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Mormonism LIVE: 058: Mormon Apologist Skullduggery – The Mystery of the Second Watson Letter

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Playing off of last week’s “Two Hills Cumorah” episode we investigate the claim of a “2nd Watson letter”. What we find is not only more apologist obfuscations but perhaps one of the biggest underhanded maneuvers LDS apologists have ever pulled off.



  1.     Joseph Smith taught a hemispheric model of the Book of Mormon
  2.     This allowed him to see any ruins found anywhere in North or South America or Mesoamerica as being left by Nephites (including down in southern Mexico, as well as the North American mounds (Zelph—1834)
  3.     Moroni said the plates contained a record of the inhabitants of this continent. (Moroni himself said the name of the hill in New York was named the “Hill Cumorah”) A.) History of the Church 1:184 “This Book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him Cumorah, which hill is now in the state of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario county.  B.) Millennial Star # 49 Vol. XL page 772 David Whitmer says the man on the road said Cumorah and the name was new to Whitmer.   Cowdery and Joseph were in the wagin with him.
  4.     Mission to the Lamanites down in Missouri, not to Mexico
  5.     Zion to be established in the borders by the Lamanites; in Missouri; not in Mexico.
  6.     Great paper in Sunstone 2004 by Brent Metcalfe, “Reinventing Lamanite Identity.”
  7.     Narrow Neck of Land the Isthmus of Panama (day and a half journey for a Nephite from the sea east to the sea west)



  1.     It came to be seen that the populations of the entire hemisphere could not have been created by a small group of Jews who came from Jerusalem around 600 BCE
  2.     BOM itself seems to describe a more limited area (Joseph Smith didn’t really understand the Book of Mormon)



  1.     Needs writing
  2.     Needs artifacts
  3.     Needs a big hill for the final battle
  4.     Hence Southern Mexico and Guatamala
  5.     Isthmus of Panama out; Isthmus of Tehuantepic in.
  6.     But the Ishmus of Tehuantepic is too wide, which has led to a bunch of problems and theories.


  1.     Takes into account statements by Joseph Smith as authoritative
  2.     Has the battles take place at the New York hill Cumorah
  3.     But has to fight against the archeological record.


  1.     The hemispheric model was silently shelved.
  2.     Now the Mesoamerican theory and the Heartland theory wage war with each other.


  1.     Starts with the Reorganites in late 19th century; early 20th century
  2.     Fought back against by church leaders, including Joseph Fielding Smith.
  3.     1981—David Palmer writes In Search of Cumorah (PICTURES OF DAVID PALMER AND THE BOOK)
  4.     1984 John Sorensen publishes An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon
  6.     1984 Articles in the Ensign (Digging into the Book of Mormon, parts 1 and 2; September and October 1984.
  7.     BRENT METCALFE PICTURE—Story about Mark E. Petersen and original being rejected.
  8.     Petersen passed away in January of 1984; had to wait for his passing for these articles to be published.


  2.     Obviously written at the behest of the First Presidency
  3.     Simply stating the obvious; that this is indeed what church leaders have taught for over a hundred years.
  4.     Used against the Mesoamerican theorists; FARMS.


  1.     1993 Article by William Hamblin in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies
  4.     “Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geology and Archeology of the Book of Mormon” (Volume 2, No. 1)
  5.     pp. 161-97.
  6.     The quote is found on page 181 of this journal article. (These aren’t Watson’s words or those of the First Presidency.  Rather they are David Palmer’s words taken straight from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism” )


Finally, Wilson does not mention the fact that the Latter-day Saint Church has no official position on Book of Mormon geography, or that other Latter-day Saint General Authorities have advised caution in theorizing about Book of Mormon geography. Michael Watson, secretary to the First Presidency of the Church, has recently clarified the Church’s position on Book of Mormon geography.


The Church emphasizes the doctrinal and historical value of the Book of Mormon, not its geography. While some Latter-day Saints have looked for possible locations and explanations [for Book of Mormon geography] because the New York Hill Cumorah does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Cumorah, there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site.70


Wilson also ignores the fact that versions of the Limited Geography Model have been published in The Ensign, the Church’s official magazine; while Sorenson’s An Ancient American Setting was published by Deseret Book.71 It should be clear that the official Latter-day Saint position on the Limited Geography Model is not antagonistic. Some Latter-day Saint leaders have disagreed with the model. Others, however, support it.


70 Correspondence from Michael Watson, Office of the First Presidency, 23 April 1993. 


  1.     People wanted to see it; were told it was missing and could not be found.
  2.     The story was that William Hamblin (PHOTO OF BILL HAMBLIN) had contacted the office of the First Presidency and received a clarification letter from F. Michael Watson on First Presidency Letterhead.
  3.   Daniel Peterson (PHOTO) got involved in this and said he had personally seen it, as well.

QUESTION: Why not contact the Office of FP and get a copy?  Or another letter?

  1.   Peterson, as editor of Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, authorizes the citation to be used again, this time in an article by Matthew Roper in 2004.


Review of Books on the Book of Mormon; Matthew Roper; 2004

“Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Applications”


  1. 260 of the journal.


“The Church emphasizes the doctrinal and historical value of the Book of Mormon, not its geography,” agreed Michael Watson, secretary to the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in a 1993 statement:


While some Latter-day Saints have looked for possible locations and explanations [for Book of Mormon geography] because the New York Hill Cumorah does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Cumorah, there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site.¹⁰⁷


  1. Correspondence from Michael Watson, 23 April 1993, as cited in William J. Hamblin, “Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993): 181.


  1.   Still the Second Watson Letter is missing. (Actually 2 copies are missing.   Matthew Roper stated “In 1993, while I was a student at BYU, I was also a part-time employee at the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS). Part of my responsibilities then included responding to frequently asked questions about the Book of Mormon which we often received. I was frequently at the office and remember when Brent Hall showed me a FAX from Michael Watson, then Secretary to the First Presidency. Brent allowed me to make a copy of it, which we found very helpful at the time in responding to questions about the 1990 letter, which anti-Mormons at Utah Mission in Marlow Oklahoma and Watchman Fellowship in Texas were then giving wide circulation. This was shared with me and others at the time, including some who had written to FARMS with questions. Additionally, Professor William Hamblin had also written directly to Michael Watson and received a copy of the same FAX from the Office of the First Presidency as well which he cited in an article published in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies in 1993.”) –


  1.     2009—Gregory Smith (PHOTO) announces the letter has been located at FARMS headquarters in Provo by Matthew Roper in John Sorenson’s office.
  2.     Greg Smith is in Canada—Matt Roper is going to snail mail it to him and he will publish it when it arrives.
  3.     After 14-days goes by, Greg Smith finally does publish it; but it is not the Watson Letter as it has been described and maintained by Peterson and Hamblin.
  4.     Instead it is a FAX from Carla Ogden.  (SHOW THE PICTURE OF THE FAX)
  5.     Greg Smith is chagrined; and says, “Let the conspiracy theories commence.”


  1.     Not a letter; not signed by F. Michael Watson; not signed by anyone! (PHOTO OF F. MICHAEL WATSON)
  3.     Sent by Carla Ogden
  4.     No strip at the top to show date and time and number from which sent
  5.     DATE is the same as footnote in Hamblin’s 1993 article
  6.     Language is the same as Hamblin’s 1993 article.
  7.     Except for the last four words, which Hamblin removes without acknowledgement.  “That have been suggested)  PHOTO OF HAMBLIN ARTICLE TO COMPARE WITH LANGUAGE OF FAX.
  8.     DCP questions whether this is what he saw; contacts Bill Hamblin in Israel; Hamblin says no, this isn’t it; it was a real letter and really signed by Watson.
  9.   DCP doubles down on his recollection.
  10.   So Second Watson Letter has never been found.




Scanned version of Brent Hall cover letter:


  1.     Brent Hall was the office manager; not a researcher.
  2.     Not the same story as Bill Hamblin contacting the First Presidency Office; now it is Brent Hall.
  3.     Now DCP has to theorize that ON THE SAME DAY; the Office of the First Presidency, having been contacted by two separate FARMS people, sent a letter to Bill Hamblin (missing) and a fax to Brent Hall, both containing identical language.
  4.     Brent Metcalf—points out that the language is obviously lifted from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on “Cumorah” by David Palmer.  PHOTO OF THE CUMORAH ARTICLE.
  6. Palmer cites his own work on the subject dating back to 1981.
  7.     Note how damaging the language is; no place that has been suggested can be     
    connected to the Book of Mormon.



  1.     Hard to believe the story about the missing Watson Letter; even many apologists don’t believe it.
  2.     Seems obvious it is the Carla Ogden Fax; i.e., this IS the second Watson letter.
  3.     Apologists wanted a second letter like the first, but were unable to get one; if they could get it, they would have.
  4.     All they could get was this FAX, which obviously isn’t as strong as a second letter written by Watson.
  5.     And so Hamblin cited it as if it were in his 1993 article; then when asked to produce it, didn’t want to produce it because that would give away the game;
  6.     Instead said it was missing! (actually two copies are missing)
  7.     2009, sixteen years later; Matt Roper finds the Carla Ogden FAX and thinks this must be the second Watson letter; contacts Greg Smith and tells him the same; Greg Smith announces it and then publishes it.
  8.     Bill Hamblin sticks to his guns and so does Daniel C. Peterson, claiming that this very important Watson letter remains missing to this day (Both copies).
  9.     No attempts to get a copy; no attempts to get a second letter; we simply have to trust them.
  10.   THIS is the story of how Mormon Apologists almost certainly engaged in a fraud!



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