I'd be happy to help Fairly Mormon by doing peer reviews privately, but so far they decline to seek or accept my input, so I'll provide it publicly here.
This is the page we'll discuss today:
I'll post the page along with my peer review in red.
Question: Where is the Hill Cumorah?
Question: Where is the Hill Cumorah?
Joseph Smith never used the name "Cumorah" in his own writings when referring to the gold plates' resting place [classic example of begging the question; i.e., providing what is essentially the conclusion of the argument as a premise]
Fairly Mormon never tells its readers about all of this context, and instead claims that D&C 128, written just six months after the Wentworth letter, cites Cumorah as an abstract concept. They want people to think he was referring to a hill in Mexico, a proposition no prophet or apostle has ever taken. The two-Cumorahs theory is purely an invention of M2C intellectuals.
Early Church leaders believed that the Book of Mormon took place on the entire North and South American continents
Next, Fairly Mormon conflates a variety of evidence. Let's see what they tell their readers.
A history of the inhabitants who peopled this continent, previous to its being discovered to Europeans by Columbus, must be interesting to every man; and as it would develope the important fact, that the present race were descendants of Abraham....
And, of course, they don't show readers the part of Letter VII in which President Cowdery declares it is a fact that the final battles took place in New York. Nor do they tell readers about how often Letter VII was republished, copied into Joseph's personal history, and reiterated by subsequent prophets and apostles.
There are so many things wrong with this Columbus argument that I've discussed them here
David Whitmer is not told that the hill from which Joseph received the record was called Cumorah, but this usage seems to have nevertheless become common within the Church
Nevertheless? One of the Three Witnesses explains when he first heard the term Cumorah--from a heavenly messenger, before he had even read the manuscript--and Fairly Mormon thinks it is a contradiction that the term "became common" within the Church?
When I was returning to Fayette, with Joseph and Oliver, all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old-fashioned, wooden, spring seat and Joseph behind us; while traveling along in a clear open place, a very pleasant, nice-looking old man suddenly appeared by the side of our wagon and saluted us with, "Good morning, it is very warm," at the same time wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation, and, by a sign from Joseph, I invited him to ride if he was going our way. But he said very pleasantly, "No, I am going to Cumorah." This name was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant. We all gazed at him and at each other, and as I looked around inquiringly of Joseph, the old man instantly disappeared, so that I did not see him again.
Whitmer also did an interview with Edward Stevenson, who recorded that "David asked him [the messenger] to ride and he replied I am going across to the hill Cumorah." FAIRMORMON is aware of this interview (they cite a different portion of it here), but somehow failed to mention it here. Any guesses why? You can see Stevenson's original letter describing one of his interviews here. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, Stevenson's diary containing the Whitmer's hill Cumorah statement is "closed to research" online (see here), but it is cited in Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews, 1993, p. 13 and Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 2003, vol. v, p. 30.]
Since the 1950s, opinion among Book of Mormon scholars has increasingly trended toward the realization that the Nephite Cumorah and the Hill in New York cannot be the same
The only thing more fun than an appeal to authority is an additional appeal to authority. This one is cleverly worded. Scholars are converging on the realization! It's no longer a matter of opinion, fact and analysis; it's a question of realizing the truth. IOW, if you disagree with these scholars, you just haven't realized that you're wrong. Another fun aspect of this one is "Book of Mormon scholars." The term, as used here, means "M2C intellectuals." In my view, every member of the Church is, or can be, a Book of Mormon scholar. You certainly don't need a PhD, or any degree, to be a Book of Mormon scholar. In fact, once you put on the Mesoamerican lenses, you "can't unsee" Mesoamerica. Such closed-mindedness is the antithesis of scholarship.
Here [at BYU] I was introduced to the idea that the Book of Mormon is not a history of all of the people who have lived on the continents of North and South America in all ages of the earth. Up to that time, I had assumed that it was. If that were the claim of the Book of Mormon, any piece of historical, archaeological, or linguistic evidence to the contrary would weigh in against the Book of Mormon, and those who rely exclusively on scholarship would have a promising position to argue.In contrast, if the Book of Mormon only purports to be an account of a few peoples who inhabited a portion of the Americas during a few millennia in the past, the burden of argument changes drastically. It is no longer a question of all versus none; it is a question of some versus none. In other words, in the circumstance I describe, the opponents of historicity must prove that the Book of Mormon has no historical validity for any peoples who lived in the Americas in a particular time frame, a notoriously difficult exercise.
If I had to pick out my favorite fallacy in this Fairly Mormon article, I think this would be the one. Nothing in Elder Oak's statement endorses Mesoamerica. In fact, if you combine Elder Oaks with Joseph Fielding Smith, the statement excludes Mesoamerica.
The whole geography issue boils down to this: you have to choose between the New York Cumorah and the Mesoamerican Zarahemla. You can't have both. Which means choosing between Joseph, Oliver and Whitmer on Cumorah vs. an anonymous and isolated 1842 article in the Times and Seasons on Zarahemla.
Here's another way to put it. I invite every member of the Church to choose between these.
Explicit descriptions of Cumorah in New York:
David Whitmer (1829)
Oliver Cowdery (1830)
Oliver Cowdery's Letter VII (1835), reprinted in Joseph's personal journal (1835), Orson Pratt (1840), the Gospel Reflector (1841), the Times and Seasons (1841), D&C 128 (1842), and the UK pamphlet (1844).
Explicit description of Zarahemla in Guatemala:
Anonymous article in the 1842 Times and Seasons, never mentioned or referred to again until the development of the two-Cumorah theory by scholars in the 1900s.
There are 13 geographical conditions required for the Book of Mormon Hill Cumorah
This section is a classic in the canon of the citation cartel. Palmer wrote a book titled "In Search of Cumorah" in 1981. I bought a copy when it came out. Palmer also wrote the self-serving entry on Cumorah in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. He is cited by most M2C intellectuals, so I'll address this here. You're going to love the "conditions" that are "required" by Fairly Mormon here. I'm not going through them in detail, just enough to give you the flavor.
- near eastern seacoast [the text specifies no distance between Ramah/Cumorah and the sea]
- near narrow neck of land [the text specifies no distance between Ramah/Cumorah and the narrow neck of land (and notice that the Nephites never mention the narrow neck of land; it is found only in Ether 10:20)]
- on a coastal plain and near other mountains and valleys
- one day's journey south of a large body of water
- an area of many rivers and waters
- presence of fountains
- water gives military advantage
- an escape route southward
- hill large enough to view hundreds of thousands of bodies [The text doesn't require this, but in fact, from the top of the Hill Cumorah, you can see the city of Rochester 20 miles away. Oliver Cowdery refers to tens of thousands, which is consistent with the text. Certainly the mile-wide valley west of Cumorah, which Oliver identified as the scene of the final battle, is plenty big to accommodate this number of dead.]
- hill must be a significant landmark [which is how Oliver described it]
- hill must be free standing so people can camp around it [as the New York hill is]
- in temperate climate with no cold or snow [complete fabrication, the product of the Mesoamerican lenses. Nothing in the text requires this. The climate is never described in the text, except it had "some seasons," which excludes Mesoamerica anyway. This common Mesoamerican argument is like saying the Apostle Paul could not have traveled in Turkey because he never mentions snow. Yet snow in Turkey is well known; I've been in a snowstorm in Turkey where Paul traveled.]
- in a volcanic zone susceptible to earthquakes [another complete fabrication that defies the text. See my post on fun with volcanoes]
Summary: Church leaders have expressed a variety of opinions over the years regarding the location of the Hill Cumorah
Confusion helps Fairly Mormon persuade Church members to disbelieve the prophets. Fairly Mormon portrays the teachings of the prophets as a "variety of opinions" so their readers will accept their claim that Church leaders are confused.
However, the modern prophets and apostles have been united, consistent and clear in affirming Oliver Cowdery's teaching that it was a fact that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.
Look at how Fairly Mormon deceives members of the Church by omitting the material that contradicts the Fairly Mormon editorial position that promotes the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.
Here's their list of "Church leaders" supposedly expressing "a variety of opinions:"
JUMP TO SUBTOPIC:
- Marion G. Romney (1975): "As the conflict intensified, all the people who had not been slain—men...gathered about that hill Cumorah"
- Harold B. Lee (8 Jul 1966): "if the Lord wanted us to know where it was, or where Zarahemla was, he’d have given us latitude and longitude, don’t you think?"
- Paul R. Cheesman (Nov 1968): "There are those who believe that there are two Hill Cumorahs...Advocates of this theory establish their analysis primarily from the internal evidences of the Book of Mormon"
- Question: Did the First Presidency identify the New York "Hill Cumorah" as the site of the Nephite final battles?
- Question: Did Joseph Fielding Smith reject the theory that the final battlefield of the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica rather than New York?
Fairly Mormon's overall editorial position is that any statement by the prophets and apostles that contradicts FairMormon's beliefs is merely an "opinion" that can be rejected.
Notice how this list of statements by "Church leaders" specifically omits Letter VII, written by the ordained Assistant President of the Church and repeatedly endorsed by Joseph Smith. FairMormon omits General Conference addresses confirming Letter VII given by President Ivins and Elder Peterson. They omit statements from Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, James E. Talmage, LeGrand Richards, Orson F. Whitney, and others.
All of these undisclosed statements by modern prophets and apostles are consistent and explicit about Cumorah being in New York.
Instead, Fairly Mormon lists President Lee's obscure comment out of context, because they know that in the actual talk, President Lee listed the two-Cumorahs theory among other false doctrines taught by seminary and institute teachers, as I've shown here: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/10/fairmormons-famous-harold-b-lee.html
Next they list Paul R. Cheesman as a "Church leader."
Next, they cite the phony fax to repudiate an official letter from the office of the First Presidency, which I've discussed here: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2016/11/how-to-create-some-doctrine.html
Finally, they attack President Joseph Fielding Smith's warning about the two-Cumorahs theory as merely his opinion and therefore something to be ignored. "These are not the droids you're looking for."
This final item on the list is especially audacious because they don't even show readers what President Smith actually said. Instead, they give readers two paragraphs of sophistry designed to encourage readers not to heed the words of the prophets and apostles.
Nineteenth Century: Statements on Book of Mormon geography made during Joseph Smith's lifetime: 1829-1840
JUMP TO SUBTOPIC:
- Observer and Telegraph (Nov 1830): "the Aborigines of America; who, as they affirm, are a part of the tribe of Manasseh, and whose ancestors landed on the coast of Chile"
- W. W. Phelps: Ruins in Central America "good testimony in favor of the Book of Mormon"
- American Revivalist (2 Feb 1833): "The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western tribes of Indians"
- Evening and the Morning Star (March 1833): "The continent of America is a choice land above all others"
- Evening and the Morning Star (Jun 1833): "NO people that have lived on this continent, since the flood, understood many of the arts and sciences, better that the Jaredites and Nephites"
- Evening and the Morning Star (Jun 1833): "Lehi was guided by the matchless power of God to this continent"
- Question: Does the story of Zelph have implications for Book of Mormon geography?
- Joseph Smith (4 Jun 1834): "wandering over the plains of the Nephites"
- Eli Gilbert (24 Sep 1834): "was not the book of Mormon also written by men who were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, on the continent of America?"
- W.W. Phelps (Feb 1835): "The first one is where you sat day after day and wrote the history of the second race that inhabited this continent"
- Oliver Cowdery (Jul 1835): "A history of the inhabitants who peopled this continent, previous to its being discovered to Europeans by Columbus"
- W.W. Phelps (Oct 1835): "the Indians, whose history and doings, upon this western continent, it unfolds as plainly"
- Joseph Smith (Nov 1835): "he said the indians were the literal descendants of Abraham"
- W.W. Phelps (Jan 1836): "The book of Mormon has made known who Israel is, upon this continent"
- William Smith (Jan 1837): "a remnant of the branches or seed of Joseph are represented as crossing the sea, and settling this continent of North and South America"
- Times and Seasons (Mar 1840): "The ancient events of America now stand revealed in the broad light of history, as far back, at least, as the first peopling of the continent after the flood"
- Joseph Smith (19 Jul 1840): "speaking of the Land of Zion, It consists of all North & South America"
- Parley P. Pratt (Aug 1840): "excavating in the neighbourhood of Bahia, in Brazil...bearing a strong architectural resemblance to the ruins existing in the northern parts of Norway, in Iceland, and in Greenland"
- Millennial Star (Sep 1840): "We learn these gentlemen will continue their journey, and after their visit to Palenque, will proceed to Mexico"
- Orson Pratt (1840): "they were marvellously brought across the great deep to the shores of North America"
The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them, otherwise the prophet is just giving his opinion—speaking as a man...
- Rex C. Reeve, Jr., and Richard O. Cowan, "The Hill Called Cumorah," in Larry C. Porter, Milton V. Backman, Jr., and Susan Easton Black, eds., Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History: New York and Pennsylvania (Provo: BYU Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1992), 73–74.
- Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, [original edition] (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1984). ISBN 0877479747. GL direct link
- Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, "Letter VII," (July 1835) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:155-159. off-site
- Interview with David Whitmer [conducted 7–8 September 1878 in Richmond, Missouri], "Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith," Millennial Star 40 (9 December 1878), 771–774.
- Martin H. Raish, "Encounters with Cumorah: A Selective, Personal Bibliography," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 13/1 (2004): 38–49. off-site wiki
- Jesse A. Washburn and Jesse N. Washburn, From Babel to Cumorah (Provo, UT: New Era Publishing, 1937).
- Thomas S. Ferguson, Cumorah—Where? (Independence, MO: Press of Zion's Print. & Publishing Company, 1947).
- Sidney B. Sperry, Handout, Religion 622 (31 March 1964); published in Sidney B. Sperry, "Were There Two Cumorahs?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995): 260–268. off-site wiki
- Sidney B. Sperry, The Book of Mormon Testifies (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1952), 335–336. Sperry would later write: "In this volume I have reversed my views, held many years ago, that the Hill Cumorah, around which the last great battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place, was in the State of New York. The book of Mormon data are very clear and show quite conclusively that the Hill (Ramah to the Jaredites) was in the land of Desolation, somewhere in Middle America. I have summed up my arguments and conclusions in connection with the discussion of Mormon, Chapter 6. My conclusions have been tested in a number of classes of graduate students who were challenged to demonstrate their falsity. Up to the present time, no one has done so. The Hill Cumorah in New York, from which the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the Nephite plates, may have been so named by Moroni in commemoration of the Cumorah in the land of Desolation, around which his father and fellow Nephites lost their lives in their last struggles with the Lamanites." - Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968), 6–7.
- See, for example, John E. Clark, "Archaeology and Cumorah Questions," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 13/1 (2004): 144–151. off-site wiki; John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 ),14–16.
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Historicity of the Book of Mormon," Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies Annual Dinner Provo, Utah, 29 October 1993; cited in Dallin H. Oaks, "The Historicity of the Book of Mormon," (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1994), 2-3. Reproduced in Dallin H. Oaks, "The Historicity of the Book of Mormon," in Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001), 237–48.
- David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah: New Evidences for the Book of Mormon from Ancient Mexico (Bountiful: Horizon, 1981), 28–72.
- See Andrew H. Hedges, Cumorah and the Limited Mesoamerican Theory off-site and see also Edwin Goble, Resurrecting Cumorah, Second Revised Edition, May 2011.