The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities, that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon.
FARMS, specifically Bill Hamblin as joined in by the illustrious Dan Peterson and others, claimed that the First Presidency walked back on ("clarified") this issue on April 23, 1993 relying on an unsigned fax of that date from Carla Ogden of the Office of the First Presidency to Brent Hall, FARMS, with no mention of Watson, much less the prophet or his counselors: "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 explanation 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 that has been suggested."
This language very closely tracks that of David A. Palmer in the "Cumorah" entry in Daniel H. Ludlow's 1992, unofficial "Encyclopedia of Mormonism", page 347: "Because the New York site does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Book of Mormon Geography, some Latter-day Saints have looked for other possible explanations and locations, including Mesoamerica. Although some have identified possible sites that may seem to fit better (Palmer), there are not conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site that has been suggested."
Bill Hamblin cited to Ms. Ogden's fax as authority and as if from Michael Watson in his article, "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): 161–197, fn 70. (In the text, Hamblin wrote, "Michael Watson, secretary to the First Presidency of the Church, has recently clarified the Church's position on the Book of Mormon geography." and in the footnote Hamblin described the fax as "Correspondence from Michael Watson, Office of the First Presidency, 23 April 1993."
The April 23, 1993 fax from Ms. Ogden as the correspondence mentioned by Hamblin first came to light outside of FARMS in late 2009. The fax, albeit on letterhead of the Office of the First Presidency, does not mention Michael Watson.
In the meantime between 1993 and 2009, now LDS president, Russell M. Nelson, wrote in “A Testimony of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 69: “Interesting as these matters may be, study of the Book of Mormon is most rewarding when one focuses on its primary purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ. By comparison, all other issues are incidental.”
Recently, on LDS.org has appeared a short essay on "Book of Mormon Georgraphy." https://www.LDS.org/study/manual/gospel ... y?lang=eng In that essay, it is stated that "The Church does not take a position on the specific geographic locations of Book of Mormon events in the ancient Americas.", "the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles urge leaders and members not to advocate" their "personal theories" about "Book of Mormon geography and other such matters about which the Lord has not spoken." Then, the essay concludes by quoting Russell M. Nelson, as mentioned above directing that Mormons' focus should be on the Book of Mormon's testifying of Jesus Christ, not matters of its geography, "Interesting as these matters may be,...."
It seems the Mormon church has now come around to the thinking of David A. Palmer's position, as parroted in Ms. Ogden's April 23, 1993 fax to Brent Hall, Farms, and as cited by Bill Hamblin. Sure, Hamblin still mis-attributed the fax to Michael Watson, but this essay gives Mormon church vindication of FARMS on this point. The Church has at last embraced the doctrine of Palmer rather than the testimony of President Marion G. Romney.