All students of Church history know that Joseph Smith's contemporaries taught that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the same hill where Joseph obtained the plates; i.e., the hill in New York a few miles south of Palmyra. They also know that Oliver Cowdery, as Assistant President of the Church, declared unambiguously that it is a fact that this hill is where the Nephites and Jaredites fought their final battles. Joseph Smith had his scribes copy Oliver's explanation into his own journal as part of his life story.
Joseph also approved the republication of Oliver's explanation in the Times and Seasons and Gospel Reflector. It was also republished in the Millennial Star and in The Prophet, a Mormon newspaper in New York City edited by Joseph's brother William. Joseph's mother and other contemporaries gave accounts of the New York Cumorah, as have his successors in Church leadership.
As recently as 1981, the Institute manual taught the New York Cumorah by quoting the teachings of President Joseph Fielding Smith and President Marion G. Romney.
Despite these teachings, as we noted at the outset, prominent LDS intellectuals such as John Sorenson, John W. (Jack) Welch and Dan Peterson have repudiated the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
The two different approaches follow this process (click to enlarge).
For those of us who still believe the teachings of the prophets, the M2C approach is irrational. To us, it makes no sense to reject the specific, factual teachings of the people actually involved with the plates, who interacted with Moroni, etc., in favor of a series of cascading rationalizations based on a mere assumption that Book of Mormon events took place in Central America.
Many people wonder why these scholars reject what the prophets have taught. To help answer that question, this article offers an overview of the history of M2C.
Basically, all of these scholars start with the assumption that Book of Mormon events took place in Central America. Then they reason that New York is too far away to be the scene of the final battles. Then they rationalize away the teachings of the prophets, attributing them to erroneous and ignorant opinions.
They then buttress their assumptions and interpretations with a flurry of papers and books, citing their academic credentials in various fields as authority. But close analysis of these papers reveals that they are merely exercises in confirmation bias; i.e., they continually try to justify their repudiation of the teachings of the prophets by finding parallels, correspondences, etc. between Mesoamerican history/culture and the text.
The fallacy of their approach is evident by the fact that a case for the New York Cumorah can also be made by interpreting the text, finding supporting quotations, and citing relevant extrinsic evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc.
All of their work boils down to their assumption that Oliver Cowdery was wrong. In so doing, they obscure the fundamental issue by miseducating their readers, depriving them of all the relevant information to channel them into agreement with M2C.
|(click to enlarge)|
RATIONALE FOR M2C
Jack, Dan, and their employees and followers (the "M2C scholars") who reject the teachings of the prophets instead embrace the idea that there are "two Cumorahs." They claim the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in southern Mexico, while the hill in New York where Joseph found the plates was named Cumorah by early Church members because of pure speculation.
Book of Mormon Central (BMC) spends millions of dollars to promote M2C. They embedded M2C in their logo (until they changed it in 2023). This was the old FARMS logo. FARMS
(1979-2001) was an M2C-promoting organization formed by Jack Welch.
Although BMC replaced the M2C logo, BMC continues to promote M2C exclusively and specifically. BMC's Spanish website even provides detailed maps explaining the M2C theory.
As editor of BYU Studies for many years, Jack Welch persistently promoted M2C. His legacy endures on the BYU Studies website which still depicts M2C maps.
Before examining how the M2C scholars promote M2C, we'll look at how M2C originated.
ORIGIN OF M2C
Henry A. Stebbins, an RLDS scholar, published an article titled "Cumorah Hill" in the Saints’
Herald March 15, 1911, p. 245.
Stebbins simply assumed that Book of Mormon events took place in Central America and then reasoned that New York was too far distant to be the setting for Cumorah.
All Book of Mormon students
understand that the colony led by Melek,
the youngest son of King Zedekiah, (whose
migration was prophesied of in Ezekiel 17: 22, 23,) that his colony landed
in Central America, and
then, as stated in Omer 1: 1 they found the surviving Jaredite warrior, Coriantumr.
He claimed that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were speculating on Book of Mormon geography as an excuse for the actual Hill Cumorah being in Central America.
I know that in Doctrine
and Covenants 10 : 20 it reads, "glad tidings of
Cumorah," but it is in a letter from Joseph Smith, evidently after the idea had
become fixed that because records
were hidden in Cumorah therefore the one in New York must have been the same hill.
In his "Letters," pages 29, 33, Oliver Cowdery calls it Cumorah, evidently from the same idea, not
from any divine or angelic statement that it was Cumorah. Certainly the idea did not originate with
any careful student of the Book of
Mormon. There may not have
been any real study of the
book at that time. The book appears to have been largely
taken on trust by the old Saints, without
great examination or study.
If you've read the writings of the modern M2C scholars, they have adopted the Stebbins rationale instead of accepting the teachings of the prophets.
Louis E. Hills (L.E. Hills) published an M2C map in 1917 which shows Cumorah in southern Mexico. Notice how closely the BYU Studies map above follows the Hills map. Modern M2C scholars moved their Cumorah a little to the east from where Hill placed it.
In his 1924 book titled New Light on American Archaeology, Hills justified his M2C theory by referring back to Stebbins' explanation.
You can read the passage from the book here:
John Sorenson acknowledged that Hills was the first to propose a non-New York Cumorah. In his Source Book, he described Hills' 1917 model. He showed it on his comparison chart (click to enlarge).
|Sorenson, Source Book|
In 1995, LDS scholar Sidney B. Sperry published an article titled "Were There Two Cumorahs?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Vol. 4
: No. 1 , Article 30.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/jbms/vol4/iss1/30 , which notes that "This previously
unpublished handout was used in a religion 622 class on 31 March 1964."
Like Stebbins and other M2C scholars, Sperry also simply assumed that Book of Mormon events took place in Central America and then reasoned from there.
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