LDS apologists presumably seek to bolster and support faith in the Restoration. In many respects, they do an effective job. But many, including those at FAIRLDS, continue to promote the M2C* and SITH** narratives.
Critics of the Restoration and nonbelievers embrace the M2C and SITH narratives because they know they undermine faith.FAIRLDS, like the rest of the M2C/SITH citation cartel apologists, has long resorted to sarcasm and logical fallacies. Even when they have legitimate points to make, they stumble because of this antagonistic approach, which is largely a legacy of Dan Peterson.
The latest message from Scott Gordon, President of FAIR, is yet another example. We'll look at it below.
The key point that Scott and the rest of the SITH-sayers glide over is this:
Those who experience faith crises are responding to the repudiation of the teachings of the prophets about the translation of the Book of Mormon with the Urim and Thummim, not with the existence/acknowledgement of the SITH accounts which have been publicly available for nearly 200 years.
Here is Scott's latest message to subscribers, in blue, with my annotations in red.
'Hidden' History and the Mission of the Church
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is here to lead us to Jesus Christ. That is its mission. Sacrament meeting, Sunday School, and Seminary are all there to help us become better disciples of Jesus Christ and make us more like Him.
So far, so good.
Unfortunately, there are those among us who think The Church has a different purpose. I don’t fault them for this. It is just a misplaced expectation, and we all have many of those.
A condescending straw man fallacy.
The misplaced expectation is that The Church is there to be a college level history class.
Literally no one expects this.
However, there is an expectation that correct history will be taught at Church, given that the basic truth claims are historical in nature, including the resurrection of Christ, the translation (and historicity) of the Book of Mormon, restoration of the Priesthood, etc.
Yes, it is true that we often use history to teach Gospel topics.
We don't "often" use history; we always use it because historical truth claims are at the root of everything we teach. If Christ wasn't resurrected, if Joseph didn't translate the plates (and if the Book of Mormon is not actual history), if the Priesthood wasn't restored, etc., there would be no justification for claiming authority to teach Gospel topics.
Most scriptures and Sunday School lessons contain stories of people and their interactions with the Divine. But the point of the stories is typically what you spiritually learn, and not the detailed history.
It's not "detailed history" that matters; it's literal history. The events occurred or they did not occur. If they did not occur, then no amount of spiritualizing them will make a difference.
Our M2C and SITH scholars have been prying people away from the traditional, and literal, truth claims, transforming them into more of a mystical/mythological experience with "spiritual" meaning instead of literal reality. Hence the faith crises.
Some individuals, who have decided to leave the Church, tell me it is because they believe the Church has betrayed them. It has withheld information and lied to them.
No doubt some have told Scott that, because it's common knowledge that many Latter-day Saints feel this way. But it's not the Church who lied to them; it's the modern-day scholars such as those at FAIRLDS.
They go on to use an example such as Joseph Smith using a seer stone and a hat as part of the translation process and the Church didn’t tell them. They are concerned that they have been a member for many years and never heard this. The only explanation they can fathom is that the Church lied and hid this from them. The feelings of betrayal are real, but there is a problem with this narrative.
The problem with this narrative is not what Scott pretends here. The problem is that from the earliest days, say September 1829, the SITH narrative has been promoted by media and various individuals. SITH was mocked in the 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed. That's why Oliver and Joseph wrote the 8 formal essays on Church history, explaining that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim. Joseph and Oliver reaffirmed that later as well.
Church leaders reaffirmed that position ever since. But lately, FAIRLDS and like-minded scholars have revived SITH, to the point where they now say Joseph and Oliver deliberately misled everyone when they declared that Joseph translated the plates with the Nephite interpreters.
Let’s use this specific concern as a broad example of these kinds of "hidden-history" questions. Joseph Smith himself didn’t describe the translation process other than to say it was through the gift and power of God.
That's an outright lie by omission. Joseph (and Oliver) said Joseph translated with the Urim and Thummim that Moroni provided with the plates; i.e., the Nephite interpreters. Joseph said he translated the characters on the plates. The Lord told him to translate the engravings on the plates. Never did the Lord, or Joseph, or Oliver state, suggest, or imply that Joseph merely read words off a seer stone he found in a well.
From eyewitnesses to the translation process we know that Joseph probably used more than one method.
The obvious fallacy here is that eyewitnesses could not read Joseph's mind. Assuming they accurately reported what they observed (and their accounts are vague and variable), they could not know whether what they observed was a translation or something else. Scott and other SITH-sayers simply assume the eyewitnesses could read Joseph's mind.
Oliver was the only one other than Joseph ever authorized to translate, and he explained that Joseph translated the plates by means of the Urim and Thummim. Thus, whatever the eyewitnesses claimed to observe with SITH, it could not have been the translation because neither the plates nor the Urim and Thummim were present.
Furthermore, not one of the SITH witnesses left an account of what Joseph actually dictated when they claim they saw him put his face in a hat. Assuming they accurately reported what they observed, no one knows what Joseph dictated on these occasions. Thus, there is no chain of custody between what they said they observed and the text we have today.
While it may be the 'hat method' wasn’t taught in Sunday School, as we already discussed, teaching history isn’t really the purpose of Sunday School.
Scott uses misdirection here. Teaching history is specifically a purpose of Sunday School, which has multiple purposes. If not for the historical truth claims, there is no basis for accepting the Restoration. We necessarily teach history in Sunday School because the historical truth claims are the basis for our religion, just as the truth claims in the Bible are for all Christianity.
But where did the Church hide the idea of seer stones and a hat? It had to be somewhere because people are finding out about it. Who leaked it? What secret archive did it come from? What happened to the whistle blower?
Scott resorts to silly rhetoric here. SITH has been in the public record since 1829. No whistleblower was ever needed. The Church never hid it; instead, Church leaders directly addressed SITH by emphasizing and testifying instead that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim.
One book, which is often referenced by the former Latter-day Saint community, claims the information can be found "in an obscure 1992 talk given by Elder Russell M. Nelson." WOW! Russell M. Nelson leaked it! And they still made him president?
Here's more ridiculous sarcasm. No one said or implied that Elder Nelson "leaked" anything in that talk.
Where can that "obscure 1992 talk" be found? Who did he leak it to? Well, it turns out that "obscure 1992 talk" can be found in the July 1993 Ensign. Who knew that the Church magazine department was in on the conspiracy!
Still more ridiculous sarcasm. All Elder Nelson did was refer to well-known statements that the Church never hid. Besides, in that article he did not say Joseph translated with SITH instead of the Urim and Thummim anyway. After quoting part of what Oliver Cowdery wrote, he simply quoted well-known statements by David Whitmer and Emma Smith after explaining, "The details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known. Yet we do have a few precious insights." This is far from the claim by modern scholars (such as those writing for FAIR) that Joseph didn't even use the plates or the Urim and Thummim.
If you don’t keep old Ensign magazines around the house, you can still read this "obscure 1992 talk" on the Church’s website. Is the Webmaster in on this conspiracy too?
That is just more ridiculous sarcasm.
But there is more. That wasn’t the earliest leak! You can also find it in a September 1977 Ensign article by Richard Lloyd Anderson. Additionally, there is even a description of the seer stone in the September 1977 Friend, the Church magazine for children.
Contrary to Scott's implication, Anderson's article affirms the explanation given by Joseph and Oliver: "Referring to a particular page while mentioning the right-left script throughout “the whole” shows that the Prophet claimed knowledge of the plates themselves, not merely a vision of individual characters in the stone interpreters."
The short article in the September 1974 Friend (not 1977) mentions the Urim and Thummum, and then inserts this sentence: "Joseph also used an egg-shaped, brown rock for translating called a seer stone... Even with the help of the Urim and Thummim and the seer stone, it wasn’t easy to translate the sacred record." Again, this is far from what the modern SITH-sayers claim.
When I have brought this up before, I have been accused of victim blaming and gaslighting. I’m not trying to do that. I am not blaming anyone. But I am pointing out that this history is not hidden.
Compared with the numerous affirmations in General Conference and Church curriculum that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim, the cited references to the seer stone are definitely isolated, albeit not completely hidden.
But this is a red herring argument. It never was a question of whether this SITH history was "hidden," but whether this SITH history was true. Those who experience faith crises are dealing with the repudiation of the teachings of the prophets about the translation of the plates with the Urim and Thummim, not with the existence of the SITH accounts.
I only gave a few of many references. There are history associations, publications, and independent researchers that have talked about this for years. We have a FAIR Conference talk on it, and you can watch the video that was put out by the Church History Department.
The "New Mormon history" is not problematic because it relates well-known historical sources. It is problematic because it validates those sources while repudiating the teachings of the prophets. It's the same for the New York Cumorah (M2C) as it is for SITH.
I don’t blame my accounting students for not understanding the chemical processes of photosynthesis. Neither do I blame the biology students for not understanding accounting. It is simply a matter of what area of study they have chosen to emphasize.
This is a ridiculous argument. We are dealing here with the basic truth claims of the restoration, not unrelated academic specialties.
We, as a Church, have decided to emphasize studying how to become more like Jesus Christ.
This is more misdirection. We are only a Church because of the truth claims. Given those truth claims, we definitely should focus on becoming more like Christ. But when our scholars are repudiating the truth claims, they are removing the keystone of our religion.
Our M2C/SITH scholars (including FAIR) recognize that most Latter-day Saints resist their efforts to repudiate the basic truth claims. The scholars have been working on this for decades, starting with repudiating the New York Cumorah.
Regarding SITH, they used the "New Mormon history" to further undermine the credibility of Joseph and Oliver. Latter-day Saints have good reason to question what these scholars hae been doing.
Everyone agrees that we should focus on becoming more like Christ the same way other Christians do. But they are undermining the reasons for faith in the Restoration. Hence the faith crisis among Latter-day Saints.
The opportunity is there for anyone to also study Church history in greater detail, and the Church is continually working to make that task easier.
Except the apologists such as Scott Gordon continue to make that task more difficult by resorting to logical fallacies, censorship, and repudiation of the teachings of the prophets.
*The acronym M2C stands for the "Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs" theory that claims the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in southern Mexico, while the "hill in New York" where Joseph found the plates was incorrectly named Cumorah because some early Latter-day Saints created a false tradition that Joseph Smith eventually adopted. This is taught by the members of the M2C citation cartel, including FAIR, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, etc.
**The acronym SITH stands for the "stone-in-the-hat" theory that Joseph Smith never really translated the plates but instead merely read words that "appeared" on a seer stone he put into a hat. SITH proponents claim Joseph didn't even use the plates. Some say Joseph and Oliver deliberately misled everyone by claiming Joseph translated the plates with the Nephite interpreters called the Urim and Thummim. Others say Joseph and Oliver were actually referring to the seer stone when they referred to the Urim and Thummim.