Monday, January 1, 2024

The coming forth of the Book of Mormon

The title of this blog, Letter VII, refers to the seventh of eight essays about Church history written by Oliver Cowdery in 1835 when he was the Assistant President of the Church (an office that ranked higher than the counselors in the First Presidency).

In Joseph Smith's day, these 8 essays were the best-known history of the Church. Oliver wrote from personal knowledge, with the assistance of Joseph Smith. He published them over several months as letters in the Messenger and Advocate in Kirtland in 1834-5. Joseph had his scribes copy the essays into his own journal as part of his life story. (See link below.)

Oliver wrote the essays with the express assistance of Joseph Smith. For example, Oliver mentioned that Joseph couldn't tell him exactly what time it was when Moroni first visited, but it was after everyone had gone to bed. Oliver described Moroni's appearance, Joseph's frame of mind when he first went to the Hill Cumorah, how the stone box was constructed, and many more important details.

In 1840, Joseph asked his brother Don Carlos to re-publish the essays in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo. He gave Benjamin Winchester permission to re-publish them in the Gospel Reflector, which was Winchester's newspaper in Philadelphia. Parley P. Pratt also re-published them in the Millennial Star in England. Also in England, the essays were published as a separate pamphlet that sold thousands of copies.

An excerpt from Letter I was canonized as the note to JS-History in the Pearl of Great Price.

In Utah, Joseph F. Smith republished the essays in the Improvement Era.

However, most modern Latter-day Saints have never even heard of these important essays. Few have read them. 


Latter-day Saints frequently ask why they haven't heard of these essays before. It is easy to understand why certain prominent LDS scholars downplay these essays. Oliver Cowdery explicitly reaffirmed the dual facts that (i) Joseph Smith translated the record with the Urim and Thummim and (ii) the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the same hill where Joseph found the plates. 

Readers of this blog recognize the implications. In these essays, Joseph and Oliver explicitly repudiated both SITH (the stone-in-the-hat theory of translation) and M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory of geography).

Consequently, those who promote SITH and M2C prefer that Latter-day Saints don't even know about these essays, let alone read them.

I find it ridiculous and counterproductive to suppress authentic, accurate Church historical documents, especially documents written by Joseph and Oliver that were so widely published at Joseph's direction. But modern LDS scholars have somehow rationalized their censorship.

Fortunately, the Joseph Smith Papers have preserved Joseph's journals so we can all read them there. 


Letter IV relates the visit of Moroni. It's well worth reading in full, but here's an excerpt from this link:

Notice that Moroni told Joseph from the outset that the record was "written and deposited" not far from Joseph's home in Palmyra. IOW, we've known all along that it was not written in Mesoamerica and transported thousands of miles to western New York.

"written and deposited not far from that place"
(click to enlarge)

This should be a given, but our M2C scholars have managed to obfuscate and confuse people by suppressing this account of what Moroni said.

Therefore, marvle not if your name is made a derission, and had as a by-word among such, if you are the instrument in bringing it, by the gift of God, to the knowledge of the people.”

He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham. He represented them as once being an enlightned and intelligent people, possessing a correct knowledge of the gospel, and the plan of restoration and redemption. He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.

Because this fits so well with the first week of Come Follow Me, be sure to share it with everyone you know.


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