somewhere in Chile. This goes to show that those who actually served on this Lamanite mission didn’t think that the Lamanites were limited to that single area in the United States. And we can see that Joseph Smith did nothing to correct these statements or ideas in his lifetime.
There are many other mentions of Lamanites outside of North America. For example, a letter sent to Joseph Smith mentioned “the Lamanites bordering on the United Territories from Green Bay to the Mexican Gulf.” And in 1883, Apostle Brigham Young Jr. told the Saints that “The time is now come to preach to the Lamanites. The leaders of the Church have in view the 5,000,000 of Lamanites located in Mexico.” And more recently, President Spencer W. Kimball would say that, “Our Lamanite work has been going forward. The American Indians and others of the Lamanites, 60 million or more of them in South and Central America and Mexico and the islands, are accepting the gospel.”
We can see that from early on in Church History, and to modern times, Church leaders and members have referred to Native Americans inside and outside of North America as the “Lamanites”.
Your concern about the Church’s DNA essay being old isn’t a concern, as we just read above from Ugo, the Church updated the essay just last year. These essays are approved by the First Presidency. They have even become part of the Church Educational System curriculum and are even suggested readings in Gospel Manuals. The Church has also added these essays into the Gospel Library App. Elder M. Russell Ballard has been promoting these essays throughout 2016. Elder Ballard promoted these essays while addressing CES teachers and again in the Ensign. He told teachers, “It is important that you know the content in these essays like you know the back of your hand.”
As for the Bernhisel letter, actually the Church Historian’s Office does know who wrote the letter. It was John Taylor, a future prophet, who wrote it as Joseph scribe, under his direction. Joseph used scribes, JUST LIKE he used a scribe to write his letter to Emma about the Nephites. The scribe he used to write to Emma was James Mulholland. Heartlanders can’t claim that the Bernhisel letter is invalid, because it was written by a scribe, when Josephs letter to Emma was also written by a scribe.
Your concern about Mayan temples and altars isn’t an issue, since the credible LDS scholars aren’t claiming that all the Mayan temples and altars are Nephite temples and altars.
You shouldn’t be concerned about sheep, since the sheep in North America are actually a different species than the sheep in Jerusalem. You can’t say Mesoamericanists are substituting sheep, when Heartlanders are doing the same thing. But also, the sheep in North America also extended to Central America.
Unfortunately, heartlanders have a deep misunderstanding of what the Promised Land is. They interpret it to mean only the United States, but really, as one prophet stated, “to the Latter-day Saints the Promised Land, the land of Zion, includes all of North and South America.” -Ezra Taft Benson said this. You can’t use his quote about Adam-Ondi-Ahman in the United States, but ignore his quote that the Promised Land is all of the Americas.
The Church website also says that “Often in the Book of Mormon, the promised land spoken of is the Americas.”
Once you realize these things, you realize that the Heartland model is based on a very deep misunderstanding of the Promised Land. Even if you think it’s not a misunderstanding, you have to admit it’s not inline with what these prophets have taught about it.
I think it has become easy for Mesoamerican theorists and Hearlander theorists to simply speak on blogs and dismiss each other as frauds without having to debate each other one on one. I think it would be awesome for Steve and Jonathan to have such a debate so whoever comes can evaluate both sides. I think Jonathan could invite Rod Meldrum and Steve could invite whomever he would like. If Steve and Jonathan agree I would love to set that up. Please Steve and Jonathan email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get both schedules and I think it would be fun. I assume both of you are faithful members of the Church and love challenges. Understand I am friends with Jonathan and I have never met Steve, but as I have said on this blog I believed the Mesoamerican theory for over 40 years and over the past few years have been intrigued with the Heartland theory and think it has merit. Even if we have the debate in front of only 5 or 6 of each of your friends, I would pay to see it happen. Why? Because I would love to see both of you go at it as two fellow saints who love the Book of Mormon. Im very serious. I will pay each of you $200 to make this happen. It would be very insightful if both of you would take the challenge and if not why not? The only thing I ask is that there will be no name calling and allow me to ask 3 or 4 questions of each of you. Please email me to let me know your schedule for the next two weeks and I will get a mutual time and place to make this happen. I am up late and would love to have your responses tonight if possible.
I respectfully decline your invitation.
Neville is free to write obsessive blog posts about me and other “M2C intellectuals” as long as he pleases. But I will not grant him any more credibility than he deserves by sharing a stage with him.
(As it is I only wrote this blog post because I had suffered his calumnies for long enough before I felt it necessary to go on the public record.)
Heartlanders and LDS scholars have already tried to meet together, and it didn’t really work. Just ask Rod Meldrum. Shortly after the meeting, Neville got onto his blog saying LDS Scholars are denying the prophets and leading members astray.
Their approaches to religion are completely opposite. It’s a literalistic view verses a contextual view. Some people approach the scriptures in a very literal sense, and this becomes based on their modern and private interpretations, patriotism, and traditions. LDS Scholars argue that they need to be approached in a contextual sense, according to what ancient people actually thought at that time, and what all prophets (not just a few) have said.
There’s no point in getting the two sides together, because we have Meldrum on one side supporting Neville blogging about how LDS Scholars are denying the prophets (especially blogs specifically attacking people like John Welch), and LDS Scholars on the other side who see no point in debating people who don’t even take science seriously. Both sides interpret not only science differently, but also the prophets.
What matters most is that each side follows the CURRENT prophets and Church. Neville is running a fine line by saying that every Church Department is denying the prophets and leading members astray, except for him.
Steve: Please email me as I want to ask you a sincere question.
If you’d like to chat privately you can reach me here: https://www.plonialmonimormon.com/contact
I find the Mesoamerica geography theory for the Book of Mormon to be very fascinating. I’ve read quite a few of the older F.A.R.M.S. articles on the Maxwell Institute site before Dr. Peterson left that organization and started his current site. Most of those articles have been reindexed, if you will, on the MI site making them now hard to locate.
Many of the arguments for the Mesoamerica theory by the current mainstream (so called here earlier in this blog) LDS Scholars, can be found in the writings of RLDS Scholars as far back as the 1920s.
For example, Louise Edward Hills a member of the RLDS Church published a book with a 1924 copyright, with the title “New light on American archaeology.” On page 131, linked here, one can read how dismissive the author is of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery:
“To return especially to the location of the original hill Cumorah: We find no word by angels or by the voice of the Lord that the hill where Joseph found the plates was the historic hill. No revelation in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants so designates it, and nowhere in his history did Joseph Smith write of it as Cumorah. In Times and Seasons volume 3, page 771, he says “stands a hill,” and “this hill,” and the angel told him to come to “that place” each year. At the final time he says that he went to “the place” where the plates were deposited.” …etc.. the author continues.
This is the same attitude expressed in the KnoWhy article, “How Are Oliver Cowdery’s Messenger and Advocate Letters to Be Understood and Used?” and in many of the older F.A.R.M.S. articles which I alluded to earlier. Any remarks by early Church leaders including the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery about Book of Mormon geography in North America are dismissed or reasoned away.
So this is nothing new.
Thus the Mesoamerica Theory is in reality plagiarized from RLDS scholars. If one flips through the pages of L.E. Hills’ book, you can see the 1920s (if not earlier) origins of the current Mesoamerica theory promoted today by the so-called 2018 “mainstream” LDS Scholars.
I’m not a fan of the RLDS Church, which I believe is now called “The Community of Christ,” if I’m not mistaken. But if you are, you may find fascinating and even accepting that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery just made things about the location of the Hill Cumorah and the final Nephite and Jaredite battles were in New York, because you know, Smith and Cowdery were ignorant rubes.
Trying to descredit Mesoamerican articles because they’ve been indexed differently doesn’t really make a good argument at all. For one thing, the fact that only Mesoamerican articles have appeared at BYU and the Church should say something about it’s credibility, in light of next to none Heartlander articles published on such sites. For another thing, such articles are STILL there, even on the Church website.
Trying to descredit Mesoamerican claims because of the RLDS Chruch doesn’t make sense either. One could say that Letter 7 was written by a guy who was excommunicated and wanted to tear Joseph Smith down by calling him an adulterer. In the end, such arguments about the origination of an idea matter little if the idea itself is valid, well researched, with documentable support. Hence why you see the modern Church accepting LDS scholars, while not publishing heartlander articles or leaders. Apparently, to the modern Church, current LDS scholars are more convincing.
Instead of a weird fascination on the RLDS Church, I suggest you, as a fellow Mormon, set your fascination on the modern Church, and the things it is doing with LDS Scholarship.
Stephen Smmot, I can only hope you are an honest man, as you claim to be. If so, you will allow your readers to go to this link and see Jonathan Neville’s own response to your assertions here. (posted July 27, 2018)
I have so far approved every single one of Neville’s comments, including the ones with links to his blogs critiquing my post and comments.
Contrary to his assertions, I am neither afraid of him nor his arguments, and I welcome everyone to see and decide for themselves whose position they find more persuasive.
Stephen, I checked your “comments” early this morning, and just saw one I wrote last night (June 27) that was posted today (June 28th) and was near the bottom of all the comments, so didn’t think to check if there were other replies that had since been posted before mine, just assumed mine was almost the last one. I therefore missed all those responses by Jonathan, including the link he gave for his more complete response. I apologize for that. Thank you for being willing to post those remarks by Jonathan and Rod Meldrum and Rian Nelson. Stephen, how delighted many would be to see you actually do as Rian proposed, and as Jonathan expressed a total willingness to engage in; that would be to take part in a civil, public and face-to-face discussion of this subject. I personally found the assertion that “I will not grant him any more credibility than he deserves by sharing a stage with him,” the exact excuse I’ve heard given too many times over the years, often by those fearing their position was not easily defensible. If your beliefs are correct, you should be able to clearly demonstrate that to the listeners in such an exchange. And it could be done without rancor or anger on either side. I would say the same to any of the scholars favoring the Meso position- who thus far have expressed a total unwillingness to do this in any public forum.
I agree with Stephen on this matter. Not all propositions deserve to be publicly debated.
For example, the claim that “9/11 was an inside job” isn’t worthy of debate. That conspiracy theory is so ludicrous, so obviously false, that to debate it would be to give it credence as a legitimate view.
IMHO, Heartlanderism is in the same group with 9/11 conspiracy theories, both in its claims and in its merits.
Mike has already summarized why I am not inclined to publicly debate Neville.
It is not out of fear or insecurity that the Mesoamerican theory cannot be defended.
It is because, frankly, I don’t feel like wrestling in the mud with a conspiracy-monger.
I feel like I have demonstrated the correctness of my views on my blog and in my published writings, and stand by what I have written. I would thus turn interested persons’ attention thereto.
I feel Jonathan summed things up well with this: “Your M2C theory is based on the premise that the prophets have misled the Church by persistently (and ignorantly) teaching that Cumorah is in New York.”
That constant refrain from Mr. Neville and other Heartlanders is not only defamatory, it is a damnable lie.
You keep saying this, but where is the proof?
Steve, you give me much too much credit for the Heartland geography theory “movement.” While it is true that until my dna research Wayne May’s archaeological research wasn’t having much success in getting to the church membership, and my first dvd, DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography had over 100,000 copies that went out, this “movement” has hundreds of thousands of proponents. As just one example, in our last Firm Foundation Expo, we had 91 speakers doing 155 classes with over 7,500 attending the three day event. In contrast, your citation cartel had some 250 attending while 6-7 speakers attempted to uphold the crumbling Meso hoax. Heartlanders include many current and emeritus General Authorities of the Church, and others. So I advise you to be a little more careful at branding all of these good men and women as perpetrators of a fraud. It only makes you look more unhinged and fanatical to those who have done their due diligence and really openly checked out the underlying research.
I do recall you coming to what was probably my very first presentation at Richard Holzapfel’s home. I also recall Richard telling me that my research was “bulletproof” but he would highly recommend that I remove the two parts about Meso promoters like Sorenson and others dismissing Joseph Smith’s statements as he felt that this would cause a backlash from the so-called scholars of the Church. Looking back I wonder if it would have made any difference, but it certainly got the attention of those who proudly proclaimed that Joseph was mistaken when he spoke to Native American chieftains, telling they the Book of Mormon was their history, the Zelph vision can be dismissed because those who wrote about it didn’t agree word for word, so the whole affair should be disregarded etc.
Yes, you were only 16 and impressed with the research, as was Richard Holzaphel, but then you let the citation cartel, who spent months of their time formulating ways to take what I had said, and often putting words in my mouth that I didn’t say but that they are sure that I “meant to say,” and compiled them into a series of attack articles to which I was never given an opportunity to reply. Someone mentioned Dan Peterson left FARMS to start Interpreter? That is funny, Dan and all but one of those Meso promoting attackers in the final gasps of the now defunct FARMS Review were summarily FIRED from the Maxwell Institute shortly after those attack articles, wherein they used sacred Church funds to promote their own pet theories, thumbing their collective noses at the Church Leadership who have repeatedly said that they are neutral on issues of BofM geography. But that it the mantra of the progressive scholars making up the citation cartel. They think they are so much more intelligent than everyone else in the Church, including the prophets and apostles.
The scriptures and prophets tell us that Adam and Eve were our first parents and we humans descended from them, not apes and slime. The progressivly liberal citation cartel now openly promotes Darwinian evolution at BYU and on other college campuses and in articles that defy the scriptures and prophets, “Interpreter”-ing for the brethren how they should have read the scriptures and telling their students that the prophets are just misunderstanding how the scriptures should have been interpreted, but they are just prophets, and so they don’t know any better.
The Scriptures and/or Prophets tell us….. The Citation Cartel intellectuals inform us….
Noah’s flood covered earth and all but his family were lost. Noah’s flood was allegorical, or a local flood only.
Earth was organized in 7 ‘days’ God defined as 1,000 years. Earth formed 4.56 billion yrs ago by random chance.
The Hill Cumorah is in New York. Assistant President, O. Cowdrey was wrong.
The United States is the nation foretold in the BofM. Such views are racist, fanatic and hyper-nationalistic.
The BofM language was Hebrew/Egyptian. The Asiatic Mayan glyph system is BofM language.
The BofM peoples were of Hebrew descent. BofM people assimilated into the Maya, disappearing.
The BofM talks of sheep, goats, horses, cattle. Since Meso doesn’t have these animals, Joseph was wrong.
The BofM talks of wheat, barley, grapes. Since these plants don’t grow in Meso, Joseph was wrong.
BofM prophets spoke of strictly living the Law of Moses. Since no sheep, goats, barley, grapes in Meso, they
substituted rats for lambs, agave for grapes, etc.
The United States Constitution was inspired by God. This is racist and hyper-patriotic and should be attacked.
8 artifacts/earthworks show Hebrew culture by non-LDS. All of these are hoaxes, and BofM happened in Meso which
has a total of 0 (zero) instances of Hebrew culture.
Oliver Cowdrey, one of the 3 witnesses, said he worked Oliver Cowdrey was reliable until he said Cumorah was in
directly with Joseph Smith in writing his letters. NY, which is death knell of Meso, so he was then wrong.
Mankind was made in the image of God. Mankind evolved from apes and slime of millions of years.
Adam and Eve were our first parents. Genesis is a compilation of myths from Mesopotamia.
America is under a sacred covenant with God. This is American exceptionalism and must be attacked.
The first land of promise was in America’s Heartland. There are dozens of lands of promise, so everywhere is.
The BofM states that a ‘nation’ would be set up. The BofM prophets really meant to say hemisphere.
That nation wouldn’t be governed by a king. That prophecy is wrong. They meant hemisphere.
Christ spoke of two promised lands to Nephites. Christ was wrong. There are many promised lands.
Creation story is given 3X in scripture + 1X in temple. Genesis is a compilation of myths from Mesopotamia.
So I ask, who is taking the scriptures and prophets seriously?
To paraphrase you’re threat to me… You are free to persist in your undermining, dismissal of, and attacks against the scriptures and the prophets. But as long as you do, you will be met with opposition from myself and legion of other faithful members and leaders of the church who take what the Book of Mormon, scriptures and prophets too seriously to let your deceiving, lying, misinforming, arrogant and back-stabbing clan organizations go uncontested in the public square.
I ask you your own question… if you are, in fact, someone who accepts the words of the prophets, as the citation cartel has demonstrated otherwise but claims to do, do you accept the words of the scriptures and prophets as more authoritative than the theories of men repeatedly warned against in them?
It is laughable that you’d bring up Ugo Perego’s essay as being the ‘words of the prophets!’ Ugo was paid $10,000 to write that essay by a department of the church and has factual errors in it. The essay itself has a disclaimer that this is not the official position of the church, but that of the scholars that produced it. Ugo said himself that he left out material from his essay because it would have ‘raised red flags’ with the brethren, such as an article he cited which claims human were here 14,000 years ago so he changed the words to ‘several thousand’ years ago.
Book of Mormon Central is about as deceitful as an organization can get. They lied to the Priesthood department telling them that they would follow the church’s lead in being neutral on Book of Mormon geography. With that premise in mind, some church administrators, unfortunately, believed the lie and began to promote BOMC more openly. But it was all a rouge. As soon as they got the church employee’s to promote their organization, they immediately began FARMS 2.0 with the never-ending promotion of Mesoamerica in more than half of their NO-Wise articles. This is not neutrality, it is censorship of the worst kind. You, Steve, are a prime example of this censorship, hiding behind your ‘but Jonathan and Rod are mean, nasty people and therefore I will not lower myself to have a debate with them or publish their responses to our attack articles or meet with them personally to resolve differences. I’d rather just sit at my computer and spew hatred and attacks and call them names.
My friend, you sound amazingly like the unhinged lunatic fringe Democrats who proclaim free speech for everyone unless they disagree with it. That speech must be censored, restricted, name-called and never allowed to be heard by others. This is the sure sign of a pathetically weak and dying argument. Our “movement’ has never been stronger. Don’t continue to delude yourself that it is crumbling under its own unsustainability. That is the result of a frenzied mind that only interacts with those who agree with them. I just spent a week in Palmyra meeting people while doing a book signing there. Three years ago most people coming through didn’t have any idea about the Heartland research. This year more than half of them did… and they universally said that they think it just makes more sense. Try getting out more and I think you’ll see that you are now in the minority in your citation cartel beliefs. Most members of the church accept the scriptures and prophets over the intellectuals of the church. Of course, there are exceptions, you being one of them.
I would recommend that you stop repeating the lie that Daniel Peterson’s dismissal from the Maxwell Institute had anything whatsoever to do with that organization’s publications about Mesoamerican theories and Book of Mormon geography. That is a false claim and you have been TOLD that it is false by people who are intimately familiar with the circumstances, and yet you continue to repeat it.
Since you claim to take the Book of Mormon seriously, I would hope that would include passages like 2 Nephi 9:34 and 2 Nephi 26:32.
There’s a lot to unpack here, including some baseless accusations which, if left uncorrected, would be liable to deceive the public.
1. Richard let you into his house and viewed your presentation out of politeness. The part you’re leaving out is when you first contacted Richard he recommended you see John Sorenson because, he said, “I don’t really do Book of Mormon geography stuff.” The reason being is his expertise is in Second Temple Judaism, not North American archaeology or Book of Mormon geography. Having known Richard my entire life, and having had him as a professor while at BYU, I can confidently say that his interest in the finer points of Book of Mormon geography is very limited, and whatever endorsement he may have given your presentation is of relatively little value since he has no sustained interest in the topic. This is not to besmirch him as a scholar, since what he does (New Testament studies and early Mormon history) he does very well, nor to besmirch him as a friend (the Smoots and the Holzapfels go way back), but rather to point out the fact that while he may or may not accept the Heartland model (it’s been a while since I’ve asked him his opinion on this), his opinion on the matter is as authoritative as the next person’s. Additionally, perhaps the fact that Richard remains close friends with Daniel Peterson (more on your false claims about him below) and other “M2C intellectuals,” and perhaps the fact that while a mission president he invited “M2C intellectuals” and other members of the “citation cartel” like Daniel Peterson to give presentations to his missionaries on topics related to controversies with the Book of Mormon, says something about just how truly enthusiastic he is about the Heartland model.
2. The number of your attendees to your conferences is irrelevant. Truth is not determined by popularity. If that were so, then the fact that non-Mormons outnumber Mormons by the billions would be bad news to both of us. So besides just stroking your ego, or reassuring yourself that you’re onto something (when you’re really just selling the public snake oil), I’m not sure the relevance of bringing this up.
3. The reason I rejected your model after our encounter is because I went on to get two university degrees in ancient history, including one from a non-Mormon university. (You can see my CV on this blog.) In other words, I developed critical thinking and analytical skills and saw right through your preposterous claims. It was because while at BYU I was taught evolution and realized anyone promoting young earth creationism is not worth serious consideration. It was because I took classes in archaeology and textual criticism and learned that someone who promotes on forgeries and warped readings of ancient texts should be avoided. Not because I was taken in by the “citation cartel.” In fact, it is precisely this anti-intellectualism and conspiratorial thinking coming from you that utterly turned me off from Heartlanderism.
4. You claim that Daniel Peterson was fired from the Maxwell Institute over articles critical of you. This is, flat out, a lie. You have been publicly corrected on this before by Dan, and yet you persist in your lies. This is unfortunate, but it is revealing. I invite everyone here to seek out Dan and hear his side of the story. His blog Sic et Non (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/) has chronicled his departure from the Maxwell Institute.
5. Your hyperventilating about evil apostate liberals in the Church (who, oddly enough, are repeatedly hired and approved by the First Presidency) reveals precisely what I talked about in my blog post as perhaps the primary failing of Heartlanderism: conspiratorial fundamentalism that self-righteously assumes itself to be the gatekeeper of orthodoxy. Well, I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything less.
6. The Gospel Topics essays were all supervised and approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve. If you think it was a mistake to publish it, then your beef is with them.
7. Accusations of Book of Mormon Central’s dishonesty and deceit are noted, but easily dismissed as mere bald assertion. The fact is, Rod, that BMC is a trusted source by the Church, enjoys Church promotion and endorsement for Seminary and Institute students, and has received public apostolic commendation. (No, Rod, Elder Holland was not talking about you.) Whereas the FIRM Foundation has none of these. I know it must just eat you up inside, but those are the facts. The best thing for you to do would not to become spiteful and petty, but to simply move on with your efforts.
8. I note with amusement the irony of being accused of censorship when I have, literally, approved every single Heartlander comment on my blog. Every last one. I have also allowed Jonathan Neville to post in comments here several links to his blogs criticizing me. I will let readers decide if they think Mr. Meldrum’s accusations of censorship have even a shred of credibility.
Much more to be said about these revealing comments, but this should suffice for now.
“It is important that you know the content in these [Gospel Topic] essays like you know the back of your hand.” -Elder M. Russell Ballard
Zander’s quote from Elder Ballard demonstrates how Heartlanders reject the prophets and apostles. At least the inconvenient ones.
“Recognizing that today so much information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be obtained from questionable and often inaccurate sources, officials of the Church began in 2013 to publish straightforward, in-depth essays on a number of topics. The purpose of these essays, which have been approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has been to gather accurate information from many different sources and publications and place it in the Gospel Topics section of LDS.org, where the material can more easily be accessed and studied by Church members and other interested parties.”
Wow—it appears that the prophets and apostles are rejecting the prophets and apostles! :-O
I have just spoken with Richard Holzapfel and asked him for a statement on the record about his views on Book of Mormon geography. Here is what he said, with permission to quote him publicly:
“I am officially neutral on Book of Mormon geography. I politely listened to Rod as a courtesy to him but I do not endorse his theory. I am still just listening to all sides of the conversation and am watching as further scholarship sheds more light on this.”
As such, you should be careful not to give the impression that Richard accepts or endorses your theory, since he does not.
Your claim that I was purged from the Maxwell Institute for my disagreement with your view of Book of Mormon geography is absolutely without any basis in fact and is completely false.
You’ve been advised of this before. Please stop making the claim.
While you’re passing by on your hurried internet life, can you please explain why F.A.R.M.S. and it’s subsequent evolved organizations plagiarized the works of RLDS author Louise Edward Hills and never gave him credit?
There are many ideas and concepts F.A.R.M.S., the M.I., etc., published that appear to be lifted directly from Hills’ 1924 book.
Such as that goofy map with the messed up directions because all the Nephites were idiots and couldn’t figure out true north because the Isthmus of Tehuantepec runs east-west yet is still identified as the north-south narrow neck of land; the criticisms leveled at Joseph Smith and the scriptures for never naming the hill in New York “Cumorah;” the Nephites never having travelled outside of the narrow neck of land in Central America to North America yet knew they were in a narrow neck of land; and the Prophet Moroni never having travelled there until his nation was destroyed and then he stopped at a stupid little hill in New York which is nothing more than drumlin which can’t have a cave, because a pile of gravel can’t have a cave, but Moroni was able to miraculously find a large rock at the top of the pile of gravel to cover the plates. You know, stupid stuff like that.
It seems like the only original idea by LDS Scholars and self-annoited LDS Apologists and defenders of the faith is that the Nephites thought tapirs were horses. The rest was plagiarized from Louise Edward Hills.
I await your highly-educated Interpretation due to you having entered into the highest degree of educational glory. Thank you.
First of all, cut the snark and sarcasm. You’re laying it on annoyingly thick (and that’s saying something coming from me).
Second of all, as with your comments on evolution, your comments on the history of the Mesoamerican theory for Book of Mormon geography betrays a deep ignorance. The intellectual roots of this theory lie not in some alleged plagiarism of RLDS scholarship, but rather in decades of investigation into the Book of Mormon by scholars from a number of Mormon sects, including both LDS and RLDS. (Pretty sure it was Joseph Smith who said that truth is truth, regardless of which denomination it is found in.)
See Matthew Roper’s overview of the relevant history here: https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1459&index=12
You of course are not obliged to accept the Mesoamerican theory for Book of Mormon geography, but it would only help you to at least accurately understand what the theory does and doesn’t actually say (just like with evolution).
Other than that, I’ll invite you to be less belligerent in your comments here on my blog or I’ll invite you to leave.
To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never heard of Louise Edward Hills.
I’ll ignore your insults.
The Church is publishing things like the DNA essay, utterly disproving Meldrum’s pet DNA theory. And we have Neville complaining that the Church Correlation Department, Church History, Church Museum, Joseph Smith Papers, Brigham Young University, Church Educational System and other organizations are teaching members to deny the prophets (as if todays prophets aren’t aware of what the Church’s own departments are doing haha), all because the Church isn’t accepting his pet theories. It’s just getting worse and worse for Heartlanders. But while it’s depressing that so many Heartlanders are falling for bad research, it’s refreshing that today’s Church is not. I’m grateful for the direction the Church is heading.
As an example of the clear and deliberate deception of the citation cartel in their latest No-wise check out how they left out the later part of a sentence which refutes their premise.
They wrote: “The impact and authority of Oliver’s letters can be measured by several factors. First, “there is no evidence that Joseph Smith assigned Cowdery to write the letters.”6
This is a deceptive quotation used here to contradict the meaning of the cited source.
The original sentence should be quoted in full: “Although there is no evidence that Joseph Smith assigned Cowdery to write the letters, he offered his assistance to ensure that the ‘narrative may be correct.'”
Besides deliberately deceiving its readers, the excerpt is a gratuitous and irrelevant consideration because Cowdery never claimed Joseph directed him to write them. It doesn’t matter anyway because in addition to Joseph’s assistance, Cowdery assured readers he was relying on facts, used original documents then in his possession, and relied on his own experience.
For a thoughtful reply demonstrating the deceptions of the misleading article (which will never be allowed the same air time by the citation cartel) see http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2018/07/no-wise-453-how-are-oliver-cowderys.html
Please read the KnoWhy carefully before lobbing accusations of deceit. Here it is in full:
First, “there is no evidence that Joseph Smith assigned Cowdery to write the letters.”6 Second, the Prophet gave some support by providing Oliver details about “the time and place of [his] birth” and information about his adolescence that would help Oliver correct anti-Mormon misconceptions as a main concern,7 but it is unclear how much information Joseph supplied about other things.
I do know that reading comprehension is difficult for zealous Heartlanders, who like to read into things stuff that isn’t there, but please do refrain from doing such here. There is nothing deceitful about this statement in the KnoWhy.
“It doesn’t matter anyway because in addition to Joseph’s assistance, Cowdery assured readers he was relying on facts, used original documents then in his possession, and relied on his own experience.”
All of which is discussed in the KnoWhy and on this blog. But you and Neville, wedded as you are to your fanaticism about Letter VII, are blinded by obvious facts you are leaving out.
BTW, Rod, this is the fifth or sixth time I have now approved links from Jonathan Neville’s blog to appear in the comments on my blog.
Are you going to continue to make dubious claims of censorship?
I’m going to make this it’s own comment while I’m at it.
I have just spoken with Richard Holzapfel and asked him for a statement on the record about his views on Book of Mormon geography. Here is what he said, with permission to quote him publicly:
“I am officially neutral on Book of Mormon geography. I politely listened to Rod Meldrum as a courtesy to him but I do not endorse his theory. I am still just listening to all sides of the conversation and am watching as further scholarship sheds more light on this.”
As such, Meldrum should be careful not to give the impression that Richard accepts or endorses his theory, since he does not.
Dear Mr. Rod Meldrum,
“It is laughable that you’d bring up Ugo Perego’s essay as being the ‘words of the prophets!’ Ugo was paid $10,000 to write that essay by a department of the church and has factual errors in it. The essay itself has a disclaimer that this is not the official position of the church, but that of the scholars that produced it. Ugo said himself that he left out material from his essay because it would have ‘raised red flags’ with the brethren, such as an article he cited which claims human were here 14,000 years ago so he changed the words to ‘several thousand’ years ago.”
Is this how accurately you do your research and report your results? Because if this is a sample of your scholarship, it says a lot about the rest of your work! I really don’t want to be disrespectful here, but seriously, where do you get your information? What are your sources? Or you just make them up as you go? Where in the world did you get that the Church paid me $10,000 to produce the essay on Book of Mormon and DNA? Yes, there was a reimbursement, but it was merely to cover travel expenses to meet in person in Salt Lake City with a committee that was created to supervise the production of the various Gospel Topics essays. Try to take a zero away and perhaps we are talking the same figures. Also, the committee was presided by two Seventies who were carrying forth the project under the commission of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I was asked to produce a very detailed article that could be used as the source for the essay. I did not write the essay myself. The article I wrote and submitted to the Gospel Topics committee is citation #2 in the actual essay and is available online for everyone to read. If I said anything uncomfortable in it, it would not be there. So let me explain it to you in simple words. I wrote a detailed and lengthy article on the question of DNA and Book of Mormon as requested by a Committee presided by the main leadership body of the Church. Once the article was submitted (which by the way, included previous revisions and comments by other LDS and non-LDS scientists with great expertise on the subject of population genetics and Native American DNA and origins), it was reviewed by the Committee and sent back to me so that I could approve the changes. Their goal was to make it short enough as to encourage members of the Church to read it and to avoid jargon that was too scientific for them to understand it. Once I approved the changes, the article was sent up to the priesthood lines for further review and comments, then back to me, then back to them, all the way to the First Presidency. I gave my seal of approval. They gave their seal of approval. It was done with all the Gospel Topics essays. My exception is, I think, that I was able to include the original submission (undiluted and unmodified) as a footnote. So you have both for your enjoyment.
Now, I think the correct question should not be: “Why was Ugo Perego asked to write the essay?” but “Why wasn’t someone else asked to do so?”
Also, since you bring up money, I wonder, in comparison, how much you are bringing in every year by selling your geography model to individuals that unfortunately don’t have the time nor the expertise to verify for themselves the poor scholarship you are using to back it up. And let’s make sure it goes on the record Rod, I have never said that the Book of Mormon geography could not have taken place in North America. Someday we might learn that it actually did and all will be well. My biggest problem is your immature and careless use of the genetic data, which as of today is not evidence of a heartland model for the Book of Mormon. (I have other issues with the way you are promoting your heartland model, but I am not going to address them here, as others have done that repeatedly much better than I could do it).
Regarding the choice of wording, obviously the Church is careful and sensitive as there are members that may get offended easily by the choice of one term over another. From the conversations I had during the production of the essay, the issue was not with what science is reporting, but with the way a subset of the membership of the Church might receive and react to it (maybe they were thinking about you? Sorry, I could not resist!). A clear example of what I am talking about is found in the essay on Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, where the age of Helen Mar Kimball could have definitely been reported differently. Latter-day Saint theology does not demonize nor discourage an honest look at what current science has to say (see for example the New Era statement on dinosaurs in the February 2016 issue – which by the way, although is not signed by a specific author, has been approved by the priesthood committee that supervises Church publications). Additionally, all the references in the Gospel Topic essay on Book of Mormon and DNA studies have the full science undiluted for anyone that wants to check the sources for the statements in the essay. I don’t want to be mean here, but based on your use of references in your presentations and your book on DNA and Book of Mormon, you probably think that a reference is used just to make something look more official. When you publish something for the Church or BYU, each reference is carefully reviewed for accuracy before it is approved in the text. References are where people go to read more about the subject you are describing in the text so that readers know you just did not make the whole thing up. References should be consistent with the point you are making in the article. For serious scholars, publishers and editors, references are just as important as the text itself.
On this note, I don’t know if you noticed that the Gospel Topic Essay on the Book of Mormon and DNA Studies was updated earlier last year. One of the points I made with the committee was about the need to update the essay every few years with the latest scientific discoveries that could be pertinent to the subject presented. (Something you should also do based on your presentation I attended last year in Utah, which included the same exact information and citations you used more than a decade ago). The updated essay includes among other things a couple new references that were not part of the original article that came out in 2013. Specifically, reference #15 mentions a 2015 paper by Dr. Jennifer Raff and Dr. Deborah Bolnick “Does Mitochondrial Haplogroup X Indicate Ancient Trans-Atlantic Migration to the Americas? A Critical Re-Evaluation” that directly addresses the MANY reasons why haplogroup X2 in the Americas DOES NOT provide genetic evidence of a Book of Mormon migration (sorry Rod, we are way passed the coalescence issue!). By the way, in an earlier comment you mentioned how the molecular age of X2a has changed over time (as to imply we should not pay attention to it). You are confusing the age of X2a in the Americas based on an internal phylogenetic tree, with the coalescence time of all the X and X2 branches to their common ancestor in South Asia “thousands of years ago”.
This is all I am going to say now. Last year I spoke on some of these issues at the annual FairMormon Conference where I was given a huge salary to lie about things like evolution, haplogroup X2 and the Gospel Topic essay on Book of Mormon and DNA Studies
(https://www.fairmormon.org/blog/2018/04/19/fairmormon-conference-podcast-5-ugo-perego-what-does-the-church-believe-about-evolution). I am in the process of writing two articles from that presentation, so look forward to reading them (I could not say all the good stuff in just one hour).
I have to go now, I got $10,000 to spend on pizza and gelato.
Yours sincerely, Dr. Ugo A. Perego, PhD, MSc
Man, is this fun!
I am a Stephen Smoot fan from afar, and I have been tempted to set down the computer and applaud at several of his responses here. But given that I’m the only one home at the moment, only my dog would notice, and he is not very bright. (Also quite fat.)
I don’t know if I have anything to add to this discussion that is particularly useful, although I should note that David O. McKay, a prophet if there ever was one and my great-grandfather to boot, was a firm believer in organic evolution and in a mainstream scientific understanding of geological time. My mother was the curator of his papers, and I have read his critical handwritten marginalia in his personal copy of “Man: His Origin and Destiny.” Suffice it to say that when it came to issues of evolution and young earth creationism, the prophets most decidedly did not agree. There is no official Church position on the subject, and no one is justified in saying otherwise.
Which, really, is the point to the larger discussion here. If you’re really interested in counting the references to New York Cumorah in Conference, you should probably be more interested in counting the number of official statements insisting that the Church has no official position on BoM geography and that dogmatic obsession with the subject is entirely counterproductive. (I’m guessing the ratio is roughly 1 New-York-Cumorah per every 2,569 No-official-position-so-knock-it-offs, but that still needs to go through peer review.)
I am convinced that the Celestial Kingdom will be populated with people who believe the Lehites lived in all kinds of weird places – I’m thinking Haiti, myself – and any number of Cumorahs, and that Benjamin Winchester AKA Beelzebub’s demonic quest to singlehandedly destroy the Church via a handful of obscure Times and Seasons articles will not be successful. If the Lord wanted belief in any geographical model to be a prerequisite for salvation, He’d have said so. As it stands, he has not, so anyone questioning the faith of another Latter-day Saint on the grounds of geographical heresy is up in the night.
That said, everything Stephen Smoot has said here is 100% accurate, and those who disagree are, at best, dorks.
A great-grandson of President David O. McKay calling people dorks. That’s impressive.
Unfortunately, you don’t understand the difference between the Church not having an official position on Book of Mormon geography versus the Church having an official position on the location of the Hill Cumorah and the final Nephite and Jaredite battles being in New York. This means the Book of Mormon wasn’t designed and manufactured in Mexico. It also rules out the Prophet Moroni having to travel all the way to Palmyra so the boy prophet didn’t have to travel to Mexico to get the plates (to paraphrase Elder Mark E. Peterson).
And since you enjoy dropping names, I’m a first cousin four times removed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, so your appeal to your family history as an authority that Adam evolved from a monkey and Eve swung in the branches of the Trees of Life, won’t cut it.
You don’t do yourself any favors, Mr. Reed, when you write “Adam evolved from a monkey.” Because evolutionary theory doesn’t claim that humans evolved from monkeys.
You are, of course, correct, but I have it on good authority that monkeys evolved from Benjamin Winchester.
Is it “monkeys” you want to quibble about?
If evolutionary theory doesn’t claim that humans evolved from lower life forms, then why did the First Presidency address that very topic in the Feb 2002 Ensign.
Fifth paragraph from the bottom: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/02/the-origin-of-man?lang=eng
Maybe you and Brother Smoot should get together and write an article to the First Presidency about how Evolutionary theory should be understood and used.
It’s not a “quibble” to ask that, if you’re going to rail against evolutionary theory, that you describe its claims accurately. Evolutionary biologists do NOT argue that humans evolved from monkeys or apes, but that humans, apes, and monkeys all have a common ancestor. That’s a critical distinction that most uninformed critics miss.
Also, the 2002 Ensign article wasn’t written by the First Presidency in 2002; it was a reprint of the statement issued by the First Presidency in 1909. And there’s a great deal of important historical context to it that most anti-evolutionist Mormons overlook.
As a dork myself, I feel it appropriate to sling the epithet of my people with impunity.
My obnoxious McKay namedrop is largely irrelevant to the fact that David O. believed in both evolution and an old earth. Reading his marginalia of JFS’s creationist magnum opus was a fun detail that I threw in to add color to my argument, but his positions on these subjects are a matter of public record. The point is that you’re welcome to believe the earth was created in seven twenty-four-hour days concluding on October 23, 4004 BC, but you’re not welcome to pretend that your position, or any position re: creation and evolution is in any way the official position of the Church.
As for the Church’s official position on the Hill Cumorah, there isn’t one of those, either. Just telling me Oliver Cowdery believed in the New York Cumorah is the equivalent of telling me Joseph Fielding Smith believed in young earth creationism. Both things are true representations of individual beliefs; neither represents the official position of the Church. And if David O. McKay can believe in evolution and still be a prophet, I’m pretty sure that anyone can believe Cumorah was just about anywhere.
Also, Heber J. Grant is my great-grandfather on my father’s side. So, really, I’m genetically predisposed to absolute righteousness.
David O. Mckay has some of my favorite evolution quotes by a prophet:
“On the subject of organic evolution the Church has officially taken no position.The book “Man, His Origin and Destiny” [A Creationist book by Joseph Fielding Smith] was not published by the Church, and is not approved by the Church. The book contains expressions of the author’s views for which he alone is responsible. Sincerely your brother, David O. McKay, President”
“Evolution’s beautiful theory of the creation of the world”
The back story of Elder Eyrings October 2016 General Conference remarks about the earths creation was that the prophet David O. McKay asked apostle Adam S. Bennion to request responses from qualified LDS scientists concerning Elder Joseph Fielding Smith’s creationist book titled, “Man, His Origin and Destiny”. Elder Bennion invited the opinions of Henry Eyring (the father of Henry B. Eyring), geologist William Lee Stokes, and chemist Richard P. Smith. (10) Henry Eyring wrote and responded to Bennion:
“I can understand ‘Man—His Origin and Destiny’ as the work of a great man who is fallible. . . .It contains many serious scientific errors and much ill humor, which mar the many beautiful things in it. Since the gospel is only that which is true, this book cannot be more than the private opinion of one of our great men. (11)
Here you have David O McKay, the President and prophet, concerned about the teachings of an apostle about Creationism. He then asks another apostle to gather reviews about it, and concludes that it’s just Joseph Fielding Smiths opinion.
I’ll add another thought: I thought the arguments regarding the historicity of the book of Mormon were the most heated the Mormon internet had to offer until I’d seen the comment threads of this and a few other recent discussions of BOM geography.
This whole discussion is very new to me, and so I ask this question to Stephen and anyone else unrhetorically and with all seriousness: If everyone in this thread seems to at least agree on the historicity of the BOM, what is it that makes this argument between the various schools of thought so incredibly heated? I’ve observed a few notable scholarly rivalries unfold over the years (mostly among Latin Americanist and Cold War historians), and I must say that none of the passion displayed in those came close to what I’m observing here.
Speaking only for myself, I really don’t have any problem with somebody accepting a North American or South American or Mesoamerican or Narnia geography for the Book of Mormon. My beef is not with anybody who believes Cumorah was in New York or Mexico or Mars.
What I will not abide, however, is Rod Meldrum and Jonathan Neville anointing themselves as the Holy Protectors of the Apostles and Prophets and disparaging “M2C intellectuals” as conspiring apostates.
I will also resist efforts by Mr. Meldrum to enlist bogus artifacts and pseudo-science in his noble but wholly misjudged attempts to defend the Book of Mormon. I care about that book far too much to let it suffer at the hands of zealous amateurs.
But, at the end of the day, if people disagree with me and accept Meldrum’s geography, then fine. If they are decent folk who love their families and keep their covenants as Latter-day Saints then there’s no problem.
But the minute they turn around and point accusatory fingers at me and my “M2C intellectual” friends, then we have a problem…
It’s not a heated discussion over which Book of Mormon Geography is correct. That really has nothing to do with it. It’s a deeper debate about whether certain ideas are considered doctrine, or revelatory. In this case, Oliver Cowdery’s letters, and the thoughts that Heartland leaders have about it.
Most of those who support a Mesoamerican theory simply believe that that theory is the most plausible due to the scientific research. The most ardent Heartlanders, on the other hand, think that they’re theory is next to doctrine because their interpretation is that Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith said it is, and anyone who disagrees with them is denying the prophets and leading members astray. When actually, they are interpreting things incorrectly. The issue is that heartlander leaders are cherry picking quotes, and making up excuses for the quotes by the same early leaders that don’t support their view. My thoughts here are that Stephen is setting the record straight about the CONTEXT of Oliver Cowderys statements and ideas, and Heartlander leaders are upset about that.
I just got on and read all the comments. Leaving so much out, I’ll just give my impressions of the most recent comments. I don’t know Meldrum, but the way he just attacked Ugo Perego with falsehoods about things as strange as how much Perego was paid by the church is pretty concerning. Why would someone do this to a legitimate scientist? Actually, why do this to *anyone*? Has Perego insulted Meldrum’s mother or something? How is civil dialogue supposed to be possible with these kinds of tactics?
Also, judging by the bulk of Meldurm’s comments, it appears he is unaware of or unpersuaded by this:
Specifically, the part that says, “The Church has no official position on the theory of evolution. Organic evolution, or changes to species’ inherited traits over time, is a matter for scientific study. Nothing has been revealed concerning evolution.” There’s more after that, of course, but nothing else from that statement contradicts the first part of that same statement, which says the church doesn’t have a position on evolution. If the church doesn’t have a position on what Meldrum here clearly and repeatedly thinks the scriptures and the prophets have a position on, then what is anyone supposed to make of that? Shouldn’t Meldrum be writing the church and telling the leaders of the church that, no, the prophets *do* have a position on evolution?
But again, why would someone get on here and just slander some geneticist like that? How would that help you? How does that enable productive dialogue between two differing views?
Also, “Book of Mormon Central is about as deceitful as an organization can get.”?? Wow. That’s pretty harsh. That almost sounds like an overtly contemptuous remark by someone who really has a lot of negative emotions getting the better of them, given the justification subsequently offered for that accusation. I just checked BMC’s website: “Book of Mormon Central at this time is officially geography neutral.” But isn’t its position on geography supposed to be what makes BMC “as deceitful as an organization can get”, because, somehow, they lied about their initial promise of geographic neutrality? See below for the BMC statement on geography:
I guess somehow BMC is as deceitful as an organization can possibly get, though. Just for not being geography neutral in some unknown way.
I also just read a BMC KnoWhy on geography:
It never says, in that entire KnoWhy, that the Book of Mormon definitely happened in Mesoamerica. That’s funny. Is there another Book of Mormon Central out there that Meldrum is referring to? One that clearly does take a position on geography that would clearly negate its claims to neutrality and make it “as deceitful as an organization can get”?
This does not give me a good impression of Meldrum at all. Maybe someone is writing these comments in Meldrum’s name, posing as Meldrum in order to make him look bad. I don’t know. But I do know that whoever is making those comments is definitely not making dialogue between the two camps any easier.
I’ve wasted a great deal of time today paying attention to the fireworks on the blog, but I can’t seem to stop thinking about this. And what I’ve decided is that I’m deeply frustrated with the thesis of Jonathan Neville and Rodney Meldrum et al who insist that the “M2C intellectuals” (took me way too long to figure out M2C stood for*) are committing the gravest of sins by teaching the youth of the Church to “disbelieve the prophets.”
Now I don’t know either of these men personally – although I did, from a distance, see Rodney Meldrum signing copies of his books at my local Costco, so I know he’s a real dude – but I’m convinced that their notion that everything prophets say demands our belief is doing far more damage to personal faith than anything the “Mesomaniacs” have done or ever hope to do.
Years ago, I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine about Spencer W. Kimball’s inclusion of the goofy story in “The Miracle of Forgiveness” that is the genesis of the Mormon folklore that Cain is actually Bigfoot.
Anyway, my friend and I shared a hearty chuckle over the whole thing, and he concluded the conversation by saying something along the lines of, “It’s nice that we don’t have to believe that, because Spencer W. Kimball wasn’t the prophet when he wrote it.”
I didn’t say anything in response, but I should have. Because the reason we don’t have to believe that has nothing to do with whether Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet or an apostle when he wrote it. The reason we don’t have to believe this is because it isn’t true. No member of the Church is required to believe something that isn’t true, even if a prophet believed or believes it.
That’s the reason the Church requires us only to accept as binding revelation those things which are brought before the Church as a whole and sustained as such by common consent. That process frees us up from defending nonsense like less-valiant spirits or Adam/God or the fiery sermons of the pre-Manifesto era promising that we would never bow to the whims of the godless and abandon polygamy.
These ideas were taught from the pulpit and even, in the case of Adam/God, at the veil of the temple. But they’re simply not true. And while I believe the prophets far more often than not, I firmly disbelieve them on these subjects, and I’ve taught my children to do the same. We’re better people – and better Latter-day Saints – for doing so. My guess is that Brothers Neville and Meldrum disbelieve Adam/God, too.
In my own foray into the world of Mormon apologetics, I have found that most of the people who leave over doctrinal issues do so when they discover things that prophets have gotten wrong. Being taught never to “disbelieve the prophets,” their entire testimony crumbles when they discover that even prophets have agency and are therefore capable of error. Conversely, I have yet to see someone jump overboard from the Old Ship Zion due to the Beelzebub Winchester-inspired M2C Mesomaniacs.
All this is not to argue that the Hill Cumorah is or isn’t in New York or Guatemala or Lake Titicaca. It’s to say that those who are willing to sustain prophets they know are not demigods are far more likely to stay faithful than those who insist that we can never disbelieve the prophets on any subject. The latter group is setting themselves up for a massive crisis of faith down the road. And those who insist on orthodoxy to ideas that are not canonized revelations are the ones doing damage to the youth of the Church.
*It stands for “Mesoamerica – 2 Cumorahs,” I think.
It must be awful for you to be a Mormon and be directly related to Prophets who are so full of errors about Cain, Bigfoot, Adam/God, polygamy, and a Hill in New York and whatever else you deem them to be incorrect about according to the latest whims of the world.
How embarrasing for you. Make sure to walk around gazing at your belly button.
Next time the inhabitants of the large and spacious Costco point their fingers of scorn at you because the Prophets believe the Hill Cumorah is in New York, make sure to tell your children to disbelieve them or Costco may cancel your membership.
While I recognize you’re trying your best to be vicious in a sort of Bizarro-D&C 121 kind of way, the fact is that I have, indeed, drawn a great deal of comfort from realizing my ancestors were human beings rather than demigods.
As a young child, I was greatly discouraged by the legacy I thought I had to live up to, and reading David O.’s missionary journals while I was serving in Thurso, Scotland, the McKay ancestral homeland, I discovered he went through all the same kinds of doubts and frustrations that I did as a struggling young missionary. The lesson was that if he could start from a discouraging mission and end up a prophet of God, then maybe there was hope for me yet.
As for Cumorah, I have no idea what my children believe on the subject, nor do I care. We’re all still active members of the Church, and, so far, nobody has asked me about Cumorah in my temple recommend interviews, so I don’t worry about it.
Not sure why you’re so angry with me, but them’s the breaks, I guess. If I ever meet you in person, maybe we should hug it out.
I feel as if I’ve read an entire treatise today. Many known names have appeared to PERSONALLY refute the statements of two of the most active, charismatic, and outright amateurish and untrained Heartlander “scholars”. Stephen Smoot has been blunt. So blunt at times it has personally caused me to cringe. At the same time, so many of us have just HAD it with the Heartland thing, i.e., its methods, its sloppiness, and its often deliberately misleading research and sales tactics–at the expense of so many Church members who have NO TIME for searching up citations or learning the difference between disciplined rhetoric and flim-flam. I wish I’d kept count of the number of times Neville said, “You said I said such and such, but then offer no citation!” This was generally right after an authoritative, well-researched citation or link or footnote had JUST BEEN OFFERED! How do you carry on a rational conversation with folks like that? Does fanaticism even have a definition if it doesn’t refer to the beliefs and approach of Attorney Jon Neville? Like any attorney, Neville’s strategy is “never admit to have been outdone”. He leaves it to a jury. So . . . readers . . . be the jury.
Then, invariably, someone like Neville or Meldrum will accuse Stephen or someone else who expresses disagreement of “censuring” them! This, invariably, becomes a “dare” to someone like Stephen to NOT post a Heartlander’s silly, caustic response, even though every instinct in their soul is that the conversation is a total waste of time! This is a common Heartlander tactic. It’s also a common tactic of young-Earth creationists and, really, any fanatical belief system that may not feel it’s getting its “proper” share of the attention, which means ALL OF IT. (“I DARE you not to publish me! Or all these links! And this link too! Because you’ll be exposed as the insecure coward that you are! Oh, and don’t forget THIS link! I just DARE you!)
The reason it’s NOT a waste of time, Stephen, is because people like me are reading it. Your persistence, your determination, and your longsuffering is to be admired. I’d say the same of Neville’s and Meldrum’s unyielding persistence if their arguments weren’t starting to sound like broken records. As if they believe something becomes true or more logical through mere repetition. Hey, it’s an attractive platform! It feeds a perverse brand of American pride that many are desperate to feel in these “progressive” times. However, I don’t believe Heartlanders want an even-handed, balanced argument. They want to DOMINATE the conversation. They want and need PUBLICITY, and will take it wherever they can find it.
This is why, unfortunately–so, so, so unfortunately–those who recognize the fraudulent nature of the Heartlander positions MUST be willing to call a spade a spade. I also feel strongly that we should do it with as much restraint as can be brought to bear. Channel the Savior as much as “humanly” possible, never resorting to name-calling (except for something basic, like, “fraud”) and do not be a party to creating clever, clever memes like “citation cartel” or “Benjamin Winchester Award” (And BY THE WAY, I got SECOND place in that awards ceremony, TOTALLY defeating–in fact laying utter WASTE–Book of Mormon Central! Just had to mention that. Yeah, yeah, so I was defeated by the Church Correlation Committee, but I’ll get ’em next year. You just wait you . . . you . . . you First Presidency-authorized HACKS!).
I cannot fault Stephen for his use of a term like “fraud” or even occasionally designating a lie when it is, in fact, an outright lie. And I sympathize with his perpetual, often-humorous sarcasm. Still, I advocate restraint when possible. In the course of these comments, I agree that often it was NOT possible.
We should, as Church members, continue to ask questions, continue to acknowledge and celebrate HONEST research, and then, continually remind ourselves that on matters of Book of Mormon geography, the Church has gone to GREAT EFFORTS, especially over the past two decades, to remind its members that it has no official position. Doesn’t mean we can’t be utterly fascinated by LiDAR. It also doesn’t mean we bury our heads and allow a “sham” like the creation of a Heartland tourist attraction across the river from Nauvoo, IL to go forward without calling it what it is–a sham.
I very much applaud Stephen’s statement that he has nothing against those who wish to research Book of Mormon geography or archeology around the Great Lakes or North Carolina or the American West or wherever. The Hopewell and the Adema are fascinating! So is the idea that Lehites might’ve been a minority culture in the midst of the greater Maya culture. Knowledge is never to be feared. But BAD information and research must be exposed at every opportunity, especially when it’s just corrosively BAD.
I can’t recall if it’s a scripture or just an aphorism that Church members must be constantly diligent and willing to expose wolves among the flock who are disguised as sheep (particularly those who are simultaneously pointing the finger at sheep and calling them wolves). Now imagine yourself living in the days of John the Revelator or the Prophet Mormon. Should we really be surprised to observe similar conditions in our day?
Thanks again, Stephen, for your tireless defense.
Thank you for your comments, Chris. I appreciate the support.
My comment is in response to Mr. Jonathan Neville who wrote at one point, “Leslie, you see how Brother Smoot misrepresents what I write, both my views and my approach. I have never once labeled anyone an apostate (that I recall–but if I’m wrong, surely Brother Smoot can provide a citation).”
Sir, you must have an extremely poor memory if you do not recall calling Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, and Interpreter apostates in at least two of your presentations at the FIRM Foundation conference held this past April in Layton. I happen to be in the habit of taking extensive notes at just about every presentation I attend, no matter the conference or meeting. I took 3-4 pages of notes of your “presentation” (personally, I considered it more of a diatribe) titled, “Cumorah: Prophets vs. Scholars” on the first evening of the conference. I am more than happy to share my notes as documentation should you desire.
Better yet, I will contact my die-hard Heartlander friends who had invited me to the conference and with whom I was sitting during your speech. I’m pretty sure they will remember your comments because we had more than one long discussion about what you said and the fact that you called Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, and Interpreter apostate. Indeed, I am sure they will remember your comments because at least a couple of them, knowing I belong to FairMormon and am on the editorial board for Interpreter (as well as my wife and I being among the so-called unbelievers at the chiasm conference when Elder Holland spoke), apologized to me and said that usually you were not so angry (or, at least you seemed to be angry during your presentation).
Now, before you think I’m just another Mesoamerica theory defender, blah, blah, blah… Yes, there are some good points to that theory. I have also seen some good points to the North America/Heartland theory. But to be honest, I really don’t care where it took place. I care about the message of the Book of Mormon.
And quite frankly, I think these “Book of Mormon Wars” over geography are ridiculous and antithetical to the spirit and message of the Book of Mormon. But to everyone their own opinion. . .
Thank you for your illuminating comments, Craig.
This damning testimony, along with the irrefutable evidence presented in my early comments, speaks volumes about Neville’s true character and at once exposes just how pretended his feelings of friendship and respect for “M2C intellectuals” truly are.
See section 1.B for much more of Heartlanders attacking the faithfulness of those who disagree:
I appreciate your contacting Richard Holzapfel to ask his opinion regarding geography. As you may have noticed, I didn’t claim that Richard was or is an advocate of the Heartland geography, only that he used the word ‘bulletproof’ in his initial assessment of one of the very first presentations I ever did. Thank you, and him, for honestly reporting his thoughts. Richard is an amazing scholar and used to live in our stake at the time.
I was told that you were paid that amount to write the essay by individuals at our retreat at Zermatt. If that is incorrect, then I will certainly refrain from mentioning it again.
While we disagree in our foundational outlook of the origins of mankind, I appreciate that you have never ‘closed the door’ to the possibility of future genetic findings that may lead to more positive evidence for the Book of Mormon, even in your field of expertise (genetics).
When I brought up your belief in mankind’s descent from lower life forms by organic evolution at that retreat and brought up that you, or whoever wrote the essay, changed the dating in the referenced article (Correcting for Purifying Selection: An Improved Human Mitochondrial Molecular Clock, American Journal of Human Genetics 84 (2009) 740-59, which claims that haplogroup X arrived in the America’s 12,000-14,000 years ago), you said that it was changed because it (an arrival date of humans with haplogroup X to America some 6,000 years before Adam and Eve) would have ‘raised red flags’ had the 14,000 years ago date been published in the essay. Why would publishing in the essay the referenced article’s dating have raised a red flag if the brethren accepted the idea of humans migrating to America long before Adam? There are still many of us that believe that what the prophets and scriptures have taught about our origins is correct and that just maybe science has it wrong. Yet, I’ve been attacked over and over again for adhering to this belief. I bring up your evolutionary beliefs primarily so that folks at least have some idea where you are coming from, not that I think you or anyone else who has been able to justify evolutionary principles rather than creation is an apostate, although there have been many quotations by latter-day prophets that could lead one to that conclusion. This is a debate that is likely to continue into the millennium.
I also find it fascinating that somehow in the essay the authors managed to slide in a number of articles written by the citation cartel. The essay you helped write references your own articles four times and articles written specifically to promote and sustain Mesoamerica theory by the citation cartel five times. The Book of Mormon text itself is only referenced 3 times. What is disappointing is that your beliefs regarding evolution, along with the other geneticists who share that belief, lead the non-scientifically educated essay committee to create a document that, from the point of view of those who espouse the Adam and Eve doctrine, actually undermines it. I don’t know of any of the committee members who have scientific training. They had to rely on you, and I doubt that they knew of your rejection of Adam and Eve as the first humans and the three scriptural plus one temple creation accounts. You are an obvious choice for the brethren to ask to help write the essay as you are one of only a handful of trained and published geneticists in the church. You had the responsibility to create an essay to answer the questions of DNA – and do it in a manner faithful to the teachings of the church, and you chose to insert your evolutionary beliefs quietly into the essay. That is the problem I have. The essay is indirectly, but literally, promoting the idea that the doctrine of Adam and Eve is incorrect and that evolutionary science is to be adhered to contrary to every teaching of the scriptures, prophets and the church to the contrary. Obviously, they didn’t ask me to participate because I have no formal degree in genetics. My research doesn’t rely on my personal authority, I have none, but rather on the many main-stream peer-reviewed journal articles I cite.
I understand what references are used for, my friend. Which is why I reviewed every article cited in the essay and found the 14,000 year issue. They are there for additional information, as you said. Yes, references are critical and important to understanding where the author is coming from and to what sources are being applied.
Yes, I noted that the essay was updated. I happen to know quite a bit about some concerns that we brought up with members of the committee, but they said that is was too late to make any significant changes at this point, but they appreciated learning of your beliefs and how that might have affected the information in the essay.
I know that you’ve spoken many times at the FAIRMormon conferences and even Education Week, explaining to LDS members how the science of genetics can’t be used to support or disprove the Book of Mormon account. As you know, I’ve never claimed that DNA ‘proves’ the Book of Mormon, and in fact have written and presented that until such time as we have a sample of dna from the BofM, it is all a matter of probabilities. In the process of your presentations you introduce your evolutionary beliefs subtly into the presentation. I just think that folks ought to be made aware of your foundational beliefs up front so that they are better able to judge your assertions.
I’ve found that in general the citation cartel believes in Mesoamerica theory, organic evolution, billions of years age of the earth, Noah’s flood was a myth, Adam and Eve were not our real first parents, science is more authoritative than scripture and prophets, and a host of other progressive viewpoints that they are trying to foist onto the church through their media outlets (the cartel), regardless of what the scriptures and prophets have had to say on these issues in the past or currently.
We have video of Jonathan’s presentations at our Expo and am confident that at no time did Jonathan make any claim that those who disagree are apostates, contrary to your personal notes, which only means that this how YOU took his comments.
Good to hear from you again! I’m grateful not to be called a wolf in sheep’s clothing again as in one of your earlier articles. When we talk of censorship, we’re not usually talking about being denied the ability to make comments on some blog (although that has repeatedly happened with others of the citation cartel, such as Meridian Magazine), but rather that our research has been denied the opportunity to respond to and address attacks, to be offered opportunities for corroboration, to present our findings to interested parties and have open dialogue and discussion without malice and derision. The Meso theorists have continually attacked us using their citation cartel to misinform, mislead and malign us in every conceivable way, including even attempting to have presentations cancelled because they disagree. Their website are bristling with anti-Heartland attack articles. We have, until more recently, resisted doing the same. You still won’t find anti-Meso articles on our primary website at http://www.BookofMormonEvidence.org. We had hoped for ‘behind the scenes’ dialogue with the Mesoamerica theorists, but they have refused in nearly every instance, so we’ve had to inform folks seperately. I wish we could all work together and that BOMC would actually live up to it’s claimed neutrality, but thus far they are simply FARMS 2.0 with more funding and over half of the No-Wise articles are poorly disguised Meso promo peices. There isn’t a single No-Wise that honestly discusses any other theories, to my knowledge. Why would they? They are run by those who started FARMS, BMAF and other organizations organized specifically to promote the Meso theory to the church.
We say simply, allow folks to look at all sides of the argument openly and freely and then let them do as we are taught in the church… ask the Lord! Whether or not the church has an official position, there is only one truth and the Lord knows what it is and if we are willing to humbly submit ourselves and ask Him, we’ve been promised we can “know the truth of all things.” I’m not claiming that I or anyone else has all the truth, only that this is the best method to know what is truth and what is not. So that is why we simply ask folks to review all the pertinent information and take it to the Lord. I hope no one takes offense to this idea.
Oh, and was David O. McKay an evolutionist?
“The second thing from which the world needs to be saved is ignorance of its relationship to God. In their lack of knowledge of the existence of Deity, many men agnostically say, “I don’t know.” Others bombastically say, “There is no God; life came to earth by chance and man was developed through evolutionary processes of ten or fifteen millions or billions, of years.” Paul, James, Cephas, John, and Joseph Smith, and a host of others knew, and so have testified, that we are sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. He is our God, and Jesus Christ came to the world to prove that great truth. From the very beginning He established our relationship with Deity; namely, that we are sons and daughters of God.
Oh, what that truth means to young people, particularly, who, in moments of discouragement, wonder what they are going to do and how they are going to live, to be inspired with the idea that they are truly of divine origin! Being of divine heritage, there is no limit to their achievement.” (David O. McKay “The World Needs to Be Saved from Dominating Animal Instincts,” Instructor 97:181-82, June 1962)
For more on his viewpoints, see:
For more on the position of every prophet of this dispensation regarding evolution see:
So from what I just read, Rod, you apparently believe (sincerely, I don’t doubt):
That Ugo’s acceptance of evolution makes him unqualified to speak on the DNA and Book of Mormon (and also maybe an apostate based on “many quotations by latter-day prophets that could lead one to that conclusion”).
That the Church doesn’t have anyone else to go to for DNA issues and therefore they are forced to turn to Ugo as their only resort.
That, basically, everyone in Church leadership is naive about DNA and are obliged to take Ugo’s word for it, and that places him in an advantageous position to say pretty much what he wants without any one of them being able to confront him.
That, therefore, Ugo must think he’s smarter than the prophets.
Forgive me, Rod, but I must frankly say that I think the real problem isn’t that Ugo and other “citation cartel” intellectuals are infiltrating the Church, and hatching a grand scheme to undermine faith in the prophets, but rather that you have absolutely no credibility in the eyes of Church leaders, including the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve who hire faculty at BYU, hire scholars to work at the Church History Department, hire teachers for Seminaries and Institutes, and lend their encouragement to organizations such as Book of Mormon Central and FairMormon.
It’s time to face reality, Rod. If your arguments about DNA and the Book of Mormon held any sway in the eyes of Church leaders they would’ve asked you, not Ugo, to write the Gospel Topics essay. If your young earth creationism was anything other than harmful pseudo-science, then they’d hire you, not evolutionary biologists, to teach at BYU (or at the very least use your material as BYU science curriculum). If your early Mormon history had any validity, then they’d be citing you, not the “citation cartel,” in Church publications.
No matter how many conspiracies you cook up, no matter how much spin you put on it, these are the facts: the Church, the prophets and apostles, turn to the “citation cartel” and not to you and Jonathan Neville to lead the intellectual discussion around Book of Mormon topics and early Mormon history. They place their confidence in “M2C intellectuals” and evolutionists to teach at BYU and in S&I, to write Church curriculum, and to guide the Church’s youth in navigating issues related to history and science.
The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to take a serious look in the mirror and maybe address the fundamental problems that lie at the heart of your movement.
I get it, though. I understand your impulse to manage the cognitive dissonance you must feel every time Elder Holland praises Jack Welch or every time LDS.org links to BMC or FairMormon as a resource or every time the “citation cartel” gets more space in Church publications or every time there’s a new “M2C intellectual” hired on at BYU or at the Church History Department. All I’m saying is maybe it’s not because there’s a conspiracy to keep you out of the discussion. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because your scholarship really is just abject nonsense, and the Brethren recognize that relying on your pseudo-science is dangerous to the intellectual wellbeing of Church members (especially the Church’s youth).
Finally, Rod, on an unrelated note, I’ll thank you to refer to Book of Mormon Central’s articles by their proper names: KnoWhys. Your persistence in using Neville’s derisive “No-Wise” only proves your cynicism, and justifies Book of Mormon Central’s rightful skepticism of your pretended good intentions and feigned gestures of cooperation.
“I was told that you were paid that amount to write the essay by individuals at our retreat at Zermatt. ”
I was at that retreat, remember? You could have asked me and not someone else not involved with the project. There were like forty people and we were there for three days. How hard was for you to pop that question? True, you were gone for half of that time (and “I was told” by someone at the retreat that you were gone to attend one of your most lucrative events of your business year), but there were times in which you could have simply asked if that information was true. That was January 2017. I am hoping this is the first time you are bringing up this lie. The fact you did not ask me for this information could mean that 1) You think I would have lied to you; 2) You think that others would provide better information about myself and my professional experiences than I could; or 3) That you fear direct questioning and/or truth.
By the way, the updates to the Gospel Topics essay on Book of Mormon and DNA Studies were done right there at the retreat at Zermatt. A member of the Gospel Topic committee came there to meet with me and discuss what needed to be changed. You should probably ask yourself why he could have talked to others at that event, but he didn’t. And by the way, it is never too late to make changes that are SCIENTIFICALLY sound to that essay.
And as others have said in these comments, the fact that I teach (not preach) evolution or I leave the door open to it as part of how the world and man/woman came to be, does not in any way negate my beliefs in a Adam and Eve. Find a reference where I said that they never existed and I will give you every penny the Church gave me to write the material for the Gospel Topic essay (sarcasm). So, please Rod, stop putting words in my mouth. I was very clear about it in my presentations at Zermatt (which were prepared specifically with you in mind, but unfortunately, even though I came from across the world to present, something else was more important to you that day) and at the Fairmormon 2017 conference link I already sent you (which I am pretty sure you did not watch based on your comments on my position on evolution).
The Church latest statement on this issue is what I take to the heart and my thoughts are very much in line with it https://www.lds.org/new-era/2016/10/to-the-point/what-does-the-church-believe-about-evolution?lang=eng: “Though the details of what happened on earth before Adam and Eve, including how their bodies were created, have not been revealed, our teachings regarding man’s origin are clear and come from revelation.” You see, there are two origins of man, a physical (no revelation about it) and a spiritual (revelations given about it). Two distinct events. Two different processes. One revealed, the other still in open to discussion. This is what the LDS Church believe. This is what I believe.
Mr. Meldrum, your quote from President McKay is very revealing, not because it proves him to be a young-earth creationist like yourself – it doesn’t – but because it demonstrates the false dichotomy at the core of your arguments. It seems that from your perspective, Latter-day Saints must either a) accept a rigidly literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis as a peer-reviewed scientific treatise, or b) reject God altogether, Richard Dawkins-like, and embrace a cold, uncaring universe filled with “apes and slime” and not much else.
It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. There is a vast middle ground between those two extremes that has apparently escaped your notice, which is unfortunate, as it’s one in which the vast majority of Latter-day Saints currently reside, including living prophets and apostles. It is entirely possible, for instance, to believe that God is the architect of all creation and that he accomplished many of his purposes by means of evolutionary biology. It is also possible and, indeed, probable, that Ugo Perego and the rest of the “citation cartel” and “M2C mesomaniacs” have somehow found a way to reconcile essential gospel principles, such as Adam and Eve as our first parents, with sound scientific understanding.
It is also possible, and, indeed, extraordinarily likely, that if you are on one side and the unanimous consensus of Church-approved statements, scholars, and Church-sponsored educational institutions all overseen by the living First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are on the other, it is you, not they, who are on the wrong side.
I know and support Rod and Jonathan. They are wonderful men who love the Lord and have some wonderful research. I know they don’t seek for being recognized and referenced by the Church. They simply want to be heard. They and I fully understand the Church says they are neutral. I simply feel they are not being listened to. Their research may not be peer reviewed as you mention, but it is reviewed by many who love it.
Even though the Mesoamerican theory has been around for all of my life and not seemingly promoted, it has been promoted in art, displays, and curriculum ever since I was a young boy. I have no anger at the Church for any reason. I love the Leaders with all my heart and will follow them as a faithful member of the true Church. I have to say the biggest influence in my life for my love of the Book of Mormon when I was young, is the awesome pictures in my 1972 or so bright blue Book of Mormon. I would be bored to death in Church without being able to see my heroes Nephi, Samuel and others. The pictures of the pyramids and that Nephite coin were always a huge part of my love of that book. I spent hours and hours with the FARM’s articles and loved especially the ones with Hugh Nibley. I ate drank and slept to find the place of my heroes in Central America. The only thing I ever had a question about was, “How did Mormon get all those plates from New York to Central America?”
After 30 years of no satisfaction with the answers, I said to myself, “the Lord can do anything, and he provided a way for those plates to be moved.” I was satisfied with that feeling I had and continued to look for the place of my heroes in Central America. Why was I only looking in Central America? Because my wonderful 1972 or so blue book said that is where it is, so I kept looking. I studied John Pratt, Sydney B. Sperry, Talmadge, Widstoe, LeGrande Richards, Alvin Dyer, Skousen and many more and still no additional answers so I was content believing in my theory about the Lord helping Moroni move the plates. No problem, I loved the Book of Mormon as much then as I do now, but I kept looking for the place of my heroes because that was important to me personally. Knowing where the Savior was born and the place that Abraham was to sacrifice his son, was solid footing for me to know them and understand their lives better. I still wanted to know where my Book of Mormon heroes lived, but the Church was neutral and that was fine, but I continued to look in Central America.
All the scholars were digging and writing about Mesoamerica but even they were not able to find answers it seemed to me. They found many things, but not the big question for me, the exact location of my heroes. That created in me to have an ever greater desire to know for sure. I read FARMS and the Maxwell Institute, and they continued to pursue to find where in Central America the Book of Mormon events happened and I was satisfied they would.
In all my life from age 19 just before my mission, to age 52, I kept looking for my heroes. I never questioned the Brethren or the Church, but I kept looking where they felt was the best choice which in my opinion then it seemed that all anyone ever talked about was Mesoamerica and so I went along looking with them. Those pyramids and artifacts convinced me it HAD TO BE in Mesoamerica somewhere.
It wasn’t until 2011 I met Rod Meldrum at the Joseph Smith Building as I was showcasing Arnold Friberg Art and giving away free magazines with all of Arnold Friberg’s amazing never before seen sketches. After Arnold passed away I had a friend able to find in his studio over 300 sketches of his original art that he used to create those famous paintings that we all know about. I loved Friberg and still do. As I learned the “seagull” in his famous painting of Lehi arriving in the Promised Land was really a bird of Central America, and I thought that was really cool. I saw Samuel on that Mesoamerican wall preaching and loved that it was somewhere close to where Samuel probably lived. That made me look harder and deeper as to where exactly did Nephi and Samuel live? What exact city etc. I was anxious to eventually find it. Then one day in 2011 Rod was showing me his book, “Exploring the Book of Mormon in America’s Heartland.” I told him events of the book of Mormon couldn’t have happened in the United States as there were no pyramids and artifacts in the United States like all those pictures of Friberg’s. He began telling me about “mounds.” He shared with me about them and I was dumbfounded to ask him, “What is a mound?” I had never in 52 years heard of that term and I asked Rod. “What is a mound?” He told me and I wasn’t really listening as I knew Central America is where the Church taught me in that little blue book that the events happened in Mesoamerica. I did however go home and began searching on the internet what a mound was. I was amazed and flabbergasted. I saw a map by Cyrus Thomas from 1894 that showed hundreds of thousands of mounds all over the United States and I was amazed. Why had I never heard about this? Then I came upon the Zelph story and Joseph’s letter to Emma and the Wentworth letter and a few years later I read Letter VII on the Joseph Smith Papers website. I began to come alive and feel more than ever that my heroes all along were right here in the United States of America. I said over and over, “well of course this is the Promised Land that Pres Kimball and Pres Benson and Pres Romney spoke about.”
I began absorbed in my learning more and I went on a 3-year journey all by myself as I came to believe that my heroes lived right here close to where I lived. It was awesome. I became even more enamored with the Book of Mormon. I couldn’t believe that I knew it was true from the spirit all my life, but now I also knew through personal self-discoveries, archaeology, science, reading and searching there was secondary evidences of the Book of Mormon all around me. The door was opened, and I firmly began believing in the possibilities of the Heartland Theory. It just felt right. It just made sense. I am not a scholar and have no degree, but I’m a simple middle-class man who loves the Lord. I didn’t need to know all the scholarly proof of anything, I believed in my heart that the Book of Mormon events probably happened right here in North America.
I know the Brethren of the Church take a neutral position on the geography of the Book of Mormon. There are many CES instructors and other BYU professors that teach the Two Cumorah theory or Mesoamerican theory, and they say a second Hill Cumorah exists somewhere in Mexico, but they aren’t sure where exactly. I believe there is only one Hill Cumorah now as it makes absolute sense to me.
For you and I Steve to take a neutral stand is not required. The Lord told us to read and study, and in the promise to Moroni, He said we may know the truth of ALL things, and that could include knowing the location of the Book of Mormon events. I believe knowledge of the Spirit and of the head, are both important in learning truth. I used to believe in the Mesoamerican theory, but after much research I believe the Heartland theory just makes so much more sense.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland shared the following about heart and head learning. “Truly rock-ribbed faith and uncompromised conviction comes with its most complete power when it engages our head as well as our heart… truth borne by the Holy Spirit comes with, in effect, two manifestations, two witnesses if you will—the force of fact as well as the force of feeling… I believe God intends us to find and use the evidence He has given—reasons, if you will—which affirm the truthfulness of His work…” Jeffrey R. Holland The Greatness of Evidence Aug 2017
I feel that the location of most Book of Mormon events happened in the United States of America. I also believe there are many wonderful Lamanites in Central America and South America. I’ve heard many prophets at Temple dedications mention the seed of Lehi in south America which I also believe. The Book of Mormon contains a very small portion of the Nephites and Lamanites lives. I’m sure many Lamanites and Nephites left the heartland and lived and inter mingled with others all over North and South America which I would call the hinterlands.
I will support and follow the Brethren where ever they say events of the Book of Mormon are located, but what if they never tell us and we find out it was our duty as Latter-day Saints to find this out on our own? I would just love for all to consider a North American setting for the Book of Mormon. I believed as many others did about two Cumorah’s for many years But, with new information in the Joseph Smith Papers including the Zelph story, Letter VII, Joseph’s letter to Emma in 1834, and more, I am so excited about the new knowledge the Lord is sending us today to strengthen our testimonies. Or maybe I should say the new knowledge I am discovering. I know that information was available previously in Church History, but I had never really read it before.
Steve, I appreciate the opportunity to share this with you on your blog. I have nothing but love for all the scholars and educators that I have learned from about Mesoamerica in my life, and I love Jonathan Neville, Rod Meldrum, Wayne May, and many more with and without degrees who believe in the Heartland theory. These are people who love the Lord and love sharing what they know to be true with all.
It is now up to us to not shut down speech as those in the Universities seem to be doing, but let’s have a dialogue. Both sides with a mission to find truth. We can’t do that by saying so and so is a fraud or that guy doesn’t know anything. We must share in an open forum with each other. Look, we all love the Lord and the Book of Mormon. I am grateful that you and Daniel Peterson and Ugo, and Mr. Sorensen etc all love the Lord as well, and I respect you for sharing your knowledge with others. That’s why I ask you Mr. Smoot, let’s have an open dialogue with each other. Speaking just on blogs or not wanting to speak to someone because he disagrees is not the answer. Please I ask you again to allow me to arrange an opportunity for us to speak, both about Mesoamerica and the Heartland.
I know Rod and Jonathan aren’t mad and vindictive because the Church seems to listen to the scholars and not to them. They just feel it is unfair as I do, that you and your friends won’t allow an honest dialogue. That you won’t even consider the possibility that events of the Book of Mormon may have happened in the United States. It’s time for all of us to stop shouting at each other and begin sharing and respecting each other, that is my humble desire. Thanks for listening.
I appreciate you sharing your personal experiences and devotion for the Book of Mormon. I have no doubt that you are sincere and well-meaning.
However, what I and others in these comments are protesting is not the sincerity of Heartland proponents.
Rather, we are specifically objecting to the way individuals like Jonathan Neville are publicly demonizing people they disagree with. Neville especially is claiming that people who disagree with him over matters related to Book of Mormon geography (for instance, the authoritativeness of Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII) are committing acts of apostasy, leading people out of the Church, diminishing faith in the prophets, and undermining the very Book of Mormon itself. In his public works he has unhesitatingly called people like me “unbelievers” who are attempting to get people to “disbelieve the prophets” because I don’t accept his historical analysis.
That is why I have pushed back so emphatically. I will no longer tolerate him and others demonizing me and my friends over differences of opinion in matters related to Book of Mormon geography. Neville has abused, slandered, mocked, and ridiculed me and my friends for far too long. Nobody is laughing at what he pretends are innocent little jokes when he compares us to dictatorial tyrants, or when he says we’re conspiring to get people to disavow the prophets, or when he says we’ve done more than anti-Mormons to harm the Book of Mormon, or that we’re a Fifth Column attempting to damage the Church from within (per the testimony of Mr. Foster which I am currently attempting to verify). And the reason we’re not laughing isn’t because we’re humourless, but because we have experienced firsthand the repercussions of his mockery and slander (in the form of further calumnies directed at us by his followers).
So my tolerance for Heartlanderism has dried up. As I have said many times now, and I’ll say again, that I personally do not harbor any bad will against those who accept Heartlanderism. I wish they wouldn’t, because I think it is an entirely bogus system, as I made clear in my post above, but I don’t begrudge anyone who personally accepts it.
But I will resist it at every turn so long as it promotes fraudulent arguments, and so long as its chief partisans publicly demonize their ideological opponents as unbelieving apostates while hypocritically carrying themselves about with an absurd self-righteous moral indignation.
Again I say if the Church is neutral, which I know they are and I love the Church, why aren’t you open to look at the other side. Why won’t the Church ask you to look at the other side? Maybe they have asked you, but have you really looked or are you just focused on Central America because that’s what you have always done? I know they trust you and those who they hire, but there are many saints like me who have very valid opinions. I could give you many.
One small example. The Nephites either practiced the Law of Moses in Central America or the United States. I don’t see any other place possible. That doesn’t mean there is no other place possible, but either Central America or the land we now call the United States makes a most plausible possibility. I have found all types of possibilities that the land that we now call the United States had sheep, and goats, and wine, etc necessary for the Law of Moses. That just makes sense. It doesn’t make sense for substitution etc. Let common sense have a place in the discussion, not just scholarly evidence. There is evidence that horses and mastodons and elephants existed in the land we now call the United States because I have looked hard and there is an amazing amount of non-mormon evidences for these things. Common sense and an open mind is the best thing. Be willing to look at it. Forget past offenses with Rod and Jonathan, they are just like you, human and capable of mistakes. Let’s forgive and move forward. Open a discussion so we can find truth and then report that collaborated proof as we see it to the Church for them to consider, not to prove who is right and who is wrong.
When you say “I think it is an entirely bogus system”, as a scholar and scientist wanting to see all sides, you have closed the door. Both sides have called each other by various names but that isn’t the issue. What is truth, and how can we support each other in finding it? The true disciples will forgive and desire to have an open dialogue. The key is to open that door. Have you or any colleagues had a recent dialogue with a hearlander, in a neutral forum and where the audience can decide? That could be very revealing to all. I think you are wrong to not have that forum and I can make that happen. Thanks for listening. This will be my last comment on your blog, as I have said my piece. I look forward to you or any others who believe in the Mesoamerican theory to contact me to begin that discussion.
There is a world of difference between showing epistemic humility and openness in the face of lingering questions versus merely accepting any competing theory for the sake of being “open-minded”. I am open to the Mesoamerican theory being wrong. For goodness sake I have personally listened to Meldrum make his case for his theory. I have personally attended at least one of Neville’s lectures (back at the 2016 FIRM Expo, which I attended with a friend of mine). And for a time I thought he may have had something. I was, for a time, open to him being right.
But with subsequent study I saw more and more fundamentally compromising problems with his theory.
So please do not mistake my rejection of Meldrum’s fallacious arguments specifically with a lack of open-mindedness on my part. If I had refused in principle to even countenance Meldrum’s arguments, then you might be able to say I’m not open-minded. But as it is, I gave him an honest chance to win me over when I was younger, and he blew it spectacularly with his reliance on forged artifacts, his science-denialism, his scriptural fundamentalism, and his conspiratorial thinking.
So at this point, I am not open to Meldrum’s Heartland model any more than I am open to the possibility that the earth is flat. They are both, to use William James’ phrase, dead options to me for basically the same reasons. Because I see Meldrum refusing to address the fundamental errors many have pointed out to him, and instead have seen him double down on his arguments, I cannot remain open to his theory.
And so I will look elsewhere to explain the geography of the Book of Mormon other than Meldrum’s Heartland theory, specifically. So far, the theory that best satisfies my personal reading of the Book of Mormon and my assessment of the relevant historical evidence is, more or less, John Sorenson’s theory.
And by the way, my father believes the Book of Mormon took place in Western New York and near the Great Lakes of the American upper-Midwest. He and I are able to peaceably disagree over these matters while enjoying open debate and discussion. Why? Because, and I cannot emphasize this enough, my father has never accused or even insinuated that I am an apostate for not accepting his theory.
After reading the above comments, the baseless claims by several prominent Heartlanders, seeing various personalities engage with one another, and reviewing much literature from the Heartlander movement, I can’t help but find Rod Meldrum to be akin to an Alex Jones of Mormonism, with the FIRM Foundation being InfoWars, respectively.
I am a historian (in training) of religion and science, particularly the role of interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis in creationism, opposition to evolution, and fundamentalism. I also have formal graduate schooling in ancient Near East and Semitic/Old Testament languages, and have a book under contract about Genesis chapter 1.
Heartlanderism both fascinates and frightens me in the way it unwittingly apes (ha!) the intellectual and interpretive missteps made by certain branches of Protestantism in the last 150 years. For all their claims of being true to Mormon prophets, the Heatlanders are surprisingly Protestant. I see them as the Ken Ham of Mormonism, appropriating “science” while denying it at the same time.
Heartlanderism as evidenced by Meldrum and Neville here is like a version of fundamentalist evangelicalism. It assumes a number of things about scripture and prophets but never defends, addresses or even acknowledges those assumptions (to my knowledge. I have more pressing things to read, with my comprehensive exams coming, but Steve suggested I drop by and leave a comment.) For example, they assume that traditional face-value readings of scripture equate to purely divine knowledge about the past. Any other views are written off as faithless capitulations to godless academia. It is both simple and simplistic.
A few minor points: the claim is that David O. McKay opposed evolution (and, implicitly, would support Heartland claims against BYU teaching it.) I’ve written two posts on the evidence about this, presented at the Mormon History Assocation about it this summer, and strongly disagree.
The claim is made that you must choose between the prophets and the scholars. Perhaps, but in this case, it seems the prophets are quite supportive of those very same scholars that Meldrum/Neville claim (usually implicitly, but explicitly above) are in apostasy for accepting evolution.
Much of their argumentation is based on the idea that prophets only speak divine facts. This is a highly problematic claim. Again, to go to evolution as the example, in my studies I have found no Presidents of the Church claiming revelation on the issue of evolution, and only one Apostle. And in that case, the question he received a positive answer to was “is the Bible the word of God.” He took that to mean evolution was false, which brings us back to the question of interpretation and assumptions, both around scripture and the nature of prophetic knowledge.
There are numerous Jewish, Catholic, and Evangelical Biblical scholars who accept evolution and would reject Heartlander interpretations of Genesis; the Evangelical category is particularly important because they tend to hold scripture to an even higher standard than Mormons, i.e. inerrancy and such, a “high” view of scripture. Does Heartlanderism acknowledge these scholars or their arguments? No. Do they acknowledge or wrestle with past LDS history that cuts against them? No.
I have written extensively about evolution, interpretation, Genesis, prophetic knowledge etc, and presented them in academic and popular conferences: MHA, the Sperry Symposium, the Maxwell Institute Summer Seminar, the FAIR Conference, UVU Mormon Studies conference, and so on. I’m speaking about text, interpretation, and creation in Moses and Abraham at the Joseph Smith Papers Conference in October. There is lots of good information out there the Heartlanders don’t (or won’t) deal with. My advice to the lurker is, seek out a better quality of information.
For my evolution links, see http://www.patheos.com/blogs/benjaminthescribe/category/evolution/
For Genesis, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/benjaminthescribe/category/genesis/
And for papers/podcasts etc., http://www.patheos.com/blogs/benjaminthescribe/multimedia-and-papers/
Hi again Stephen,
I find it particularly unhelpful when you take something I or others write, then put your own spin on it to create a straw man argument and then claim that is my position. FAIR did this in their first attack articles against me, saying that while I may not have actually said such-and-such, I MEANT to say it. This is typical fare from my experience thus far.
So to clarify…
Where in my post did I say anything about Ugo’s not being qualified to speak on DNA and BofM? I didn’t write anything even close to this, so where in your imagination did you come up with that?
Where in my post did I make any claim that Ugo was a last resort? I didn’t. I have no problem with the church going to Ugo, but I think when doing so Ugo has an obligation to let the brethren know of his belief that Adam and Eve weren’t humanities first parents and that the four creation accounts we’ve been given in the scriptures and temple are wrong, along with every prophet of this dispensation who have repeatedly disavowed evolution.
Not everyone in church leadership is naive about DNA issues, but they came to Ugo because he has been trained in the ministry of genetics and is a respected published author of several journal articles. I doubt that anyone in the committee would feel comfortable challenging Ugo in his field and probably didn’t realize that Ugo was including in the essay assumptions that undermine the teachings of the church regarding the age of mankind, Adam being the first, as recorded in scripture.
In matters of genetics, Ugo probably is more educated in the theories associated with genetics than are the prophets. But Ugo must realize that when there are discrepancies between the prophets and constantly changing science, that it would probably be best to consider the words of the prophets more authoritative than the theories of men, of which the scriptures warn of numerous times.
How do you presume to know that I and our Heartland research has no credibility in the eyes of Church leadership? Have you spoken to all of them? Does the 1st Presidency pour over every job application in the hiring process of BYU or the Church History department or every Seminary and Institute teacher as you are suggesting?
I think it’s time that you, Stephen face reality…
If the brethren were so convinced of the Mesoamerica theory that these intellectuals have been peddling for so many years, maybe you could answer why the church officially removed all references to Mesoamerica from all copies of the Book of Mormon, from every manual and teaching guide and even held high-level meetings specifically to tell CES and Seminary and Institute administrators that they were no longer to do any promotion of Mesoamerica any longer in their classes?
Why have several temples had all the Mesoamerica depicting artwork removed?
Why isn’t the church going to have a single Mayan pyramid in any of it’s new Book of Mormon videos if they are so convinced by the scholars that this is where it all took place?
Why, does the latest film the church produced regarding the Book of Mormon, Scriptures Legacy, show depictions of Christ coming down onto earth mounds with ramps as found in North America rather than stone pyramids with steps as found in Mesoamerica?
Why did President Holland in his talk at Jack Welch’s self-aggrandizing chiasmus party specifically point out that “Some of the agencies, departments, institutes, and scholars doing such work are an institutional part of and integral to BYU… Other groups and like-minded colleagues are not part of the university per se, but may be nearby or spread out around the church. Our heartfelt thanks go to all of you wherever you are…” Could it be possible that Elder Holland had Heartlanders in mind when talking about others who are doing Book of Mormon research but are not part of BYU?
Then Elder Holland quotes from non-other than Oliver Cowdrey, you know, the guy you and your citation cartel just threw under the bus in your NO-Wise article, telling the church membership that he, along with Joseph and many others were just expressing their foolish opinions on such matters as Cumorah? You need to call Elder Holland and tell him to stop quoting Cowdrey because according to your No-Wise article, Cowdrey’s words can’t be trusted. And why can’t Cowdrey’s words be trusted? Because he single-handedly dismantled your pet theory in the letters that he wrote with the help of Joseph and Joseph then had them printed time and again. Your Oliver Cowdrey hit piece was intentionally designed to separate Oliver’s words away from Joseph Smith so that you could then attack him personally and proclaim him to be just another in a long line of useful idiots who were just expressing their bad opinions. Don’t you see that by doing so you are also casting doubt on every other writing of Oliver, including his testimony as one of the three witnesses? And all this just to save your precious Mesoamerica theory, which you know would be utterly dismantled if Oliver and Joseph are right about the Hill Cumorah being in New York!
Where has any prophet in this dispensation – or for that matter at any time in human history – proclaimed that the earth was NOT created in the manner outlined in the scriptures? If not, then how is it you think that such a position is “harmful pseudo-science” when no prophet has declared it false?
Why would BYU hire someone to teach the theories of evolutionary biology who has no formal training in evolutionary biology, such as myself, if BYU needs to remain accredited by the US Dept of Education?
Can you point me to any verifiable statement by any prophet or scripture that proclaims that a belief in evolution is preferable to a belief in scriptural creation within the church? I can show you dozens, if not hundreds of quotes from prophets specifically denouncing evolution as being incompatible with the doctrines of the gospel and a threat to faith.
Our early Mormon history has been validated by the actual histories themselves. Jonathan Neville has made several profound finds that even Church historians have said are very significant. The origins of the Mesoamerica theories originating from three early apostates of the church (Benjamin Winchester, John Page and William Smith) and from the RLDS church should give serious pause to those who want to continue their promotion. They are literally promoting the theories of apostates and splinter groups, not what Joseph Smith said, wrote and by his actions demonstrated, that he understood the Book of Mormon to have happened in America’s Heartland.
So are you saying that when the leadership of the Church have questions on Book of Mormon topics, that rather than turning to the scriptures and prophets and revelation, they “turn to the ‘citation cartel'” for answers? Really? After all the examples of Church leadership DISAVOWING themselves from the Meso theories, expunging all references to it and telling CES teachers to STOP promoting it, you somehow still think that they are fully dependant on you and your cartel to provide them answers? I can hardly think of a more appalling and arrogant thing you could say.
Are you even aware that because of Jonathan’s research the Church History Museum updated some of its displays just a few weeks ago regarding the first missionaries being called to go ‘unto the Lamanites’ because someone (probably a Meso adherent) had altered the wording of the revelations to undermine Joseph Smith’s use of the word “Lamanite” rather than “Indian?”
There are now many, many CES, Seminary and Institute and BYU employed members who are Heartlanders but follow the lead of the Church leaders in remaining neutral in teaching their classes. If you think that all CES employees are Mesomaniacs, you need to get out more. They aren’t.
Someday when the KnoWhy’s actually have some decent scholarship and follow the brethren’s lead of neutrality rather than the unabashed promotion of Mesomania, I will gladly call them KnoWhy’s. Until then, they are causing people to become less informed of the facts and truth so they are in reality No-Wise articles. Are you saying BMC would no longer be skeptical if I were to use their word for it? Doubtful.
We and others have tried to create a less hostile environment between the two camps, but BMC wouldn’t do it. We offered to have set up a truly neutral website where each side would provide their own best answers to Book of Mormon questions and Jack Welch/BMC refused to make any side-by-side comparison, even when they would be the ones to provide their best research and evidences. I wonder why? I will tell you why. The citation cartel is deathly afraid of any such comparison because they know that they would lose that battle. So, for now, they are content to continue quoting each other (hence the term ‘citation cartel’), upholding the crumbling Meso theories, proclaiming that prophets and scriptures are wrong and they, with their science are right and they can get away with it, for now, because they are protected from any honest scrutiny by the citation cartel charter members and associated media. It may take some more time, but eventually, this cartel, like all bad cartels, will be seen for what it is and dismantled. Much like the FARMS organization was dismantled by the Church and then nearly all of them fired from BYU’s Maxwell Institute, possibly because they decided to promote their personal Meso theories using sacred Church funds rather than follow the brethren’s position of neutrality. I can only hope that BMC will realize before its too late that they are still refusing to follow the brethren in their promotion of Mesomania rather than neutrality on BofM geography.
I had plans of responding to your latest comments point by point, Rod, until I got here at the very end:
Much like the FARMS organization was dismantled by the Church and then nearly all of them fired from BYU’s Maxwell Institute, possibly because they decided to promote their personal Meso theories using sacred Church funds rather than follow the brethren’s position of neutrality.
You have been told, repeatedly, by Daniel Peterson and others involved with the Maxwell Institute, that this is a lie. It’s a lie that Dan Peterson and others were fired because of their promotion of the Mesoamerican theory. You know this. You’ve been told this again and again, including on this very blog by Dan himself.
You’re also continuing to lie about Ugo’s views on evolution and Adam and Eve. So much so that he’s had to step in and respond to you once again.
It’s obvious that you are impenetrable to the truth. It’s also obvious that you have no qualms with perpetuating outright falsehoods which you’ve been specifically informed are falsehoods. All, I can only imagine, to continue selling your intellectual snake oil to unsuspecting victims.
I will not let my blog be platform to your falsehoods. So these are you last comments.
I will strongly warn people, in no uncertain terms, from here on out, that Rod Meldrum willingly and repeatedly lies about people and events, even after being corrected. He is not an honest man and should not be trusted in the things he says or sells.
“I can only hope that BMC will realize before its too late that they are still refusing to follow the brethren in their promotion of Mesomania rather than neutrality on BofM geography.”
Oh, and he’s also an unabashed hypocrite.
There is, so far as I’m aware, not a single shred of evidence indicating that my expulsion from the Maxwell Institute had even the slightest connection with my failure to accept your geographical model for the Book of Mormon.
Not one shred. Nothing.
This has been pointed out to you several times, and not just here.
Please stop making this baseless claim.
I didn’t say that the quote from President McKay proves he is a young-earth creationist, but I think it is pretty clear that he wasn’t an evolutionist either, which was the point.
I am very much aware of the nuances of intellectuals in the church massaging the theory of evolution to their own liking by saying that God directed the evolutionary process. According to main-stream evolution, this is complete pseudo-science as well! How many non-LDS evolutionary biologists do you know accept this idea as anything more than poppy-cock? If you are going to go ‘all in’ for science then go ‘all in’ and admit that there is no God at all, as the vast majority (something on the order of 95% of their leadership being atheists) believe there is no such thing as God. If you don’t agree with them, then you are practicing pseudoscience yourself. I believe the scriptures are true and generally accurate, as far as they have been translated correctly. If that makes me a pseudoscientist, then so be it. I’d rather be right with God and called names by those in the great and spacious building, than be one of those pointing the finger at believers and laughing and mocking. Until a prophet tells us otherwise, I am going to continue in my belief that the scriptures are the Word of God and His prophets are correct, even if that flies in the face of the atheist scientists with all their wonderful theories of men.
Yes, many scholars within the church have reconciled in their own minds the theory of evolution with the gospel, but think about this… which side of the equation do they question the most? The scriptural side or the science side? Most have done so by questioning, re-interpreting, or disregarding the scriptures in lieu of questioning the theory of evolution. In other words, they have more faith in their evolution theories than they do in the scriptures and prophets. When in conflict they don’t question evolution, they compromise their religion. They proclaim that it is the firmest fact of science, yet speciation has never been observed in the lab or in nature. That’s why is it a theory, rather than a natural law. Truly sound science will be compatible with true religion without having to compromise either.
Rod Meldrum wrote:
“How many non-LDS evolutionary biologists do you know accept [the] idea [that God directed the evolutionary process] as anything more than poppy-cock?”
Mr. Meldrum may or may not be aware of the BioLogos Foundation, an organization of Christian evolutionary biologists and other scholars who affirm the truths of scripture and human evolution. BioLogos was founded in 2006 by Dr. Francis Collins, then Director of the Human Genome Project, a convert from atheism to Christianity, and author of the book ‘The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.’
So, to answer to Mr. Meldrum’s question, there are many, and they publish regularly on their beliefs.
Apparently Rod Meldrum has been banished, and rightfully so, from responding here, but his latest reply to me with regard to going “all in” on science as opposed to religion illustrates the false dichotomy I pointed out in my previous comment. To say, for instance, that it is “pretty clear” that President McKay “wasn’t an evolutionist” is only to say that David O. wasn’t Richard Dawkins. Meldrum sees science and religion as competing enterprises, and he is incapable of imagining a circumstance where it is possible to believe in one without disbelieving the other. I would think most Latter-day Saints see science and religion as good-faith efforts to find truth, and all truth can be circumscribed into one great whole. I also think the ancients would be shocked at the presentist, literal ways young-earth creationists interpret scripture and view such as gross misreadings of their message.
Anyway, on this subject, it looks like I get the last word. Zing!
And finally a word for Stephen…
It would seem your primary issue with we Heartlanders is that we are ‘demonizing’ people we disagree with, and you are sick of it, right? Well, my friend, you should take a good hard look into the mirror because the entire reason why there is so much animosity between the Heartlanders and the Mesoamericanistas is precisely because WE were mercilessly attacked PUBLICLY over and over again by the citation cartel of FAIR, FARMS Review, MI and others and on many websites. We were the ones being described as apostates, wolves in sheep’s clothing, snake-oil salesmen, money-grubbing, untrue to the brethren and dire predictions were made that members of the church would be leaving in droves because of our research. We’ve been banned from their publications, websites, and blogs. Attempts have been made to silence and censor our research. Our attempts to meet with, to collaborate with and to explain our positions to the cartel have been met with contempt and indeed hostility.
The claim has been made that to do so only legitimizes us. Come on. With my book becoming two years ago the best-selling book on the subject in the church, with over 40,000 copies sold in the past 5 years (Sorenson’s Ancient American Setting book has sold, as I understand from him personal interview, about 25,000 copies in 35 years) along with dozens of other researchers and experts in many fields of expertise and with what is likely more people with Ph.D’s than those of the Meso persuasion, don’t you think that it’s time the cartel stops hiding behind such nonsense and recognizes that the Heartland movement is never ever going to go away and is every day becoming stronger and more widely accepted within the general membership and leadership of the church? Put your academic pride away and meet with us! We are really not the monsters you may think we are.
We have for many years now put up with this abuse and bullying and never responded in kind on our websites and blogs, but we did try to use the attacks to learn where we were wrong, to adjust our information, to clarify and hone and improve our core message. You have determined that the ONLY course of action is for us to abandon our core research, a part of which is that the Book of Mormon prophets prophesied of a ‘nation’ above all other nations, where the New Jerusalem would be built and the gospel would be restored, and we believe that nation to be the United States of America. This is not our playing on people’s patriotic notions, but rather our understanding of God’s words in scripture and we make no excuses for His words.
So like you, I will no longer tolerate you and the citation cartel to demonize me and the hundreds of thousands of fellow Heartlanders who simply want to share our message and let folks decide for themselves which they choose to believe in. That is why I am pushing back for the first time in several years. You and your cartel friends have, to put it into your words “abused, slandered, mocked, and ridiculed me and my friends for far too long. Nobody is laughing… because we have experienced firsthand the repercussions of his [your] mockery and slander (in the form of further calumnies directed at us by his [your] followers).”
My tolerance for Mesoamerica promoting organizations is this… I choose not to create more problems for the church by airing our dirty laundry for non-members and anti-Mormon’s to point to as evidence of schisms within the church. Thanks to a generous benefactor who accomplished the previously impossible task of bringing many Heartlanders and Mesoamericanists together for the first time, I have had the privilege of meeting most of the major players in the Mesoamerica research and find them, for the most part, to be very likable, indeed friendly, considerate and passionate faithful members of the church. In fact, a few of them came to my son’s funeral to show their compassionate support for me as a fellow brother in the church, even though we disagree on this one issue. I hope to repay their kindness in whatever way I can. Those who were involved signed an agreement never to bad-mouth or personally attack those on the other side again in public. We have tried to do this. If you read Jonathan’s posts he has tried to make it very clear that his posts are not directed at individuals personally but to the issues themselves. To that extent, we have tried to uphold this agreement. There have been some exceptions from your side, like I’m sure there have been on the Heartland side, but none of us on the Heartland team have ever, to my knowledge come out and called you and those who espouse the Meso theories frauds. That is a first for either side, and Stephen, you, alone, are responsible for it.
I have never called any Mesoamerican proponent an apostate to my knowledge. I don’t even think in those terms when it comes to Book of Mormon geography, but I am adamant about upholding what I believe are the fundamental beliefs I was raised with through Seminary, Institute, mission, and service in the church.
So to come full circle… like you I will resist your every turn so long as you continue to demonize we Heartlanders publicly and promote “fraudulent” arguments such as:
Guatemala is the “nation above all other nations” and the Promised Land of the Book of Mormon. Horses are tapirs. Hill Cumorah isn’t in New York. Adam and Eve were not created in the image of God and placed upon the earth, but rather evolved from apes and slime. Joseph Smith was wrong about his sending missionaries unto the “Lamanites” in NY, OH and MO. The Nephites sacrificed rats instead of lambs since no sheep existed in Mesoamerica during BofM timeframes. Only a volcanic eruption can be the cause of the 3rd Nephi destructions, even though volcanoes are never mentioned in the text. Oliver Cowdrey and Joseph Smith were wrong about the final battles occurring at the Hill Cumorah in New York. The Lord didn’t mean anything by revealing to Joseph to build “Zarahemla” across from Nauvoo (D&C 125:3). Mayan glyphs are tantamount to Hebrew or Egyptian writing. Joseph was confused when he wrote of barley, wheat and grapes as being in the BofM since these plants weren’t known to the Mayan culture in Mesoamerica. I could literally go on with this for 40 pages, but I won’t. These were just a few examples.
Like you, Stephen, I don’t begrude anyone who has bought into the Mesoamerica theories. I too hold no animosity towards anyone on the Mesoamerica team. In fact, I honestly wish I could have more personal relationships with several of them. I respect their work and am trying to open new dialogues or at least not bad-mouth anyone personally as has been done to me by a few, but by no means most, of the citation cartel. In general, I’ve felt that the past two years have been relatively quiet on the front lines of Book of Mormon geography. Each side has for the most part simply tried to promote their theory as best they can without getting personal. I think this is good policy for everyone involved. I have no problem with others showing me where they think we are wrong and working with us to try to resolve it, but I think it should be done in person, privately or in small groups where both sides can be given open dialogue and both pro’s and con’s evaluated, not simply attacked without being given an opportunity to defend why we feel that way. Up to this point we have been denied access to such dialogue, including yourself. It would seem that to you and the citation cartel the ONLY option is for us to abandon our core issues. This I’m willing to do if it can be shown that we are wrong and that the argument against it is consistent with the gospel, the scriptures, and the prophets. I’m not convinced that science has everything right, especially when it seems to me to contradict the basic tenets of the gospel.
I don’t consider you, Ugo, Jack, or anyone on the Mesoamerica team apostates either for your views on the Book of Mormon, evolution, or old-earth uniformitarianism. I consider each of us to be faithful members of the church who just happen to look at things differently and are passionately trying to share our ideas with others.
If Christ were to call all of us into a meeting with him to discuss this, how would we act? Would we call each other names? What would Christ have us do? With that thought in mind let us determine to do as we would do if HE were arbitrating the entire thing. Maybe then we could see each other as I do… brethren who are on the same team, but arguing over which play to call, but while we argue Satan’s opposing team is taking the ball down the field.
If BMC is going to follow the brethren and be neutral on issues of geography, then why not invite collaboration between us? Wouldn’t we both benefit from some real peer review, wherein even opposing positions are considered and allowed to contribute to the discussion? When “peer review” is nothing more than a handful of people who have decided to form a consensus by approving everything the others put out without challenging and questioning it, is that really healthy for the institution and would anyone really consider it legitimate peer review? As faithful members couldn’t we be more effective if we would actually work together rather than fight against one another?
And finally, consider the scripture that says… “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.”
Let’s get on the road to becoming “one.”
I’ve been following this conversation with some interest, and honestly I am still having a hard time understanding why some people’s testimonies are so fragile.
Is your testimony of Oliver Cowdrey, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon really so delicate that it simply cannot stand if Cumorah is not in New York? All falls apart if Oliver Cowdrey is mistaken about Cumorah? Reading the comments of Neville and Meldrum, it’s hard not to think that, for them, EVERYTHING hinges on Oliver being right.
The fact is, Oliver’s human. Joseph’s human. It absolutely does not cast any doubt on Oliver’s testimony of first hand experiences—such as witnessing the translation as a scribe, or seeing the plates as revealed by an angel—to suggest he misidentified the hill Cumorah. Have you never known a person to be right about one thing and wrong about another? No historian expects a document to be 100% accurate or 100% false.
Neville’s an attorney, so he really ought to understand that not all testimony is created equal. He should recognize the difference between when Oliver is providing direct testimony from his own experience, when he is relaying information second-hand, and when he is simply speculating. Oliver obviously could have no first-hand knowledge of where the final battles of the Nephites took place (he clearly was not there when it happened), and he claimed no second-hand knowledge on the topic either. Speculating about possible visions/revelations or non-extant historical documents that might have been his source has very low evidential value. We need evidence, and without it Oliver’s remarks about Cumorah are no better than hearsay—but that does not mean his first-hand testimony still isn’t valuable.
I personally have no problem believing in Joseph Smith as a prophet, Oliver as scribe, witness, and dutiful assistant to Joseph, and the Book of Mormon as both the word of God and ancient history, even while seeing that Joseph and Oliver were sometimes wrong about the Book of Mormon. If your testimony is too fragile to abide that thought, then you probably ought to look deep into your own spiritual well-being and uproot and rebuild on a more firm spiritual foundation before taking a foray into more speculative matters like Book of Mormon geography.
“Much like the FARMS organization was dismantled by the Church and then nearly all of them fired from BYU’s Maxwell Institute, possibly because they decided to promote their personal Meso theories using sacred Church funds rather than follow the brethren’s position of neutrality.”
This is not true. You have been told repeatedly that this is not true. Dan Peterson has again asked you to please stop repeating this falsehood. Your comment shows that you know nothing about this. I do. I was there before Dan Peterson left the Maxwell Institute and for several years afterward until at my own volition I decided to move to Book of Mormon Central.
Unlike you I was intimately involved as an observer of what went on there and it had absolutely nothing do with anything which was published on Book of Mormon geography. You will recall that I published not one but two essays in the FARMS Review expressing serious concerns about your book Prophecies and promises in the FARMS Review. Dan Peterson has actually published very little on the question of Book of Mormon geography during his time as editor, but I did. If there was a problem with what I had published, why was I not removed from the staff of the Maxwell Institute?
The truly astonishing thing is that Rod Meldrum is still peddling the same misinterpretations, misreadings, conspiracy theories, and outright falsehoods that he did back in July 2011 — seven years ago — when he challenged Gregory Smith’s review of his work. Read their email exchange and see for yourself how little has changed in his approach:
Part 1: http://bmaf.org/node/367
Part 2: http://bmaf.org/node/360
Well at least everyone reading can now see how much Rod Meldrum sounds like a broken record.
Even after many people explain to him how belief in evolution is not in conflict with LDS theology, he still says things like “Ugo has an obligation to let the brethren know of his belief that Adam and Eve weren’t humanities first parents and that the four creation accounts we’ve been given in the scriptures and temple are wrong, along with every prophet of this dispensation who have repeatedly disavowed evolution.”
In fact it was explained to Rod in detail at the 2018 Heaven & Earth Conference at UVU why the creation accounts are read the way the are today by many fundamentalist Christians, why that reading is incorrect, and how viewing the the creation accounts with this context shows how there are no problems with them and evolution. I was there and I saw that Rod was there during that presentation (“The Scientific Deformation and Reformation of Genesis: How Science Messed It Up But Also Fixes It”).
Even after Ugo explains to Rod in detail in his comments above how the Gospel Topics Essay’s comment in relation to DNA dating before Adam was not a problem with anyone in the Church but rather with the way a subset of the membership of the Church might receive and react to it, he still for some strange reason says he thinks the committee “probably didn’t realize that Ugo was including in the essay assumptions that undermine the teachings of the church regarding the age of mankind, Adam being the first, as recorded in scripture.”
Just in the comments above it has been explained to Rod how there are not discrepancies between evolution and the prophets, yet he somehow can still write things like: “Ugo must realize that when there are discrepancies between the prophets and constantly changing science, that it would probably be best to consider the words of the prophets more authoritative than the theories of men, of which the scriptures warn of numerous times.”
“How do you presume to know that I and our Heartland research has no credibility in the eyes of Church leadership?”
I think the fact that the Church decided to include organizations like Fair, BMC, and the Interpreter Foundation as Additional Resources but did not include any heartland related material makes it a fair presumption.(https://www.lds.org/si/objective/doctrinal-mastery/gospel-sources?lang=eng).
(And unless Rod has some kind of substantiation for a claim that this was done surreptitiously by some anti-Heartland secret agent in the Church, as opposed to a group overseen by leaders of the Church, such a claim will remain a conspiracy theory.)
“If the brethren were so convinced of the Mesoamerica theory that these intellectuals have been peddling for so many years, maybe you could answer why the church officially removed all references to Mesoamerica from all copies of the Book of Mormon, from every manual and teaching guide and even held high-level meetings specifically to tell CES and Seminary and Institute administrators that they were no longer to do any promotion of Mesoamerica any longer in their classes?”
Just because the Church seems to give no credibility to the Rod and Jonathan’s material doesn’t mean the Church is convinced that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica, I wonder why someone would jump to a conclusion like this after hearing from proponents of the Mesoamerica model that the Church is neutral on geography.
“Why have several temples had all the Mesoamerica depicting artwork removed?”
It’s strange that Rod is using artwork as a part of his argument as if it mattered. Even if it did matter he’s just leaving out the fact that the Church is still publishing and commissioning Mesoamerican artwork such as the giant mural of the sons of Mosiah entering the land of Nephi in the new MTC building in Provo.
“Why isn’t the church going to have a single Mayan pyramid in any of it’s new Book of Mormon videos if they are so convinced by the scholars that this is where it all took place?”
Again Rod is attacking the position that the Church is “so convinced” where the Book of Mormon took place – a position that has not been posited by anyone he could be responding to.
My understanding after speaking with the producers of these new videos on multiple occasions, specifically about geography, is that it’s not because they’re leaning toward one particular geography model or shying away from one particular model, but simply because they’re trying to make it look as neutral-looking as possible. It’s a pretty simple concept – the Church is showing a geography-neutral setting to the Book of Mormon in their new videos because the Church is geography-neutral, just as proponents of the Mesoamerica model have been saying all along.
“Why did President Holland in his talk at Jack Welch’s self-aggrandizing chiasmus party specifically point out that “Some of the agencies, departments, institutes, and scholars doing such work are an institutional part of and integral to BYU… Other groups and like-minded colleagues are not part of the university per se, but may be nearby or spread out around the church. Our heartfelt thanks go to all of you wherever you are…” Could it be possible that Elder Holland had Heartlanders in mind when talking about others who are doing Book of Mormon research but are not part of BYU?”
It’s truly astounding how pessimistically Rod sees these sorts of things. John Welch obviously didn’t throw himself a party as Rod’s comment insinuates by its accusation of self-aggrandizement, but rather it was created by others in honor of chiasmus, the discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, and John Welch.
And what causes me to be astonished beyond all measure is Rod’s interpretation of Elder Holland’s comments. How anyone could actually interpret a comment so obviously directed toward the organizations involved in the very event he was attending as being secretly meant for an unrelated organization that is antagonistic towards those groups involved with the event he was speaking at is beyond me.
Even after reading Stephen’s article and the BMC KnoWhy article – neither of which “attack [Oliver Cowdery] personally” or display him as a “useful idiot” or seem at any point to attempt to paint Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdery as expressing “foolish opinions” or as men who “can’t be trusted” – Rod somehow continues to comment on those subjects in such a manner as opposed to addressing anything in a substantial way.
And again, after all that has been said to him about prophets and infallibility, he still presses on with:
“Don’t you see that by doing so you are also casting doubt on every other writing of Oliver, including his testimony as one of the three witnesses? And all this just to save your precious Mesoamerica theory, which you know would be utterly dismantled if Oliver and Joseph are right about the Hill Cumorah being in New York!”
Don’t you see what you’ve done Stephen? You looked upon Oliver as a flawed mortal like us, and by not accepting his infallibility you have doomed us all!
“Where has any prophet in this dispensation – or for that matter at any time in human history – proclaimed that the earth was NOT created in the manner outlined in the scriptures?”
Once again Rod is ignoring all that has been said to him about the creation accounts in context and why he sees them in a context similar to a fundamentalist evangelical.
But if all that matters to Rod is a quote from a prophet, then here are some for him:
That shouldn’t be all that matters to Rod though, because I saw he was there at the 2018 Heaven & Earth Conference at UVU where it was shown that different prophets had different personal opinions about evolution (for some quotes see link immediately above) because prophets are actually humans who are allowed to have opinions. But despite this, he somehow still continues to say things like this as if it meant something:
“Can you point me to any verifiable statement by any prophet or scripture that proclaims that a belief in evolution is preferable to a belief in scriptural creation within the church? I can show you dozens, if not hundreds of quotes from prophets specifically denouncing evolution as being incompatible with the doctrines of the gospel and a threat to faith.”
“The origins of the Mesoamerica theories originating from three early apostates of the church (Benjamin Winchester, John Page and William Smith) and from the RLDS church should give serious pause to those who want to continue their promotion.”
This is not true. The evidence actually points to Joseph Smith as the author of the Central America articles in the Times and Seasons and the conspiracy theory that it was Winchester as Neville has said goes against both historical and stylometric evidence. Paul Fields has shown this in detail, specifically in reference to Neville’s arguments in “The Lost City of Zarahemla” Fields has shown how Neville’s methods are faulty and has shown why Neville’s attempted response to Field’s original stylometric analysis doesn’t have merit.
But nothing anyone says will seem to ever make a difference to Rod Meldrum. It seems to me that no matter what truth is said to him or how many times things can be repeated to him, he’ll still be saying things like this:
“They are literally promoting the theories of apostates and splinter groups, not what Joseph Smith said, wrote and by his actions demonstrated, that he understood the Book of Mormon to have happened in America’s Heartland.”
“So are you saying that when the leadership of the Church have questions on Book of Mormon topics, that rather than turning to the scriptures and prophets and revelation, they “turn to the ‘citation cartel’” for answers? Really?”
Rod seems to think that the leaders of the Church for some reason can only turn to one source for answers to questions. In reality, the leaders of the Church apparently turn to both their fellow leaders as well as recognized, legitimate scholars when seeking answers. Elder Ballard says that “This is exactly what I do when I need an answer to my own questions that I cannot answer myself. I seek help from my Brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve and from others with expertise in fields of Church history and doctrine.” He also warns: “let me warn you not to pass along faith-promoting or unsubstantiated rumors or outdated understandings and explanations of our doctrine and practices from the past.” (*cough, cough*) and that all should “consult the works of recognized, thoughtful, and faithful LDS scholars to ensure you do not teach things that are untrue, out of date, or odd and quirky.” (https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/evening-with-a-general-authority/2016/02/the-opportunities-and-responsibilities-of-ces-teachers-in-the-21st-century?lang=eng)
I don’t know if that quote above will matter to Rod though, I don’t think it will stop him from his baseless narrative:
“After all the examples of Church leadership DISAVOWING themselves from the Meso theories, expunging all references to it and telling CES teachers to STOP promoting it, you somehow still think that they are fully dependant on you and your cartel to provide them answers?
I can hardly think of a more appalling and arrogant thing you could say.”
Well Elder Ballard has said it on multiple occasions. Again at another time he said “When I have a question that I cannot answer, I turn to those who can help me. The Church is blessed with trained scholars and those who have devoted a lifetime of study, who have come to know our history and the scriptures. These thoughtful men and women provide context and background so we can better understand our sacred past and our current practices.” (https://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/unto-all-the-world/to-the-saints-in-the-utah-south-area?lang=eng) The simple proof that he’s talking about what you call the “citation cartel” and not you or any of your affiliates is the simple fact that the “citation cartel” people are the ones the Church leaders have and will continue to go to.
“Someday when the KnoWhy’s actually have some decent scholarship”
These kind of comments remind me of anti-Mormon comments that I’ve responded to in the past because both have this tone of circumvention around addressing real and specific issues, they both clutter long comments with a mountain of lousy points, and they sporadically include superficial statements like the one above.
Just like most everything else, it’s already been pointed out to Rod in comments above that BMC is geography neutral and that BMC’s KnoWhys on geography show neutrality, links were even provided above for him to see for himself. That doesn’t seem to matter to him though, like a broken record it seems that he’ll keep his narrative no matter what:
“and follow the brethren’s lead of neutrality rather than the unabashed promotion of Mesomania,”
“I will gladly call them KnoWhy’s. Until then, they are causing people to become less informed of the facts and truth so they are in reality No-Wise articles.”
The simple fact that Rod and Jonathan have resorted to name-calling shows everyone their level of maturity. It also shows one of the many ways they are actively pushing against the idea of “[getting] on the road to becoming ‘one'” as Rod states later in his comments. In Rod’s later comment’s he asks “If Christ were to call all of us into a meeting with him to discuss this, how would we act? Would we call each other names?” Well, Rod and Jonathan’s repeated resort to name-calling has given us an idea of their answer.
It’s been explained to Rod over and over that giving an argument the time of day by responding to it honestly (which is what organizations like Fair and Interpreter have done) is not attacking the argument, or personally going after anyone. It’s also been explained to him that reputable organizations aren’t willing to give bad arguments a platform – not because they are “deathly afraid” (again, the heartland arguments themselves were given responses a while ago) – but because it would be intellectually dishonest to publish material they know is shoddy and contains fatal errors.
Here’s a question for Rod: If you were the editor of a journal and someone came to you with what you thought was crappy research, would you refuse to publish it? Or would you publish something that you honestly believed was garbage. Also, how would you prove to the person with the bad research that you’re rejecting his material because the material is bad and not because you’re “deathly afraid” of his research? What if that person said everything you say below? How would you respond?
“We and others have tried to create a less hostile environment between the two camps, but BMC wouldn’t do it. We offered to have set up a truly neutral website where each side would provide their own best answers to Book of Mormon questions and Jack Welch/BMC refused to make any side-by-side comparison, even when they would be the ones to provide their best research and evidences. I wonder why?
I will tell you why. The citation cartel is deathly afraid of any such comparison because they know that they would lose that battle. So, for now, they are content to continue quoting each other (hence the term ‘citation cartel’), upholding the crumbling Meso theories, proclaiming that prophets and scriptures are wrong and they, with their science are right and they can get away with it, for now, because they are protected from any honest scrutiny by the citation cartel charter members and associated media. It may take some more time, but eventually, this cartel, like all bad cartels, will be seen for what it is and dismantled. Much like the FARMS organization was dismantled by the Church and then nearly all of them fired from BYU’s Maxwell Institute, possibly because they decided to promote their personal Meso theories using sacred Church funds rather than follow the brethren’s position of neutrality. I can only hope that BMC will realize before its too late that they are still refusing to follow the brethren in their promotion of Mesomania rather than neutrality on BofM geography.”
What if that, which you just read above Rod, was this person’s response to you after you rejected their garbage?
Rod Meldrum then continues his barrage saying science and religion are incompatible:
“If you are going to go ‘all in’ for science then go ‘all in’ and admit that there is no God at all,”
For some strange unknown reason Rod seems to still believe that you have to believe in cosmic fine-tuning and God having a hand in evolution in order to believe there is a God, even though he most likely heard Steven Peck, the evolutionary biologist who teaches at BYU, say otherwise in detail in the UVU conference mentioned above (or maybe he came in late, I don’t know). In any case, he has these strange presumptions about science that he apparently won’t ever let go of, that force him to think that you have to either be a full-blown fundamentalist evangelical when reading the scriptures or reject them all.
After this he – yet again – continues his narrative (that is really starting to sound like a broken record) of scientists having to stretch the scriptures to fit their understanding of science as he continues to ignore everything that has been said to him before that clearly shows how scientist don’t actually have to compromise their religion or their understand of science:
“In other words, they have more faith in their evolution theories than they do in the scriptures and prophets. When in conflict they don’t question evolution, they compromise their religion.”
Again, Rod, remember how Ben Spackman explained to you at the UVU conference in detail how your fundamentalist reading of the creation accounts are not even how the original authors intended them to be read.
“It would seem your primary issue with we Heartlanders is that we are ‘demonizing’ people we disagree with, and you are sick of it, right? Well, my friend, you should take a good hard look into the mirror because the entire reason why there is so much animosity between the Heartlanders and the Mesoamericanistas is precisely because WE were mercilessly attacked PUBLICLY over and over again by the citation cartel of FAIR, FARMS Review, MI and others and on many websites.”
Rod and Jonathan and their gang will always see any kind of honest review that isn’t in favor of their model as being “mercilessly attacked”. It seems in their view, they should be able to say whatever they want no matter how crazy and if anyone critiques them they react (as you can see above) like they’re the victims of some horrible attack.
Again Rod, if someone came to your heartland organization to publish something about the 10 lost tribes being lizard people who live in the hollow earth, and you rejected it and continually refused to publish it in FIRM, and they responded like this (added brackets are mine for context):
“don’t you think that it’s time the [heartland] cartel stops hiding behind such nonsense and recognizes that the [hollow earth lizard] movement is never ever going to go away and is every day becoming stronger and more widely accepted within the general membership and leadership of the church? Put your academic pride away and meet with us! We are really not the monsters you may think we are.
We have for many years now put up with this abuse and bullying and never responded in kind on our websites and blogs, but we did try to use the attacks to learn where we were wrong, to adjust our information, to clarify and hone and improve our core message. You have determined that the ONLY course of action is for us to abandon our core research, a part of which is that [they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence. And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep. And we believe that these people are the 10 lost tribes of lizard men coming down from the hollow earth]. This is not our playing on people’s [fascination with sci-fi], but rather our understanding of God’s words in scripture and we make no excuses for His words.
So like you, I will no longer tolerate you and the citation cartel to demonize me and the hundreds of thousands of fellow [hollow-earth lizard triber’s] who simply want to share our message and let folks decide for themselves which they choose to believe in. That is why I am pushing back for the first time in several years. You and your [heartland] cartel friends have, to put it into your words “abused, slandered, mocked, and ridiculed me and my friends for far too long. Nobody is laughing… because we have experienced firsthand the repercussions of his [your] mockery and slander (in the form of further calumnies directed at us by his [your] followers).”
… Why not invite collaboration between us?
Wouldn’t we both benefit from some real peer review, wherein even opposing positions are considered and allowed to contribute to the discussion? When “peer review” is nothing more than a handful of people who have decided to form a consensus by approving everything the others put out without challenging and questioning it, is that really healthy for the institution and would anyone really consider it legitimate peer review? As faithful members couldn’t we be more effective if we would actually work together rather than fight against one another?
And finally, consider the scripture that says… “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.”
Let’s get on the road to becoming “one.””
What would you say to that, Rod? I don’t think you’d find them to be monsters just because they have a persecution complex and conflate opinion polls and lucre with having a better argument, but I’m still curious about how you’d respond. Would you allow them to be a part of your organization?
I’d like to leave a comment seeing that we have supporters of a few different theories on Book of Mormon geography commenting. We also have a consensus on the truth of the Book of Mormon, which is a good thing, we are all on the same page with that.
I have my own theory on geography I’d like to share for everyone and I also have thoughts on a method to best discover from the knowledge we already have and are receiving, the most promising location for these core lands. The Land of Zarahemla, land of Nephi, land Bountiful and the land northward which was the land of Mormon’s childhood and the area containing the hill of the final battle where Mormon hid the most part of the records in his trust.
(My assumption is they are still there and the plates from which the Book of Mormon translation was done have also been placed there with them. I also assume that at some time in the near future these records will be discovered, Moroni’s statement at the commencement of the Book of Ether, to me, suggests this.)
The land of Zarahemla can be identified by looking for what it is described as having, we can presume the land Bountiful to also have these features, the land northward also in some respects, being controlled and inhabited by the Nephites.
Number one: Common to all these lands including the Lamanite land of Nephi is literacy, these lands had full literacy, the people in these locations were able to write and express whatever they wanted, by their writings. They kept histories and their use of literacy facilitated their trading abilities which made their nations prosperous.
Two: All lands had temples and sanctuaries for worship. The Nephite lands all had temples. Temples are recorded to have been built in the land northward and the land of Bountiful. As the Nephites and Lamanites had different religious beliefs we can expect Lamanite temples that differed from those of the Nephites.
Three: Elevated highways, we know these existed linking cities in the central land of Zarahemla, we could reasonably expect elevated highways to some degree in other Nephite lands such as Bountiful and the land northward.
Four: High population density and building construction, Mormon describes this specifically in the land of Zarahemla and also in the numbering of combatants in the final conflict.
Five: Fortifications, consisting of city walls, such as at the city Zarahemla. And unique ditch and cast up inner wall type, as described surrounding the city of Noah and numerous other cities, especially those built later during the final conflict of the 4th century.
Finding these things in a situation that dates to the correct era can with minimum speculation find the best candidates for these particular lands. The fact that there are multiple identifiers makes locating these things very telling.
There are many more identifiers but in my opinion these are the most prominent and un-ambiguous. Finding where these are, and are not, should give us the best indication. EG we can expect evidences of elevated highways between cities in the land of Zarahemla, they are not the sort of thing to easily disappear from a landscape, and so should be high priority in any search.
I’m looking at setting a Book of Mormon based movie, and setting becomes very important . Why I chose the above method. It is straightforward, simply look at all the reliable information available to see where these things can be found. No theory and no speculation necessary. In my investigation of this I found the best information sources in the detailed work of archaeologists.
LDS studies although often enlightening are usually biased because of their preferred model, and generally include speculation and rationalizations to make stuff fit. Not attacking the heartland people any more or less than the dominant Mesoamerican models. For example in my view I expect the Nephites and their record have compass directions indicated correctly. I also do not believe the Nephites were a small group living among larger polities, I do not believe the record supports that.
Currently the office of the President are saying they do not specify an exact geography. I expect if you asked them about one or two Cumorahs the reply would be; they could not say.
So those proposing models for the above lands, please accept an invitation to show the evidences of these above identifiers from independent reputable studies and scholars, and we can all see where the stuff is.
“Common to all these lands including the Lamanite land of Nephi is literacy, these lands had full literacy, the people in these locations were able to write and express whatever they wanted, by their writings. They kept histories and their use of literacy facilitated their trading abilities which made their nations prosperous.”
What passages in the Book of Mormon do you see as evidence of “full literacy” among the Nephites? Quite the contrary, Mosiah 1 and other passages indicate to me that there were a select few who were taught to read and write, and this special scribal class kept the records. (This model fits the ancient world, by the way.)
“Three: Elevated highways, we know these existed linking cities in the central land of Zarahemla, we could reasonably expect elevated highways to some degree in other Nephite lands such as Bountiful and the land northward.”
What do you mean by “elevated”? The Book of Mormon speaks of “highways” four times in the period just before Christ’s appearance (Helaman 7:10; 14:24; 3 Nephi 6:8; 8:13), but the word “elevated” does not appear anywhere in the Book of Mormon.
You may note in the above no reference to the narrow neck, oceans, hills nor mountains, the reason simply being by nature they are speculative. So we leave speculation out of the equation and look at primary identifiers first. Directions are clear in the record the land Nephi in the south, Zarahemla to the North, Bountiful north of there, the land northward further to the north again.
Hey Stephen I have a question about the Mesoamerican school of thought. I agree with this BOM geography theory the most. But there is one part that I am confused about. Lehi and friends talk about a land of liberty and how the promised land would be a land of liberty. I find it natural to see the United States of America as the appropriate venue for a land of liberty. Guatemala and Mexico don’t maintain the same freedoms and liberties that the USA does. Though I think the element of time might be important. How much of any of North, Central, and South America was a land of liberty from 400-1400 CE? We all hope, I think, that the millennium happens in our day, but what if in 200 years a future USA exists that contains added states of Mexico, Guatemala, etc.
So to restate my question, how does the Mesoamerian school explain the prophesies of a land of liberty being the place where the Book of Mormon peoples lived? Is part of this prophecy still yet to be fulfilled?
Levi, I’ve wondered this for a long time also, and I think I found an answer that has satisfied sufficiently to rid myself of the cognitive dissonance you’re describing. Your question is sincere, I’m surprised nobody has commented. After reading many of the comments here, it will never do to speak in terms of absolutes, seeing that opinions vary so widely on this topic. I think most here should leave it up to you to think through this, you don’t need Stephen Smoot or Jonathan Neville, anyone else to tell you what to think, even if their answers may seem reasonable. I’ll do my best to allow a person to think for yourself in my comment by not imposing any strong opinion one way or another, just my persective. I feel like this question you’ve asked is a very important one, and one often ignored in my estimation. For me, it’s answer that you have to feel.
I served in Central America, and I taught the people that lands of the Book of Mormon were somewhere near there. I never felt good about it, I tried to play it off like I didn’t when people would ask me. I decided to ignore it and chalk it up to cognitive dissonance because of how uncomfortable it was to teach because I couldn’t be sure. From my perspective and experience, the lands in Central America aren’t free, the people live in corruption, they aren’t developed countries by and large, the people from the region all want to live in the United States and the motives are to obtain/provide a better life for their families. The news recently is evidence enough of this. Even in the most developed cities in Costa Rica, people can still be subject to live upon dirt floors without electricity. When I read the Book of Mormon regarding this idea (because I believe it’s very important), I pay attention the importance of the land. The covenants that Lehi makes with the Lord should still stand, right? I see that the covenant is also usually tied to the land, but bound specifically by being called the land “which is choice above all others.” I believe that the land must be important. Not just the land, but the kind of land.
1 Nephi 13:30:
Nevertheless, thou beholdest that the Gentiles who have gone forth out of captivity, and have been lifted up by the power of God above all other nations, upon the face of the land which is choice above all other lands, which is the land that the Lord God hath covenanted with thy father that his seed should have for the land of their inheritance; wherefore, thou seest that the Lord God will not suffer that the Gentiles will utterly destroy the mixture of thy seed, which are among thy brethren.”
Among other scriptures in this vein, there are a few things about this scripture that are important to me, and in my opinion undervalued because it’s uncomfortable to think outside of what we’re used to. When I read these prophecies, if I don’t know WHERE something is, I focus on the WHEN something has happened (if it has happened). There are a great many things that have happened that were prophesied. Studying those things could help you form a better idea. There are also instances in the Book of Mormon where they use the same descriptor to define a different event in time. For example, a “marvelous work and wonder.” Be careful to not get too confused about timing.
Other things I like to focus on is the fractals of symbolism– self similar repeating patterns inherent to the Nature of God. For example, where can you find symbolism in death coming back to life again? Here’s a cool video about fractals. https://youtu.be/UBuPWdSbyf8
The Book of Mormon in text, and in implementation both repeat patterns of symbolism. This idea has helped me to recognize signs I haven’t before. For example, Nephi says that we’ll be able to understand Isaiah in the latter-days. How so? All the information at our fingertips could help.
For me, this is about the feeling of it all. Confusion, peace, simplicity, doubt, all play a key role in helping a person answer their questions. I hope this helps without being overbearing with my own opinions and leanings. I don’t mean to impose. I think this could be a good discussion. Hit me back if you’d like to talk about this question further. I’m totes open.
Some books off the top of my head that could also help, This Nation Shall Endure, by Ezra Taft Benson, and The Cleansing of America by W. Cleon Skousen. You can also get A Star in the West by Elias Boudinot for free through google books and archive.org. These Books don’t talk about the Book of Mormon but could give you better context with regard to North America in general as a land that could be choice above all others.
Correction, the books I referred to off-hand don’t talk about Book of Mormon geography*. The first two do mention the Book of Mormon quite a bit.
Great blog post! It was a pleasure to meet you and eat lunch with you at MHA this year here in Boise. So are you speaking at the Firm Foundation’s next conference? They have a “Steve Smoot” listed as a speaker for their September conference here: https://firmfoundationexpo.org/speakers
Glad to hear from you. The Steve Smoot speaking at the FIRM expo is not me. It’s E. Steven Smoot or Edgar S. Smoot (as I recall seeing he goes by both names), whereas I am Stephen O. Smoot.
Sorry I misspelled your name! Didn’t realize until after I submitted my post. A few minutes after, I also finally located the info on Steven E Smoot that is speaking at this conference. Didn’t think it would make any sense for you to speak there, but you never know… 🙂
3 Nephi 6:8
8 And there were many highways cast up, and many roads made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place.
‘cast up’ means elevated, the expression is also used describing the banks of earth in their fortifications.
By ‘Full literacy’ I mean the ability to fully express one’s self using the societies written word, not that every single person was literate, though many were.
Literacy: Helaman 3: 13 And now there are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people, which are particular and very large, concerning them.
14 But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work.
15 But behold, there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites.
12 Now behold, all those engravings which were in the possession of Helaman were written and sent forth among the children of men throughout all the land, save it were those parts which had been commanded by Alma should not go forth.
Mosiah 24:4 And he (the King of the Lamanites)appointed teachers of the brethren of Amulon in every land which was possessed by his people; and thus the language of Nephi began to be taught among all the people of the Lamanites.
5 And they were a people friendly one with another; nevertheless they knew not God; neither did the brethren of Amulon teach them anything concerning the Lord their God, neither the law of Moses; nor did they teach them the words of Abinadi;
6 But they taught them that they should keep their record, and that they might write one to another.
7 And thus the Lamanites began to increase in riches, and began to trade one with another and wax great,….
We can see from the last quote two things, literacy was an asset to trading, people could write to each other as evidenced by the many letters exchanged in the war chapters of Alma. Also the language of the Nephites was connected to literacy. It’s likely words in the language were represented by a symbol, rather than having an alphabet that can render in a second language.
I think it is more productive to prove each model by how they match the primary indicators I have suggested above, it’s a simple thing to do. Anyone can look up wiki and other sources and find these things. Primary indicators are the things where evidence is found in a location that is not subject to argument, but is simply where it is. Rivers for example are not primary, same as hills, narrow necks etc which do occur in many regions, and so are not definitive indicators. If people with geographic models are confident in them, let them show evidence of the primary indicators listed so all can see the strength of their model. It’s not acceptable to use elevated highways or fortifications in one region as evidence for another region, each model must use it’s own evidence. Some places may need further research to show primary evidences they do not yet have available and they can be listed that way. But an average person can look at the charts associated with each model and see what is best supported. So let the Meso and Heartland and other proponents step up and present primary evidences for us all to see. Brother Meldrum and brother Neville and everyone else with a model for Book of Mormon geography please show your model’s primary evidences.
3 Ne. 6:8 is almost certainly influenced in its word choice by Isaiah 62:10, where “cast up the highway” means to build it. It doesn’t imply an elevated road (nothing like that was known anciently), but one that’s been created.
I think you’re over-reading the passages on records. They fit perfectly into a civilization with a scribal class. Widespread literacy is a modern luxury not experienced by civilizations before the early 19th century.
Mike all the things listed above have been found and documented in ancient America. Why debate about elevated highways saying ‘nothing like that was known anciently’ when there is so much data describing, dating and mapping them? The record differentiates between ‘highway’ and road. What does ‘highway’ mean in this context? High suggests elevated, ‘cast up’ whether its banks of earth, a person’s eyes or highway represents elevation.
My reply above does not suggest there was no scribal class, simply that when they wrote they could express what ever they wanted, which is obvious anyway.
Why not just do a wiki search for those things above rather than trying to fault a simple series of indicators for Book of Mormon lands? Does the model you believe in not as yet have evidence of these things? Because where these things are, where you can look at them on the ground, they are all in the one location.
My criticism is that you are taking two words (“cast up”) out of a single verse and making your interpretation of them—an interpretation that is highly debateable—into a key feature of Book of Mormon geography. That is all.
Mike, the point of using what I term primary identifiers is to get away from interpretation and speculation, the description of constructing a Nephite highway is ‘cast up’ the description of making the many roads was simply ‘made’. It indicates some difference. A difference is implied in the construction. The words ‘cast up’ in the Book of Mormon, if you do a search, are most often applied to building defensive walls and mounds of earth, so in these cases it’s referring to construction, and these are constructions of structures with elevation and the term cast up fits the idea they are above ground level. As are Book of Mormon era highways found in America sometimes six meters above ground level, the labor required for their construction dwarfing that of even the massive buildings. These are the only ‘highway systems’ connecting big cities yet found dating to that era that I know of, the fact they are elevated can be ignored yet they are. I guess the primary thing is they stand out as they show the human involvement in their construction. Somebody constructed them at precisely the same time (according to science) the Nephites were reported to be ‘casting up’ highways in the land of Zarahemla.
I was hoping Brother Meldrum and brother Neville would list how their models fared with the five primary evidences listed above. They have invested in more investigation in the heartland region than I have and should be in the best position to know what has been discovered there, or not discovered there as primary evidence.
I believe both of these quotes come from Rod Meldrum:
“From my experience, the Heartland model geography was built upon looking for an answer to the dna questions being thrust upon the church due to the complete lack of any genetic evidence in Mesoamerica for any Hebrew population(s). After finding mainstream journal articles stating that a new Haplotype (Haplogroup X) had been found among Native American populations, and the same markers being found in many Jewish populations including the Ashkenazi and Shepardic Jews, the Druze of Israel and others I felt that other members and scholars would like to know and pursue it.”
“There are still many of us that believe that what the prophets and scriptures have taught about our origins is correct and that just maybe science has it wrong. Yet, I’ve been attacked over and over again for adhering to this belief. I bring up your evolutionary beliefs primarily so that folks at least have some idea where you are coming from, not that I think you or anyone else who has been able to justify evolutionary principles rather than creation is an apostate, although there have been many quotations by latter-day prophets that could lead one to that conclusion.”
It is interesting that Rod’s views on Book of Mormon geography evolved due to science, but his views on Young Earth creation did not. Apparently, both groups engaging in this argument champion views formed from an amalgam of science and revelation, and yet each side is certain that their faith and science amalgam is sound.
Truckers Atlas wrote:
“everyone in this thread seems to at least agree on the historicity of the BOM, what is it that makes this argument between the various schools of thought so incredibly heated”
Truckers, no rational human being should come away from this discussion feeling like the historicity of the BOM has been established. This discussion is heated because the scientific veracity of the BOM is difficult at best. We should all be intellectually honest enough to admit that. The Book of Mormon is an exercise in faith. We read it. We are inspired by its teachings and feel the influence of the Holy Ghost which inspires us to believe in it. But as has been demonstrated in this argument, attempts to plant the narrative in any real geography are problematic.
Arle, I think you are underestimating or slightly understating the power of the Holy Ghost, who testifies of truth. Through that means we can know truth. Especially regarding the Book of Mormon, whether it comes from god or not. It’s probably less confrontational when talking to people if we say we believe the Book of Mormon is true. But really, I know it is, there is no question, therefore the geography exists and attempting to plant the narrative in real geography is only problematic because in my view our expectation of what we should find. When it becomes completely revealed I imagine most of the church will look at it and say, ‘really?’
I put a list above of some primary identifiers the Book of Mormon provides, information regarding the lands of the Book of Mormon that we can use to identify those lands, they are not geographical, they are what was built by or associated with the people in those lands, they are findable, and unarguable because they are either there or they are not. Their existence verifies/proves what the book describes, built at the right time, in the Americas, all in the one place. Meanwhile we have this raging debate over location?
Being neutral on the question of BofM geography, I don’t have a pony in this race, but thought I would comment on a side subject someone brought up.
I am not aware of the hiring process for BYU faculty, but if it resembles that of CES, it is true that new Seminary teachers are interviewed by a General Authority, and their names may even by read to the assembled Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency (as are those of new bishops) for final approval (I don’t know).
However, being hired by and working for a church educational institution does not endorse the views of the employee, tenured or not. All views and opinions of BYU and CES personnel remain their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Church. This is a standard disclaimer for everything not published by the church after having Correlation’s approval (the little date in parenthesis in manuals).
All the commercially produced books by the prophets and apostles have that disclaimer.
When the First Presidency issued a three-volumes in one special leather edition of Pres. Smith’s Doctrines of Salvation as a gift to church employees, it received Correlation approval after the entries relating to BofM geography were removed (as well as some other items).
All I am saying is that who hired who and who works where doesn’t affect or authorize or give greater weight to anyone’s teachings or opinions. As a church employee hired as a Technical Writer, my views are no more authorized than anyone else’s, including BYU faculty and presenters at BofM conferences. We can present our evidence, make our arguments, and persuade others to our viewpoint or not.
My BofM Historicity/Geography viewpoint is located here:
I sought to make what I think a valid point, but others disagree. I understand the First Presidency to be neutral on this subject and they haven’t authorized anyone to speak for them.
I hope the below quotations do not sound patronizing, but thought them worth sharing:
J. Reuben Clark:
When any man except the President of the Church undertakes to proclaim one unsettled doctrine, as among two or more doctrines in dispute, as the settled doctrine of the Church, we may know that he is not “moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” unless he is acting under the direction and by the authority of the President. (“When Are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?” second part of an address delivered 7 July 1954 at Brigham Young University; cited in David H. Yarn, ed., J. Reuben Clark: Selected Papers, vol. 3 [Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 1984], 112.)
Bruce R. McConkie:
Pres. [J. Reuben] Clark called me in for an informal talk. He…said he wanted to counsel me, in the language of Dr. James E. Talmage, against the “witchery of words.” He also said that he knew I was a student of the gospel but wanted to tell me that there were two viewpoints on many points of doctrine which were held by good Latter-day Saints, and said not to try to force my views on anyone for that would only lead to hurt feelings and ill will. This caution, however, he said, did not apply to the so-called higher criticism. He warned me against this, saying he agreed with me entirely in my former criticism of a Sunday School manual which was full of this higher criticism material. (Bruce R. McConkie Correspondence, 1968.)
Bruce R. McConkie:
Those with extensive backgrounds of study in the Church are aware that differing opinions have been expressed by various of the Brethren on certain points over the years. This, of course, is of no great moment. All the opinions cannot be true, but the marvel is that there are so few differences in views and that there is so great harmony on the basics of the gospel. (Bruce R. McConkie Correspondence, 1974.)
These quotations are from my book/compilation Determining Doctrine.
Just my two cents, I wish everyone well,
Although not proof of the location of Book of Mormon events, I think it’s interesting that in dedicating the Mexico City temple, President Hinckley mentioned the attendance of individuals who had key roles in establishing the Church in Mexico. Later, after speaking for some time, he paused and said he had failed to acknowledge the presence of Father Lehi. It’s significant to me that this occurred at this specific temple.
I too am a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and have a personal relationship with the Savior strengthened by the Book of Mormon, and all canonized holy write. Perhaps someone has answered this in comments above but I don’t have the time to read all the comments. At what point was it determined that Oliver’s writings were embellishments? Are there sources I can read. I am not defending the letters that Oliver wrote I am simply wanting to learn more. Second, the Heartlanders use scripture in D&C 30 & 32 to defend their claim of geography, stating that the Elders of the church were called to preach to the descendants of the Lamanites and their missions were primarily in the Heartland states. Thoughts?