Saturday, October 21, 2017

Radical new idea for intellectuals to consider

Some intellectuals in the Church continue to teach the two-Cumorahs/Mesoamerican theory of Book of Mormon geography. You can see their work at FairMormon, BYU Studies, Book of Mormon Central, and many other sources.

They have been very effective at persuading generations of Latter-day Saints to question and even doubt the veracity of the foundational witnesses of the restoration.

Here's a radical new idea for them to consider. Actually, anyone who has been persuaded or even influenced by them should consider this idea.

What if Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer were reliable and credible witnesses?
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Look at some excerpts from Oliver's eight historical letters, for example. Pick out which ones are reliable and credible and which ones aren't.

(Hint: I think they're all reliable and credible, but some of our LDS intellectuals don't.)
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Then his voice, though mild, pierced to the center, and his words, "I am thy fellow servant," dispelled every fear. We listened-we gazed-we admired! 'Twas the voice of the angel from glory-'twas a message from the Most High! and as we heard we rejoiced, while his love enkindled upon our souls, and we were rapt in the vision of the Almighty! Where was room for doubt? No where: uncertainty had fled, doubt had sunk, no more to rise, while fiction and deception had fled forever!

There are certain facts relative to the works of God worthy the consideration and observance of every individual, and every society:-They are that he never works in the dark-his works are always performed in a clear, intelligible manner: and another point is, that he never works in vain.

But such facts as are within my knowledge, will be given without any reference to inconsistencies, in the minds of others, or impossibilities, in the feelings of such as do not give credence to the system of salvation and redemption so clearly set forth and so plainly written over the face of the sacred scriptures:

And further, you are also conversant with the fact, that no sooner had the messengers of the fulness [fullness] of the gospel, began to proclaim its heavenly precepts, and call upon men to embrace the same, than they were vilified and slandered by thousands…

and from other items in the sacred scriptures we have the fact recorded where angels appeared and conversed with men, and there was no difficulty on the part of the individuals, to endure their presence; and others where their glory was so conspicuous that they could not endure.

as all men are deeply interested on the great matter of revelation, I indulge a hope that you will present such facts as are plain and uncontrovertible [incontrovertible], both from our former scriptures and the book of Mormon, to show that such is not only consistent with the character of the Lord, but absolutely necessary to the fulfillment of that sacred volume, so tenaciously admired by professors of religion-I mean that called the bible.

You will remember that in my last I brought my subject down to the evening, or night of the 21st of September, 1823, and gave an outline of the conversation of the angel upon the important facts of the blessings, promises and covenants to Israel, and the great manifestations of favor to the world in the ushering in of the ful[l]ness of the gospel, to prepare the way for the second advent of the Messiah, when he comes in the glory of the Father, with the holy angels.

He could not have been deceived in the fact that a being of some kind appeared to him: and that it was an heavenly one, the fulfil[l]ment of his words so minutely, up to this time, in addition to the truth and word of salvation which has been developed to this generation, in the Book of Mormon, ought to be conclusive evidence to the mind of every man who is privileged to hear of the same.

Here was a struggle indeed; for when he calmly reflected upon his errand, he knew that if God did not give, he could not obtain; and with the thought of obtaining, his mind would be carried back to its former reflection of poverty, abuse,—wealth , grandeur, and ease, until before arriving at the place described, this wholly occupied his desire; and when he thought upon the fact of what was previously shown him, it was only with an assurance that he should obtain and accomplish his desire in relieving himself and friends from want.

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 [develop] the important fact, that the present race were descendants of Abraham, and were to be remembered in the immutable covenant of the Most High to that man, and be restored to a knowledge of the gospel, that they, with all nations might rejoice, seemed to inspire further thoughts of gain and income from such a valuable history.

The soil is of the first quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.

By turning to the 529th and 530th pages of the book of Mormon you will read Mormon's account of the last great struggle of his people, as they were encamped round this hill Cumorah. (It is printed Camorah, which is an error.) In this valley fell the remaining strength and pride of a once powerful people, the Nephites

Here may be seen, where once sunk to naught the pride and strength of two mighty nations; and here may be contemplated in solitude, while nothing but the faithful record of Mormon and Moroni is now extant to inform us of the fact, scenes of misery and distress…

This hill, by the Jaredites, was called Ramah: by it, or around it, pitched the famous army of Coriantumr their tents. Coriantumr was the last king of the Jaredites. The opposing army were to the west, and in this same valley, and near by, from day to day, did that mighty race spill their blood, in wrath, contending, as it were, brother against brother, and father, against son. In this same spot, in full view from the top of this same hill, one may gaze with astonishment upon the ground which was twice covered with the dead and dying of our fellowmen. 

The hill of which I have been speaking, at the time mentioned, presented a varied appearance: the north end rose suddenly from the plain, forming a promontory without timber, but covered with grass. As you passed to the south you soon came to scattering timber, the surface having been cleared by art or by wind; and a short distance further left, you are surrounded with the common forest of the country. It is necessary to observe, that even the part cleared was only occupied for pasturage, its steep ascent and narrow summit not admitting the plow of the husbandman, with any degree of ease or profit. It was at the second mentioned place where the record was found to be deposited, on the west side of the hill, not far from the top down its side; and when myself visited the place in the year 1830, there were several trees standing: enough to cause a shade in summer, but not so much as to prevent the surface being covered with grass-which was also the case when the record was first found.



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Head[waters] of Sidon

Promoters of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory like to replace the phrase "head of Sidon" that actually appears in the Book of Mormon with the phrase "headwaters of Sidon."

Why?

First, because they think Joseph didn't translate the Book of Mormon correctly. He was supposed to translate a "Mayan codex" but goofed, so they fix the translation with substitute terms such as this, along with volcanoes, massive stone Mayan temples, tapirs, etc.

Why this particular substitute term?

Because they think that if the "headwaters" of Sidon are south of Zarahemla, the Sidon river must flow north; i.e., it originates in the south and flows north past Zarahemla.

Of course, the text doesn't say that, but promoters of the theory insist on it because their substitute term "headwaters," they think, excludes North America as the setting for the Book of Mormon.

And by excluding North America, they can justify their rejection of what Joseph and Oliver taught about the Hill Cumorah in New York.
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This is the type of cascading false assumptions you need to support the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.

It's kind of fun to think that a major river such as the Sidon has a specific, identifiable headwaters area.

In the real world, rivers have many headwaters. Here's a nice description quoted by Roger Terry on his blog, here: http://mormonomics.blogspot.com/2017/10/recycled-high-council-stuff.html:


Harline begins his book by observing that trying to find the origins of Sunday is like trying to find the source of a great river. “The delta at the end and the long channel flowing into the delta are easily recognizable. Yet the farther one moves upstream toward the source of the river, the trickier the going: tributaries multiply, lead astray, or go underground. And when finally located, the humble source may bear so little resemblance to the massive amounts of water downstream that one will surely wonder what the beginning can possibly have to do with the end.”1

1. Craig Harline, Sunday: A History of the First Day from Babylonia to the Super Bowl (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 1.

I mention this in case there is anyone who still believes the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory because of the imaginary "headwaters" of Sidon that require the river flow north.
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It's also interesting that Oliver Cowdery used the term "head waters" to refer to a confluence. In Letter VIII he wrote "This gentleman, whose name is Stowel, resided in the town of Bainbridge, on or near the head waters of the Susquehannah river." The origin of the Susquehannah is more than 50 miles upriver from Bainbridge, but several streams flow into the river at Bainbridge.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

FairMormon--the beginning of capitulation

There is a natural progression when paradigms shift, and we're seeing that now regarding Book of Mormon geography.

Most people believe their ideas are based on facts and logic. Contradictory ideas are "wrong," "uninformed," "ignorant," "irrational," etc. It's a problem for everyone, of course.

People also think that "experts" are better informed than they are, so they defer to experts they trust. And experts can make their arguments sound persuasive. But because we're not experts, we don't know what they're not telling us. (I blogged about this before here:
https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/01/science-and-history.html).

People in power are even more convinced that they are "right" and others are "wrong." And as I mentioned in a post yesterday, people in power seek to suppress and even censor contradictory ideas, but if these ideas escape anyway and get out where ordinary people can learn about them, the people in power insist the ideas be opposed and ridiculed.

Eventually, though, these efforts backfire if the contradictory idea itself relies on more persuasive facts and logic. It becomes evident to observers that the censors are seeking to protect an idea that cannot withstand comparison and scrutiny.

Eventually the people in power start to capitulate.

That's the phase we are entering now regarding FairMormon and Book of Mormon geography.
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FairMormon is an unusually extreme example of experts not telling us everything while insisting that those who do give us the important information (the things FairMormon censors) are "wrong."

FairMormon has a blog you can read here: https://www.fairmormon.org/blog. They also have a "Journal" that is not public. They send it to subscribers, so it is not as easy to access, but it has some great stuff.

And some less-than-great stuff.

Here's an unbelievably ironic passage in the latest iteration, FAIRMORMON JOURNAL, October 2017, with the original in blue and my comments in red:

Elder M. Russell Ballard used the story of one of our early pioneers, Jane Manning James, to talk about the gospel. He said about racism: “We need to embrace God’s children compassionately and eliminate any prejudice, including racism, sexism, and nationalism. Let it be said that we truly believe the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are for every child of God.”

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/10/the-trek-continues?lang=eng

He also said, “Be aware of organizations, groups, or individuals claiming secret answers to doctrinal questions that they say today’s apostles and prophets do not have or understand.”

[So far, so good. Elder Ballard's conference talk was awesome.]

There may be some who are wondering if FairMormon might fall into that category of organizations to avoid. 

[Remember, this newsletter is going to subscribers. From this statement we can infer that some subscribers are catching on to what FairMormon has been doing. That's a key element for a change in paradigm. 

Not only are there "some" who wonder about FairMormon, but there are more and more people catching on. The reason is that FairMormon actively promotes the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, which requires them to repudiate what Joseph, Oliver, and every other modern prophet and apostle has said about Cumorah being in New York. 

Any organization that claims our prophets and apostles are wrong about what they say in General Conference deserves at least close scrutiny. 

I think people ought to insist that FairMormon change their editorial policy on this issue of Cumorah in New York. They have a lot of good material on other topics, so it is tragic that they continue to mislead the Saints about this topic. Actually, it's even more damaging to faith for them to combine good, solid answers to gospel questions with their repudiation of the prophets and apostles on the question of Cumorah.]

I respond in three ways. First, we don’t claim any secret answers. We are here to support the brethren. I think the apostles understand and have everything they need. 

[If FairMormon doesn't "claim any secret answers," then why do they promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory? No prophet or apostle has endorsed the two-Cumorahs theory. Instead, they have specifically rejected it. 

By contrast, the intellectuals at Fair Mormon claim that Joseph and Oliver were speculators, that they were ignorant, and that they were wrong. 

FairMormon claims they "are here to support the brethren," but they constantly seek to undermine the credibility and reliability of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, President Ivins, President Romney, President Joseph Fielding Smith, etc.]

Secondly, if we start to claim authority over the brethren and what they say, you shouldn’t listen to us! 

[This is exactly my point! This is one of the indicia of capitulation. 

If FairMormon means what it says here, there are only two choices.

(1) FairMormon must change their editorial support of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, or 

(2) People shouldn't listen to FairMormon.

Either option is fine with me, but I'd prefer to see FairMormon stop rejecting what the brethren have taught. That would help produce unity in the Church.]

Third, if you have questions about FairMormon, go to LDS.org and type FairMormon into the search engine. You may be surprised. You can also check out this link. You will find us there. 
https://www.lds.org/si/objective/doctrinal-mastery/gospel-sources?lang=eng

[This is my favorite argument of the three. 

FairMormon is trying to persuade you here that the leaders of the Church endorse their positions (and I'm sure Church leaders would be very interested to see how FairMormon is using this link as an implied endorsement). But the link on lds.org itself explains that the Church is not endorsing their content. 

Plus in this very same "newsletter," FairMormon itself writes, "All responses reflect the opinions of the respondents only and not the official position of FairMormon or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

This is an example of how you have to read FairMormon very carefully. They keep their articles anonymous, and they never reveal their "official positions" so they can always say that material on their web page is not "official." But their editorial position is adamant that Cumorah is not in New York, to the point that they refuse to give their readers any material that contradicts their Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.]

There are some led away by those who claim to have priesthood authority, or who claim special knowledge. 


[This is a serious concern that I share with FairMormon; there are groups popping up who are leading members of the Church astray. 

But it is FairMormon's own claim to "special knowledge" about the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory that is most concerning to me, because it implicates the Book of Mormon itself as well as the reliability and credibility of Joseph, Oliver, David Whitmer, and all their contemporaries and successors.]

Others claim they have the only truth, and people who don’t agree with their position, no matter how trivial the issue, are unbelievers or apostates. 

[Coming from Scott Gordon, the President of FairMormon, this one is especially ironic because he has labeled those who believe in the New York Cumorah among apostates. Some people think this is a reference to my recent posts about the "unbelievers at FairMormon," but FairMormon proudly claims they don't believe Letter VII and all the prophets and apostles who have affirmed the New York Cumorah, so they can't be referring to my posts here.]

We need to focus on the first presidency and the quorum of the twelve. They have the keys given to them by Jesus Christ.

[See, this is an example of how FairMormon includes great stuff in their material. We all agree with these two statements--except FairMormon, which rejects what members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have taught in General Conference. I encourage everyone to focus on the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve and not the sophistry on display at FairMormon--starting with the issue of the New York Cumorah.]

Friday, October 13, 2017

Free-Speech Lesson

Today's Wall St. Journal has an editorial about free speech titled "Justice Holmes’s Free-Speech Lesson" that everyone interested in Book of Mormon geography should read because it explains which sides of the geography debate are confident in their position.

Here's the link (although you may need a subscription to view it):
https://www.wsj.com/articles/justice-holmess-free-speech-lesson-1507847318

The subheading to the article explains: "The more certain you are, the more you should resist the temptation to silence those who disagree."

On this blog, I frequently quote, cite, and link to the publications of the intellectuals who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory. I encourage members of the Church to discover what these people are teaching. I think every BYU student, at whatever campus, and every CES student (and every parent) should know what is being taught.

But the intellectuals who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory take the opposite approach.

By now, readers of this blog know that these intellectuals (FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, BYU Studies, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, etc.) are afraid to let members of the Church compare their theory to the North American setting (Moroni's America or the Heartland).

These intellectuals know that most members of the Church, once they learn about Letter VII and the teachings of the modern prophets and apostles, accept the New York Cumorah. 

That's why they continue to refuse to allow a comparison, or even a discussion, of the two theories.

The only way they can preserve their Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory is by 

(1) suppressing, arguing against, and ridiculing what Joseph and Oliver taught and 

(2) insisting that every modern prophet and apostle who has spoken about the Hill Cumorah in New York, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, was wrong.

Now the intellectuals at BYU are promoting an "abstract map" of the Book of Mormon to convey an impression that they are "neutral," even though their map teaches the Mesoamerican interpretation of the text and repudiates what the prophets and apostles have said about Cumorah in New York.

They don't want people to know about the North American setting. They don't want people to know about Letter VII. They don't want people to know what has been taught in General Conference.

Now, let's look at the WSJ article.
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Excerpt:

"If you are absolutely certain that President Trump is or is not an idiot, that climate change is or is not the most pressing problem of our age, that abortion is or is not murder, that football players should or should not be allowed to kneel during the national anthem, that our nation needs more or fewer gun laws, welcome! Most of us feel the same way. Absolute certainty is common, as is the suspicion that anybody who is absolutely certain of the opposite view must be evil, ignorant or a gullible consumer of fake news.

"Along with absolute certainty comes the understandable impulse to regulate or ban the speech of your opponent. Why allow evil and ignorant people to infect others with falsehoods and dangerous ideas?"

The article discusses a pair of Supreme Court cases in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes changed his mind about free speech.

"Holmes’s dissent in Abrams gave birth to modern First Amendment jurisprudence, with its veneration for the marketplace of ideas. He began by observing that it makes perfect sense to persecute people for their opinions: “If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition.” The problem, Holmes realized, is that we are almost always absolutely certain of our premises, but sometimes we are wrong...

Holmes’s radical idea was that we are too often wrong. When we are wrong, the consequences can be dire. When we are not only absolutely certain but also right, what is the harm in allowing other views to be heard? The truth needs no protectors and will eventually win out, but nobody said it better than Holmes:

“When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas—that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year if not every day we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death.”

Maybe you disagree with Justice Holmes. But thanks to the First Amendment, you are free to argue against him and let the best idea win.
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Because the intellectuals who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory refuse to "let the best idea win," each member of the Church--and each student at BYU--has the responsibility to investigate the facts for himself/herself.








Thursday, October 12, 2017

B. H. Roberts edits Letter VII

Letter VII has been a problem for Book of Mormon scholars for a long time.

B. H. Roberts included it in his book Outlines of Ecclesiastical History, but he combined portions of Letter VII and Letter VIII without indicating his edits and omitted all the references to the final battles and Mormon's depository of records in the New York hill.

https://archive.org/stream/outlinesofeccles00brobe#page/314/mode/2up

It's here in the 1902 edition:

https://archive.org/stream/outlinesofeccles00crobe#page/n297/mode/2up

No wonder Roberts had his famous problems with the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

Because our modern LDS scholars are also claiming Joseph and Oliver were wrong about Cumorah, they are leading members and investigators to also question the historicity of the Book of Mormon, exemplified by the fantasy map now being taught at BYU.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Closed minds at BYU

Another frequent question people ask is, why do faculty at BYU (all campuses) and affiliated groups* refuse to accept what Joseph and Oliver taught about the Hill Cumorah in New York in Letter VII?

Here's what you need to understand.

Those who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory don't just refuse to accept what Joseph and Oliver taught.

They won't even consider it.

And they certainly won't tell their students about it.
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The reason is that they have convinced themselves that the New York Cumorah doesn't fit their "criteria" for the Hill Cumorah.

The process goes like this:

1. Assume the Book of Mormon took place in a limited geography in Central America (an idea that originated among scholars in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, now known as Community of Christ, which by now has rejected the Book of Mormon as an actual history of actual people).

2. Develop a set of criteria  such as volcanoes to place Cumorah in southern Mexico to make the geography "work" in Mesoamerica,

3. Announce that the New York site identified by Joseph, Oliver, and all of their contemporaries and successors "doesn't fit" your criteria.

4. Teach your students that all of the prophets and apostles who have taught that the Hill Cumorah was in New York were wrong. They were merely expressing their opinions, but they spoke in ignorance because PhD scholars have figured out that Cumorah is actually in Mexico.

5. Refuse to teach your students what the modern prophets and apostles have said.

6. Censor, criticize, and ridicule anyone who accepts what the modern prophets and apostles have taught.

I know this sounds absurd (and I agree it is absurd), but this is the reality.**

That's why I say, do your own research, but start with what Joseph and Oliver said in Letter VII. And then consider what all the other prophets and apostles have said. You can start here: 

At this point, I can't think of a single reason to believe these intellectuals.
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*Groups affiliated with BYU include Book of Mormon Central (BOMC), which has BYU faculty serving in several capacities, as you can see here: https://bookofmormoncentral.org/directory, and affiliates of BOMC, which you can see here: https://bookofmormoncentral.org/content/affiliates.
With the exception of RSC, these groups all promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory. 

**As we've seen, the legal organization behind Book of Mormon Central is the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, Inc. (BMAF), a 501 (c) 3 non-profit public charity chartered in the state of Utah in 2004. BMAF's mission statement is "to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex." http://bmaf.org/about/mission_statement

Everyone associated with BOMC shares the goal of "increasing understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex." This is why they developed the "abstract map" of the Book of Mormon as a pretext for teaching the Mesoamerican interpretation of the text. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why don't the Brethren just...

One of the most common questions people ask is "Why don't the Brethren just resolve the question of Book of Mormon geography?"

There are several ways to answer that.

First, no one can speak on behalf of Church leaders. We can only go by what they've previously said and by what is in the scriptures.

Second,  the problem of Book of Mormon geography was created by the intellectuals and they're the ones that need to change course. Why should we expect the Brethren to single them out for correction?

The Brethren have always taught us to follow the Brethren. If we do, then we don't listen to the intellectuals who are trying to persuade us not to believe the ordained leaders of the Church.

If we've fallen into the trap of listening to the intellectuals who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, that's on us. We need to change course whether the intellectuals do or not. 

We shouldn't need the Brethren to itemize each specific item about which the intellectuals (and others) disagree with the Brethren. There are innumerable examples, of which Cumorah is only one.

Follow the Brethren.

Third, to resolve the question of Book of Mormon geography implicates two distinct elements.

     Element A. Do we have any pins in the map, meaning any locations we are sure about?

     Element B. If we do have a pin in the map, do we know for sure about other locations?

__________

Regarding Element A, we do have a pin in the map. It is the Hill Cumorah in New York. Every prophet and apostle who has spoken officially about Cumorah has affirmed that it is in New York, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference. No prophet or apostle has taught otherwise.

[NOTE: FairMormon and other proponents of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory have tried to persuade people that Harold B. Lee said we have no idea where Cumorah is. See my analysis of that FairMormon claim here:
http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/10/fairmormons-famous-harold-b-lee.html]

Why should we expect the Brethren today to reiterate what has been consistently and repeatedly taught on such a basic point?

Another way of looking at it is, how many times do Church leaders have to repeat the teaching from Oliver and Joseph that Cumorah was in New York before our LDS intellectuals will accept it?

If you read FairMormon, BYU Studies, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, Book of Mormon Central, etc., or if you attend BYU/CES classes on the Book of Mormon, you'll find persistent rejection of what the Brethren have taught about Cumorah. 

What more do you need to know? 
__________

Regarding Element B, we don't have any official statements beyond Cumorah.

Why should we expect more clarity on this issue when our LDS intellectuals have persuaded so many member of the Church not to believe the prophets and apostles about Element A?

In my opinion, unless and until we reject the intellectuals and return to the teachings of the prophets and apostles about Cumorah, we're never going to receive more direction on Element B.

That said, each of us can take our own initiative to see what makes sense, starting with the New York Cumorah. That's what I've done with Moroni's America. Others have proposed different models based on the New York Cumorah.

Some of the Brethren in the 1800s speculated about the location of Zarahemla, the land southward, the land northward, etc., but they specified that they were speculating. They didn't know and they didn't claim to know. Unlike the New York location of Cumorah, the location of other sites was (and is) an open question.

The best-known example is probably Orson Pratt, who wrote a pamphlet in 1840 that speculated about Book of Mormon places and people in Central and South America. When Joseph Smith wrote the Wentworth* letter in 1842, he apparently borrowed some of Orson's material from the pamphlet, but he completely deleted all the speculation about Central and South America. Instead, he declared that "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."

Orson Pratt ignored the correction Joseph made to his hemispheric theory.

But he didn't ignore Joseph's teaching about Cumorah.

Pratt later divided the Book of Mormon into the chapters and verses we have today, which were first published in the 1879 edition. He included footnotes about geography. The notes qualified his ideas about Central and South America ("it is believed that"), but with respect to Cumorah, he made the declarative, unambiguous and unqualified statement that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.

The New York Cumorah has been taught in General Conference by members of the First Presidency. It was taught by Joseph and Oliver in Letter VII.

That's good enough for me.

Especially now that we can see how the text describes North America with Cumorah in New York.
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*You can see the Wentworth letter in full here: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/07/the-wentworth-letter?lang=eng. Don't use the one in the manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith because the curriculum committee, influence by the intellectuals who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, edited out key portions of it, including Joseph's statement that I quoted above. You can see it here: https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-38?lang=eng.