Thursday, February 18, 2021

Report to the Quorum of the Twelve about the messenger taking the abridged plates to Cumorah

The references to the important event are included on the page on this blog, as well as this page on

Here is a link to the 1878 Deseret News article about the report:

And an image of the newspaper. (click to enlarge).

Monday, February 8, 2021

remove the grass and moss - Occam's razor

By now, everyone knows we have an account of Joseph referring to Cumorah before he even got the plates, which indicates he had to have learned the name from Moroni (or Nephi, who also visited him). Parley P. Pratt explained that Moroni anciently called the hill in New York by the name of Cumorah. 

The question arises: when did Moroni tell Joseph the name of the hill?

Apparently this occurred during the night of Moroni's first visit

Lucy Mack Smith recorded a little-known account of what Moroni told Joseph Smith, including the identification of Cumorah. The detail in it suggests credibility and reliability. [editing marks removed]

[Moroni, after telling Joseph about the record, said] but you cannot get it until you learn to keep the commandments of God For it is not to get gain. But it is to bring forth that light and intelligence which has been long lost in the Earth 

Now Joseph beware or when you go to get the plates your mind will be filled with darkness and all manner of evil will rush into your mind. To prevent you from keeping the commandments of God that you may not succeed in doing his work and you must tell your father of this for he will believe every word you say.

The record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place. Remove the grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars of cement— then the angel left him.

Here we see Moroni referring to the hill by name and specifying its location. He told Joseph he'd have to remove the grass and moss, which is a significant detail because it helps explain why the stone had not been removed in the centuries since Moroni first put it over the stone box.

This account is from the version of her history that Lucy Mack Smith dictated to Martha Coray. The 1845 version, created by the Corays from Lucy's original version plus additional material (see the historical introduction), omits these paragraphs without explanation. In this section on Moroni's visit, they incorporated the History of Joseph Smith that was published in the Times and Seasons in lieu of Lucy's description of the visit.

Some people think Lucy conflated the First Vision with the visit of Moroni, but when we read her original version (the 1844-1845 draft), it is not inconsistent with Joseph's accounts. 

Joseph's 1832 history relates that he "called again" the night when Moroni appeared and that, once again, the Lord had forgiven him his sins.

it came to pass when I was seventeen years of age I called again upon the Lord and he shewed unto me a heavenly vision for behold an angel of the Lord came and stood before me and it was by night and he called me by name and he said the Lord had forgiven me my sins and he revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N.Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni & his fathers the servants of the living God in ancient days and deposited by th[e] commandments of God and kept by the power thereof and that I should go and get them and he revealed unto me many things concerning the inhabitents of of the earth which since have been revealed in commandments & revelations

Some scholars think Lucy was confused by the allegedly false tradition about Cumorah that arose among the early Latter-day Saints. Such an interpretation is not driven by historical evidence; instead, it is driven by their ideological opposition to the idea that the hill in New York was the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6. 

Occam's razor* would lead us to the simplest explanation; i.e., that Moroni did tell Joseph the name of the hill near his house was Cumorah, and that is the source of all the subsequent teachings about the New York Cumorah.


*Occam's razor: a scientific and philosophical rule that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities


It's also interesting to see how various artists depict the stone box on Cumorah.


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The Urim and Thummim was necessary to translate the plates

 Some classic teachings of Joseph's contemporaries.

I have read these things because I am fully aware that there are in the Church of Latter-day Saints many persons who are very careless about reading the “Book of Mormon.” It is one of the greatest treasures, so far as books are concerned, that has been given to mankind for almost 1,800 years. It contains the things of God in great plainness, so easy of comprehension that the child who reads can understand it. And yet, how many there are of the Latter-day Saints who suffer this book to remain upon their shelves, week after week, without ever reading a page of these precious things. 

I have also read these things for the benefit of strangers who may be present on this occasion. It is not to be expected that they will read it, for they do not believe it is a divine record; they do not believe that God has spoken, or that Joseph Smith was raised up to bring it forth to the children of men, by the power of the Urim and Thummim. It is not expected, therefore, that they will read a work that they have no faith in. They do not want to have faith in it, they do not consider it a matter of sufficient importance even to inquire of the Lord whether it is true or not. And yet, sometimes they may have, for a few moments, a feeling in their hearts that they would like to know what is contained in the “Book of Mormon;”

But we have every reason to believe that the time is not far distant, and that there are some living among the young now upon the earth, that will live to behold great numbers of revelations given, and will behold other books come forth and other records translated by the Urim and Thummim, that same instrument that Joseph Smith used in the translation of the “Book of Mormon,” which will again come forth and be revealed to the seer and revelator that God will raise up by which these ancient records will be brought to light. Then these great things will be known, then we shall rejoice in the greater fulness of knowledge and understanding, according to the promise; and when we rend that veil of unbelief, spoken of in the “Book of Mormon,” and when it is taken away from our midst, and we exercise faith in God, even as the ancient man of God, the brother of Jared, did, then will the Lord reveal to this people what was shown to this man. And if it were important for him, in the early ages, to understand the great things of the latter days, how much more important it is for us who are living, as it were, just preceding the coming of the Son of Man; and if ancient men of God were privileged and blessed in understanding the things of the future, how much greater blessing it will be to us, inasmuch as these things are at our doors.


That gives us a little more light upon the same subject. When that is brought forth, I expect that the same Urim and Thummim which the Lord gave to Joseph Smith will come forth with these plates, and they will be translated, but by whom I know not. Who will be the favored Seer and Revelator that will be raised up among this people to bring this revelation to light, is not revealed to me. And not only this revelation, but those twenty-four plates of gold which contain the doings of the old Jaredite nation that inhabited this North American continent; at present we have only an abridgment, not a hundredth part of their history. These plates of gold will come forth, as well as many other records kept by the first nation—the Jaredites, that came here; and I have no doubt that the Lord will give the Urim and Thummim to translate them. And not only these, but the Lord intends, in this dispensation in which you and I live, to overwhelm the whole earth with a flood of knowledge in regard to himself; in regard to his purposes and designs, and in regard to the future glories and blessings that are ordained for the Latter-day Saints, in regard to the preparation of the earth for the thousand years of righteousness to come.
(JD 19, OP King Limhi’s Enquiry, From the Book of Mormon • JD 19:217 col. b)

For by faith Joseph Smith received the ministration of God out of heaven. By faith he received the records of Nephi, and translated them through the Urim and Thummim into our own language, and which have since been translated into many different languages. By faith he made the foundation of this Church and kingdom, just as much as Noah, by faith, built the ark, and received the fulness thereof. By faith he prophesied, leaving a record, a testament which has been given through his mouth to the inhabitants of the earth, and which contains the revelations of God yet to be fulfilled. 

The testator is dead, but his testament is in force to all the world. 

(JD 19, Wilford Woodruff Faith • JD 19:357 col. b'–358 col. a)

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Letter VII and Come Follow Me

Readers here know that Letter VII is just one of eight essays on Church history written by Oliver Cowdery with the assistance of Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith's brother, Don Carlos, republished them in the Times and Seasons under the title "RISE OF THE CHURCH." 

That's a good description. 

I consider these eight essays as the original "Gospel Topics Essays." As the product of the President and Assistant President of the Church (Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, respectively), they are much more useful and relevant than the scholarly articles published anonymously as the "Gospel Topics Essays" and other entries.

If every member of the Church read and understood the eight essays, many of the misunderstandings and unanswered questions that lead to "faith crises" would be resolved.

With that in mind, I've been publishing notes on the Come Follow Me 2021 curriculum at

I invite you to visit and subscribe for updates. Understanding Church history as explained by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery is a far better approach than reading about Church history as filtered by modern LDS scholars who have repudiated key aspects of what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

A new idea: Joseph and Oliver told the truth

For Come Follow Me 2021, focusing on the Doctrine and Covenants, this blog will discuss a new idea in Church history: the idea that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery told the truth.

Many faithful LDS historians and scholars have decided that Joseph and Oliver were not candid when they wrote and said what they did. 

According to the scholars, Joseph did not translate the plates with the Urim and Thummim as he and Oliver claimed. Instead, the Saints book and the citation cartel teach that Joseph read words that appeared on a stone in the hat (SITH). 

According to the scholars, the Hill Cumorah was not in New York. Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about that. Instead, the Saints book censored all references to Cumorah from Church history because the historians agree with the M2C scholars that Cumorah is somewhere in southern Mexico. (M2C = the Mesoamerican/Two-Cumorahs theory.)


Fortunately, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can know when they are being fed these ideas. All you have to do is look for the mark of M2C.

Whenever you see this mark, you can be confident that the publication will promote M2C and SITH. It's the mark of a closed mind, the antithesis of scholarship, the imposition of dogma.

For example, they're asking you to give money to promote M2C and SITH.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Joseph translated with instruments he got at the same time he did the plates

On the question of how the Book of Mormon was produced, a useful item shows up in the June 1, 1881, issue of the Saints' Herald. The newspaper reported the efforts of William H. Kelley to interview people who lived in Palmyra. Kelley interviewed John H. Gilbert, who set the type for the Book of Mormon. 

From page 165 of the 1881 Saints' Herald.

"I would know that manuscript today if I should see it. The most of it was in Oliver Cowdery's handwriting. Some in Joseph's wife's; a small part though. Hyrum Smith always brought the manuscript to the office; he would have it under his coat, and all buttoned up as carefully as though it was so much gold. He said at the time it was translated from plates by the power of God, and they were very particular about it. We had a great deal of trouble with it. It was not punctuated at all. They did not know anything about punctuation, and we had to do that ourselves."

Well, did you change any part of it when you were setting the type?

"No, sir; we never changed it at all."

Why did you not change it and correct it?

"Because they would not allow us to; they were very particular about that. We never changed it in the least. Oh, well; there might have been one or two words that I changed the spelling of; I believe I did change the spelling of one, and perhaps two, but no more."*

Did you set all of the type, or did some one help you?

"I did the whole of it myself, and helped to read the proof, too; there was no one who worked at that but myself. Did you ever see one of the first copies? I have one here that was never bound. Mr. Grandin, the printer, gave it to me. If you ever saw a Book of Mormon you will see that they changed it afterwards."

They did! Well, let us see your copy; that is a good point,. How is it changed now?

"I will show you," (bringing out his copy). "Here on the title page it says," (reading) "'Joseph Smith, Jr., author and proprietor.' Afterwards, in getting out other editions they left that out, and only claimed that Joseph Smith translated it."

Well, did they claim anything else than that he was the translator when they brought the manuscript to you?

"Oh, no; they claimed that he was translating it by means of some instruments he got at the same time he did the plates, and the Lord helped him."

Gilbert remembered that Joseph translated with the instrument that came with the plates. This was not the seer stone that Joseph found in a well years earlier.


*Gilbert later disputed some elements of this published interview. For example, he said he specifically changed the spelling of "travail" twice (in Mosiah). But he did not dispute what he said about the translation with the instruments that came with the plates.

Those who have read my book A Man that Can Translate might be interested in what Gilbert said about the Spalding theory.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Called by the ancients "Cumorah"

There are still members of the M2C citation cartel who insist Joseph adopted a false narrative about the New York Cumorah that was started by unknown early Church members. We'll discuss that more soon.

In the meantime, though, we should take another look at how Joseph first learned the name Cumorah.

Readers here know that, according to his mother, Joseph referred to the hill where he found the plates as "Cumorah" in early 1827. This was before he obtained the plates and before he translated anything. He could only have learned that name from Moroni.

We've seen that Parley P. Pratt said the "ancients" called the hill Cumorah.

Here is how David Whitmer explained it in his 1881 interview with the Kansas City Journal.

“Did Joseph Smith ever relate to you the circumstances of his finding the plates?”

“Yes, he told me that he first found the plates in the year 1823; that during the fall of 1823 he had a vision, an angel appearing to him three times in one night and telling him that there was a record of an ancient people deposited in a hill near his father’s house, called by the ancients `Cumorah,’ situated in the township of Manchester, Ontario County, N. Y. The angel pointed out the exact spot, and, sometime after, he went and found the records or plates deposited in a stone box in the hill, just as had been described to him by the angel. It was some little time, however, before the angel would allow Smith to remove the plates from their place of deposit.”  

This is yet another specific historical reference that our M2C friends will have to insist was wrong. That list keeps getting longer...