The Gospel Topics Essays on Book of Mormon Translation and Geography have always been notorious for the way they studiously avoid the clear, direct and unmistakable statements by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on these topics. This is now more obvious than ever because of a recent announcement on the Church's website that renders those essays obsolete, as anyone can see.
In December the Church announced a new resource called "Topics and Questions" which replaces "Gospel Topics."
This is a significant improvement. We will see many changes if the concept and methodology permeates all Gospel instruction and study throughout the Church.
Topics and Questions "provides resources for those seeking answers and for helping others with their gospel questions." The link is here:
The new resource offers two categories of principles based on "Helping Others with Questions" and "Seeking Answers to Questions."
This resource is congruent with the Institute course "Answering Gospel Questions" that I've been teaching online.
One of the principles under "Seeking Answers to Questions" is "Consult Reliable Sources." Here's the link:
The following excerpt shows the aspirations of the new approach. When we compare this aspiration to the reality of the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation and the short article on geography we see that the essays need a lot of work.
The Translation essay violates every one of the principles outlined in the following excerpt. Instead of quoting and citing what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said about the translation, the essay quotes and cites the speculative opinions of certain modern scholars.
We can hope that in 2024, this essay, along with others we've discussed, will be revised according to the principles set out in "Seeking Answers."
Original in blue, my comments in red.