Book of Mormon historicity

I think there would be greater unity in the Church if everyone accepted what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught about the New York Cumorah. Their teachings were reiterated many times by their contemporaries and successors in Church leadership. Examples of these teachings are here:

There is a well-established theory that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah. This theory originated with Stebbins and Hills, RLDS scholars from the early 1900s who believed the Book of Mormon took place in a limited area in Mesoamerica, which meant New York was too far to be the location of the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6. 

I refer to this as M2C, meaning the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory. This is the theory that the "hill in New York" where Joseph found the plates was erroneously named Cumorah by early believers, based on a false assumption. According to these scholars, Joseph and Oliver adopted this false tradition and thereby misled believers for over 150 years.

In the early 1900s, RLDS leaders promptly distanced themselves from the Hills M2C theory. 

However, LDS scholars, despite the opposition of Joseph Fielding Smith, Marion G. Romney, and other LDS leaders, embraced the theories advanced by Stebbins and Hills. 

These scholars (to whom I refer as M2C scholars) relied on anonymous editorials in the 1842 Times and Seasons which claimed that Mayan ruins in Mesoamerica originated with the Nephites. They explicitly reject the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. They have taught their theory explicitly at BYU and throughout CES. 

Today, for example, the logo of Book of Mormon Central includes a Mayan glyph to imprint M2C on the minds of every Church member who views or reads content from Book of Mormon Central. 

In my view, Joseph and Oliver taught the truth. Even before Joseph got the plates in 1827, he referred to the hill as Cumorah because that's how Moroni referred to it the first night they met. In Letter VII, Oliver wrote that it was a fact that the mile-wide valley west of Cumorah was the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites. You can read Letter VII right in Joseph Smith's history, here:

Some M2C scholars say Joseph and Oliver never claimed revelation to support this statement. Of course, it's a logical and factual fallacy to say they never claimed this. All we have is a sparse documentary record, especially for the early days of the Church. 

At most, we can say we have no existing record that they claimed revelation to support Letter VII. But we do have the consistent teachings of those who knew Joseph and Oliver well. 

More importantly, Joseph and Oliver wouldn't need a revelation about Cumorah because they personally visited the depository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah in New York. 

Those who teach M2C reject all of this and more. They claim that the Book of Mormon events took place in a limited area of Mesoamerica. This means the New York hill is too far away to be the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6; instead, the "real Cumorah" must be somewhere in southern Mexico. They claim that all the prophets who have taught the New York Cumorah were merely expressing their personal opinions and were wrong.

In my view, that approach necessarily invites disunity and discord in the Church. It has produced a split between those Church members who accept and those who repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. 

There does not seem to be a way to bridge the gap. People are deeply invested in their respective views, emotionally, intellectually, and financially. 

These investments have led to extensive bias confirmation. Having accepted M2C for many years myself, I understand how persuasive that evidence can be. Looking back, though, I can see it was all bias confirmation.

Abundant extrinsic evidence corroborates what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught about the Hill Cumorah in New York. Because I choose to accept what they taught, I find this evidence far more persuasive than the evidence of M2C.

Church members can focus on building Zion regardless of what they believe about Book of Mormon geography. 

The ideal solution, at this stage, is for everyone to be fully informed of the issues and make their own informed decisions. The least productive approach is to establish any one theory as a "take it or leave it" approach that is enforced formally or informally by Church media, educational programs, publications, etc. Such an approach leaves members vulnerable to a faith crises once they lose confidence in the established theory. (I think repudiating the prophets is also a serious problem, but others disagree.)

Consequently, I strongly oppose ongoing efforts by the M2C citation cartel to censor information and analysis that contradicts M2C in favor of the teachings of the prophets. 

My main blog on this topic is here: