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...

Thursday, October 1, 2020

David Whitmer, the angel, the messenger, and two departments in Cumorah

The first time Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith (JFS) visited the Hill Cumorah near Palmyra, New York, was in September 1878. Orson was 68 years old and had testified about the Hill Cumorah many times but had never had the opportunity to see the hill or visit historic sites in the area.

At the time, Orson was Church Historian. President John Taylor had sent him and JFS on a fact-finding mission to sites of early Church history. An overview of their trip is here:

The two men were traveling together from Utah to New York City. They sent reports of their trip to the Deseret News that were published as installments. The report of their visit to Cumorah is here:

In the following installment, they discuss their interview with David Whitmer on 7–8 September 1878. This is the interview in which David Whitmer describes the angel who showed them the plates, surrounded by glorious light. Later, he describes the divine messenger, a heavy-set old man in a brown wool suit, who was taking the abridged plates to Palmyra. These were unmistakably different individuals.

David explains it was this same messenger who showed plates to his mother, Mary Whitmer. (She said he called himself "Brother Nephi.") These were the plates Joseph translated in Fayette, which means they were the original plates of Nephi (the so-called "small plates." 

Notice that David saw both the angel and the messenger and never said or implied they were the same person.*


Orson Pratt died on October 3, 1881 at the age of 70 (he was born September 19, 1811, in Hartford, New York.) He was the last member of the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to die. 

The next year, The Contributor posthumously published an article written by Orson about the Hill Cumorah. You can read it here:

This is a reprint of an article Orson published in the Millennial Star in 1866.

In this article, Orson explains there were two departments in the hill of Cumorah.

The Hill Cumorah is situated in western New York between the villages of Palmyra and Canandaigua about four miles from the former. It is celebrated as the ancient depository of the sacred gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. Cumorah was the name by which the hill was designated in the days of the Prophet Moroni who deposited the plates about four hundred and twenty years after the birth of Christ.

The prophet Mormon, the father of Moroni, had been entrusted with all the sacred records of his forefathers engraved on metallic plates. New plates were made by Mormon on which he wrote, from the more ancient books, an abridged history of the nation, incorporating therewith many revelations, prophecies, the Gospel, &c. 

These new plates were given to Moroni to finish the history. And all the ancient plates Mormon deposited in Cumorah, about three hundred and eighty-four years after Christ. When Moroni, about thirty-six years after, made the deposit of the book entrusted book entrusted to him, he was, without doubt inspired to select a department of the hill separate from the great sacred depository of the numerous volumes hid up by his father. 

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, A.D. 1827. But the grand repository 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.


*Even though David said the published Testimony of the Three Witnesses "is strictly and absolutely true," we have some current LDS scholars who, because of M2C, teach that the angel and the old man were the same person: Moroni. 

Yes, they are teaching their students (and the world) that resurrected beings have the ability to shape shift.

Accordingly, I offer the revised Testimony of the Three Witnesses:

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an aged man, about 5'10", with a long white beard, around 70 years old and wearing a wool suit, brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

Oliver Cowdery

David Whitmer

Martin Harris

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Moroni and Nephi

From time to time, the ongoing confusion over Moroni and Nephi arises. This is a brief explanatory note.

When originally published in the Times and Seasons in 1842, Joseph Smith's history said that it was Nephi who first appeared to him in 1823 to tell him about the plates.

He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi. That God had a work for me to do, and that my name should be had for good and evil, among all nations, kindreds, and tongues; or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.

Church historians later edited the history so that it now reads Moroni.

33. He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.

This detail has led critics to claim that Joseph couldn't get his story straight.

I see it differently.

There's no doubt the 1842 publication in the Times and Seasons was an error. Joseph had identified the messenger as Moroni in the Elders' Journal in 1838. Oliver Cowdery had done the same in 1835.

How can we account for such an obvious error in the 1842 Times and Seasons?

First, the publication of the error is evidence that Joseph Smith, who was the named editor of the newspaper at the time, was merely the nominal editor (i.e., in name only). He didn't review the paper closely, or at all, prior to publication.

Second, the history published in the 1842 Times and Seasons was not written by, and probably not dictated by, Joseph Smith. Instead, it was compiled by his scribes beginning in 1838. 

Of course, this raises the question, why would the scribes think it was Nephi who first visited Joseph and not Moroni?

The answer could be that they knew Joseph had multiple encounters with both Moroni and Nephi.

Brigham Young explained in a letter to his son that "There is really no discrepancy in the history about these names. It was Moroni who delivered the sacred records and Urim and Thummim to Joseph, but Nephi also visited him."

Those who have read the Saints book, volume 1, will remember the account of a divine messenger showing Mary Whitmer the plates in Fayette, NY. The book claims the messenger was Moroni. This is a revisionist historical narrative, designed to accommodate M2C by deflecting attention from David Whitmer's testimony that this same messenger took the Harmony plates (the abridged plates) to Cumorah before bringing the unabridged plates of Nephi to Fayette.

The claim that the messenger was Moroni also contradicts what Mary Whitmer herself reportedly said; i.e., that the messenger identified himself as Brother Nephi.

By changing the historical narrative to omit Nephi and insert Moroni into the account of the messenger who took the Harmony plates to Cumorah and showed the plates of Nephi to Mary Whitmer, our Church historians have compounded the confusion that long existed over the claim in the 1842 Times and Seasons that it was Nephi who first appeared to Joseph Smith.

As usual in questions about Church history, we are better off accepting the statements of those involved than the revisionist history of our modern historians.


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

1829 account of Hill Cumorah

This post relates the second-oldest account of the New York Cumorah that I'm aware of. It's a recollection of a statement by Martin Harris in 1829 as the Book of Mormon was being printed in Palmyra, NY.

The oldest account was from Lucy Mack Smith, who remembered Joseph referring to Cumorah in early 1827 when he was late coming home from Manchester.

Currently in the United States there is a controversy about federal officers in cities such as Portland, Oregon, who are protecting federal property. This is reminiscent of the challenges faced by Stephen S. Harding, the fourth territorial Governor of Utah.

In 1862, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln appointed Harding as Governor of the Utah Territory.  Harding had conflicts with Brigham Young and was unable to enforce federal law. In 1863, President Lincoln appointed Harding as Chief Justice of the Colorado Territory's Supreme Court.

Harding was born in Palmyra, NY, on February 24, 1808. His family moved to Indiana in 1820, but he remembered Joseph Smith, Jr., from seeing him fishing often.

In 1829, Harding returned to Palmyra to visit friends, including Pomeroy Tucker. While visiting the printing shop, he met Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, and Joseph's father. When he expressed interest in the Book of Mormon that was being prepared for printing, he was invited to spend the night at the Smith home. Oliver Cowdery read from the manuscript.

Harding left to visit his brother, but two weeks later he ran in to Martin Harris again in Palmyra. Here's the account Harding wrote in a published letter.

"About two weeks after this I met Martin Harris. He was glad to see me; inquired how I felt since my dream. He told me that since he saw me at Mr. Smith's he had seen fearful signs in the heavens. That he was standing alone one night, and saw a fiery sword let down out of heaven, and pointing to the east, west, north, and south, then to the hill of Cumorah, where the plates of Nephi were found."

Harding wrote this letter in 1882, but he relates several details that attest to his solid memory. Of course, this is not proof that the hill in New York is the same as the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6, but it does show that at least Martin Harris believed it was, even before the Book of Mormon was printed.

That Harris would refer to Cumorah this way is another corroboration of other accounts that Joseph Smith's contemporaries understood that the hill where Joseph found the plates was the Cumorah of the Book of Mormon.