But now we're approaching the Cumorah issue, so I wanted to frame the question for every Sunday School teacher who reads this blog.
The question of Book of Mormon geography boils down to Cumorah, and the Cumorah question boils down to the difference between prophets and scholars.
Which do you follow?
One of the key premises of the "two-Cumorahs" theory* is that Joseph Smith adopted a false tradition started by someone, presumably Oliver Cowdery, that the hill in New York was the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.
This is the way the scholars rationalize away Letter VII, David Whitmer's discussion of Cumorah, D&C 128, etc. Then Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, George Albert Smith, and others (not to mention all of Joseph Smith's contemporaries) also relied on this false tradition.
How do we know the New York Cumorah is a false tradition?
Because current LDS scholars say so.
Important note: I don't intend to offend anyone with this blog entry; if I'm wrong in any respect, I hope someone will correct me. I'd be happy to edit this post if I've misstated anything. Plus, I would very much like to know about any current LDS scholars (including BYU/CES educators) who accept the New York Cumorah and reject the two-Cumorahs theory.
This two-Cumorahs theory is the argument that underlies the limited-geography Mesoamerican theory that is the "consensus" among LDS scholars and educators. (Ask around if you don't already know this. Some people who believe the Mesoamerican setting don't realize it depends on the two-Cumorahs theory, but it does.)
The scholars say it's more important to listen to the scholars who currently advise the Brethren than to listen to the prophets themselves.
I'm not kidding. This approach is implicit in everything they write about Mesoamerica. If you read FairMormon, FARMS/Maxwell Institute, the Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central, BMAF, and the rest, their theories of geography all rely on the two-Cumorahs theory.
Here's a graphic I use in some of my presentations.
A few days ago, the Mormon Leaks channel on Youtube released videos of several presentations given to the Quorum of the Twelve. The Deseret News summarized the leaked videos here. You can see the videos here.
What Mesoamerican advocates say is, you should listen to the advisers, not the prophets, seers, and revelators.
Really, the question of Book of Mormon geography is quite simple.
And it all starts with Cumorah, the pin in the map that connects Book of Mormon geography with modern geography.
In my view, it is the two-Cumorahs theory that is false.
It's a binary decision. Either Cumorah (Mormon 6:6) is in New York, or it's not. (And if it's not, does it even matter where it is?)
The only question is, what do you think?
NOTE: *The "two-Cumorahs" theory holds that the hill in New York currently named Cumorah (the Church-owned hill where the Pageant is held every year) is not the Cumorah mentioned in Mormon 6:6. That Cumorah is somewhere in southern Mexico, or Baja, or somewhere in South America, or Africa, or Asia. The only consistent claim of the "two-Cumorahs" theory is that it cannot be in New York. This theory originated with RLDS scholars in the 1920s and was adopted by LDS scholars over the specific objection of Joseph Fielding Smith.