Saturday, October 16, 2021

Lesson/fireside outline with references

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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Discussion questions at the beginning of class.

How many class members have visited the Hill Cumorah? How long ago? What did you observe?

Why do 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 repository of Nephite records (Mormon 6:6) 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 taught (ii) what extrinsic evidence there is to support those teachings, and (iii) 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:

The first night he came in 1823, 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

That night Moroni also identified the hill where the plates were deposited as Cumorah.

Joseph visited the site on the hill annually. In early 1827, when Joseph was returning home after an errand in Manchester, he passed by the hill Cumorah. Moroni stopped him and chastised him for not being diligent, telling him the time was near when he would get the plates.

In September 1827, Joseph 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.



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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, as mentioned in the first section above.

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. 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The simple story of Cumorah (with links)

President Nelson has taught that "good inspiration is based upon good information." A corollary is, "informed decisions are based upon good information." 

People can believe whatever they want, but Latter-day Saints owe it to themselves to seek good information before seeking inspiration and before making decisions. And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118)

Unfortunately, few Latter-day Saints have "good information" about the Cumorah issue. Instead, they are taught the philosophies of men; i.e., the theories of the M2C scholars who claim the prophets have been wrong about the New York Cumorah.

Here's the simple story of Cumorah (with interactive links underlined). 

Ask around. Very few of your Latter-day Saint friends/family will even know about these specific references from Church history, mostly found in the Joseph Smith Papers.

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The Simple Story of Cumorah

When Moroni first visited Joseph Smith in September 1823, he "gave a history of the aborigines of this country" and "said this history was written and deposited not far from that place." Moroni said "the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place." 

In 1827, months before he received the plates, Joseph told his parents about his encounter with "the angel of the Lord— as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord."

In 1829, after translating the abridged plates in Harmony, PA, Joseph gave them to a divine messenger. David Whitmer picked up Joseph and Oliver to take them to Fayette. Along the way, the group met the messenger who had the plates. David offered him a ride to Fayette but he said, "'No, I am going to Cumorah.’ This name was something new to me [David], I did not know what Cumorah meant." Joseph explained the messenger was one of the Nephites.

In 1830, during the mission to the Lamanites (D&C 28, 30 and 32), Parley P. Pratt recorded what Oliver Cowdery taught. "This Book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him, Cumorah, which hill is now in the State of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario County."

In 1834, the book Mormonism Unvailed claimed the Book of Mormon was based on a novel by Solomon Spalding. In response, Oliver Cowdery wrote a series of essays about Church history, focusing on facts to refute the false allegations in Mormonism Unvailed. As Assistant President of the Church and designated spokesman for Joseph Smith, Oliver explained the facts about the New York Cumorah in Letter VII. After describing the hill, Oliver wrote, "At about one mile west 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."

The New York Cumorah was accepted and taught consistently by Joseph's contemporaries and successors and has never been repudiated, except by a handful of influential scholars who invented and perpetrated the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C). 

M2C originated with RLDS scholar L.E. Hills, whose map of a "limited geography" in Mesoamerica put Cumorah in southern Mexico because New York was "too far" away to make his interpretation work. 

Modern M2C scholars, including those at BYU and in CES, accept that reasoning. They justify their repudiation of the teachings of the prophets by claiming the prophets were merely speculating and misled the Church. 


Now, we have BYU and CES explicitly teaching their students that the prophets were wrong about Cumorah. 

Tragically, the New York Cumorah is consistent with the descriptions in the text and is corroborated by archaeology, anthropology, etc. 

But most Latter-day Saints don't know this because the M2C scholars and their followers have indoctrinated generations of Latter-day Saints to believe their M2C theory instead.

Fortunately, as more Latter-day Saints become educated, they are able to make informed decisions and seek inspiration based upon good information.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Scholars vs prophets and multiple working hypotheses

The discussion about the New York Cumorah presents people with a simple, clear choice about whom you follow and how you interact with the scriptures, particularly the text of the Book of Mormon but also the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

Choice 1: Scholarly, subjective speculations about the text and extrinsic evidence that guide our interpretation of the location of Cumorah. 

Choice 2: Prophetic, factual statements about Cumorah in New York that guide our interpretation of the text and extrinsic evidence.

In the case of Cumorah, it makes an enormous difference which choice we make. If we accept the teachings of the scholars, we reject the teachings of the prophets. If we accept the teachings of the prophets, we reject the teachings of the scholars. There is no middle ground on this point. It's a binary, either/or choice. The Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is either in western New York, or it's elsewhere. And if the prophets were wrong about the New York setting, it doesn't really matter where the "real Cumorah" is. 

It's a bizarre "tail wags the dog" scenario. The scholars insist the prophets are wrong solely because of their subjective speculations about where the Nephites must have lived, which leads them to develop "criteria" for Cumorah based on extrinsic evidence from their speculations. For example, because they insist the Nephites lived in Mesoamerica, they also insist Cumorah must be in a land of volcanoes, even though the text never mentions volcanoes. They insist Cumorah must be in a place inhabited by millions of ancient people, even though the text never says or implies that was the case.

When we read what the text actually says, as opposed to what commentators have said about what the text says, it's easy to reconcile the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah with the extrinsic evidence. For example, we can see that population estimates based on the text are congruent with extrinsic evidence from archaeology and anthropology in western New York, Ohio, etc. I discussed some of that here: 

http://www.lettervii.com/2021/03/book-of-mormon-populations.html

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Discussions about history involve two elements:

A. Historical facts (documents and extrinsic evidence). Because we're dealing with history, and no one is claiming any new revelation about that history, everyone is on a level playing field. No one has "special knowledge" about history because of their experience, credentials, positions, etc. Anyone who can read and understand English has equal access to all the facts.

B. Interpretation of those facts (multiple working hypotheses). This is where it is easy to get confused. Often, historians write in a style that presents their hypotheses as facts. Obviously, they have no personal knowledge of historical facts; they rely on evidence just like everyone else. This is a standard persuasive technique, but don't accept historians' statements as fact without seeing the evidence they rely upon. In the context of Church history, historians who are both believers and unbelievers use this rhetorical style. Discerning readers can tell the difference. 

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Ideally, we first establish the facts. Everyone should be able to agree about what the facts are. Proponents often avoid, discount, or even censor facts that contradict their hypotheses, but that's easy to expose. 

For example, ask yourself, did you know that Joseph's mother reported that Moroni identified the hill in New York as Cumorah the first time he visited Joseph Smith in 1823? 

Moroni said, "the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place."

If you don't know that, why don't you know that? 

Ask your BYU or CES teacher. Or ask the teachers of your children or grandchildren. 

It is inexcusable that Latter-day Saints don't know about this.

As a test, if you search for that phrase on Fairlatterdaysaints.org, you get two results, here and here. Both are buried in discussions about the First Vision, and both cite Dan Vogel's Early Mormon Documents book, volume 1, instead of the Joseph Smith Papers. 

If fairlatterdaysaints.org was a legitimate educational organization instead of an advocacy front for the M2C citation cartel, they would feature Lucy's account in their discussions of Cumorah. But they don't and they won't. They don't want Church members to know about anything that contradicts M2C.

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Every sincere seeker of truth should be able to agree on what the facts are. 

That's the easy part.

Next, we interpret those facts to develop hypotheses that explain and reconcile the facts in various ways. This involves assessing reliability, credibility, authenticity, and other indicia of truthfulness. Much of that analysis is subjective, but that's fine so long as we clearly explain our reasoning.

Different people develop different hypotheses that reflect their respective biases, desired outcomes, values, priorities, etc. Some people claim they "follow the evidence" but we can all see that is a delusion. The worst extreme of bias confirmation is not recognizing your own biases--or actually believing you have no bias.

To repeat: Because we're dealing with history, and no one is claiming any new revelation about that history, everyone is on a level playing field. We all have access to all the evidence. 

In this short post, I can't list all the evidence about Cumorah (some of it is here), but readers of this blog by now are familiar with it. Really, regarding Cumorah there is very little debate about the evidence itself. The debate involves (i) disclosing and (ii) interpreting the evidence. 

Here's a table that illustrates the two separate approaches to the Cumorah issue. Most references are here: http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html


Facts

Interpretation - Prophets

Interpretation - Scholars

Lucy Mack Smith: When Moroni first visited Joseph Smith, he told Joseph that "the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place."

Lucy was correct and this explains why everyone knew Cumorah was in New York

Lucy was wrong because she related a false tradition, or else Moroni was referring to a “second” Cumorah because the real Cumorah is in Mexico

Lucy Mack Smith: Joseph said, “as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are

Lucy was correct and this explains why everyone knew Cumorah was in New York

Lucy was wrong because she related a false tradition, or else Moroni was referring to a “second” Cumorah because the real Cumorah is in Mexico

David Whitmer: The messenger who had the abridged plates declined a ride to Fayette and said “No, I am going to Cumorah.” David said, “This name was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant.”

David was correct and this explains why everyone knew Cumorah was in New York

David was wrong because she related a false tradition, or else the messenger was referring to a “second” Cumorah because the real Cumorah is in Mexico

Oliver Cowdery (quoted by Parley P. Pratt) during the mission to the Lamanites (D&C 28, 30 and 32). "This Book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him, Cumorah, which hill is now in the State of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario County.”

Oliver and Parley were correct and this explains why everyone knew Cumorah was in New York

Oliver and Parley were wrong because they related a false tradition, or else the Moroni was referring to a “second” Cumorah because the real Cumorah is in Mexico

Heber C. Kimball, who lived in western New York and joined the Church in 1832, visited Cumorah after his baptism and reported he could still see the embankments around the hill (most of which have since been plowed under)

Heber was correct because he had been taught about the New York Cumorah and observed the evidence with his own eyes

Heber was wrong because he didn’t describe the embankments in enough detail to verify his observations and because he was relying on a false tradition anyway

Oliver Cowdery, then Assistant President of the Church (which meant he was Joseph’s spokesman) wrote a series of essays about Church history with the assistance of Joseph Smith, published as letters in the Messenger and Advocate, Times and Seasons, Gospel Reflector, Millennial Star, The Prophet, and the Improvement Era. Joseph also had them copied into his journal as part of his life story.

Letter I. “[Moroni] said this history was written and deposited not far from that place” referring to Joseph’s home near Palmyra

Oliver was correct. If the history was “written and deposited” not far from Joseph’s home, Mormon and Moroni lived in that vicinity when they abridged the Nephite and Jaredite records.

Oliver was wrong because either he or Joseph misquoted Moroni based on a false tradition

Letter VI. Referring to the mile-wide valley west of the hill in New York where Joseph found the plates, “here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.”

Oliver was correct because he and Joseph had visited the depository of Nephite records in the hill mentioned in Mormon 6:6 multiple times, as related by Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, David Whitmer, and others

Oliver, David Whitmer, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and others were wrong because either Oliver misled people based on a false tradition or he was relating multiple joint visions of the “real Cumorah” in southern Mexico, but also Oliver and Joseph never had any revelation about Cumorah

Letter VII. “[Mormon] deposited, as he says, on the 529th page, all the records in this same hill, Cumorah and after gave his small record to his son Moroni”

Oliver was correct because he had visited that depository, so he knew exactly where it was and he explained by citing Mormon 6:6

Oliver was wrong because he was merely speculating based on a false tradition

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

Oliver was correct because he had visited that depository and knew from personal experience what it contained

Oliver was wrong because he was merely speculating based on a false tradition

D&C 128:20 (originally a letter published in the Times and Seasons in September 1842): “And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed.”

Joseph was correct because he had learned the name from Moroni before he ever got the plates, he had visited the depository, and he had helped write and promulgate Letter VII, which had been published in the Times and Seasons a year previously.

Joseph was wrong because he had adopted the false tradition about Cumorah, or else he was referring to the hill in southern Mexico because of speculative articles in the Times and Seasons that anachronistically attributed Mayan ruins to the Nephites

Various other teachings by Joseph’s contemporaries and successors about the New York Cumorah

They were correct because they relied on what Joseph and Oliver taught

They were wrong because they relied on a false tradition, which we know is false because our interpretation of the Book of Mormon requires Cumorah to be in southern Mexico


Monday, August 23, 2021

Abraham Lincoln on extinct giants

Book of Mormon geography and historicity is not complicated. Moroni explained that the history of the Jaredites was the history of those who lived in "this north country." (Ether 1:1) Separately, he told Joseph that "the history of the aborigenes of this country... was written and deposited not far from" Joseph's home.

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/69

Because Mormon and Moroni wrote the history not far from Joseph's home near Palmyra, NY, and because Moroni explained that the Jaredites lived in "this" north country, we can see that the Jaredites lived in the "north country" that included western New York.  

It's very simple (unless you've been persuaded by M2C scholars and their followers who insist the prophets were wrong about Cumorah, that Oliver was an ignorant speculator, etc.)

Those of us Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah know about the ancient giants who lived in "this north country" as Moroni described it. 

And it came to pass that they ate and slept, and prepared for death on the morrow. And they were large and mighty men as to the strength of men. (Ether 15:26)

In Moroni's America I quoted what Abraham Lincoln said about the "race of extinct giants" when he visited Niagara Falls. The original, with a link, is below.

The eyes of that species of extinct giants - whose bones fill the mounds of America, have gazed on Niagara as ours do now....

https://www.loc.gov/resource/mal.4167500/?sp=14&st=text&r=0.009,0.502,1.184,0.623,0

page 14.

In the late 1800s there were newspaper accounts from that area describing the discovery of giant human skeletons deep in the ground. Some from Cayuga and Dunnville are included below.

(click to enlarge)


Note the proximity of Cayuga and Dunnville to both Niagara and Cumorah.






Another book described the mummies found in Lexington, Kentucky.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Translation art

The best depiction of the translation is still on the Church's web page.

https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/content/joseph-smith-translates-the-gold-plates?lang=eng

(click to enlarge)











This image is exceptionally important because it shows the curtain or screen that was common knowledge. If not for the screen, the Spalding theory would have made no sense. The whole point of the book Mormonism Unvailed was to explain what was behind the "vail" when Joseph dictated. This is one way we can tell that the SITH sayers (stone-in-the-hat) witnesses were not observing the actual translation, but instead merely a demonstration.

It would be even better if this image showed the Urim and Thummim, but this is far more historically and doctrinally accurate than the goofy SITH images. So far, I haven't seen a single SITH image that aligns with David Whitmer's description of the demonstration, with the people gathered around the table and the three scribes ready to take turns because Joseph was dictating so fast.


Wednesday, June 30, 2021

David Whitmer, the Nephite, and the Urim and Thummim

Edward Stevenson's journal entry in which he reported that David claimed the messenger who took the abridged plates to Cumorah was one of the Three Nephites.

https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/82199881-7613-43e6-a79e-b72609d95b23/0/22

(click to enlarge)






Stevenson's journal entry in which David said the angel showed him the Urim and Thummim with the plates.

https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/82199881-7613-43e6-a79e-b72609d95b23/0/17

(click to enlarge)


Later in this journal, Stevenson recorded this note: "David said that the Prophet translated first by the Urim and Thummim and afterwards by a seer stone." Because David was never present in Harmony during the translation, he was either repeating hearsay or what he observed (or heard) at the Whitmer home in Fayette.

When Joseph arrived at the Whitmer home, he began translating the plates of Nephi that we refer to today as the "small plates." The Original Manuscript shows that Oliver, Christian Whitmer and John Whitmer were the scribes for 1 Nephi. 

Later, Emma arrived and Joseph conducted a demonstration with three scribes taking turns as they got tired. Because Joseph couldn't show the plates or the U&T, he used the stone in the hat (SITH) to demonstrate the concept of translating. 

Thus, David was correct in the sense that Joseph translated first with the U&T, which took place upstairs from morning until night, out of sight of the household. Later, Joseph conducted the demonstration with SITH downstairs, probably reciting the Isaiah chapters by memory. David naturally inferred this was part of the translation. 

Joseph and Oliver would have concluded the final few pages of 2 Nephi through Words of Mormon after the demonstration, upstairs.


Thursday, June 17, 2021

A record of the Indians

There was a time when Church members still believed what Moroni first told Joseph Smith when he "gave a history of the aborigenes of this country" and said "this history was written and deposited" not far from Joseph's home near Palmyra, New York.

See https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/68

For example, Lucy Mack Smith told people it was a record of the Indians.

From Lucy Mack Smith's History, 1844-5.

I will now return to the time when the Elders set out for Misouri the reader will reccollect that Hyrum Smith my oldest son was directed to go by the way of Detroit I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to visit the family of my My Brother stephen Mack Who had been dead some 4 or 5 years this being 1831 and my brother died in 1826— Hyrum was very anxious to have me accompany him And as my niece was about returning home I this was another inducement for me to undertake the journey I accordingly set off in the month 

[p. [8], bk. 12]

of june our company consisted Hyram Smith Brother Moredock [John Murdock] Lyman Wight Brother Corril [John Corrill] Almira Mack my Niece and myself— 

When we went on board the boat we held a consultation to Determine whether it was best to say much concerning the gospel at first it was concluded that we should be entirely still as to religion but finally Hyrum said that Mother might say what she was disposed to and if a difficulty arose the Elders should assist her out of it 

We had not been long on board when as I was setting one day at the door of the cabin very much engaged reading the Book of Mormon a lady accosted me thus What book have you madam you seem very much engaged The Book of Mormon I replied— The Book of Mormon said she what work is that I then gave her a brief history of the coming forth of the work She seemed highly delighted I said that it was a record of the Indians Is it possible she exclaimed why My Husband is a Missionary out now among the Indians and I am going to how I do wish that I could get a book to carry him

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1844-1845/148