Thursday, July 26, 2018

Letter VII in 1909 Course of Study

In 1909, the Church published a manual titled "Course of Study for the Quorums of Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

The First Year book was titled "Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon." You can see it here:;view=1up;seq=1

On page 43, the manual cites and quotes from Letter VII on the subject of Cumorah:

Oliver Cowdery was the first to give the world any account in detail of these early events connected with the coming forth of the great work of God. This he did in 1834-35 in a series of nine letters to the “Saints Messenger and Advocate,” published at Kirtland, Ohio, under the caption, “Early Scenes and Incidents in the Church.”  And
as.these letters were published in the lifetime of the Prophet, with his sanction and in a periodical published by the Church, it cannot be doubted but that the statements contained in them are reliable....

The place where the Nephite record was deposited must and ever be of interest to those who believe that record to be true, and therefore a description of the hill of Cumorah will not be out of place in concluding this chapter.

[Letter VII on Cumorah]

The link is here:;view=1up;seq=45

The General Committee who prepared and published the manual included Rudger Clawson (ordained an Apostle in 1898 and President of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1921),  David O. McKay (ordained an Apostle in 1906, Second Counselor in the First Presidency in 1934, and President of the Church in 1951), and Charles W. Nibley (who became Second Counselor in the First Presidency under President Heber J. Grant in 1925).

M2C intellectuals want you to believe that these men, along with the other General Authorities who approved the manual, misled the Church because they were ignorant speculators who needed to be corrected by Matt Roper, Jack Welch, John Sorenson, Tyler Griffin, Mark Alan Wright, Dan Peterson, and all the other M2C intellectuals at BYU/CES and Book of Mormon Central.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Cowdery Memorial - 3 reasons to visit Cumorah

Thanks to the Correlation Department's obsession with Mesoamerica, visitors to the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center near Palmyra, NY, are never told what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.

Visitors are told that Cumorah is significant only because Joseph got the plates here. They are not informed about Cumorah as the site of Mormon's depository of the ancient Nephite records. They are not informed about Cumorah as the site of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites.

Consequently, we included a graphic explaining the 3 reasons to visit Cumorah.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Oliver Cowdery Display - with flowers

Oliver Cowdery Memorial, Palmyra, NY
located on route 21, 1 mile north of the Hill Cumorah
My wife added flowers to the display, which is a big improvement.

They have hanging flower baskets everywhere in western New York. Even the Hill Cumorah Pageant is decorated with them.

So far, the only problem we have it there is so much information on the display that we spend 30 minutes to an hour going through it with visitors.

It would be far better for this display to be set up along the top of the Hill  Cumorah, leading to the statue of Moroni.

Some day...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Oliver Cowdery Memorial - Palmyra

The new Oliver Cowdery Memorial is located one mile north of the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center, on route 21 (the main road). It is on the west side of the road.

The Memorial is located between the Hill Cumorah and the Sacred Grove, so everyone driving between these locations passes it.

The Memorial features panels explaining President Cowdery's connections to this area. Route 21 is the road to Canandaigua that he referred to in Letter VII.

The Memorial also features Letter VII itself, along with statements from the prophets about the New York Cumorah. It explains the three reasons to visit Cumorah.

Incredibly, visitors to the Hill Cumorah currently are told only that Joseph found the plates on this hill. Visitors wonder why there's even a visitors center there. It's so sad to see bus loads of visitors, including youth, come all the way to the Hill Cumorah only to be misled about what the prophets have taught.

In recent years, thanks to revisionist Church historians who are systematically erasing Church history to accommodate the M2C intellectuals, visitors are not told about (i) Mormon's depository in the hill, or (ii) the great battles fought in the mile-wide valley west of the hill. These were the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites.

Now, visitors to Palmyra can at least learn the truth about what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, starting with Letter VII and continuing through General Conference addresses by members of the First Presidency.

Finally, the Memorial shows how the New York Cumorah fits in the overall Book of Mormon geography in North America.

If you come to Palmyra, be sure to stop by the Oliver Cowdery Memorial.

Plus, there's an art studio on the same property with some new paintings depicting Book of Mormon people and scenes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Editing the Wentworth letter

To keep Church history correct, it's important to know when scholars have made modifications. Here's one of the worst examples.

Editing the Wentworth Letter

It seems to me that the location of Cumorah/Ramah in New York is as well established as just about anything else in Church history and in the statements of the prophets and apostles. So far as I've been able to determine, every modern prophet and apostle who has formally spoken or written on the issue has said Cumorah is in New York, and none of them have said it is not in New York or that it is somewhere else.

It is only a few LDS scholars with disproportionate influence who insist Cumorah cannot be in New York.

Beyond Cumorah, of course, there have always been a variety of opinions about geography, ranging from as large as the entire hemisphere to as small as the borders of New York State. So beyond Cumorah, meaning other than Cumorah, with the information we currently have, there could not be an official position. There are many possibilities that are consistent with the text, and no clear way to choose among them at this point.

The prophets are correct about both elements:

1. Cumorah is in New York.
2. We don't know where the other events took place.

This is exactly what was reflected in the 1879 official edition of the Book of Mormon, when Orson Pratt divided the text into the modern chapters and verses. He also included footnotes about Book of Mormon geography. He suggested locations for Zarahemla, the River Sidon, etc., but always with qualifiers such as "it is believed."

The footnote for Cumorah, however, declares unequivocally that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.

Just like Joseph and Oliver declared in Letter VII.

Then why, I wondered, do so many LDS scholars and educators insist there is no official position even about Cumorah?

The first question is, how is an official position of the Church expressed?

Maybe the clearest statement of official positions is the Articles of Faith, which have been canonized. However, these are expressions of belief about doctrines, and the 8th article of faith itself leaves a lot of room for individual variation:

 11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

The location of Cumorah, like the location of Palmyra or Harmony, is not a statement of belief about doctrine. These are facts, and Letter VII declared the New York location of Cumorah as a fact.

Another interesting aspect of the Articles of Faith is that they were included in the Wentworth letter, published in the Times and Seasons on March 1, 1842. Joseph explained the purpose in the opening paragraph:

"March 1, 1842.—At the request of Mr. John Wentworth, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat, I have written the following sketch of the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-day Saints, of which I have the honor, under God, of being the founder. Mr. Wentworth says that he wishes to furnish Mr. Bastow [Barstow], a friend of his, who is writing the history of New Hampshire, with this document. As Mr. Bastow has taken the proper steps to obtain correct information, all that I shall ask at his hands is that he publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation."

Joseph considered the letter to be a complete statement as it was. 

The extraction of the articles of faith is useful because of how they were framed, but because Joseph specified that the letter be published "entire," we can wonder whether the articles of faith are any more or less inspired than the rest of the letter.

IOW, if the articles of faith are now the "official position of the Church" on the covered topics, would not the rest of the Wentworth letter also be the official position of the Church on the covered topics? If not, why not?

I raise this because of the well known suppression of an important part of the Wentworth letter in Chapter 38 of the manual, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.

If you want to read the entire letter, you can see it in the Times and Seasons link above, or on at this link:

But you can't read the entire letter in the lesson manual because the following passage was omitted:

Direct quotation from the lesson manual (note the ellipses):

“Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God.… This book … tells us that our Savior made His appearance upon this continent after His resurrection;"

Direct quotation from the original letter (with the omitted portions in red): 

"Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God.

"In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. 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. This book also tells us that our Savior made His appearance upon this continent after His Resurrection;"

It turns out, Joseph didn't need to worry about Mr. Barstow declining to "publish the account entire." Instead, he needed to worry about the Curriculum Department.

It's bad enough that they deleted the important passage in red, but they even deleted the "also" so readers would have no idea that the Book told us something else important.

I've asked around but haven't been able to discover why the Curriculum Department deleted this passage. I'm left to wonder why. Here are some possibilities, and if anyone who reads this knows the real reason, let me know and I'll edit this post to explain it.

For which of the following reasons did the Curriculum Department delete the passage?

1. Because it is no longer considered an "official position" the way Joseph Smith himself considered it.

2. Because it contradicts the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theory.*

3. Because it contradicts what modern anthropological and evolutionary science tells us about the history of humanity.

4. Because the Department doesn't want members to know about these issues, let alone discuss them.

In my opinion, #2 is the most likely reason. (I hope #1 is not the case.) #3 and #4 are both plausible, of course, but that's digressing.**

The Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C) is so widely held that many people take them for granted, unexamined and unchallenged. They are in the M2C bubble. 

The last thing the M2C intellectuals want is for members of the Church to read that Joseph Smith wrote "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country" and for that to be considered the official position of the Church. 

[D&C 28, 30, and 32 say the same thing, which is a little more difficult for M2C intellectuals to avoid, so they just don't mention those sections. The old display of the Mission to the Indians at the Church History Museum was an example. That's the famous exhibit once explained "Early members of the Church believed the American Indians were Lamanites," instead of explaining that the Lord identified the tribes in New York and Ohio as Lamanites, and that there are still at least some members today who believe what the D&C says. Fortunately, the Museum has corrected the display now, but the same comment remains in the Joseph Smith Papers.]

M2C is also why you'll never read Letter VII in anything approved by the Curriculum Department. The Joseph Smith papers had to publish Letter VII because Joseph had his scribe copy it into his personal journal, but even when they cite it, they refer to "a hill in New York" instead of "Cumorah," which Letter VII unequivocally identifies as the hill in New York where three important things happened: (i) the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites; (ii) the site of Mormon's record repository; and (iii) the site of Moroni's stone box from which Joseph obtained the Harmony plates.

We're left wondering what is an "official position" at this point. If one part of the Wentworth letter is official (i.e., the Articles of Faith), but the rest is not, why would Joseph insist the account be published "entire" when he wrote it?

A related example is Letter VII itself.

Not only was it written by the Assistant President of the Church, Oliver Cowdery, with the assistance of Joseph Smith.

Not only did Oliver receive the Priesthood and the keys of the gathering together with Joseph Smith.

Not only was Oliver commanded to select things to publish "as it shall be proved by the Spirit through him." (D&C 57)

But Joseph Smith specifically endorsed all 8 letters, including Letter VII, on at least three occasions after they were first published in the Messenger and Advocate. He did not do this for any written material besides these letters and the formal revelations.

Part of Letter I was included in the Pearl of Great Price, but the others were never formally canonized, possibly because of their length, but also possibly because Oliver had left the Church (although that didn't stop Joseph from endorsing the letters and making sure they would be reprinted so all members of the Church would have them).

It takes a lot of audacity to claim, as the M2C intellectuals do, that Letter VII is not an official position of the Church--especially when they're constantly citing anonymous articles from the Times and Seasons that were never again cited or reprinted and were never once endorsed by Joseph Smith.***

* As you can imagine, M2C intellectuals have managed to contort Joseph's plain language into a Mesoamerican setting. Joseph was living in Nauvoo, Illinois. He wrote to Mr. Wentworth, an editor living in Chicago, Illinois. The cities were about 250 miles apart. They shared the same state, the same "country" (in the sense of a nation, the United States), and the same "country" in the generic sense of an expanse of land. But you'll find Mesomaniacs using sophistry to claim Joseph really meant the entire Western Hemisphere and just mis-wrote this one word in the entire letter.

** BYU has become one of the more strident institutions promoting Darwinian evolution; I'm told students can get extra credit for working on evolution, while they are discouraged from even mentioning intelligent design or creation science. If I'm wrong about that, I'd like to have someone tell me of any science professor at BYU who even allows a discussion of intelligent design or creationism in class, or approves research on that topic. People who believe the Bible and Book of Mormon are literal are in a quandary because the only universities that allow the study of creation science or intelligent design are Christian, and they don't accept the Book of Mormon (yet). I prefer the approach of multiple working hypotheses with regard to science (as well as Book of Mormon geography). Why not teach both evolution and intelligent design and let the respective theories fend for themselves? Evolution itself relies on faith because no one has shown the mechanism for nonlife becoming life, which requires the simultaneous evolution of independent but necessary complex systems. Evolutionary biologists use a mathematical construct that multiplies the infinitesimal possibility of such simultaneous complex random combinations times the infinity of alternative universes, a topic I address elsewhere. The point here being that academics can "prove" anything they want, when they want it badly enough.

***I know, the M2Cers argue that because the boilerplate at the end of the relevant 1842 issues of the Times and Seasons claimed it was "edited, printed and published by Joseph Smith," Joseph must have approved of these anonymous articles. But no one believes Joseph actually printed the newspaper, so why insist he actually edited it? I've shown he did no editing, printing, or publishing in my 3-volume series on the 1842 Times and Seasons.