Friday, February 9, 2018

The original Gospel Topics essays

Beginning in 2013, the Church has published several "Gospel Topics essays" "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."

See https://www.lds.org/topics/essays?lang=eng

The original Gospel Topics essays were published in the 1834-1835 Messenger and Advocate in Kirtland, Ohio. Written by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, President and Assistant President of the Church respectively, these essays dealt with many of the same issues that arise today.

Joseph recognized the importance of these essays and had them copied into his own history as part of his life story. He had them republished in every Church-related newspaper in Nauvoo, Philadelphia, New York, and England. They were published in a special pamphlet. Later, they were republished in Salt Lake City by Joseph F. Smith, Second Counselor in the First Presidency.

The letters dealt not only with Church history, but also what it means to be a prophet, how the Restoration fit in with the Old Testament prophecies, and, of course, the real-world setting of the Book of Mormon, with Cumorah in New York.

I think members of the Church should read President Cowdery's letters today just as they did when Joseph Smith was alive.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

They really don't want you to accept Letter VII

Yesterday LDS Living posted an article titled "What Happened to the Sword of Laban, the Liahona, and Other Artifacts Hidden with the Golden Plates." You can see it here:

http://www.ldsliving.com/What-Happened-to-the-Sword-of-Laban-the-Liahona-and-Other-Artifacts-Hidden-with-the-Gold-Plates/s/87649#comments-href-link

The article is full of misleading information, but it also contributes to the ongoing--and growing--effort on the part of certain LDS intellectuals to persuade members of the Church not to believe early Church leaders.

Regarding the Liahona, the article says, "We know that the Liahona was safely stored until the early 1800s, when Joseph Smith unearthed its resting place. But what happened to it after that?"

There is no historical evidence that Joseph "unearthed" the Liahona. In fact, both Joseph and Oliver specifically identified the contents of Moroni's stone box: the plates, the interpreters, and the breastplate. No Liahona and no sword of Laban.

Then the article falsely claims this: "We know the weapon eventually ended up in the hands of Moroni, who buried the symbolic sword in the same box with the Nephite record, the Urim and Thummim and their accompanying breastplate."

Misleading exhibit in Visitors' Center on Temple Square
showing Moroni burying the Liahona and the sword of Laban
Moroni never said he had the Liahona or the sword of Laban. No historical account describes those items being in the stone box. Instead, the historical accounts all have those items being in Mormon's depository in a separate department of the hill from Moroni's stone box.

They were in the same hill Cumorah in New York, but a different location in the hill.

Church members such as the author of this LDS Living article understandably think the Liahona and the sword of Laban were in Moroni's stone box, thanks to the misleading exhibits in Church visitors' centers and other media and curriculum materials.

So where were the Liahona and the sword of Laban?

The only historical accounts we have explain that they were in Mormon's depository, not in Moroni's stone box.

The notion that the stone box contained the Liahona and the Sword of Laban was developed by promoters of the Mesoamerican/Two-Cumorahs theory (M2C) to explain D&C 17:1 without acknowledging that Oliver Cowdery specifically explained that Mormon's depository was located in the Hill Cumorah in New York (see Letter VII).

Brigham Young and others affirmed that Oliver, Joseph, and Joseph's brothers had visited that depository and had seen the artifacts for themselves.

This is a major problem for M2C intellectuals because they insist that the "real Cumorah" must be in southern Mexico for their theory to work. Therefore, anyone who teaches that Cumorah is in New York must be wrong.

The LDS Living article quotes David Whitmer's statement that he, Joseph and Oliver saw the Liahona and the sword of Laban at the time the angel showed them the plates. This is the only statement to that effect, and there are issues with it that I've discussed before.

The article goes on to falsely claim this:

The only other reference in Church history to the sword comes from the Journal of Discourses. The account tells of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery seeing the sword in a cave when they returned the plates, but this story is not necessarily accepted as truthful.

That sums up M2C scholarship right there: anything that contradicts their narrative "is not necessarily accepted as truthful."

If you want to read more about the many accounts this article ignores, read this article:

https://publications.mi.byu.edu/publications/jbms/13/1/S00006-50be6ae14ef1b5Packer.pdf

I don't know Jannalee Sandau, the author of this article, and I don't blame her for making the false assertions in this article. I suspect she has been educated at BYU and/or CES, which would explain why she doubts the veracity of Brigham Young and other early prophets who taught that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.

This is yet another in the long list of examples of how the M2C intellectuals are successfully indoctrinating LDS people into believing them, the intellectuals, instead of the prophets.

Friday, February 2, 2018

President Cowdery's letters still relevant

Because of Letter VII's declaration about Cumorah, many LDS intellectuals have a serious problem with President Cowdery's historical letters. They would rather not talk about them. They would prefer that people never find out about them.

Consequently, you won't read about them in most Church history publications. I've documented several instances where they are referred to only as obscure letters published in the Messenger and Advocate along with lots of other long, boring articles.

So far as I've been able to discover, until my Letter VII book came out, no one published an explanation of how ubiquitous these letters were. The closest was Peter Crawley's Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church.

This is strange because President Cowdery's letters deal with serious issues that people still confront today. In addition to the details about early Church history he provides, President Cowdery addressed the complaints that prophets are not perfect men (Letters II and VIII). He discussed the reasons why people do and don't accept the gospel. He explained in detail the things Moroni taught Joseph about the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.

Letter VII's teachings about the Hill Cumorah should have resolved that issue long ago, but that letter also deals with the question of worldly temptations when doing the Lord's work, using Joseph's hope to find something valuable to sell along with the plates.

These are just a few of the reasons why people should study these letters. When viewed this way, we can better understand why Joseph Smith made sure all the members of the Church in his day had access to the letters by publishing them in all the Church magazines.
_____

Here's how the Joseph Smith Papers have addressed the letters. They provide a Source Note and an overall Editorial Note or Introduction.

You'll notice that in Joseph's journal entry, he refers to the letters as "President Cowdery" letters, but the Joseph Smith papers refers to them as "Oliver Cowdery's" letters. That's an editorial decision, of course, and I'm not saying it's incorrect. But it does contribute to the sense that these letters contain merely obscure opinions of Oliver's.

For Joseph Smith, though, they were President Cowdery's, reflecting Joseph's recognition that they originated with the First Presidency.

Furthermore, Joseph considered them part of "a history of my life," not merely obscure opinions.

Here is the Source Note:

The next section of the history, begun months later, is a transcript of 
 as his scribe, also records that Parrish “commenced writing in my journal a history of my life, concluding President Cowdery 2d letter to W. W. Phelps, which president Williams had begun.”1



Here is the link to the Editorial Note:  http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/48 

You'll notice that they never mention Letter VII's teachings about Cumorah or even President Cowdery's detailed description of the stone box, both of which are especially important. I think the people working on the Joseph Smith Papers generally agree with the M2C scholars, so they don't want to even refer to these important aspects of the papers.

Also, the note refers to History, 1834-1836, as a "repository" of these letters, but they don't mention how often the letters were republished so all members of the Church could read them and have access to them. This omission contributes to the misperception that these letters were obscure, irrelevant opinions instead of a major part of the context in which Church history was understood while Joseph was alive.

This editorial approach does a disservice to members of the Church who don't understand why so many prophets and apostles have taught that there is one Cumorah and it was in New York.






Editorial Note
The following section includes transcripts of eight letters   wrote in 1834 and 1835 regarding JS’s visions of an angel and his discovery of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon. Cowdery addressed the letters to   and published them as a series in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate between October 1834 and October 1835. The titles and formatting employed in this history are similar to those in the published series of articles, indicating that the Cowdery letters were copied into the history from the Messenger and Advocate, not from a manuscript version of the letters.   could have begun the transcription in JS’s history as early as 6 December 1834, the date of Cowdery’s last historical entry in the preceding section of the history. However, Cowdery probably gave the history to Williams around 2 October 1835, when he gave Williams JS’s journal. On 29 October 1835, JS retrieved the history from Williams and delivered it to  , who continued copying the Cowdery letters. It is likely that Parrish finished copying the letters by early April 1836, when he gave JS’s journal (and presumably the 1834–1836 history along with it) to  .
In the first letter,   recounted his experiences with JS beginning when the two first met in April 1829. The letter includes an account of the vision he and JS had of John the Baptist, who gave them the authority to baptize. After composing this letter, but before its publication, Cowdery developed a new history-writing plan: he decided that in subsequent letters he would relate the “full history of the rise of the church,” beginning with JS’s early life and visions. As editor of the Messenger and Advocate, Cowdery prefaced the published version of the first letter with an explanation (also transcribed into the history) of the new plan. Although he had no firsthand knowledge of church history prior to April 1829, Cowdery assured his readers that “our brother J. Smith Jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensible.” Some passages in the ensuing narrative seem to have been related to Cowdery by JS, since Cowdery recounts events in which only JS participated.
 composed the letters to inform the Latter-day Saints of the history of their church, but he also wrote for the non-Mormon public. Employing florid romantic language, frequent scriptural allusions, and much dramatic detail, he clearly intended to present a rhetorically impressive account of early Mormon history. He placed the rise of the church in a dispensational framework, characterizing the time between the end of the New Testament and JS’s early visions as a period of universal apostasy. He included the revivalism of various denominations during the Second Great Awakening, which JS experienced in his youth, as an example of the doctrinal confusion and social disharmony present in Christendom. Throughout the series of letters, he defended JS’s character and that of the Smith family, and his explicitly apologetic statements include apparent allusions to both  ’s Delusions (1832) and  ’s Mormonism Unvailed (1834).
Beginning in the third letter,   provided the most extensive account of the origins of the Book of Mormon published up to that time. He related JS’s initial visions of the angel Moroni and, using biblical prophecies, elaborated on the angel’s message concerning the gathering of Israel in the last days in preparation for the Millennium. Cowdery continued his narrative up to, but did not include, JS’s receiving the gold plates in September 1827.
The transcription of the   letters into JS’s history was evidently conceived in terms of the entire series, not as a piecemeal copying of the individual letters. As noted above, Cowdery probably gave the “large journal” containing the history begun in 1834 to   in October 1835, the month of the Messenger and Advocate issue in which his final installment was published.  By the time Williams received the history, Cowdery may have already written the final letter; he had at least conceived of it as the final installment in his series. With the serialized Cowdery letters complete or nearing completion, the new history kept in the “large journal” could serve as a repository—more permanent than unbound newspapers—for a copied compilation of the entire series.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Printable summary of Letter VII

So many people have asked for a way to explain Letter VII to their friends that I’m posting this summary which you can print out and share with your friends and family. 

Here is the link:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mDizAWGkFDBR26gc9FsWGNPdhmTub3sc/view?usp=sharing

You can also print it and put it inside your copy of my Letter VII book when you share it.

There are a lot of details beyond this brief summary, of course. That's why I wrote the book about it. I also have a lot of information on this blog.

Thanks to the efforts of certain intellectuals, most people have never heard of Letter VII. At first, they may be skeptical that one letter can make a difference. But when you learn about it, you discover this was much more than just "a letter." This was a formal declaration of a series of facts, written by a member of the First Presidency (President Cowdery) and endorsed by the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve at the time. In the ensuing 150 years, every member of those quorums who has addressed the issue has affirmed Letter VII; no member of those quorums has ever contradicted Letter VII.

Below is the text of the file you can print from the above link: 
_____

Most members of the Church believe the Hill Cumorah is in New York. Church leaders have consistently taught this for over 150 years.

However, some intellectuals in the Church—including faculty at BYU and CES—claim there are “two Cumorahs.” They rationalize that New York is too far from Central America (Mesoamerica) for the hill in New York to be the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites.

Because these intellectuals have trained thousands of LDS students for decades, their ideas have permeated the Church. The “two-Cumorahs” theory is being taught in Church media and at Church visitors centers, but it has never been taught by a single member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve.

The efforts of the intellectuals have caused confusion among members and investigators.

Recent discoveries in Church history reaffirm the original teaching that there is one Cumorah and it is in New York. For example, there is a lot of information in the book titled Letter VII: Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery Explain the Hill Cumorah. 

In response, the intellectuals are teaching their students that the prophets and apostles are wrong.

This summary of Church history will help members understand the issue so they can support the Brethren when confronted with arguments against the New York Cumorah.

1. In 1834, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery decided to publish a series of letters about Church history in the Church newspaper titled The Messenger and Advocate. This was in response to anti-Mormon publications that were disrupting the missionary effort.

2. Oliver wrote the letters with Joseph’s assistance. They published eight letters between October 1834 and October 1835.

3. A section of Letter I is included as a footnote in the Pearl of Great Price at the end of Joseph Smith—History.

4. In December 1834, Joseph ordained Oliver Cowdery as Assistant President of the Church, explaining that this made him the spokesman. Joseph later referred to these letters as “President Cowdery’s letters.”

5. In Letter VII, published in July 1835, President Cowdery described the Hill Cumorah in New York. He explained that “at about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former” and declares it was a “fact that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.” He emphasized that “in this valley fell the remaining strength and price of a once powerful people, the Nephites.” “This hill, by the Jaredites, was called Ramah; by it, or around it, pitched the famous army of Coriantumr their tent… The opposing army were to the west, and in this same valley, and near by.” He also explained that Mormon’s depository of Nephite records (Mormon 6:6) was in the same hill.

6. The entire First Presidency at the time endorsed these letters. Joseph Smith had President Frederick G. Williams begin the process of copying all eight letters into his history, which you can read in the Joseph Smith Papers in History, 1834-1836. (go to www.josephsmithpapers.org and search for “Letter VII.”) President Sidney Rigdon separately approved of them.

7. All members of the original Quorum of the Twelve (they were called and ordained by President Cowdery and others in February 1835) who ever mentioned Cumorah affirmed what Letter VII teaches, including Parley and Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and William Smith.

8. Letter VII was originally published in the Messenger and Advocate (1835) and copied into Joseph Smith, History, 1834-1835, shortly thereafter. It was republished in the Millennial Star (1840), the Times and Seasons (1841), the Gospel Reflector (1841), a special pamphlet in England (1844), The Prophet (1844), and The Improvement Era. Joseph referred to it in D&C 128:20, which was originally a letter published in the Times and Seasons a year after Letter VII was published in the same newspaper.

9. Over the years, multiple members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, speaking in General Conference, have affirmed the New York Cumorah. Elder James E. Talmage in Articles of Faith affirmed it, as have other apostles, including LeGrand Richards in A Marvelous Work and a Wonder.

10. No member of the Twelve or First Presidency has ever said the Hill Cumorah was anywhere else.

11. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others explained that on multiple occasions, Oliver and Joseph had actually visited Mormon’s depository of records in the Hill Cumorah, which explains why President Cowdery wrote that it was a fact that Cumorah was in New York.

12. The intellectuals nevertheless have framed Letter VII as "Oliver Cowdery's opinion," characterizing it as a false tradition that Joseph Smith passively accepted. They claim that all the other prophets and apostles who have affirmed the New York Cumorah were perpetuating this false tradition. They claim that Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others were mistaken because Oliver had merely told them about a vision of a hill in Mexico.

13. The intellectuals have rejected the New York Cumorah because they think it contradicts their preferred theory that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica. To persuade their students to agree with them, they have made a series of claims about archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography, and they have insisted on an interpretation of the text that, they claim, makes the New York setting impossible. Lately, BYU and CES have been teaching students about the Book of Mormon by using a video-game-like fantasy map that depicts Cumorah in a mythical setting.

14. Although the consistent, repeated teachings of the prophets and apostles should be enough to settle this matter, there is evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography that supports the New York Cumorah as the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites. There are dozens of archaeological sites in western New York, dating to Book of Mormon times, that contain artifacts from the Ohio Hopewell civilization (the archaeological and anthropological term for the people who correspond to the Nephites). Bushels of stone weapons have been recovered from the vicinity of Cumorah. Research in the area is ongoing.

15. When the Mesoamerica/two-Cumorahs theory began to be accepted by LDS intellectuals, Joseph Fielding Smith, then Church Historian and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, released a statement that he later reiterated after he became President of the Quorum of the Twelve. He wrote, “Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.” His prophetic warning against the efforts of the intellectuals remains as valid today as it was when he originally published it.

Friday, January 5, 2018

M2C was not always popular

M2C--the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory--is the favorite theory of some LDS intellectuals today, but it was not always popular.

In the 1960s, the Church formally disavowed it, as I'll show below.

Today, you see it everywhere, from the North Visitors Center on Temple square to the splash page of BYU Studies (at the bottom of the page, under "Popular Pages," click on "Charting the Book of Mormon," then scroll down to "Plausible Locations of the Final Battles."

It looks like this:

BYU Studies teaches M2C

Notice, the New York Cumorah is nowhere to be seen.

The narrative reads, "The hill Ramah/Cumorah, upon which both the Jaredites and Nephites fought their last battles (see Ether 15:11; Mormon 6:4–6), is shown here on the northwestern edge of the Tuxtla Mountains in Mexico, about ninety miles from a narrow pass (see Mormon 3:5). Other Jaredite locations, including Omer's flight to Ramah (see Ether 9:3), are also shown here. Again, these locations are plausible, but not definite."


By implication (and by explicit declaration if you read the works of the intellectuals), New York is not even a plausible location for the Hill Cumorah.

And, of course, BYU and CES students are taught the same thing with the fantasy map at BYU, which you can see here: http://bom.byu.edu/

In my view, New York is not only a plausible location, it's the only location for the Hill Cumorah. One reason, of course, is because of Letter VII and the unanimous statements of every prophet and apostle who has spoken publicly about the issue. But other reasons are the geology, geography, history, anthropology, and archaeology relevant to that location.
_____

In the 1960s, the Presiding Bishopric sent out a monthly newsletter titled The Messenger about Church policy, activities, and statistics. (They even published the average fast offering donation for each stake in the Church, setting up some friendly competition).

Here is the article from newsletter for July 1960. Notice the last line: "This concept of two Cumorahs should not be taught as official Church doctrine."


This is particularly interesting because it addresses the mere "inference" that there are two "Hills Cumorah."

Now, BYU Studies isn't satisfied with an "inference." It outright teaches the M2C theory.

And, as we've seen, the North Visitors Center right on Temple Square teaches M2C.
https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2016/12/yes-they-do-teach-two-cumorahs-theory.html
_____

Quibblers might respond by saying "The concept of one Cumorah in New York should not be taught as official Church doctrine."

Except if that's the case, someone forgot to tell Joseph Smith, William Smith, Don Carlos Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, James E. Talmage, LeGrand Richards, Anthony W. Ivins, Joseph Fielding Smith, Marion G. Romney, Mark E. Petersen, etc.
_____

Lately, I've had people say they are "open" to the idea that these prophets and apostles were correct.

Seriously?


We're good if we're merely "open" to that idea?

Maybe that's intended as an indication of an open mind, but the phrase has a connotation of a burden of proof; i.e., we think the prophets and apostles are wrong, but we're "open" to the idea that maybe they were correct.

I suppose it's better to be "open" to the idea that the prophets and apostles are correct, but to reach that point, if we are believing, faithful members who sustain Church leaders, we had to first be "open" to the idea that they were wrong and were thereby misleading both members of the Church and the world at large.

Consequently, I don't see it as a big "concession" to be "open" to the idea that the prophets and apostles were correct. But, considering that promoters of M2C insist the prophets and apostles were wrong, I suppose the new approach of being "open" to the idea that they were correct is at least a move in the right direction.







Monday, December 18, 2017

Which narrative makes sense to you?

Letter VII presents LDS readers with a narrative that makes sense; i.e., the Hill Cumorah is in New York. This means Mormon's depository of records (Mormon 6:6) and the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites took place in New York.

But this narrative contradicts the prevailing Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory that some intellectuals in the Church have promoted for decades.

See which narrative fits your concept.

Two narratives*

A common theme in the scriptures, literature, and even psychology is the existence of two narratives from which people choose. Of course, there are usually far more than two, but often there are two fundamentally different narratives.

For example, the New Testament describes two narratives about Christ:

John 10:19-21 There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?

There are lots of examples. I'm sure you can think of several right now.

Lehi gave an explanation here:

2 Nephi 2:11, 15 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad... it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.

________________________

With regard to Book of Mormon geography and historicity, we can choose between two narratives. I'll compare them side by side below.

Note that "Mesoamerica" is a proxy for every theory that places Cumorah somewhere other than in New York.

As always, I emphasize that people are free to believe whatever they want. The table is intended to clarify what others think so you can compare your own beliefs and make up your own mind.

Which do you find more compatible with your beliefs? Which is more compatible with the historical evidence? Which is best corroborated by the sciences?

Mesoamerica
Moroni’s America
Mormon and Moroni lived in Mesoamerica.
Mormon and Moroni lived in North America.
Mormon wrote his abridgment somewhere in Mesoamerica and hid up all the Nephite records in a repository in the Hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:6), a hill somewhere in southern Mexico, before giving "these few plates" to Moroni.
(Note: Moroni told Joseph the record was "written and deposited near" Joseph's home.)
Mormon wrote his abridgment in the vicinity of western New York and hid up all the Nephite records in a repository in in the Hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:6), the hill near Palmyra, New York, before giving "these few plates" to Moroni.
(Note: Moroni told Joseph the record was "written and deposited near" Joseph's home.)
Thinking he would not live long, Moroni adds a couple of chapters to his father’s record, travels 3,400 miles to New York, and hides the plates in the stone box, thinking he would not live long. Or, he keeps the plates with him while he roams around Mesoamerica for decades before taking them to New York. Or he hides them somewhere else until he is ready to take them 3,400 miles to New York.
Thinking he would not live long, Moroni adds a couple of chapters to his father’s record and hides the plates in the stone box he built in the hill Cumorah in New York, separate from his father's depository in the same hill. 
Later, Moroni retrieves the plates of Ether from the repository in southern Mexico and abridges them. He adds the abridgment to his father’s abridgment, along with a sealed portion, and hides the plates again in New York. Or, Moroni abridges the plates of Ether right after his father died, and the plates of Ether were among the few his father gave him, and after he abridges them, he returns the original plates to his father's depository. Or the plates of Ether are the sealed portion.
Later, Moroni retrieves the plates of Ether from the depository in New York and abridges them. He adds this abridgment to his father’s abridgment, along with a sealed portion and his own commentary, and puts this collection of plates into his stone box. He returns the original plates of Ether to the depository in the Hill Cumorah in New York.
Later, Moroni returns to the repository in southern Mexico and gets a sermon and letters from his father. He adds this material to his final comments—the Book of Moroni—and returns to New York to put the finished record back in the stone box.
Later, Moroni returns to the depository in New York and gets a sermon and letters from his father. He adds this material to his final comments—the Book of Moroni—and puts his finished record back in the stone box. He returns the source material to the depository.
Moroni visits Joseph Smith in 1823 and tells him the record was “written and deposited” not far from Joseph’s home. But this is a mistake because the record was written in Central America and deposited in New York. Either Joseph or Oliver misunderstood, or else Moroni misspoke.
Moroni visits Joseph Smith in 1823 and tells him the record was “written and deposited” not far from Joseph’s home. Moroni accurately describes where the record was written.
Joseph Smith obtained the abridged record of the Nephites and the Jaredites from Moroni’s stone box. He translated part of these plates in Harmony and gave them back to an angel. The Lord told him to translate the plates of Nephi (D&C 10), even though he had reached the end of the plates (the Title Page) and hadn't found these plates of Nephi yet.
Joseph Smith obtained the abridged record of the Nephites and the Jaredites from Moroni’s stone box. He translated these plates in Harmony and gave them back to an angel because he was finished with them. The Lord told him to translate the plates of Nephi (D&C 10), but he didn’t have those yet.
In Harmony, Joseph translated the Title Page from the last leaf of the plates. He had it printed and delivered to the U.S. federal district court in New York as part of his copyright application.
In Harmony, Joseph translated the Title Page from the last leaf of the plates. He had it printed and delivered to the U.S. federal district court in New York as part of his copyright application.
On the way from Harmony to Fayette, David Whitmer said he, Joseph and Oliver encountered an old man bearing the plates who was heading for Cumorah. Joseph said it was one of the three Nephites. But David was mistaken because he conflated the false tradition of the New York Cumorah with another unspecified event.
On the way from Harmony to Fayette, David Whitmer said he, Joseph and Oliver encountered an old man bearing the plates who was heading for Cumorah. Joseph said it was one of the three Nephites. This was the messenger who had the Harmony plates and was returning them to the repository.
In Fayette, an angel returned the Harmony plates to Joseph.
In Fayette, an angel gave Joseph the small plates of Nephi which came from the repository in Cumorah.
In Fayette, Joseph translated the small plates of Nephi (1 Nephi – Words of Mormon).
In Fayette, Joseph translated the small plates of Nephi (1 Nephi – Words of Mormon).
Joseph and Oliver Cowdery and others had multiple visions of Mormon’s depository in the “real” Hill Cumorah, which is somewhere in southern Mexico.
Joseph and Oliver Cowdery and others actually visited Mormon’s depository in the Hill Cumorah in New York and saw the stacks of plates and other Nephite artifacts.
Cumorah cannot be in New York because it is a “clean hill.”
Cumorah is in New York because hundreds of artifacts, including weapons of war, have been recovered from the vicinity of the hill.
Cumorah cannot be in New York because it is a glacial moraine that cannot contain a natural cave.
Cumorah is in New York because an actual room that matches the description given by Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others has been found there.
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery never claimed revelation about the location of Cumorah. They merely speculated. They adopted a false tradition and misled the Church. Joseph later changed his mind and, by writing anonymous articles, claimed the Book of Mormon took place in Central America and that only scholars could determine where the Book of Mormon took place.
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery didn’t need revelation about the location of Cumorah because they visited Mormon’s depository. They may also have had revelations that they didn’t write or even relate. E.g., JS-H 1:73-4. They did not mislead the Church. Joseph never changed his mind and never linked the Book of Mormon to Central America, through anonymous articles or otherwise.
All the modern prophets and apostles who have identified the Hill Cumorah as the scene of the final battles were speaking as uninspired men. They were speculating, giving their own opinions, and they were wrong. This includes members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.
All the modern prophets and apostles who have identified the Hill Cumorah as the scene of the final battles were speaking as their roles as prophets, seers and revelators. This includes members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.
The two-Cumorahs theory originated with scholars from the Reorganized Church and was adopted and promoted by LDS scholars because it’s the only explanation that fits their criteria. Joseph Fielding Smith was wrong to condemn the theory and didn’t know what he was talking about.
The two-Cumorahs theory originated with scholars from the Reorganized Church and was adopted and promoted by LDS scholars because it’s the only explanation that fits their criteria. These scholars have rejected Elder Joseph Fielding Smith when he warned the two-Cumorahs theory would cause members to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.
The scholars’ two-Cumorah theory is correct because whenever the current Brethren have a question about the Book of Mormon, they consult the scholars at BYU who promote the two-Cumorahs theory.
The scholars’ two-Cumorah theory doesn’t fit the historical record, the affirmative declarations of Joseph and Oliver, or the prophetic statements of numerous modern prophets and apostles.

Graphically:

The Mesoamerican (two Cumorahs) setting is depicted in the North Visitors' Center on Temple Square, with Mormon surrounded by Mayan glyphs in one hill, while Moroni is far away burying the plates in New York:



The panels at the exhibit include Arnold Friberg's famous paintings of Book of Mormon scenes in Central America. A photo of "Mormon's hill" in Mesoamerica can be found on lds.org here.

[Note: these displays would be consistent with the Church's official position of neutrality if there were no glyphs painted on the walls of Mormon's repository, although it would still be problematic to physically separate the depository from Moroni's stone box.]

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The New York (one Cumorah) setting as described by Orson Pratt:



“The particular place in the hill, where Moroni secreted the book, was revealed by the angel to the Prophet Joseph Smith, to whom the volume was delivered in September, 1827. But the grand depository of all the numerous records of the ancient nations of the western continent, was located in another department of the hill, and its contents under the charge of holy angels, until the day should come for them to be transferred to the sacred temple of Zion.”  
Orson Pratt, “The Hill Cumorah”, Millennial StarVol. 28, July 7, 1866, p. 417
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Friday, December 15, 2017

Lesson/fireside material

Readers often ask for help in sharing/presenting the information about the Hill Cumorah. Here is some material you can use.
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Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery explain the Hill Cumorah

Purpose

To help class members understand what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught about the Hill Cumorah and how that helps readers understand the Book of Mormon and early Church history
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Scriptures and references: 

- D&C 9 & 10; 128:20
- Book of Mormon Title Page
- Mormon 6:6
- Joseph Smith-History 1:71
- Letter VII, in Joseph Smith, History, 1834-1836, online at http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/83, in print: Joseph Smith Papers, Histories Volume 1, p. 72.
- David Whitmer interview, Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt, report to President John Taylor and Council of the Twelve, September 17, 1878, online here: http://jared.pratt-family.org/report-of-elders-orson-pratt-and-joseph-f-smith.html
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How many have visited the Hill Cumorah? How long ago? What did you observe?

Why we visit the Hill Cumorah. What happened there?

Responses will include: Joseph found the plates there, Moroni visited Joseph there, Joseph returned to the hill annually for four years before getting the plates, etc. Some may say the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites were there, while others may disagree, saying those battles were in Central America or Mesoamerica. Some may say Mormon's depository of Nephite records was there, while others may disagree.

The purpose of the lesson is not to debate questions about geography, but to educate people about (i) what the prophets and apostles have said and (ii) how the Book of Mormon covenants relate to the promised land.

Emphasize that the Church currently has no official position on Book of Mormon geography and therefore each person is free to believe whatever he/she wants to believe on that topic.


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What do we know about Cumorah?

From the scriptures:

Mormon 6:6 (the "last struggle" of the Nephites took place there; Mormon "his up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted" to him)

Mormon 6:11-12 (20,000 Nephites died at Cumorah. Note that verses 13-15 refer to Nephites who had died earlier in the wars leading up to the final battles at Cumorah, such as Mormon 4:11.)

Mormon 8:2-2 (Moroni was the lone survivor of the final Nephite battle at Cumorah)

Ether 15:11 (Ramah was the Jaredite name for Cumorah. Explain that fewer than 10,000 Jaredites died at Cumorah. See my post here for the explanation: http://www.lettervii.com/2017/07/more-about-cumorahs-casualties.html)

From Church history:

Moroni told Joseph Smith that the record of the Nephites was "written and deposited" not far from his home. Letter IV, Joseph Smith, History, 1834-1836, http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/69

Joseph visited the site on the hill after Moroni's visits. After four years, he obtained the plates.

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What happened after Joseph obtained the plates?

Joseph took them home, but a few months later, Joseph and Emma moved to Harmony, PA.



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What was on the plates?

The Title Page, which Joseph translated in Harmony before moving to Fayette, explains what the book contains. The Title Page was "a literal translation, taken from the vert last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates." http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/times-and-seasons-15-october-1842/1

[Read the Title Page] 




According to the Title Page, the record consisted of:

(i) an abridgment of the record of the Nephites, 
(ii) an abridgment of the record of the people of Jared.
(iii) original material by Moroni (sealed by Moroni)

Notice, no original plates are mentioned; i.e., the plates of Nephi were not included in the plates Joseph obtained from Moroni's stone box in the Hill Cumorah. (We call these the Harmony plates.)

In Harmony, Joseph first translated the Book of Lehi. This was the 116 pages that Martin Harris lost. 



When Oliver Cowdery arrived in April 1829, Joseph began translating the Book of Mosiah. They finished with the Book of Moroni and the Title Page at the end of May.



There's a helpful timeline of the translation here: https://mi.byu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Willes-Lecture-Program-small-1.pdf
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Why didn't Joseph re-translate the Book of Lehi?

When Oliver Cowdery tried and failed to translate, he continued writing for Joseph. The Lord told him "I would that ye should continue until you have finished this record, which I have entrusted unto him. And then, behold, other records have I, that I will give unto you power that you may assist to translate." D&C 9:1-2

"This record" refers to the record Joseph and Oliver were working on; i.e., the Harmony plates that Joseph obtained from Moroni's box, described by the Title Page.

What are the "other records" to which the Lord referred?

D&C 10 tells us. The section starts by explaining to Joseph that the people who stole the 116 pages would change the words and publish them if Joseph re-translated that part of the plates. Instead of re-translating the Book of Lehi, Joseph would have to translate the "plates of Nephi."

38 And now, verily I say unto you, that an account of those things that you have written, which have gone out of your hands [the Book of Lehi on the 116 pages], is engraven upon the plates of Nephi; [except Joseph didn't have the plates of Nephi yet]

39 Yea, and you remember it was said in those writings [the 116 pages] that a more particular account was given of these things upon the plates of Nephi.

40 And now, because the account which is engraven upon the plates of Nephi is more particular concerning the things which, in my wisdom, I would bring to the knowledge of the people in this account—

41 Therefore, you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi, down even till you come to the reign of king Benjamin, or until you come to that which you have translated, which you have retained; [Joseph apparently retained some of the translation he did with Martin Harris, which we refer to as page 117, and this is probably Words of Mormon 1:13-18. Verse 12 appears to be Joseph Smith's bridge between the plates of Nephi (with Mormon's sealing in verses 1-11) and the part he retained (page 117).]

42 And behold, you shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words.
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How did Joseph get the plates of Nephi?

Before leaving Harmony, Joseph gave the Harmony plates to a divine messenger. David Whitmer came from Fayette to pick up Joseph and Oliver. During the trip to Fayette, they encountered a man on the road who greeted them. David offered him a ride to Fayette but the man declined, saying he was going to Cumorah. David did not know what Cumorah was. He asked Joseph. Joseph explained that was the messenger with the plates.

[See the report of Joseph F. Smith for one of several accounts of this event.]

After Joseph arrived in Fayette, the messenger delivered the plates. Joseph translated them as 1 Nephi through Words of Mormon 1:11.



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How do we know the Hill Cumorah is in New York?

Joseph's mother reported that the Angel Moroni referred to the hill as Cumorah even before Joseph obtained the plates. 

In 1834-5, Oliver Cowdery wrote a series of eight historical letters that were published in the official Church newspaper, the Messenger and Advocate, in Kirtland, Ohio. Portions of Letter I are included in the Pearl of Great Price as a footnote to Joseph Smith History 1:71. Joseph had his scribes (starting with Frederick G. Williams, Second Counselor in the First Presidency) copy the letters into his history as part of his life story. 

Letter VII focuses specifically on the Hill Cumorah. When he wrote it, Oliver was Assistant President of the Church, a calling that includes acting as spokesman. 

In Letter VII, Oliver described the hill this way:

At about one mile west [of the hill Cumorah] rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between. The soil is of the first quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.

By turning to the 529th and 530th pages of the book of Mormon [Mormon 6] you will read Mormon’s account of the last great struggle of his people, as they were encamped round this hill Cumorah....

[Mormon] deposited, as he says, on the 529th page, all the records in this same hill...

This hill, by the Jaredites, was called Ramah: by it, or around it pitched the famous army of Coriantumr their tents.

Coriantumr was the last king of the Jaredites The opposing army were to the west, and in this same vally, and near by, from day to day, did that mighty race spill their blood, in wrath, contending, as it were, brother against brother, and father, against son. In this same spot, in full view from the top of this same hill, one may gaze with astonishment upon the ground which was twice covered with the dead and dying of our fellow men.






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How would Oliver know that the hill where Joseph obtained the plates was the actual Hill Cumorah from the Book of Mormon?

1. Oliver was with David Whitmer when the messenger who had the Harmony plates said he was going to Cumorah.

2. Oliver visited the hill: "It was at the second mentioned place where the record was found to be deposited, on the west side of the hill, not far from the top down its side; and when myself visited the place in the year 1830, there were several trees standing: enough to cause a shade in summer, but not so much as to prevent the surface being covered with grass—which was also the case when the record was first found." Letter VIII.

3. On multiple occasions, Oliver actually entered the depository of Nephite records. Brigham Young and others explained this. [Brigham's comments are here:

4. Oliver worked closely with Joseph Smith from the time he met him in April 1829. He kept a notebook of what Joseph told him. Joseph approved of Letter VII on multiple occasions, showing he considered it valid. 
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What have the prophets and apostles said about Letter VII and the New York Cumorah?

Several of the original Quorum of the Twelve republished Letter VII and/or taught that the Hill Cumorah was in New York, including Parley P. and Orson Pratt, William Smith, Brigham Young, and Heber C. Kimball. Subsequent prophets and apostles, including Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, Anthony W. Ivins, LeGrand Richards, Marion G. Romney, and Mark E. Petersen, have affirmed that the Hill Cumorah is in New York. No prophet or apostle has said Cumorah is anywhere else.
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Why would Moroni put the plates in a stone box instead of inside his father's depository?

Orson Pratt explained that there were two departments in the hill.




When Joseph Smith first went to see the plates, he was tempted by the wealth they represented. He knew he could not sell the plates, but he hoped to find other artifacts he could sell. The gold in the plates was worth about $1 million in today's dollars, and an equivalent value in Joseph's day. It took four years of diligent patience for him to overcome that temptation. 

Had Moroni led him to the depository instead, it seems unlikely that Joseph could have withstood the temptation. It was only after he had translated the Harmony plates that he realized Mormon's depository was in the same hill; after all, he had only translated Mormon 6:6 a few days before. Later, he had enough experience with revelation that he was able to resist the temptation when he and Oliver entered the depository and saw all the artifacts.
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Why is this important to know?

There is a lot of confusion about Book of Mormon geography. So far, the Lord has not revealed the details to us, but the prophets and apostles, starting with Joseph and Oliver, unambiguously gave us the one pin in the map: Cumorah is in New York.

This helps us understand the prophecies and promises in the Book of Mormon relating to the promised land and the obligation for its occupants to (i) keep the commandments and (ii) take the Gospel to the world.