A Letter to an Apostle

paulClick for Dr. Douglas’ Introduction from the Hill Cumorah

On June 18th, 2017, I wrote to President Dieter Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the sincere hope he might take the time to respond to several specific concerns I had about the truth claims of the Mormon Church.

On June 18th, 2017, I wrote to President Dieter Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the sincere hope he might take the time to respond to several specific concerns I had about the truth claims of the Mormon Church.

President Uchtdorf was my choice because I viewed him as one of a few General Authorities that might have the intelligence, courage, and humility to answer my questions.

bookI had a colleague remark to me that Elder Uchtdorf would not personally address my concerns and in all likelihood would never even see my letter. Rather I should expect a form letter response from an underling or a missive from my Stake President.

Sadly, and it would seem predictably, that is just what happened. I did receive a rather terse ‘form-letter’ riposte from his secretary who also copied my Stake President.

Considering the age and the tenure the ‘Brethren,’ have enjoyed, they must all be painfully aware of the many problems, contradictions and inconsistencies that exist vis-à-vis the truth claims of the LDS Church, as well as the myriad accusations of corruption, dishonesty, profligacy, and immorality leveled at the Church’s founder Joseph Smith Jr.

As well, considering the Church’s historic lack of candor or openness, I would not be too surprised if they are also privy to inculpatory documents and materials locked away in the First Presidency’s vault, that may never to see the light of day.

Occasionally I have heard an intrepid member muse, “Do you think they, that is, the general authorities, believe the LDS Church is true, or are they victims of self-delusion, avarice, the affluent lifestyle the Church provides them; or is about ego and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Is it the ‘fortune in men’s eyes,‘ that drives them?”

The late Grant Palmer, author of, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins spoke about several meetings he had with a general authority, who told him straight up that the apostles all learn within a year or two of being called that the Mormon Church is a fraud.

Did Palmer’s insider know what he was talking about, was he telling the truth?

There is no way for me to know if this fellow’s statement was correct. He may well have been telling the truth or he may have been deluded, had an ax to grind; was lying or mad as a March hare. He certainly wouldn’t be the first GA for whom any or all of these adjectives might be apropos.

But, having read Grant’s books on Jesus, having communicated with him and being aware of his service to the least among us – inmates in the Utah prison system; I don’t doubt that Grant was telling the truth.

Notwithstanding the cynical view this story takes, I think it is wrong to assume evil motives on the part of the Brethren. While I may and do disagree with some of the statements they have made I am sure they are good and honest men. When i was a child, Hugh B. Brown, served in our little Canadian branch, my father knew and revered him, describing him to me as a man of God, a man without guile.

Although Elder Brown later served as an Apostle and member of the First Presidency, he too confessed to moments of doubt, as shown by his following letter to a friend going through a faith crisis:

“I was really glad to get your letter of October 25th, and I appreciate your confidence. The revelation of your mental and spiritual struggle does not come as a surprise, that the waters of your usual placid soul had become somewhat, roiled and disturbed.

Would you be surprised if I should tell you that I, too, have had periods of perplexity, uncertainty, and doubt; that I, too, have known the darkness, fogginess, and chill of the valley which lies between illuminated peaks of faith and confidence, and that only the memory of the hilltops along the road over which I have come coupled with the somewhat misty vision of others still ahead has given me the courage to plod on when I was tempted to “chuck it all,” to wrap myself in the comfortless blanket of doubt and selfcommiseration and just quit the field.

Well, I have had that experience. But this I can say positively, that each peak which I have climbed has seemed higher and more inspiring than the last, due at least in part, I think, to the dark background of the valley through which I came. Sharp contrasts are sometimes most revealing.

In view of the above admission, you will not expect an argument or a brief on faith in God and immortality. However, and I hope it may be so, a relating of some personal experiences and observations may give you a fellow-feeling and bring comfort, courage, hope, and faith may renew in you the spirit of adventure, of zest for the quest of truth.”

I find Elder Brown’s honesty not only refreshing in today’s Church, but stirringly human. If this good man said he believed the Church to be true, I don’t doubt that he truly believed it. Does brother Brown’s personal beliefs convince one that the Mormon church is true? Of course not, but perhaps one should look at the statements that Palmer’s GA made with a jaundiced eye.

Nonetheless, putting this question aside for the moment, all is not well in Zion.

I suspect that there have never been so many people abandoning the LDS Church since Joseph’s problems of 1838.

In a recent article by Jana K. Riess, a writer on American religion entitled, “The Next Mormon Research,” she indicates proportionately why members are leaving the LDS Church.

Her work shows 6% of respondents said they left the Church after discovering Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by looking at a “magic stone” in his hat. Another 3% because of DNA evidence shows no Hebrew nexus with the aboriginal peoples of North America; but one-third, over 30%, reported that they left because they could not trust the leadership of the Church to tell the truth.

Clearly the Church’s current raison d’être, fails on several fronts.

One being that the Church sees open, honest dialogue as a real and present danger. I don’t think it is unfair to say that they are somewhat defensive when it comes to dissent. Their fear is reflected in such Orwellian avowals as,” Not everything that is true is useful,” and” It’s wrong to criticize the leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true.” 

President Gordon Hinckley once said, with a straight face, “We have nothing to hide, our history is an open book.” 

Well, I have taken him at his word and opened that book, and I am troubled by what I find on its pages.

In this letter, I pose what, from my perspective, are the most significant questions and fundamental problems relating to the historicity of Mormonism, the Church’s foundational claims and the Joseph Smith story.

I am simply asking questions and providing commentary, not forming conclusions. 

I  have tried to be fair and balanced, presenting the most intelligible rebuttals or remedies that FairMormon, the LDS Church’s leading cadre of apologists have published vis-à-vis my interrogatories. It is my hope that this methodology might help others, who like myself, are experiencing honest doubts, to discover what is true and what is not.

I make no apologies for seeking the truth. The Second Epistle of Peter warns us that, ‘In their greed teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories.

The Lord Jesus himself warned, ‘take heed that no man deceives you.‘ We have a lot of deceivers today, ‘many false prophets will rise and deceive many.’

In Matthew 7:15-20  the Lord again tells us to ‘Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.’

I have never had, nor do I now have any agenda beyond a genuine search for knowledge, nor am I animated by any of the self-serving motivations that Mormons seem to jump to when someone begins to question the LDS Church:

1. Someone gave offense: No one hurt me, I love and respect my friends and family many of whom are committed members. Latter-day Saints are good and kind people most of whom are living honorable lives.

2. A desire to sin: I am 71 years old, so it’s a little late for that!

3. Never had a testimony in the first place: Wrong again, I would not have served in various callings, paid my tithing and attended the temple if I had not at one time believed?

4. Lazy, not reading the scriptures: I love the Bible, and I read it often; admittedly the Book of Mormon, not so much.

5. Seduced by anti-Mormon literature: Hardly, it is easy to identify those who hate and those whose purpose is to destroy. I would not consider writers and researchers such as Richard Bushman, Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Fawn Brodie, B. H. Roberts, Dan Vogel or Grant Palmer anti-Mormon simply because they had the courage to question.

The fact is, anyone with anything approaching an open mind, need not read anything beyond the Church’s scriptures themselves (the original as well as the revised versions), the history of the Church, Ensign articles or the writings of Joseph Smith to come face-to-face with myriad problems, as well as significant doctrinal changes and inconsistencies.

There are so many wonderful things about Mormon culture. How can anyone brought up in the LDS Church not be touched by the wonderful historic hymns, Come Come Ye Saints, We thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet, or The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning.  And I honor the many good men and women within the Church who taught me as a child  ‘the truth’ as they knew it.

I truly wish for the Church to be true for what an amazing and beautiful future it portends. To be forever together with loved ones, to walk with the Savior and grow, learn and progress forever.

But hoping and wishing is not enough. No matter how appealing Joseph Smith’s ‘Plan of Salvation,’ it must be real, designed by Deity and not merely the musing of an unlettered but brilliantly creative ploughboy prophet.

I have found that the more I have studied the Church’s true histiocity and the more I have come to know the real Joseph Smith, the more conflicted I feel and the more sure I am that there is more than a good possiblity that the LDS Church is not true.

Jeremiah 23:16 says  “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.”

There is a wonderful allegory in Book Seven of Plato’s The Republic often referred to as ‘Plato’s Cave.’ It tells the story of men held prisoner, chained and shackled such that they cannot look to their left, their right or behind themselves; rather they can only see forward at the wall directly in front.

Behind them is a blazing fire and between them and the fire a corridor along which men walk carrying statues, tools and other large objects. All that the prisoners can see however, is the shadows of the objects that are projected on the cave wall in front of them.

Some older prisoners, ‘the elders,’ have developed explanations as to what these shadows represent; what their meaning is.

One day, a prisoner is released. Now free to wander the cave, he sees the fire, and objects carried in front of it. This former prisoner comes to understand the origins of the shadows, and to his amazement, he sees that the shadows were often misinterpreted. He hurries back to share with his fellow prisoners the true meaning of the shadows, what the truth is. But rather than welcome and embrace this new knowledge, his former friends ridiculed him, particularly the elders, who even seek to take his life.

Finally, the freed prisoner is let out of the cave into the world beyond, a world filled with radiant sunshine where he can now see the fullness of reality illuminated by the brilliance of the sun.

You and I are like those prisoners. We see as it says in Corinthians, through a glass darkly. We live in a world where, like the prisoners, our knowledge is imperfect; a world of conjecture and illusion.

Some elders presume to know what the shadows mean, but they too are prisoners, and their shackles are as firmly in place as is our own.

I don’t presume to be that prisoner freed from his chains who now longs to share the truth as only he can see it. I am a fellow prisoner, viewing the shapes and shadows on the wall, but seeking the truth by asking those questions that ‘the elders’ hope the prisoners will dare not ask.

We will all leave the cave one day and will discover in that day, as we enter that new world filled with the dazzling brightness of truth that our lives have been spent wisely engaged in a correct and worthy cause, or that we have been well meaning but credulous fools, desiring so much to feel good about our present and our future, to feel safe, that we had become victims of an attractive fraud.

I hope that this letter and the research supporting it might provide greater clarity regarding the shadows that animate our actions and beliefs. I hope that at least it will show that there are alternative interpretations to those presented by the ‘elders.’

This study may strengthen your testimony as you face the greatest problems with the current LDS narrative and come to more fully embrace the explanations and/or rationalizations proffered by the Church and her apologists as being altogether reasonable and acceptable.

Or it might lead you to a place where you discover that perhaps your knowledge and the breath of understanding based on what you have been taught is far less than perfect, complete or true. That there is more to the story than you have been taught in Sunday school, priesthood meeting, relief society or by those rosey-cheeked young missionaries.

In either case what a fascinating story it is.

But let me end this preface with a warning.

When you view the image below, at first blush you will see either a young attractive woman with her head turned away from you, or you will see an old witch.

If you persist, you will eventually come to see both. From that point on however, any time you again view this same image you will immediately see both iterations.

So, read on at your peril, because once the toothpaste is out of the tube, you will never get it back in again.

 

witch


A Letter to an Apostle

“… convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical argument, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God for redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds.”

Apostle Orson Pratt

As you say, Orson. I have asked many questions in my ‘A Letter to an Apostle’ that as Orson says. ‘by reason and logic’ are difficult to reconcile.

I am not asking out of ignorance. I have diligently sought out, explored, researched and thoroughly investigated each of the concerns and difficulties that are at issue for me. I have sought out the most recent, reliable and comprehensive material related to each of my interrogatories. I have also endeavored to provide only facts and verifiable data rather than opinions and testimonies.

As I have already said, most of the facts I quote as well as the commentaries I reference come from Church-friendly sources, LDS historical documents, Church newspapers and magazines, the Journal of Discourses, Lectures on Faith and the History of the Church. I have also gone to the letters of learned and even some not so learned Church leaders, and, of course, the Scriptures themselves.

The rest of the facts, data and information has been garnered from serious and often meticulous research conducted by many of the world’s leading scholars in several scientific disciplines and, of course, professional historians. You will not find reference to the many mean-spirited articles posted on the Internet by those whose obvious purpose is to mock and despoil.

When it comes to questions of a purely scientific nature, matters relating to archaeology, anthropology, paleontology or genetics, I have given greater credence to the considered opinions of non-Mormon scientists and researchers because these scholars have fewer biases and predispositions that might impede their willingness to go where the truth leads them.

It is no secret that at BYU and all other LDS owned post-secondary institutions, any criticism of the Church, its policies or its leaders is ‘verbotten.’ In fact even though those who teach there my be free American citizens, should they espouse, even privately, any view which the ‘Brethren‘ disapproval of, they run the risk of termination.  

Ruthie Robertson, a professor of political science discovered this was the case when she placed a post on her personal Facebook page supporting the LGBT community. BYU demanded she retract her comments and when she refused, she was summarily dismissed.

When a reporter asked the Church to comment on the state of academic freedom at BYU, they released the following statement:

“Mormon Brethren Silencing Scholars?” “All good LDS, including scholars, must accept the judgment of the Church’s General Authorities. If it is what the brethren want, then good LDS must say it is appropriate. This may be difficult for scholars, but obedience is an important concept 

Salt Lake Tribune , May 26, 1983, p. B4

Having taught at a large public university which placed great value on freedom of expression, and a commitment to pursue truth without fear of where it may lead, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to teach at a place like BYU where authoritarian efforts to curtail free and independent thinking has become a way of life.

Also, it is important to recognize that non-Mormon academics publish and are thereby subject to peer review. In contrast, it is rare that a paper on archaeology or anthropology coming out of a school like BYU would even be accepted for publication by a prestigious scientific journal, let alone face the often-withering examination of one’s fellow scholars.

I had no intention of writing this book. I sought answers from others including local priesthood leaders long before writing to President Uchtdorf.

The typical response to my questions from those individuals was usually no response; instead, there would be a somewhat awkward and uncomfortable change of subject.

It soon became clear to me that faithful Mormons feel that if they were even to entertain a question concerning the Church’s official narrative; they would be somehow sucked into an abyss of disbelief resulting in an alarming disruption of their comfortable homeostasis.

I remember once asking an acquaintance, who also happened to be a Mormon bishop, how he deals with the fact that there is no archaeological evident supporting the Book of Mormon? You would have thought I asked him how often he had sex with his wife. The conversation went from archaeology to the color he planned to paint his kitchen in the “twinkling of an eye.”

Mormons are remarkably ignorant of the history of their own church as well as the behavior and character of its founder Joseph Smith Jr. Even bishops and stake presidents are knowingly unaware of much that I present here.

So, absent any help from ward or stake priesthood leaders or Uchtdorf himself, I published this open letter on the Internet in 2017 with the faint hope that someone in the Church’s leadership might perhaps respond to my concerns.

While I have yet to receive any direct response to this letter from any of the ‘Brethren,’ it seems to have gotten their attention as FairMormon  published a lengthy rebuttal to it. Their confutation can be found at:

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Criticism_of_Mormonism/Onli ne_documents/A_Letter_to_an_Apostle/The_Letter

I can’t say FairMormon’s response to my on-line letter was of no value. Some of their explanations were creative and interesting and a few of their apologies reasonable and while hardly likely or probable, some were at least possible and I carefully examined each of them.

However, too often these anonymous defenders of the faith, lacking convincing answers, would proffer a defense or rationalization no matter how irrational or implausible rather than just saying, “we don’t know.

FairMormon is, of course, preaching to the choir; their raison d’etre is to justify any and all statements and actions taken by Church leaders past and present. You will never hear them say, ‘that was a mistake;’ or ‘president Nelson is no expert in that area,’ rather they dispense superficially plausible apologetic ‘snake oil,’ that will be eagerly swallowed by members who just crave enough elixir to dull their pesky cognitive dissonance.

FairMormon recognizes that true believing or chapel Mormons are not looking for a deep dive into truth, rather just enough conjectural adhesive to keep their shelves from altogether collapsing.

FairMormon searches for, interprets and favors only that information and just those data which confirm their pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses; their conclusions had been set before they had given ear to any argument or evidence. This is called ‘confirmation bias,’ and it is intellectually dishonest.

I have been around long enough and have studied history and human nature long enough to feel that well-meaning zealots seldom do anything to advance the cause of truth and often do much to harm it. Examples range from the Church’s sexually incursive and psychologically damaging youth interviews to the obscenity of the Mountain Meadows slaughter of more than 120 innocent men, women and children by faithful Mormons and their ‘priesthood’ leaders.

FairMormon’s efforts, follow their Mormon mindset that, in a pinch, feelings trump facts. 

So, instead of taking these apologists’ avowals as ‘Gospel,’ I have commented where I feel their responses to what I have written are misleading or lack credulity or plain old common sense. My standard is simple – what would a reasonable man or woman find more compelling and believable – the evidence, facts and first-hand statements I have uncovered and carefully cited in my research or the most imaginative arguments and renouncements, the Mormon Church, and her army of apologists have crafted?

To apply this standard, I have devised a rating system based on Occam’s Razor.

As you are no doubt aware, Occam’s Razor (also Ockham’s Razor) or sometimes the “Law of Parsimony,” is a philosophical problem-solving principle first attributed to William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher.

His ‘law’ can be interpreted as, ‘from among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.’ It is the most likely to be true or at least the most correct – until proven otherwise. It is the same principle taught in medical school, “when you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras!”

‘Occam’s Razor’ then is the test, and I have distilled it into the following rating scale to test the apologist’s efforts.

occam

The Mormon Church is an immensely wealthy, powerful and secretive corporation seeking to secure the time and acquire the treasure of sincere, honest people who are, more often than not, no match for the Church’s well-oiled PR machine. So, forgive me if I do not pull any punches in presenting facts and evidence that raise doubts about the Church’s narrative or the truthfulness of its past or present leadership.

I don’t believe it unfair to say truth has never been a core value for the Mormon leadership, and I am not just talking about Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor who it can be easily shown lied repeatedly but many more recent, prophets as well.

Gordon B. Hinckley is viewed with great affection by many members and that is fine, but president Hinckley was certainly a practitioner of situational ethics.

In an interview with Time Magazine in August 1997, then Mormon president Gordon B. Hinckley was asked,“ Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?”

He unabashedly responded, “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it, and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.”

“I don’t know if we teach it?”

Could Gordon have missed what Joseph Smith said about it: “God himself was Once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret, and He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.”

Or, what he himself had written a decade before this interview:

“The whole design of the gospel is to lead us, onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood. This great possibility was enunciated by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the King Follett sermon and emphasized by President Lorenzo Snow. It is this grand and incomparable concept: As God now is, man may become!”

Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 179;
“Eternal Progression.

I have never been a fan of Boyd Packer; to me he was a hateful little man full of inane pronouncements, but as we are discussing truth and honesty among the ‘brethren,’ let me provide one of his gems:

“I have a hard time with historians because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting. It destroys. I could tell most of the secretaries in the church office building that they are ugly and fat. That would be the truth, but it would hurt and destroy them. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting.”

Boyd K. Packer, Faithful History:
Essay on Writing Mormon History, p.103, fn.  

But the likes of Boyd Packer are hardly representative of rank and file Latter-Day Saints.

As I say in my letter to President Uchtdorf which follows, I have always found that, with few exceptions, Latter-day Saints, are honest, kind and decent people. Therefore, I don’t doubt that the nameless apologists volunteering their time and talents to FairMormon are for the most part doing the best they can with what they have been taught to defend their beliefs and the institution that has inculcated them.

But surely religious fervor, or a strong, “testimony” should not be our standard when searching to know what is true, the only arrow in our quiver. Romans Chapter 10, Verse 2 tells us, “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.”

I do not accept the Orwellian mantra hoisted on an already cowed people by Dallin Oaks that,“ Not everything that’s true is useful.”

Useful to whom and for what purpose?

It would seem that Oaks has not considered that the corollary to this puerile statement must also hold, “That not everything that is false is NOT useful!”

I am told that president Oaks once trained as a lawyer, not at BYU but at a highly ranked law school, the University of Chicago. Surely, he must have taken at least one class in classical logic or philosophy.

Perhaps not or maybe he has just forgotten the ‘Law of the Excluded Middle,’ espoused by Bertrand Russell. The law states that if ‘A is B’ is false, then ‘A is not B’ must be true.

If we accept that brother Oaks statement in the affirmative that, ‘A – Not everything that is true’ is ‘B – Useful,’ then the negative corollary,‘ Not everything that is false is not useful,’ must also be true. But then again, perhaps Oaks does in fact believe that. There is no lack of examples in the Mormon experience where things that are known to be wholly untrue are nonetheless very useful – to them.

Joseph Smith’s denials of his illegal polygamous and polyandrious marriages, and the lies he told the Saints and his wife. False statements? Certainly, but very useful – to him and his agenda!’

The many paintings hanging in Mormon chapels, visitor centers and temples across the globe and the pictures still being reproduced in Church books and manuals, showing a young strong-chinned Joseph Smith studiously examining the ‘Reformed Egyptian‘ characters on the golden plates while his faithful scribe sits across from him writing down his ‘translation.’ A much more inspiring image than Smith bent over, with his hat in his lap and his head in his hat.

Which of the following two images might move an ‘investigator’ more?

pics

The Church has always known these images were not true representations of reality, but they remain because they are useful.

So, I intend to call bullshit where I find it, whether it comes from Dallin Oaks, Russell Nelson, FairMormon or Joseph Smith himself.

With that said, in the words of that great dame Bette Davis, “Fasten your seat belts, this is going to be a bumpy night!”

Paul A. Douglas
July 2017

I invite you to read below

 

book

A Letter to an Apostle:

A Cry in the Canadian Wilderness

June 18, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
50 East North Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84150

My Dear President:

I am writing to you in the spirit of honesty and a genuine hope and desire to commune directly with you. I have respect for you and the compassionate and honest approach you have taken to those experiencing doubts.

I am a lifetime member of the Church, father of five, a high priest and married in the Salt Lake Temple.

My family emigrated from Ireland to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada when I was five. The Edmonton branch then had N. Eldon Tanner as its President.

As a student and teacher of organizational behavior, particularly bureaucracies for over forty years, it is clear to me that the LDS Church is heading into rough waters. A squall that may well threaten the Church’s viability; at least in its present form.

Max Weber, the great German sociologist, and political economist was born twenty years after Joseph Smith’s death. He spent his life studying power, authority, and the functioning of large-scale organizations in the political, economic, and administrative realms.

Weber recognized that bureaucracies are created and organized according to rational principles. Incumbents being ranked in a hierarchical order with their functions characterized by impersonal rules and governed by the methodical apportionment of jurisdiction and defined spheres of responsibility.

He correctly predicted that bureaucratic coordination of the actions of vast numbers of people would become the dominant structural feature of modern organizations. Weber saw the bureaucracy as the favored organizational form, the one that would shape both the modern polity and economy. Weber felt that the bureaucracy offered the same advantages to the enterprise that assembly-line productive efficiency provided to mechanical production.

Weber also noted, however, that there were limitations and dysfunctions with the bureaucratic form of organization. Its primary advantage, the high probability of predetermined results, also makes it cumbersome and inflexible in dealing with specific or unique individual cases and or changing circumstances. Weber argued that bureaucratization leads to depersonalization, a structural intransigence and a slow response to change which can portend its collapse.

I believe the following four weaknesses that threaten the viability of any bureaucracy are becoming more pronounced in the LDS Church in this generation:

Rigid Inflexibility: A strict compliance with rules and regulations to the degree of discouraging useful initiative and creativity and resulting in a slow reaction to change and a hesitant response to crisis.

Impersonality: An unthinking perfunctory way of doing things being stressed. With organizational rules and regulations being given priority over the individual’s needs, desires or feelings.

Goal Displacement: The tendency for the rules drawn to achieve corporate objectives at every level in the organization becoming an end in themselves. A Letter to an Apostle

Isolation at the Top: As the organization grows in complexity, those at the top become increasingly out of touch with lower level participants and their issues, fears, and concerns.

The growth of the Mormon Church is over.

Yes, members will continue to have children although at much lower rates than in the past, and for a time, the Church will continue to grow in the third world, mostly in Latin America and West Africa, where people are more naïvely innocent, less well educated and where the Internet and the “alternative” facts it showcases have not yet taken as firm a hold as it has in the Western democracies and Eastern Europe. 

But even in those ‘hot spots,‘ retention rates are very low. Some have reported in the single digits.

As well, at the present time, almost all insightful criticism and commentary on Joseph Smith and the Church’s true historicity is chronicled primarily in the English language.

I believe this is the reason the Mormon Church has wisely taken a page out of Scientology’s playbook, aggressively building its secular empire – malls, raw land, TV stations, corporate ownership and the like, in anticipation of the certain future downturn in tithing revenues.

The Church takes pride in projecting the public image that it is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. An ignorant and lazy media repeat this mantra which is blatantly and demonstrably untrue.

There is a principle of influence and propaganda that is often referred to as the ‘Law of Conformity.’ It is the bandwagon effect. If you are over thirty years of age, you can no doubt remember when every McDonald’s restaurant sign in the world displayed ’30 Billion Served.’

The law of conformity or social proof is the psychological phenomenon where people reference the behaviors of others to guide their own behaviors.

It recognizes that we are social animals. We like what others like. We reject and discard what other people reject and discard. We tend to do what other people do, to follow the crowd.

We perceive behaviors as being more correct in a given situation to the degree that others view them as correct. This ‘law’ extends to what we wear, how fast we drive on the freeway, what we buy, and yes, what Church we belong to.

This is why the Mormon Church projects wildly overly optimistic membership statistics. Mormon demographer David Clark Knowlton in an article entitled, “How Many Members Are There Really?” shows how exaggerated Mormon memberships statistics are:

Mexico:

Members claimed by the Church (1999) 846,931
Mormons in official gov’t census (2000) 205,229
Phantom or ex-Mormons (difference) 641,702
Percentage of Mexican Mormons Overstated by the LDS Church 76%

Chile:

Members claimed by the Church (2001) 520,202
Mormons in official gov’t census (2002) 103,735
Phantom or ex-Mormons (difference) 416,467
Percentage of Chilean Mormons Overstated by the LDS Church 80%

David Clark Knowlton, “How Many Members Are There Really?”,
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 38:2:53-78, Summer 2005)

The Mormon Church is far from being the fastest growing religion in the world today, nor has it ever been.

Islam is far and away the world’s fastest-growing faith. The number of Muslims on this planet will leap from 1.9 billion in 2018 to 2.76 billion by 2050. At that time, Muslims will make up one-third of the world’s total projected population of about 9 billion people.

Even if we compare Mormonism to more traditional Christian denominations, The LDS growth rate of 1.48% stacks up poorly against that of a great many others.

The Church of God in Christ

In 1965, the COG had 425,000 members. In 2012, the membership was 5,499,875, an increase of 1,194 percent.

The Presbyterian Church (in America)

In 1973, the PCA had 41,232 members. In 2013, the membership was 367,033, an increase of 790 percent.

The Assemblies of God

In 1965, the AoG had 572,123 members. In 2013, the membership was 3,030,944, an increase of 430 percent.

The Southern Baptist Convention

In 1965, the SBC had 10,770,573 members. In 2013, the membership was 15,735,640, an increase of 46 percent.

As well, the LDS Church counts membership differently than Christian churches. In most churches, members are asked to vote on various matters and so, unlike the Mormon Church, these churches do not want to waste their time and resources reaching out to those who no longer have any interest in their churches.

This is not the way the Mormons count. The LDS Church is anything but a democracy. Members have no say whatsoever as to what goes on in their church. The closest they ever come to having a say is a perfunctory and untabulated ‘uplifted hand’ in a sacrament meeting or at ‘general conference.’

Once someone joins the Mormon Church, even if they just attend one meeting never to return, they are counted on the Church’s membership rolls for the rest of their life!

The LDS Church’s own statistics tell the real story. While the Church publishes worldwide membership numbers at about 15 million, Cumorah.com reports that less than half of those the Church counts identify themselves as Mormon. Assuming that the number of active members is lower than those who would claim to be Mormon, hardly a heroic assumption, the actual functional membership, even ignoring record resignations, is more realistically to be around 5 million men, women and children.

The Church also adds to their member numbers what they call, ‘children of record,’ boys and girls 0 – 7 years-of-age who have not yet been baptised and are therefore not actual members of the Church.

The Church’s annual report, presented during General Conference show that the LDS Church grew by 261,862 people in 2015, a 1.7% annual increase. In 2016, it was even worse 1.58% and in 2017 even worse again 1.48%.  This is the slowest growth in any year since 1937 (when it was 0.93%).

Members are also having fewer children as the follow shows:

New children of record during 2017……… 106,771
New children of record during 2016……… 109,246
New children of record during 2015 ……. 114,550
New children of record during 2014……… 116,409

2017 Statistical Report for 2018 April Conference

With a growth rate of a paltry 1.48%, convert baptisms down each year, and declining member activity rates – 25% for young single adults, it can be argued that the Mormon Church is actually in decline.

There are also many people officially resigning from the Church, probably record numbers, but this is a statistic the Church refuses to publish.

The chart below shows the Church’s current and its projected membership statistics.

Chart - Members2 copy

Active membership in the Church which, as this chart shows is less than 5 million will be virtually the same in 2060. 

Does the fact that the Church is no longer experiencing the healthy growth it once did mean somehow that the Mormon Church is not true?

Absolutely not.

But I think as we witness this new reality we need to ask why the Church is experiencing  stagnation?

I had mentioned that one issue that may have a deleterious effect is increased bureaucratization with its attendant inflexibility,  irresolute response to change and impersonality

It is certainly anecdotal but I have heard people say that the Church seems to lack the vitality it once did. That it feels more like an ‘organization’ and less like a church that it did in the 1950s and 1960s.

As well as possible increased feelings of impersonalization, we have also seen a significant growth in secularism generally.

It is almost trite to say that the world’s newest major religion is no religion! And just as a rising tide lifts all boats, an ebbing tide also lowers them. But, in the LDS Church’s case, Google and the ubiquitous Internet has had and continues to have a much greater impact on Mormonism than it has on other religions with the possible exception of Scientology. The Internet is to Mormonism what the King James Bible was to Catholicism.

Why?

Because of the astounding claims made by its founder and the fact that the genesis of this peculiar religion is quite recent; well within the grasp and examination of scholars and historians.

Websites such as mormonthink.com, cesletter.org, exmormon.org, utim.org, reddit.com and Richard Packham’s, Dan Vogel’s and Grant Palmer’s sites as well as numerous blogs such as mormonstories.org, zelphontheshelf.com, and mormoncurtain.org, and now lettertoanapostle.org are just a click away.

Everyone now has their own “Urim and Thummim” right in the palm of their hand.

Members and investigators alike can now access historically accurate, uncorrelated less sanitized views of Joseph Smith and the Church’s foundational claims and past and present doctrines than was possible just a few decades ago.

It is indeed becoming harder to keep secrets in the digital age.

I think it is telling to look at the Google hits for each of the following searches:

google

I know Mormonism is true – 750,000
I know Mormonism is false – 651,000
Joseph Smith prophet – 496,000
Joseph Smith con man – 6,250,000
President Monson – 673,000
MormonThink – 13,000,000
Inspiring LDS Stories – 704,000
CES letter – 19,100,000

Google Search Date: June 6, 2017

It is not hyperbole to say young people are the future of the Church. According to the 2011 Pew Research Center’s ‘Survey of American Mormons’ 51% of American converts are under the age of 25.

The Church’s hard-line on LGBTQ issues is alienating to a generation that, as a whole, embraces inclusion and diversity. Homosexuality is not as problematic for Millennial Mormons as it was for earlier generations.

In this time of Donald Trump and “alternative facts,” the following problems about the truth claims of the Church need to be addressed in a more direct, honest, comprehensive and less defensive way.

Also, unless the goal is plausible deniability, I cannot understand why the Church hides itself behind, or at least gives tacit support to, nonofficial apologetic sites. Why do they not answer honestly and directly the legitimate concerns members and non-members have with the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and the foundational claims of the Church?

While the recent carefully crafted Church essays are a good first step, they are inadequate, evasive and derisory – they are neither candid nor complete – they come a day late and a dollar short.

As for the avowals of the apologists at FairMormon, while less shrill and un-Christ like than the stuff that used to come out of FARMS, this new generation of apologists seem to have adopted a tenor of desperate revisionism.

I think that failing a Mormon Reformation or a significant change to the Church’s dominant narrative, the future growth of Mormonism will, in no wise, equal its past.

But please, I am not suggesting that the LDS Church will soon disappear. I think anyone who thinks it will just doesn’t know either history or bureaucracies.

And studies such as the 2016 Next Mormons Survey (NMS) show that chapel going Mormons still have a high level of belief.

NMS questioned American Mormons about the level of their belief in Mormonism – its doctrines and practices. They asked members the question, ‘Which statement comes closest to your own views—even if none is exactly right?’

a) I believe wholeheartedly in all of the teachings of the LDS Church. (49.1%)

b) I believe many or most of the teachings of the LDS Church. (33.9)

c) Some of the teachings of the LDS Church are hard for me to believe. (12.2%)

d) Many or most of the teachings of the LDS Church are hard for me to believe. (31%)

e) I do not believe in the teachings of the LDS Church. (1.8%)

The numbers in parentheses indicate how people responded. Over 80% of those asked said they believed in all, many or most of the teachings of the LDS Church.

But there are a few significant impediments to any significant further growth of the Mormon Church.

First, we cannot escape the fact that Mormonism is and always has been an American religion. People outside the United States in countries that the Church needs to fuel future growth are often “turned off” by American exceptionalism, and the ‘style over substance,’ celebrity worshiping, materialistic culture so well embodied by Donald Trump as well as the prosperity Gospel the ‘Brethren’ have been known to preach to bolster tithing receipts.

The principles and tactics of ‘salesmanship’ that worked so well in David O. McKay’s 1950s America are, if not offensive, somewhat irrelevant in the third world today.

Second, the Church is out of step with most people in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe when it comes to contemporary social issues. A women’s right to make choices relating to her own body, the struggle for fairness and equality for LGBTQ people, and a host of other less dominant matters – euthanasia, the adjuvant uses of marijuana, etc.

But, the greatest obstacle to the future growth of Mormonism may be Joseph Smith himself. Smith’s polygamy and polyandry and his ceaseless lying about these matters to not just to his associates and followers but to his own wife.

More members are becoming aware of his sexual unions with many teenage girls, some as young as 14-years-of-age. This is hard for decent people to accept. Likewise, his lengthy ‘rap sheet’ including arrests for glass-looking, money-digging, being a disorderly person, threatening a sitting judge, perjury, inciting a riot, bank fraud and twice for both conspiracy to commit murder and treason.

When people discover the real Joseph Smith, warts and all, not the sanitized fiction the Church has constructed, the version that I and most members were taught as children; it is not a pretty picture. In fact, it is very ugly indeed.

Also, as more non-Mormon historians turn their attention to Joseph Smith and the actual historicity of his foundation claims, the more difficult it will be for the Church to put a positive spin on his actions, behavior, and most of all, his character.

Maybe ‘not all things that are true, are useful,’as Dallin Oaks would have you believe, but they are still true and useful or not they will be revealed despite relentless attempts at censure and coverup.

I suspect many, perhaps most, true believing members, particularly those over forty, will continue, to do what they have been taught and avoid exposure to anything that is not, ‘faith promoting.’ To these Mormonism is something you do rather than something you believe.

It is going too far to picture most Mormons as latter-day Manchurian Candidates, naïve souls whose indoctrination has been so efficacious, that they accept uncritically, everything coming out of the mouths of their leaders. But statements such as ‘we should not criticize the ‘brethren’ even when they are wrong ,’ or ‘once the Prophet speaks, … the debate is over,’ gives one pause.

Surely president Uchtdorf, you must ask yourself, do these statements not resonate with a familiar fascistic tenor?

But we are seeing a growing number of members, particularly young ones, having the courage, despite any cognitive dissidence they may experience, searching for truth.

Prospects, or ‘investigators,’ as the Church likes to call them, are finding easy access to the rapidly growing number of online resources challenging the Church’s foundational narrative and truth claims.

While some would suggest that the Church leadership’s lack of transparency is based on the belief that, if its members were to be exposed to the Church’s real history they would leave the Church in droves. A more generous view would grant that the imperative is to protect members, particularly older ones, from unnecessary pain and confusion.

I suspect both are true. The problem is that in the twenty-first century members will nonetheless be exposed to the unvarnished truth. It might just be how many wives Joseph Smith really had or his ‘head in the hat’ means of translation.

But at that point they will not just feel confused, they will feel deceived and this is likely to be worse than any difficulty that would have arisen had the Church been more forthright; because it begs the question, “What else aren’t they telling me?

Would it not be better just to rip the Band-Aid© off, and honestly face the legitimate doubts, concerns, and questions people are having with the Church’s fundamental truth claims? To do what is right, letting the consequences follow, even if it means a reconstruction of the Church’s dominant narrative.

After all the admission that Joseph Smith was anything but a saint is not necessarily a ‘deal breaker.’ If anything it gives hope to those of us who are also very imperfect beings.

One last thing however before we get into the meat of this analysis.

There is a view within the Church that we should not question, but rather just accept whatever the Church leaders tell us. This view is well illustrated in the following excerpt from an editorial that appeared in the Church News reporting the Church Conference of April 7th, 1895, Wilford Woodruff stood up and said with annoyance:

“Cease troubling yourselves about who God is, who Adam is, who Christ is, who Jehovah is, for heaven’s sake, let these things alone.”

He was essentially saying, ‘Damn you, just believe what I tell you!’

I liked Eldon Tanner, he was my Branch President way back, but I cannot accept his statement that: “…when the prophet speaks, the debate is over,” any more than I would accept, “…when the Führer speaks, the debate is over,”

Why have I gone to the trouble of studying, researching and writing this? Why not just walk away?

It’s complicated, but let me try to answer that question with a parable.

A man is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. After the initial shock of the bad news, he searches for the best cancer clinic, the hospital where he can get the best treatment available. After an exhaustive investigation, he settles on a facility that others have testified to as being highly effective, even though it is very expensive.

This hapless soul sells all he has and travels to this far distant clinic.

But after a time, as his fortune is depleted and his condition deteriorates even further he learns that the clinic is a fraud. He discovers that the chemotherapy and medications that have been administered to him were nothing but worthless placebos – sugar pills. His radiation treatment were revealed to amount to a ‘doctor’ shining a laser pointer on his body.

What should this poor man do? Should he pack his bag and quietly walk away?

What would you do?

I am guessing you would cause a stir; you might go to the press or the law, you would do your best to warn others of this outrageous deception and fraud.

I understand that when someone questions long-held beliefs the first response is likely to be anger; but please believe me when I tell you, I am not trying to hurt anyone.

I am simply trying to provide the facts and evidence that some may be unaware of. Information that can empower and enable them to make more informed decisions about the truth claims of the Mormon Church.

Truth matters.

Finally on a personal note, I would like to tell you in my extensive examination of Joseph Smith and the Mormon narrative, while I found many disturbing things which you will soon also discover, I did not uncover anything that assailed my faith in, nor my love for, the Savior.

Whether the Mormon Church is true or it is not true, the Lord Jesus Christ lives.

So, president Uchtdorf, let me make one final plea to you in particular and to your brethren in general to help those of us honestly searching for answers.

As faithful Latter-day Saints, we believe there is no higher authority on earth than you and your colleagues. Indeed you purport to speak in behalf of the almighty. You know, I know and soon more and more members will come know that there are disquieting questions regarding the truth claims of the Church and the Joseph Smith narrative. It is time that you and your brethren provide honest full-throated responses to each of the questions I raise in the chapters that follow.

1. Why is there an entire absence of any archaeological or anthropological evidence of the civilizations, cultures and great populations spoken of in the Book of Mormon?

Skeleton And Archaeological Tools.training For Dig Fossil.simula

To me, this is one of the most central yet troubling issues, and for that reason, I have tried to come at it from every angle.

For if the Book of Mormon is just a 19th-century fiction, then how can we believe that Joseph Smith was anything more than a very intelligent but cunning false prophet? A charlatan, a beguiler and fraud.

Disturbingly, every legitimate non-Mormon anthropologist and archaeologist and even the odd brave Mormon archaeologist has declared that there is nothing whatever to support the existence of the civilizations discussed in the Book of Mormon.

During the 2600 years that the Jaredites, Nephites, and Lamanites supposedly occupied the Americas, they were somehow able to do so without leaving so much as a helmet, an inscription, or an ancient tool, let alone any weapons of war.

In Ether, we are told that two million men, women, and children died in one battle.

Ether 15:2 “He saw that there had been slain by the sword already nearly two millions of his people, and he began to sorrow in his heart; yea, there had been slain two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children.”

Just to put this hyperbolic number in perspective, during the entire Civil War 620,000 men were killed over four years. During ALL of the Second World War America suffered 418,500 civilian and military deaths.

On June 6, 1944, D-Day, the First U.S. Army, saw 1,465 killed, 1,928 missing, and 6,603 wounded, the U.S. VII Corps showed 22,119 casualties including 2,811 killed and 5,665 missing, Canadian forces at Juno Beach sustained 946 casualties, of whom 335 were listed as killed. No British figures were published, but estimates run at about 2,500 to 3,000 killed or wounded. Each of these lives mattered, and God bless the brave men who sacrificed so much for us. 4,000 to 9,000 of your fellow Germans, died on that day as well president Uchtdorf.

But D-day pales compared to the story Joseph Smith weaves of two million perishing in one battle. That is twenty D-Days’ and if it really happened it would be the bloodiest battle of all time.

Even now if you spend a day beach-combing the shores of Normandy – Omaha, Utah or Juno beaches and their environs you will surely find a bullet, a chinstrap or something else.

Yet no swords, shields, armor, helmets, boots, chariots or other artifacts, vestiges or remains have ever been uncovered from this or any of the great Book of Mormon battles. Three times as many people who perished in the Civil War in a much shorter time and within a much smaller geographical area and nothing.

Zero, zilch, zip, nada!

The Book of Mormon talks about large cities and fortifications in ‘all quarters of the land,’ many of these major cities encircled by moats or trenches.

Where can we find any evidence of these?

The Book of Mormon talks about a Nephi temple patterned after the great Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, a structure that took seven years and 180,000 men to build.

Where can we find evidence of this “exceedingly fine” structure?

The Book of Mormon talks about the cities of Jacobugath, Laman, Josh, Gad, Kiskumen, and Zarahemla and it talks about civilizations.

Where can we find evidence of any of these?

As I write this, it has been 187 years since Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon and 526 years since the discovery and European colonization of the Americas. The Mormon Church has expended millions of dollars searching for something, anything to corroborate or affirm the Book of Mormon narrative but have come up empty-handed. Even BYU professor and LDS scholar Dee Green had to confess, “No Book of Mormon location is known regarding modern topography.”

Why has the Church never attempted any excavation of the Hill Cumorah, where Smith and his cohorts supposedly saw caves full of Book of Mormon artifacts?

Is it that the Church fears what it might not unearth, and once that bell has been rung it cannot be unrung.

“The Book of Mormon is a piece of 19th-century fiction,” says Thomas Murphy, an Archaeologist, and lifelong Mormon who calls himself a ‘Latter-day skeptic.’ “And that means that we have to acknowledge sometimes Joseph Smith lied.”

In contrast, there are more than 25,000 separate concrete, evidentiary indicators supporting the Holy Bible including biblical empires, cities, sites, artifacts, weapons, coins and much more. I have several minor ones in my home.

Here are a few examples of the more significant finds:

The Existence of the Hittites. You will recall that Genesis 23 reports that Abraham buried Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah, which he purchased from Ephron the Hittite.

stoneThe Moabite Stone. A three-foot stone slab referenced in Second Kings–Mesha, the King of Moab, rebelled against the King of Israel following the death of Ahab.

Shishak’s Invasion of Judah. Commemorated in hieroglyphic wall carvings on the Temple of Amon at Thebes spoken of in First Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 12.

The Burial Plaque of King Uzziah. Discovered on the Mount of Olives, reading: “Here, the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah, were brought. 2 Chronicles 26 records his ‘sin.’”

The Sennacherib Prism. This cuneiform on a hexagonal, 15-inch baked clay prism found at the Assyrian capital of Nineveh describes Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 BC in which it claims that the Assyrian King shut Hezekiah inside Jerusalem “like a caged bird.” The prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah that God would protect Judah and Jerusalem against Sennacherib (2 Chron. 32; Isa. 36–37). Assyrian records confirm this as well.

There have also been many Biblical Cities attested to archaeologically, including Jericho, Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba, Lachish, and many others have been excavated. I could go on and on, but I think the point has been made that there is considerable archaeological evidence supporting the Holy Bible. In contrast, the Book of Mormon has nothing to support it. Not an inscription, not a temple, not a house, not a sword, not so much as one of the coins Smith alludes to in Alma 11.

While a few early 20th century Mormon ‘scholars’ have pointed to some archaeological findings consistent with the Book of Mormon story, relating to Mayan, Inca or Olmec ruins, every non-Mormon archaeologist that has examined these ‘discoveries’ has discounted their import. There is simply no substantiation, and/or the time-line is entirely wrong.

As the following references will attest, leading unbiased – that is, non- LDS archaeologists and anthropologists maintain that the Book of Mormon is purely a poorly written work of 19th-century fiction and nothing more, not an actual history of a real people.

They argue that millions of chariot-driving, Christ-worshipping, steel-smelting, horse-riding, wheel-using people occupying the Americas for more than two thousand years, could not have happened without leaving some trace of their existence.

To accept the absurdity of Smith’s elusive Book of Mormon millions living and dying without a single trace surely moves us into Atlantis territory. A world of make believe.

castle

It is like saying that the people of England which numbered 1.5 million in 1000 A.D. (less than were killed in one Book of Mormon battle) occupied that land without leaving a shred of evidence to prove their existence.

Can any rational human being, no matter how strong their ‘testimony,‘ believe this is remotely possible? Anyone who has visited, ‘this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.’  as the eternal bard had penned, has seen real evidence of Britain’s medieval cities, her churches, the ruins of her castles, bridges, and fortifications. Her art, literature and language. We have evidence of the Angles invasion, we know about the Black Death, the War of the Roses and The Peasants’ Revolt, we know who was on the throne and we have uncovered evidence of their wars and battles. There is ample evidence of the reality of that great civilization going back far more than a millennium.

No matter how comforting the avowals of one’s leaders, do we not have to use the gift of intelligence that the good Lord has given us to seek the truth? Take courage, if you need it, from the few honest Mormon anthropologists who have had the courage to tell the truth:

“It appears that the Book of Mormon had no place in the New World whatsoever … [It] just doesn’t seem to fit anything … in anthropology [or] history…. It seems misplaced.” 1

“What I would say to you is there is no archaeological proof of the Book of Mormon. You can look all you want. And there’s been a lot of speculation about it. There’ve been books written by Mormon scholars saying that “this event took place here” or “this event took place here.” But that’s entirely speculative. There is absolutely no archaeological evidence that you can tie directly to events that took place.” 2

“Herewith is a copy of my recent (1975) paper on Book of Mormon geography [sic]. (My thesis is that Book of Mormon geography involves a lot more than playing with topography and terrain.) The real implication of the paper is that you can’t set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere – because it is fictional and will never meet the requirements of the dirt-archeology, I should say – what is in the ground will never conform to what is in the book.” 3

The above quote was from Thomas Stuart Ferguson, a faithful member of the Church who, although not a professional archaeologist, was the recipient of a grant of more than $100,000 from the Mormon Church to carry on the archaeological research.

Non-Mormon anthropologists have also commented:

“So far as is known to the writer, no non-Mormon archaeologist at present is using the Book of Mormon as a guide in archaeological research. Nor [do] any non-Mormon archaeologists hold that the American Indians are descendants of the Jews, or that Christianity was known in America in the first century of our era…” 4

“Let me now state uncategorically that as far as I know there is not one professionally trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon, who sees any scientific justification for believing the foregoing to be true,…nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon is a historical document relating to the history of early migrants to our hemisphere.” 5

smithI am old enough I can remember back in the 1980s, hearing within Church circles that the prestigious Smithsonian Institute was using the Book of Mormon as a guide in its leading archaeological research.

This ridiculous rumor was brought to the attention of Smithsonian directors who, in 1996, sent a form letter to ‘inquiring minds’ stating that the Smithsonian did not use the Book of Mormon to guide any research, and included a list of specific reasons Smithsonian archaeologists considered the Book of Mormon itself nonsense.

“The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book.”

Feeling they need to bring this point home more forcefully, they go on, “The physical type of the American Indian is basically Mongoloid, being most closely related to that of the peoples of eastern. central, and northeastern Asia. Archeological evidence indicates that the ancestors of the present Indians came into the New World – probably over a land bridge known to have existed in the Bering Strait region during the last Ice Age – in a continuing series of small migrations beginning from about 25,000 to 30,000 years ago.

Present evidence indicates that the first people to reach this continent from the East were the Norsemen who briefly visited the northeastern part of North America around A.D. 1000 and then settled in Greenland. There is nothing to show that they reached Mexico or Central America.

American Indians had no wheat, barley, oats, millet, rice, cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, camels before 1492. (Camels and horses were in the Americas, along with the bison, mammoth, and mastodon, but all these animals became extinct around 10,000 B.C. at the time when the early big game hunters spread across the Americas.)

Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492 (except for occasional use of unsmelted meteoric iron). Native copper was worked in various locations in pre-Columbian times, but true metallurgy was limited to southern Mexico and the Andean region, where its occurrence in late prehistoric times involved gold, silver, copper, and their alloys, but not iron.

No reputable Egyptologist or other expert on Old World archaeology, and no expert on New World prehistory has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archeological remains in Mexico and archeological remains in Egypt .” 6

Likewise, the National Geographic Society distanced itself from the Book of Mormon by responding to queries they received as they did below:

national

“January 11, 1990

Dear Mr. Larson:

Thank you for writing to the National Geographic Society.

The Society has never used the Book of Mormon to locate archaeological sites, and we do not believe that any of the places named in the Book of Mormon can be placed geographically by the evidence of archaeology. So far as we know, there is no archaeological evidence to verify the history of early peoples of the Western Hemisphere as presented in the Book of Mormon. I hope you will find this information useful.

Yours truly,

Pamela Tucci
Research Correspondence”

Comments from Renown Archaeologists and Anthropologists

The following statements were made in response to a letter a very bright 17-year-old boy named Zachary, sent to leaders in the fields of pre-Columbian archaeology, pre-Columbian anthropology, and Egyptology. Zachery asked for their opinions on the claims made in the Book of Mormon. Here are a few of their responses Zachary received:

“Zachary—I’m not familiar with the book of Mormon in detail, but from what you indicated about its contents it is totally made up (there is absolutely no evidence for any of this) not to mention implicitly racist because it seems to imply that Native Americans lacked the ability to build civilization without help from “Lamanites.

With Regards, Rich Blanton” 7

————-

“Dear Zachary,

… I don’t feel that I am belittling your religion if I say that all historical and archaeological evidence contradicts the Book of Mormon’s stories of the peopling of the Americas and the early history of Native American societies. The Book of Mormon is a work of faith, and naturally has credibility to the faithful, but it has no historical basis, any more than the Book of Genesis is a historically or scientifically accurate version of the origin of the earth and human beings, however much it, or the Book of Mormon, may serve as a moral guide to believers. And I’m sure you can understand why people might be uncomfortable directly contradicting the teachings of what has become a very well-established religious movement.

The Americas were peopled by immigrants from Asia probably 15,000 years ago (give or take some thousands; archaeologists still haven’t quite figured this out). This is borne out by archaeology as well as genetic evidence (DNA, blood types, and other factors). Their descendants settled throughout the entire New World.

Complex, urban civilizations developed in Mexico and Central America in isolation from the rest of the world, out of the accumulated knowledge of people who lived there for thousands of years, domesticated corn, and other food crops, and learned very well how to live in those environments. Languages of the New World bear no relationship to Hebrew. Ever since Europeans became aware of Native Americans, there have been various attempts to identify them with the so-called “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel” mentioned in the Old Testament. So, we might say that Joseph Smith’s version was in some degree a variation on this old theme…” 8

David Carrasco – Professor of the Study of Latin America at Harvard Divinity School
_______

“Dear Zachary

I see you are deeply interested in the history of Mexico as it relates to the Book of Mormon. I respect the Mormon religion and have been to Salt Lake City to see the Mormon monuments and displays.

The Book of Mormon is a book of faith and storytelling and not history. Historically it is inaccurate. If we go on archaeological evidence, there is no basis for what the Book of Mormon teaches, as you summarize it below. There is no record of the arrival of anyone from Jerusalem.

Here’s another point. People of faith believe what they want to believe about the authenticity of their own religion. Some Catholics believed that St. Tomas, one of Jesus Christ’s disciples migrated to Mexico after the crucifixion and preached in Mexico. This is because they found some parallels between Aztec and Maya religion and the Bible. But there is not one single fact, datum, object, word that supports either the Mormon view or the Catholic view…” 9

Louise Burkhart
Professor in the Anthropology Department
at the University at Albany,

robertsBrigham H. Roberts (March 13, 1857 – September 27, 1933) was a General Authority in the Mormon Church, a historian, politician, and polygamist.

He published a six-volume history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and also wrote Studies of the Book of Mormon which was published posthumously, in which he concluded that there was no linguistic evidence found among the Native American peoples supporting the Book of Mormon narrative. Roberts showed that the diverse language stocks and dialects would not have had enough time to develop from a single language dating from just A.D. 400.

He notes: “The facts … developed up to this point seem to be that:

  • There is a large number of separate language stocks in America that show little relationship to each other.
  • It would take a long time—much longer than that recognized as “historic times”—to develop these dialects and stocks where the development is conceived of as arising from a common source of origin—some primitive language.
  • There is no connection between the American languages and the language of any people of the Old World.
  • New World languages appear to be indigenous to the New World.
  • The time limits named in the Book of Mormon—which represents the people of America as speaking and writing one language down to as late a period as 400 A.D.—is not sufficient to allow for these divergences into the American language stocks and their dialects.” 10

While Roberts, we are told, maintained his belief in the Mormon Church. In “Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study,” written in response to a series of questions to him by Church president Heber J. Grant, he confessed that he had no answers for some of the difficulties.

Interestingly in his text entitled, “A Book of Mormon Study,” Roberts compared the Book of Mormon to the earlier-published View of the Hebrews, written by Ethan Smith, and found significant similarities between them.

Roberts wrote “A Parallel,” a condensed version of his larger study, which demonstrated eighteen points of similarity between the two books, and in which he entertained the very real possibility that the creative Joseph Smith might very well have written the Book of Mormon without any divine assistance.

His study, as one might imagine, did anything but endear him to Church leaders and it has now been shown that Roberts withheld some of his evidence and discoveries from the general authorities of his day because of their resistance to hearing anything that did not support the Church’s narrative.

As Richard and Joan Ostling have discovered, Roberts declared that the validity of the Mormon Church must “stand or fall” on the truth of Joseph Smith’s claim that the Book of Mormon was the historic record of an ancient people inscribed on gold plates.

They also found that he predicted, rather prophetically, that if the Church’s leadership does not address the problems with its origins and the many anachronisms found within the Book of Mormon, these difficulties would eventually undermine “the faith of the youth of the Church.”

It is interesting that as I write this in 2017, more than 95 years since Roberts did his analysis, the Church has yet to address these things.

Nevertheless, when Googling ‘Archaeological Evidence and the Book of Mormon,’ one cannot help but be impressed by the success of FairMormon’s web optimization.

Absence of any archaeological or anthropological evidence of the Book of Mormon these apologists make the following statement:

“The Book of Mormon mentions cities, trade, warfare, towers, and the use of armor–all of which did exist in the ancient Americas–yet their existence has not convinced critics that the Book of Mormon is an authentic ancient text.” 14

Hold on; ‘…which did exist in the ancient Americas,” I must have missed something.

I am anxious to learn more about these discovered ‘cities’ that FairMormon mentions and view the evidence of the ‘warfare’, ‘towers’ and ‘armor.’

Perhaps FairMormon has also found evidence of the skeletal remains of the ‘millions of soldiers’ who reportedly died in battle!

But alas, they have not provided any specifics, let alone any evidence.

They do a lot of dancing, around epigraphic and iconographic evidence, but they do not provided anything worthwhile and have not assailed in any way the myriad statements made by legitimate archaeologists that, “There is absolutely no archaeological evidence of the Book of Mormon.”

FairMormon makes statements such as “There is plenty of supporting evidence that anthropologically ties the Book of Mormon to ancient America,” but they never get to providing examples of what those ties are.

This is one of their favorite dishonest apologetic techniques, and sadly many fall for it.

I understand the Church’s dilemma, but deception and sophistry doesn’t cut it. We need to be honest with one another. The assertion that there is, “plenty of supporting evidence,” is just not true and the only ‘archaeologists’ who might make such a claim are trying to weave straw into gold down at BYU!

If the evidence does exist, in the words of Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady, “Don’t talk at all – Show Me!”

Joseph Fielding Smith put an even more bizarre explanation out there. He suggested that the reason we can’t find any archaeological evidence of the Book of Mormon is that God is hiding it!

“It is the opinion of the writer that the Lord does not intend that the Book of Mormon, at least at present, shall be proved true by any archaeological findings. The day may come when such will be the case, but not now. The Book of Mormon is itself a witness of the truth, and the promise has been given most solemnly that any person who will read it with a prayerful heart may receive the abiding testimony of its truth.” 15

I would contend that if the Church had even one item – a chariot, a sword, a Hebrew inscription, they would be crowing about it.

Rather they produce pablum like this:

“Those who make claims that there is no archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon are right in one respect–we don’t know where the cities mentioned in the Book of Mormon are located. Such information may yet be discovered, but not discovering it is just as likely given the lack of cultural continuity and toponyms, as well as the epigraphic and iconographic uncertainties. To dismiss the Book of Mormon on archaeological grounds is short-sighted, as continuing discoveries provide ever more evidence that is consistent with the book. Archaeology is not a dead science, and it continues to make new inroads that are applicable to Book of Mormon studies.”

I have highlighted three false and misleading statements in just this one paragraph:

Continuing Discoveries – There have been NO discoveries continuing or otherwise.

Think not? Next time you visit the LDS Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, ask the lovely young woman behind the information desk on what floor are the Nephi artifacts located?

Ever more evidence that is consistent with the book – Again, forgive me, but I have to call bullshit here. Before you can say ‘ever more’ you must have some. That’s the way things work. Again, they have been none.

Continue to make new inroads – An inroad is defined as an advance or penetration. What advances or permeations have Mormon archaeologists made?

This type of hit and run unsubstantiated evidentiary blether is meaningless, and solely intended to mislead people and should be recognized as such. Shame on them.

In the February 2001 edition of the Ensign magazine. A short article entitled, “Book of Mormon Linked to Site in Yemen” covers the story of a rock (alter?) found in Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula which the article states had the word ‘Nahom’ inscribed on it.

This was touted as a momentous discovery as the name is associated with Lehi’s journey as recorded in the Book of Mormon. (1 Nephi 16:34) which reads, “And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom.”

The Ensign article goes on to say that professional archaeologists have dated it to at least 700 B.C., so the timing fits.

First, the author of the article was a little zealous. The stone or alter did not have Nahom inscribed on it, but just the three consonants NHM.

Nevertheless, since vowels are not used in Hebrew writing, Nahom is a distinct possibility.

It is also important to note that Nihm is believed to be a tribal name, rather than a place name, and that the three consonants could have a variety of spellings when vowels are inserted – NiHM, NaHaM, NaHM, NeHeM, etc. Nevertheless it is reasonable to surmise that the tribe gave its name to the region where they lived.

This is interesting and may be significant, but it hardly a slam dunk. John Hamer, who has written on several topics related to the LDS history, does not share the Ensign’s enthusiasm:

“Although some apologists have described the odds of this Nahom/Nihm/”NHM” correlation as “astronomical,” it hardly even rises to the level of notable coincidence. The Book of Mormon derives its names from a book that has Semitic sources, i.e., the King James Bible. Many of the names in the Book of Mormon are just plucked directly from the Bible, e.g., “Lehi” (Judges 25:9), Laban (Gen. 24-30), Lemuel (Prov. 31:1-9). Other  names, however, use the Bible as their inspiration with alterations, e.g., “Jarom” (“Joram” 2 Sam. 8:10), “Omni” (“Omri” 1 Kings 16:16), “Nehor” (“Nahor” Gen. 11:22). “Nahom” easily fits into the latter category: “Nahum” is actually a book of Old Testament…”

I personally find it curious that Lehi and the gang were erecting inscribed monuments while crossing Arabia but seem to have given up that practice entirely upon reaching America.

It would be much more impressive if we were to uncover a monument (or anything else) with a Hebrew inscription on it this side of the ocean.

FairMormon responded to my on-line comments on the dearth of any archaeological or anthropological evidence by accusing me of providing propaganda or spin. They state:

“Simply repeating assertions by ex-Mormons and critics of the Church that there is no evidence of the Book of Mormon does not make their assertions true. Those that look for such evidence can find it.”

I don’t see how questioning why, during the past six hundred years, we have not found any archaeological, anthropological or linguistic evidence to support the BOM narrative can be characterized as ‘propaganda or spin.’

I presented many comments from noted experts – Mormon and non-Mormon alike to substantiate my assertions.

FairMormon says, “Repeating the assertions that there is no evidence of the Book of Mormon does not make the assertion true,”

Agreed, but also it does not make it false, and while FairMormon may be tired of hearing it, it remains an important question needing to be addressed which, to date certainly has not.

And here we go again, “Those that look for such evidence can find it.”

Please FairMormon, unless this is some kind of ecclesiastical scavenger hunt, show us where we can find this ‘evidence!’

I would submit that FairMormon’s failure to provide any meaningful affirmative evidence, must lead any reasonable person to conclude that they simply have none.

Rather than throwing out assertions like, “there is much evidence ,” just present that evidence so we can test it.

FairMormon also suggests that it is the questioner’s lack of knowledge about a very specialized academic area that is the problem. They say:

“Some people might suggest that finding the existence of horses or chariots would constitute proof for the Book of Mormon. This is doubtful. Finding such items would merely demonstrate that such things existed in the ancient New World, and while such discoveries may be consistent with the Book of Mormon, they hardly amount to ‘proof.”

Okay, but it would certainly be a step in the right direction. Consistency is better than nothing. At the present time. as FairMormon knows, not only is there no evidence, there is also no consistency.

They also imply that if you are not an archaeologist you are likely too ignorant to grasp the sublime subtleties of that science.

This desperate apologist then goes on to do a little dance around epigraphic and iconographic evidence which might be relevant if there were either. There is none. FairMormon’s intent here is just to obscure, to muddy the waters, in a word, to lie.

FairMormon in a shocking display of their ignorance of logic and philosophy move next to that old chestnut, “The absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence.” .

This cute little saying negates the importance of evidence with a negative value. A null result is equivalent to evidence of absence and can be used to deduce or infer the non-existence or non-presence of something.

If, for example, a physician during exploratory surgery does not find a malignant tumor or any malignant cells within a patient, this represents a null result (finding nothing) and is evidence of the absence of cancer, even though the surgeon did not actually detected anything per se. Such inductive reasoning is important in the world of science and our understanding of reality.

Unsubstantiated claims and statements such as, “Newer archaeological finds are generally consistent with the Book of Mormon record even if we are unable (as yet) to know the exact location of Book of Mormon cities,” are meaningless absent affirmative examples of such.

Where are these, “Newer archaeological finds?” It is all a mist. There is no substance to FairMormon’s statements.

Come on FairMormon, I have shown you mine, now show me yours!

FairMormon next attacks my comments relating to the lack of archaeological, anthropological or linguistic evidence by stating:

“Why would a non-Mormon archaeologist, anthropologist or linguist have any interest in searching for any evidence proving the Book of Mormon? It should be obvious that any archaeologist, anthropologist or linguist interested in the subject would themselves be Mormon.”

I am sorry, but that is an incredibly stupid thing to say.

By FairMormon’s reasoning then ‘it should be obvious’ that any historian interested in the Third Reich must be a Nazi or anyone studying serial killers would themselves be one.

If it were not for the fact that these boys at FairMormon are teetotalers, I would accuse them of being drunk when they penned that piece of brilliant apologetics!

Archaeologists, anthropologists or linguists need not be searching for evidence proving nor disproving the Book of Mormon authenticity. The fact is that their broad research has not discovered any evidence consistent with, or in even in a tangential way supportive of, the Book of Mormon narrative.

Agreed, most non-Mormon archaeologists, anthropologists, and linguists likely haven’t given a moment’s thought to the Book of Mormon or its claims because it is irrelevant to their real and serious work. Nevertheless, as my research has shown, those who have been asked if they have come across anything even remotely supportive or consistent with it, have responded that they have not.

FairMormon scribblers, locked in their paranoid mindset just do not get it, the scholars I reference don’t have any theological ax to grind. Their agenda is neither to defend nor to attack the Book of Mormon. They are looking at data, and these data simply do not fit with Smith’s Book of Mormon tale.

It seems to me that, if anything, this lends an extra level of credibility to their work.

FairMormon also takes umbrage with my reference to the work of Thomas Stuart Ferguson, a faithful member of the Church who was honest enough to write, ‘you can’t set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere – because it is fictional.’

Their concern, it would seem, is that Ferguson never studied archaeology at a professional level. They quote John Sorenson, a BYU ‘archaeologist’ to make their point:

“As John Sorensen (sic), who worked with Ferguson, recalled:

[Stan] Larson implies that Ferguson was one of the “scholars and intellectuals in the Church” and that “his study” was conducted along the lines of reliable scholarship in the “field of archaeology.” Those of us with personal experience with Ferguson and his thinking knew differently. He held an undergraduate law degree but never studied archaeology or related disciplines at a professional level…”

“Ferguson was never an expert on archaeology and the Book of Mormon (let alone on the book of Abraham, about which his knowledge was superficial). He was not one whose careful “study” led him to see greater[,] light, light that would free him from Latter-day Saint dogma, as Larson represents. Instead[,] he was just a layman, initially enthusiastic and hopeful but eventually trapped by his unjustified expectations, flawed logic, limited information, perhaps offended pride, and lack of faith in the tedious research that real scholarship requires. The negative arguments he used against the Latter-day Saint scriptures in his last years display all these weaknesses.”

There is no need to throw Brother Ferguson under the bus.

Firstly, I never said that he was an archaeologist, but rather just that ‘Thomas Stuart Ferguson, a faithful member of the Church, in 1952 single-handedly founded the New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF).’

Secondly, the Church obviously saw some value in his work insofar as they funded it – twice. NWAF received $15,000 from the First Presidency in 1953, with the strict provision, that there was to be absolutely no publicity. In 1955 the First Presidency pledged another $200,000 to NWAF to sponsor four additional years of fieldwork.

$200K was a lot of tithing dollars in the 1950s.

If the point that FairMormon is trying to make is that because Thomas Ferguson, was not ‘a professional archaeologist’ his work lacks credibility, let me quote from an article written by LDS apologist Dan Peterson who confirms, that while Ferguson himself was not an archaeologist, NWAF was staffed by professional archaeologists:

“Several relevant facts stand out from this bare-bones recital of the earliest history of the New World Archaeological Foundation. First, non–Latter-day (sic) Saint archaeologists were prominent—in fact, dominant—from the  beginning, not only in choosing central Chiapas as the geographical focus of its excavations…”

On the New World Archaeological Foundation
Daniel C. Peterson FARMS Review 16/1 (2004): 221–33. Second,

Second, FairMormon’s choice of John Sorenson, as the ‘respected archaeologist‘ to make their point is perhaps unwise.

In a blistering review of Sorenson’s lack of scholarship and questionable referencing, author and Mormon bishop Del Dowdell commented on the stuff Sorenson has published in several Mormon publications:

“John L. Sorenson, in his book, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, writes (p278) “The earliest piece so far probably dates to around the first century B.C. It is a bit of copper sheathing found on top of an altar at Cuicuilco in the Valley of Mexico.

However, a search of his reference and allied articles turns up no such piece. “…there is a singular mention of copper, such as copper rattles found in Mexico dated to the Post-classic period, which is after 1000 A.D. “

Sorenson also wrote:

“There have proved to be several hundred such specimens dating from 400 B.C. to AD 900, 153 of which were excavated by professional archaeologists,” referencing, you guessed it, his own work.

John L. Sorenson, Metals and Metallurgy
Relating to the Book of Mormon Text
, FARMS, Provo, 1992.

It is interesting that Sorenson’s most quoted reference is himself. Not just that, he is often the only referenced source regarding his theories on Book of Mormon metallurgy in Mesoamerica.

As an example, in an article: ‘Metals and Weapons in the Book of Mormon: Mormon Answers to Frequently Asked Questions’ Sorenson references himself 27 times as the source for information regarding metals in Mesoamerica.

“Since Sorenson is neither a metallurgist nor one who has searched ancient sites and digs looking for artifacts and evidence of metal in the ancient Americas, there is no possible way he should be the source material for “proof” that metallurgy existed in the ancient Americas. Such ludicrous sourcing and citing are neither scholarly nor helpful, and it certainly is not suggestive to critics of the Church and the Book of Mormon that any written material with such referencing is either accurate or honest.”

Del Dowdell, Who Really Settle Mesoamerica

I had expressed caution previously regarding the level and quality of scholarship at BYU, at least in the fields of archaeology and anthropology.

Sorenson is professor emeritus of anthropology at Brigham Young University. For well over 50 years he had immersed himself in every aspect of Book of Mormon life and culture, yet searching the three big three, peer-reviewed, scholarly journals on anthropology or archaeology in the United States on-line, not one article by John L. Sorenson shows up. Not in the American Journal of Archaeology, the American Anthropological Association or the Archaeological Institute of America.

Let me repeat that, in 50 years as a professor of archaeologyat BYU, not a single peer-reviewed article.

BYU is ranked so low in Archaeology that it does not even appear on the 2016 World University Ranking of Faculties of Archaeology.

The BYU archaeology department also has the unique and dubious distinction of having its excavation license revoked by the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry for violating the information sharing agreement that allowed BYU to conduct their work in the first place and also for disseminating inaccurate findings.

The Egyptian Antiquities Ministry  took exception to BYU team leader Kerry Muhlstein’s, claim that, “We are fairly certain we have over a million burials within this cemetery. It’s large, and it’s dense,”

Not only did Muhlstein grossly exaggerate the numbers of what he supposedly found, but the Ministry had to explain to this BYU ‘archaeologist’ what a mummy is, as not one of the ‘millions‘ Muhlstein claimed to have discovered was, in fact, a mummy!

Youssef Khalifa, the head of the Ancient Egypt Department, said: “What [BYU] published in the newspaper is not true, A mummy by definition to begin with means a complete mummified body and there is only one mummy found at the site of Fag el-Gamous in 1980, [and not by BYU] which is at the Egyptian Museum since then,” he added,describing the bodies at the site as “only poor skeletons and plenty of bones, some of which are wrapped in textiles.”

Dan Peterson is perhaps the most well-known Mormon apologist today, and like Thomas Ferguson, he is not an archaeologist, not that this fact has stopped him from writing about things archaeological. Mormon historian and scholar Dan Vogel shared his thoughts after reading Peterson’s FairMormon’s mean-spirited, ad hominem filled response to Jeremy Runnells CES Letter:

“Peterson is a polemicist, not a scholar of early Mormonism. While you have merely listed your objections, he didn’t do much different by countering with an apologetic bibliography. However, the nature of your letter implies that you considered the apologetic and rejected it. Your purpose as I see it was to list the problems, not defend them against the apologists. Each issue would require a pretty hefty essay to resolve Peterson’s complaint.

Ironically, Peterson’s Ensign article listing confirmations for the Book of Abraham ignores the problems and therefore is guilty of the same shortcoming Peterson sees in your paper. I find his critique silly in the extreme. It makes no sense to criticize a summary list as being too simple when that is the purpose.”

I agree, as FairMormon’s choice of ”experts” well demonstrates, we must be careful who we look to for knowledge and enlightenment.

In that regard, generations of Mormon, ‘amateur archaeologists,’ have written books containing photographs of ancient ruins and artifacts advancing the claim that these things prove that the Book of Mormon is true. Their findings, however, can be summarized simply as – wrong time, wrong place, wrong people!

Sadly, the Church has knowingly provided and possibly still does supply its young missionaries with archaeological slides of Mayan temples and ruins, to mislead investigators.

A slide or picture of a Mayan temple has nothing more to do with the Book of Mormon story than a photo of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

If you are familiar with the Mormon Church’s apologetic history, you will recognize that FairMormon’s arguments here are remarkably similar to, and I would suggest lifted directly from, a 1993 article which appeared on the now-defunct FARMS site written by William J. Hamblin. This piece, entitled: “Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon. ” is often quoted by Mormon apologists.

In it Hamlin writes:

Most anti-Mormon attacks on the authenticity of the Book of Mormon suffer from several severe logical flaws. The authors are inadequately informed about Latter-day Saint history, doctrine, and scripture; they have not read the text of the Book of Mormon carefully; they distort both what the text of the Book of Mormon says and the variety of Latter-day Saint interpretations of the text; they attempt to make all Latter-day Saint scholars responsible for the private opinions of some Latter-day Saint authors or General Authorities; and they frequently argue solely from the authority of selected authors or scholars, rather than providing evidence, analysis, and argumentation to support their case. They seldom advance the discussion by dealing with current Latter-day Saint thinking on the matter, being content instead to rely on an ad nauseam repetition of anti-Mormon arguments, many of which have been around—and have had adequate Latter-day Saint responses—for over a century.”

I agree with Hamlin on a few of his observations. However, I think he is guilty of some of the same ‘anti-Mormon’ flaws he criticizes. However, because of the apologetic resilience of Hamlin’s arguments for why we have a total absence of archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, I feel I must comment.

Hamlin never defines what an ‘anti-Mormon’ is, but by the context in which he uses the term I would suggests we could substitute the word ‘non-Mormon.’

He expresses the view that, “they (anti-Mormons) frequently argue solely from the authority of selected authors or scholars, rather than providing evidence, analysis, and argumentation to support their case.”

I agree critics must provide “evidence, analysis and argumentation” to support their case. In my experience most do.

Certainly, in this ‘A Letter to an Apostle ,’ I have included the opinions of the most distinguished leaders in the field of archaeology and anthropology. As well I have presented the comments by several LDS scholars.

Hamlin, however, takes particular offense with those who compare ‘the present state of knowledge about ancient Nephite sites with the state of knowledge about biblical sites.’

This is a valid point and I will even stipulate to Hamlin’s report that, “Only 55 per cent (sic) of the place names mentioned in the Bible have been identified” and that we have not yet identified the location of Mt. Sinai or as he says the precise, “route taken by the Israelites in the Exodus.”

Certainly. There is much that archaeology remains to discover about the historicity of the Bible.

But Mr. Hamlin ignores the fact that a great deal has been found.

As I have noted there are tens of thousands of archaeological finds that support the Bible including many biblical empires, cities, sites, artifacts, weapons, coins and much more.

Specifically, I mentioned the seven-foot black diorite stele, discovered at Susa containing the Code of Hammurabi, the Moabite Stone, the Burial Plaque of King Uzziah, and the Sennacherib Prism.

Archaeologists have also found the The Cylinder of Cyrus the Great and the Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Inscription.

King Hezekiah of Judah ruled from 721 to 686 BC. Fearing a siege by the Assyrian king, he preserved Jerusalem’s water supply by cutting a tunnel through 1,750 feet of solid rock from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam inside the city walls as mentioned in 2 Kings 20 and 2 Chron. 32. A Herculean feat.

I have spoken of the discovery of the cities of Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Corinth, Capernaum, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba, Lachish, as well as proof of the Shishak invasion of Judah and the existence of the Hittites.

coinCoins mentioned in the Bible have been found in abundance such as the widow’s mite or denarius which I hold in my hand:

Perhaps the greatest single discovery confirming the Bible’s historicity was the Dead Sea Scrolls.

First discovered by Bedouins in the caves of Kiryit Qumran in 1947.

Excavations initially led by Roland de Vaux. discovered some 800 documents in tens of thousands of fragments. Written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

They contain biblical, apocryphal works, prayers as well as legal texts and sectarian documents.

Biblical archaeologists have also unearthed a stratum of burnt material containing the remains of The Walls of Jericho, which were destroyed either by an earthquake or a siege.

Many fields of study span the Bible and history; from archaeology and astronomy to linguistics and comparative literature.

Israel’s enemies have also been well documented are solidly historical.

In short, the historicity of the Bible is not in question.

The Holy Bible has been corroborated historically, geographically, archaeologically, and linguistically and both its translation and transmission have been verified by literally thousands of ancient manuscripts.

The fact that Jesus repeatedly quoted the Old Testament with confidence and without any suggestion that it was corrupt should be reason enough for us to accept it as the word of God. The New Testament has also been proven to be unchanged and undefiled since it was given to us by God.

Hamlin’s position might have more traction if he could also state that, “55 percent of the place names mentioned in the Book of Mormon have been identified,” or even 25%, how about any! Hamlin ignores. this disparity between the Bible and the Book of Mormon altogether.

And as if the hole Hamlin is digging is not deep enough, he then quotes Yohanan Aharoni, a scholar of some note who says: “In the final analysis the most certain identifications [of biblical place names] are still those dependent upon preservation of the ancient name, albeit with careful examination of written sources and archaeological data. Out of the approximately 475 place names mentioned in the Bible, only about 262 have been identified with any degree of certainty…”

If 262 cities or places in the Book of Mormon had been ‘identified with any degree of certainty…’ we might witness Russell Nelson doing an Irish jig on the dome of the Tabernacle!

Hamlin then goes on to discuss how ‘Pre-Classic Mesoamerican inscriptions are relatively rare.’ Now there is an understatement. The word should be non-existent.

To illustrate the complication of Mesoamerican toponyms being translated between languages rather than transliterated phonetically, he uses a chronologically irrelevant Aztec language illustration:

“Thus, “in Nahuatl [Aztec] . . . ‘Hill of the Bird’ is Tototepec (tototl = bird + tepetl = hill) and ‘Hill of the Jaguar’ is Ocelotepec (ocelotl + tepetl). . . . ‘Hill of the Bird’ in Mixtec would be Yucu Dzaa, from yucu (hill) + dzaa (bird); ‘Hill of the Jaguar’ in Zapotec would be Tani Guebeche, from tani (hill) + guebeche (fierce carnivore).”  

Aztec culture was a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central Mexico in the post-classic period from 1300 to 1521 A.D., far beyond Book of Mormon times. Again, irrelevant and immaterial.

Next, he tells us what we all already know that there is not an official Latter-day Saint position on the geography of the Book of Mormon.

Hamlin also condemns ‘anti-Mormons’ (read as all who question), who claim that all Native Americans are genetically descended from the Lamanites. His criticism is somewhat justified, but I think he should cut people a little slack here as they have certainly been sent mixed messages by the Church leaders and the Book of Mormon itself.

The fly page of the Book of Mormon speaks of ‘The principal ancestors of the American Indians’, and a little further in, it tells us:

“… and it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations ; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.“ (2 Nephi 1:8.) Also, we have the words of those who one might think would know:

“We, therefore, cast a glance southward into old Mexico and through the great countries beyond — down through Central America and South America, where there are millions and millions of Lamanites, direct descendants of Father Lehi.”

Elder Andrew Jenson, Conference Report October 1921, p.120

“About twenty-five centuries ago, a hardy group left the comforts of a great city, crossed a desert, braved an ocean, and came to the shores of this, their promised land. There were two large families, those of Lehi and Ishmael, who in a couple of centuries numbered hundreds of millions of people on these two American continents.”

Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 601

Hamlin tackles anachronisms briefly making the point that barley has been found in Arizona, not the domesticate European type, but barley none the less.

He is on shakier ground however when he states that Book of Mormon animals may have become extinct and that, ‘possible horse remains have been found in various locations in Mesoamerica,’ using, who else, John L. Sorenson.

Hamlin then attacks Dr. Michael Coe, a renowned non-Mormon scholar who has said:

“There is not one professionally trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon, who sees any scientific justification for believing in the historicity of the Book of Mormon.”

Hamlin then tells us what Dr. Coe was really trying to say here, “that all of the archaeological evidence known to him can be adequately interpreted and accounted for based on the assumption that there were no Nephites.” Mr. Hamlin does not seem to understand that ‘learned‘ scholars talk to one another and their published articles are open to peer review.

We don’t need to put words in Michael Coe’s mouth; he expressed himself very clearly. When Dr. Coe says, “there is not one professionally trained archaeologist,’ he is speaking as a knowledgeable insider. I think Hamlin’s discounting of Coe’s statement, by implying that ‘well that’s just one man’s opinion,” is a slight to the scores of serious scientists dedicated to unearthing the truth.

Hamlin also suggests that Dr. Coe’s research findings would be different if he were to assume that Nephites did exist, runs in the face of the scientific method, that Hamlin seems not to be familiar with. The starting point is not assumptions and conclusions; those come later after the data has been studied and examined.

Hamlin finally ends with a question:

“Why do non-Mormon scholars reject the Book of Mormon?” Which he then goes on to answer himself:

First, acceptance of the historicity of the Book of Mormon logically necessitates recognition of Joseph Smith’s prophetic claims. Thus, any scholar who eventually came to accept the historicity of the Book of Mormon would be logically compelled to become a Latter-day Saint.’

Is Hamlin really implying that there is some unstated conspiracy among scholars to avoid the siren call of the Book of Mormon, for if they were to taste its sweet nectar of truth they would all become Mormons.

Now that is pushing a cognitive dissident proposition to the limit, but he continues.

Next, he bemoans the fact that, ‘most non-Mormons do not take the Book of Mormon seriously enough even to read it, let alone give it the careful study required to make an informed judgment.’ 

Is he suggesting that professional archaeologists and anthropologists should let whatever internal evidence they find within the Book of Mormon, or some new found ‘testimony’ of it, predetermine their research findings?

There is a term for what Hamlin is proposing, and that term is ‘confirmation bias,’ but then as his article well illustrates, this is one area in which Hamlin is indeed an expert!

I would suggest that a reasonable person would agree that FairMormon’s rebuttal to what I have written here earns them an ‘F.’

Therefore, president Uchtdorf I stand by the fact that, I suspect you know full well, there is no evidence that any legitimate non-Mormon archaeologist could point to that supports the validity of the Book of Mormon. None, die Nonen!

References

1 Dr. Ray Metheny, Professor of Anthropology, BYU, Address at the Sixth Annual Sunstone Theological Symposium, Salt Lake City, 8/25/84.

2 Dr. David Johnson, Professor of Anthropology, BYU.

3 Thomas Stuart Ferguson, in a letter to Mr. & Mrs. H. W. Lawrence, dated Feb. 1976.

4 Ulster Archaeological Society, Newsletter, No. 64, Jan 30, 1960, P.3

5 Michael Coe, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1973, pp. 42.

6 Department of Anthropology National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 2056

7 Richard Blanton – Professor of Anthropology at Purdue University, Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Michigan

8 David Carrasco – Professor of the Study of Latin America at Harvard Divinity School,

9 Louise Burkhart – Professor in the Anthropology Department at the University at Albany,

10 Brigham D. Madsen, ed., B. H. Roberts: Studies of the Book of Mormon, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985.

11 Richard and Joan Ostling, Mormon America: The Power and Promise Harpers, 1999), 276.

12 Coe 2002, p. 13 An Outsider’s View of Mormon Archeology May, Wayne N., This Land – One Cumorah, pp. 61–68

13 May, Wayne N., This Land – One Cumorah, pp. 61–68

14 https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/ Book_of_Mormon/Archaeology

15 Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 1998, v. 2, p. 196

16 John Clark, “Debating the Foundations of Mormonism: Archaeology and the Book of Mormon”, presentation at the 2005 FAIR Apologetics Conference (August 2005).

17 On the New World Archaeological Foundation Daniel C. Peterson FARMS Review 16/1 (2004): 221–33.

18 John L. Sorenson, Metals, and Metallurgy Relating to the book of Mormon Text, FARMS, Provo, 1992.

19 Del Dowdell Who Really Settled Mesoamerica.

20 B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Century 1, Brigham Young University Press, Vol. 1, 1965, pg. 75

21 B.H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, p.277

On the next page we will examine the problem of anachronisms in the Book of Mormon:

2. The Clock Struck Nine: Anachronisms in the Book of Mormon

Anachronism – [uh-nak-ruh-niz-uh m – noun]

Something or someone not in its correct historical or chronological time, especially a thing or person that belongs to an earlier or later time:

Tapir

A practical approach to confirm the authenticity of ancient or historical writings is the identification of anachronisms found in it.

Anachronisms are chronological errors, and they might include mention of events that might not have occurred during the period under discussion. These errors can also include names, locations, tools, languages, and so on that did not exist or were unknown at the time the historical document was written.

For example, in Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 5, Shakespeare has Juliet utter, “The clock struck nine when I did send the nurse.”

Romeo and Juliet is, however, set in the 1300s, well before the invention of the first mechanical pendulum clock. This is an anachronism.

It was an error, similar to one made in the motion picture Spartacus, where the film editor failed to notice some of the slaves were sporting wristwatches.

Now, ‘The Bard of Avon’ was not trying to fool anyone, and a slave wearing a wristwatch at a time contemporaneous with Christ is hilarious. However, when we put serious writing through the test of anachronism, and it comes up short, it may indicate fraud and deception. The Book of Mormon does not fare well when put to the anachronism test.

The following are just a few examples:

The Book of Mormon cites horses fourteen times. However, not only is there no evidence that horses existed in North or South America during the time of its writing (2500 BC– 400 AD), there is considerable compelling scientific evidence that horses became extinct by the end of the Pleistocene era (2.5 million–12,000 years ago). Horses only reappear in the Americas when the Spaniards brought them from Europe in about 1519.

Elephants are mentioned in (Ether 9:19) swinging their trunks for the Jaredites (2500 BC). But again, fossil records show that they became extinct at the end of the last Ice Age (10,000 years ago).

Chariots are mentioned numerous times in the Book of Mormon (Alma 18:9-10, 12, Alma 20:6, 3 Nephi 3:22), yet again, there is no archeological evidence to support the use of wheeled vehicles in the pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. They would be of little use considering there were no horses to pull them.

Ether 9:18 refers to cattle, but here again, there is no evidence that Old World domesticated cattle inhabited New World before European contact.

Likewise iron and steel cited several times (1 Nephi 16:18, 2 Nephi 5:15, Jarom 1:8, Ether 7:9) is a problem as there is no evidence of hardened steel being present in pre-Columbian America.

The Book of Mormon also refers to “swords,” stating that “the blades thereof were cankered with rust” (Mosiah 8:11) relating to the Jaredites’ final battlefield where some 250,000 warriors perished. But again, no such battlefield, no such soldiers, and no such weapons have ever been found.

2 Nephi 5:14-15 reads: “And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords… And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance.” 

How is it possible that a small group of ‘immigrants,’ likely no more than 50 in number, managed to do all of the following.

Make Steel – a complicated process of mixing iron with carbon.
Mine Iron Ore – and extract elemental iron from that iron ore.
Mine Coal – and refine it into coke as required in the production of iron.
Mine Limestone – a necessary ingredient necessary for the production of steel.
Locate and mine copper.
Mine tin and zinc – for the production of “brass.”
Refine this tin or zinc which does not appear in an elemental state.
Prospect for gold.
Locate and extract silver.
Roast to eliminate sulfur as required in the production of both copper and silver.
Smelt and flux all of these metals.
Construct furnaces – to produce these metals.
Manufacture hardened mining tools.
Develop expertise in prospecting – locating and identifying ores.

What an intrepid and industrious little band.

Mining, smelting, refining, roasting, all leave indestructible and robust evidence, yet in the Northeastern United States or in Central America, no evidence of a sophisticated metallurgical society has ever been unearthed.

Six times silk is spoken of in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 13:7,8, Alma 1:29, Alma 4:6, Ether 9:17, Ether 10:24). Silk, of course, is a product of the Orient and unknown in the pre-Columbian Americas.

The word, ‘compass’ (Alma 37:38), is dated at 73 B.C. in the Book of Mormon, even though, this instrument was not invented until the twelfth century.

Alma 11 is also problematic in that it mentions a monetary system based on weights of precious metals and strongly implies the use of coins.

However, recognizing the anachronistic problem of new world coins showing up before the time of Christ, the Church made yet another change to the ‘most correct book in the world,’ removing the reference to ‘coinage’, from the introduction of Alma 11.

Before the change the introduction read:

“Judges and their compensation—Nephite coins and measures—Zeezrom confounded by Amulek…”

The introduction’s reference to “Nephite coins and measures,” was written by James Talmage, a Mormon apostle commissioned by the Church to add both chapter headings and footnotes to the Book of Mormon.

I guess we are now to believe that this was just sloppy work on Talmage’s part even through Talmage’s biographer James P. Harris, noted that Talmage “was customarily meticulous, making sure there were no errors or omissions.”

As well, regardless of the Church’s willingness to throw Talmage under the bus, his introductions and footnotes were certainly approved by the LDS First Presidency.

We have, of course, never found any evidence of the Alma 11 monetary system nor have any coins ever been unearthed – not a seon, shum, limnah, amnor, senums or ezrom. In fact not a single onti!

The Church’s position now is that the seon, shum, limnah, etc. were not coins even through their reference as  ‘pieces of their gold,’ and pieces ‘of their silver,’ would suggest the opposite:

“And the judge received for his wages according to his time–a senine of gold for a day, or a senum of silver, which is equal to a senine of gold; and this is according to the law which was given. Now, these are the names of the different pieces of their gold, and of their silver, according to their value.”

(see Alma 11:1–19)

For many decades Alma 11 has been understood by members to speak of coins. B.H. Roberts, a  LDS Seventy and church historian, wrote, “In addition to these words we have also a number of names of Nephite coins and the names of fractional values of coins…” Brother Roberts continues his uses of the term “coins.””we have no means of obtaining specifically the value of these coins in modern terms,” and, “there is stated a system of relative values in these coins that bears evidence of its being genuine” (A New Witness for God, 3:145).

In the 1979 Book of Mormon Student Manual (Religion 121-122) it asks students “how valuable were the Nephite pieces of money?” Showing that “pieces” meant “coins,” the manual presents a chart to show “the relative value of silver and gold coins under the system set up by Mosiah.”

The difficulty, of course, does not lie in a lack of Nephite coins being unearthed, It lies in Smith’s suggestion that such coins existed in the first place.

So Alma 11 paints the church and her apologists into a corner. Either it presents more artifacts that have never been confirmed by archaeology or it is yet another of the many anachronisms found in Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon.

The word “Bible,” denotes a canon of scripture (2 Nephi 29:3, 4, 6 and 10) and is also problematic. The word ‘Bible,’ is the Anglicization of the Greek word ‘Biblia,’ which means book. The problem here is that Greek wasn’t spoken in Israel until long after Lehi’s supposed emigration to the Americas in about 600 BC.

2 Nephi 31:13 references the “Holy Ghost,” but, the word “ghost” did not come into parlance until hundreds of years after it was inscribed in the Book of Mormon.

Likewise, the word, “epistle” (3 Nephi 3:5) is a transliteration of the Greek word ‘epistolos,’ and again would have been unknown by Book of Mormon peoples. Ditto, the fifteen mentions of the Nephite city of ‘Judea’ (Alma 56:9). Judea is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah, and again out of place. The same thing is true for the Greek word Timothy (3 Nephi 19:4) derived from Timotheus.

The name ‘Isabel’ (Alma 39:3) given to a harlot, first appeared in France and Italy in the middle ages. Again, wrong time, wrong place.

Six times, we find the abbreviation “&c” (and so forth), a convention peculiar to the nineteenth century in the Book of Mormon – never used before, never used after.

The words “alpha” and “omega” appear in 3 Nephi 9:18. These are, of course, the English spellings of the Greek words found in the Book of Revelations in the Bible.

As the Book of Mormon was not recorded in Greek, why do we find these words? The most obvious answer is that Smith simply copied them from the King James version of the Bible.

There are numerous instances where the Smith uses words that were not relevant to his time but peculiar to the English spoken in the early 1600s. “Prayest,” “durst,” “thou,” “thee,” “thy,” “thine,” “hast,” “doth,” “knoweth,” “hearest,” “cometh,” and “thirsteth.” Did God select these words for the Book of Mormon? No, it demonstrates the writer’s exposure to King James terminology.

One must ask, why would the Book of Mormon be translated into King James/Elizabethan English in the first place? This language was neither spoken in 1830 America nor in the day of Mormon, Moroni, et.al.?

Does God speak Elizabethan English or was this a cunning ploy Smith used to give his writing greater gravitas and also make the numerous passages he plagiarized from the King James version of the Bible fit in more seamlessly?

Scores of passages in the Book of Mormon, either in part or whole, verbatim or paraphrased, have been taken directly from the King James version of the Bible. Some researchers have estimated that as much as 4% can be traced to this English translation.

And perhaps the most egregious error Smith made throughout the Book of Mormon was the use of the word “Christ.” He uses it as though it was the surname of the Lord Jesus. However, as any seminarian can tell you, the word “Christ” is the Anglicization of the Greek word ‘Christos,’ meaning the anointed or chosen one (the equivalent of the Hebrew word Mashiach, or Messiah.)

Much is made of the appearance of the word ‘adieu,’ (Jacob 7:27) because it is so obviously and ridiculously out of place.

It is not then surprising that non-Mormon archeologists and scholars have concluded that the Book of Mormon’s many anachronisms, let alone its subject matter, clearly reveals a 19th-century origin, leading to the inescapable and indisputable conclusion that it is a work of fiction composed during Joseph Smith’s time, nothing more.

The Problem of the Wheel

wheel

There is also the problem of the wheel. The wheel would have been known to Lehi, et.al., as it was in use in Mesopotamia from before 3,000 BC. Simple machines using the wheel, such as the cart or wagon, pulled by humans or animals made the transport of goods much easier.

As I have mentioned already, the Book of Mormon uses the term chariot repeatedly, which shows that the Nephites and Lamanites understood and utilized the concept of the wheel (Alma 18:9-10, 12, 3 Ne. 3:22, Alma 20:6, 3 Ne. 21: 14).

The problem is that archaeologists tell us that the wheel was never used in Pre- Columbian America. Knowledge of the wheel may have existed, but limited, but it appears that it was limited to children’s toys.

If the Nephites and Lamanites used the wheel, why wouldn’t this valuable technology continue to be used by the descendants of these ancient Americans?

If Lehi’s descendants used the wheel, there would be evidence in the Americas before Columbus as technology spreads quickly, particularly something like the wheel, one of the most significant innovations of all time.

One might argue that ancient Americans may have known about the wheel but lost the knowledge; however, that too is a stretch as is the suggestion by a few intrepid apologists, that Book of Mormon chariots did not have wheels, but were dragged by horses (or tapirs).

As you are no doubt aware, Occam’s Razor (also Ockham’s Razor) or sometimes the “Law of Parsimony,” is a philosophical problem-solving principle first attributed to William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher.

His ‘law’ can be interpreted as, ‘from among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.’ It is the most likely to be true or at least the most correct – until proven otherwise. It is the same principle taught in medical school, “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras!”

If you accept chariots without wheels, it is analogous to hearing hoofbeats and thinking unicorns!

FairMormon produced the attractive chart below in which they attempt to show those anachronisms within the Book of Mormon that has now been ‘confirmed.’

No supporting evidence or references are provided.

BOM ANA

This chart is intended to show how many things believed to be anachronistic in 1842 have now been proven to have existed in the Americas in Book of Mormon times.

The problem is the information it contains is bogus. For example, in the 2005 iteration, it lists Hebrew language, brass plates, swords (steel and otherwise) as confirmed.

When were these things confirmed and by whom?

I am also curious as to why horses are listed as ‘indeterminate.’ Perhaps this refers to the tapir nonsense!

Let me assure you that the Hebrew language, brass plates, swords (steel and otherwise) have NEVER been discovered FairMormon’s chart notwithstanding. Just another blatant example of FairMormon’s dishonesty, in behalf of the LDS Church.

If the LDS Church has what this chart says they do, would they not be trumpeting all these ‘important discoveries’ across their media and beyond?

It also lists as ‘indeterminate’ horses, goats, large armies and the language that no one has ever heard of – ‘reformed Egyptian script.’

Where is the evidence that backs any of these classifications?

I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be snarky, but it makes one wonder what universe the apologist who created this chart is living in. Where is the evidence for any of these assertions?

Many professional linguists would love to know more about the discovery of the Hebrew language in the America’s that this chart confirms. Somehow every non-Mormon linguist seems to have missed this ground-breaking find!

Believe me, the discovery of the Hebrew language in ancient America is not a subject for debate. It is well established that there has NEVER been any discoveries whatsoever.

Is horse listed as indeterminate because someone at BYU floated the idea that Book of Mormon horses were tapirs or deer?

I have a spread on the North Saskatchewan river up in Canada, on which roam many deer. Let me assure you by my years of directly observing the temperament of deer; it is beyond absurd to suggest that you could ride them!

FairMormon also disputes my assertion that silk did not exist in ancient America.

They use as their expert John L. Sorenson, the Church’s ‘go to’ archaeologist/scholar/ apologist.

“Linen and silk are textiles mentioned in the Book of Mormon (Alma 4:6). Neither fabric as we now know them was found in Mesoamerica at the coming of the Spaniards. The problem might be no more than linguistic. The redoubtable Bernal Diaz, who served with Cortez in the initial wave of conquest, described native Mexican garments made of “henequen which is like linen.” The fiber of the maguey plant, from which henequen was manufactured, closely resembles the flax fiber used to make European linen. Several kinds of “silk,” too, were reported by the conquerors. One kind was of thread spun from the fine hair on the bellies of rabbits…”

OK, so according to Sorenson they didn’t exist, it was all just a big misunderstanding, a matter of labels – semantics. When the Book of Mormon says linen it means henequen, silk isn’t silk its hair from the bellies of rabbits, barley is hordeum, a species of grass native to the Americas. By horse, the Mormon writers meant tapir, by cattle they meant buffalo, and when they use the word pig this is really code for the chic, a ‘wonderfully active, small dog, with a snout like a sucking pig.’

FairMormon also states: “When they say “directly” support, they typically mean that they are looking for a direct corroboration, such as the presence of the name “Nephi” or “Zarahemla” in association with ancient American archaeological data.”

First, I am not sure who ‘they’ are but if ‘they‘ are archaeologists I doubt they are looking road signs when they speak of “direct corroboration.”

I would suggest that direct corroboration would be the discovery of evidence of the places, animals or technology that match the Book of Mormon claims. The skeletal remains of an elephant would be an example of direct corroboration, one piece of armor or a sword from the many battles involving millions of people would be direct corroboration. Locating a coin with Nephi’s smiling face on it would be direct corroboration.

None of that, of course, is offered rather FairMormon provides yet another quote by Sorenson, this time without any citation:

“Without even considering smelted iron, we find that peoples in Mesoamerica exploited iron minerals from early times. Lumps of hematite, magnetite, and ilmenite were brought into Valley of Oaxaca sites from some of the thirty-six ore exposures located near or in the valley. These were carried to a workshop section within the site of San Jose Mogote as early as 1200 B.C. There they were crafted into mirrors by sticking the fragments onto prepared mirror backs and polishing the surface highly. These objects, clearly of high value, were traded at considerable distances.”

I can understand why Sorenson starts with, ‘Without even considering smelted iron,’ as there is none to consider. Instead he talks about lumps of meteoric minerals fashioned into primitive mirrors as being proof of iron or steel.

FairMormon again trumpets the discovery of wild barley in Arizona. While I would like to have seen peer-reviewed articles, this is something that the reader might want to investigate further as it certainly refutes the crtics who say that barley did not exist in the Americas. 

The December 1983 issue of the magazine Science 83 reported the discovery in Phoenix, Arizona, by professional archaeologists of what they supposed to be pre-Columbian barley. That same month, F.A.R.M.S. carried a preliminary notice of the discovery.

Mosiah 9:9 lists barley among several crops that were cultivated by the Nephites in the land of Nephi, and Alma 11:7 singles out barley as the primary grain into which silver and gold were converted in the Nephite system of weights and measures.1

In an blog article entitled, ‘Barley Found in the New World.‘ by Raymond C. Treat he heralds this find, “This discovery constitutes one of the most important archaeological breakthroughs ever in support of the Book of Mormon. If this identification of barley is valid, and it appears to be, it will cause a major shift in the thinking of New World archaeologists, a shift which will be a giant step toward the ever growing physical validation of Book of Mormon history.”

Mr. Treat may be a little too enthusiastic, keep in mind that a few grains of a wild barley in Arizona does not parallel the domesticated variety taken from the Holy Land to the Americas and used to feed millions of people, but when you are grasping at straws a few grains of wild barley become the Holy Grail.

There is a pre-Columbian city located on the Yucatan Peninsula called Tulúm which is often included in LDS tour packages and identified as a Book of Mormon site. The tour guides describe it as ‘possibly’ one place mentioned in the Book of Mormon and make a big fuss over the depiction of the “Descending God,” which the guides often tell their Mormon tourists represents Jesus Christ visiting the Book of Mormon people.

The problem is that extensive archaeological research conducted at Tulúm has shown that the time is all wrong. “All structural and ceramic evidence at Tulúm, and its corpus of murals and reliefs, date from the Middle and Late Postclassic (AD 1200-1520) period.”

Athena Review Vol. 2, No. 1, “Maya sites in Quintana Roo: Tulúm.”

As well, the suggestion that the ‘Descending God’ image is a depiction of Jesus Christ has been dismissed as nonsense by reputable scholarly authorities. The ‘Descending God’ is a representation of the bee god Ah Muzencab based on the apparent antennae and insect-like torso. Jesus with antennae, really FairMormon?

The Mayans, Incas and the Olmec’s built complex societies, with temples and fortifications but these cultures and ‘civilizations’ just don’t fit with Book of Mormon peoples.

There is just no archaeological evidence of the Jaredite people or the Nephites described in the Book of Mormon that is accepted by mainstream archaeologists.

The Jaredite civilization in the American covenant land is said to have been destroyed as the result of a civil war near the time that Lehi’s party arrived in the New World (approximately 590 BC). The Olmec civilization, on the other hand, flourished in Mesoamerica during the Pre-classic period (1200 BC to about 400 BC).

Although the Olmec civilization ended suddenly and for reasons that are not yet clear, there are indications that some of the Olmec people survived and interacted with other cultures.”

Likewise, no Central or South American civilization is recognized to correlate with the Nephites of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon makes no mention of Lamanites or Nephites erecting impressive works of hewn stone as did the Maya or various South American peoples.

“While ‘walls of stone,’ are mentioned in Alma 48:7 there is no suggestion they were constructed of hewn stone. The remnants of massive wall piles of stone made by mound builder societies are known to exist in the eastern United States.”

I am troubled also by the fact that while the Church knows full well, that the Mayans, Aztecs, etc. just don’t fit with the Book of Mormon peoples, they allow this confusion to persist.

Generations of Mormon ‘amateur archaeologists,’ have written books containing photographs of ancient ruins and artifacts advancing the claim that they prove that the Book of Mormon is true. Their findings, however, can be summarized simply as – wrong time, wrong place, wrong people!

Sadly, the Church has knowingly provided and possibly still does supply its young missionaries with archaeological slides of Mayan temples and ruins, which can mislead investigators.

A slide or picture of a Mayan temple has nothing more to do with the Book of Mormon story than a photo of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

Please, remember the 13th Article of Faith. This needs to stop.

References



1 https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/BookofMormon/Plants/Barley.

2 “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,” 1984.

3 Robert Wane Hope, “Ten Years Of Middle American Archaeology.”

4 John L. Sorenson, Metals, and Metallurgy Relating to the book of Mormon Text, FARMS, Provo, 1992.

5 Del Dowdell Who Really Settled Mesoamerica.

On the Next Page we will Examine the Issue of DNA Studies and the Book of Mormon Narrative: 

 

3. Damned DNA: Why do all recent DNA studies conclusively and without exception show that Native Americans are of Siberian/Asiatic and not of Hebrew/Middle Eastern Origin?

dna

As the following statements by leaders in the field indicate, based on DNA evidence alone there is no nexus between the Middle-Eastern peoples and the aboriginal peoples of the Americas.

As Michael Crawford1  at the University of Kansas puts it, “I don’t think there is one iota of evidence that suggests a lost tribe from Israel made it all the way to the New World. It is a great story, slain by ugly fact.”

DNA comprises four pairs of “molecular bases” – adenine, cytosine, thymine, and guanine that form a ribbon-like chain in a molecule that is then twisted upon itself twice (a double helix.) You have likely seen the Watson-Click model somewhere in your educational experience.

As Simon Southerton points out, “Each base is always opposite its complementary base, A with C, and G with T or vice versa. They can thus be understood as a coded sequence (which they are), and replication occurs because the complementary pairings always line up with stray molecules (called nucleotides) when reproduction takes place. A single change in the sequence represents a “mutation” that can be detected.

In human mitochondria (for simplicity think of this as a part of a cell), there are approximately 16,500 “letters,” and five sequences are found among Native American populations in what is identified as “haplogroups.” These five haplogroups also exist among the Siberian population of Eastern Asia in the same statistical proportions.

Significantly, these haplogroups are not found in Semitic populations, and additionally, there are other haplogroups found among the peoples of the Middle East that are not found in Native Americans.” 2

Got that, mutually exclusive.

Meldrum and Stephens two leaders in DNA analysis have found that “The data accumulated to date show that 99.6 percent of Native American genetic markers studied so far exhibit Siberian connections.” 3

Many other leaders in the field of genetics have also stated: “The data accumulated to date show that 99.6 percent of Native American genetic markers studied so far exhibit Siberian connections.”4

“Genetic research, particularly that using mitochondrial and Y chromosome markers, provide quite an emphatic refutation of any such relationship between Jews and Native Americans.”5

Recent DNA testing conducted on 150 tribes located across the Americas have shown conclusively, that contrary to traditional Mormon claims, their ancestors migrated from Asia between 7,000 and 50,000 years ago.

Even Mormon anthropologist Thomas W. Murphy commented on these findings:

“Some Latter-day Saints have expressed optimism that DNA research would lead to a vindication of the Book of Mormon as a translation of a genuine ancient document… The results, though, have been disappointing… Genetic data repeatedly point to migrations from Asia between 7,000 and 50,000 years ago as the primary source of Native American origins. DNA research has substantiated the archaeological, cultural, linguistic, and biological evidence that also points overwhelmingly to an Asian origin for Native Americans.”

Investigation of mitochondrial DNA of over 5,500 living Native Americans reveals that 99.4% can be traced back to Asia… Only 0.6% came from Africa or Europe, most likely after 1492.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church quietly made yet another change to the Book of Mormon, in 2006 shortly after the irrefutable DNA results were first published by the scientific community:

“…the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”

to:

“…the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”

With the change of a few words, the Lamanites went from being the ancestors of every native American, as President Kimball had once declared to merely living among these native populations.

Then following this striking display of core belief malleability, the ‘Brethren’ begin their gaslighting, claiming there is nothing new here, this was all common knowledge written about for years. It is not the Church’s fault that members were too stupid or lazy to search these things out.

The Mormon Essay on DNA states the following:

“Basic principles of population genetics suggest the need for a more careful approach to the data. The conclusions of genetics, like those of any science, are tentative, and much work remains to be done to fully understand the origins of the native populations of the Americas. Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples, and even if their genetic profile were known, there are sound scientific reasons that it might remain undetected. For these same reasons, arguments that some defenders of the Book of Mormon make based on DNA studies are also speculative. In short, DNA studies cannot be used decisively to either affirm or reject the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”6

I agree that there are explanations as to why it is possible that no Hebrew DNA has been discovered, but, there is wide disagreement as to how sound they are. As is usually the case, the Church, and her apologists are adrift in the defensive world of possibilities, not probabilities.

Genetic drift is such a possibility.

Genetic drift is the gradual loss of genetic markers in small populations due to random events.

The Church’s essay uses the illustration of colored marbles to make the case, a simple illustration of the concept of genetic drift:

marble“Fill a jar with 20 marbles—ten red, ten blue. The jar represents a population, and the marbles represent people with different genetic profiles. Draw a marble at random from this population, record its color, and place it back in the jar. Each drawing represents the birth of a child. Draw 20 times to simulate a new generation within the population. The second generation could have an equal number of each color, but more likely it will have an uneven number of the two colors. Before you draw the third generation, adjust the proportion of each color in the jar to reflect the new mix of genetic profiles in the gene pool. As you continue drawing, the now-uneven mix will lead to ever more frequent draws of the dominant color. Over several generations, this “drift” toward one color will almost certainly result in the disappearance of the other color.”

The marble metaphor seems to make sense with 20 marbles, and 20 draws although to complete the story, it would have been good to know how many ‘generations,’ and color adjustments and draws it would take to end up with all the same colored marbles.

The law of probabilities would predict we would get an equal number of red and blue marbles from the draws over time, but since the sample is so small, you might get 9 of one and 11 of the other one time or 8 and 12 another time and so on. That being the case and assuming that the draws are almost always one-sided (say blue marbles coming out on top – not likely) after about ten or eleven generations, all the marbles would be the same color.

The marble scenario falls apart however when the numbers become greater, say 10,000 or 20,000 marbles It is estimated that it would take 1,000 or 2,000 generation (25,000 – 50,000 years) to even possibly see the same results. We would still expect to find a lot of red marbles, that is, Semitic DNA!

In his review of William B. Provine’s “The ‘Random Genetic Drift’ Fallacy,” Christopher Jensen, Associate Professor, Pratt Institute indicates that the ‘Marble Metaphor’ is both simplistic and unlikely.

“Different alleles at a single locus are represented as marbles (or as beads, or as jelly beans for the most voracious students of evolution). The metaphor is compelling: if each marble in the jar represents an allele possessed by an individual, then the whole jar represents the “gene pool”. By randomly sampling from the jar as a way of representing alleles being passed on to the next generation of offspring, we can see that in small populations the probability of losing an allele to chance is far greater than in larger populations.”

“But are alleles well-represented as marbles in a jar? This question — as absurd as it may seem — is at the heart of The “Random Genetic Drift” Fallacy‘s argument. Provine emphatically says “no”, suggesting that what we call genetic drift is really inbreeding, and inbreeding creates very different evolutionary outcomes than fixation of particular alleles at particular loci. There is no gene pool and there is no drift at particular gene loci because genes are located on chromosomes and chromosomes are replicated via the process of meiosis. Meiosis was not well-understood until just after Fisher, Wright, and Haldane had formulated the foundational theory of population genetics; according to Provine, population genetics has been out of synch with reality every since.” 8

References

1 Michael Crawford, at the University of Kansas, as quoted in Thomas Murphy, Mormon anthropologist, American Apocrypha, p. 53.

2 Simon Southerton, “Losing a Lost Tribe,” Signature Books, 2004

3 Jeffrey Meldrum and Trent D. Stephens, “Who are the Children of Lehi,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, v. 12, no. 1, p. 41

4 Dr. David Glenn Smith, U.C.-Davis molecular anthropologist, 2002 Sunstone Symposium, Salt Lake City

5 From an essay entitled, “Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics.>”

6 Book of Mormon and DNA Studies, An LDS Essay

7 “Debate Renewed with a Change in Book of Mormon Introduction,” Deseret News (8 Nov. 2007).

8 Review of William B. Provine’s “The ‘Random Genetic Drift’ Fallacy”

FairMormon’s Comments on my questions on DNA Issues

Comment No. 1

Response to claim: “Why do all recent DNA studies conclusively and without exception indicate that Native Americans are of Siberian/Asiatic and not of Hebrew origin.

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS MISTAKES AND/OR ERRORS – THE AUTHOR HAS STATED ERRONEOUS OR INCORRECT INFORMATION OR MISINTERPRETED THEIR SOURCES

DNA evidence cannot be used to either prove or disprove the Book of Mormon.

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

I agree that DNA evidence IN ITSELF cannot be used to either prove or disprove the Book of Mormon, but it is another arrow in the investigator’s quiver.

Here again, the Mormon Church’s apologists are on the defensive because they have no affirmative arguments to the implications that this science has on the Joseph Smith ‘story.’

DNA is a well understood and established science. The criminal justice system accepts it as reliable and its identification so accurate that people are often convicted of capital crimes on the basis of it. So when the best DNA researchers say that 99.4% of Native populations in North, South and Central America have Eastern Asian DNA, we need to sit-up and listen.

FairMormon, however, suggests that the accepted conclusion that the ancestors of the indigenous peoples of North and South America migrated from Asia is tentative.

If by tentative FairMormon mean the absence of absolute certitude, then the accepted conclusion that DNA is our genetic building blocks can also be considered tentative or for that matter that the ‘theory’ that the Earth is round is tentative.

The conclusion FairMormon calls tentative is based on evidence. Evidence that shows that there have been NO middle-Eastern markers found in the more than 12,000 samples taken from North and South American aboriginal populations.

I can’t seem to find anywhere in the reams of FairMormon musings where they present any affirmative evidence showing “Middle Eastern” or “Jewish/Hebrew” DNA in native populations.

Second, to say that nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon people is disingenuous. We know, according to the story that Joseph Smith tells that they were Jews, from the Middle-East, of the ‘House of Israel.’ We know what Middle-Eastern Jewish DNA looks like. Geneticists have identified the unique markers. And none of those markers have been found in the Americas.

The simple fact is that DNA testing conducted on 150 tribes located across the Americas have shown, that in direct contradiction to traditional Mormon claims, their ancestors migrated from Asia some 7,000 and 50,000 years ago.

These populations got to North America across the 50-mile gap in the Bering Strait between the Chukotka Peninsula in Russia and the Seward Peninsula in the  U.S. state of Alaska. This 50-mile aperture was almost certainly closed in the day.

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Comment No. 2

“The Church quietly made yet another change to the Book of Mormon, in 2006 shortly after the irrefutable DNA results were first published by the scientific community.

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS PROPAGANDA AND/OR SPIN – THE AUTHOR, OR THE AUTHOR’S SOURCE, IS PROVIDING INFORMATION OR IDEAS IN A SLANTED WAY to INSTILL A PARTICULAR ATTITUDE OR RESPONSE IN THE READER

How can one claim that the Church “quietly” changed the introduction to the Book of Mormon when they published news of the change in the Church-owned newspaper, the Deseret News in 2007? From the Deseret News, 8 Nov. 2007:”

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

FairMormon also takes umbrage with my statement that, “The Church quietly made yet another change to the Book of Mormon in 2006 shortly after the irrefutable DNA results were first published by the scientific community.” They assert:

To refute my comment, FairMormon tells us that “they published news of the change in the Church-owned newspaper, the Deseret News in 2007?” referring to an article by Carrie Moore entitled, “DNA claims rebutted on Book of Mormon.”

Is the “they” referred to here the First Presidency of the Church?

Am I correct in assuming that this “one-word” change was not announced officially by the First Presidency other than in this Deseret News article that “they,” instructed (or directed or allowed) Ms. Moore, to write?

If I am mistaken, I would challenge FairMormon share with me the official pronouncement.

Yes, quietly is a relative term.

According to the LDS Church’s statistical report tabled by F. Michael Wilson at the 2006 General Conference the membership of the Church was 12,868,606 persons.

The circulation of the Deseret News as advertised in their ‘2015 Media Kit’ is 84,891 (In-State: 34,838 Out-of-State: 50,053). I do not have the circulation numbers for 2006, but it would be reasonable to assume it was probably less than 2015.

Does the publication of an article in a periodical with a very limited circulation, (6/10 of 1% of the Church’s membership) represent a ‘quiet’ announcement?

I will let the reader decide.

But, let me be generous and give FairMormon a ‘C’

yelloww
On the next page, I will examine Alma’s assertion that there was no death of any kind upon the earth before the ‘Fall of Adam.’

I welcome your questions and comments:
https://lettertoanapostle.org/contact/

 

5. How do you explain the large volume of material in the Book of Mormon lifted directly from the Bible, and the presence of numerous errors found in the Book of Mormon unique to the 1769 King James edition of the Bible, which we now know Joseph owned?

What is Plagiarism?

“No success in public life can compensate for failure in the home.”
– Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, 1804 – 1881

“No other success in life can compensate for failure in the home.”
– David O. McKay, President of the LDS Church, 1873 -1970

That is plagiarism!

How is it that some verbatim sections of the New Testament appear in the Book of Mormon at a date reported to be some eighty years before the birth of the Savior?

On average one of every nine chapters in the Book of Mormon is copied from the Bible!

Another significant criticism of the Book of Mormon is that material was taken from other sources available to Joseph Smith. I will discuss the View of the Hebrews and the Late War Between the United States and Great Britain, The First Book of Napoleon and other sources later, but first, let’s examine the vast amount of text from the Old, and New Testaments found in the Book of Mormon.

Twenty-seven chapters in the KJV of the Bible are repeated almost verbatim in the 239 chapters of the Book of Mormon.

Twenty-seven out of 239 or 11.3% taken from the Bible.

Over 27,000 words – hundreds of verses are copied directly from the King James version of the Bible. Let me repeat that, hundreds of verses copied verbatim.

Let me put that in a Mormon perspective. Danielle B. Wagner of The New York Times researched which television programs Mormon’s liked best. She found that overwhelmingly they liked fantasy and sci-fi programs, at least at a much higher level than the general American population.

Who’d have guessed it!

Their top eight favorites programs are:

• Wipeout
• American’s Funniest Home Videos
• So, You Think You Can Dance
• Vampire Diaries
• Ridiculousness
• Mythbusters
• Supernatural
• Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factor

Her map below shows just how the popularity of these programs is centered on Utah and Idaho.

ahv.jpg

Plagiarizing 11.3% of the BOM from the Bible is like lifting 2 of the 13 episodes of your beloved Vampire Diaries from Twilight! The table below details the passages copied from the Bible:1

passages

Another damning criticism of the Book of Mormon is that many King James Bible translational errors contained within it, specifically the 1769 version the Joseph Smith or his family owned.

For example, in 2 Nephi 15:25 (which is the same as Isaiah 5:25). The correct translation of the Hebrew “cuwchah” is “filth,” not “torn,” as found in the Book of Mormon. Also in 2 Nephi 14:5, which again is the same as Isaiah 4:5, the word “Chuppah” is translated as “defense,” not the correct translation from the Hebrew of “canopy.”

The Book of Mormon sounds ‘Biblical’ not only because like the Late War Between the United States and Great Britain (a likely Smith reference) it was written in King James’ Elizabethan English.

There are cases where entire passages are lifted from the Bible. Sometimes the quotation is explicit, as in Second Nephi, which contains 18 chapters quoted from the Book of Isaiah, at other times it is a passage here and a passage there.

The bigger question is how could the Book of Mormon contain anything from the King James version of the Bible?

The story goes that Moroni buried the gold plates in 421 A.D. The King James Bible came out 1,190 years later. Ergo, the Book of Mormon could not be based on plates buried in 421 A.D. since it contains translation errors that didn’t occur until 1,190 years later; not to mention that the language of the King James Bible was not the language of 421 A.D. or 1830 America.

Another significant concern is that italicized words from the King James version of the Bible also appear in the Book of Mormon. The italicized words in the King James version of the Holy Bible were not in the original Greek text but added by the translators to give greater clarity of thought as word meanings, and idioms change. This is necessary when translating from one language to another, Smith it would seem was ignorant of this.

The italicized words in the King James Bible are words added by the King James translators to help the reader, however, to make sure that everyone understood that these words were not in the available manuscripts they set them in italics.

A couple of examples:

Isaiah 9:1 (KJV) Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

2 Nephi 19:1 Nevertheless, the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at first, he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict by way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations.

Malachi 3:10 (KJV) … and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

3 Nephi 24:10 . . . and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Does this not show that Joseph Smith (or Oliver Cowdery) merely copied the passages from his Bible to the Book of Mormon?

The King James version was completed in 1611 AD, and the Book of Mormon published in 1830.

Is this not indisputable proof that the Book of Mormon was written after 1611 and not twelve centuries before?

Curt van den Heuvel, contributed to this discussion by highlighting the large number of words that appear in the King James context alone, implying that these words are the result of biblical quotations, and are not a coincidental part of the author’s vocabulary.

“A few examples – the word ‘manifestation’ (or its plural) is used in I Corinthians 12:7, in the phrase ‘…the manifestation of the Spirit…’. This verse (and some surrounding verses) is quoted in Moroni 10:8. This, in itself, is not an anachronistic quote, since Moroni lived long after the establishment of the New Testament canon (although it is a little unclear how this New Testament quotes managed to cross the continental divide.) However, we find that every time the word ‘manifestation’ is used in the Book of Mormon, regardless of context, author or time, it appears in the phrase ‘manifestation of the Spirit’. This can hardly be ascribed to coincidence.

As another example, the word ‘bitterness’ appears in Acts 8:23, in the phrase ‘…the gall of bitterness, and in the ‘bond of iniquity.’ We find that every time the word ‘bitterness’ is used in the Book of Mormon, it appears in the phrase ‘gall of bitterness’, again regardless of context or author. (Even more significant, the word, in all but one instance, also occurs with the phrase ‘bonds of iniquity’.) A final example: every time the word ‘intents’ is used in the Book of Mormon, it appears in the phrase ‘thoughts and intents of the heart’, as in Hebrews 4:12.” 2

Listed below is a small sampling of the numerous times Smith (or Cowdery or Rigdon) ‘copied’ from the King James Version of the Bible to the Book of Mormon, as shown in ‘The Skeptics Annotated Book of Mormon’ to show just how extensive the plagiarism is:

1 Nephi
The mysteries of God –1 Corinthians 4:1 1:1, 2:16

Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! -Revelation 15:3 1:14

Being grieved for the hardness of their hearts –Mark 3:5 2:18, 7:8, 15:4

To stir you up by putting you in remembrance –2 Peter 1:13 2:24

Behold, I dreamed a dream –Judges 7:13 3:2

Spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began — Acts 3:21 3:20

It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. –John 11:50 4:13

Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath… –Acts 12:11 5:8

All nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues –Revelation 14:6 5:18, 11:36, 14:11, 19:17, 22:28

They are not of the world. –John 17:14 6:5

I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord. –John 1:23 10:8

There standeth one among you, whom ye know not … whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.John 1:26-27 10:8

One mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose. –Luke 3:16 10:8

In Bethabara beyond Jordan –John 1:28 10:9

The entire list of 769 examples of unattributed copying from the Old and New Testaments can be found at The Skeptics Annotated Book of Mormon.3

http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/bom

Why does the Church not concede that Joseph or his scribe (Oliver Cowdery) copied large amounts of material from the Bible?

After all, this in itself is not terribly damaging. It is reasonable that when Joseph could see that the words of Isaiah were coming up passage after passage, he sped things along by just reading from his Bible to his scribe.

The apologists could even argue Smith was inspired to do so.

I believe the reason this concession is not forthcoming is that the Church realizes that this admission opens the door to Joseph’s use of other resource materials behind the curtain; – The Late War, View of the Hebrews, and so on. They just can’t afford to go down that rabbit hole.

Coincidentally, new evidence shows that Smith was also guilty of plagiarism when he was creating his ‘Inspired Version of the Bible.” Two students at BYU, Haley Wilson, and Thomas Wayment in a paper they produced in March of 2017 claim to have, ‘uncovered evidence that Smith and his associates used a readily available Bible commentary while compiling a new Bible translation, or more properly a revision of the King James Bible. The commentary, Adam Clarke’s famous Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, was a mainstay for Methodist theologians and biblical scholars alike, and was one of the most widely available commentaries in the mid-1820s and 1830s in America.”

Wilson and Wayment suggest that “the number of direct parallels between Smith’s translation and Adam Clarke’s biblical commentary is simply too numerous and explicit to posit happenstance or coincidental overlap. The parallels between the two texts number into the hundreds…” They go on to say, “A few of them, however, show Smith’s open reliance upon Clarke and establish that he was inclined to lean on Clarke’s commentary for matters of history, textual questions, clarification of wording, and theological nuance.”

While admitting that their research is not intended to be exhaustive, they share the following:  Among the more compelling examples are two that witness the omission of entire biblical verses or the rearrangement of parts of biblical verses. In Colossians 2:20–22, Smith rearranges the KJV order so that a portion of verse 22 (“which are after the doctrines and commandments of men”) is appended directly to the end of verse 20, a verse which ends with a comma in the KJV. This change appears to directly reflect Adam Clarke’s statement regarding it, “After the commandments and doctrines of men? These words should follow the 20th verse, of which they form a part; and it appears from them that the apostle is here speaking of the tradition of the elders.”4 The change does little to smooth out the flow of the English translation and does nothing to change the meaning, but it can be no mere coincidence that the two sources relocate a portion of the verse in precisely the same way by adding a part of one verse to another verse earlier in the same passage.

They conclude their short paper by stating, “One of the larger questions raised by this study is whether this new information would alter the reception of Smith’s translation as a canonical or nearly canonical text.” 

Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment,
A Recently Recovered Source:
Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,
BYU Journal of Undergraduate Research, March 16, 2017 

There are also many examples of ‘Literary Fatigue’ in the Book of Mormon, another indicator of plagiarism, witnessed when one author is heavily dependent on another. It is evidenced by small errors of detail and continuity, resulting from the plagiarizing author’s omission of structural details while modifying the source document.

Curt van den Heuvel gives us a few examples in the Bible where we can observe this phenomenon in practice: 6

The story of the healing of the paralytic in Luke 5. The gospel records that there were so many people in the house, that the friends of the patient were forced to let him down through the roof.

Luke 5:19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. The problem is that Luke has failed to mention that Jesus is in a house.

Luke 5:17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.

What has happened here is that the author of Luke, in using Mark 2 for his source, has forgotten that he did not set the story in a house, creating a minor aberration in the flow of the narrative when he finds that he has need of a housetop.

In the case of Luke, there was no attempt to mislead or deceive as we might attribute to Joseph Smith.

Alma 18 and 19 contains a story which is very similar to the resurrection of Lazarus as recorded in John 11. The most obvious difference is the fact that whereas Lazarus had died, and had been dead for some time, King Lamoni was in a deep sleep.  Strangely enough, however, after informing his wife that the King is simply asleep, the prophet Ammon goes on to claim that he “…shall rise again” (19:8). This seems a rather curious phrase to use of someone who was merely asleep, especially when we consider that both times the phrase is used elsewhere in the Book of Mormon (Alma 33:22 and Helaman 14:20), it refers to a resurrection from the dead.

Could it be that in copying his source (the gospel of John), Smith used a phrase that made sense in John’s narrative (“…Thy brother shall rise again…” in John 11:23), but not in the Book of Mormon story?

A second example concerns the parable of the Vineyard, as recorded in Jacob 5. This is a long parable which casts the nation Israel in the metaphorical role of an Olive tree in a vineyard.

Jacob 5:3 For behold, thus saith the Lord, I will liken thee, O house of Israel, like unto a tame olive-tree, which a man took and nourished in his vineyard; and it grew, and waxed old, and began to decay.”

The parable appears to be drawn from two biblical sources – the Song of the Vineyard in Isaiah 5, and Paul’s discussion of the relation of the Gentiles to the Jews in Romans 11. The problem for the author of the Book of Mormon is that Isaiah and Paul used slightly different metaphors – Isaiah that of a vineyard, and Paul an Olive tree. It is thus quite significant that halfway through the parable, Zenos appears to forget that he is using an Olive tree as his metaphor and begins to use the whole vineyard as his focus.

Jacob 5:41 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard wept and said unto the servant: What could I have done more for my vineyard?

Significantly, the break appears at the same point that the Book of Mormon quotes a passage from Isaiah:

Isaiah 5:4 What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

From this point on, the prophet Zenos refers exclusively to the “fruit of the vineyard”, apparently forgetting that vineyards yield grapes, not olives.” 7

References

1 Source: Robert M. Bowman, Jr., The Book of Mormon and the Bible, March 2012

2 https://infidels.org/library/moder n/curt heuvel/bom_kjv.html

3 http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/bom/plag/

4 John W. Welch, “The Miraculous Translation of the Book of Mormon,” from Opening the Heavens, Accounts of Divine Manifestations 1820-1844, p.77-213, (2005), Brigham Young University.

5 Elden J. Watson, Approximate Book of Mormon Translation Timeline, April 1995

6 Curt van den Heuvel, The Bible in the Book of Mormon (1999) Introduction.

7 Ibid.

FairMormon’s Comment on the Issue of Plagiarism

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM IS BASED UPON (sic) CORRECT INFORMATION – THE AUTHOR IS PROVIDING KNOWLEDGE CONCERNING SOME PARTICULAR FACT, SUBJECT, OR EVENT

FairMormon’s has proposed:

“Some of the Book of Mormon Isaiah passages match the version of Isaiah found in the Bible of the time. However, not all of them do.”

FairMormon also states:

“We do not know the specific mechanism by which the biblical passages were included in the translation. Therefore we cannot answer this question based upon (sic) current historical information. The only description of the translation process that Joseph Smith ever gave was that it was performed by the “gift and power of God,” and that the translation was performed using the “Urim and Thummim.”

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

I interpret FairMormon’s response here as saying; we don’t know why King James Bible Version errors would appear in the Book of Mormon because no one reports Joseph using it or source materials while he translated.

This is a very weak argument. I acknowledge all the quotes FairMormon includes from witnesses to the translation, showing that Joseph had his head in his hat and behind a curtain during the translation.

The apologists use the following statement by Emma Smith as ‘proof’ that her husband couldn’t have possibly copied from a Bible:

“I know Mormonism to be the truth, and believe the church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it. In writing for [Joseph] I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he is sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.”

Q: Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read, or dictated to you?
A: He had neither manuscript or book to read from.

Q: Could he not have had, and you not know it?
A: If he had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.”

Yes, Emma tells us she never saw her husband referencing anything, and I believe her.

But let’s get serious. That Emma did not see Joseph referencing notes or the Bible doesn’t mean he didn’t use these aids.

If Joseph was wily enough to engage in dozens of sub-rosa sexual liaisons, ‘illegal marriages’ for goodness sake, without Emma having a clue, surely it makes his ability to hide his crib notes or the Bible and other materials seem like child’s play.

We know that Emma did not act as scribe for most of the translation and certain not when 2 Nephi, the portion containing many of the plagiarized chapters from Isaiah were being ‘translated.’ Emma’s involvement was limited. She and her brother Reuben Hale acted as scribes between December 1827 and February 1828.4

Most of the plagiarism of Isaiah occurred in 2 Nephi:

BIBLE BOOK OF MORMON

Isaiah 2           2 Nephi 12
Isaiah 3           2 Nephi 13|
Isaiah 4           2 Nephi 14
Isaiah 5           2 Nephi 15
Isaiah 6           2 Nephi 1
Isaiah 7           2 Nephi 17
Isaiah 8           2 Nephi 18
Isaiah 9           2 Nephi 19
Isaiah 10         2 Nephi 20
Isaiah 11         2 Nephi 21
Isaiah 12         2 Nephi 22
Isaiah 13         2 Nephi 23
Isaiah 14         2 Nephi 24
Isaiah 48         1 Nephi 20
Isaiah 49         1 Nephi 21
Isaiah 50         2 Nephi 7
Isaiah 51         2 Nephi 8
Isaiah 52         3 Nephi 20
Isaiah 53         Mosiah 14
Isaiah 54         3 Nephi 22

We also know that 2 Nephi was written last – between June 12th and June 21st, 1829.

Elden J. Watson, Approximate Book of Mormon
Translation Timeline, April 1995

Oliver Cowdery was the exclusive scribe during the plagiarism of all of the chapters of Isaiah. As this quote by Royal Skousen shows, Oliver was also the principal scribe for the production of the Printers Manuscript (P):

“The other manuscript, the printer’s manuscript (P), is virtually intact. Only three lines of its text, from the first leaf of the manuscript, have been worn away. This manuscript is owned by the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Oliver Cowdery is the main scribe for P: “5

Oliver Cowdery 84,6 percent

Scribe 2 of P. 14.9 percent

Hyrum Smith. 0.5 percent

We do not know which portion of the Book of Mormon was translated behind the curtain. It is far from inconceivable to believe Joseph may have secreted a copy of the Bible and other reference materials into his hat or to his side of the curtain which separates him from his scribes.

I think we also need to ask, why the use of a curtain? It is not that Joseph was referencing the ‘gold plates.’

We know from numerous sources that Joseph translated through a stone in his hat. We are also told that the Gold Plates were not used directly in the translation process and indeed were often not even present.

Also, if fraud was at play, Oliver Cowdery, the principal scribe may have been in on it.

That said, why then was a physical separation from the scribe necessary other than to provide an opportunity for Smith to refer to other materials.

FairMormon’s attempts to justify Smith’s extensive Bible plagiarism by stating that, “New Testament writers quoted hundreds of Old Testament scriptures including 76 verses from Isaiah.”

That is true, the Savior Himself often quoted the Old Testament Prophets, but I see this as somewhat different, the Lord let us know when he was quoting the Prophets and where it came from:

Mark 12:26

And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?

Mark 10:19

You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’

Mark 7:10

“For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.”

Matthew 5:21

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, you shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.”

Matthew 5:38

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Luke 19:46

“… saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

Luke 4:8

“And Jesus answered him, It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and he only shall you serve.”

Can you see the difference?

In the case of the Book of Mormon, we have large tracts of material copied almost verbatim with no citations or attributions.

But again, I think this distracts us from the bigger question, which bears repeating; how could the Book of Mormon contain anything from the King James Version of the Holy Bible?

Moroni supposedly buried the gold plates in 421A.D. The King James Bible came out 1,190 years later.

Regarding the King James Version errors appearing in the Book of Mormon, it seems there can only be two explanations:

Joseph Smith or someone else in 1829 took passages from the Bible, errors and all and copied them into the Book of Mormon, or;

God for reasons best known to Himself put the unique 1769 KJV edition errors as well as the translator’s italic clarifications into the ‘most correct book on earth.’

The second conclusion is absurd, but the first is quite damning.

First, because so much has been made of the fact that Joseph did not use reference materials to aid in his translation.

And, second, the method of translation, or more accurately transcription, according to Smith himself saw him reading aloud words or sentences appearing on the magic rock in his hat which his scribe would then record.

We know from numerous sources that Joseph translated through a stone in his hat. We are also told that the Gold Plates were not used directly in the transcription and were often not even present. That said, why then was a physical separation from the scribe necessary other than to provide an opportunity to refer to reference material?

It is also worth noting that FairMormon failed to address the significant problem of the copying of the italicized words from the King James version of the Bible into the Book of Mormon. I think this is important and certainly worthy of comment.

Next, How does Smith’s extensive ‘rap-sheet’ including his arrest, trial and likely conviction for money digging, treason, attempted murder and bank fraud comport with being a supposed prophet of God?

I welcome your comments:
https://lettertoanapostle.org/contact/

 

6. Does Smith’s extensive ‘rap-sheet’ including his arrest, trial and likely conviction for money digging, treason, attempted murder and bank fraud comport with being a prophet of God?

Thinking man Shadow Under Jail Bars. Concrete Wall.

STATE OF NEW YORK VS JOSEPH SMITH

“Warrant issued upon written complaint upon oath of Peter G. Bridgeman, who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person and an imposter.”

Prisoner brought before Court March 20, 1826.

Prisoner examined: says that he came from the town of Palmyra and had been at the house of Josiah Stowel in Bainbridge most of time since; had small part of time been employed by said Stowel on his farm and going to school. That he had a certain stone which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were; that he professed to tell in this manner where gold mines were a distance underground, and had looked for Mr. Stowel several times, and had informed him where he could find these treasures, and Mr. Stowel had been engaged in digging for them. That at Palmyra he pretended to tell by looking at this stone where coined money was buried in Pennsylvania, and while at Palmyra had frequently ascertained in that way where lost property was of various kinds; that he had occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for three years, but of late had pretty much given it up on account of its injuring his health.”

Copy of fees below:

bill

The court record shows that Joseph Smith was involved in magic practices at the same time he was preparing himself to receive the plates for the Book of Mormon.

It is interesting to note that in the court record Joseph Smith confessed that “for three years” before 1826 he had used a stone placed in his hat to find treasures or lost property.

This means that in 1823, three years after he claims an angelic visitation and the same year he says he found the gold plates (September 22, 1823) he was still engaged in treasure hunting.

Before this discovery, LDS historian Francis W. Kirkham, couldn’t bring himself to believe that Smith was an other dishonorable con man. That he cheated people out of their money with assurances that he would find buried treasure using a peep stone in a hat.

Kirkham wrote, “If such a court record confession could be identified and proved, then it follows that his believers must deny his claimed divine guidance which led them to follow him…. How could he be a prophet of God, the leader of the Restored Church to these tens of thousands, if he had been the superstitious fraud which ‘the pages from a book’ declared he confessed to being?”

A New Witness for Christ in America,
vol. 1, pp. 3, 85‐87 and pp. 486‐87

nibley

The late Hugh Nibley, perhaps the most prominent Mormon apologist ever stated, “…if this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith.” 

If the court record could be established it would be “the most devastating blow to Smith ever delivered.”12

Well, Hugh, it was, and it is!

FairMormon suggests the proceedings did not constitute a trial, but rather more of a “preliminary hearing” where the accused is bound over for trial at a later date, and this may very well be the case.

This is why I said, ‘likely convicted,’ because the jury is still out. Although I am not sure it matters.

The LDS Church has not been forthcoming with the publication of a full and truthful history of this event. Their records would make the assessment more certain. Perhaps another example of Boyd Packer’s aphorism that, “some truths are not very useful.”

There is evidence that Justice Neely found Joseph Smith “guilty” of being a “disorderly person,” and that the judge could have immediately sentenced him to “sixty days” in the “Bridewell House of Correction, at hard labor,” but instead he bound him over to be tried by three justices at a later date.13

It may well be that Smith then left the jurisdiction, which was probably fine with the court, as the scoundrel was gone.

We have the following:

“And therefore, the Court finds the Defendant guilty. Costs: Warrant, l9c. Complaint upon oath, 251/2 c. Seven witnesses, 871/2 c. Recognizances, 25 c. Mittimus, 19 c. Recognizances of witnesses, 75 c. Subpoena, 18 c.—$2.68.”14

Further, On March 8, 1842, Justice Joel K. Noble, who acquitted Joseph Smith of some charges brought against him in 1830, wrote a letter in which he spoke of Joseph Smith’s “first trial” — i.e., the case before Justice Neely. According to Justice Noble, Smith “was condemned” at that time.

The seven known witnesses to the trial stated:

  • Benton: tried and condemned … designedly allowed to escape
  • Cowdery: honorably acquitted
  • Noble: was condemned, took leg bail (escaped)
  • Marshall: guilty?
  • Tuttle: guilty?
  • Purple: discharged
  • Constable De Zeng: not a trial

I am not sure it matters, my best guess is there is about a 50/50 chance that there was some sanction. I feel that because of his age he was told to, “get out of town and don’t come back.”

Regarding Joseph Smith’s ‘money digging.’ There are only three explanations:

  1. God gave Joseph Smith the power to see treasures in his stone.
  2. Smith had a vivid imagination and the ability to convince other people and perhaps himself that he saw real treasure in his stone.
  3. Smith deliberately sought to mislead and defraud others.

Historians employed by the LDS Church have been excommunicated, but more commonly threatened with sanctions if they publish an objective history rather than a faith promoting rendition. Packer goes so far as to refer to objective histories of Mormonism as “disease germs.”4

Regarding Joseph’s efficacy in finding “buried treasure,” and Smith’s claim he could see anything when looking at the peep stone in his hat is contradicted by his statement to his father-in-law Isaac Hale as evidenced by the sworn statement of Peter Ingersoll, replicated below:

“In the month of August 1827, I was hired by Joseph Smith, Jr. to go to Pennsylvania, to move his wife’s household furniture up to Manchester, where his wife then was. When we arrived at Mr. Hale’s, in Harmony, PA from which place he had taken his wife, a scene presented itself, truly affecting. His father-in-law (Mr. Hale) addressed Joseph, in a flood of tears: “You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time in digging for money — pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people.” Joseph wept, and acknowledged he could not see in a stone now, nor never could; and that his former pretensions in that respect, were all false.”

“He then promised to give up his old habits of digging for money and looking into magic stones. Mr. Hale told Joseph, if he would move to Pennsylvania and work for a living, he would assist him in getting into business. Joseph acceded to this proposition. I then returned with Joseph and his wife to Manchester.

One circumstance occurred on the road, worthy of notice, and I believe this is the only instance where Jo ever exhibited true Yankee wit. On our journey to Pennsylvania, we could not make the exact change at the toll gate near Ithaca. Joseph told the gate tender that he would “hand” him the toll on his return, as he was coming back in a few days. On our return, Joseph tendered to him 25 cents, the toll being 12 1/2. He did not recognize Smith, so he accordingly gave him back the 12 1/2 c. After we had passed the gate, I asked him if he did not agree to pay double gateage on our return? “No,” said he, “I agreed to hand it to him, and I did, but he handed it back again.”

“Joseph told me on his return that he intended to keep the promise which he had made to his father-in-law; “but,” said he, “it will be hard for me, for they will all oppose, as they want me to look in the stone for them to dig money.” And in fact, it was as he predicted. They urged him, day after day, to resume his old practice of looking in the stone. — He seemed much perplexed as to the course he should pursue. In this dilemma, he made me his confident (sic) and told me what daily transpired in the family of Smiths. One day he came and greeted me with a joyful countenance. — Upon asking the cause of his unusual happiness, he replied in the following language: “As I was passing, yesterday, across the woods, after a heavy shower of rain, I found, in a hollow, some beautiful white sand, that had been washed up by the water. I took off my frock, and tied up several quarts of it, and then went home.

On my entering the house, I found the family at the table eating dinner. They were all anxious to know the contents of my frock. At that moment, I happened to think of what I had heard about a history found in Canada, called the golden Bible; so I very gravely told them it was the golden Bible.

To my surprise, they were credulous enough to believe what I said. Accordingly, I told them that I had received a commandment to let no one see it, for, says I, no man can see it with the naked eye and live. However, I offered to take out the book and show it to them, but they refused to see it, and left the room.”

“Now, said Jo, ‘I have got the d[amne]d fools fixed, and will carry out the fun.’ Notwithstanding, he told me he had no such book, and believed there never was any such book, yet, he told me that he went to Willard Chase, to get him to make a chest, in which he might deposit his golden Bible. But, as Chase would not do it, he made a box himself, of clapboards, and put it into a pillowcase, and allowed people only to lift it, and feel of it through the case.

In the fall of 1827, Joseph wanted to go to Pennsylvania. His brother-in-law had come to assist him in moving, but he was out of money. He wished to borrow the money of me, and he presented Mr. Hale as security. I told him in case he could obtain assistance from no other source, I would let him have some money. Joseph then went to Palmyra; and, said he, “I there met that d[am]n fool, Martin Harris, and told him that I had a command to ask the first honest man I met with, for fifty dollars in money, and he would let me have it. I saw at once,” said Joe, “that it took his notion, for he promptly gave me the fifty.”

Joseph thought this sum was sufficient to bear his expenses to Pennsylvania. So, he immediately started off, and since that time I have not been much in his society. While the Smiths were living at Waterloo, William visited my neighborhood, and upon my inquiry how they came on, he replied, “we do better there than here; we were too well known here to do much.” 5

I certify, that on this 9th day of December 1833, personally appeared before me the above-named Peter Ingersoll, to me known, and made oath, according to law, to the truth of the above statement. 6

Joseph’s ‘rap sheet’ below comes from an article by Diane Tingen in Mormonism Schism.

1830 – New York

Smith reportedly, performed an exorcism in Colesville and was again tried as a disorderly person. He was acquitted. The account of the exorcism is in this article about the Knight family can be found on LDS.org. The article on LDS.org which also discussed the trial has been removed by the Church.

1837 – Kirtland, Ohio

In May 1837, Grandison Newell accused Joseph Smith of plotting to murder him. Joseph was eventually acquitted. Did he intend to have Newell killed? We don’t know, but the testimony of church leaders and employees revealed just how seriously the Prophet’s followers took his supposed off-hand remarks.

In either case, statements by two apostles and other close associates no doubt undermined Joseph Smith’s reputation. Wilbur Denton and Sidney Rigdon both testified that the alleged conspiracy took place in April or May of 1835. Orson Hyde testified that when rumors began circulating that Newell might sue the floundering Kirtland Safety Society, Joseph Smith “seemed much excited and declared that Newell should be put out of the way, or where the crows could not find him,” and he said that “destroying Newell would be justifiable in the slight of God, that it was the will of God, etc.”

1838 – Kirtland, Ohio

After a warrant was issued for Smith’s arrest on a charge of banking fraud, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon fled Kirtland for Missouri under cover of nightfall on January 12th, 1838. This incident had to do with the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company, and with charges of fraud and illegal banking, including the illegal purchase of Monroe Bank in Michigan by Smith and Rigdon. Oliver Cowdery was named the Monroe bank’s Vice-President which saw him move to Michigan to run that bank.

1838 – Missouri

On November 1, 1838, the Mormons surrendered to 2,500 state troops and agreed to forfeit their property and leave the state. Joseph Smith was court-martialed and nearly executed for treason, but militiaman Alexander Doniphan, who was also Joseph Smith’s attorney, probably saved Joseph’s life by insisting that he was a civilian.

Smith was then sent to a state court for a preliminary hearing, where several of his former allies, including Danite commander Sampson Avard, turned state’s evidence against him. Joseph Smith and five others, including Sidney Rigdon, were charged with “overt acts of treason,” and transferred to the jail at Liberty, Missouri to await trial.

In 1839, Smith tried to escape at least twice during his four-month imprisonment. On April 6, 1839, on their way to a different jail after their grand jury hearing, he finally escaped after bribing the sheriff.

As was his custom Joseph Smith, and the Mormons fled the state, this time moving to Illinois.

Banking Fraud

The Kirtland Bank was created in the State of Ohio by Joseph Smith who named himself Cashier and Sidney Rigdon as President. However, because the venture was under-funded, a Banking Charter was refused.

Not to be deterred, Joseph and Sidney declared it an “Anti-Bank,” and depositors were lured in because Smith told his followers that as a Prophet of God, the Bank could never fail.

Warren Parrish, who had been an officer in the bank and had apostatized from the Church, made this statement:

“I have listened to him [i.e., Smith] with feelings of no ordinary kind, when he declared that the AUDIBLE VOICE OF GOD, INSTRUCTED HIM TO ESTABLISH A BANKING-ANTI BANKING INSTITUTION, who like Aaron’s rod SHALL SWALLOW UP ALL OTHER BANKS (the Bank of Monroe excepted,) and grow and flourish and spread from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and survive when all others should be laid in ruins.” 7

However, problems arose when merchants and businessmen began to redeem the ‘anti-banks’ notes. Joseph knew the Bank did not have enough cash to cover the paper and that an old-fashioned, “Bank Run” would ruin the bank. Smith and Rigdon quickly resigned as officers and the bank did in fact fail.

“If the bank needed a final blow to shatter what little prestige it still held among the faithful, it received it when Warren Parrish resigned as cashier, left the church, and began openly to describe the banking methods of the prophet. Parrish was later accused of absconding with $25,000, [$500,000 today] but if he took the sum it must have been in WORTHLESS BANK NOTES since that amount of specie in the vaults would have saved the bank”, 8

Joseph Smith’s delusions resulted in many faithful Mormons losing their life savings and their faith. Many people, who were given worthless bank notes in exchange for gold and silver deposits, convinced that Joseph had intended to swindle them from the outset, attacked him verbally and threatened him physically. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon fled Kirtland under the cloak of darkness January 1838 to escape bank depositors.

“The toppling of the Kirtland bank loosed a hornets’ nest. Creditors swarmed in upon Joseph armed with threats and warrants. He was terribly in debt. There is no way of knowing exactly how much he and his leading elders had ‘borrowed’ since the loyal Mormons left no itemized account of their claims. But the local non-Mormon creditors whom he could not repay brought a series of suits against the prophet which the Geauga county court duly recorded. These records tell a story of trouble that would have demolished the prestige and broken the spirit of a lesser man.

Thirteen suits were brought against him between June 1837 and April 1839, to collect sums totaling nearly $25,000. The damages asked amounted to almost $35,000. He was arrested seven times in four months, and his followers managed heroically to raise the $38,428 required for bail. Of the thirteen suits, only six were settled out of court foabout $12,000 out of the $25,000. In the other seven, the creditors either were awarded damages or won them by default.

Joseph had many additional debts that never resulted in court action. Some years later he compiled a list of still outstanding Kirtland loans, which amounted to more than $33,000. If one adds to these the two great loans of $30,000 and $60,000 borrowed in New York and Buffalo in 1836, it would seem that the Mormon leaders owed to non-Mormon individuals and firms well over $150,000.” 9

Joseph Smith had fraudulently “capitalized his ‘Mormon bank‘ at $4 million. A huge sum of capital, when at the time, in the entire state of Ohio, the total capitalization of all banks was $9 1/3 million. Setting himself and those who trusted him up for failure.

To illustrate the extent of Smith’s dishonesty,  casual observers wanting to see the Mormon banks assets, inside of the vault were shown many boxes “filled” with gold and silver coin. However, the boxes were first filled with sand, and then a thin layer of coin laid on top.

This is fraud, not just mismanagement.

“Lining the shelves of the bank vault… were many boxes, each marked $1,000. Actually, these boxes were filled with ‘sand, lead, old iron, stone, and combustibles’ but each had a top layer of bright fifty cent silver coins.” 10

Joseph and Sidney Rigdon were tried in court for violating the law, were found guilty and fined $1,000, a huge penalty in those days.

As with many of Smith’s misadventures, this illegal bank began with Joseph Smith receiving a revelation from GOD himself. Wilford Woodruff, who later became the fourth President of the LDS church, confirmed that Joseph claimed to have had a revelation concerning the bank.

“During the summer of 1837, Joseph spent much of his time away from Kirtland to avoid these lawsuits…. Apostles Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, and John F. Boynton were rejected and disfellowshipped. “The blame for the bank failure fell heavily on Joseph. He had issued a formal invitation to his followers to take stock in the venture, and the institution had been organized outside the law. Heber C. Kimball later was to comment that at this moment, ‘there were not twenty persons on earth that would declare that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.’ Six of the apostles came out in open rebellion.

…Joseph first established the bank by revelation and then had to admit later that because of poor management and other internal and external conditions the project was a failure.” 11

FairMormon claims Joseph Smith was never convicted of a crime. Their website quotes Joseph Bentley, a lawyer who worked on the Joseph Smith Papers as saying:

“Joseph Smith was persecuted in courts of law as much as anyone I know. But he was never found guilty of any crime, and his name cannot be tarnished in that way.”

This is, of course, a lie. I just provided one example above of where he Smith was found guilty along with Sidney Rigdon for banking, “irregularities.’ There is absolutely no question that Joseph was arrested, and appeared before Judge Albert Neely.

There was another case where there is even stronger evidence that Joseph was convicted of the crime of assault on August 1, 1843. Smith assaulted Hancock County tax collector Walter Bagby after he called Smith a liar.

An enraged Joseph Smith, according to witnesses,  got out of the buggy in which he was riding, and either struck Bagby multiple times, or attempted to strike or choked him.

William Clayton, one of Joseph Smith’s scribes was present and recorded what happened:

“P.M. went to Temple at four o clock J and Backenstos came up to the Temple. J began to tell me concerning a tax title which Hamilton had on me of the city lots he had got a Sheriffs Deed. J. told me to inquire of Bagby concerning it. While we were talking Bagby came up & J asked him concerning it. he denied all knowledge of it. J. told him that he had always been ready to pay all taxes when called upon & he did not think it good behavior to sell his lots when he was willing to pay the taxes whenever called upon. Bagby said he had done more for J. than for any other man in the County. J. reiterated that he had abused the citizens here and was always doing so. Bagby then told him he was a liar at which J. got out of his Buggy. When Bagby saw him get out he ran to pick up a stone to through at which J. was so enraged that he followed him & struck him two or three times. Esqr. Wells stepped between them & succeeded in getting them apart and J. told him to assess the fine and he was willing to pay it. J. rode down to Whitney’s & got the fine assessed & then returned to the political meeting. Bagby staid a while muttering that J. was a coward &c.”

This event was also recorded, in part, twelve days later in Joseph Smith’s journal which states:

Mr. [Walter] Bagby. of Cartharge [sic]. who has exercised more despotic power over the inhibtants [sics] of this city & than any despot of the Eastern country. I met. he gave me some abusive language took up a stone to throw at me I siezd him by the throat to choke him off.”

The History of the Church recounts the incident, “Bagby called me a liar and picked up a stone to throw at me, which so enraged me that I followed him a few steps, and struck him two or three times. Esquire Daniel H. Wells stepped between us and succeeded in separating us…. I rode down to Alderman Whitney . . . he imposed a fine which I paid.” 12

Joseph Smith had an extensive number of ‘interactions‘ with the criminal justice system. His problems with the law were extensive from his first disorderly person/fraud trial in 1826 to his second arrest for treason and inciting a riot in 1844 in which he died in a gun fight.

Joseph’s ‘Rap Sheet’

March 1826 Disorderly personRAP

June 1830 Disorderly person

June 1830 Disorderly person

February 1837 Illegal banking

June 1837 Conspiracy to Murder

January 1838 Banking fraud

August 10, 1838 Threatening Judge

Nov. 12, 1838 Treason

August 1842 Conspiracy to Murder

June 6, 1843 Treason

May 1844 Perjury

May 1844 Fornication & Adultery

June 11, 1844 Inciting a riot

June 24, 1844 Treason

These are just criminal matters involving Smith, there were also many many civil matters in which he was the defendant.

References

6 Th. P. Baldwin, Judge of Wayne County Court

7 Painesville Republican, February 22, 1838, page 297

8 Fawn M. Brodie No Man Knows My History, page 198

9 Fawn M. Brodie No Man Knows My History, page 198

10 C.G. Webb (W. Wyl, Mormon Portraits, 1886, p 36.

11 Joseph Smith As An Administrator,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, May 1969, pp. 80, 81

12 Hugh Nibley, The Mythmakers p. 142.

13 Joseph Smith’s Bainbridge, N.Y. Court Trials, by Wesley P. Walters, p. 109, reprinted in the Westminster Theological Journal.

14 (Fraser’s Magazine, February 1873, pp. 229-30).

15 From, “Occult to Cult with Joseph Smith, Jr.,” Joseph Smith’s Bainbridge, N.Y. Court Trials, p. 123.

16 Boyd K. Packer, “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect,” 1981, BYU Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 259‐271

17 Affidavit of Wilson Law, June 20, 1844, published in “Letters to Gov. Ford−No. II,” Alton Telegraph & Democratic Review, February 22, 1845, 1

18 Affidavit of John W. Putnam, August 13, 1844, published in “Letters to Gov. Ford−No. IV,” Alton Telegraph & Democratic Review, March 15, 1845.

19 Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1845, 1, 6.

20 Ayatullah Sayyid Imam RuhallaMusawi Khomeini, ‘Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist’, Jan 21, 1970.

21 3 Nephi 20: 15-17, 20

22 3 Nephi 21: 14-15, 18, 21

FairMormon’s Comment No. 12

Joseph Smith’s Money-Digging, Magic, and Criminal Behavior

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS PROPAGANDA and SPIN – THE AUTHOR, OR THE AUTHOR’S SOURCE, IS PROVIDING INFORMATION OR IDEAS IN A SLANTED WAY IN ORDER TO INSTILL A PARTICULAR ATTITUDE OR RESPONSE IN THE READER

The author implies Joseph’s “almost certain conviction” despite the lack of evidence supporting this conclusion.”

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

OK, I made three assertions:

1. That Joseph Smith was a money-digger:

I think FairMormon will stipulate that Smith was engaged in the occupation of ‘money-digger.’ He earned more than fourteen dollars a month from this scam, more than workers on the Erie Canal were paid.

Remember, this took place before Smith’s claim to have found the ‘Gold Plates,’ and his methodology was the same he later employed in the translation of the Book of Mormon – placing a magic rock, he had found while digging a well, in his hat and then putting his head in that hat.

Scrying or money-digging is an inherently dishonest occupation, evidenced by the fact he never found anything. He took money from people lacking the wit to realize that if he had ‘the gift’ to see treasure below the ground, he would be engaged in unearthing the gold and silver for himself rather than being in their employ for a pittance. It is analogous to the modern-day snake-oil salesmen selling their courses on ‘How to become a millionaire by buying real estate with no money down,’ on infomercials in the wee hours of the morning or the professors of the ‘prosperity gospel,’ who ask the poor to give what little they have to receive a greater temporal reward.

John Oliver has provided a video on this predatory practice featuring many Mormon leaders:

http://www.youtube.com//watch?v=tsRUy982Ib

There is compelling evidence that Joseph knew full well that he was engaged in a dishonest pursuit. Peter Ingersoll, a friend, and neighbor of Smith’s in an affidavit swears that Smith admitted privately to him he (Smith) could see nothing.

Peter further describes in sworn testimony, the heart-wrenching reunion of Smith and his father-in-law after eloping with his daughter, Emma:

“I was hired by Joseph Smith Jr. to go to Pennsylvania to move his wife’s household furniture up to Manchester, where his wife was then. When we arrived at Mr. Hale’s place [Isaac Hale, Emma’s father], in Harmony, PA, from which place he had taken his wife.

“His father-in-law (Mr. Hale) addressed Joseph, in a flood of tears: ‘You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time in digging for money–pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people.’

“Joseph wept, and acknowledged he could not see in a stone now, nor ever could, and that his former pretensions in that respect, were all false. He then promised to give up his old habits of digging for money and looking into stones.”

2. Smith was arrested and tried because of the activity.

STATE OF NEW YORK VS JOSEPH SMITH

Warrant issued upon written complaint upon oath of Peter G. Bridgeman,
who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person
and an imposter. The prisoner brought before Court March 20, 1826.

3. He was almost certainly convicted.

As I stated in my letter, Justice Neely used the word “guilty.” Judge Neely could have sentenced him to “sixty days” in the “Bridewell House of Correction, at hard labor,” but instead bound him over to be tried by three justices at a later date.

I agree that this sounds like  what today’s we might call a preliminary hearing. However, the record shows the judge spoke of guilt.

Joseph Smith’s Bainbridge, N.Y. Court Trials,
by Wesley P. Walters, p. 109,
reprinted in the
Westminster Theological Journal.

In my letter I also presented the list of costs:

“And therefore, the Court finds the Defendant guilty. Costs: Warrant, l9c. Complaint upon oath, 251/2 c. Seven witnesses, 871/2 c. Recognizances, 25 c. Mittimus, 19 c. Recognizances of witnesses, 75 c. Subpoena, 18 c.—$2.68.”

Further and perhaps more damning, Justice Noble’s comment that Smith “was condemned,” referencing this trial.

PLEASE NOTE: My interrogative was, ‘Joseph Smith’s Money-Digging, Magic, and Criminal Behavior’ yet FairMormon has ignored the Magic and Occult connection or his extensive ‘Rap Sheet.’

redd


Smith’s Final Arrest for Treason

Joseph Smith was a very ambitious man. Shortly before his death in 1844 he established a theocratic-political system which he called the Council of 50. and on April 11th, 1844 he anointed himself King and Ruler over all the earth with unlimited civil, military and ecclesiastical power.

This body met in Nauvoo seventeen times before he was killed, and at least one of those sub rosa meetings, Smith prophesied the entire overthrow of the United States within a few years.

Smith saw himself as reigning over all of America and eventually the entire world. Like so many things Joseph Smith did it was done covertly and undercover and those who were given knowledge of it or who was promised to become one of the ‘Princes’ were sworn to secrecy under penalty of death.

Wilson Law, the brother of William Law, the former second councilor in the First Presidency and the highest ranking Major General in the Nauvoo Legion, stated that Smith’s intended to:

“Set the laws at defiance; for the Government, he said, was corrupt, and ought to be overthrown, and he would do it, for he could get help plenty from the Indians, for he had communication with them all the time, and they were ready. And deponent further saith that he verily believes that said Joseph Smith is and has been, conspiring with the Indians against this Government, he having agents out among the Indians, passing to and fro ever since last summer; and that a number of Indians have come to Nauvoo, at different times, last winter and spring, and held secret councils with said Smith. And further, that Hyrum Smith, last winter, said to the affiant, that this Government must be changed; for it did not suit them, and they could never keep the revelations or build up the kingdom under the present form of Government.”

Affidavit of Wilson Law, June 20, 1844, published in
“Letters to Gov. Ford−No. II,” Alton Telegraph
& Democratic Review, February 22, 1845, 1

John W. Putnam. Putnam, a resident of Bear Creek, Illinois, a community not far from Nauvoo, stated on August 13, 1844:

“That he saw in the lodge at Nauvoo, a number of arms, and he understood that there were plenty of arms in Nauvoo. He further states that the Mormons are endeavoring to seduce the Indian tribes from their allegiance to the United States, and engage them to take up the hatchet against the people of the United States, and that white men are to lead them on to the conflict.”

He further states that “he has understood that Lyman Wight has already departed [to Texas] to stir up the savages and prepare them for the final struggle with the whites. He also understood that cannon had been received in Nauvoo, sent there in hogsheads of sugar, and also fire arms (sic) and ammunition. He further states … that in conjunction with the Indians [the Mormon plan is] to attack the people and subvert the government and establish Mormonism throughout the United States. He further states that…. the Indians had twice held their Powwows or war dances in Nauvoo.”

Affidavit of John W. Putnam, August 13, 1844,
published in “Letters to Gov. Ford−No. IV,”
Alton
Telegraph & Democratic Review, March 15, 1845.

Smith’s determined goal of a theocratic-political empire is evident in the pretentious Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To all the Kings of the World’ which the Council of the Twelve (who are also all members of the Council of Fifty), addressed: “To all the Kings of the World; To the President of the United States of America; To the Governors of the several States; And to the Rulers and Peoples of all Nations.”

Smith even had the cheek to send a copy of this ‘proclamation’ to Queen Victoria.

The pronouncement warned world leaders: “You cannot…stand as idle and disinterested spectators of the scenes and events which are calculated in their very nature to reduce all nations and creeds to one political and religious standard, and thus put an end to Babel forms and names, and to strife and war.”

Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1845, 1, 6.

Is this not precisely the form of government militant Islam longs for today?

“Islamic government does not correspond to any of the existing forms of government… Islamic government is neither tyrannical nor absolute, but constitutional. It is not constitutional in the current sense of the word… It is constitutional in the sense that the rulers are subject to a certain set of conditions in governing and administering the country, conditions that are set forth in the Noble Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Most Noble Messenger (Imam). It is the laws and ordinances of Islam comprising this set of conditions that must be observed and practiced. Islamic government may therefore be defined as the rule of divine law over men.”

Ayatullah Sayyid Imam Ruhallah Musawi Khomeini,
‘Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist’, Jan 21, 1970.

If you replaced the word Islam with Mormonism and the word Imam for LDS Church President you have Joseph Smith’s un-American dystopian society.

Smith’s goal of world domination echoes the message of the Book of Mormon:

15. And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive after they have scattered my people-

16. Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.

17. Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.

20. And it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles.

3 Nephi 20: 15-17, 20

12 And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.

14 Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;

15 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds;

18 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities.

21 And I will execute vengeance and fury upon them, even as upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.

3 Nephi 21: 14-15, 18, 21

Brigham Young speaking as a member of the Council of the Fifty on March 11th, 1845:

“The gentiles (sic) have rejected the Gospel; they have killed the Prophets and those who have not taken an active part in the murder all rejoice in it, and that is saying that they are willing the blood of the prophets should be shed. The gentiles (sic) have rejected the Gospel [And] we will sweep them out of existence.”

Council of 50 Minutes, 300

Treason has ever been deemed the highest crime which can be committed in civil society and in the past, has been visited with the deepest public resentment and the greatest of penalties – usually death.

Were Smith’s actions treasonous? Black’s Law Dictionary: defines treason as “the offense of attempting to overthrow the state to which one owes allegiance, either by making war against the state or by materially supporting its enemies.”

Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution reads:

“Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted ofTreasonunless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

Had Smith not been killed in the gunfight at Cartage jail, I think it would have been unlikely that he would have been convicted of treason. Treason is a very high bar, ‘levying war against them.’

But the Jig was up for Joseph Smith and his foolish order to destroy the Expositor and call out the Nauvoo Legion was serious stuff. Even more damaging was the public exposure of Smith’s plural marriages which would have been very upsetting to many of the good citizens of his community; especially since teenage girls and married women were among his ‘brides,’

Had he not been killed, I suspect this time he would have spent a considerable amount of time in the penitentiary.

It is perhaps telling that I have been unable to find any apologists having commented on Smith’s accusations of treason.

yelloww

This is the second time that FairMormon has accused me of ‘propaganda.” Sadly the nameless individual penning their apology is ignorant as to what propaganda is.

Therefore on the next page, I will take an aside and not just explain what propaganda is but also provide evidence that the Mormon Church is perhaps the most accomplished practitioner of it since the days of another Joseph named Goebbels.

Next, Propaganda and Undue Influence in the LDS Church

 

Dr. Joseph Goebbels was the Propaganda Minister for Hitler’s Third Reich. An evil genius, he is still goebbelsrecognized today as the master of propaganda largely because his principles on the subject were tested, perfected, and practiced on millions of Germans during the Second World War.

His work as a propagandist largely facilitated Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. From then until his death, one day after Hitler’s, Goebbels used all media and communication and every level of education to further Nazi propagandistic aims. He was successful in instilling in the German people the belief that their leader is a veritable god and that the destiny of the German people is to the rule the world.

The following are the five essential principles that Goebbels’ formulated:

Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda

1. Avoid abstract ideas – appeal to the emotions.

2. Constantly repeat just a few ideas. ‘The Big Lie.’

3. Give only one side of the argument.

4. Continuously criticize your opponents.

5. Pick out one special “enemy” for special vilification.

Let’s examine each of the above relative to my writing as well as the Mormon Church’s raison d’etre:

1. Avoid Abstract Ideas – Appeal to the Emotions.

I would suggest that contrary to FairMormon’s mindless accusation, I have confronted what are often conjectural Mormon claims with specific and concrete facts. I provided the opinions of both Mormon and Non-Mormon archaeologists. I provided specific examples of Biblical archaeological finds. I provided detailed references. To be entirely fair-minded I even discussed the questionable evidence of the ‘Nahom’ stone or alter. I did not make an emotional appeal to the reader.

Let’s examine the Mormon Church’s use of this principle of propaganda.

The Mormon theology is anything but abstract. Its essence can be summed up in a few sentences:

Jesus Christ is the Savior of this world and the Son of God, both of whom were once men.
Christ’s Atonement allows mankind to be saved from their sins and return to live with God and their families forever after they do all they can do to earn their reward.
The Mormon Church is a restoration of Christ’s original Church as described in the New Testament.

Specific ordinances performed in the temple are also essential to salvation.

There is no Nicene or Apostle’s Creed; there is no Catechism, no complicated and detailed Westminster Confession of Faith.

But emotion is at the core of Mormonism. Every convert is given Moroni’s promise, read the book and look for that feeling, that burning in the bosom to confirm that it is not false.

Investigators and new members are the objects of “Love Bombing.” This term, if you are not familiar with it, is where a group consciously and purposely applies friendliness, acceptance, and ego-stroking to win people over to their organization or philosophy. It fits well ‘with every member a missionary’ but lacks sincerity and provides members with another box to check off on their road to Godhood, like doing your home teaching.

Thomas Monson, not realizing the foolishness of what he was saying, liked to tell a story about how when visiting a Latin America ward, he noticed that some members were wearing a white carnation. He asked the Bishop what was the meaning and was told that “We give our investigators and new members, a white carnation so the members will know that these are they that we must fellowship (until the next general conference).”

I wonder how they were treated after the general conference when the members were no longer under any compulsion to give them the time of day?

Joseph Smith and his successors realized that we are emotional beings more than we are rational beings.

Fast and testimony’ meetings are all about giving a free reign to emotion. The carefully crafted touching general conference talks read in somber tones from the teleprompters in an exquisitely controlled subdued environment push all the right emotive buttons.

“Epistemology,” is the way we come to know and understand things. The Bible encourages the believer to use reason along with faith. For instance, Isaiah 1:18 tell us that the Lord invites us to “reason together” with Him. Mormons see reason as almost detriment to true faith. Converts who have doubts are often told that they are having difficulty in accepting Mormonism because they are using “man’s reasoning.”

Faced with compelling evidence assailing the Church’s claims, whether it be the absence of archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon; DNA evidence showing the true origin of the aboriginal peoples of the Americas; or Joseph Smith’s immoral, dishonest and criminal behavior; Mormons will always retreat to their “feelings” that the Church is true.

Anyone who has ever attended a Mormon ‘fast and testimony’ meeting will hear almost every testifier say‘I know the Church is true, I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.’

Little children before they know their alphabet will have their mothers whisper those words in their ears as they stand on their little ‘tip-toes‘ to reach the microphone.

It’s the big lie just as Goebbels preached it. Hitler himself said in ‘Mein Kampf‘ that through its constant repetition, eventually, the masses will come to believe no one “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

With the big lie, there is always an absolute believabilita. The masses are still more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than intellectually or logically; in the nascent simplicity of their minds, they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, as they often tell little lies in small matters themselves.

We also have the likes of Dallin Oaks saying things like,“We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it.”

What better example of Goebbels gospel could one find?

2. Give Only One Side of the Argument

“Well, we have nothing to hide. Our history is an open book. They may find what they are looking for, but the fact is the history of the church is clear and open and leads to faith and strength and virtues.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley

Hinckley’s avowal, ignores the fact that members presenting ‘the other side of the story’ have been summarily excommunicated and clearly does not comport with the Mormon reality and it never has. From the days of Joseph Smith thousands have lost their membership from William Law to Kate Kelly, some well-known most not, for voicing an alternative view.

Some of the Chuch’s defensiveness is understandable, in the 19th-century church members, were driven from state to state, for many reasons, but they were often victims of religious discrimination and hatred.

That being said, the Church has always controlled what information is available to their members let alone the outside world.

It is ironic that Hinckley would mouth such a statement. He personally wrote checks to Mark Hofmann to acquire and secret away documents he believed were genuine and embarrassing to the Church.

Joseph Fielding Smith tore out the 1832 contradictory first rendition account of Joseph Smith’s ‘first vision’ from Smith’s letterbook and hid it in his safe for decades.

I grew up in the Church, I taught the gospel doctrine class, I served in various callings as a high priest, yet in all that time I never discovered from any Church source that Joseph Smith had at least 33 wives, some as young as 14 and many concurrently married to other men. I had never heard Joseph was a money-digger and tried for being a con man who used a magic stone found in a well to translate the Book of Mormon.

So regardless of what the Church says today, these things were hidden from the members.

Everything that appears in church publications is carefully correlated to ensure that one consistent and sanitized version of history is presented.

The school texts approved for Utah schools present a one-sided and sanitized version of Mormon history and Utah history in particular. The Mountain Meadows massacre, one of the greatest atrocities in American history is barely mentioned.

In similitude to the academic world of Nazi Germany, professors at BYU and other Church institutions, as part of their employment contract, must agree not to teach or discuss anything in opposition to the official teachings and policies of the LDS Church. Any violation can and often has led to the termination of their employment.

I would contend that the Church always has and continues to adhere to Goebbels third principle of propaganda – giving only one side of the argument.

3. Continuously Criticize Your Opponents

While the target keeps moving, there has always been a Mormon opponent deserving of deep criticism. In Joseph and Brigham day, it was the Gentiles (All viewed as members of the church of the devil), and, of course, the government.

Since the days of the ERA to the present, the women’s rights movement has been on the receiving end of criticism, and recently the LGBTQ community has become the Church’s whipping boy.

4. Pick out One Special “Enemy” for Special Vilification
For Hitler it was the Jews, for the first 148 years of the LDS Church, it was Blacks.

The racist statements of the Mormon Prophets and Apostles from Brigham Young’s time until the Church’s politically driven about-face in 1978 have been singularly cruel and hateful.

“And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.”

Brigham Young, ‘prophet, seer, and revelator’ shared his view of our African American brothers and sisters:

“You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is bestowed upon humanity. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race — that they should be the “servant of servants;” and they will be, until that curse is removed.”

Brigham Young, President and second ‘Prophet.’
of the Mormon Church, 1844-1877
Quotation from Journal of Discourses

“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so.”

Brigham Young, President and second ‘Prophet.’
of the Mormon Church, 1863,
Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, p. 110.

“Not only was Cain called to suffer, but because of his wickedness, he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him, and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures…. they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning.”

Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith,
The Way to Perfection, p. 101, 1935

During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Mormon apostles and other leaders continued to preach racist and discriminatory Mormon doctrines affecting persons of color.

Bruce R. McConkie taught that,“Negroes are not equal with other races” in spiritual matters and that this is God’s law, not man’s. Mark E. Petersen proclaimed that “people are born black because of their inadequate performance in the pre-existence. “

McConkie didn’t make his hurtful racist statement back in the 1830s, but at a time when men and women of good will in this country were marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. seeking equal human rights for ALL of God’s children. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, even human secularist leaders spoke up, but not Mormons.

Incidentally, when McConkie heard of the ‘revelation’ ending the ban, he wrote, “Forget everything that I have said.”

Bruce R. McConkie, “The New Revelation,” Priesthood, p. 132

I am with McConkie here and would recommend forgetting anything this guy said about anything!

And sadly, it was not just LDS leaders whose silence was deafening but also the Mormon rank and file, yet we know that the connection between religion, civil rights, and social justice found within “local people of faith” who do most of the actual work of the civil rights movement.

I regret the several derogatory terms of racial bigotry and hatred expressed in the following direct quotes by the ‘Prophets’ and ‘Apostles’ of the Mormon Church, but it is essential to show the level of intense racism, hatred, and the abhorrent demeanor of, the leadership of this relatively young Church.

Former Mormon Bishop, Lee B. Baker has assembled, derogatory terms describing African Americans used by the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in official publications, scriptures, doctrine, and training for decades:

Nigger” (89 times), “Darky” (15 times), “Sambo” (25 times) and “Skin of Blackness” (110 times).

Mormonism, A Life Under False Pretenses, Lee B. Baker

These are the men who purport to commune with Jehovah.

Today homosexuals have replaced Blacks as enemy number one.

It is interesting to me that in 1977 roughly the same time as the Church relinquished its ban on Blacks in the priesthood, the Church began a stealthful campaign against LGBTQ Americans. That was the year when Utah became the second state in the country to ban gay marriage. The Church did not stop there they continued to lead anti-LGBTQ campaigns in at least 27 states over the next four decades.

It seems as well that the Mormon Church would rather let hate crimes go unprosecuted than let gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender people get extra protection under the law.

The Church came out against a hate-crime bill, authored by a Mormon Republican, no less. The bill, SB-107, would have defined a hate crime in Utah as a criminal offense committed because of an individual’s“ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation.”

But the Church argued that the bill would upset the “balance” Church leaders had called for. With the considerable pressure, the Church brought to bear, Utah rejected bill SB-107 and passed limited hate-crime legislation removing all protected classes.

Many Mormons, as well as non-Mormons, view the recent harsh administrative policies devastating the lives of many LGBTQ members sadly with many tragic results as un-Christlike.

This new policy calls for mandatory Church discipline for LGBTQ individuals married to those of the same gender. It also bars the children of LGBTQ parents from baptism and other saving ordinances until they are 18 years of age, and then, in a rule that would have fit well within the ‘Nuremburg Laws’ of Nazi Germany – only if they openly disavow their parents’ relationship.

If the Church chooses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, they have every ‘legal’ right at present to do so. But I have a problem with the children of gay or lesbian parents also being barred from membership in the Church in the face of our Lord’s admonition to, “suffer the children to come unto me and forbid them not.

Wendy Montgomery, a co-founder of the Mama Dragons, a group of Mormon mothers with gay children, reported that she had been told 32 young LGBTQ Mormons have recently died by their hand.

While the families who have suffered these great losses requested privacy, given the tragedy of suicide and the alarm this report has raised in the LDS LGBTQ community, the Deseret News asked experts for insight and solutions. These experts explained that it’s all about support. Parents, friends and religious congregations could help prevent suicides by thinking carefully about what they say and do and by welcoming, accepting and supporting LGBTQ people.

The Utah Attorney General has commented that statistics show that“… Suicide is the number one cause of death of Utah children ages 10-17.”

This comes as no surprise when more LGBTQ youth find themselves disenfranchised even disowned by zealous religious parents, who now feel more compelled than ever to choose between their child and their church.

Many active Church members, gay and straight, young and old, see this uncharitable, unkind and unloving move for what it is: another unabashed rejection of LGBTQ members.

And the cost in human terms is great. The evidentiary research was done by the Family Acceptance Project which tells us that children who experience high levels of rejection are:

More than eight times as likely to attempt suicide
Nearly six times as likely to report high levels of depression
More than three times as likely to use illegal drugs
More than three times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and STIs

Hateful rhetoric has profound costs. Political science professor Benjamin Knoll discusses the link between Mormonism and teen suicide in his paper,“Youth Suicide Rates and Mormon Religious Context: An Additional Empirical Analysis,”

Knoll reports that youth in the 15-19 age group who live in states with heavy Mormon populations are at higher risk for suicide. As Knoll put it,“These are objectively small numbers, but it means that (again, controlling for other factors) youth suicides are twice as high in states with the highest levels of Mormon residents compared to states with the lowest levels of Mormon residents.”

This study shows definitively that youth who live in areas with higher Mormon populations are at a greater risk for suicide.

Boyd K. Packer, who called himself an Apostle of Jesus Christ proudly repeated the story of his conversation with a young missionary in the field:

“While I was in a mission on one occasion, a missionary said he had something to confess. I was very worried because he just could not get himself to tell me what he had done.

After patient encouragement, he blurted out, ‘I hit my companion.’

‘Oh, is that all,’ I said in great relief.

 ‘But I floored him,” he said.

After learning a little more [his companion was gay], my response was

‘Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn’t have been well for [me] a General Authority to solve the problem that way.’’

What a Christ-like solution, I am sure that that young gay man’s parents would appreciate how their son was treated while trying to do his best for the Church.

I welcome your comments:
https://lettertoanapostle.org/contact/

Next Page, Joseph Smith’s numerous false prophecies,

 

7. How can we reconcile Joseph Smith’s numerous false prophecies, with the test of a true prophet as found in Deuteronomy 18?

wolf

“And if thou say in thine heart, how shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follows not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”Deuteronomy 18:21-22

A prophet then, to put it crudely, is a mouthpiece for God, who is perfect and never wrong.

Joseph did declare a number of prophecies that unquestionable came to fruition including:

  • Smith would be spoken of for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues – Joseph Smith History 1:33.
  • The Saints will gather in one place (Utah). – D&C 29:8
  • During the captivity in Liberty Jail, no one’s lives would be taken – Hearsay but nevertheless attributed to Smith.
  • Smith will not return to Missouri – History of the Church 5:216.
  • Stephen A. Douglas to run for president – History of the Church 5:394.
  • Stakes to be established in Boston and New York – History of the Church 6:319.
  • Orrin Porter Rockwell protected from enemies if he doesn’t cut his hair – “Rockwell’s colorful history recounted”, Deseret News (He did cut his hair).
  • Richards will not have a hole in his garment – History of the Church 6:619.
  • Joseph and Hyrum Smith to die if re-captured – History of the Church 6:546.
  • Dan Jones to serve a mission to Wales – History of the Church 6:601.
  • The Saints would escape their enemies within five years History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 225. By 1849.
  • The Escape of Stephen Markham – History of the Church Volume 3, p. 316.

There was also a couple of Josephs prophesies that I did not include as there is evidence of fraud – The Rocky Mountain Prophesy for example where it appears that the prophecy had been added after the event as well as a couple of self-fulfilling prophesies, for example, that Jesus would appear in the temple where the only witness to the event was Smith himself.

By my count, Smith uttered a dozen true and accurate prophesies.

In the other much longer column, I have listed the false or failed prophesies of Joseph Smith, which include:

The Coming of the Lord

“Joseph Smith then stated that the meeting had been called, because God had commanded it; and it was made known to him by vision and by the Holy Spirit. . .. it was the will of God that they should be ordained to the ministry and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, for the coming of the Lord, which was nigh – even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.” 1

This prophecy was spoken by Joseph Smith in 1835 and recorded by Oliver Cowdery. The fifty-six years were passed by 1891.

David W. Patten to go on a Mission

“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It is wisdom in my servant David W. Patten, that he settle up all his business as soon as he possibly can, and make a disposition of his merchandise, that he may perform a mission unto me next spring, in company with others, even twelve including himself, to testify of my name and bear glad tidings unto the world.“ 2

This prophecy was made on April 17, 1838. David Patten died in October of 1838 and thus never served a mission.

The United States Government to be overthrown in a few years

“I prophecy in the name of the Lord God of Israel, unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the Saints in the state of Missouri and punish the crimes committed by her officers that in a few years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted, and there will not be so much as a potsherd left for their wickedness in permitting the murder of men, women, and children, and the wholesale plunder and extermination of thousands of her citizens to go unpunished.” 3

Joseph Smith made this prophecy on May 6, 1843. There was no redress, and the United States, by all accounts, still endures.

Congress to be broken up as a government

“While discussing the petition to Congress, I prophesied, by virtue of the holy Priesthood vested in me, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that, if Congress will not hear our petition and grant us protection, they shall be broken up as a government, and God shall damn them, and there shall be nothing left of them – not even a grease spot.” 4

Finding Treasure in Salem, Massachusetts

“I, the Lord your God, am not displeased with your coming this journey, notwithstanding your follies. I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion, and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality. Therefore, it is expedient that you should form an acquaintance with men in this city, as you shall be led, and as it shall be given you. And it shall come to pass in due time that I will give this city into your hands, that you shall have power over it, insomuch that they shall not discover your secret parts; and its wealth pertaining to gold and silver shall be yours. Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them.” 5

Hail, Pestilence, Famine & Earthquake to
Destroy the Wicked

“And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation; pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land, to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country. The people of the Lord, those who have complied with the requirements of the new covenant, have already commenced gathering together to Zion, which is in the state of Missouri; therefore I declare unto you the warning which the Lord has commanded to declare unto this generation, remembering that the eyes of my Maker are upon me, and that to him I am accountable for every word I say, wishing nothing worse to my fellow-men than their eternal salvation; therefore, “Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come.” Repent ye, repent ye, and embrace the everlasting covenant and flee to Zion, before the overflowing scourge overtake you, for there are those now living upon the earth whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they see all these things, which I have spoken, fulfilled.”

Temple to be Built in Zion, Missouri

“A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and six elders, as they united their hearts and lifted their voices on high. Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem. Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased. Verily, this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation. For verily this generation shall not all pass away until a house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house. The Mormons were forced to flee Missouri due to persecution and a temple was never built on the “temple lot” in the lifetime of Joseph Smith or within his generation.” 8

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, September 22 and 23, 1832.

Selling the Copyright to the Book of Mormon

It is interesting to note that had Joseph Smith’s revelation (below) about selling the copyright of the Book of Mormon been true. Had Oliver Cowdrey, Joseph Knight, Hyram Page and Josiah Stowel been successful in their journey to Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 1830 to do so. None of the 3,913 changes made to the original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon may have been allowed by the new owners of the copyright – The Kingston Chronical, The Toronto Star or whoever!

“…it Pleaseth me that Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Knight Hyram Page& Josiah Stowel shall do my work in this thing yea even in securing theCopyright & they shall do it with an eye single to my Glory that it may be the means of bringing souls unto me Salvation through mine only Be{gotten} Behold I am God I have spoken itWherefore I say unto you that ye shall goseeking me continually through mine only Be{tgotten} & if ye do this ye shall have my spirit to go with you & ye shall have an addition of all things which is expedient in me.amen& I grant unto my servent a privelige that he may sella copyrightthrough you speaking after the manner of men for the four Provinces if the People harden not their hearts against the enticeings of my spirit & my word for Behold it lieth in themselves to their condemnation{or} th{eir} salvation.” 9

When Hyram and Oliver returned from their failed mission to Kingston, Ontario and asked the prophet why his prophecy failed, they were told essentially, that some prophecies are from God, some are from man and some are from the devil.

I have some difficulty with this. That a prophet of God cannot discern when the Lord is talking to him and when it is the devil or when nobody is talking to him it is just his own imaginings.

As well the revelation tells us that Joseph was to be the major benefactor of the $ 8,000.00 or so they hoped to receive in exchange for the copyright but also that his emissaries were to receive a share as well.

The fact that they have a financial interest in the success of the Book of Mormon must also cast some doubt on their veracity as witnesses to it.

Utter Abolishment of New York and Boston

D&C 84:114. It, of course, did not happen making this another false prophecy.

That the United Order will be Everlasting, “immutable and unchangeable” to benefit the church until Jesus comes

D&C 104:1 The United Order, Joseph Smith prophesied would be “everlasting”, and “immutable and unchangeable.” That it would ‘benefit the church until Jesus comes.’ Nevertheless, LDS history reveals that this “everlasting” order was soon disbanded after because it failed. A false prophecy.

That we will see a Victory in Missouri

D&C 105:13 Speaking through Smith, God says regarding Missouri: “I will fight your battles … the destroyer I have sent forth to destroy and lay waste mine enemies; and not many years hence they shall not be left to pollute mine heritage, and to blaspheme my name upon the lands which I have consecrated for the gathering together of my saints”. This did not happen, another false prophecy.

That the Saints Enemies will be Destroyed,

The History of the Church 1:455. If the Saints were not successful in their legal action against their enemies in Missouri, God would avenge them and all their adversaries would be destroyed. The Saints were unsuccessful yet their adversaries were not destroyed. A false prophecy.

The Relief Society. I Prophecy that Before ten years shall roll around, the Queens of the Earth shall come and Pay their Respects to this Society

Dennis Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p. 634. The ten years however passed and no queens! Another false prophecy.

That the Nauvoo House would be the Smiths Forever

D&C107:17-18. “Let it [Nauvoo House], be built unto my name…and let my servant Joseph and his house have place therein, from generation to generation.” It was not. A false prophecy.

That the Lamanites will be Converted

D&C 3.16-20. For a century and a half, the LDS missionaries have been trying to convert their “Lamanite brothers and sisters with little success. The vast majority of Indians today are not Mormon, and they still are covered with the ‘dark and loathsome ‘skin that the Book of Mormon says they were cursed with and few of those who have joined the LDS church have become “white and delightsome” as they were promised. Another false prophecy.

That the Earth Shall Shake and reel as a Drunken Man

D&C 88:87 Smith prophesized that “…not many days hence the earth shall tremble and reel as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face…and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from a fig tree.” It never did. False prophecy.

That Josephs son David would become the “church president and king over Israel”

D Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy – Joseph’s son did not become president of the Church. Sadly David died in 1904 at the age of 60 after having spent 27 years in an insane asylum.

That Smith will Triumph over his Foes

D&C 121. Not only did Joseph Smith not triumph over his enemies, but they put him to death by them. A false prophesy.

That George Miller was a man of great integrity

124:2-21. In D&C Section 141 Smith declared a man named George Miller was a man ‘without guile’ who could be trusted, and that no man should ‘despise my servant George,’ for he shall honor me. George Miller was excommunicated seven years later.

That all Nations Would Bow down to the Mormon Gospel

D&C 49.9-10 “Wherefore, I say unto you that I have sent unto you mine everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning. And that which I have promised I have so fulfilled, and the nations of the earth shall bow to it; and, if not of themselves, they shall come down, for that which is now exalted of itself shall be laid low of power.” We are yet to see any nation of the world “bow” to the principles of the Mormon gospel, lo it has been almost 187 years as of this writing, since the prophecy was given.

That the Saints are to Gather in Independence and Build a Temple

D&C 84 1 “A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and six elders, as they united their hearts and lifted their voices on high.

3 Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.

4 Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.

5
For verily this generation shall not all pass away until a house shall be built unto the Lord…”

The temple was not built in ‘that generation.’ Indeed, the Mormons were driven out of Missouri in 1839. The temple has yet to be built, making this another false prophecy.

Army to Redeem Zion Independence, Missouri

D&C 103 The mission was unsuccessful. Another false prophecy.

New gathering place and temple in Far West

D&C 115. “Therefore, I command you to build a house unto me, for the gathering together of my saints… And let the beginning be made on the fourth day of July next; and from that time forth let my people labor diligently to build a house unto my name; And in one year from this day let them re-commence laying the foundation of my house.” To this day all that’s on this lot of land are markers indicating a cornerstone of where the temple should be built. Yet another false prophecy.

Zion Cannot fall

D&C 97.19-20 prophesies: “Surely, Zion is the city of our God, and surely Zion cannot fall, neither be moved out of her place, for God is there and the hand of the Lord is there; And he hath sworn by the power of his might to be her salvation…”

Zion did fall and the Mormons were driven out of Independence, MO in 1838 and 1839.

The Move to Jackson County

In a letter to the High Council, Joseph Smith declared, “…I shall now proceed to give you such counsel as the Spirit of the Lord may dictate…(you are to have the churches) use every effort to gather to those regions and locate themselves, to be in readiness to move into Jackson County in two years from the eleventh of September next, which is the appointed time for the redemption of Zion…”

The churches did not move into Jackson County on September 11, 1836. Nor was “Zion” redeemed at that time; as the Church history shows. This was a false prophecy.

W.W. PHELPS Not To See Death

Joseph Smith prophesied that ‘W.W. Phelps would not taste of death till Jesus came.’ Often both privately and publicly, Mr. Phelps boasted to the Saints of this amazing prophecy, given to him by revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith.” Phelps died March 7, 1872. Yet another false prophecy.

Kirtland “Anti-Banking Society

A false prophecy from the Latter-day Saint Messenger and Advocate, “This place must be built up, and will be built up, and every brother that will take hold and help secure these contracts [for land] shall be rich.”

To Swallow Up all Other Banks

In The Millennial Star, volume 19, p.343, Smith proclaimed that his Kirtland Anti-Banking Society was to “…swallow up all other banks.” Not only did the Bank not swallow up other banks but it failed costing many members and non-members their life savings. Smith was charged with bank fraud but fled the jurisdiction under cover of darkness. Certainly a false prophecy.

That “All Nations Would be Involved in the American Civil War.”

“Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls; And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.

For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations,” 10

This is clearly another false prophecy since all nations did not get involved in the American Civil War.

As you can see, his false or failed prophesies far outnumbered his correct ones.

This is a problem my dear brothers and sisters for the Holy Bible tells us that if even one prophesy does not come true, he who is claiming to be a prophet is a false prophet.

“Therefore, when someone claims to be speaking as instructed by God and then makes a false statement, that person “has spoken presumptuously” and is not God’s prophet.”

There are, according to the Lord, three elements that we can rely upon to prove a false prophet.

  1. The individual claiming to be a true prophet of God, did, in fact, say it.
  1. That he made clear in his prophecy that he was speaking for the Lord.
  2. The prophecy failed to come true.

The many “prophesies,” I have listed were indisputably given by Joseph Smith. They are recorded in the “History of the Church,” and the “Doctrine and Covenants.”

Smith’s wording also clearly states that he spoke on behalf of God:

“… in the name of the LORD.”

“Verily, thus saith the Lord.”

“I prophesy in the name of the Lord God of Israel.”

“in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“By the authority of Jesus Christ.”

“Behold I am God I have spoken it.”

Yea, the word of the Lord.”

Yet none of these “prophesies,” came to fruition.

I think that the above examples of Joseph Smith’s failed prophecies must give us pause, but they all pale compared to the following.

While we cannot classify it as a prophecy as such, I would like you to note that when Joseph wrote the bulk of his JST of the King James Bible around 1833 he changed the proper age for circumcision to be performed from eight DAYS to eight YEARS.

JST, Genesis 17:11

The Church’s apologists would have you believe this is no big deal?

Let me tell you, it is a, very, very big deal and this alone has driven many honest, thoughtful Latter-Day Saint from the Church.

Think about it. God spoke to Abraham and covenanted that Abraham’s seed that they would be His people and He would be their God. And that the token of this holy covenant was circumcision at eight days.

10) This is my covenant, which ye shall keep
between me and you and thy seed after thee;
Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

11) And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your
foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant
betwixt me and you.

12) And he that is eight days old shall be
circumcised among you, every man child in your
generations, he that is born in the house, or
bought with money of any stranger, which is
not of thy seed.

But in 1833 Joseph Smith with an arrogant stroke of his quill pen changes it from eight days to eight years.

The importance and consequence of this one-word change are earth-shattering. This means that not just did Abraham get it wrong but so did David and Daniel and Isaiah, tens of millions of Jews and most significant of all, the Lord Jesus Christ who were all circumcised at eight days, according to the covenant.

According to Joseph Smith, none of them were right. No, God allowed all his Old Testament prophets and His Only-begotten and beloved Son to err only to show the truth to a latter-day treasure seeking ‘prophet’ 3,000 years later.

In my mind, with the possible exception of Smith’s creation of polygamy to satisfy his lust and libido this is Joseph Smith greatest error, and may God forgive him for it.

Knowing there would be false prophets in the latter days, Jesus said, “take heed that no man deceives you.”

Matthew 24:24 also warned, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect”.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”

Was Jeremiah speaking of the latter days when he said “…They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.”

Jeremiah 14:14

Thus says theLordof hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of theLord.”

Jeremiah 23:16

Incidentally and for comparison, the Holy Bible including some 300 prophecies and implications about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus1 with NO prophetic failures.

A few of the glorious prophecies proving the divine nature of that book:

  • The Succession of Great World Kingdoms (Daniel 2:37-42). Even critics have to agree that Daniel foretold the governments in their order – Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
  • Cyrus King of Persia (Isaiah 44:28-45:1). Since Isaiah lived between about 740 and 690 BC and Cyrus did not make his proclamation for Israel to return from exile until about 536 BC.
  • The Closing of the Golden Gate (Ezekiel 44:2-3). The Golden Gate is the eastern gate of Jerusalem, through which Christ made his triumphal entry on Palm Sunday before the crucifixion (Matthew 21). In 1543 Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent closed the gate and walled it up, not knowing he was fulfilling prophecy.
  • Israel to be returned to its land a second time (Isaiah 11:11-12). The first time was when God reclaimed His people from Egypt through the Exodus; the second time was from the Babylonian Exile (Isaiah 51:9-11).
  • The Destruction of Tyre (Ezekiel 26:3-14). The prophecy was partly fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city and left it in ruins. Alexander the Great later finished the job.
  • The Doom of Edom (Petra) (Jeremiah 49:15-17). Given the virtually impregnable nature of the ancient city carved out of rock and protected by a narrow passageway, this was an incredible prediction. Yet, in 636 AD it was conquered by Muslims and today stands deserted.
  • And of course, the destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13:1-2). Fulfilled literally when the Romans completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple buildings.

Studies of psychics’ and fortune tellers show they are correct about 8% to 10% of the time. The success rate of their predictions can almost always be attributed to chance and a general knowledge of the ‘subjects’ circumstances.

Joseph Smith’s does better than the average psychic or fortune teller, by my calculation his ‘prophesies’ were correct about 27% of the time. But remember the Lord tells us that if someone professing to be a prophet gets it wrong even one time, he is a false prophet. Smith got it wrong a lot more than one time. He got it wrong many more times than than he got it right.

Chapter References

1 (History of the Church, Vol. 2, page 182).

2 (Doctrine & Covenants 114:1)

3 History of the Church, Vol. 5, page 394).

4 ” Millennial Star, Vol. 22, p. 455. See also History of the Church), vol. 6, p. 116,

5 Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Salem, Massachusetts, August 6, 1836. HC 2:465-466.

6 Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Salem, Massachusetts, August 6, 1836. HC 2:465-466.”

7 History of the Church, Vol. 1, pp. 315-316

8 HC 1:286-295.

9 The Joseph Smith Papers: The Revelations and Translations Series

10 (Doctrine and Covenants 87:1-3).

11 J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy

FairMormons Comments on Joseph Smiths
False Prophesies

The Civil War

Following the Civil War, many nations entered into alliances and secret agreements in order to protect themselves from other nations

Following the Civil War the nations, in their great alarm because of the new methods of warfare which were being developed and their fear of other nations, entered into alliances and secret agreements in order to protect themselves from other nations. At the outbreak of the World War, these alliances had reached proportions never before known, and during the war other alliances were made until nearly every nation on the earth had taken sides with the Triple Alliance or the Triple Entente. It was during the period of the World War, 1914-1918, Great Britain made her appeal to the nations to come to the defense of the standard of Democracy.

Her pleadings were heard round (sic) the world. And what is still more remarkable, the entire procedure conforms exactly to the prediction made by Joseph Smith, viz: “they shall also call upon other nations in order to defend themselves against other nations.” A plurality of nations aligned and allied on both sides of the deadly conflict.

This revelation was not just about the American Civil War

The revelation makes that very clear by first stating in verse one, “thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass.” Notice that the word used is wars (plural), not war (singular), thereby “suggesting not one war but a continuum of conflict. Thus, like chapter 24 of Matthew, this scripture covered things both imminent and distant.” Of course, in our own time, we could add the war in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, civil wars in Central America, Lebanon, the British-Argentine conflict, Desert Storm, etc.

In our several Indian uprisings since the close of the Civil War, many see the fulfillment of that part of the prophecy which declares that the “remnants who are left of the land [the American Indians] will marshal themselves, and shall become exceeding angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation.”

World history since 1861 demonstrates that armed conflict widened and persisted since the American Civil War. There is nothing in the prophecy that claims that the Civil War must be the direct cause of on-going war, merely that on-going war will occur. And, it will happen after “Great Britain” “shall…call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves”:


DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

FairMormon is side-stepping the issue here. Joseph did not prophesy that nations would “enter into alliances and secret agreements” after the Civil War; or that armed conflicts would widen and persist after the American Civil War. He prophesied that “all nations would be involved in the American Civil War.”

They were NOT – False Prophecy.

ANOTHER APOLOGY BY FAIRMORMON

“Missouri suffered greatly during the Civil War. Over 1,200 distinct battles or skirmishes were fought on Missouri soil; only Tennessee and Virginia saw more action on their soil.

Between 1862 and 1864, the western parts of Missouri endured guerrilla warfare. Although guerrilla warfare occurred throughout much of the state, most of the incidents occurred in northern Missouri and were characterized by ambushes of individuals or families in rural areas. These incidents were particularly nefarious because their vigilante nature was outside the command and control of either side and often pitted neighbor against neighbor.

Among the more notorious incidents of guerrilla warfare were (sic) the Sacking of Osceola, burning of Platte City and the Centralia Massacre In 1863 following the Lawrence Massacre in Kansas, Union General Thomas Ewing, Jr. accused farmers in rural Missouri of either instigating the attack or supporting it.

He issued General Order No. 11 which forced the evacuation of all residents of rural areas of the four counties (Jackson, Cass, Bates and Vernon) south of the Missouri River on the Kansas border to leave their property, which was then burned. The order applied to farmers regardless of loyalty, although those who could prove their loyalty to the Union could stay in designated towns and those who could not be exiled entirely.

LDS readers will recognize that Jackson county was notorious for its treatment of the Saints, and it was among those counties from which inhabitants were evacuated and a “scorched earth” policy implemented.

The commanding general ordered his men not to engage in looting or other depredations, but he proved unable to effectively control his soldiers, who were mostly Kansans eager to exact any revenge possible upon their Missouri neighbors. Animals and other property were stolen or destroyed, and houses, barns and outbuildings burnt to the ground. The area affected quickly became a devastated “no-man’s-land”, with only charred chimneys and burnt stubble remaining where once-fertile farms had stood.”

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

FairMormon is grasping at straws here. As the highlighted portion of Smith’s prophecy clearly shows he was talking about the United States being utterly overthrown and wasted, not Missouri.

When someone claims to be speaking as instructed by God and then makes a false statement, that person “has spoken presumptuously” and is not God’s prophet. There are then, according to the Lord, three elements that we can rely upon to prove a false prophet.

The individual claiming to be a true prophet of God, did, in fact, say it. I think FairMormon will stipulate that Smith said it, as it is recorded in the History of the Church, Vol 5, Page 394.

That he made clear in his prophecy that he was speaking for the Lord. ‘I prophecy (sic) in the name of the Lord God of Israel….’

The prophecy failed to come true.

It has been more than 150 years since Smith uttered this vengeful prophecy and our great country and its government still stand.

I maintain this is a false prophecy.

FAIRMORMON COMMENT ON FINDING TREASURE IN SALEM

“Joseph Smith’s prophecy that “he would find treasure in Salem, Massachusetts”

Joseph and several other leaders traveled to Salem hoping to find money that could be used to satisfy some of the Church’s outstanding debt

The trip was apparently made on their own initiative and was not commanded by the Lord. Joseph did not “prophesy” (sic) that they would find money in Salem, but instead made the trip because he became convinced that the story that the treasure existed might true. Upon failing to locate the money, they spent their time preaching to the people in Salem.”

“I, the Lord your God, am not displeased with your coming this journey, notwithstanding your follies. I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion, and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality. Therefore, it is expedient that you should form an acquaintance with men in this city, as you shall be led, and as it shall be given you. And it shall come to pass in due time that I will give this city into your hands, that you shall have power over it, insomuch that they shall not discover your secret parts; and its wealth pertaining to gold and silver shall be yours. Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them.” 6

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

FairMormon provides no evidence that “The trip was apparently made on their own initiative and was not commanded by the Lord,” The language of the prophecy indicates quite the opposite.

I, the Lord your God… I have much treasure in this city for you…Therefore, it is expedient that you should form an acquaintance with men in this city…I will give this city into your hands,… its wealth pertaining to gold and silver shall be yours.

FairMormon again throws words like ‘apparently,’ out there without and any discussion or evidence as to why it is apparent.

Let me give you one more time; God’s determining criteria for identifying a false prophet. When someone claims to be speaking as instructed by God and then makes a false statement, that person “has spoken presumptuously” and is not God’s prophet.

There are then, according to the Lord, not Thomas Monson or FairMormon, but the Lord, thy God, three elements that we can rely upon to prove a false prophet.

  1. The individual claiming to be a true prophet of God, did, in fact, say

History of the Church, 2:465-466, August 6, 1836.

  1. That he made clear in his prophecy that he was speaking for the

“I, the Lord your God…”

  1. The prophecy failed to come

The treasure in this city,” was not Smith’s, and it did not come to pass in due time that [God put] this city into [Smith’s] hands,” or that he had, “power over it,” or that it’s, “gold and silver shall be [Smith’s].


FAIRMORMON COMMENT ON THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE IN INDEPENDENCE

“Question: Was Joseph Smith’s prophecy that the Independence, Missouri temple “Shall be reared in this generation” a failed prophecy?

Jesus Christ used the very same terminology in Matthew 24:34: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled”

There is a double standard of interpretation that critics use against Joseph Smith, since Jesus Christ used the very same terminology. Matthew 24:34 quotes Christ as saying, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Luke 21:32 repeats this prophecy. The term “these things” refers to wars, famines, the sun being darkened, and even the “stars falling from heaven.” Some of “these things” occurred during Christ’s time period. Some have continued since then. Some have escalated into our time. Some have not occurred yet So we must ask since Joseph Smith is charged with a false prophecy concerning “this generation,” did Jesus Christ utter a false prophecy? Absolutely not! So, if Joseph Smith uttered a false prophecy about “this generation,” then so did Christ. It has been many centuries longer from the time of Christ until now than it has been from the 1830’s till (sic) today.

The word “generation” has different meanings. According to scripture, the word “generation” can have reference to a time frame, a people, or even a dispensation. Without specific wording which would indicate exactly what the word “generation” means, it is dishonest to accuse one (Joseph Smith) of false prophecy while accepting another (Jesus Christ) when both use it in a general form.

Joseph Smith’s revelation in D&C 84 may appear on the surface to be a failed prophecy, but a more informed reading reveals that it may not have been a prophecy, and if it is, its fulfillment is still in the future.”

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

I don’t feel Joseph was speaking about all time here, but I can see this explanation as reasonable.

PLEASE NOTE: I think it is telling that FairMormon has chosen NOT to comment on the vast majority of the false prophecies, I also spoke to in ‘A Letter to an Apostle.’

redd

 

8. When the Book of Commandments was rewritten as the D&C after apostles apostatized, etc., many revelations were modified and failed prophecies removed?

The Doctrine and Covenants was printed in the year 1835 and replaced the Book of Commandments. Many changes, however, were made at that time to the former’s revelations. David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, made this statement:

command“Some of the revelations as they now appear in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants have been changed and added to changed and added to. Some of the changes being the greatest importance as the meaning is entirely changed on some very important matters; as if the Lord had changed his mind a few years after he gave the revelations, and after having commanded his servants (as they claim) to print them in the “Book of Commandments;” and after giving his servants a revelation, being a preface unto His Book of Commandments, which says: “Behold this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants, and my preface unto the Book of my Commandments, which I have given them to publish unto you, oh inhabitants of the earth.” Also in this preface, “Behold I am God, and have spoken it; These commandments are of me.” “Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful.”The revelations were printed in the Book of Commandments correctly! This I know, and I will prove it to you.

These revelations were arranged for publication by Bro. Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Orson Hyde and others, in Hiram, Ohio, while I was there; and were sent to Independence to be published, and were printed just exactly as they were arranged by Bro. Joseph and the others.1

David Whitmer also says, When the Book of Commandments was printed, Joseph and the church received it as being printed correctly. This I know. In the winter of 1834, they saw that some of the revelations in the Book of Commandments had to be changed, because the heads of the church had gone too far, and had done things in which they had already gone ahead of some of the former revelations.”

Whitmer provided us with four clear examples of changes made when the Book of Commandments became the Doctrine and Covenants:

No Other Gift

In BC 4, God declares, “And [Joseph] has a gift to translate the book, and I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift, for I will grant him no other gift.” But the revision in D&C 5 removes this limitation: “And you have a gift to translate the plates, and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you; and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished.”

Whitmer was quite rightly concerned that the Church would be led by a man with vast, unaccountable powers.2

All Things Are Written

God tells His saints in BC 15 that, “I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written; for in them are all things written, concerning my church, my gospel, and my rock. Wherefore if you shall build up my church, and my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.”

But D&C 18 sees the Book of Mormon as just a “foundation” upon which changes can be made at will: “I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written; for in them are all things written, concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock; wherefore, if you shall build up my church upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.”

Show Not These Things unto the World

Whitmer also remarks on the changes made to BC 16: “I command you that you preach naught but repentance; and show not these things, neither speak these things unto the world, for they cannot bear meat, but milk they must receive: wherefore, they must not know these things, lest they perish.”

D&C 18 changes BC 16 to read “… show not these things unto the world, until it is wisdom in me.” Whitmer describes what he sees as the consequences of violating the divine command to keep these revelations hidden.

Like unto the Church in the Days of Old

Finally, Whitmer points out the change made to BC 4 regarding the organization of the Church:

[I]f the people of this generation harden not their hearts, I will work a reformation among them, and I will put down all lyings, and deceivings, and priestcrafts, and envyings, and strifes, and idolatries, and sorceries, and all manner of iniquities, and I will establish my church, like unto the church which was taught by my disciples in the days of old. [Whitmer’s emphasis]

Another example of a change Joseph Smith made to one of his revelations is his attempt to cover up Cowdery’s ability to work with a divining rod. Below is a comparison of the original revelation as found in the Book of Commandments with the altered version which now appears in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Book of Commandments

Now, this is not all, for you have another gift, which is the gift of working with the rod: behold it has told you things: behold there is no other power save God, that can cause this rod of nature, to work in your hands…

Doctrine and Covenants

Now, this is not all thy gift, for you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron; behold, it has told you many things; Behold, there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you.

For a complete side-by-side comparison of the Book of Commandments and the Doctrine and Covenants can be found in the article by Karl F. Best, entitled, “Changes in the Revelations, 1833 – 1835.”

Joseph retrofitted many earlier revelations to make it appear as if church doctrines and practices were revealed by God more sequentially and logically often excusing it as continuing revelation.

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Courtesy Utah Lighthouse Ministry

As his theological views changed or evolved, Smith also made several contradictory revisions to the original doctrines in the Book of Mormon.

Compare 1 Nephi 3 pp. 25, 26, 32 in the 1830 [original] version to current Book of Mormon version in 1 Nephi 11: 18, 21, 23, 40

There have been many thousands of changes made to the Book of Mormon since the original 1830 and other early editions. Granted many are minor, grammatical and spelling corrections, but as I discussed previously their existence is not a minor issue. There have been numerous substantive changes and doctrinal revisions made as well.

Consider the following examples:

1 Nephi 13:40

Original

“… These last records … shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father, and the Savior …”

Present

“… These last records … shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior …”

1 Nephi 11:18

Original

“… Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.”

Present

“… Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. “

Mosiah 21:28

Original

King Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings …

Present

King Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings
1 Nephi 20:1

Original

… O house of Jacob, which are called out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord …

Present

… O house of Jacob, which are called out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, which swear by the name of the Lord.

2 Nephi 12, p. 117
2 Nephi 30:6
(1840 edition

Original

… and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people.

Present

… and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white pure and a delightsome.
2 Nephi 12:9

Original
And the mean man boweth down…

Present
And the mean man boweth not down…

A significant change made to the Book of Mormon is the name of the angel who is claimed, to have appeared in Joseph Smith’s bedroom. An event incidentally that four of Joseph’s brothers slept through. In the Joseph Smith’s first history, we learn that the angel’s name was Nephi: “He called me by name and said … that his name was Nephi.” 3

But in modern printings of the History of the Church, the name has been changed to “Moroni.” 4

“The original handwritten manuscript shows the name as “Nephi,” but after Joseph’s death, someone later wrote the word “Moroni” above the line.

It should be noted that Joseph Smith lived for two years after the name “Nephi” was printed in the church’s official publication Times and Seasons, and never had a problem with it or published a retraction or correction.

As well, the August 1842 edition of the Millennial Star, also printed Joseph Smith’s story stating that the angel’s name was “Nephi.” 5

The name was also published in the 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great Price as “Nephi.”

Many members are also familiar with the ‘Rocky Mountain Prophecy,’ that predicted that Salt Lake would be the place the Saints would settle after leaving Nauvoo.

Unhappily, it is not true even though the church presented it as true for more than a century.

The ‘Rocky Mountain Prophecy’ was added after the Mormons arrived in Utah.6

Some LDS scholars have lamented the suppression of the truthful Church history. Leonard Arrington, the official LDS Church Historian (1972‐1982) voiced his concern over the withholding of true Church history in favor of a faith promoting version. Dr. Arrington wrote: “It is unfortunate for the cause of Mormon history that the Church Historian’s Library, which is in the possession of virtually all of the diaries of leading Mormons, has not seen fit to publish these diaries or to permit qualified historians to use them without restriction.” 7

Dr. Arrington’s refreshing honesty resulted in his demoted in 1982 and transferred from the church historian’s office to BYU. 8 Being sent to BYU is not a promotion, just ask anyone who taught there how easy it is to get a job at another university.

As well, doctrines now considered false by the present-day Church leadership have simply been altered to conform to the doctrine du jour. Notice the following examples:

Helaman 1:16 – An incomplete sentence that shows the writer of the Book of Mormon was unfamiliar with proper sentence structure. To correct this embarrassing problem, two words were removed from the text, and a period was changed to a comma. The original reads, “…who was the son of Ammoron. Now Tobiah supposing that….” The corrected edition, however, reads, “who was the son of Ammoron, supposing that….” Obviously, this is not merely a typographical change, but a change to correct lousy sentence structure. Would God have allowed such a mistake to be penned under His supervision?

Mosiah 21:28 – In this passage, “King Benjamin” is spoken of as being alive. Apparently, however, the writer forgot that fifteen chapters earlier he recorded this man’s death. What he meant to write was “king Mosiah.” The second edition of the Book of Mormon made this change. Again, how did such a glowing error slip into a translation being overseen by the power of God?

References

1 Letter written by David Whitmer, published in the Saints Herald, Feb. 5, 1887

2 Book of Commandments, 4

3 Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 753

4 History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 11

5 Karl F. Best, entitled, “Changes in the Revelations, 1833 – 1835 https://www.dialoguejournal.com

6 Millennial Star, vol. 3, p. 53

7 The Changing World of Mormonism, p. 406

8 Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1966, p. 26

9 Deseret News, Church Section, July 5, 1980

FairMormon’s Comments on Changes to the D&C


Comment No. 1

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS MISTAKES AND/OR ERRORS – THE AUTHOR HAS STATED ERRONEOUS OR INCORRECT INFORMATION OR MISINTERPRETED THEIR SOURCES

The Saints have never believed in inerrant prophets or inerrant scripture. The editing and modification of the revelations was never a secret; it was well known to the Church of Joseph’s day, and it has been discussed repeatedly in modern Church publications, as well as extensive studies in Masters’ and PhD (sic) theses at BYU.

If Joseph could receive the Doctrine and Covenants by revelation, then he could also receive revelation to improve, modify, revise, and expand his revelatory product. The question remains the same—was Joseph Smith a prophet? If he was, then his action is completely legitimate. If he was not, then it makes little difference whether his pretended revelations were altered or not.

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

Speaking to this, the Mormon writer John William Fitzgerald made this statement:

“Differences in wording that change the meaning have occurred in certain sections that appeared first in A Book of Commandments published in 1833 and that appeared later in The Doctrine and Covenants published in 1835.”

“A Study of the Doctrine and Covenants,”
Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University. 1940, p. 329

David Whitmer made this statement:

“Some of the revelations as they now appear in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants have been changed and added to changed and added to. Some of the changes being the greatest importance as the meaning is entirely changed on some very important matters; as if the Lord had changed his mind a few years after he gave the revelations, and after having commanded his servants (as they claim) to print them in the “Book of Commandments;” and after giving his servants a revelation, being a preface unto His Book of Commandments, which says: “Behold this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants, and my preface unto the Book of my Commandments, which I have given them to publish unto you, oh inhabitants of the earth.” Also in this preface, “Behold I am God, and have spoken it; These commandments are of me.” “Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful.” The revelations were printed in the Book of Commandments correctly! This I know, and I will prove it to you.

These revelations were arranged for publication by Bro. Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Orson Hyde and others, in Hiram, Ohio, while I was there; and were sent to Independence to be published, and were printed just exactly as they were arranged by Bro. Joseph and the others. And when the Book of Commandments was printed, Joseph and the church received it as being printed correctly. This I know. But in the winter of 1834, they saw that some of the revelations in the Book of Commandments had to be changed, because the heads of the church had gone too far, and had done things in which they had already gone ahead of some of the former revelations. So the book of “Doctrine and Covenants” was printed in 1835, and some of the revelations changed and added to.”

Letter written by David Whitmer,
published in the Saints Herald, February 5, 1887

Here is a change Joseph made to revise and broaden his ‘gifts.’

“And he [Joseph Smith, Jr.] has a gift to translate the book [of Mormon], and I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift, for I will grant him no other gift.”

Book of Commandments, Ch. 10

Changed to:

“And you have a gift to translate the plates, and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you, and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished.”

Doctrine and Covenants, Ch. 5, verse 4

“Is it possible that the minds of men can be so blinded as to believe that God would give these revelations – command them to print them in His Book of Commandments – and then afterwards (sic) command them to change and add to them some words which change the meaning entirely? As if God had changed his mind entirely after giving his word? Is it possible that man who pretends to any spirituality would believe that God would work in such a manner?”

David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon,
Saint’s Herald, Feb. 5, 1887

Joseph Smith can change anything he wants, but I agree with David Whitmer that numerous and seemingly frivolous changes make the Lord look a little ‘flakey.’

The following passage from the ‘original’ section 137 of the D&C is an example of where the Church simply pulls things out of the Doctrine and Covenants or the Book of Commandments when they no longer serve their current narrative or agenda or where the Smith’s prophesies were blatantly false.:

….I saw the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth, who hold the keys of this last ministry, in foreign lands, standing together in a circle, much fatigued, with their clothes tattered and their feet swollen, with their eyes cast downward, and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold him. The Saviour looked upon them and wept.

I also beheld Elder M’Lellin in the south, standing upon a hill, surrounded by a vast multitude, preaching to them, and a lame man standing before him supported by his crutches; he threw them down at his word and leaped as a hart, by the mighty power of God.

Also, I saw Elder Brigham Young standing in a strange land, in the far south and west, in a desert place, upon a rock in the midst of about a dozen men of color, who appeared hostile. He was preaching to them in their own tongue, and the angel of God standing above his head with a drawn sword in his hand, protecting him, but he did not see it.

And I finally saw the Twelve in the celestial kingdom of God. I also beheld the redemption Zion and many things which the tongue of man cannot describe in full”

This one ‘revelation’ alone is full of false prophecies, and no wonder the Church just chose to remove it altogether from the D&C. Too much, ‘splaining to do Lucy!’

At least seven of the twelve were soon excommunicated or apostatized from the church: John F. Boynton & Luke S. Johnson (1837), Lyman Johnson (1838), William E. M’Lellin (c.1838), Thomas B. Marsh & Orson Hyde (1838), and William Smith (1845)’

How could Boynton, et al. have attained the Celestial Kingdom according to Smith’s rules? Not only were they accursed by their very acts of apostasy or excommunication but fell victim to the LDS Church’s own scriptural denunciation in D&C 84.40-41 which, as far as I know, has not been removed or revised:

“Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved. But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.”

Also, the vision of “M’Lellin’s preaching and working miracles in the south” (sic) never came true because he apostatized from the church without ever doing it!

And, although Brigham Young did bring the Mormons West and was a great colonizer, the vision of Young preaching to “men of color” in their own language (whatever that means), in some ‘strange and faraway place in the south-west’ never took place not surprisingly as by any measure Brigham Young was an unmitigated racist.

“Zion” (Independence, MO.) has never been redeemed in the 170+ years since the prophecy was made. Again, it is not surprising that the ‘Brethren’ chose to remove whole chunks of this “inspired” revelation?

David Whitmer pointed out the absurdity of ad-hoc changes when he wrote:

“Is it possible that the minds of men can be so blinded as to believe that God would give these revelations—command them to print them in His Book of Commandments—and then afterward command them to change and add to them some words which change the meaning entirely? As if God had changed his mind entirely after giving his word? Is it possible that a man who pretends to any spirituality would believe that God would work in any such manner?”

Saints’ Herald, February 5,1887

Finally, contrary to FairMormon’s contention, the Church gives the strong impression that not just the prophets but the apostles can do no wrong and the Book of Mormon is inerrant. Look at all the all the deception and justifications that emerged when the media, not the general authorities, outed Paul Dunn as an unmitigated liar who was engaged in shady business deals.

With regard to FairMormon’s statement that, “The editing and modification of the revelations was never a secret;” This is truly laughable.

Go to the Utah Lighthouse Ministry (http://www.utlm.org/) to see just what lengths the Church went to suppress the myriad changes Smith made to the Book of Commandments and the D&C.

The lead article of the Nov. 1964 Messenger was entitled: “Mormon Church Suppresses Book Of Commandments: Deseret Book Store Ordered Not To Sell Wilford Wood’s Reprint Of The Book Of Commandments.

Sandra Tanner reports,“After recounting the problems we had trying to advertise our own reprint of the 1833 Book of Commandments we described the release of Wilford Wood’s reprint entitled Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Vol. 2. However, even his reprint ran into problems.”

“Since Wilford Wood’s reprint did not tell that the revelations had been changed, the Church did not try to suppress his book at that time. Instead, they promoted it and allowed him to display his original copy of the Book of Commandments in the window of the Deseret Book Store (that is the Church book store). . . . the Church leaders evidently felt that they were safe as long as members of the Church did not compare it with present editions of the Doctrine and Covenants. It appears, however, that members of the Church did compare the two editions and found that many changes had been made. On Oct. 9, 1964, a man reported to us that the Deseret Book Store had refused to sell him copies of Joseph Smith Begins His Work, V.1 and 2. On Oct. 10, 1964, Sandra Tanner went to the Deseret Book Store and asked the clerk concerning these books. The clerk, supposing she was a Mormon, said, “President David O. McKay won’t let us sell that anymore.” The clerk went on to say, “We’ve had several people leave the Church because of those books. The priest and ministers of the other churches are using these books to confuse people. Because of the confusion, we can’t sell them anymore. President McKay has taken them out of circulation.”

1960 – A Time of Suppression
UTML Article
http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no100.htm#1960

yelloww

9. How can one reconcile Joseph Smith’s various and differing first vision accounts; and the fact that no one, including Joseph Smith’s family members or the Saints, had ever heard about the ‘First Vision’ for twelve to twenty-two years after he had said it occurred?

grove

“Our whole strength rests on the validity of that [First] vision. It either occurred, or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens.”

Gordon B. Hinckley,
The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith

I agree with President Hinckley concerning the significance of the first vision. It answers many questions about God and His Divine personality and his interest in the welfare of His sons and daughters.

But there are issues with this purported event. Why are there various and differing first vision accounts? Considering the momentous nature of this event why is it that no one – including Joseph Smith’s family members or the Saints – had ever heard about the First Vision for twelve to twenty-two years after he said it occurred? Even in the “History of the Church,” written by Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith in 1834, no mention was made of it.

The official 1838 account of this first vision found in Mormon Scripture was not recorded by Joseph Smith until 1838, 18 years after the event. Before this time, but still, more than 12 years after this event supposedly took place, other accounts of Joseph’s visionary experience were recorded. These earlier accounts contained significant differences from the official first vision account and often conflict with it.

1832 account, Sins forgiven, saw Jesus Christ, told all churches wrong.

The following is the earliest and first known recounting of the “First Vision.” It was written by Joseph Smith in his journal.

“…therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and to obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in attitude of calling upon the Lorda piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucified (sic) for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life the world lieth in sin and at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside (sic) from the gospel and keep not commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to thir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles.behold and lo I come quickly as it [is?] written of me in the cloud in the glory of my Father.” 1

1834 account – Two years later another version was given to aJewish Minister,’ in this rendition, Joseph’s sins were forgiven. He saw personages, a pillar of fire, and hosts of angels.

“…being wrought up in my mind, respecting the subject of religion and looking at the different systems taught the children of men, I knew not who was right or who was wrong and I considered it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involve eternal consequ[e]nces; being thus perplexed in mind I retired to the silent grove and bow[e]d down before the Lord … I called upon the Lord for the first time, in the place above stated or in other words I made a fruitless attempt to p[r]ay … I called on the Lord in mightly (sic) prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon me, and filled me with Joy unspeakable, a personage appeard (sic) in the midst of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication; When I was about 17 years old I saw another vision of angels in the night season after I had retired to bed …” 2

1835 account, In this version his sins were again forgiven, he saw Jesus Christ, and was told all churches were wrong.

“…I heard a noise behind me like some person walking towards me, strove again to pray, but could not, the noise of walking seemed to draw nearer, I sprung up on my feet, and and looked around, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking, I kneeled again my mouth was opened and my toung liberated, and I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon my head, and filled me with joy unspeakable, a personage appeard (sic) in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard (sic) like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testifyed (sic) unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God; I was about 14. years old when I received this first communication;” 3

1834 – 1835 account – With Oliver Cowdery’s help, A revival stirred in him a desire to know that God existed. This one at age 17, he was in his bedroom when he had a vision of an angel, again sins were forgiven. He was told that the Lord would do a work through him and he was told about gold plates and their location.

“… On the evening of the 21st of September, 1823, previous to retiring to rest, our brother’s mind was unusually wrought up on the subject which had so long agitated his mind … all he desired was to be prepared in heart to commune with some kind of messenger who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God. “… While continuing in prayer for a manifestation in some way that his sins were forgiven; endeavoring to exercise faith in the scriptures, on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a purer and far more glorious appearance and brightness burst into the room … It is no easy task to describe the appearance of a messenger from the skies … But it may be well to relate the particulars as far as given — The stature of this personage was a little above the common size of men in this age; his garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam. Though fear was banished from his heart, yet his surprise was no less when he heard him declare himself to be a messenger sent by commandment of the Lord, to deliver a special message, and to witness to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard;” 4

1838 account, Joseph said his object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the churches was right. This contradicts his 1832 rendition in which he says it was to seek forgiveness for his sins:

“After I had retired into the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God, I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was upon by some power which entirely overcame me and such astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized (sic) upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction, not to an imaginary ruin but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world who had such a marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being. Just at this moment of great alarm I saw a pillar light exactly over my head above the brightness of the sun, which descended gracefully gradually untill it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two personages (whose brightness and glory defy all description) standing above me in the air. One of spake unto me calling me by name and said (pointing to the other) “This is my beloved Son, Hear him.”

My object in going to enquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner therefore did I get possession of myself so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right, (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong) and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the Personage who addressed me said that all their Creeds were an abomination in his sight, that those professors were all corrupt, that “they draw near to me to with their lips but their hearts are far from me, They teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of Godliness but they deny the power thereof. He again forbade me to join with any of them and many other thing[s] did he say unto me which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again I found myself lying on back looking up into Heaven.”

This official version, now part of Mormon Scripture in the Pearl of Great Price, was written in 1838, but not published until 1842.

His motives: for seeking divine help – Bible reading and conviction of sins, a revival, a desire to know if God exists, wanting to know which church was true.

Who appears: – a spirit, an angel, two angels, host of angels, Jesus, the Father and the Son.

The Exciting Revival: Joseph’s dating of the revival that prompts his actions is wrong. The historical record shows that there was no revival in Palmyra in 1820. There was one in 1817, and there was another in 1824.

If there is one of Smith’s renditions of the ‘First Vision’ that best fits the historical record, it is the 1832 account. Why?

His age: The 1832 account states Joseph was 15 years old when he had the vision in 1821 while the other reports state he was 14 years old as well as 17 years old in 1820.

Because there was no mention of any religious revival. That actually occurred in 1824, not in 1820. Secondly, there was no mention of persecution which obviously would also be incorrect as no one was told of the vision, including his family for at least twelve years.

There was also no injunction to not join any other church – family member subsequently joined the Presbyterian Church, and Joseph himself tried to join the Methodists. Also, there was no call to the holy work;” and Jesus alone appears to Joseph, reflecting that at the time Smith believed that God and Christ were the same being—and only one God appears to him.

References

1Joseph Smith’s History, Summer 1832, Joseph Smith Letterbook 1, pp.2,3
in the handwriting of Joseph Smith

2Joseph Smith’s History, November 9, 1835, Joseph Smith Letterbook

3 Joseph Smith’s History, November 1835

4Joseph Smith’s History, November 1835

 

10. Even assuming the veracity of the official 1838 official First Vision account, why would Joseph Smith have written a Trinitarian view of the Godhead in the first edition of the Book of Mormon (later changed)?

gods

At the time of the formation of the Church, there is considerable evidence that Joseph had a Trinitarian view of the Godhead.

1829 – 1834

In 2 Nephi 31:21 as well in the document he prepared for the “Three Witnesses” to sign, we read, “the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God.”

We also read in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 11: 16, 18, 21, 32; 13:40: “Knowest thou the condescension of God? … [Mary] is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh. … The Lamb of God, yea even the Eternal Father …. was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world [crucified]. … The Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world.”

In Mosiah 7:27; 13:34, Abinadi tells us “that Christ was the God, the Father of all things” and “that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood”; also “that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man.”

In Mosiah 16: 15, Abinadi’s doctrine is summarized: “Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, which is the very Eternal Father.” In Alma 11:28-29, 38-39, 44, we learn: “Now Zeezrom saith, Is there more than one God? And he [Amulek] answereth No.

… Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek saith unto him, Yea, he is the very Eternal Father. … Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God.”

And, Joseph’s Trinitarian perspective at that time, could not be made more abundantly clear that, 3 Nephi 11:27, 36; 28:10, we read “that the Father, and the Son, and Holy Ghost are one” in thought and purpose; or in Mormon 7:7, where we read: “The Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which is one God.” In Mormon 9:12, we read: “Because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son,” or in Ether 3:14 and 4:12 where we again read, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son,” and “He that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father.”

As well, in the Book of Commandments 24:18 (1833) we also read: “Which Father and Son and Holy Ghost is one God”

In the Book of Moses, found within the Pearl of Great Price we read: “The Savior, he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God besides me, and. … this one God only will I worship.” 1

In Joseph Smith’s 1832 rendition of the First Vision, (November 1832) one God appears that forgives his sins, as these two additional passages in the Book of Mormon show:

“Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, which is the very Eternal Father.” 2

“…that Christ was the God, the Father of all things” and “that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood.” 3

In the Lectures on Faith 1834 Joseph wrote the following:

“There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things—by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made, whether visible or invisible: whether in heaven, on earth, or in the earth, under the earth, or throughout the immensity of space—They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness:The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image;—he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father: possessing all the fulness of the Father, or, the same fulness with the Father; being begotten of him, and was ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh.”

Lectures on Faith #5, 1834 pp. 48-49,

Also included in the 1835 D&C.,

The above clearly shows that Joseph believed that God was a personage of Spirit, not tabernacle. This view, not in concert with Smith’s later view of the Godhead was removed from the D&C in 1921.

Apologists attack this passage by saying that Joseph didn’t write it. Firstly, if this were true, which I would contend it is not, it would still be a weak defense as nothing went into the Doctrine and Covenants without Joseph’s authorization.   

The most extensive authorship study was conducted by Alan J. Phipps as part of his master’s thesis in 1977, he demonstrated that Joseph personally wrote Lectures on Faith number five. Phipps compared the frequency of use of certain “function words” in the Lectures with the use of the same words in the writings of several persons who may have had a hand in writing the Lectures – Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, William W. Phelps, and Parley P. Pratt. His research concluded

“The study showed that Sidney Rigdon’s use of function words corresponded very closely with that in Lectures One and Seven, and fairly well with Two, Three, Four, and Six, Joseph Smith’s use of function words matched closely those in Lecture Five, with some evidence of his having co-authored or edited Two, Three, Four, and Six. . . . The data and tests appear, therefore, to assign the authorship of the Lectures on Faith mainly to Sidney Rigdon, with Lecture Five and perhaps some parts of the other lectures, except One and Seven, to Joseph Smith (66–67).

1835 – 1839

It is abundantly clear, however, that Joseph’s view of the Godhead changed from the 1829 – 1834 version, and beginning in 1835 we are introduced to a different rendition.

This new view required a retrofit and revision to earlier versions.

For example, these passages in 1 Nephi:

Original 1830 Text

And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.

Current, Changed Text

And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God.


1 Nephi 11:1

Original 1830 Text

And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!

Current, Changed Text

And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Son of the Eternal Father!

(1 Nephi 11:21)

Original 1830 Text

And I looked and beheld the Lamb of god (sic), that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.

Current, Changed Text

And I looked and beheld the Lamb of god (sic), that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.

1 Nephi 11:32

Original 1830 Text

These last records …. shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world.

Current, Changed Text

These last records …. shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world. (1 Nephi 13:40)

Smith also made retroactive changes to the KJV of the Bible in the JST of Luke 10:22:

King James Version

“No man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.”

Joseph Smith’s Translation

“No man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.

We also see this change of view in his Lectures on Faith in 1835:

“There are two personages … the Father and the Son … the Father being a personage of spirit … the Son … a personage of tabernacle. … [Christ] received a fullness of the glory of the Father, possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit … and these three constitute the Godhead, and areone.” 4

In Joseph Smith’s November 1835 First Vision account, one Personage appears, and then a second Personage joins Him; in his 1838 First Vision account, two separate Gods (Father and Son) appear together from the start.

The references I provided above I believe clearly and authoritatively show that Smith held a Trinitarian view which he later modified.

Grant Palmer relates an interesting story of when future president Joseph Fielding Smith discovered the 1832 First Vision handwritten account in Joseph’s letter book, he ripped it out of the letter book and hid these pages in his personal safe for some thirty years. Only to release them in the 1960s. Upon learning that Jerald and Sandra Tanner, had become aware of these documents. 6

In Alma 11:26-28 we read:

“And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God. And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he answered, No.”

Apologists Responses to the Changing View of the Godhead

“Such texts demonstrate that the supposed ‘evidence’ for Joseph altering his story later is only in the eyes of critical beholders. For example, Joseph’s 1832 First Vision account focuses on the remission of his sins. However, critics who wish to claim that in 1832 Joseph had only a vaguely “Trinitarian” idea of God (and so would see the Father and the Son as only one being) have missed vital evidence which must be considered.”

This is simply not true.

Joseph Smith first rendition of the First Vision talks about the Lord alone, not the Father and Son. In 2 Nephi, he writes, “Which Father and Son and Holy Ghost is one God.” In Mosiah, Smith writes, “that Christ was the God, the Father of all things” also “Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, which is the very Eternal Father.” “Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, which is the very Eternal Father.”

In 1833 in the Book of Commandments, he writes, “Which Father and Son and Holy Ghost is one God.” Not much ambiguity here. As well, Smith retroactively changes the original Book of Mormon to fit his changing view of the Godhead. For example:

1830 Text

And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.

Changed Text

And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God. (1 Nephi 11:1

I have provided other examples of this retrofitting above. Likewise, Smith went back and changed the Bible to match his new view of the Deity:

King James Version

“No man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.”

Joseph Smith’s Translation

“No man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.”

FairMormon posted the following blurb regarding Joseph Smith’s view of the Godhead:

“Joseph and the early Saints were not trinitarian, (sic) and understood God’s embodiment and the identity of the Father and Son as separate beings very early on. This doctrine is apparent in the Book of Mormon and in the earliest friendly and non-friendly accounts of such matters from the Saints. Such texts demonstrate that the supposed ‘evidence’ for Joseph altering his story later is only in the eyes of critical beholders.”

However, even the apologists at FairMormon and/or their masters couldn’t live with this much prevarication and wisely deleted it.

1839-1844

After 1839 there was yet another reconstruction, Joseph it now moving toward a plurality of Gods:

In March 1839, we first read of the plurality of Gods in D&C 121:32: “According to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was.”

“They shall pass by the angels, and the Gods. … Then shall they be gods, because they have no end. … They shall be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject to them.” 5

In March 1842 now in the Book of Abraham, we see that in chapters four and five, almost every verse of these chapters on the creation state, “The Gods” said, or pronounced, ordered, called, organized or prepared.

In the May 1842 Endowment, a plurality of Gods is taught during the creation period.

In July 1843, we read in Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20 that temple goers are promised in the marriage ceremony: “They shall pass by the angels, and the Gods. … Then shall they be gods, because they have no end. … They shall be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject to them.”

References

1 Moses 1:6, 20;

2 Mosiah 16: 15

3 Mosiah 7:27; 13:3

4 Lectures on Faith (compiled) Joseph Smith in January 1832

5 Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20

6 “Joseph Smith’s Changing View of God” with Grant Palmer https://www.youtube.com

trinity

FairMormon’s Comment

“Response to claim: “why would Joseph Smith have written a Trinitarian view of the Godhead in the first edition of the Book of Mormon?”

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS MISTAKES AND/OR ERRORS – THE AUTHOR HAS STATED ERRONEOUS OR INCORRECT INFORMATION OR MISINTERPRETED THEIR SOURCES

The mistake: The author starts with the assumption that Joseph held a Trinitarian view. The facts: Even before any edits were made, there are plenty of verses in the first edition of the Book of Mormon that support the concept that the Father and the Son are separate entities, just like the Bible does.”

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

As is their custom, FairMormon makes a claim without any substantiation, “Even before any edits were made, there are plenty of verses in the first edition of the Book of Mormon that support the concept that the Father and the Son are separate entities.”

Where are these supposed verses of plenty? This type of argument by faulty presupposition was a favorite of propagandist Joseph Goebbels and I would refer this hapless FairMormon apologist to him.  

In contrast, let me provide evidence to the contrary.

The following references clearly and authoritatively show Smith held a Trinitarian view which admittedly he later modified.

In 2 Nephi 31:21 as well in the document he prepared for the “Three Witnesses” to sign, we read, “the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God.”

We also read in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 11: 16, 18, 21, 32; 13:40: “Knowest thou the condescension of God? … [Mary] is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh. … The Lamb of God, yea even the Eternal Father …. was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world [crucified]. … The Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world.”

In Mosiah 7:27; 13:34, Abinadi tells us “that Christ was the God, the Father of all things”and “that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood”; also “that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man.”

In Mosiah 16: 15, Abinadi’s doctrine is summarized: “Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, which is the very Eternal Father.”

In Alma 11:28-29, 38-39, 44, we learn: “Now Zeezrom saith, Is there more than one God? And he [Amulek] answereth No … Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek saith unto him, Yea, he is the very Eternal Father. … Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God.”

And, Joseph’s Trinitarian perspective at that time, could not be made more abundantly clear than, 3 Nephi 11:27, 36; 28:10, we read “that the Father, and the Son, and Holy Ghost are one” in thought and purpose;or in Mormon 7:7, where we read: “The Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which is one God.”

In Mormon 9:12, we read: “Because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son,” or in Ether 3:14 and 4:12 where we again read, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son,””As well, in the Book of Commandments 24:18 (1833) we also read: “Which Father and Son and Holy Ghost is one God.”

Doctrine and Covenants 20: 28.

In the Book of Moses, found in the Pearl of Great Price we read: “The Savior, he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and. … this one God only will I worship.”

Moses 1:6, 20; 7:11, 35 (June–Dec. 1830

In Joseph Smith’s 1832 rendition of the First Vision, (November 1832) one Godappears.

How much more evidence do you need?

This new view of the Godhead, however, called for a retrofit had to be made to the Book of Mormon and Book of Commandments.At the time of the formation of the Church, there is considerable evidence that Joseph had a Trinitarian view of the Godhead.

Not that further evidence is necessary, It is abundantly clear that Joseph’s view of the Godhead changed after 1834. This new view of the Godhead calls for his new view required a retrofit and revision to earlier versions where Joseph could. For example, in 1 Nephi 11:1 Joseph rewrites:

Original 1830 Text

And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.

Current, Changed Text

And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God. (1 Nephi 11:1

Original 1830 Text

And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!

Current, Changed Text

And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Son of the Eternal Father! (1 Nephi 11:21)

Original 1830 Text

And I looked and beheld the Lamb of god (sic), that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.

Current, Changed Text

And I looked and beheld the Lamb of god (sic), that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the Everlasting God, was judged of the world. (1 Nephi 11:32)

Original 1830 Text

These last records …. shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world.

Current, Changed Text

These last records …. shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world. (1 Nephi 13:40)

Smith also made retroactive changes to the KJV of the Bible in the JST of Luke 10:22 to reflect the abandonment of his initial Trinitarian view of the Godhead.

King James Version

“No man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.”

Joseph Smith’s Translation

“No man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.”

redd

 

11. The Dearth of Jewish Customs in the Book of Mormon

candle

Recognizing that we are talking about devout Jews coming to the Americas, would it not be reasonable to expect that these immigrants would continue to live according to their customs and traditions?

Yet the Book of Mormon gives only a few superficial mentions of the intricate and rich religious heritage enjoyed by the Jews since the days of Moses.

The most common biblical terms used to describe Jewish customs or laws, holy days, feasts, the concept of clean/unclean, observances, dietary restrictions, religious ceremonies as well as Old Testament priesthood are entirely missing from the Book of Mormon.

Here is a list of nine examples of important Jewish biblical terms with their relative frequencies, which never appeared even once in the Book of Mormon:

“Passover” (59 times in Bible)

“ark of the covenant” (48 times in Bible)

“mercy seat” (23 in Bible)

“burnt offerings” (39 times in Bible)

“circumcision” (96 times in Bible)

“incense” (121 times in Bible)

“alters” (17 times in Bible)

“sons of Aaron” (97 times in Bible)

“day of atonement” (21 times in Bible)

“feast of tabernacles” (17 times in Bible)

“house of the LORD” (627 in Bible)

Passover

The word Passover was used fifty-nine times in the Bible. In the Book of Mormon, however, not once. Is it not amazing that a book supposedly written by ancient Israelites would never refer to Passover the most important holy day in all Judaism?

While the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, Moses told the people to wipe the blood of a lamb to their side posts and lintel, “For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.”(Exodus 12:21-23)

The Egyptians did not do this, and consequently lost all their “firstborn.” This convinced Pharaoh that he should let God’s people go.

The significance of the Passover to the Jews cannot be overstated. Since the Nephites were supposed to have been Jews who possessed “the five books of Moses”(1 Nephi 5:11), they should have observed and celebrated Passover hundreds of times after they arrived in the Americas.

The Sabbath

The Book of Mormon also makes scant mention of the “Sabbath day.” It is only mentioned five times as compared to the 171 times it is mentioned in the Bible.

How odd, how incredible that the Book of Mormon, supposedly written by Jewish people, would virtually ignore the day which was held so sacred by the Jews.

Circumcision

There is no mention of circumcision or any evidence it was ever practiced, except for one verse in Moroni 8, in which Jesus declares that “circumcision is done away in me.”

Burnt Offerings

Christ tells the Nephites that their “sacrifices and burnt offerings shall be done away” in 3 Nephi, but ironically there is no mention of burnt offerings after they arrive in the Americas. The only exception is found in Mosiah 2:3. Here it is explained that “they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses.”

Ceremonial Cleanliness and Unclean Foods

No mention other than one reference found in the largely plagiarized portion of Isaiah. Most significantly, there is no mention of Kosher eating.

Below are the counts of the times that some of the various feasts are explicitly mentioned:

ChroniclesBook of Mormon

Passover                                           2                                                    0

Tabernacles                                     1                                                   0

Unleavened Bread                         3                                                   0

Likewise in the Book of Mormon, there is no explicit mention of any regular Jewish sacrifice or offering. Again, here are the counts of some regular Jewish sacrifices in both books:

ChroniclesBook of Mormon

New Moon                                                3                                                 0

Evening & Morning                               4                                                 0

Drink Offerings                                      1                                                 0

As well, there is no mention of temple items in the Book of Mormon. The Jewish temple had several parts which were all important, such as the altar, incense, the shewbread the court and the Holy of Holies.

Nephi claims that his temple was built after the manner of Solomon’s temple (II Nephi 5:16), but none of these items are ever mentioned in the Book of Mormon,

ChroniclesBook of Mormon

Temple Court                                                 6                                                 0

Temple Altar                                                 20+                                              1*

Holy Place                                                       6                                                 0

Shewbread                                                      7                                                 0

Incense                                                             8                                                 0

(* Alma 15:17. The context is unclear.)

Curt van den Heuvel also comments that the relationship between the priests and the temple is obscured. In the Old Testament, the priestly system and the temple could not be separated. Exodus 27:21 In contrast, The Book of Mormon records that the Nephites built a temple, and had a priestly class, but the two are never associated with each other.

The above, as well as the absence of any mention of the scores of Jewish dietary laws, leads van den Heuvel to question if, “The Book of Mormon is not an ancient history but was rather made up by someone who had a good imagination, but very little understanding of ancient Jewish culture.”

Curt van hen Heuvel, www.2think.org/hundredsheep

FairMormon’s Comment on the Scant Mention of Jewish Customs and Laws

Response to claim: “the Book of Mormon claims to be the story of religious Jews, yet there is scant or no mention of Jewish customs or laws”

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS PROPAGANDA AND/OR SPIN – THE AUTHOR, OR THE AUTHOR’S SOURCE, IS PROVIDING INFORMATION OR IDEAS IN A SLANTED WAY IN ORDER TO INSTILL A PARTICULAR ATTITUDE OR RESPONSE IN THE READER

The portions of the Book of Mormon that describe Lehi’s family in the Old World do reflect Jewish customs or laws.

There is strong evidence of a year of Jubilee in the king Benjamin address.

There is the covenant emphasis from king Benjamin that is evidence of Hebrew influence.

The Book of Mormon was edited and compiled by people living post-Christ.

The Book of Mormon lists sins which are consistent with the Ten Commandments.

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

The above qualifies as scant, so let’s go with that!

The Book of Mormon gives a few superficial mentions of the intricate and rich religious heritage enjoyed by the Jewish people since the days of Moses.

I also understand what FairMormon is suggesting when it says, “The Book of Mormon was edited and compiled by people living post-Christ.” Are they suggesting the editors striped out Jewish references?

The most common biblical terms used to describe Jewish customs or laws, holy days, feasts, the concept of clean/unclean, observances, dietary restrictions, religious ceremonies as well as Old Testament priesthood are entirely missing from the Book of Mormon. I have listed in my letter nine examples of important Jewish biblical terms with their relative frequencies, which simply never appear once in the Book of Mormon as well as how often they appear in the Bible as well as a list of other significant Jewish features that one would expect to see in an authentic Jewish history.

Smith’s writing shows an alarming ignorant of Judiasm. It also wouldn’t do any harm if the Mormon apologist at FairMormon who wrote this critique would get out and actually meet a jew.

yelloww

 

12. We now know Joseph never used the Plates to translate the Book of Mormon. Rather he used a rock; he found while digging a well. What then was the point of the golden plates and the Urim and Thummim being preserved for 1,400 years, if never to be used in translation?

hat

When I was growing up in the Mormon church, it was my understanding and firm belief that the Prophet Joseph Smith by earnestly examining each character on the gold plates, with the use of the Urim and Thummim, would, by the gift and power of God, be given its English word equivalent.

I don’t know why I held that view, but it was no doubt, something that I picked it up in Sunday school, Mutual, or maybe it was the pictures that in the Improvement Era or the Priesthood manuals that depicted it exactly that way. There are many things in the Mormon Church that one seems to acquire through a kind of comprehensive osmosis. It is assumed that you must know and accept certain things, which rather than exposing your doctrinal ignorance by seeking clarification you accept.

Like many members, it was much later that I learned the truth about the translation methodology, but not in church, the Era, or a Priesthood manual.

As absurd as it sounds, it was while watching an episode of South Park and it was hilarious!

Not only did Joseph NOT use the Urim and Thummim for the clear majority of the translation, but the gold plates themselves were not required. Just the magic stone and a hat.

I wonder if the prophets and other Book of Mormon characters would find the South Park episode quite so funny; after all the pains they allegedly went to in fashioning rare gold into plates, meticulously engraving ‘reformed Egyptian’ characters on them one at a time, abridging them, preserving them and finally transporting and burying them?

The following testify to the true method Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon:

“I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness, the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus, the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.

I, as well as all of my father’s family, Smith’s wife, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, were present during the translation… He [Joseph Smith] did not use the plates in translation.” 1

“Sometime around 1822, before his first visit from the angel Moroni, Joseph was digging a well with Willard Chase, not far from the Smith home, and he discovered a smooth, dark-colored stone, about the size of an egg, that he called a seerstone. He later used it to help in the translation of the Book of Mormon and also in receiving certain revelations.” 2

“The process of translating the “reformed Egyptian” plates was simple though peculiar. It was all done withthe Urim and Thummim spectacles, but it was instant death for any one but Joe to use them. Even when he put them on, the light became so dazzling that he was obliged to look through his hat. Moreover, when so engaged, no profane eyes were allowed to see him or the hat. Alone, behind a blanket stretched across the room, Joe looked into his hat and read the mystic words.” 3

“The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with a stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods.” 4

“A fellow by the name of Joseph Smith, who resides in the upper part of Susquehanna county, (sic) has been, for the last two years we are told, employed in dedicating as he says, by inspiration, a new bible. He pretended that he had been entrusted by God with a golden bible which had been always hidden from the world. Smith would put his face into a hat in which he had a white stone, and pretend to read from it, while his coadjutor transcribed.” 5

A neighbor of the Smith’s, Lorenzo Saunders provided a statement in 1885 in which he alleged a conspiracy between Cowdery, Rigdon and, Smith in the creation of the Book of Mormon.

His statement reads:

“As respecting Oliver Cowdery, he came from Kirtland in the summer of 1826 and was about there [i.e. the Smith’s farm] until fall and took a school in the district where the Smiths lived and the next summer he was missing and I didn’t see him until fall and he came back and took our school in the district where we lived and taught about a week and went to the schoolboard and wanted the board to let him off and they did and he went to Smith and went to writing the Book of Mormon and wrote all winter. The Mormons say it wasn’t wrote there but I say it was because I was there. I saw Sidney Rigdon in the spring of 1827, about the middle of March. I went to Smiths to eat maple sugar, and I saw five or six men standing in a group and there was one among them better dressed than the rest and I asked Harrison Smith who he was and he said his name was Sidney Rigdon, a friend of Joseph’s from Pennsylvania.

I saw him in the Fall of 1827 on the road between where I lived and Palmyra, with Joseph. I was with a man by the name of Ingersol. They talked together and when he went on I asked Ingersol who he was and he said it was Rigdon. Then in the summer of 1828 I saw him at Samuel Lawrence’s just before harvest. I was cutting corn for Lawrence and went to dinner and he took dinner with us and when dinner was over they went into another room and I didn’t see him again till he came to Palmyra to preach. You wanted to know how Smith acted about it. The next morning after he claimed to have got plates he came to our house and said he had got the plates and what a struggle he had in getting home with them. Two men tackled him and he fought and knocked them both down and made his escape and secured the plates and had them safe and secure. He showed his thumb where he bruised it in fighting those men.

After [he] went from the house, my mother says ‘What a liar Joseph Smith is; he lies every word he says; I know he lies because he looks so guilty; he can’t see out of his eyes; how dare [he] tell such a lie as that.’ The time he claimed to have taken the plates from the hill was on the 22 day of September, in 1827, and I went on the next Sunday following with five or six other ones and we hunted the side hill by course [i.e. “in a search pattern”] and could not find no place where the ground had been broke. There was a large hole where the money diggers had dug a year or two before, but no fresh dirt. There never was such a hole; there never was any plates taken out of that hill nor any other hill in country, was in Wayne county. It is all a lie. No, sir, I never saw the plates nor no one else. He had an old glass box [i.e. a box used for holding plates or panes of glass] with a tile in it, about 7×8 inches, and that was the gold plates[;] and Martin Harris didn’t know a gold plate from a brick at this time.

Smith and Rigdon had an intimacy but it was very secret and still and there was a mediator between them and that was Cowdery. The manuscript was stolen by Rigdon and modelled over by him and then handed over to Cowdery and he copied them and Smith sat behind the curtain and handed them out to Cowdery and as fast as Cowdery copied them, they was handed over to Martin Harris and he took them to Egbert Granden [sic], the one who printed them, and Gilbert set the type.”

Lorenzo Saunders, Letter to Thomas Gregg, 28 January 1885, in
Charles A. Shook, The True Origins of the Book of Mormon,
(Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Co., 1914, p. 132-33).

It should be noted that the term “Urim and Thummim” is not found in the Book of Mormon and was the words were never used by Joseph Smith regarding the production the Book of Mormon until after 1833.

Ancient prophets went through all that effort of making, engraving, compiling, abridging, preserving, hiding, and transporting gold plates so that the gold plates would serve as a “maturing” and “build character” exercise for Joseph Smith. Or, was it to “provide as solid evidence” to Joseph’s 19th century New England treasure hunting magical thinking family and friends, and for Martin Harris to copy characters for Charles Anthon.

In other words, FAIR acknowledges and admits that the gold plates were not used for translating the Book of Mormon.

FairMormon’s Comments on the Method of Translation

Comment No. 1

Response to claim: Joseph Smith “used a rock; he found while digging a well” to translate the Book of Mormon

Question: Did Joseph Smith use his own seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon?

Many eyewitness accounts confirm that Joseph employed his seer stone during part of the translation process

Joseph was given a set of Nephite interpreters along with the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was produced. In addition, Joseph already possessed and utilized several seer stones. Although Joseph began translating the Book of Mormon using the Nephite interpreters, he later switched to using one of his seer stones to complete the translation. Critics (typically those who reject Mormonism but still believe in God) reject the idea that God would approve the use of an instrument for translation that had previously been used for “money digging.”

If one stops assuming that Joseph was a liar and deceiver, we can consider the matter from Joseph’s point of view:

He’s being called upon to reveal things that are hidden and to translate an ancient record.

Joseph is painfully aware that he cannot do these things.

How could Joseph know that he wasn’t going crazy or being delusional? Tying his early prophetic work to something with which he had already had objective success (the use of the seer stone) allowed Joseph to trust both God and himself.

The Lord seems to have used Joseph’s preexisting beliefs about how the world worked (The point is not necessarily that the stone had the same ability, but that it provided a means for Joseph to exercise his spiritual abilities.including seer stones to reveal hidden things) to help Joseph gain confidence in his own abilities.

With time, Joseph was able to translate with his “original” stone—thus, his own ability had increased, because he no longer needed the “stronger” Nephite stones.

Eventually, he did not require the “prop” or “crutch” of the stone at all—his faith and experience had grown.

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

FairMormon says, “If one stops assuming that Joseph was a liar and deceiver, we can consider the matter from Joseph’s point of view.”

That is a little silly if we are required just to accept Smith’s view of things this whole exercise becomes moot.

The ‘hermeneutics of suspicion‘ is an important element of the search for truth. It is only by reading texts between the lines, cataloging their omissions and laying bare their contradictions, that we can discover what is true.

Is it not be more reasonable to allow the reader to objectively look at the information I have provided and your comments on it and allow them to decide.

As well, your following statements seem to be saying that Joseph’s ‘treasure hunting rock’ is like a ‘security blanket?’

“He’s being called upon to reveal things that are hidden, and to translate an ancient record.”

“Joseph is painfully aware that he cannot do these things.”

“How could Joseph know that he wasn’t going crazy or being delusional? Tying his early prophetic work to something with which he had already had objective success (the use of the seer stone) allowed Joseph to trust both God and himself.”

“The Lord seems to have used Joseph’s preexisting beliefs about how the world worked (The point is not necessarily that the stone had the same ability, but that it provided a means for Joseph to exercise his spiritual abilities including seer stones to reveal hidden things) to help Joseph gain confidence in his own abilities.”

Ok, I now hear you now as saying that, the seer stone wasn’t that important to the translation process, just like the ‘gold plates’ themselves were not essential, nor the Urim and Thummim.

FairMormon now accepts the reality of the ‘rock in the hat’ methodology and moves the discussion to whether Smith was provided with the exact wording of every sentence in the Book of Mormon or simply given impressions which he then dictated within the context of his understanding?

Then in a statement reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s infamous, “What difference does it make!” response when pressed in the Benghazi hearing, those champions of truth at FairMormon reveal their frustration:

“Scholars have examined and debated the issue of a ‘tight’ versus ‘loose’ translation method for many years. Although it is an interesting intellectual exercise, the exact process by which words and sentences were formed has no bearing upon the fact that the book was dictated by the ‘gift and power of God.’ 6

I think that seeking to know what is true is more than just an interesting intellectual exercise. I think these things are important.

“The Lord provided a set of seer stones (which were formerly used by Nephite prophets) along with the plates. The term Nephite interpreters can alternatively refer to the stones themselves of the stones in conjunction with their associated paraphernalia (holding rim and breastplate). Sometime after the translation, early saints noticed similarities with the seer stones and related paraphernalia used by High Priests in the Old Testament and began to use the term Urim and Thummim interchangeably with the Nephite interpreter sand Joseph’s other seer stones as well. The now popular use of the term Urim and Thummim has unfortunately obscured the fact that all such devices belong in the same class of consecrated revelatory aids and that more than one were used in the translation.”

“The Nephite interpreters were intended to assist Joseph in the initial translation process, yet the manner in which they were employed was never explained in detail. The fact that the Nephite interpreters were set in rims resembling a pair of spectacles has led some to believe that they may have been worn like a pair of glasses, with Joseph viewing the characters on the plates through them. This, however, is merely speculation that doesn’t take into account that Joseph soon disassembled the fixture, the spacing between seer stones being too wide for his eyes. The accompanying breastplate also appeared to have been used by a larger man. Like its biblical counterpart (the High Priest’s breastplate contained 12 gems that symbolized him acting as a mediator between God and Israel), the Nephite breastplate was apparently non-essential to the revelatory process.”

Certainly, there was a change related to the use of the Urim and Thummim after the loss of the 116 pages, Joseph rarely used the Urim and Thummim, opting for his magic seer stone.

Which begs the important question, that I don’t feel the apologists have dealt with; why was this wonderful apparatus preserved for 1,500 years to serve such a limited purpose?

Comment No. 2

The stone is mentioned occasionally in Church publications, but is rarely (if ever) discussed in the 21st century in venues such as Sunday School, nor is it portrayed in any Church-related artwork. This is the conflation of the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone under the name “Urim and Thummim.” In church, we discuss the Urim and Thummim with the assumption that it is always the instrument that Joseph recovered with the plates. Only those familiar with the sources will realize that there was more than one translation instrument.

That said, the Church has been very frank about the seer stone’s use, though the product of the translation of the Book of Mormon is usually given much more attention than the process. Note the mention of the stone in the official children’s magazine, The Friend (available online at lds.org):

OK, we need a reality check here. I am seventy years old, I grew up in the Church, and I believe that like many, perhaps most members I did not hear of the Magic stone in the hat method of translation until quite recently, certainly within the last decade.

It is a little silly for FairMormon to explain this away by saying, “no look we donated a line to it in the Children’s Friend in 1974.”

It should also be noted that Joseph would often correct his own translation on the fly. For example, Mosiah 7:8.

“…they were again brought before the king.. and were permitted or rather commanded that they should answer the questions.”

Are we to believe that this error came across Joseph’s magic rock? Remember he tells us words or sentences would appear, he would speak them to the scribe (usually Oliver Cowdery) who would read it back and only when verified would it disappear and another word or line appears.

Another example is Alma 10:”

“Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.”

Or, Alma 24:19

“And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.”

A suspicious person would say that Joseph was working from an outline behind the curtain and simply misspoke.

I think you can see a pattern here in the way the Church approaches embarrassing issues in their past. It is their modus operandi. The formula being:

  1. Deny that the controversial or unsavory thing ever happened or was ever said
  2. Acknowledge the thing, but deny that it is relevant or any kind of big deal
  3. Acknowledge its relevance, but say it’s just old news that’s been around forever

When rumors of Smith rock in the hat stories started to make the rounds we witness:

  1. The Denial

    In 2000, Joseph Fielding McConkie (son of Bruce R. McConkie) and Craig J. Ostler, both employed by BYU wrote an essay titled, “The Process of Translating the Book of Mormon in which they wrote:“Thus, everything we have in the Book of Mormon, according to Mr. Whitmer, was translated by placing the chocolate-colored stone in a hat into which Joseph would bury his head so as to close out the light. While doing so he could see ‘an oblong piece of parchment, on which the hieroglyphics would appear,’ and below the ancient writing, the translation would be given in English. Joseph would then read this to Oliver Cowdery, who in turn would write it. If he did so correctly, the characters and the interpretation would disappear and be replaced by other characters with their interpretation.”“…the testimony of David Whitmer simply does not accord with the divine pattern. If Joseph Smith translated everything that is now in the Book of Mormon without using the gold plates, we are left to wonder why the plates were necessary in the first place. It will be remembered that possession of the plates placed the Smith family in considerable danger, causing them a host of difficulties. If the plates were not part of the translation process, this would not have been the case. It also leaves us wondering why the Lord directed the writers of the Book of Mormon to take a duplicate record of the plates of Lehi. This provision which compensated for the loss of the 116 pages would have served no purpose either.Further, we would be left to wonder why it was necessary for Moroni to instruct Joseph each year for four years before he was entrusted with the plates. We would also wonder why it was so important for Moroni to show the plates to the three witnesses, including David Whitmer. And why did the Lord have the Prophet show the plates to the eight witnesses? Why all this flap and fuss if the Prophet didn’t really have the plates and if they were not used in the process of translation?What David Whitmer is asking us to believe is that the Lord had Moroni seal up the plates and the means by which they were to be translated hundreds of years before they would come into Joseph Smith’s possession and then decided to have the Prophet use a seer stone found while digging a well so that none of these things would be necessary after all. Is this, we would ask, really a credible explanation of the way the heavens operate?”
  2. Acknowledge the thing, but deny that it is relevant or any kind of big deal.Once it was blatantly clear the ‘Rock in the Hat’ could no longer be denied, the next step was to discount its importance, as this statement by FairMormon illustrated:“The conclusion that Joseph used a “magical” or “occult” stone to assist in the translation of the Book of Mormon is entirely dependent upon one’s own preconception that the use of such an instrument would not be acceptable by God. Believers, on the other hand, ought not to take issue with a distinction between one set of seer stones versus another. As Brant Gardner notes: “Regardless of the perspective from which we tell the story, the essential fact of the translation is unchanged. How was the Book of Mormon translated? As Joseph continually insisted, the only real answer, from any perspective, is that it was translated by the gift and power of God.”And then the gaslighting.
  3. Acknowledge its relevance, but say it’s just old news that’s been around forever“The stone is mentioned occasionally in Church publications, but is rarely (if ever) discussed in the 21st century in venues such as Sunday School, nor is it portrayed in any Church-related artwork. This is the conflation of the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone under the name “Urim and Thummim.” In church, we discuss the Urim and Thummim with the assumption that it is always the instrument that Joseph recovered with the plates. Only those familiar with the sources will realize that there was more than one translation instrument.That said, the Church has been very frank about the seer stone’s use, though the product of the translation of the Book of Mormon is usually given much more attention than the process.” Again it was mentioned in the Children’s Friend.

yelloww

13. Knowing that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon by looking at a stone in his hat, why does the Church still hang misleading art and pictures in its buildings and reproducing these bogus images in its publications?

Where is the heroic paintings of Joseph with his head in his hat?

It is obvious that the Church did not consider this image as bolstering their cause. It was bad PR!

Honestly, which of the two images below do you think the Church would want the world to hold in their minds when they think of Joseph Smith, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator?

transhat

As I have said already, I certainly do not accept the Orwellian mantra hoisted on an already subdued people by the likes of Dallin Oaks that, “Not everything that’s true is useful.”

Useful to whom and for what purpose? Has Oaks considered that the corollary to this puerile statement must also hold, “That not everything that’s false is NOT useful!”

I am told that Oaks was trained as a lawyer, not at BYU, but a highly-ranked law school, Surely he must have taken a class in classical logic or philosophy.

But that was a long time ago, and perhaps he has forgotten the ‘Law of the Excluded Middle,’ espoused by Bertrand Russell. The law simply states that if ‘A is B’ is false, then ‘A is not B’ must be true.

If we accept that Oaks statement in the affirmative that, ‘A – Not everything that is true’ is ‘B – Useful,’ is equal in the negative too, ‘Everything that is true is not useful,’ then it must follow that, ‘Not everything that is false is not useful.’

But perhaps Elder Oaks believes that. There is certainly no lack of examples in the Mormon experience where things that were known to be untrue were nonetheless very useful.

Joseph Smith’s denials of his polygamous marriages, and the many lies he told the Saints and his wife in this regard. False statements? Certainly, but very useful – to him!’

The many paintings hanging in visitor centers and reproduced in Church books and manuals showing the strong-chinned young Joseph studiously examining the “Reformed Egyptian’ characters on the golden plates while his scribe sat across from him writing down his translation. A rather more inspiring image than Smith with his head in his hat!

The Church has long known these images were not true, but they remain because they are useful.

translation

FairMormon agrees that the above photo demonstrates several historical errors, namely:

  1. Oliver Cowdery did not see the plates as Joseph worked with
  2. For much of the translation of the extant Book of Mormon text, Joseph did not have the plates in front of him—they were often hidden outside the home during the
  3. Joseph used a seer stone to translate the plates; he usually did this by placing the stone in his hat to exclude light and dictating to his scribe.

References

1 Martin Harris, “Address to All Believers in Christ”, Richmond, Missouri, 1887, p.12

2 James. B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed., (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 40.

3 John Quincy Adams, The Birth of Mormonism (Boston: Gorham Press, 1916), 36

4 Affidavit of Isaac Hale dated March 20, 1834, cited in Rodger I. Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reexamined, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), pp. 126-128.

5 Cincinnati Advertiser of June 2, 1830

6 https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon

FairMormon’s Comment on the Bogus Images

“Response to claim: “Why does the Church continue to print bogus pictures and hang misleading paintings in Church buildings showing Joseph running his fingers over “Reformed Egyptian” characters on gold plates?”

All art, including Church art, simply reflects the views of the artist: It may not reflect reality.”

“Why, then, does the art not match details which have repeatedly been spelled out in LDS publications?

The simplest answer may be that artists simply don’t always get such matters right. The critics’ caricature to the contrary, not every aspect of such things is “correlated.” Robert J. Matthews of BYU was interviewed by the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, and described the difficulties in getting art “right”:

Even this does not tell the whole story. “Every artist,” said Henry Ward Beecher, “dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” This is perhaps nowhere more true than in religious art…”

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

I am sorry, but I don’t buy that. Decision-making in the Mormon Church is more centralized than it is in the Kremlin.

Also, you just said the, “A common complaint is that Church materials usually show Joseph translating the Book of Mormon by looking at the golden plates…” If that is the case, and it has been the case for decades, then why doesn’t the Church do something to correct it.

redd

 

14. How can we deal with Fanny Alger and Plural
Marriage Before the Revelation on Plural Marriage?

alger.jpgThere is overwhelming evidence that in 1835, Joseph had a sexual relationship, an affair with a nineteen-year-old girl by the name of Fanny Alger who was then employed in his own home as a servant girl.

Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris considered the relationship to have been simply adulterous. Cowdery wrote a letter to his brother Warren in January 1838 referring to “a dirty, nasty, filthy scrape affair of his and Fanny Alger’s.”

Martin Harris reports the Prophet indicated that the ‘servant girl’ was claiming he had made, “improper proposals to her, which created quite a talk amongst the people.” Believing there was no truth to it, Harris told Smith, “take no notice of the girl, that she was full of the devil, and wanted to destroy the prophet of God.” Smith, however, “acknowledged that there was more truth than poetry in what the girl said,” to which Harris then told Smith he would have nothing to do with the matter and that he could, “get out of the matter the best way he knew how.” 1

William McLellin in a letter to Joseph’s son in 1872, rather bluntly described the affair:

“Now Joseph I will relate to you some history, and refer you to your own dear Mother for the truth. You will probably remember that I visited your Mother and family in 1847, and held a lengthy conversation with her, retired in the Mansion House in Nauvoo. I did not ask her to tell, but I told her some stories I had heard. And she told me whether I was properly informed. Dr. F. G. Williams practiced with me in Clay Co. Mo. during the latter part of 1838. And he told me that at your birth your father committed an act with a Miss Hill [sic]—a hired girl. Emma saw him, and spoke to him. He desisted, but Mrs. Smith refused to be satisfied. He called in Dr. Williams, O. Cowdery, and S. Rigdon to reconcile Emma. But she told them just as the circumstances took place. He found he was caught. He confessed humbly, and begged forgiveness. Emma and all forgave him. She told me this story was true!! Again I told her I heard that one night she missed Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn and saw him and Fanny in the barn together alone. She looked through a crack and saw the transaction!!! She told me this story too was verily true.” 2

It is difficult to describe this as one of Joseph’s ‘plural wives’ as we know from the D&C he did not have the power to “seal” at the time he “married” Fanny. Joseph was given such authority in April 1836, when he claimed that he and Oliver Cowdery had a vision in which Elijah appeared to them and gave them “the keys of this dispensation.”

Fanny and her parents left Kirtland in September 1836 moving to Dublin, Indiana where Fanny married Solomon Custer, a non-Mormon.

Fanny was by no means the only girl or woman that Joseph had a sexual relationship with without ‘the benefit of a clergy.’ In a astonishing example of revisionism the Church likes to tack this one up as a ‘marriage.’

There is increasing evidence that Smith’s practiced a unique form of concubinage. I say unique because unlike the concubines that Old Testament prophets took, Smith seemed to offer these women no level of commitment. In modern parlance, we might use words such as an affair, dalliance, liaison or friends with benefits to describe these sexual relationships.

I think it is important to note that there were many accusations of sexual impropriety and illicit sexual conduct made against Smith between 1827 and his death in 1844.

At present, there are no accounts of Joseph’s sexual experiences before 1827. Although he hints at it when he writes in the official Church history that, “I was left to all kinds of temptations, and mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors and displayed the weakness of youth and the corruption of human nature, which I am sorry to say led me into divers temptations, to the gratification of many appetites offensive in the sight of God.”

Joseph does not specifically identify which were the “temptations” or the “many appetites” that he gratified which were “offensive” to God. Could his “gratification of many appetites” be referencing sexual liaisons, masturbation or something even more troubling?

We know he attended many camp-meetings, he says, “as often as occasion would
permit.”
3

It is well known that these ‘camp-meetings,’ were rather bawdy affairs, and were not just attended by the pious seeking salvation but by drinkers, thrill-seekers, and prostitutes. They were hotbeds of sexual opportunity with men and women lying around together in the dark. One wag commented that at these meetings, ‘more souls were begotten than saved.’

Joseph was arrested again on several charges on June 30th, 1830. A court trial was held before Judge Joseph Chamberlain at Bainbridge, New York. A dozen witnesses were called, including Miriam and Rhoda Stowell, the daughters of Josiah Stowell of Bainbridge. Smith had worked for Stowell as a fortune hunter, between October 1825 to March 1826. During this period, Smith frequently associated with the Stowell girls who were eighteen and twenty years of age

Seeking to determine Smith’s “character and conduct,” the prosecutor called the Stowell girls as witnesses. Joseph Smith said that both girls “were severally examined … particularly as to my behavior towards them, both in public and in private.”

Nothing came of this case, according to Joseph.

The prosecutor may have called the Stowell girls because of the recent sexual accusations made against Smith in Harmony, Pennsylvania.

Levi Lewis, Emma Smith’s cousin accused Joseph of attempting “to seduce Eliza Winters,” a close friend of Emma’s. Lewis said that being well “acquainted with Joseph Smith Jr. and Martin Harris and that he has heard them both say, [that] adultery was no crime. Harris said he did not blame Smith for his attempt to seduce sixteen-year-old Eliza Winters.” 4

Joseph and Emma’s abruptly left Harmony in May of 1829.

You know, at one time I had respect Emma Smith-Bittamon but no longer. The more I have got to know her the real Emma, the more I see her as a conflicted and dishonest woman who too often enabled Joseph’s sexual peculiarities and punished his victims.

“Joseph’s name was connected with scandalous relations with two or three families” according to Benjamin Winchester, a close friend of the prophet, said the Kirtland accusations of scandal and “licentious conduct” against him was discussed, “especially among the women.” The rumors mentioned a Miss Vienna Jacques and a Miss Marinda Nancy Johnson specifically. 5

Sexual allegations were also made against Smith in Hiram, Ohio. Related to Marinda Johnson. Luke Johnson—Marinda’s brother, and later member of the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835 wrote:

“While Joseph was yet at my father’s, a mob of forty or fifty came to his house, a few entered his room in the middle of the night, and Carnot Mason dragged Joseph out of bed by the hair of his head; he was then seized by as many as could get hold of him, and taken about forty rods from the house, stretched on a board, and tantalized in the most insulting and brutal manner; they tore off the few night clothes that he had on, for the purpose of emasculating him, and had Dr. Dennison there to perform the operation [castration]; but when the Dr. saw the Prophet stripped and stretched on the plank, his heart failed him, and he refused to operate. The mob … in attempting to force open his jaws, they broke one of his front teeth to pour a vial of some obnoxious drug [aqua-fortis, a poison] into his mouth. The mob [then] became divided [because they] did not succeed … put poured tar over him, and then stuck feathers in it and left him, and went to an old brickyard to wash themselves and bury their filthy clothes. At this place a vial was dropped, the contents of which ran out and killed the grass.… [then] part of the mob went to the house that Sidney Rigdon occupied, and dragged him out, and besmeared him with tar and feathers.” 6

One member of the mob screaming for Smith castration was Eli Johnson who believed that Smith had been intimate with his sixteen-year-old niece.

It seems that Joseph had more accusers than Bill Cosby!

References

1 Metcalfe, Anthony. Interview with Martin Harris, ca 1873, in ‘Ten Years before the Mast,’ Malad, Idaho, 1888.

2 William McLellin, Letter to Joseph Smith III, July 1872, Community of Christ Archives

3 Joseph Smith-History,” 1:8, The Pearl of Great Price

4 ” Levi Lewis affidavit, 1

5 Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy,4.

6 Luke Johnson History, p. 57

FairMormon’s Comments on Fanny Alger

Response to claim: “Why did Joseph Smith’s polygamy pre-date any revelation sanctioning it?”

Note: This material is part of a collection of draft essays on LDS plural marriage. They are provided for the use of FairMormon and its readers. (C) 2007-2017 Gregory L. Smith. No other reproduction is authorized.

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

I am sure that there are more than a few lawyers volunteering their time to FairMormon who can instruct you that under section 107 of the US Copyright Law, any duplication by me of your, “Draft essays on LDS plural marriage,” would constitute a “fair use” as the use of such copyrighted material, in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, is offered to the public without profit.

But since FairMormon seems to want to stymy debate on this issue, I will assume that they have no defense of this obvious extramarital affair and move on to his numerous ‘marriages’ with long list of teenage girls.

15. Was Joseph’s Marriages to Very Young Girls Right?

Abusive Man Choking Female Victim

While there could be more because of Joseph’s secrecy and cover-up, we now know of a surety that he had at least ten teenage brides:

Fanny Alger, 16
Sarah Ann Whitney, 17
Lucy Walker, 17
Flora Ann Woodworth, 16
Emily Dow Partridge, 19
Sarah Lawrence, 17
Maria Lawrence, 19
Helen Mar Kimball, 14
Melissa Lott, 19
Nancy M. Winchester, 14?

Did he have sex with these young girls?

Here’s what Helen Mar Kimball, just 14 confided to a close friend in Nauvoo about her marriage to Joseph Smith:

“I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.” 1

Obviously, any reasonable person knows that Helen meant it was sexual. As Jeremy Runnells puts it, “This is Warren Jeffs territory,” and had Joseph Smith conducted himself in this manner today, he would have rightfully been imprisoned as Jeffs has been.

If someone treated your sister or daughter like that today, would you be alright with that?

The sexual nature of Joseph Smith’s marriages should be acknowledged as the LDS scripture repeatedly stress it:

“… for they are given unto him tomultiply a replenish the earth and tobear the souls of men.”2

Joseph secretly “slept” with young Emily Partridge according to her own testimony under oath and certainly, without Emma’s knowledge or consent, Emily testified that she “roomed” with Joseph while Emma was somewhere else in the house on the night of their marriage. 3

As well, according to Benjamin F. Johnson, living in Ramus, Illinois, on May 16, 1843, Joseph shared a room with Eliza, the “daughter of the late Bishop Partridge.” Again, without the knowledge or consent of Emma. 4

Emma discovered that sixteen‐year‐old Flora Woodworth was carrying a gold watch that Joseph had given her in August of 1843. Realizing the implications, Emma demanded that Flora give the watch back. Smith reprimanded her, but Emma refused to be quiet on the carriage ride home. William Clayton, Joseph’s secretary, that he had to employ “harsh measures” to stop her complaining. This raises the question, did Joseph used both physical force as well as lies to avoid a divorce from Emma. 5

To me, one of the most troubling stories was Martha Brotherton’s, an 18-year‐old convert from England, who emigrated to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1842 with her parents.

Brigham Young approached Joseph Smith for his approval to add Martha as another of his plural wives. Smith agreed and called a meeting with Young and Martha. Martha knew nothing of their agreement. Her parents were not informed or invited. Today, of course, she would be regarded as a dependent minor.

After Smith and Young made great efforts to have her agree, Martha absolutely refused.

At this point, they encouraged her to lie to her parents and keep their proposal a secret but again, tried to convince her to accept Brigham’s proposal. Martha finally appealed to them through tears and pleading that she be given time to think about the offer.

After finally being permitted to leave the room, Martha revealed everything to her parents and wrote the events while the important details were fresh in her mind. She told others in Nauvoo about the episode before the family boarded a steamboat bound for St. Louis. She also published her account in a St. Louis newspaper. 6

When Smith read the article, he immediately denied Martha’s story, issuing false affidavits and making public statements labeling Martha as a liar and apostate calling her a “mean harlot.” 7

There appeared to be a competition to get as many plural wives as one could. William Clayton, the secretary to Joseph Smith, wrote on August 11, 1843, that about marrying additional wives, Joseph told him, “You have a right to get all you can.” 8

Is it any wonder that people accuse Smith of treating women like chattels? But even Smith doesn’t approach the misogynistic depths of Heber C. Kimball, famed in the non-Mormon world for his statement, “I think no more of taking another wife than buying a cow.” 9

“This is the reason why the doctrine of plurality of wives was revealed so that the noble spirits which are waiting for tabernacles might be brought forth.”10

Joseph also married his own teenage foster daughters. Would God to be okay with a 37-year-old man marrying his young foster daughters and their friends?

But what makes this behavior even more egregious is how he would pressure and coerce these adolescent girls to submit to him by telling them that her entire family’s salvation and exaltation depends on their compliance.

Does the idea that a child can guarantee the eternal salvation and exaltation of her entire family by marrying Joseph Smith not contradicts the central Mormon tenet that everyone must work out their own salvation?

Helen was not Joseph’s only teen bride. There were many, and their stories are equally tragic. There were ten others that we know of.

Also, the notion that it was common for girls 12 – 14 to marry in 19th Century America is an absolute myth. Just go to your town hall and ask to see the marriage records of the 1800s and you will see how unusual it was.

Moreover, as discussed above, there must be a presumption that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with his polygamous wives. This is based upon the historical record (at least a dozen affidavits and testimonies from Joseph’s plural wives themselves) of Joseph Smith having sexual relations with his polygamous wives.

FairMormon’s Comments on Smith’s Marriages to Young Girls

“Joseph Smith’s polygamous marriages to young women may seem difficult to understand or explain today, but in his own time such age differences were not typically an obstacle to marriage.” 11

“The plural marriages were unusual, to say the least; the younger ages of the brides were much less so. Critics do not provide this perspective because they wish to shock the audience and have them judge Joseph by the standards of the modern era, rather than his own time.”


DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

FairMormon; please. ‘… Difficult to understand and explain today.’ Look at Warren Jeffs, the jury that put him away had little difficulty ‘understanding’ why, like Joseph Smith, Jeffs married very young girls. As the prosecution ‘explained,’ with little difficulty, it was all about SEX.

I am sorry but a 37-year-old man ‘marrying’ a 14-year-old girl was exceedingly rare and viewed with a jaundiced eye even in upstate New York in the 1830s and 1840s. And let’s not forget it was also illegal.

As the census data below shows, less than 1% of all brides in Smith’s day were 14 years old and 37-year-old grooms were about the same. As I will show below, the 14/37 cohort is astronomically small. Fanny/Smith was likely the only 14/37 bride/husband combo that year in the entire state of New York. FairMormon’s attempt to make it sound like young girls barely out of puberty marrying middle-aged men was commonplace is yet another example of their deceitfulness.

chart2

census

Incidentally, Joseph doesn’t hold the record for the Mormon age gap when marrying teenage girls.Those bragging rights go to Mormon President Lorenzo Snow, who married a 16-year-old girl when he was 57 years old.

Let me again assure you that people of Snow’s time didn’t view sixty was the new twenty!

The most conservative estimates indicate that Joseph entered into plural marriages with 29–33 women, 7 of whom were under the age of 18. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of LDS apostle Heber C. Kimball, who was 14. The rest were 16 (two) or 17 (three). One wife (Maria Winchester) about which virtually nothing is known, was either 14 or 15.

Helen Mar Kimball

Some people have concluded that Helen did have sexual relations with Joseph However, historian Todd Compton does not hold this view; he criticized the ‘anti-Mormons’ Jerald and Sandra Tanner for using his book to argue for sexual relations and wrote:

“The Tanners made great mileage out of Joseph Smith’s marriage to his youngest wife, Helen Mar Kimball. However, they failed to mention that I wrote that there is absolutely no evidence that there was any sexuality in the marriage, and I suggest that, following later practice in Utah, there may have been no sexuality. (p. 638) All the evidence points to this marriage as a primarily dynastic marriage.”

Exactly what type of evidence of sexual activity would you expect to find?”

FairMormon has commented:

“A middle-aged man ‘marrying’ a 14-year-old girl, was far from normal. Joseph Smith’s marriage to Helen Mar Kimball was likely the only 37/14 marriage in New York State that year. Joseph Smith was sealed to Helen Mar Kimball in 1843 during the time that the Saints lived in Nauvoo, Illinois, not New York State. And, in fact, Illinois Governor Thomas Ford at age 28 was married to 15-year-old bride Frances Hambaugh in 1828, and had five children by her. William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, married a 16-year-old girl in 1808 when he was 37 years old. When his wife died young, Clark married his wife’s cousin. By this time, Clark is in his 50s, marrying a woman in her late 20s. Joseph Smith’s polygamous marriages to young women may seem difficult to understand or explain today, but in his own time such age differences were not typically an obstacle to marriage. The plural marriages were unusual, to say the least; the younger ages of the brides were much less so. Critics do not provide this perspective because they wish to shock the audience and have them judge Joseph by the standards of the modern era, rather than his own time.”

First, Governor Thomas Ford 28/15 cohort is not equivalent to Joseph’s 37/14 – 10 years different. But that in itself does not prove anything.

As the chart above, built from 1840 census data shows, a small fraction of 1% of all brides were 14 years old. It also shows that less than 1% of all grooms were 37 years of age.

We don’t have any statistics on the 37/14 Groom/bride combos, but simple arithmetic and a little common sense would predict it would be extremely small. The probability of a 14/37 cohort is .005 (14-year-old brides) x .01(37-year-old grooms) = .00005 or stated as odds, that is 1 in 20,000. There were 12,000 37-year-old men and 22,000 14 year girls in New York State and they certainly didn’t all marry that year.

With the odds of 1:20,000 clearly Joseph/Helen was the only 37/14 cohort in New York that year. 

FairMormon’s statement that “plural marriages were unusual, to say the least; the younger ages of the brides were much less so…” Yes, plural marriages were unusual because they were illegal.

I am not sure what point FairMormon is trying to make by stating that this child was instructed to marry a portly middle-aged man by Dad.

“My father was the first to introduce it to me, which had a similar effect to a sudden shock of a small earthquake. When he found (after the first outburst of displeasure for supposed injury) that I received it meekly.” 12

But then this was the guy who made the statement, “I think no more of taking another wife than buying a cow.”

What a poor child. What a Dad! 13

The Church’s apologists have also commented:

“There is, despite the critics’ insinuations, no evidence that Helen Mar Kimball’s marriage was consummated. (Consummation would not have been inappropriate since this was a marriage, but the critics are too anxious to find problems where no evidence for such exists. Helen did have some disappointments—these mostly revolved around being less free to participate in parties and socials, not at being physically joined to an older husband.”

Here we go again.

Yes, there was no physical examination of Helen after the ‘Honeymoon,’ and as far as we know Smith’s sexual proclivities didn’t favor Ménage à trois so we don’t have any witness to the act.

But here is what Helen Mar Kimball, a girl of just 14 confided to a close friend in Nauvoo about her marriage to Joseph Smith:

“I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.”14

It is an extreme apologetic position to suggest that we cannot make reasonable inferences. That Smith didn’t have sex with Helen or the many other teenagers he married or the twelve married women he polyandrously married because we cannot produce both first-hand and explicit evidence of sexual intercourse.

FairMormon’s tendency to discount all second-hand evidence as being “hearsay” and therefore need not be addressed, confuses the rules of the courtroom with the rules of historical scholarship. Something FairMormon is obviously ignorant of.

Obviously, any reasonable person knows that Helen meant it was sexual. As Jeremy Runnells puts it, “This is Warren Jeffs territory,” and had Joseph Smith conducted himself in this manner today, he would have rightfully been imprisoned as Jeffs has been.

The sexual nature of plural marriages should also be acknowledged as the LDS scripture repeatedly stress it:

“… for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth and to bear the souls of men.” 15

Also, let’s not forget that Helen was but one of many teens targeted by Smith:

Fanny Alger, 16

Sarah Ann Whitney, 17

Lucy Walker, 17

Flora Ann Woodworth, 16

Emily Dow Partridge, 19

Sarah Lawrence, 17

Maria Lawrence, 19

Helen Mar Kimball, 14

Nancy M. Winchester, 14?

Clarissa Reed Hancock, 19

Malissa Lott, 19

Was Joseph Smith a pedophile probably not but he certainly had an interest in very young girls.

FairMormon asserts: “No, actually it wasn’t pedophilia. The facts: Joseph being sealed to Helen does not meet the definition of “pedophilia.” The term “pedophilia” is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as “psychosexual disorder in which an adult has sexual fantasies about or engages in sexual acts with a prepubescent child of the same or the opposite sex”. (sic) Pedophilia requires that the adult involved have sexual acts with a prepubescent child. The term was not even coined until 1896 or broadly utilized until around 1920.”

The essential part of this definition is: “engages in sexual acts with a prepubescent child of the same or the opposite sex.” Pedophilia requires that the adult involved have sexual acts with a prepubescent child.”

OK, two things must be shown to label Joseph Smith, a pedophile:

  1. Helen Kimball (or Nancy Winchester) were prepubescent.
  2. Joseph Smith, an adult male had sexual intercourse or engaged in other sexual acts with either of them.

Let’s examine the first condition.

FairMormon makes the irrelevant point that Helen continued to live with her parents after marrying Smith. It is necessary to tell them that pedophilia has to do with sex, not residency.

I will stipulate that Helen was 14.8 years of age when she married Smith. She was born August 22, 1828, and it is thought she married Joseph Smith on May 28, 1843, the date of her father’s blessing.

I am not altogether satisfied with your age of menarche in America in 1840 has a normal distribution close to a mean of 15.2 years and a standard deviation of 1.85. I believe your citation is using European, not US data.

My research (North American girls Boaz (1999) puts menarche at 16.5 in 1840.

Nevertheless, even accepting your numbers, menarche in Helen’s day was between and 13.35 and 17.05.

This means that at 14.8 the odds are 60/40 that she was prepubescent.

To the second point, the assumption, of course, is that marriages are consummated.

As well, as I have indicated previously, Helen indicated sex was involved:

“I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.” 16

By FairMormon’s own statistics and definition then, there is a 60% chance Joseph Smith was a pedophile.

Was he a pedophile? Maybe maybe not but he was certainly a sexual predator. The fact that we find a middle-aged man marrying teenage girls is troubling enough particularly when we consider the coercive techniques Joseph employed.

Today Joseph Smith would also be labeled a child rapist and would be a registered sex offender.

Among  adults, most sexual activity does not constitute a criminal offense, unless one of the adults does not consent to the activity.

However, in law, children are viewed. as unable to give consent. Indeed, the term “minor” refers to a person who has not yet reached the age of “majority, “where they can give consent in any legal matter (for example, a minor cannot make a valid contract). However, actual laws and the maximum ages that constitute a breach of law vary by state but in no case in the United States, today is that age 14. A person engaging in sexual activity with a minor below these proscribed ages – 16–18 is guilty of an offense. As well there are age gap laws that aggravate. A 17-year-old boy while still guilty, would be treated more leniently than a 37-year-old man engaging in sexual activities with a 14-year-old child. In New York State, today a man over 21 who has sex with a girl of 14 is guilty of third-degree rape.

I stand by my statement that Joseph Smith may have been a pedophile.

redd

References

1 Mormon Polygamy: A History by LDS Historian, Richard S. van Wagoner, p.53

2 Doctrine and Covenants 132:63

3 Mormon Enigma, p. 144

4 ” Mormon Enigma, p. 145.

5 An Intimate Chronicle, p. 118

6 St. Louis Bulletin, July 15, 1842, p. 2.

7 Evans, The Keystone of Mormonism, Keystone Books Inc., 2003, St. George Utah, pp. 20‐21.

8 An Intimate Chronicle, p. 115

9 Heber C. Kimball, Ann-Eliza Snow, Wife No. 19, Chapter 17,

10 Discourse of Brigham Young, p. 305

11 https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Joseph_Smith/Polygamy

12 Compton, Todd (December 1997), In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural
Wives of Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: Signature Books.

13 Heber C. Kimball, Ann-Eliza Snow, Wife No. 19, Chapter 17,

14 Mormon Polygamy: A History by LDS Historian, Richard S. van Wagoner, p.53

15 Doctrine and Covenants 132:63

16 Mormon Polygamy: A History by LDS Historian, Richard S. van Wagoner, p.53

 

15. Does Smith’s use of Coercive Stratagems to get Girls and Women to ‘Marry’ and/or Sleep with Him Show a Lack of Character or even Common Decency?

STOP

The brother of Almira Johnson describes how Joseph sought his sister as a wife: “almost ready to burst with emotion,” looked his friend in the eye and said, “Brother Joseph This is Something I did not Expect and do not understand it. You know whether it is Right. I do not. I want to do just as you tell me and I will try. But if I ever Should know that you do this to Dishonor and debauch my Sister I will kill you as Shure as the Lord lives.” He goes on, “I know that Joseph was Command to take more wives and he waited until an angel with a Drawn Sword Stood before him and declared that if he no longer delayed fulfilling that Command he would Slay him.”

Joseph did marry Almira Johnson that summer. Johnson recorded that “the prophet Came and at my house occupied the Same Room and bed with my Sister [Almira] that the month previous he had occupied with the Daughter of the Late Bishop Partridge as his wife.” 1

Joseph often guaranteed the salvation of an entire family if the object of his affection agreed to his proposal as in the case of fourteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball wrote:

“Having a great desire to relate to the Prophet, Joseph, he (my father) offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet’s own mouth.”“My father had but one Ewe Lamb, but willingly laid her upon the altar: how cruel this seemed to my mother whose heartstrings were already stretched until they were ready to snap asunder, for she had already taken Sarah Noon to wife and she thought she had made sufficient sacrifice but the Lord required more.” 2

Joseph Smith gave Helen only 24 hours to decide on whether to marry him. Helen wrote:

“My father left me to reflect upon it for the next twenty-four hours. … I was skeptical – one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast me off, and this was the only convincing proof that I had of its being right.”

The next day, the 37-year-old Joseph claimed his teen bride. In her memoir, Helen wrote, “After which he said to me, ‘if you take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation and exaltation and that of your father’s household and all of your kindred.’This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward.”

Helen also thought her marriage to Joseph Smith was non-sexual. But to her surprise, it was not. “I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.” 3

There is the heart-wrenching story of Lucy Walker.

The Walker family arrived in Nauvoo in the spring of 1841, but sadly in January 1842, Lucy’s mother died of malaria, leaving her husband, John, with ten children to care for. In the family’s time of grief and need for each other, Joseph Smith sent Lucy’s father John on a two-year mission to the eastern states, placing Lucy’s siblings in the homes of different members.

He saved 15-year-old Lucy for his house and subsequently informed the lonely and vulnerable girl, “I have a message for you, I have been commanded of God to take another wife, and you are the woman.” Lucy recorded in her journal, “My astonishment knew no bounds. This announcement was indeed a thunderbolt to me.” 4

Her anguish was made clear by her words of prayer: “Oh that the grave would kindly receive me that I might find rest on the bosom of my dear mother… Why Should I be chosen from among thy daughters, Father I am only a child in years and experience. No mother to council; no father near to tell me what to do, in this trying hour. Oh, let this bitter cup pass. And thus I prayed in the agony of my soul.” 5

Joseph also told Lucy that the marriage would have to be secret and intensified the pressure on this poor girl by giving her an ultimatum: “It is a command of God to you. I will give you until (sic) to-morrow (sic) to decide this matter. If you reject this message the gate will be closed forever against you.” 6

Joseph Smith’s son tried to exonerate his father from the charge of having sex with his many wives, but after speaking to many of them in person, he accepted the relationships were sexual.

More than a dozen faithful LDS women testified that their marriages to Joseph Smith included sex. Close relatives of Smith’s “wives” testified that he spent the night in the same bed with them.

Many cult leaders – Jim Jones, David Koresh, Warren Jeffs and others likewise claimed to have received “revelations” similar to D&C 132 justifying them having sexual relations with multiple women and yes, girls in their early teens.

Richard van Wagoner in his book, Mormon Polygamy suggests that should a woman spurn Joseph’s advances, she risked having he reputation blackened. Nancy Rigdon, Sarah Pratt, and Martha Brotherton certainly saw their reputations impugned.

The prophet labeled Sarah, a ‘whore from her mother’s breast,’ Martha Brotherton branded as a ‘mean harlot,’ and Nancy was labeled a ‘poor miserable girl out of the very slough of prostitution.7

Is Smith’s public slandering of these women Christ-like?

I think it is important to note as well that Emma was also a victim of Joseph’s Coercion. Frustrated by her opposition to his many marriages, in D&C 132, it is made clear that she had better get on side or she, ‘shall be destroyed.”

  1. Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.
  2. And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.” 8


Apologists Responses to Joseph’s Coercive Stratagems:

“Some writers affirm that Joseph Smith put pressure on women to marry him. They portray him almost as a predator gallivanting about Nauvoo seeking new wives, even marrying other men’s spouses. While it makes for an entertaining storyline, it does not square with the historical record. One of Joseph’s plural wives, Lucy Walker, remembered the Prophet’s counsel: “A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.” The Prophet taught that eternal marriage was necessary for exaltation and encouraged all those he taught to comply, but he always respected their agency and choices in the matter.” 9

“Given that the Saints believed Joseph was a prophet, any command from him would carry significant weight. No one was coerced or forced into marriage (see above). However, given that the Saints believed Joseph was a prophet, any command from him would carry significant weight. Despite this, the reported initial reactions are all negative: these women were strong-minded and did not simply obey because Joseph told them to. Because of their distaste for the idea, many plural wives reported divine revelations that confirmed the truth of plural marriage. Joseph encouraged women to seek for such divine confirmation.”

“Some writers affirm that Joseph Smith put pressure on women to marry him. They portray him almost as a predator gallivanting about Nauvoo seeking new wives, even marrying other men’s spouses. While it makes for an entertaining storyline, it does not square with the historical record. One of Joseph’s plural wives, Lucy Walker, remembered the Prophet’s counsel: ‘A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.’ The Prophet taught that eternal marriage was necessary for exaltation and encouraged all those he taught to comply, but he always respected their agency and choices in the matter.” 10

References

1 Mormon Enigma, Second Edition, P.146

2 Helen Mar Kimball Journal, Helen Mar Autobiography, Woman’s Exponent, 1880

3 Polygamy: A History, by LDS member Richard S. van Wagoner, p. 53.

4 http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/23

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Richard Van Wagoner in his book, Mormon Polygamy, p. 299

8 Doctrine and Covenants 132:51-52

9 Brian Hales, “A Response to Concerns Regarding Joseph Smith and the Practice of Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” October 17, 2013.

10. Ibid.

16. Was Joseph’s Polygamy and his Polyandry and his Lies and Denials acceptable?

Concept Of PolygamyPlural or polygamous “marriages” were conducted in secret by Joseph Smith as early as 1833, even though the sealing power was not restored until 1836. As well, the rules of polygamy were not given until 1843. Joseph “married” at least 34 women in addition to Emma Smith, including seven girls under the age of 18 and at least 11 women who were simultaneously married to other men. There was also a mother-daughter set and three sister sets, and several of these women were Joseph’s own foster daughters. Joseph repeatedly lied and denied his polygamy:

“…What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.”

History of the Church, vol 6, p. 411

Joseph Smith made this statement preaching from the stand to the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo on Sunday, May 26, 1844. At the time, he had secretly taken at over 25 plural wives. Who was the perjurer?

“I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel before it was reported that I had seven wives.”

Joseph Smith (LDS History of the Church 6:411, 26 May 1844

Another lie.

Incidentally, In the same year that Joseph began his participation in polygamy by “marrying” Fanny Alger, the Church published the following in the Book of Commandments (the predecessor of the Doctrine & Covenants):

“Inasmuch, as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.”

Statement on Marriage, August 1, 1835, Section CI, p. 251,
Book of Commandments, Joseph Smith Papers

To lessen public rumors of his secret polygamy, Smith had 31 witnesses sign an affidavit published in the LDS October 1, 1842, Times and Seasons stating that he did not practice polygamy.

This affidavit, however, was signed by several people who were secret polygamists or who knew full well that Joseph was a polygamist at the time they signed the affidavit. In fact, Eliza R. Snow, one of the signers of this affidavit, was also one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives.

Also, why was Joseph still preaching against polygamy in October of 1843 when he claims to have received a revelation in July of 1843 commanding the practice of polygamy?

Polyandry

Joseph Smith married the following women who were already married to other men.

poly

What possible justification could there be?

To multiply and replenish the earth? While it is possible, there is no compelling evidence that children resulted from these unions. To have a place in the hereafter? What about their husbands, some were obviously worthy, as Joseph sent away on missions for the Church. Where the marriages a way for Joseph to comply with the command to take plural wives in a manner that would be less painful for Emma? Seriously, Emma’s tender feelings can negate policy and marriage covenants that others have sincerely entered?

By Joseph Smith’s own revelations, the practice was verboten!

The revelation on celestial and plural marriage, now section 132 in the Doctrine and Covenants, contains three references to sexually polyandrous relations, and all three label them as “adultery,” with the woman involved “being destroyed.”

Moreover, as discussed above, there must be a presumption that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with his wives. There are at least a dozen affidavits and testimonies from Joseph’s plural wives themselves swearing that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with them.

One of the clearest examples of Joseph’s polyandry was his marriage to Sylvia Sessions Lyon, who had married Windsor Lyon (Joseph himself officiating) in 1838.

Joseph was also sealed to Sylvia’s mother, Patty Bartlett Sessions. Perhaps in the case of Patty, who was 47, it is plausible that the relationship was not sexual, but even a mother and daughter team is especially troubling (and unbiblical, Lev. 18:17). Did Joseph persuade Patty to become one of his plural wives to more easily persuade Sylvia to do likewise?

Significantly, in a deathbed confession, Sylvia told her daughter Josephine, who had been born in 1844, that Joseph Smith was her father. “She told me then that I was the daughter of the Prophet Smith she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church.” 4

It appears that Joseph’s first polyandrous wife was Zina Huntington Jacobs. In 1839 Zina and her family spent three weeks in the Smith’s home after Zina’s mother died of malaria.

While there, Zina met Henry Jacobs, whom she later married. However, Joseph, who evidently had talked to Zina about her becoming his wife even before she married Jacobs, told them that it was still the Lord’s will that she should become Joseph’s wife. She relented a few months later and was sealed to Joseph in a ceremony that she later dated as taking place on October 27, 1841.

In her autobiography, Zina stated, “I made a greater sacrifice than to give my life, for I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman by those I dearly loved.” The “sacrifice” she speaks to implies that the union with Joseph was sexual. 5

Apologists Responses to Joseph’s Polygamy and his Polyandry and his Lies and Denials

“Joseph Smith is frequently criticized for his introduction and practice of polygamy. From a Christian perspective, these attacks usually focus on arguing that polygamy is unchristian or unbiblical and that Joseph hid the truth from the world. From a secular perspective, it is asserted that the practice of polygamy sprung from Joseph’s carnal desires to marry young women. Of interest is the fact that Joseph was sealed to women who were already married to other men (polyandry).” 6

“It is claimed by some critics of Mormonism that Joseph Smith (and or other Church members) had a voracious sexual appetite, and that because of this, he instituted polygamy. One might reasonably hold the opinion that Joseph was wrong, but in the face of the documentary evidence, it is unjustifiable to argue that he and his associates were insincere or that they were practicing their religion only for power and to satisfy carnal desires. Those who insist that “sex is the answer” likely reveal more about their own limited perspective than they do of the minds of the early Saints.” 7

The apologists go on to speculate:

“For well over a century, the impressiveness of the Prophet’s salvific teachings have been largely lost on both believers and unbelievers. Though not unexpected, polygamy as a practice and principle has garnered virtually all of the attention. The public’s fascination with polygamy both then and now is understandable, but unfortunate.”

Polygamy quickly became the alpha and omega of Joseph Smith’s teachings…

“Societal resistance against the practice of plural marriage mounted in 1842 and never relented. Lost in the shuffle were the doctrines that surrounded and transcended plurality.”

Doctrine and Covenant section 132 on July 12, 1843. This revelation, along with his other statements, provides several reasons why he believed plural marriage could be introduced among the Latter-day Saints.”

A Restoration

Joseph Smith dictated what is now Doctrine and Covenant section 132 on July 12, 1843. This revelation, along with his other statements, provides several reasons why he believed plural marriage could be introduced among the Latter-day Saints.

The earliest justification mentioned by the Prophet was that it was a part of the “restitution of all things” prophesied in Acts 3:19–21. Old Testament prophets practiced polygamy, so it could be a part of the restoration of “all things” (see D&C 132:40, 45).

To Provide a Customized Trial

Another reason for the establishment of plural marriage is that it brought trials to practicing Saints that provided opportunities for spiritual growth.

The belief that God challenges His followers on earth to make them worthy of blessings from their obedience is a pattern in the scriptures. Sometimes disciples are required to migrate to new lands or to defend themselves against powerful enemies.

Practicing plural marriage was difficult for most participants. One of Joseph’s plural wives, Helen Mar Kimball, remembered: “The Prophet said that the practice of this principle would be the hardest trial the Saints would ever have to test their faith.”

Multiplying and Replenishing the Earth

The third reason given by Joseph Smith for the practice of plural marriage comes as polygamous couples “multiply and replenish the earth.”

When compared to monogamy, polygamy decreases the number of children each wife bears. When practiced within a society, it may increase the overall total number of children being born by providing opportunities for motherhood to women who otherwise might never marry and have children.

There are several problems here.

First, if it were a restoration, it was short-lived.

Second, there is a good deal of data to suggest that polygamy did more harm than good to the ‘spiritual growth’ of the women who were victim to it.

Third, the argument that it was intended to multiply and replenish is demolished by Joseph’s polyandry. There is no evidence that the men who were already married when Joseph ‘took’ them were impotent or incapable of raising their offspring.

The apologists say Joseph had to keep the practice of polygamy (let alone polyandry) secret because it was against the law.

No, the fact that is was against the law is a reason NOT to engage in it!

FairMormon writes, “One critic of the Church claims, “Joseph Smith publicly lied about his practice of polygamy, and lied to his own wife (Emma) about the practice. It is certainly true that Joseph did not disclose all of his plural marriages precisely when they happened. For example, he had been sealed to Emily and Eliza Partridge already, and Emma later had one of her periods of acceptance of plural marriage, on condition that she gets to choose the wives. She chose Emily and Eliza, and so they were resealed to Joseph without disclosing that they were already sealed. Emma’s change of heart didn’t last long, and she soon had Joseph break off contact with the girls, and expected them to renounce the covenants they had made.

There are also other examples. It’s difficult to know exactly what Emma knew, and when she knew it because she would later insist that Joseph never practiced plural marriage. So, we have to kind of piece together the evidence from fairly fragmentary sources.

Was Joseph justified in this? Well, that’s a difficult question to answer. If one doesn’t believe that Joseph was commanded to practice plural marriage, then the whole enterprise was probably a bad idea. If Joseph was commanded to practice plural marriage (as he repeatedly testified that he had been), then ultimately he had to choose between obeying Emma and obeying God. And, Joseph seems to have been determined to obey God.” 8

Come on; Joseph did more than, “not disclosing all his plural marriages,” he LIED about it when asked and he was asked often, once again:

“…What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.”

Not only did Smith lie to Emma, the saints, and others but he also suborned perjury by having others lie for him in a vain attempt to halt public rumors of his secret polygamy and polyandry. He got 31 witnesses to sign an affidavit published in the LDS October 1, 1842, Times and Seasons stating that Joseph did not practice polygamy:

“…we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.” 9

One of the signers of this affidavit, was one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, Eliza Partridge whom he married three months earlier on June 29, 1842. Two Apostles and future prophets, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, were fully aware of Joseph’s polygamy behind the scenes when they signed. This says quite a bit about their honesty and character as well.

Another signer, Bishop Whitney, had married his daughter Sarah Ann Whitney to Joseph as a polygamist wife a few months earlier on July 27, 1842; Whitney’s wife and Sarah’s mother Elizabeth (also a signer) witnessed the ceremony.

“Among Joseph’s plural marriages and/or sealings, between eight to eleven of them were to women who were already married. Of the eight well-documented cases, five of the husbands were Latter-day Saints, and the other three were either not active in or not associated with the Church. In all cases, these women continued to live with their husbands, most of them doing so until their husbands died. These eternal marriages appear to have had little effect on the lives of the women involved, with the exception that they would be sealed to Joseph in the afterlife rather than to their earthly husbands. One of the most well-known of these ‘polyandrous’ marriages was to Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs.” 10

“Of all the aspects of Joseph Smith’s marital theology, this is the most difficult area to understand, because very little primary evidence exists.” 11

It should also be noted that while FairMormon and the Gospel Topics Essay on polygamy suggest that God commanded certain prophets in the Bible to practice plural marriage.

This is not true.

The fact that polygamists can be found in the Bible, Abraham, Lamech, Jacob, Esau, Nahor and Eliphaz for example, there is no indication that the practice was commanded by God. The LDS Church would have you believe that the Lord’s silence on the matter equates to commanding it.

Monogamy is about love,
Polygamy is about sex

References

1 History of the Church, vol 6, p. 411

2 Joseph Smith (LDS History of the Church 6:411, 26 May 1844

3 Statement on Marriage, August 1, 1835, Section CI, p. 251,
Book of Commandments, Joseph Smith Papers.

4 ” Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 1:265.

5 Zina Young, in her autobiography or “Biographical Sketch,”
quoted in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 81;
Hales, Joseph Smith’sPolygamy, 1:254

6 https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Joseph_Smith/Polygamy

7 Ibid

8 Ibid

9 The affidavit published in the Times and Seasons, October 1, 1842

10 Samuel Katich, “A Tale of Two Marriage Systems: Perspectives on Polyandry and Joseph Smith,” Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 2003.

11 https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/ Joseph_Smith

FairMormon’s Comments


Response to claim: “Emma was unaware of most her husband’s marriages, and she certainly did not consent to most of them as required by D&C 132.”

emma

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

Again, FairMormon just provides boilerplate responses not specific to my comments.

I feel, however, that it is important to provide the reader with some worthwhile commentary supporting polygamy from Smith’s or the Church’s perspective or at least putting it in a different context.

Brian Hales is perhaps the leading expert on, and LDS apologist for, Mormon polygamy. He has done a considerable amount of research on the subject and has produced three volumes in which he delves into almost every aspect of it.

Dr. Hales has discovered historical documents and factual information that contributes a great deal to the discussion of the origins and practices of Mormon polygamy.

But Brian is an apologist and he openly admits that his writings are driven by a specific agenda.

I find his style non-confrontational and his demeanor pleasant and even respectful toward critics of the Church’s dominant narrative; nevertheless I feel he suffers from the same confirmation bias as most other Mormon apologists.

This is not, however, the proper forum for a thorough analysis and critique of his wordy writings or what I find to be his somewhat peculiar interpretations of the data.

However, I would like to comment on a recent interview he and his wife had with Daniel Peterson on an LDS Perspectives podcast that somewhat capsulate his apologetic efforts.

This is a ‘softball’ interview, where both he and his ‘interviewer’ are preaching to the choir but it still shines a light on his modus operandi.

I couldn’t help but think that this interaction was analogous to Sean Hannity’s interview with Donald Trump, and is equally painful to listen to without shouting out meaningful and difficult questions for the interviewer to ask.

The first question Peterson reads from the script is, “Did Joseph Smith introduce plural marriage in order to expand his sexual opportunities?”

Hales replies. “… it is important for us who believe to understand what Joseph taught.” “The first thing he taught was that it was a special trial for the membership…”

I am not sure this is not an unwarranted conclusion. Joseph made a comment to that effect but there is not much beyond that.

I don’t wish to be unkind to Dr. Hales but I find that he tends to tell us what conclusions we should come to based on the evidence he produces; many times I would submit, where a reasonable person would draw quite a different conclusion based on their interpretation of the same facts.

I find no compelling evidence of Hales supposition that polygamy stood as an Abrahamic test for the Saints or that Smith taught it. Perhaps Dr. Hales has a primary source beyond Joseph’s offhand comment so indicating. I have been unable to find any collaboration myself.

He goes on to suggest that the second reason for polygamy was a restitution of all things as spoken of in Acts 3:19–21.

Here Brian Hales is on mark and makes a valid point and certainly, Joseph spoke to it.

But the restoration of what exactly?

It states in a recent Gospel Doctrine manual, that the words “all things” refer to the ‘laws and ordinances of the gospel.”

Was Polygamy then an ancient law or ordinance?

According to Gordon B. Hinckley, not only was it neither a law nor an ordinance, it wasn’t even doctrinal.

I have discovered only one instant where God commanded polygamy and that was actually in the New Testament (Corinthians 7:10-11 & 27-28) but a careful reading of this passage shows it was intended to fit a specific and complicated circumstance and was clearly not a law or ordinance.

I think the Old Testament shows that polygamy was permitted for cultural reasons but was not commanded of God. I think we need to be careful not to make the mistake of believing that while the Bible speaks of polygamy this does not equate to God’s approval of it.

I think Genesis clearly shows God’s intent was for marriage to be monogamous—one man for one woman. God gave Adam “a helper,” not several helpers. A man would leave his family to “be joined to his wife,” not wives. This special union is described as becoming “one flesh.”

The first reference to polygamy is found in Genesis where Lamech, a descendant of Cain and a murderer himself takes two wives.

After the Flood, there are many mentions of polygamous relationships—including among the patriarchs of Israel. Jacob, Abraham, David, and Solomon who all had multiple wives.

I have not been able to locate any passages in Scripture forbidding polygamy but often polygamous relationships are mentioned in a very negative light, in fact, the problems of such relationships are often highlighted.

There are several passages in the New Testament that speak against the practice of polygamy.

The relationship between husband and wife is compared to that of Christ and the Church. In Ephesians 5:25–33 Paul speaks about this relationship and refers back to Genesis. Once again, God’s standard for marriage is defined as one man and one woman. Paul states, “let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

The third reason Hales states for polygamy is, “to multiply and replenish the earth.“

He says, “having children with his polygamist wives was one of the reasons. It wasn’t the most important one, and we would probably be wise to point out that the evidence does not show that Joseph was having a lot of sexual relations with his plural wives.”

Hales, it would seem bases this conclusion largely on the fact that DNA studies have yet to show offspring resulting from Smith’s marriages. The implication is no prodigy, no sex.

He further states that “Many other reasons and evidences (sic) and observations indicate that sexuality was not a common occurrence.”

I would suggest that this is another example of where Hales forms an unwarranted conclusion. I believe any reasonable person would infer from Smith’s behavior and the statements of several of his ‘brides.’ that sex was certainly involved if not Smith’s primary motivation.

The interview then discussed the accusation that Joseph Smith a was a pedophile, and all agree as do I that pedophilia has to do with an interest in prepubescent children and I would agree there is no particular evidence that Joseph had a sexual interest in children, however, most definitions of pedophilia also speak of sex with children, ” an interest in or sexual interaction with prepubescent children.” I think as my analysis above shows, even using FairMormon’s statistics on the age of menarche in 1843, and using the standard deviations they present, there is a 60% chance Helen Kimball, his youngest wife as far as we know, was prepubescent.

However Hales, his wife, and Peterson in a grand display of discounting, another technique he often employs in his writing, pass over the inappropriateness and immorality of a 37-year-old man marrying a 14-year-old girl. Hales says, “A sealing or a marriage to a 14-year-old would have been a little out of the norm, but it wasn’t that abnormal.”

This is demonstrably false. I have shown above it was so abnormal that the Smith/Kimball ‘marriage’ was likely the only such 37/14 cohort in all of New York State that entire year.

Peterson chirps in, “It’s the problem, isn’t it, of presentism, that we look at these things, and we think, “14, that’s shocking.” and Brian replies “It’s eyebrow-raising.” But, maybe it wasn’t scandalous then. It would be a little on the young side, but not unheard of.”

‘A little on the young side;’ notice that there is no mention of Smith’s age – 37. Maybe a 21-year-old man marrying a 14-year-old girl was ‘eyebrow-raising’ in 1843, but it was another thing when a middle-aged man did so, even ignoring the fact that what Smith and Kimball entered into what was no more a marriage in the eyes of the law than Warren Jeffs recent marriages to his young brides. Bigamy was just as illegal then as it is now and far less acceptable to the good people of 19th-century Illinois.

In today’s environment where men of power, wealth and celebrity are being accused of using their power to abuse and harass women, I think it is unbecoming, almost bordering on rape apology to discount or rationalize away the significance of Smith’s ‘relationships’ with young girls.

Also, Hales inserts ‘facts,’ not likely to be questioned by those casually reading or listening to his work. When speaking about the legality of marrying someone who is 14 years of age, he says, “even of our time right now if you have a parent’s permission. It’s not underage in many countries now even without a parent’s permission.”

Yes in the Cameroons 14 is just fine but what has that got to do with anything?

Hales’ statement that “even of our time right now if you have a parent’s permission…” is misleading. That is not the general rule. In the United States as the chart below shows the minimum age of consent is 16 years of age or older in every state in the Union, with only five of the fifty allowing those under 16 to marry with parental consent.

consent

Let’s also not forget Smith was not legally married to anybody but Emma and by the laws of every state, then and now, there is no age of consent to have sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old-year-old girl, with or without her parent’s consent.

Again, Hales chooses to believe that Smith’s relationship with Helen Kimball did not involve sex in spite of the fact that we have this statement from her friend:

“I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.”1

The point is made that Helen still went to dances as if this is prima facie evidence that she wasn’t having sex with Joseph. We know that none of Joseph Smith’s marriages involve him living with or maintaining his wives financially. We know with greater certainty that he had sex with other teenage girls he married who lived otherwise normal lives.

They all went about their daily lives except when Smith called upon them. Hales does not present any compelling evidence showing why this pattern would differ with Helen.

Hales also throws in that, “in Utah then, (speaking of years later) there was a policy to not consummate marriages to the younger wives until they had hit like 18 years of age or 19.” Even if there was any evidence of this ‘policy,’ this is, of course, irrelevant and immaterial. We are talking about Joseph Smith in Illinois, not Brigham and the boys in Utah. That is a whole other story.

I agree that there is little evidence that Smith sent men on missions just to have sex with their wives although I do not accept Hales comment that “the sealings were all what(sic) we call ‘eternity only.'”

Hales’ definition of what sexual polyandry is incredibly strict. In his view, even if a woman’s legal marriage was superseded by her religious marriage to a second man, that would not, according to Hales, constitute “polyandry.”

There is indeed evidence that Smith had sex with at least three of his polyandrous wives.

Hales himself reports a deathbed confession in 1882, in which Sylvia Sessions Lyon told her daughter Josephine, who had been born in 1844, that Joseph Smith was her father: “She told me then that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church.” 2

Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner another of Joseph’s polyandrous wives gave a signed statement in 1902 affirming that in February 1842 Brigham Young had sealed her to Joseph for time and all eternity.3

And in her autobiography, Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs writes “I made a greater sacrifice than to give my life, for I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman by those I dearly loved.” surely this “sacrifice” clearly implies sexual relations with Smith.4

Finally, Emma’s knowledge of Joseph’s polygamous relationship is broached by Laura Hales who states, “We actually don’t know when Emma found out about polygamy. We know for sure that she didn’t know about two marriages, and we can make educated guesses by other documents — that she didn’t know about some other marriages.”

“But by May 1843, she knew about plural marriage, and she was temporarily supportive of it. By that time, Joseph had been married to quite a few women, most of them for eternity only.”

It was temporary and again I dispute that “most were for eternity only,”

The three conclude the interview by clucking about how nobody is perfect. “We also know that prophets aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. It doesn’t mean that they can’t necessarily lead the church and receive revelation. If we put a prophet on a pedestal and say, “He has to be perfect,” I think we’ll be disappointed every time.”

Yes, let’s not look for perfection, but when we witness so many examples of arrogant, immoral, deceitful and criminal behavior resident in one person, do we not have to ask ourselves, is this someone the Lord would choose to be his spokesman?

A man who begins his adult life running a ‘treasure hunting’ money-making scam that led to his arrest and trial. He faced fifteen criminal charges between March 1826 and June 1844 including banking fraud, perjury, adultery, and fornication, threatening a sitting judge, and twice for conspiracy to commit murder and twice for treason. His serial lying to the Saints, his friends and even his wife about his myriad unions with other women. His arrogant and boastful nature, trumping the Savior himself, “I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him, but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet”.

But as Dr. Hales declares, nobody is perfect.

1 Polygamy: A History, by LDS member Richard S. van Wagoner, p. 53

2 Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 1:349-54

3 Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 1:265.

4 Zina Young, in her autobiography “Biographical Sketch,” quoted in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 81.

 

17. The Numerous Accusations of Sexual Harassment and Abuse Levelled at Joseph Smith

tar&Feathe2r

In this day when all around us men in positions of power and influence are being made to account for their cowardly abuse and harassment of women, I think it altogether appropriate to raise the issue of Joseph Smith’s proclivity in this regard.

As I write this, we have seen United States Senator Al Franken resign amide at least six accusations of inappropriate behavior with women. U.S. Representative John Conyers, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, and of course U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore have been accused of inappropriate sexual conduct. In the world of entertainment, allegations also abound. Comedians Bill Cosby and Louis C.K., actors Jeremy Piven, Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman. producer Harvey Weinstein, NBC anchor Matt Lauer and let’s not forget the man who currently sits in the Oval Office, Donald Trump.

Sexual harassment is hardly a new phenomenon, but the deluge of disturbing allegations of sexual assault and harassment by powerful, high-profile men has prompted an increasing number of brave women to come forward with their harrowing tales of sexual abuse and harassment and have declared, “me too!”

We are all familiar with Lord Acton’s dictum that, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The one thing all of the above have in common is power. The power of their position, the power of their wealth, the power of their celebrity.

Like our esteemed President’s vulgar conversation with “Access Hollywood’s” Billy Bush, Joseph Smith freely and openly bragged about his use of women. “He told me one day of a certain girl and remarked, that she had given him more pleasure than any girl he had ever enjoyed. I told him it was horrible to talk like this” (“Interview with William Law. March 30, 1887,” Daily Tribune: Salt Lake City, July 31, 1887).

In 1827, Levi Lewis accused Smith of trying to seduce sixteen-year-old Eliza Winters and reports hearing Smith and Martin Harris say that, “adultery was no crime.”

In 1832, we find Eli Johnson “furious because he suspected Joseph of being intimate with his sister Nancy Marinda Johnson.” It was this that led to the tarring and feathering of Smith and the attempted castration.

A year later in 1833, a Mrs. Alexander quoted Polly Beswick as saying: “It was commonly reported, Jo Smith said he had a revelation to lie /with/ Vienna Jacques, who lived in his family. Polly told me, that Emma, Joseph’s wife, told her that Joseph would get up in the middle of the night and go to Vienna’s bed. Polly said Emma would get out of humor, fret and scold and flounce in the harness. Jo would shut himself up in a room and pray for a revelation. When he came out he would claim he had received one and state it to her, and bring her around all right.”1

In that same year, 1833 Miss Hill, a servant in the Smith household claimed that Smith made indecent proposals to her, “which created quite a talk amongst the people,” and which Smith supposedly admitted to Martin Harris.

In 1933, we have Fanny Alger aged 16, which the Church likes to list as a ‘marriage’ even though there is no marriage license and it came prior to any revelation on sealing and which William E. McLellin tells us that Emma witnessed their actual copulation through a crack in the barn.

At some time prior to 1886, Sarah Pratt said that “Lucinda Harris who was a married lady, a very good friend of mine. When Joseph had made his dastardly attempt on me, I went to Mrs. Harris to unbosom my grief to her. To my utter astonishment, she said, laughing heartily: “How foolish you are! I don’t see anything so horrible in it. Why I am his mistress since four years!”2

Sarah Pratt. Sometime in late 1840 or early 1841 John C. Bennett, Joseph friend reported that he told him that, “he was smitten by the “amiable and accomplished” Sarah Pratt and wanted her for one of his spiritual wives.”

Smith told Sarah, “Sister Pratt, the Lord has given you to me as one of my spiritual wives. I have the blessings of Jacob granted me, as God granted holy men of old, and as I have long looked upon you with favor, and an earnest desire of connubial bliss, I hope you will not repulse or deny me.”

To which Sarah replied, “And is that the great secret that I am not to utter, am I called upon to break the marriage covenant, and prove recreant to my lawful husband! I never will” She added, “I care not for the blessings of Jacob. I have one good husband, and that is enough for me.”

To which Smith replied, “Sister Pratt,I hope you will not expose me, for if I suffer, all must suffer; so do not expose me. Will you promise me that you will not do it?”3

In the fall of 1841, Melissa Schindle was staying with the widow Fuller, who had recently been married to a Mr. Warren, in the city of Nauvoo, tells us under oath that Joseph Smith came into the room where she was sleeping at about 10 o’clock at night, and after making a few remarks came to her bedside, and asked her if he could have the privilege of sleeping with her.4

In 1841 Catherine Fuller Warren also swears under oath that Smith got into bed with her without her invitation.5

FairMormon takes the same tack that Roy Moore and Donald Trump et. al. have taken, deny, deny, deny. These women are all liars.

References

1 “Mrs. Warner [sic] Alexander, Statement [1886], original in Stanley A. Kimball Papers, Southern Illinois University; typescript in Linda King Newell Collection, MS 447, Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.”

2 W[ilhem] Wyl [pseud. for Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal], Mormon Portraits, or the Truth about Mormon Leaders from 1830 to 1886, Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and His Friends: A Study Based on Fact and Documents (Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing, 1886). 60.

3 “If you should tell,” the Prophet added, “I will ruin your reputation, remember that” (Bennett 1842a, 228-31

4 John C. Bennett, letter dated 27 June 1842, “Bennett’s Second and Third Letters,” Sangamo Journal, Springfield, Ill., 15 July 1842. Reproduced in Bennett’s History of the Saints: or, An Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842), 253–54.

5 Ibid, p.14

 

18. Joseph Smith’s Narcissism and Self-aggrandizement. Can you explain why a servant of God would engage in “Trump-like” self-aggrandizement, as Smith did, culminating in the creation of the Council of Fifty, a theocratic-political kingdom wherein Joseph named himself, “Prophet, Priest, and King” over the earth?

king

Likewise, his arrogant and boastful behavior, trumping the Savior Himself,

“I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him, but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet”.

We are all multifaceted individuals, full of complexity and deep mystery. The real Joseph Smith was far from the whitewashed squeaky clean image of him manufactured by the LDS church.

Throughout his life, but particularly toward the end when he was rich and famous, and don’t kid yourself he lived very well off his followers. Joseph Smith engaged in what I previously referred to as, “Trump-like” self-aggrandizement. This behavior culminated in his creation of the Council of Fifty, a theocratic-political kingdom wherein Joseph named himself “Prophet, Priest, and King” over all the earth.

After Smith produced the Book of Mormon and took on numerous, all-embracing leadership roles; it appears that power corrupted him, and corrupted him nearly absolutely.

In his diary on January 1, 1843, Joseph bragged that he had, “whipped” seven men at once and “whipped” a Baptist minister “until he begged.”

He also boasted about being, “…the only Lt. General in the United States,” seeking opportunities to parade around Nauvoo in his majestic uniform.

In Joseph Smith’s own history (original), he says: “I am a lawgiver; I am a big lawyer and comprehend heaven, earth, and hell, to bring forth knowledge that shall cover up all lawyers, doctors and other big bodies.”1

“I solve mathematical problems of universities with truth – diamond truth; and God is my right-hand man.” 2

Elizabeth Haven (1811 – 1892), a faithful member of the Church, pioneer and contributor to “The Overland Monthly,” wrote the following after meeting Joseph Smith, “Joseph Smith is a large, stout man, youthful in his appearance, with light complexion and hair, and blue eyes set far back in the head and expressing great shrewdness, or I should say, cunning… He is evidently a great egotist and boaster, for he frequently remarked that at every place he stopped going to and from Springfield people crowded around him, and expressed surprise that he was so “handsome and good looking.”… I could not but with wonder and pity look upon that motley and eager crowd that surrounded me, as 1 thought, “Can it be possible that so many of my poor fellow mortals are satisfied with such food for their immortal souls?”… his whole two hours’ discourse had rather a tendency to corrupt the morals and spread vice…”

Upon meeting with the Smith’s on another occasion Charlotte remarked that:

“Emma, for by that name Mrs. S. is known, is very plain in her personal appearance, though we hear she is very intelligent and benevolent, has great influence with her husband, and is generally beloved. She said very little to us, her whole attention being absorbed in what Joseph was saying. He talked incessantly about himself, what he had done and could do more than other mortals, and remarked that he was “a giant, physically and mentally.” In fact, he seemed to forget that he was a man. I did not change my opinion about him, but suppose he has good traits. They say he is very kind-hearted, and always ready to give shelter and help to the needy… Mrs. Smith was pleasant and social, more so than we had ever seen her before, and we were quite pleased with her; while her husband is the greatest egotist I ever met.”

William Law, Smith’s counselor in the First Presidency of the Church provides an up close and insider’s view of the ‘prophet’s’ character:

“One of Joe Smith’s weakest points was his jealousy of other men. He could not bear to hear other men spoken of. If there was any praise it must be of him; all adoration and worship must be for him. He would destroy his best friend rather than see him become popular in the eyes of the church or the people at large. His vanity knew no bounds. He was unscrupulous; no man’s life was safe if he was disposed to hate him. He sat the laws of God and men at defiance.”

There is a term in psychiatry called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD for short). It is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity and is witnessed by arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes coupled with a need for admiration; a view that he or she is “special” and unique accompanied by an attendant need for others to recognize their superiority. Those ‘suffering’ from NPD are often preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, sex and ideal love.

The question is, how does this boastful, arrogant behavior comport with what one might expect from a servant and disciple of Jesus Christ, let alone His prophet.

The Prophets in the Bible are not known for smugness, pride or arrogance. The biblical prophets loved the people and claimed them as their own; yes, they often spoke hard words but with broken hearts. Their response to faithlessness was grief, not indignation.

Humility is essential. Is not then vanity the greatest threat to a true prophetic ministry? Would God not establish a deep humility in the life of anyone he intends to speak for Him.

“Pride is a switch that turns off priesthood power. Humility is a switch that turns it on.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

The folks at FairMormon then post an opinion piece by a Stephen Webb as evidence of what a humble guy Joseph was,

“By any measurement, Joseph Smith was a remarkable person. His combination of organizational acumen with spiritual originality and personal decorum and modesty is rare in the history of religion…”

“… for someone so charismatic, he was exceptionally humble, even ordinary, and he delegated authority with the wisdom of a man looking far into the future for the well-being of his followers. It would be tempting to compare him to Mohammed…” 3
Alright, if we are trading character references, I see yours and raise you one from someone who actually met Smith:

“Joseph Smith is a large, stout man, youthful in his appearance, with light complexion and hair, and blue eyes set far back in the head and expressing great shrewdness, or I should say, cunning… He is evidently a great egotist and boaster, for he frequently remarked that at every place he stopped going to and from Springfield people crowded around him, and expressed surprise that he was so “handsome and good looking…”

“… Mrs. Smith was pleasant and social, more so than we had ever seen her before, and we were quite pleased with her; while her husband is the greatest egotist I ever met.” 4

References

1 The History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 289.

2 Ibid. Vol. 6, p. 78.

3 Stephen H. Webb, “Godbodied: The Matter of the Latter-day Saints (reprint from his book Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (Oxford University Press, 2012),”

4 ” Elizabeth Haven (1811 – 1892), a faithful member of the Church, pioneer, and contributor to “The Overland Monthly.

FairMormon’s Comments

Response to claim: Joseph Smith’s “arrogant and boastful behavior, trumping the Savior himself”

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

FairMormon provided boilerplate responses not specific to my comments. I stand by my earlier comments that Joseph Smith displayed narcissistic behavior and toward the end of his short life was the embodiment of Lord Acton’s dictum, that, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

 

19. Restoration of the Priesthood

restorationBecause of the necessity of authority, would not the priesthood have to be restored in order to properly organize the LDS Church, that is, prior to April 6, 1830 – the Mormon Church’s official date of organization.

Joseph Smith created the Mormon Priesthood after organizing the church not before as many members believe. This is another example of Smith’s practice of revising revelations to match his evolving theological ideas.

LaMar Petersen explained, “The important details that are missing from the “full history [of priesthood restoration of 1834 are likewise missing from the Book of Commandments in 1833.]” 1

One might expect the particulars of the restoration in this first set of 65 revelations, the dates of which encompassed the conferral of the two Priesthoods, but they are conspicuously absent….

Chapter 28 gives no clue to the restoration which, if real, had been known for four years. As well, the notable revelations on the Priesthood in the Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 2 and 13, are also missing.

Almost five hundred words were added to this revelation on the Priesthood of August 1829, Section 27 of the D&C. The new material added the names of heavenly visitors and two separate ordinations.

The Book of Commandments listed the duties of Elders, Priests, Teachers, and Deacons and refers to Joseph’s apostolic calling but there is no mention of Melchizedek Priesthood, High Priesthood, Seventies, High Priests, or High Councilors. These were later inserted into the revelation on Church organization and government of April 1830, making it look like they were known at that date. But they do not appear in the original, Chapter 24 of the Book of Commandments three years later. 2

Researchers who have examined the D&C and primary source accounts found that the official narrative of priesthood restoration contains numerous gaps, inconsistencies, and contradictions. Scholars also raise important questions that expose potential weaknesses in Smith and Cowdery’s story of their miraculous ordinations. For example, if Joseph and Oliver had experienced events as remarkable and life-altering as divine visitations by John the Baptist and three of Christ’s apostles, why would they not tell others? These miraculous ordinations were not publicly revealed or documented until five years after they supposedly occurred. Moreover, if the restoration of the priesthood is a fundamental tenet of the LDS Church, why was this revelation excluded from the Book of Commandments when it was originally published in 1833, only being revealed in the revised and re-named Doctrine and Covenants in 1835?

  • Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery failed to testify to the members nor record anything about the appearances of “John the Baptist” and “Peter, James, and John” in any publications prior to 1834 (five years after the events purportedly took place)—nor did they teach that men ordained to offices in the church were receiving “priesthood authority”.
  • Nobody in or out of the church knows the exact date of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and Oliver Cowdery was inconsistent in describing which heavenly being(s) had come to confer that authority.
  • Joseph Smith and other early members stated that the first conferral of the Melchizedek priesthood happened in June 1831 in Ohio at a conference of Elders and that Joseph himself was ordained to the high priesthood by church elder Lyman Wight at that time.
  • Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery changed the wording of earlier revelations when they compiled the 1835 D&C, adding verses about the appearances of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John AS IFthose appearances were mentioned in the earlier revelations, which they weren’t. The Book of Commandments, which later became the D&C says nothing about these appearances. 3


David Whitmer Indicates the High Priesthood ended with Christ

David Whitmer, undoubtedly, stuck to his testimony up to the very last. He did however in publishing the following sworn statement in which he expresses his approval of polygamy and :

“Unto All Nations, Kindred, Tongues, and People, unto Whom These Presents Shall Come:

It having been represented by one John Murphy, of Polo, Caldwell County, Mo., that I, in a conversation with him last summer, denied my testimony as one of the three witnesses to the “Book of Mormon.”

To the end, therefore, that he may understand me now if he did not then; and that the world may know the truth, I wish now, standing as it were, in the very sunset of life, and in the fear of God, once for all to make this public statement:

That I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof, which has so long since been published in that Book, as one of the three witnesses. Those who know me best, well know that I have always adhered to that testimony. And that no man may be misled or doubt my present views in regard to the same, I do again affirm the truth of all of my statements, as en made and published.

“He that hath an ear to hear let him hear;” it was no delusion! What is written is written, and he that readeth let him understand.

And that no one may be deceived or misled by this statement,

I wish here to state: that I do not endorse polygamy or spiritual wifeism. It is a great evil, shocking to the moral sense, and the more so, because practiced in the name of religion. It is of man and not of God, and is especially forbidden in the Book of Mormon itself.

I do not endorse the change of the name of the church, for the wife takes the name of her husband so should the church of the Lamb of God take the name of its head, even Christ himself. It is the Church of Christ

As to the High Priesthood, Jesus Christ himself is the last Great High Priest, this too after the order of Melchisedec, as I understand the Holy Scriptures.

Finally, I do not endorse any of the teachings of the so-called Mormons, [of] Latter Day Saints, which are in conflict with the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as taught in the Bible and Book of Mormon; for the same gospel is plainly taught in both of these books as I understand the word of God.

And if any man doubt should he not carefully and honestly read and understand the same, before presuming to sit in judgment and condemning the light which shineth in darkness, and showeth the way of eternal life as pointed out by the unerring hand of God.

In the spirit of Christ who hath said, “Follow thou me, for I am the life, the light, and the way,” I submit this statement to the world. God in whom I trust being my judge as to the sincerity of my motives and the faith and hope that is in me of eternal life.

My sincere desire is that the world may be benefited by this plain and simple statement of the truth.

And all the honor be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen. 4

To this statement is subjoined the following certificate:

We, the undersigned citizens of Richmond, Ray County, Mo., where David Whitmer has resided since the year A. D. 1838, certify that we have been long and intimately acquainted with him and know him to be a man of the highest integrity, and of undoubted truth and veracity. Given at Richmond, Mo., this March 19, A. D. 1881.

Gen. Alexander W, Doniphan. Hon. Gen. W. Dunn, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit. Thos. D. Woodson, President of Ray Co. Savings Bank. J. T. Child, editor of Conservator. H. C. Garnet, Cashier of Ray Co. Savings Bank. L. C. Cantwell, Postmaster, Richmond. Geo. I. Wasson, Mayor. Jas. A. Davis, County Collector. C. J. Huges, Probate Judge and Presiding Justice of Ray County Court. Geo. W. Trigg, County Clerk. W. W. Mosby, M. D., W. A. Holman, County Treasurer. J. S. Hughes, Banker, Richmond, James Hughes, Banker, Richmond. D. P. Whitmer, Attorney-at-law. Hon. James W. Black, Attorney-at-law. Thos. McGinnis, ex-Sheriff Ray County. J. P. Quisenberry, Merchant. W. R. Holman, Furniture Merchant. Lewis Slaughter, Recorder of Deeds. Geo. W. Buchanan, M. D., A. K. Reyburn.”

Apostle William McClellan excommunicated in 1838 states that he had no knowledge of any priesthood restoration by angelic visitors. “But I never heard one word of John the Baptist, or of Peter, James, and John’s visit till I was told some year or two afterward in Ohio.” Likewise, Joseph Knight who had written so much about important Mormon events in 1833 made no mention of these visits either. Book of Mormon witness, David Whitmer had no knowledge of

the angelic visitations of John the Baptist or Peter, James, and John, until 1834. He even went on to state, “I do not believe John the Baptist ever ordained Joseph and Oliver

Richard Bushman states that Joseph Smith was often reticent to tell others about his revelations and angelic visits. The earliest known account of this visit by Peter, James, and John was referenced by Oliver Cowdery in 1834. Certainly, these angelic visitations were not known by general church membership until Cowdery’s introduction in an 1834 history of the church referencing only John the Baptist. From page 20-21,

As well, Oliver Cowdery’s 1834 published history made no reference to an angelic visitation after John the Baptist’s ministration.

Even pro-LDS historian Richard Bushman admits in his biography on Joseph Smith (Rough Stone Rolling, p.75): “the late appearance of these accounts raises the possibility of later fabrication”

It is also important to note that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery changed the wording of earlier revelations when they compiled the 1835 Doctrine & Covenants, adding the appearances of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John as if those appearances were mentioned in the earlier revelations in the Book of Commandments, which they certainly were not.

References

1 Problems in Mormon Text, by LaMar Petersen, pp. 7‐8.

2 Gregory A. Prince, Power on High: The Development of the Mormon Priesthood, Signature Books, 1995.

3 http://www.mormonthink.com/priesthood.htm#ref4

4 DAVID WHITMER, Richmond, Mo., March 19, 1881.

5 Alexander Neibaur, May 24, 1844, LDS Church History Library, Salt Lake City

6 February 15, 1841, Letter and Testimony, p.6-9.

FairMormon’s Comments

“Why was the restoration of the priesthood not reported by Joseph and Oliver Cowdery until years later and then earlier revelations changed to match that account?”

We don’t know when Oliver first mentioned the priesthood restoration to anyone – we only know when he first put it in print. But consider this: If Oliver was covering up a fraud on the part of Joseph Smith when he talked of receiving the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, then why didn’t he expose the fraud after he fell into disagreement with Joseph Smith and was excommunicated from the Church? Why, in fact, did Oliver continue to insist that the events related to the restoration of the Priesthood actually happened?

The implication is that Oliver was dishonest, yet his associates during the time that he was a lawyer after leaving the Church viewed his character as “irreproachable.” 5

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

I see, Is this Oliver Cowdery the same man that Joseph described as, “…too mean to mention, and we had liked to have forgotten?”

Is this the same Oliver Cowdery that Sidney Rigdon, First Counselor in the First Presidency called, “…a lying, thieving, counterfeiting man who was ‘united with a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs in the deepest dye, to deceive, cheat, and defraud the saints out of their property, by every art and stratagem which wickedness could invent?”6

yelloww

 

20. Joe & Emma & Bill & Jane

ted

It is well documented that Joseph Smith took at least thirty-four wives between 1841 and 1843. Emma Smith was clearly not happy in her marriage with Joseph. William Clayton, Smith’s personal secretary, recorded a conversation in his journal on this date that Joseph Smith had with Emma: “He [Joseph Smith] knew she [Emma] was disposed to be revenged on him for some things. Emma wanted [William] Law for a spiritual husband, and she urged as a reason that as he had so many spiritual wives, she thought it but fair that she should at least have one man…and that she wanted Law because he was such a ‘sweet little man.’” 1

In June or July 1843, Joseph Smith receives a commandment mentioned in his July 12, 1843, Revelation: “A commandment I give unto my handmaiden, Emma Smith…which I commanded you [Joseph] to offer unto her” 2

William Law, who was at that time Smith’s counselor in the first presidency, described the “offer” Smith used to appease Emma:

“Joseph offered to furnish his wife, Emma, with a substitute for him, by way of compensation for his neglect of her, on condition that she would forever stop her opposition to polygamy and permit him to enjoy his young wives in peace and keep some of them in her [mansion] house and to be well treated, etc.” 3

Joseph and Emma Smith agreed to this sexual offer; however, William and Jane Law did not. “He [Joseph] and Emma had both tried to persuade her [Jane Law] of the correctness of the doctrine, but that she would not believe it to be of God.” 4

Several months after this sexual “wife swapping,” or more accurately sexual substitute proposal, Joseph Smith made a pass at the “attractive” thirty-year-old Jane Law

William Law wrote in his diary on May 13, 1844, that, “He [Smith] had lately endeavored to seduce my wife, and had found her a virtuous woman.”

Alexander Neibaur, a very close friend of Joseph Smith, recorded that: “When Mr. Law came home he Inquired who had been in his Absence. she said no one but Br Joseph. he then demanded what had pass[ed.] Mrs. L[aw] then told that Joseph wanted her to be Married to him.” 5

Jane and William Law indicated they had direct first-hand knowledge of Joseph Smith breaking at least six of the Ten Commandments and many of the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. William Law writes:

“The gospel of Jesus Christ, as we find it recorded in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament in which we most firmly believe, and upon which we base our hopes of eternal salvation, does not admit of murder, false swearing, lying, stealing, robbing, defrauding, polygamy, adultery, fornication, and blasphemy. And yet those evils have been introduced into the Church at Nauvoo, by Joseph Smith and others, for the purpose of accomplishing their base designs. We have always disapproved such things and opposed them both privately and publicly, and for our opposition to them, we were driven from our homes in Nauvoo.” 6

While lengthy, the following interview provides a great insight into the character of Joseph Smith. William Law was very close to Joseph Smith as a member of the First Presidency and knew him well for some time.

Interview with William Law as it appeared in the
THE DAILY TRIBUNE: SALT LAKE CITY, SUNDAY MORNING, JULY 31, 1887

“Dr. William Law lives with his son, Judge “Tommy” Law. The house is a fine cottage, large, well-kept grounds surround it. We entered a cheerful looking room and there sat William Law, dressed in black, a most venerable looking figure. The head has a striking expression of intelligence, the large clear eyes are of a remarkably deep steel blue; the general impression is that of a thinker, of a benevolent and just man. He greeted me in a fatherly way. I expressed my joy at seeing at last so important a witness of a history, to whose study I had devoted two years.

I sat down near the venerable figure. I hesitated to put any question to him, but he made my task easy by saying: “You speak, in your book, of Joseph Smith having sent Rockwell to kill Governor Boggs. Let me tell you, that Joe Smith, told me the fact himself. The words were substantially like this, “I sent Rockwell to kill Boggs, but he missed him, it was a failure; he wounded him instead of sending him to Hell.”

“What position had Rockwell in Joseph’s house?”

“Rockwell was the lackey of the house. He used to comb and shave Joseph, blackened his boots and drove his carriage. He would have done anything Joe wanted him to do. I never saw a horse or carriage belonging to Rockwell which you say he got from Joseph for the attempt to kill Boggs.”

The reader will easily understand that I had particular reasons to ask about the Expositor, Wm. Law being the only surviving publisher and editor of that celebrated sheet, born and killed June 7th, 1844. So I began:

“I suppose that you originated the Expositor, Doctor Law?”

“Yes, I originated the idea to publish that paper. I had friends in many parts of the country. They knew that I had become a member of the Mormon religion. I wanted to show them, by publishing the paper, that I had not been in a fraud willingly (here the old man’s eyes filled with tears and his voice trembled). I started the idea, and my brother, Wilson, stood to me like a brother should. I don’t remember whether it was I, or not, who gave the name “Expositor.” But I and my brother, we gave the money, about $2000. I gave the biggest part. The Higbees etc., had scarcely a dollar in it.”

“You were well off at that time. Dr. Law?”

“We had property to the amount of about $30,000, which was a good deal in those days. We had farms in Nauvoo, city lots and our residences. My brother had a fine brick two story building. By starting the Expositor we lost nearly everything.”

“How did you become a Mormon, Doctor?”

“John Taylor and Almon W. Babbitt came as missionaries to Canada and preached where I lived, twenty-five miles south of Toronto. I believe that Taylor was sincere then and I believe he was to a late day. Finally, the greed of power and money killed his conscience. There was, now and then, a good man in Mormondom, for instance Wm. Marks. He was a very good man and knew as little of the secret crimes of the leaders as I knew myself.”

“The letters you wrote me, made me suppose that the Smiths tried to kill you when they saw an enemy in you?”

“They tried to get rid of me in different ways. One was by poisoning. I was already out of the church when Hyrum called one day and invited me for the next day to a reconciliation dinner as he called it, to his house. He said Joseph would come, too. He invited me and my wife. He was very urgent about the matter, but I declined the invitation. Now I must tell you that I, in those dangerous days, did not neglect to look out somewhat for the safety of my person and that I kept a detective or two among those who were in the confidence of the Smiths. That very same evening of the day on which Hyrum had been to my house inviting me, my detective told me that they had conceived the plan to poison me at the reconciliation dinner. Their object was a double one. My going to the dinner would have shown to the people that I was reconciled and my death would have freed them of an enemy. You may imagine that I didn’t regret having declined that amiable invitation.

“Have you had any knowledge of cases of poisoning in Nauvoo, ordered by the authorities?”

“I know that several men, six or seven, died under very suspicious circumstances. Among them were two secretaries of the prophet, Mulholland and Blaskel Thompson. I saw Mulholland die and the symptoms looked very suspicious to me. Dr. Foster, who was a very good physician, believed firmly that those six or seven men had been poisoned, and told me so repeatedly.”

“What may have been the reason for poisoning the secretaries?”

(With a smile) “They knew too much, probably.”

“What do you know about the Danites?”

“Nothing of my personal knowledge. They existed, but their workings were kept very secret. I never belonged to the initiated. Smith tried very hard to get them to kill me. One day my detective told me, that two Danites had gone to Joseph and told him that they wanted to put me out of the way. Joseph said: “Don’t–he (Law) is too influential; his death would bring the country down upon us; wait.” Later when I was thoroughly aware of my danger, they tried in all manners to use me up and had Danites all day and night after me, but I looked out and kept myself safe.

Whatever there was of crime in Nauvoo, was kept secret. On the outside, everything looked nice and smooth. There were lots of strangers every Sunday as visitors and then the best speakers were put on the stand as samples of the fruits of this fine religion.”

“…I told you that the Smiths tried to poison me. When Joseph saw that I had no great appetite for reconciliation dinners, he tried with the Indians. The plan was, that somebody should use me up who was not openly connected with the church, he was yet afraid of the people because of my influence. Later he would have killed me without any regard. One day about one hundred redskins came to town and twenty or thirty were sent to my house. We tried to get rid of them, but could not and we saw clearly that they had a dark plan for the night. But we had to keep them, gave them blankets and they were all night in our hall. Wilson Law, I and some friends, though, kept good watch all night, with barricaded windows and doors and guns and pistols ready.”

“You have known the parents of the prophet, old Lucy and old Joe, the Abraham of this new dispensation?”

“Oh, yes, I knew them. Old Lucy was in her dotage at that time; she seemed a harmless old woman. Old Joe sold blessings, so much a head, always in the same style–that my sons should be emperors and my daughters mothers of queens, and that everybody should have as many children as there was sands on the shore. Old Joe was an old tramp.”

“What do you remember about Emma’s relations to the revelation on celestial marriage?”

“Well, I told you that she used to complain to me about Joseph’s escapades whenever she met me on the street. She spoke repeatedly about that pretended revelation. She said once: “The revelation says I must submit or be destroyed. Well, I guess I have to submit.” On another day she said: “Joe and I have settled our troubles on the basis of equal rights.” * * * Emma was a full accomplice of Joseph’s crimes. She was a large, coarse woman, as deep a woman as there was, always full of schemes and smooth as oil. They were worthy of each other, she was not a particle better than he.”

“You think that Joseph was an infidel?”

“Yes, that he was I have not the slightest doubt. What proofs have I? Well, my general and intimate knowledge of his character. And is it possible that a man who ascribes all kinds of impudent lies to the Lord, could have been anything else but an infidel?”

“Was Joseph a habitual drunkard?”

“I don’t believe he was. I only saw him drunk once. I found Joseph and Hyrum at a place where they kept quantities of wine. I remember that Joseph drank heavily, and that I talked to Hyrum begging him to take his brother away, but that was the only time I saw the prophet drunk.”

“…Did you ever hear of abortion being practiced in Nauvoo?”

“Yes. There was some talk about Joseph getting no issue from all the women he had intercourse with. Dr. Foster spoke to me about the fact. But I don’t remember what was told about abortion. If I heard things of the kind, I didn’t believe in them at that time. Joseph was very free in his talk about his women. He told me one day of a certain girl and remarked, that she had given him more pleasure than any girl he had ever enjoyed. I told him it was horrible to talk like this.”

“Had you ever some dramatic scene with Joseph about the difficulties between you and him?”

“He avoided me. But once I got hold of him in the street and told him in very plain terms what I thought of him. I said: ‘You are a hypocrite and a vulgar scoundrel, you want to destroy me.’ Instead of knocking me down, which he could have done very easily, being so much bigger and stronger than I, he went away hurriedly without uttering a single word

“What kind of a life did the prophet lead in Nauvoo?”

“Joseph lived in great plenty. He entertained his friends and had a right good time. He was a jolly fellow. I don t think that in his family tea and coffee were used, but they were served to the strangers when he entertained as tavern-keeper. At least, I suppose so. The Smiths had plenty of money. Why, when I came to Nauvoo I paid Hyrum $700 in gold for a barren lot and at that rate they sold any amount of lots after having got the land very cheap, to be sure Their principle was to weaken a man in his purse, and in this way take power and influence from him. Weaken everybody, that was their motto. Joseph’s maxim was, when you have taken all the money a fellow has got, you can do with him whatever you please.”

“What do you know about the revelation on polygamy?”

“The way I heard of it was that Hyrum gave it to me to read. I was never in a High Council where it was read, all stories to the contrary notwithstanding. Hyrum gave it to me in his office, told me to take it home and read it and then be careful with it and bring it back again. I took it home, and read it and showed it to my wife. She and I were just turned upside down by it; we did not know what to do. I said to my wife, that I would take it over to Joseph and ask him about it. I did not believe that he would acknowledge it, and I said so to my wife. But she was not of my opinion. She felt perfectly sure that he would father it.

When I came to Joseph and showed him the paper, he said: ‘Yes, that is a genuine revelation.’ I said to the prophet: ‘But in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants there is a revelation just the contrary of this.’ ‘Oh,’ said Joseph, ‘that was given when the church was in its infancy, then it was all right to feed the people on milk, but now it is necessary to give them strong meat’ We talked a long time about it, finally our discussion became very hot and we gave it up. From that time on the breach between us became more open and more decided every day, after having been prepared for a long time. But the revelation gave the finishing touch to my doubts and showed me clearly that he was a rascal. I took the revelation back to my wife and told her that Joseph had acknowledged it. ‘That is what I fully expected.’ said she. ‘What shall we do?’ said I. She advised me to keep still try to sell my property quietly for what I could get. But I did not follow her advice. My heart was burning. I wanted to tread upon the viper.”

“Was Joseph a coward?”

“Yes, he was a coward and so was Hyrum. You see it already in the fact that when I attacked him on the street with most violent words, he did not dare to answer a word.”

“How did the prophets dress?”

“Joe and Hyrum were always dressed well, generally in blue, sometimes in black. Joseph was a fine man, no doubt of it.”

There is nothing in the aspect of the old gentleman that indicates 78 summers, except the white hands, that tremble a little. I said: “God bless you, Dr. Law,” when I went to the door. I looked round and I couldn’t help it–went back to shake his hand once more. I held out both hands; he put aside his black staff and grasped both my hands, and gave me such a hearty, warm, good shake. I said: ‘Doctor, be cheerful. You will live twenty years yet like William of Prussia. The Williams are a good race, I belong to it myself.’”

It would appear there is more than smoke here. William Law, who was at that time Smith’s counselor in the first presidency, described the “offer” Smith used to appease Emma:

“Joseph offered to furnish his wife, Emma, with a substitute for him, by way of compensation for his neglect of her, on condition that she would forever stop her opposition to polygamy and permit him to enjoy his young wives in peace and keep some of them in her [mansion] house and to be well treated, etc. 7

Combined with this report by William Clayton, Joseph’s scribe and secretary, written in his contemporaneous journal also builds the case.

And finally, Smith puzzling round-face revelation below written after the Law’s rejection of the Smith’s indecent proposal fits the story very well.

  1. Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice
  2. And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else.

I believe this story, as they say, this story has legs. But does it not strike anyone else as ridiculous to think that God would be so involved in Joseph and Emma’s petty martial machinations.

References

1 A narrative of the adventures and experience of Joseph H. Jackson, in
Nauvoo, Morrison, K. Yost, Publisher, Chicago, 2011. Pp 202 (D&C 132: 51)

3 Letter by William Law, on 7 January 1887, Salt Lake Daily Tribune, July 3, 1887.

4 A narrative of the adventures and experience of Joseph H. Jackson, in Nauvoo, Morrison, K. Yost, Publisher, Chicago, 2011. P. 20

5 Alexander Neibaur, May 24, 1844, LDS Church History Library, Salt Lake City

6 William Law correspondence of August 1844 with The Upper Mississippian, in Cook, William Law: Biographical Essay, 91.

7
“Letter by William Law, on 7 January 1887, Salt Lake Daily Tribune, July 3, 1887

 

press

21. How do we deal with Joseph’s ordering the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor for unmasking his polygamy and, accusing him of, “all manner of abominations practiced under the cloak of religion?”

In the one and only edition of the Nauvoo Expositor, Joseph was accused of treason, unrighteous dominion, and political maneuvering, “We do not believe that God ever raised up a prophet to christianize (sic) a world by political schemes and intrigue.” It also alleged theft and unbridled narcissism on Smith’s part.

To the Marshal of said City, greeting,

You are here commanded to destroy the printing press from whence issues the Nauvoo Expositor, and pi the type of said printing establishment in the street, and burn all the Expositors and libelous handbills found in said establishment; and if resistance be offered to your execution of this order by the owners or others, demolish the house; and if anyone threatens you or the Mayor or the officers of the city, arrest those who threaten you, and fail not to execute this order without delay, and make due return hereon.

By order of the City Council,

Joseph Smith, Mayor

“Joseph Smith, acting as mayor, ordered the city marshall [sic] to destroy the newspaper and press without delay and instructed the major general of the Nauvoo legion to have the militia assist. Shortly after eight o’clock that evening, citizens and legionnaires marched to the ‘Expositor’ office and smashed the press, scattering the type as they did so. This act infuriated the non-Mormons of Hancock County, who saw it as a final act of contempt for their laws. The ‘Quincy Whig’ denounced the ‘high-handed outrage’ and said that if this was a specimen of ‘Mormon attitude toward law and rights it is not surprising that the Missourians were raised to madness and drove them from the state.’…To provide justification for a march on Nauvoo, charges of prompting a riot were made up against Smith and several Mormon leaders, and Constable David Bettisworth was sent to Nauvoo on June 12 to apprehend them…. Emissaries were sent to Governor Ford, charging that Smith had defied the law and asking Ford to bring the state militia…. In the face of an imminent attack on his city, Smith declared Nauvoo under martial law and called out the Legion, a defensive action which later led to treason charges levied against him at Carthage…. he [Governor Ford] wrote the Mormon leader requesting that evidence be shown to justify the actions taken against the ‘Expositor.’ After reviewing this and counter-evidence from anti-Mormons, Ford wrote Smith on the next day, denouncing the city’s proceedings as unlawful and demanding that those involved in the move against the ‘Expositor’ submit to the processes of the law at Carthage.” 2

“… when Joseph Smith ordered the actual destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor printing press he provided his enemies with a clearly legitimate means of arresting him for violation of the law. They seized upon this to inflame the public even more, and this led directly to the assassination. Some people may be disturbed by the suggestion that Joseph Smith acted illegally in this instance, but it is important to understand that under the tense pressure of the times he too, may have made a mistake.” 3

To view the one and only edition of the Expositor

http://www.solomonspalding.com/docs/exposit1.htm

Was the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor legal

“It is claimed by one critic of the Church that Joseph “could not allow the Expositor to publish the secret international negotiations masterminded by Mormonism’s earthly king.” Another claimed that “When the Laws (with others) purchased a printing press to hold Joseph Smith accountable for his polygamy (which he was denying publicly), Joseph ordered the destruction of the printing press, which was both a violation of the 1st Amendment, and which ultimately led to Joseph’s assassination.

The Expositor incident led directly to the murder of Joseph and Hyrum, but it was preceded by a long period of non-Mormon distrust of Joseph Smith and attempts to extradite him on a questionable basis.

The destruction of the Expositor issue was legal; it was not legal to have destroyed the type, but this was a civil matter, not a criminal one, and one for which Joseph was willing to pay a fine if imposed.

Joseph seems to have believed—or, his followers believed after his death—that the decision, while ‘unwise’ for Joseph, may have been in the Saints’ interest to have Joseph killed. For a time, this diffused much of the tension and may have prevented an outbreak of generalized violence against the Saints, as occurred in Missouri.

Joseph did not unilaterally order the action against the Expositor—it was the Nauvoo City Council (which included non-Mormons) which reached the unanimous decision. Having reached that decision, Joseph Smith then issued an order, as mayor, to carry out the Council’s decision.”

The above as described in the Church’s 2011 Priesthood/Relief Society manual

On June 10, 1844, Joseph Smith, who was the mayor of Nauvoo, and the Nauvoo city council ordered the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor and the press on which it was printed.

History of the Church also describes this event:

I [Joseph Smith] immediately ordered the Marshal to destroy it [the Nauvoo Expositor] without delay, and at the same time issued an order to Jonathan Dunham, acting Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion, to assist the Marshal with the Legion, if called upon so to do.”

“The First Amendment is irrelevant to this discussion. In 1844, the First Amendment only applied to federal law; it had no application to state or local law until the passing of the Fourteenth Amendment after the Civil War.”

A legal opinion which is probably correct, but FairMormon misses the point.

I am reminded of then President-elect Donald Trump’s comment to the New York Times that smacks of a similar statement proffered by another American president who was forced to leave office in disgrace. “If the President does it, it’s legal.”

Joseph Smith had absolute power in Nauvoo. To imply that it was legal because the Nauvoo City Council sanctioned it is disingenuous. Joseph stacked the Council with his cronies who acted more like lapdogs than independent officials.

By the end of Joseph’s life his arrogance was amazing and his ego boundless. Reading the circumstances of the Expositor affair, you don’t have to possess the political shrewdness of Benjamin Disraeli to recognize that Smith ordered the destruction of the press because he held all the cards and thought he could get away with it.

The press and its owners presented a real and present danger to Smith.

Things were already beginning to unravel, and the washing of his very dirty laundry was something he had to stop.

The apologists state that the First Amendment is irrelevant because it only applied to Federal Law at that time.

In a technical, legalistic perspective that is probably true. What the apologist writing this justification fail to recognize however is that at a time when the country was just 68 years old, free and proud Americans knew and cherished their hard-fought freedoms; and they clearly perceived Smith’s outrageous actions as a direct affront to the liberties they believed in.

I am also disappointed that Joseph ran away rather than stood and faced his accusers. Was that not an act of a coward?

Chapter References

1 History of the Church, v. 6, p. 448

2 Carthage Conspiracy, by Oaks and Hill, pp. 15-16

3 BYU Today, March 1976, p. 10

 

22. How can you explain the many similarities between the Book of Mormon and The View of the Hebrews, The Late War, The Golden Pot and The First Book of Napoleon?

In the 1820s, there were no public schools in the United States. Americans’ of means had their children tutored, but the majority of children were either educated at home by their parents or they not educated at all.

These homeschooling parents passed along what they knew, but when it came to reading, the lessons typically meant reading and studying the most common English language text, the King James version of the Bible.

This was certainly the case in Joseph’s home.

throughout his childhood. There were no world maps on the walls and globes of the earth on the shelf. In the 1820s, people knew that the earth orbited around the sun but

Geologists at this time were just beginning the controversial argument that the earth was profoundly more than 6,000 years old. Charles Darwin was born in 1809, just four years after Joseph and his revolutionary book TheOriginofSpecies wasn’t published until 1859, fifteen years after Joseph’s death. The theory that all biologic life, including human life, had evolved from ancient, common ancestors over immense spans of time was unknown and, of course, it took another hundred years after Smith’s time to unravel the role of the DNA molecule in establishing the size, shape, and physiology of individual biologic life forms.

Americans in the 1820s believed that heaven and earth were about 6,000 years old, and created by God. They believed that God had designed and created all plants and animals and that people were direct descendants of Adam and Eve, created by God image.

Most Americans of European heritage descended through the Protestant Christian tradition.

There were no alternative religious beliefs except, for the new onslaught of the much disliked, Irish Catholics. But even these Catholics subscribed to the same dating of the earth.

Joseph Smith was the product of 19th-century knowledge and ignorance,

In 1823, the origin of the Native Americans was a great mystery. In intellectual circles, there were many competing theories concerning these pre-Columbian populations. Some felt that God had created human life separately in both the East and Western hemispheres. Others argued that the ancestral Native Americans had migrated from a wide range of previous homelands, including the mythical continent of Atlantis, the Rome, Israel, Egypt, Carthage, Britain and, even China.

It was contended that these migrants arrived either by walking across the sunken continent of Atlantis or by sailing across the oceans to America.

Without easily accessible maps or globes, 19th century Americans were unaware that North America was actually visible from Siberia across a narrow and shallow strait.

Understandably, nineteenth-century Americans looked to their known world of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East for the ancestral homelands of Native Americans.

The most popular of these homeland theories, both in America and Europe, saw the Native Americans as descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

The 12 Tribes of Israel are, of course, the familial descendants of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob’s 12 sons and collectively are known as the House of Israel. The most well-known of the twelve brothers was Joseph, who was sold into bondage by his brothers, became an adviser to the Pharaoh of Egypt.

It is important to recognize the idea that the American Indians were a remnant of Hebrew migrants was a very popular notion in Joseph Smith’s day and he was far from the first person to propose it.

In 1644, Antonio de Montezinos, a Portuguese traveler and, a Sephardic Jew convinced Menasseh Ben Israel, the Rabbi of Amsterdam, that he had found one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel living in the jungles of Ecuador. This supposed discovery gave a new impulse to Ben Israel’s Messianic hopes. Ben Israel, in turn, wrote a book about this narrative titled the TheHopeofIsrael in which he gave learned support to the theory that the native inhabitants of America were in fact descendants of the lost Ten Tribes of Israel.

Daniel Sewell, Thomas Thorowgood, John Elliott, Rogers Williams and even William Penn saw this link with the Hebrews and the lost tribes.

James Adair (c.1709–1783) a native of Northern Ireland who went to North America and became a trader with Native Americans, mostly Chickasaw, for more than forty years.

In 1775 he wrote a book, entitled, The History of the American Indians in which he discusses at length his hypothesis that the American Indians are descended from the lost ten tribes of Israel. Thomas Thorowgood, Roger Williams, and Jonathan Edwards were also inclined to favor this view.

1816 Elias Boudinot wrote a book entitled, AStarintheWest: A Humble Attempt to Discover the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel in which he proposes the same scenario.

In 1825, Josiah Priest wrote, The Wonders of Nature and Providence likewise proposing that the American Indians we the remnant of the lost tribes.

But it was a Vermont pastor named Ethan Smith (no known relation to Joseph Smith), in 1823, four years before Joseph’s discovery of the golden plates who wrote a very well received and widely distributed book called View of the Hebrews, that sought to prove the origin of the Native Americans as a lost tribe of Israel.

View of the Hebrews was so popular and successful that it was reprinted several times between 1823 and 1825.

View of the Hebrews was certainly available in Palmyra, New York. In fact, in 1826 Pastor Smith appeared in Palmyra while promoting his book; and given Joseph’s longtime fascination with American Indian lore, it would seem highly likely that Joseph heard of Pastor Smith’s theories, he may even have met him. We know he read his book.

view

Similarities between the Book of Mormon and the View of the Hebrews

The View of the Hebrews is an 1823 book written by Ethan Smith, a United States Congregationalist minister. While not claiming any divine command, this Smith, like his prophetic namesake, also argued that Native Americans were descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Several commentators on Mormon history and the Book of Mormon, including LDS Church general authority B. H. Roberts and Fawn Brodie, Joseph Smith’s, biographer noted the considerable similarities in the content of View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon, which was published seven years after Ethan Smith’s book.

As I mentioned above, we certainly know that Joseph Smith had read the View of the Hebrews, as he refers to it in an article published in the Times and Seasons on June 1, 1842. Smith quoted View of the Hebrews as supporting the Book of Mormon. “If such may have been the fact, that a part of the Ten Tribes came over to America, in the way we have supposed, leaving the cold regions of Assareth behind them in quest of a milder climate, it would be natural to look for tokens of the presence of Jews of some sort, along countries adjacent to the Atlantic. In order to this, we shall here make an extract from an able work: written exclusively on the subject of the Ten Tribes having come from Asia by the way of Bherings Strait, by the Rev. Ethan Smith, Pultney, Vt.”

Elder B.H. Roberts, the LDS church historian, considering the profound similarities in this book published seven years before the Book of Mormon which Joseph Smith not only had access to but admits that he had read, couldn’t help but wonder:

“Did Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews furnish structural material for Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon? It has been pointed out in these pages that there are many things in the former book that might well have suggested many major things in the other. Not a few things merely, one or two, or half dozen, but many; and it is this fact of many things of similarity and the cumulative force of them that makes them so serious a menace to Joseph Smith’s story of the Book of Mormon’s origin.” 6

I have listed below just a few of the striking similarities and parallels between the two books:

View of the Hebrews Book of Mormon

Published: 1823 Published 1830

Published in: Vermont Published in: Vermont

Both feature:

The destruction of Jerusalem
The scattering of Israel
Hebrews leave Old World for the New World
The restoration of the ‘Ten Tribes’
Religion as the motivator
Encountered “seas” of “many waters,”
Reached an uninhabited America
Settlers then travelled Northward
Migrations by a long sea journey
They encounter the valley of a great river
Breastplate, Urim and Thummin present
Gospel preached in America
Quotes full passages in Isaiah
Lord visits America
Hebrews divide into two classes
The wicked destroy the righteous
Fortifications and “watchtowers,”
Egyptian hieroglyphics
Hebrew origin of Indian languages
Opposition in all things

View of the Hebrews:

A set of “yellow leaves” buried in Indian Hill. Elder B.H. Roberts noted these “leaves” may have been gold.

Book of Mormon:

Gold Plates buried in the Hill Cumorah

Can any reasonable and open-minded person read the following ‘warnings by a man on a wall’ and not conclude that the similarities are more than coincidence?

View of the Hebrews:

Jesus, son of Ananus, stood on the wall saying “Wo, wo to this city, this temple, and this people.” Came to preach for many days, cried in a loud voice, preached the destruction of Jerusalem and had stones cast at him.

Book of Mormon:

Samuel, the Lamanite, stood on the wall saying “Wo, wo to this city, or this people.” Came to preach for many days, cried in a loud voice, preached the destruction of Jerusalem

FairMormon pulls out the following statement by John W. Welch to bolster their position:

It is claimed that a 19th-century work by Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews, provided source material for Joseph Smith’s construction of the Book of Mormon.
Some also postulate a link between Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery, since both men lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery’s family attended at the time that View of the Hebrews was being written.
“The View of the Hebrews theory is yet another attempt to fit a secular origin to the Book of Mormon. Many of the criticisms proposed are based upon B, H. Roberts’ list of parallels, which only had validity if one applied a hemispheric geography model to the Book of Mormon. There are a significant number of differences between the two books, which are easily discovered upon reading Ethan Smith’s work. Many points that Ethan Smith thought were important are not mentioned at all in the Book of Mormon, and many of the “parallels” are no longer valid based upon current scholarship.” 4

Firstly, is the current scholarship he refers to his own? Welch was the founding director of the now mercifully defunct FARMS apologist group.

Just a couple of comments on his statements:

“Advocates of the Ethan Smith theory must also explain why Joseph, the ostensible forger, had the chutzpah to point out the source of his forgery.”

Chutzpah indeed, just like Joseph never thought people would learn to read Egyptian and thereby expose his translation of the Papyri as nonsense, or figure out that the gold plates that Joseph tells us he darted through the woods with ‘at full speed’ would have weighed more than half as much as he did, or that people would notice when he went back and changed numerous passages in the Book of Mormon to match his evolving view of the Godhead!

“They must also explain why, if Joseph found this evidence so compelling, he did not exploit it for use in the Book of Mormon text itself, since the Book of Mormon contains no reference to the many “unparallels” that Ethan assured his readers virtually guaranteed a Hebrew connection to the Amerindians. The theory the Joseph Smith plagiarized View of the Hebrews was never advanced during his lifetime. The prevailing theory of the day was the Spalding Theory, which quickly lost credibility upon the discovery of an actual Spalding manuscript in 1884 which bore no resemblance to the Book of Mormon. There are no records which indicate that Joseph Smith came into contact with the View of the Hebrews during the period of time that he was translating the Book of Mormon. The View of the Hebrews theory was in fact first proposed by I. Woodbridge Riley in 1902, 58 years after the death of the prophet.”

The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain

There was also a textbook written in 1819 in King James language entitled, The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain; used in New York state schools which Joseph Smith likely was exposed to, that reads very much like and has staggering parallels and similarities to, the Book of Mormon. Another coincidence?

Both books contain:

  • Devices of “curious workmanship” in relation to boats and
  • “Stripling soldiers “
  • “A certain chief captain…was given in trust a band of more than two thousand chosen men, to go forth to battle.”
  • Fortifications: “the people began to fortify themselves and entrench the high places round about the city.”
  • “Their polished steels of fine workmanship.”
  • “Rod of iron.”
  • War between the wicked and righteous.
  • Righteous Indians vs. savage Indians.
  • Conversion of Indians.
  • Brass plates.
  • Worthiness of Christopher Columbus.
  • Ships crossing the ocean. `
  • A battle at a fort where righteous white protagonists are attacked by an army made up of dark-skinned natives.
  • A cataclysmic earthquake followed by great darkness.
  • Elephants in America.
  • Literary Hebraisms/Chiasmus.
  • The mind-numbing overuse of “it came to pass,”

This textbook, written by Gilbert J. Hunt in scriptural style discussed, among things, the War of 1812. It was published in New York in 1816 and marketed “for the use of schools throughout the United States” under the title, The Historical Reader. It was used in the schools that both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery attended, and it is also highly likely that Oliver Cowdery taught from it. I think any reasonable person would agree there are major similarities.

There is a relatively new and powerful technique in the field of computational linguistics and probability called n-gram analysis.

The concept itself is quite simple but its application all but impossible until the advent of powerful computers. An n-gram is a contiguous sequence of items from a given sequence of text or speech.

The items can be words, letters, or syllables. The ‘n’ in n-gram represents the number of elements of the sequence, for example, 4-gram would be four words in sequence, ‘now is the time.’

With the aid of modern, powerful computers, we can compare two documents regarding how often the same four (or three words in the case of 3-gram, five words in the case of 5-gram, etc.) words in the same sequence or order appear in both. When two books have a high relative frequency of n-grams the greater the probability that plagiarism has occurred. I say relative because the n-gram finding is compared to n-gram frequencies found within other documents from the same period.

An example would be comparing the Book of Mormon (1830) with Pride and Prejudice (1813). You would expect that the 4-gram would show a very low frequency. This is, in fact, the case. In October 2013, researchers Chris and Duane Johnson conducted an n-gram analysis of The Book of Mormon comparing it to over 100,000 books from the pre-1830’s era. They found that a book called The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain had a very high n-gram score.

In fact, the computer algorithm found over 100 rare 4-grams shared by both The Book of Mormon and The Late War. To put this into perspective, they found that The Late War contained more 4-gram connections to The Book of Mormon than 99.999% of the other books published before 1830.

These findings are highly significant because they show beyond any reasonable doubt that the author(s) of the Book of Mormon plagiarized from The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain published in 1816, fourteen years before the Book of Mormon.

Does this in itself prove that Joseph Smith consciously, purposefully and with fraudulent intent copied material from The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain?

While likely, I don’t think we can go quite that far.

In 1976, former ‘Beatle’ George Harrison was sued by Bright Tunes Music, the publisher of “He’s So Fine,” on behalf of Ronnie Mack, the songwriter who had died in 1963, shortly after his tune became the No. 1 hit in the United States. Harrison testified at trial, “I wasn’t consciously aware of the similarity between ‘He’s So Fine’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’ when I wrote the song, as it was more improvised and not so fixed.”

Judge Owen, who analyzed the music of both songs, ruled that “it is perfectly obvious to the listener that in musical terms, the two songs are virtually identical.”

The judge found that Harrison “subconsciously” plagiarized “He’s So Fine.” He also stated that, “…I do not believe he did so deliberately,”’ but “under the law, infringement of copyright is no less so even though subconsciously accomplished.”

It is impossible for us to know what went on in Smith’s head, perhaps we can best determine his motivations by examining his conduct and character in other matters.

The First Book of Napoleon

There are a couple of similarities in the text but not enough to make an issue out of it, for example:


The First Book of Napoleon:

Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Napoleon…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…their inheritances their gold and silver and… the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of their hearts…small in stature…Jerusalem…because of the perverse wickedness of the people.


Book of Mormon:

Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Nephi…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…his inheritance and his gold and his silver and… the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of his heart…large in stature…Jerusalem…because of the wickedness of the people.

The Golden Pot

In 1814, E. T. A. Hoffman wrote a German novella entitled, “The Golden Pot”? It tells the story of a German boy, named Anselmus who meets an ancient and mystical archivist from the lost civilization of Atlantis. Anselmus is told that he has been chosen to interpret and translate some special Atlantean documents. “The Golden Pot” also has some similarities to Smith’s accounts, a few of which are:

  • Pillar of bright and blinding light when his guide first appears to him, and later that same night he receives a second vision.
  • Both are given a special message of where they will find a hidden ancient record.
  • Eventually, a holy artifact made of solid gold is revealed to Anselmus, and he is asked to decipher the writing on it by magical means.

An advertisement of a literary magazine’s review of Hoffman’s “The Golden Pot” appeared in Joseph Smith’s local newspaper The Wayne Sentinel, 30 November 1827.
Again, not much here either.

The Westminster Confession of Faith

The Westminster Confession of Faith was drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England and has been very influential within Presbyterian churches throughout the world.
Again, not much here either.

The name Westminster Confession comes from the fact that in In 1643, the English Parliament called upon “learned, godly and judicious Divines”, to meet at Westminster Abbey to provide advice on issues of doctrine, government, and discipline within the Church.

The Confession was adopted by the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1729.

We, of course, know that members of Joseph Smith’s family joined the Presbyterian Church in the 1820’s,

It would seem by examining the following passages, that Joseph Smith also plagiarized this document, specifically, the Westminster Confession and Catechism.

Please make a note of the fact that the thoughts in each document progress in the same order:

Alma 40:11 – the state of the soul between death and the resurrection . . .

Westminster Confession, Ch. 32 – the state of Men after death, and of the resurrection

Alma 40:11 – the spirits . . . are taken home to that God who gave them life.

Westminster Confession, Ch. 32:1 – their souls . . . return to God who gave them.

Alma 40:12 – the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness.

Westminster Confession, Ch. 32:1 – The souls of the righteous . . . are received into the highest heavens . . .

Alma 40:13 – the spirits of the wicked . . . shall be cast out into outer darkness;

Westminster Confession, Ch. 32:1 – the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, and utter darkness.

Alma 40:14 – the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness . . . remain in this state . . . until the time of their resurrection.

Westminster Confession, Ch. 32:1 – the souls of the wicked . . . remain in darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day.

Alma 40:20 – the souls and the bodies are re-united, . . .

Westminster Confession, Ch. 32:1 – bodies . . . shall be united again to their souls

Mosiah 5:3 – infinite goodness of God

Westminster Confession, Ch. 5:4 – infinite goodness of God

Alma 42:2 – our first parents

Westminster Confession, Ch. 6:1 – our first parents

2 Nephi 28:21 – carnal security

Westminster Confession, Ch. 33:3 – carnal security

It is not my intention here to go into the myriad examples of where Joseph may have found ‘inspiration’ from the many atlases and maps available to him when he chooses names and places. But let me give you one.

It is the suspicious link between the hill Cumorah and the Comoros Islands off the eastern coast of Mozambique, the capital of which is Moroni,

The apologists, of course, claim coincidence and that ‘Comoros’ in not close to ‘Cumorah’. The truth, however, is that in Smith’s day, prior to the French occupation of the late 1860s, Comoros was known by its original Arabic name, Camora and so listed on the maps of the day.

Is it more than a little suspicious that the 1830 Book of Mormon uniformly spells ‘Cumorah’ as ‘Camorah, ‘for example:

“And I, Mormon, wrote an epistle unto the king of the Lamanites, and desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people unto the land of Camorah, by the hill which was called Camorah, and there we would give them battle.”

Could Joseph Smith have written The Book of Mormon?

As an aside, I would like to comment on the view often expressed by apologists and others within the Church, that Joseph Smith, an ignorant young farm boy could never have created something like the Book of Mormon. A book which:

  • Covered a period from 2200 B.C. to 421 A.D.
  • Has 102 chapters, twenty-five of them about wars, ten histories, twenty-one prophecy, and thirty-two about doctrine.
  • Includes the history of two distinct and separate nations, along with histories of different contemporary nations or groups of people.
  • Describes the economic, religious, social, and political cultures of these two distinct nations.
  • Contains over 500 pages with over 500 words per page.
  • Includes ancient Hebrew literary writing styles such as idioms and Chiasmus.
  • That introduces roughly 150 new proper nouns

Could an uneducated boy come up with 531 pages of ancient scripture on his own that was historically accurate and prophetic in nature?

The short answer is, YES, of course, he could have!

In the first place, Joseph had a lot of time. The translation of the Book of Mormon did not really take place in less than three months. It spanned a year, and Joseph may have possibly been working on the storyline for several years before the reported start date.

Remember too that the Book of Mormon, “the most correct of any book on earth” might better be called. “the most corrected book on earth,” having undergone thousands and thousands of textual and grammatical corrections as well as many significant changes in doctrine. Some have said 100,000 changes.

Over 3,000 substantive, non-grammatical changes. King Benjamin changed to King Mosiah, Scores of time ‘the Son of’ changing Christ’s divinity and obviously added to reflect Smith’s changing view of the Godhead. 1 Nephi 11:18, !!;21, 11:32, 13:40 are examples. Scott Fauling compiled all the changes made to ‘the most correct book in the world’ in October of 1981 (Seventh East Press, Provo) but the list would take several pages.

The Book of Mormon is not well written. The ‘plot’ if you could call it that, is far less complex than the ‘Game of Thrones’ or Faulkner’s ‘Absalom, Absalom’ or Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion’ or ‘Lord of the Rings.,’ and certainly far less entertaining!

It certainly lacks any signs of genius that we find in the writings of say Shakespeare.

It is indeed not a candidate for a Booker Prize; it’s characters are wooden and unidimensional. They are all good or all bad making it read like a 19th-century melodrama. 

Remember too that, Joseph had a lot of time. The translation of the Book of Mormon did not take place in less than three months. It spanned a year, and Joseph may have possibly been working on the storyline for several years before the reported start date.

It is supposedly written by Jews, a passionate people, yet there is no romance, no sex, no ambivalence of character. 

Unlike the Bible which is full of music, David and his harp, and romantic love and sex, David and Bathsheba, the Song of Soloman, that Smith wrote in the margin, “the Song of Solomon is not inspired scripture.” What about the colors spoke of in the Bible, or food, and wine and wedding celebrations and the joy of life, and children, where are they? Nephi doesn’t even mention his children’s names. He mentions his own name, ‘I Nephi.’ 86 times.  He doesn’t mention his wife once.  Sister or sisters are never spoken of, nor, grandmothers. Smith said, ‘It came to pass,’ 1,407 times yet there was not enough space to mention the important role women must have played in the Book of Mormon?

I think Dr. Freud could write an essay, no a book, on the value and place Joseph put women particularly regarding his abuse and manipulation of them during his life.

There is a beautiful song in ‘Fidler on the Roof’ call, ‘Tradition,’ that rightfully speaks to the importance that these wonderful people placed on ritual and practice. The Book of Mormon does not reflect the importance of tradition.

What about the weather, surely a people coming from the Middle-East to Northeastern North America would have something to say about the frigid winters, the snow, and ice they had never known.

This speaks volumes to me. When I was five, my mother and sister traveled along across the ocean to Quebec and then by train across the vast Canadian plains to the Alberta prairies. My Mother was a great diarist and recorded that thing so strikingly different than our native Ireland, and the hast Canadian winter was indeed worthy of note.  These immigrants from a much warmer and more arid land make no mention of it whatever?

Of course, FairMormon will say, ‘oh, that is because they landed in Izapa or somewhere near the border of Guatemala and Mexico.’ This however still does not explain the dearth of any mention of weather. Jerusalem is one of the driest places on earth. The following shows the average humidity:

DRY

Izapa on the otherhand is one of the most humid places on earth:

wet

A large portion of the Book of Mormon, of course, simply quotes and plagiarizes the Bible, and many of its themes bear strong parallels to ideas popular in nineteenth-century America as well as Smith family dreams and experiences.

As well, as I have already discussed, there are amazing similarities to The View of the Hebrews, The Last War Between the United States and Great Britain and the Book of Napoleon. Way too many similarities or identical content to suggest coincidence.

There is no question that much of the content of the Book of Mormon was sourced from these popular books all published prior to the Book of Mormon.

There is a theory that Sydney Rigdon stole an unpublished manuscript written by Solomon Spalding that Smith used extensively in writing the Book of Mormon. However the manuscript is not extant and there is just not enough evidence to go there.

I think I have however shown beyond a reasonable doubt that Smith plagiarized from many books of his day.

Although the thousands of changes that have been made to it have cleaned it up a great deal, there still remain examples of very poor sentence structure. Surely the ‘gold plates’ didn’t say as Smith wrote in 2 Nephi 4:14:

“…for a more history part are written upon my other plates.”

Huh?

Non-LDS authors or literary critics generally are not so impressed with it as to entertain the notion that it could not have been written without Divine assistance.

It is boring, far too wordy and repetitive. While I am sure he didn’t suffer through the whole thing, Mark Twain commented:

“The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow,” so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle–keeping awake while he did it…”

“…The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James’s translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel–half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern–which was about every sentence or two—he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as “exceeding sore,” “and it came to pass,” etc., and made things satisfactory again. “And it came to pass” was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.”

The essential question is, what is more logical. That Joseph Smith wrote the book, or that a Divine being showed a young treasure-hunter the location of golden plates which by placing a “magic stone,” in his hat, could translate.

And finally, he could have had help.

When General Authority, B.H. Roberts was asked if he thought Joseph Smith could have written the Book of Mormon, he stated

“… was Joseph Smith possessed of a sufficiently vivid and creative imagination as to produce such a work as the Book of Mormon from such materials as have been indicated in the preceding chapters …? That such power of imagination would have to be of a high order is conceded; that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question.” 11

He also quotes Smith’s mother’s history of Joseph, “During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelings, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.” 12

Roberts concluded that “these evening recitals could come from no other source than the vivid, constructive imagination of Joseph Smith, a remarkable power which attended him through all his life. It was as strong and varied as Shakespeare’s and no more to be accounted for than the English Bards.” 11

“Since Oliver Cowdery was born in 1806 and was in Poultney from 1809 to 1825, he was resident in Poultney from 3 years of age until he was 19 years of age – 16 years in all. And these years encompassed the publication of View of the Hebrews, in 1822 [1823] and 1825. His three little half-sisters, born in Poultney, were all baptized in Ethan Smith’s church. Thus, the family had a close tie with Ethan Smith.” 13

19th Century American Influences on the Book of Mormon

It should be noted as well that there were numerous contemporary sources that Smith had access to and likely plagiarized as well.

For example, Mercy O. Warren (1728-1814) wrote a book entitled, History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, which was published in 1805. 

Can you see the similarities between the phrasing and wording of Warren’s previously published work and the Book of Mormon?

Warren    

that man, in a state of nature (p. 12)

Book of Mormon

men that are in a state of nature (Alma 41:11)

Warren

a consciousness of their own guilt (p. 109

Book of Mormon

a consciousness of his own guilt (Alma 14:6)

Warren

that manly spirit of freedom (p. 31)

Book of Mormon

a true spirit of freedom (Alma 60:25)

Warren      

learn wisdom (p. 645)

Book of Mormon

learn wisdom (2 Nephi 22:30)

Warren    

cause of his country (p. 168)
the cause of their country (p. 34)

Book of Mormon

cause of his country (Alma 62:1)
the cause of their country (Alma 56:11)

Warren  

The minds of the people (p. 87)

Book of Mormon

the minds of the people (Alma 17:6)

Warren

deprive them of their rights (p. 332)
to maintain their rights (p. 337)

Book of Mormon

deprive them of their rights (Alma 2:4)
to maintain their rights (Alma 51:6)

Warren

every man might (p. 628)

Book of Mormon

every man might (Mosiah 29:34)

Warren

high birth (p. 236)

Book of Mormon

high birth (Alma 51:8)

Warren

the powers of the earth (p. 551)

Book of Mormon

the powers of the earth (3 Nephi 28:39)

Warren  

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (p. 182)

Book of Mormon

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (Alma 57:14)

Warren  

to harass their march (p. 269)

Book of Mormon

did harass them (Alma 51:32)

Warren

deprive them of their rights (p. 332)
to maintain their rights (p. 337)

Book of Mormon

deprive them of their rights (Alma 2:4)
to maintain their rights (Alma 51:6)

Warren

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (p. 182)

Book of Mormon

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (Alma 57:14)

Warren  

they determined to maintain (p. 170)

Book of Mormon

they were determined to maintain (Alma 56:26)

Warren

the powers of the earth (p. 551)

Book of Mormon

the powers of the earth (3 Nephi 28:39)

Warren

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (p. 182)

Book of Mormon

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (Alma 57:14)

Warren    

to harass their march (p. 269)

Book of Mormon

did harass them (Alma 51:32)

Warren

destroyed by the sword (p. 221)

Book of Mormon

destroyed by the sword (Alma 57:23)

Warren

an ignominious death (p. 584)

Book of Mormon

an ignominious death (Alma 1:15)

Warren    

watery grave (p. 215)

Book of Mormon

watery grave (1 Nephi 18:18)

Warren

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (p. 182)

Book of Mormon

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (Alma 57:14)

Warren

delight in blood (p. 137)

Book of Mormon

delight in blood (Mosiah 11:19)

There is also a high likelihood that Smith also a source for Smith appropriated some of George Washington’s writing;

Washington

The cause of America and of liberty

Book of Mormon

the cause of our liberty (Alma 58:12)

Washington

We are determined to preserve them or die

Book of Mormon

they were determined to conquer in this place or die (Alma 56:17)

David Ramsay was a friend of George Washington, who wrote The Life of George Washington and The History of the American Revolution, Even a superficial analysis of these two works reveal remarkable similarities to the wording Smith used in the Book of Mormon:

Ramsey

the blessings of liberty (p. 85)

Book of Mormon

the blessings of liberty (Alma 46:13)

Ramsey

liberties, property, wives, and children (p. 277)

Book of Mormon

Their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children (Alma 48:10)

Ramsey

the justice of the cause (p. 267)

Book of Mormon

the justice of the cause (Alma 46:29)

Ramsey

the cause of liberty (p. 90)

Book of Mormon

the cause of liberty (Alma 51:17)

Ramsey

spirit of freedom (p. 156)

Book of Mormon

spirit of freedom (Alma 60:25)

Ramsey

to maintain their rights and privileges (p. 232)

Book of Mormon

to maintain their rights and the privileges (Alma 51:6)

Ramsey

critical circumstances (p. 448)

Book of Mormon

critical circumstances (Alma 57:16)

Ramsey

began their march (p. 341)
had begun his march (p. 573)
marched over (p. 381

Book of Mormon

began their march (3 Nephi 4:25)
had begun his march (Alma 52:15)
marched over (Alma 43:25)

Ramsey

took possession of (p. 429)
take command (p. 412)
take up arms (p. 370)

Book of Mormon

took possession of (Mosiah 23:29)
took command (Alma 53:2)
take up arms (Alma 2:10)

Ramsey

a profound silence (p. 187)

Book of Mormon

a profound silence (Alma 55:17)

It appears that Joseph also ‘borrowed’ a great deal from the writings of Jonathan Edwards, Jr. (1745-1801) and his “The Salvation of All Men,” Etc., was first published in 1789.

Edwards

the justice of God (p. 8)
plan of mercy (p. 11)

Book of Mormon

the justice of God (Alma 42:1)
plan of mercy (Alma 42:15)

Edwards

endless happiness (p. 26)
endless misery (p. 60)
everlasting misery (p. 93)
misery and torment (p. 93)

Book of Mormon

endless happiness (Alma 41:4)
endless misery (Alma 41:4)
everlasting misery (Helaman 7:19)
misery and endless torment (Mosiah 3:25))

Edwards

infinite goodness is in God (p. 121)

Book of Mormon

infinite goodness of God (Mosiah 5:3)

Edwards

temporal death (p. 169)

Book of Mormon

temporal death (Alma 42:8)

Edwards

state of happiness (p. 184)
happy state (p. 184))

Book of Mormon

state of happiness (Alma 40:12)
happy state (Mosiah 2:4)

Edwards

persuade all men (p. 187)

Book of Mormon

persuade all men (2 Nephi 26:27)

Edwards

brought to repentance (p. 189)

Book of Mormon

brought to repentance (Alma 35:14)

Edwards

the first death (p. 204)
the second death, with respect to temporal death (p. 207)

Book of Mormon

the first death (Alma 11:45)
a second death…a temporal death (Alma 12:16)

Edwards

final state of the wicked (p. 240)

Book of Mormon

final state of the wicked (Alma 34:35)

Coincidence?

References

1 Source: Robert M. Bowman, Jr., The Book of Mormon and the Bible, March 2012

2 https://infidels.org/library/moder n/curt heuvel/bom_kjv.html

3 http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/bom/plag/

4John W. Welch, “The Miraculous Translation of the Book of Mormon,” from Opening the Heavens, Accounts of Divine Manifestations 1820-1844, p.77-213, (2005), Brigham Young University.

5 Elden J. Watson, Approximate Book of Mormon Translation Timeline, April 1995

6_ Roberts, B.H., Studies of the Book of Mormon, p. 240

7 David Ramsay (1749-1815), The History of the American Revolution, ed. Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund). Reprint (Philadelphia: R. Aitken, 1789), 219.

8 George Washington (1732-1799), George Washington: A Collection, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund), 46.

9 The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 278.

FairMormon’s Comments

Comment No.1

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS PROPAGANDA AND/OR SPIN – THE AUTHOR, OR THE AUTHOR’S SOURCE, IS PROVIDING INFORMATION OR IDEAS IN A SLANTED WAY IN ORDER TO INSTILL A PARTICULAR ATTITUDE OR RESPONSE IN THE READER

It is claimed that a 19th-century work by Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews, provided source material for Joseph Smith’s construction of the Book of Mormon.

Some also postulate a link between Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery, since both men lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery’s family attended at the time that View of the Hebrews was being written.

The theory the Joseph Smith plagiarized View of the Hebrews was never advanced during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

I can’t seem to find your arguments here other than to draw attention to the fact that Joseph knew of the book as he quoted from it and that Oliver Cowdery not only came from the small town where the author lived but attended the church where Ethan Smith, the author, was the pastor.

Absent any argument on FairMormon’s part, I would again point to similarities I detailed above.

Comment No. 2

The many similarities between the Book of Mormon and
The Golden Pot

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS MISTAKES AND/OR ERRORS – THE AUTHOR HAS STATED ERRONEOUS OR INCORRECT INFORMATION OR MISINTERPRETED THEIR SOURCES

The “Golden Pot” theory by Grant Palmer is claimed to be a source for the story of Moroni’s visit to Joseph Smith, not a source text or inspiration for the Book of Mormon text.

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

I am a little confused as I don’t think I suggested in my letter that the Golden Pot was a likely reference source for the Book of Mormon. Perhaps you meant to discuss the Westminster Confession of Faith where there was considerable plagiarism.

redd

Comment No. 3

The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain; used in New York state schools which Joseph Smith likely was exposed to, that reads very much like and has staggering parallels and similarities to, the Book of Mormon

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS PROPAGANDA AND/OR SPIN – THE AUTHOR, OR THE AUTHOR’S SOURCE, IS PROVIDING INFORMATION OR IDEAS IN A SLANTED WAY IN ORDER TO INSTILL A PARTICULAR ATTITUDE OR RESPONSE IN THE READER

The spin: The “staggering” parallels aren’t so “astounding” once you take a closer look at them. The facts: The critic scours a book in order to extract similar phrases, then declares that this proves that this book was a source for the Book of Mormon.

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

Again, FairMormon does not deal with my concerns but provides thirty-two links to prior generic apologies they have made on this subject. This lazy-man’s approach is similar to the way Uchtdorf handles questions directed at him.

Before I comment further on this topic I would invite the reader to compare the form-letter response I got from President Uchtdorf in 2017 with the form-letter response Jennifer received from him in 2014:
reply

jennifer

Time to create a new boilerplate.

I don’t think I used the word, “astounding “ to describe the similarities between The Book of Mormon and The Late War between the United States and Great Britain, but I agree they are astounding.

This textbook, written by Gilbert J. Hunt in scriptural style discussed, among things, the War of 1812. It was published in New York in 1816 and marketed as “for the use of schools throughout the United States” under the title, The Historical Reader. It was used in the schools that both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery attended, and it is also highly likely that Oliver Cowdery taught from it.

Yes, there are staggering parallels and similarities between it and the Book of Mormon. FairMormon has not provided any explanation. Are we to write it off as another coincidence?

As I have detailed in my letter, both books contain numerous common terms, devices of “curious workmanship,” “Stripling soldiers,” “rod of iron.” These are unusual terms.

There is a relatively new and powerful technique in the field of computational linguistics and probability called n-gram analysis.

The concept itself is quite simple but its application all but impossible until the advent of powerful computers. An n-gram is a contiguous sequence of items from a given arrangement of text or speech.

The items can be words, letters, or syllables. The ‘n’ in n-gram represents the number of elements of the sequence, for example, 4-gram would be four words in sequence, ‘now is the time.’

With the aid of modern, powerful computers, we can compare two documents regarding how often the same four (or three words in the case of 3-gram, five words in the case of 5-gram, etc.) words in the same sequence or order appear in both. When two books have a high relative frequency of n-grams the greater the probability that plagiarism has occurred. I say relative because the n-gram finding is compared to n-gram frequencies found within other documents from the same period.

An example would be comparing the Book of Mormon (1830) with Pride and Prejudice (1813). You would expect that the 4-gram would show a very low frequency. This is, in fact, the case. In October 2013, researchers Chris and Duane Johnson conducted an n-gram analysis of The Book of Mormon comparing it to over 100,000 books from the pre-1830’s era. They found that a book called The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain had a very high n-gram score.

In fact, the computer algorithm found over 100 rare 4-grams shared by both The Book of Mormon and The Late War. To put this into perspective, they found that The Late War contained more 4-gram connections to The Book of Mormon than 99.999% of the other books published before 1830.

These findings are highly significant because they show beyond any reasonable doubt that the author(s) of the Book of Mormon plagiarized from The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain published in 1816, just fourteen years before the Book of Mormon.

Does this in itself prove that Joseph Smith consciously, purposefully and with fraudulent intent copied material from The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain?

While most likely, I don’t think we can go quite that far.

In 1976, former ‘Beatle’ George Harrison was sued by Bright Tunes Music, the publisher of “He’s So Fine,” on behalf of Ronnie Mack, the songwriter who had died in 1963, shortly after his tune became the No. 1 hit in the United States. Harrison testified at trial, “I wasn’t consciously aware of the similarity between ‘He’s So Fine’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’ when I wrote the song, as it was more improvised and not so fixed.”

Judge Owen, who analyzed the music of both songs, ruled that “it is perfectly obvious to the listener that in musical terms, the two songs are virtually identical.”

The judge found that Harrison “subconsciously” plagiarized “He’s So Fine.” He also stated that, “…I do not believe he did so deliberately,”’ but “under the law, infringement of copyright is no less so even though subconsciously accomplished.”

It is impossible for us to know what went on in Smith’s head, perhaps we can best determine his motivations by examining his conduct and the worth of his character in other matters.

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23. Can it not be argued that changes made to core doctrines of the Church were in direct response to American political pressure – the ending of polygamy, Blacks in the priesthood?

power

Can it not be argued that changes made to core doctrines of the Church were in direct response to American political pressure – the ending of polygamy, Blacks in the priesthood?

While the tone of the following letter to the editor is somewhat mocking, it nevertheless summarizes the view that many people have about the Church’s about-face when President Carter made it clear they would not allow the Church’s tax-free status to continue if they did not change their racist policies.

“What’s done is done. There no longer is any prejudice against blacks in the Mormon church, the power of money took care of that. Back in 1978, the federal government informed the LDS Church that unless it allowed blacks full membership (including the priesthood,) they would have to cease calling themselves a non-profit organization and start paying income taxes. On $16.5 million a day in tithing alone, that’s a lot of tax monies that could be better used in building up the Kingdom of God.

The church immediately saw the error of its ways, and the brethren appealed to God for a revelation; it came quickly. God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform, and today The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has nothing but love for all races of people on Earth.” 1

FairMormon’s Comments

The apologist at FairMormon has nothing here. The best they can do is quote the opinion of a ‘Methodist scholar.’

A revelation in Mormondom rarely comes as a bolt from the blue; the process involves asking questions and getting answers. The occasion of questioning has to be considered, and it must be recalled that while questions about priesthood and the black man may have been asked, an answer was not forthcoming in the ‘60s when the church was under pressure about the matter from without. Nor did it come in the early ‘70s when liberal Latter-day Saints agitated the issue from within. The inspiration which led President Kimball and his counselors to spend many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple pleading long and earnestly for divine guidance did not stem from a messy situation with blacks picketing the church’s annual conference in Salt Lake City, but was “the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth.”

References

1 Kathy Erickson, letter to the Salt Lake Tribune, 11 March 11, 2001.

 

mount

24. The Sermon on the Mount in the Bible and the Book of Mormon are Identical.

However, when Joseph Smith wrote the JST of the Bible, he also went back and corrected Christ’s Sermon on the Mount passage in the Book of Mormon.

Why was that necessary?

Smith translated the Book of Mormon just a decade before, it certainly had not been corrupted over that short time and should not have needed correcting?

Does this not lend more credence to the theory that Joseph Smith simply copied passages from the Bible?.Why did Joseph’s magic rock not give him the correct script the first time?

 

25. How can we construe Joseph’s gross mistranslation of the Egyptian papyri that formed the basis of the Book of Abraham; which both LDS and non-LDS Egyptologists agree is a common funerary text, and from a different time, having nothing whatsoever to do with Abraham or anything mentioned in LDS scriptures?

Papi

According to the experts, the papyrus Joseph Smith used as the basis for his Book of Abraham, is in reality, the Book of Breathings. The name “Book of Breathings” appears clearly on the fourth line of the fragment. In 1968 two Egyptologists from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, Professors John A. Wilson and Klaus Baer identified the papyrus as the “Book of Breathings.” A Translation by Klaus Baer was printed in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1968, pp. 119-20

The name “Book of Breathings” appears clearly on the fourth line of the fragment. In 1968 two Egyptologists from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, Professors John A. Wilson and Klaus Baer identified the papyrus as the “Book of Breathings.” A translation by Klaus Baer was printed in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1968, pp. 119-20

Joseph Smith said that Facsimile No. 1 was of a bird as the “Angel of the Lord” with “Abraham fastened upon an altar,” “being offered up as a sacrifice by a false priest. The pots under the altar were various gods “Elkenah, Libnah, Mahmackrah, Korash, and Pharaoh.”But again, according to Egyptologists, this is “an embalming scene showing the deceased lying on a lion-couch.” 1

But again, according to Egyptologists, this is a common embalming scene.

John Wilson identified the text that Joseph used to translate the Book of Abraham as actually “a related mortuary text of late times, the so-called Book of the Breathings.” The Book of Breathings – an ancient Egyptian document, which was buried with the dead to provide guidance in the afterlife, explaining why Joseph Smith’s papyri were found among the mummies he had purchased. Wilson also indicated that one of the drawings Smith included in the Book of Abraham was clearly a hydrocephalus, a cartonnage disk which was placed under the head of a mummy toward the end of ancient Egyptian history.” 2

 

26. What is the meaning of the embarrassing Kinderhook Plates episode wherein primary sources show that Joseph “translated” forged items with meaningless symbols created by Wilbur Fugate to expose Joseph’s dishonesty? Does this incident not raise deep suspicions about Joseph’s claims to be a seer and revelator?

Kinderhook

In his History of the Church, Joseph Smith discusses six brass plates “covered with ancient characters” and a skeleton which “must have stood nine feet high” found by nine locals as they explored the area around Kinderhook, Illinois.3

Joseph also wrote, “I have translated a portion of them, and they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth…” 4

Years later, Wilbur Fugate, a member of the group that found them, admitted to having forged the plates in a hoax intended to expose Joseph Smith.5

In 1980, permission was obtained to accurately determine the plate’s age. The resulting electronic and chemical analyses resolved that the plate was not of ancient origin. Rather, they were created in the 1800s in a manner exactly as the hoaxsters had claimed. Also, further analysis verified that this could not have been a forgery of the Kinderhook Plates, but was, in fact, one of the actual plates discovered in Kinderhook in 1843.

“John Taylor, the personal friend of Joseph’s – took the find seriously, and expressed implicit confidence in his editorial that the Prophet could give a translation of the plates. And this attitude the Church continued to maintain”

In another matter, like the Kinderhook misadventure, Professor Henry Caswall, a professor, reverend and skeptic of Joseph Smith, visited Nauvoo on April 18 & 19, 1842. Caswell claims to have given Joseph Smith a very old Greek Psalter to examine and asked him what it was. It is likely that Caswall wanted to see if he could trick Joseph with his ancient Greek manuscript. Professor Caswall reported that Joseph examined the ancient document and replied that it was a Dictionary of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics. This was, of course, wrong as it was a very well-known Greek Psalter and not Egyptian.

“I had not the opportunity of observing his eyes, as he appears deficient in that open, straightforward look which characterizes (sic) an honest man. I heeled the way to his house, accompanied by a host of elders, bishops, preachers, and common Mormons. On entering the house, chairs were provided for the prophet and myself, while the curious and gaping crowd remained standing. I handed a book the to the prophet, and begged him to explain its contents. He asked me if I had any idea of its meaning. I replied, that I believed it to be a Greek Psalter, but that I should like to hear his opinion.”

“No,” he said; “it ain’t Greek at all, except, perhaps a few words. What ain’t Greek is Egyptian, and what ain’t Egyptian is Greek. This book is very valuable. It is a dictionary of Egyptian hieroglyphics.” Pointing to the capital letters at the commencement of each verse, he said,

“Them figures is Egyptian hieroglyphics, and them which follows is the interpretation (sic) of the hieroglyphics, written in the reformed Egyptian. Them characters is like the letters that was engraved on the golden plates.”

Upon this, the Mormons around began to congratulate me on the information I was receiving. “There,” they said, “we told you so – we told you that our prophet would give you satisfaction. None but our prophet can explain these mysteries!”

“The error of taking a Greek Psalter for a specimen of Egyptian hieroglyphics sufficiently proves the slender pretensions of Mr. Joseph Smith to be a mystery-expounder.” [sic] 7

References

1 Walters, Wesley P., Joseph Smith Among the Egyptians, 1973

2 Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. III, No.2 (Stanford: DialoguFoundation, 1968), p.68.

3 History of the Church, 5:372-79

4 “Ancient Records,” Times and Seasons (1843 May 1). Vol. IV, No. 12, pp. 186-87

5 Kimball, Stanley B., (1981). Kinderhook Plates brought to Joseph Smith appear to be a nineteenth-century hoax. Ensign

6 History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 379

7 Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal, v. 11, pp. 330-331, 1842

 

27. Was it just a coincidence that just seven weeks after Joseph’s Masonic initiation, that Joseph introduced the LDS endowment ceremony in May 1842?

All seeing eye in delta triangle

Besides the use of Masonic symbols such as the “all-seeing eye,” the beehive, hand grasp, etc., the LDS ceremony itself includes many Masonic signs and tokens that Joseph Smith was exposed to in his March 1842 Nauvoo, Illinois initiation.

Freemasonry has no link to Solomon’s temple whatsoever, rather it had its roots its origins in the stone tradesmen in medieval Europe – not Jerusalem circa 950 BC.Two Masonic rituals were removed in the 1990’s, the 5 Points of Fellowship at the veil and the blood oath penalties, from the endowment ceremony.While I will not reveal any temple ceremonies, signs, or tokens, they are increasingly showing up on the internet as are there Masonic equivalents.

 

Salvation Christian word montage

28. The Church speaks of the “Fullness of the Gospel” in the Book of Mormon, but many essential elements are not contained therein

“This ancient volume of holy scriptures is a sacred companion to the Bible, containing the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Tom Perry, Ensign, May 2007, pg. 88;

The fact is however that in spite of the mantra so often repeated in the Church that the Book of Mormon contains the ‘fullness of the Gospel,’ many of the essential features of that Gospel are absent from it.

The following is a list of significant features of the gospel NOT found in the Book of Mormon:

  • God has a body of flesh and bones.
  • God is an exalted man.
  • God is a product of eternal progression.
  • The plurality of gods.
  • Baptism for the dead
  • The temple endowment
  • True nature of the Godhead
  • Men can become gods.
  • “Intelligences” are eternal.
  • Pre-existing spirits of men.
  • Three degrees of glory.
  • A “mother” in heaven.
  • God “organized” the world rather than “created” it.
  • A Melchizedek priesthood consisting of the offices of Elder, Seventy, and High Priest.
  • An Aaronic priesthood consisting of the offices of Priest, Teacher, and Deacon.
  • God has many wives/Mother gods
  • God had sex with Mary
  • Jesus and Lucifer are brothers
  • Jesus was Married
  • The Book of Mormon is the “Stick of Joseph.”
  • There is no eternal hell and punishment.
  • Men can become gods.
  • “Intelligences” are eternal.
  • Pre-existing spirits of men.
  • Marriage for eternity.
  • Polygamy is not an abomination in the sight of God.
  • Negroes are to be denied the priesthood.
  • The functions and offices of Evangelists Bishoprics, Stake Presidencies,
  • Assistants to the Twelve, a First Presidency, and President of the Church.

If the goal was a restoration, why wouldn’t the Lord have provided his people with a more complete understanding of the most fundamental and precious truths of the plan of salvation?

If he did, in fact, reveal these things to the Nephites, why did they not record them?

Ray Anderson suggests that:

“Perhaps the paucity of latter-day doctrines and practices is best understood by examining early church history. Looking back on the early days of the Restoration, David Whitmer emphatically declared his belief that Joseph Smith was never meant to create a church – that his only calling was to bring forth the ‘marvelous work and a wonder,’ the Book of Mormon. He also claimed that the Book of Mormon was intended to be the ultimate authority on matters of truth and religious worship. …Could it be that Joseph’s original intention was to bring forth scripture that would ‘reform’ Christianity rather than ‘restore’ it? “ 1

FAIRMORMON COMMENTS

“The core of Mormon doctrine is centered wholly in Christ and his atonement. Without the foundation which the Book of Mormon lays, the other LDS teachings are meaningless. The Book of Mormon itself defines “the gospel” as simply the doctrine of Christ, faith in him, repentance, and the introductory ordinances. (What are these introductory ordinances?)

There are many religious topics and doctrines which The Book of Mormon does not discuss in detail (e.g., the premortal existence, see Alma 13:), and some which are not even mentioned (e.g., the ordinance of baptism for the dead).

This is unsurprising since the Book of Mormon’s goal is to teach the “fullness of the gospel”—the doctrine of Christ.”

DOUGLAS’ COMMENTS

FairMormon says, “The core of Mormon doctrine is centeredwholly in Christ and his atonement. Without the foundation which the Book of Mormon lays, the other LDS teachings are meaningless.

Fine, except we are not speaking of ‘centrality;’ we are talking about ‘fullness.’

The difference. is not too difficult to grasp if we use an example.

The central focus of the US Bill of Rights is the protection of individual rights and freedoms. The fullness would, however, include the ten amendments to the United States Constitution.

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Right to bear arms
  3. Protection against housing soldiers in civilian home
  4. Protection against unreasonable search and seizure, protection against the issuing of warrants without probable cause
  5. Protection against trial without indictment double jeopardy self-incrimination property seizure
  6. Right to a speedy trial. Right to be informed of charges Right to be confronted by witnesses. Right to call witnesses. Right to a legal counsel
  7. Right to trial by jury
  8. Protection against excessive bail excessive fines cruel and unusual punishment
  9. Rights granted in the Constitution shall not infringe on other rights
  10. Powers not granted to the Federal Government in the Constitution belong to the states or the

Can it be argued that it is enough that our fellow citizens know that the US Bill of rights affords them certain rights without knowing what those rights are?

No, to bring any benefit to the citizens of this great nation, to make our sacred freedoms come to life, we require the ‘fullness’ or the legislation.

Likewise, the efficacy, that is, that which animates the ‘Gospel’ comes from the fullness of it. The most important thing being is our Dear Lords atonement, our faith in him and the repentance of our sins.

But my friends are these are the just those things that all true Christians and their Church’s belief.

You need to ask yourself the question:

“Is it possible that the Book of Mormon cannot contain “the fullness of the gospel” because it doesn’t teach certain unique LDS doctrines, such as baptism for the dead, the Word of Wisdom, the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, vicarious work for the dead, and the corporeal nature of God the Father?”

I think with a little thought you will agree that it cannot contain the fullness of the Gospel, without those things that make the Mormon religion unique.

If you answer it is yes, that the Book of Mormon can contain the fullness of the Gospel that baptism for the dead, the Word of Wisdom, the belief in three degrees of glory, and knowledge of celestial marriage, the importance of vicarious work for the dead, etc. are not significant, essential or even necessary to the Gospel.

I invite you to make that comment in the next Gospel Doctrine class you attend:

“Brothers and Sisters, the Word of Wisdom, the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, and the work for the dead, are not part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as they are not found it the Book of Mormon, so conduct yourselves accordingly!”

References

1 Ray Anderson, The Book of Mormon, A Voice From 19th Century Dust, Seattle, WA, 2007, pp. 41-42

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Untitled-1

29. Changes to the Book of Mormon. Why was it necessary to so many changes to, “The most correct book in the world?”

There have been many thousands of changes made to the Book of Mormon since the original 1830 and other early editions. Granted many are minor – grammatical and spelling corrections but there have been numerous substantive changes and doctrinal revisions as made as well:

Consider 1 Nephi 13:40

Original

“… These last records … shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father, and the Savior …”

Present

“… These last records … shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior …”

Or, 1 Nephi 11:18

Original

“… These last records … shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father, and the Savior …”

Present

“… These last records … shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior …”

Or,

Original

“… Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.”

Present

“… Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.”

Original

Mosiah 9, p. 200King Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings …

Present

Mosiah 21:28 King Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings …

Original

1 Nephi 5, p. 52 … O house of Jacob, which are called out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord …

Present

1 Nephi 20:1 … O house of Jacob, which are called out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, which swear by the name of the Lord …

Original

2 Nephi 12, p. 117 … and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people.

Present

2 Nephi 30:6 (1840 edition) … and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white pure and a delightsome.

A significant change made to the Book of Mormon is the name of the angel who is claimed, to have appeared in Joseph Smith’s bedroom. An event incidentally that four of Joseph’s brothers slept through. In the Joseph Smith’s first history, we learn that the angel’s name was Nephi: “He called me by name and said … that his name was Nephi” (Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 753). But in modern printings of the History of the Church, the name has been changed to “Moroni” (History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 11).

“The original handwritten manuscript shows the name as “Nephi,” but after Joseph’s death, someone later wrote the word “Moroni” above the line.

It should be noted that Joseph Smith lived for two years after the name “Nephi” was printed in the church’s official publication Times and Seasons, and never published a retraction or correction.

As well, the August 1842 edition of the Millennial Star, also printed Joseph Smith’s story stating that the angel’s name was “Nephi”

Millennial Star, vol. 3, p. 53

The name was also published in the 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great Price as “Nephi.”

Many members are also familiar with the Rocky Mountain Prophecy, that predicted that Salt Lake would be the place the Saints would settle after leaving Nauvoo. Unhappily, it is not true even though the church presented it as true for more than a century.

The ‘Rocky Mountain Prophecy’ was added after the Mormons arrived in Utah.

The Changing World of Mormonism, p. 406

Some LDS scholars have lamented the suppression of the truthful Church history. Leonard Arrington, the official LDS Church Historian (1972‐1982) voiced his concern over the withholding of true Church history in favor of a faith promoting version. Dr. Arrington wrote: “It is unfortunate for the cause of Mormon history that the Church Historian’s Library, which is in the possession of virtually all of the diaries of leading Mormons, has not seen fit to publish these diaries or to permit qualified historians to use them without restriction.”

Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1966, p. 26

Dr. Arrington’s refreshing honesty resulted in his demoted in 1982 and transferred from the church historian’s office to BYU.

Deseret News, Church Section, July 5, 1980

The above are not minor “typographical errors.” These are “errors” that make changes to characters names, completely alter the meaning and context of verses, and even modify the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Though defenders of the Book of Mormon often discount as minor or meaningless the tens of thousands of grammatical, syntactical and spelling errors that appear in the original edition, I think we need to seriously question this.

Apologists often claim that these changes were made to improve punctuation and fix a few, minor grammatical problems. This is a gross understatement.

The following are only a few of literally thousands of examples:

The original read, “… the cause of diseases which was subsequent to man, by the nature of the climate…” (page 353, 1830 Book of Mormon)

Today’s edition reads, “… the causes of diseases, to which men were subject, by the nature of the climate…”

Another example:

“And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had wrote upon the rent, and crying with a loud voice…” 1

Today it reads, “And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, crying with a loud voice…”

And, another example:

“… for behold, his army had been reduced by the Lamanites because of the numerority (sic) of their forces having slain a vast number of our men…” 2

The modern edition reads, “… for behold; his army had been reduced by the Lamanites because their forces had slain a vast number of our men…”

Commenting on the real significance of these numerous errors, B.H. Roberts, unquestionably one of the great historians in LDS church history, painfully admits that the errors in the original edition, were so numerous and such a part of the “web and woof of the style” of the text, that they could not be easily explained away:

“Are these flagrant errors in grammar chargeable to the Lord? To say so is to invite ridicule…the awkward, ungrammatical expression of the thoughts is, doubtless, the result of the translator’s imperfect knowledge of the English language … that old theory cannot be successfully maintained; that is, the Urim and Thummim did the translating, the Prophet, nothing beyond repeating what he saw reflected in that instrument; that God directly or indirectly is responsible for the verbal and grammatical errors of translation. To advance such a theory before intelligent and educated people is to unnecessarily invite ridicule, and make of those who advocate it candidates for contempt…” 3

Apologists often pooh-pooh any criticism here by talking about Joseph’s lack of education and his use of the frontier grammar of the day.

As well, numerous Mormon writers and apologists have tried to explain why these myriad mistakes exist in the first place, and why thousands of changes have been made in subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon.

Various suggestions have been made, including such things as Joseph Smith’s poor education, his lack of communication with those who later copied the text, and typesetting mistakes. These are all woefully inadequate.

Some have suggested that Smith was not given the actual words, but only the “idea” or “sense” of the things that were to be written – therefore, allowing for the possibility of all kinds of human error.

However, according to all reports; it was not Joseph Smith but his magic seer stone that did the translating, Smith just had to read and announced the words appearing on it.

This rendition, that ideas came to Joseph, not words, contradicts the many clear statements made by distinguished or at least well-known Mormon leaders who observed the process and had it explained to them by the man with his actual head in the hat.

David Whitmer, for example, said, “I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness, the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English.”

Martin Harris, another of the ‘three witnesses’ reported:

“…sentences would appear and were read by the prophet, and if correctly written, that sentence would disappear, and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used.”

George Reynolds, the secretary to President John Taylor said, “There were no delays over obscure passages, no difficulties over the choice of words, no stoppages from the ignorance of the translator; no time was wasted in investigation or argument over the value, intent, or meaning of certain characters, and there was no reference to authorities… All was as simple as when a clerk writes from dictation. The translation of the characters appeared… Sentence by sentence, and as soon as one was correctly transcribed the next would appear.”

Joseph Knight described the translation process. This way,

“Darkened his Eyes he would take a sentence and it would appear in Brite (sic) Roman Letters. Then he would tell the writer and he would write it. Then that would go away the next sentence (sic) would come and so on. But if it was not Spelt (sic) rite (sic) it would not go away till it was rite…”

The above statements are significant, in that they explain the specific nature of the translating – the very words being given by God, spelled out, recorded properly, one character at a time, then repeated and corrected in the case of error. All directed by “the gift and power of God,”

Emma Smith, in an 1856 interview also described the process:

“When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made a mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling, although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time.”

The one thing that is consistent with all these descriptions is that they portray a visual “crawl” coming across something that looks like parchment. Obviously, the only way these witnesses would know of, and repeat almost verbatim; this account is that Joseph had told them that this was the method.

Ok, here is the rub. If we accept that Joseph Smith simply read words and sentences appearing on the seer stone, then we must assign responsibility for errors in language to a Divine instrumentality, that is God is not very skilled in the English language and a remarkably bad writer. This is absurd and ridiculous, even blasphemous. Or, if the contention is that the phraseology of the Book of Mormon, – letter for letter and word for word was given to the Smith by the direct inspiration of God, acting upon his mind, then again God is made accountable for the thousands and thousands of errors in the Book of Mormon again, inconceivable.

There have been many LDS leaders and Mormon apologists that have claimed that the errors in the original 1830 Book of Mormon are simply typographical. This is really grasping at straws.

The venerated early Mormon historian, B.H. Roberts made it clear that he did not buy it:

“That errors of grammar and faults in dictation do exist in the Book of Mormon (and more especially and abundantly in the first edition) must be conceded; and what is more, while some of the errors may be referred to inefficient proof-reading, such as is to be expected in a country printing establishment, yet such is the nature of the errors in question, and so interwoven are they throughout the diction of the Book, that they may not be disposed of by saying they result from inefficient proof-reading or referring them to the mischievous disposition of the ‘typos’ or the unfriendliness of the publishing house. The errors are constitutional in their character; they are of the web and woof of the style, and not such errors as may be classed as typographical. Indeed, the first edition of the Book of Mormon is singularly free from typographical errors.4

How then could there be mistakes, English may not have been the Lord first language, but I would suggest He certainly has a perfect knowledge of it. Surely the Mormon apologists aren’t suggesting He only had a fundamental grasp of grammar, spelling, syntax and sentence structure.

Nor can these mistakes be blamed on typesetting errors. When we compare, the original handwritten manuscript allegedly dictated by Joseph Smith, and the corrected handwritten one from which the first printing was made, we discover copious changes—and this was before the typesetting was even done!

How then could the misspelled words below get into a translation supposedly overseen by the “power of God”?

adhear” (for adhere; Alma 60:34)
bablings” (for babblings; Alma 1:32)
bellowses” (for bellows; 1 Nephi 17:11)
feading” (for feeding; Enos 1:20)
eigth” (for eighth; Alma 53:23)
eatheth” (for eateth; 3 Nephi 20:8)
journied” (for journeyed; 1 Nephi 4:38; 5:6; 7:6; 18:25
phrensied” (for frenzied; Alma 30:16)
rereward” (for rearward; 3 Nephi 20:42; 21:29)
sayeth” (for saith; Mosiah 12:21)
tempels” (for temples; Alma 16:13)
yars” (for years; Alma 19:16)

Joseph’s grammar was even worse:

A few of the thousands of grammatical errors – incorrect adjectives and adverbs, double negatives, etc. are shown below:

  • “And this he done” (Alma 2:10).
  • “They did not fight against God no more” (Alma 23:7).
  • “And now behold the Lamanites could not retreat neither way” (Helaman 1:31).
  • “Yea, if my days could have been in them days” (Helaman 7:8).
  • “And Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could not understand them” (Omni 1:17).
  • “And it came to pass that there was certain men passing by” (Helaman 7:11).
  • “That all might see the writing which he had wrote” (Alma 46:19).
  • “I have wrote to them” (3 Nephi 26:8).
  • “I were about to write to them” (3 Nephi 26:11).
  • “…which was wrote upon the plates…” (Alma 44:24).
  • “…that there might not be no more sorrow” (Alma 29:2).
  • “Adam and Eve, which was our first parents…,” (1 Nephi 5:11).
  • “…the multitude had all eat” (3 Nephi 20:9).
  • “I Moroni have written the words which was commanded” (Ether 5:1).
  • “…the gates of hell is…” (3 Nephi 18:13).

Redundancy too is an issue; many words and phrases that are and repeated ad nauseam:

The phrase, “And it came to pass,” occurring over 1200 times. Mark Twain commented that “Whenever he found his speech growing too modern—which was about every sentence or two—he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as “exceeding sore,” “and it came to pass,” etc., and made things satisfactory again. “And it came to pass” was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.”

Also unlike the Bible, the Book of Mormon is much too wordy, another example of poor writing. Far too many words are used to express a simple thought or idea. For example, 4 Nephi 6:

“And thus did the thirty and eight years pass away, also the thirty and ninth, and forty and first, and the forty and second, yea even until forty and nine years had passed away, and also the fifty and second; yea, and even until fifty and nine years had passed away.

Why not just say, “59 years had passed!”

Likewise, the overuse of the words “behold,” insomuch” and “thereof,” often used repeatedly and needlessly.

FairMormon’s Comments

Why was it necessary to make thousands of changes to the Book of Mormon, ‘the most correct book in the world.’

Again, no comments on what I have written, just links to FairMormon website, however, I will add a few additional comments.

I would like to comment that contrary to Joseph Smith’s statement “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors,” the Holy Bible was transmitted so inerrantly that even professor Richard L. Anderson, of the LDS’s own Brigham Young University, commented:

“For a book to undergo progressive uncovering of its manuscript history and come out with so little debatable in its text is a great tribute to its essential authenticity. First, no new manuscript discovery has produced serious differences in the essential story. This survey has disclosed the leading textual controversies, and together they would be well within one percent of the text. Stated differently, all manuscripts agree on the essential correctness of 99 percent of all the verses in the New Testament.”

30. The Myriad Spelling, Grammatical and Syntactical Errors in Joseph Smith’s Original Translation

Though defenders of the Book of Mormon often discount as minor or meaningless the tens of thousands of grammatical, syntactical and spelling errors that appear in the original edition, I think we need to seriously question this.

Apologists often claim that these changes were made to improve punctuation and fix a few, minor grammatical problems. This is a gross understatement.

The following are only a few of literally thousands of examples:

The original read,

“… the cause of diseases which was subsequent to man, by the nature of the climate…” (page 353, 1830 Book of Mormon)

Today’s edition reads, “… the causes of diseases, to which men were subject, by the nature of the climate…”

Another example:

“And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had wrote upon the rent, and crying with a loud voice…”

(page 351, 1830 Book of Mormon)

Today it reads, “And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, crying with a loud voice…”

And, another example:

“… for behold, his army had been reduced by the Lamanites because of the numerority of their forces having slain a vast number of our men…

Book of Mormon, page 382, (1830 edition)

The modern edition reads, “… for behold; his army had been reduced by the Lamanites because their forces had slain a vast number of our men…”

Commenting on the real significance of these numerous errors, B.H. Roberts, unquestionably one of the great historians in LDS church history, painfully admits that the errors in the original edition, were so numerous and such a part of the “web and woof of the style” of the text, that they could not be easily explained away:

“Are these flagrant errors in grammar chargeable to the Lord? To say so is to invite ridicule…the awkward, ungrammatical expression of the thoughts is, doubtless, the result of the translator’s imperfect knowledge of the English language … that old theory cannot be successfully maintained; that is, the Urim and Thummim did the translating, the Prophet, nothing beyond repeating what he saw reflected in that instrument; that God directly or indirectly is responsible for the verbal and grammatical errors of translation. To advance such a theory before intelligent and educated people is to unnecessarily invite ridicule, and make of those who advocate it candidates for contempt…”

Defense of the Faith, by B. H. Roberts, Deseret News, 1907-1912, pp. 278 – 308.

Apologists often pooh-pooh any criticism here by talking about Joseph’s lack of education and his use of the frontier grammar of the day.

As well, numerous Mormon writers and apologists have tried to explain why these myriad mistakes exist in the first place, and why thousands of changes have been made in subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon.

Various suggestions have been made, including such things as Joseph Smith’s poor education, his lack of communication with those who later copied the text, and typesetting mistakes. These are all woefully inadequate.

Some have suggested that Smith was not given the actual words, but only the “idea” or “sense” of the things that were to be written – therefore, allowing for the possibility of all kinds of human error.

However, according to all reports; it was not Joseph Smith, but his magic seer stone that did the translating, Smith just had to read and announced the words appearing on it.

This rendition, that ideas came to Joseph, not words, contradicts the many clear statements made by distinguished or at least well-known Mormon leaders who observed the process and had it explained to them by the actual man with his head in the hat.

David Whitmer, for example, said, “I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness, the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English.”

Martin Harris, another of the ‘three witnesses’ reported:

“…sentences would appear and were read by the prophet, and if correctly written, that sentence would disappear, and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used.”

George Reynolds, the secretary to President John Taylor said, “There were no delays over obscure passages, no difficulties over the choice of words, no stoppages from the ignorance of the translator; no time was wasted in investigation or argument over the value, intent, or meaning of certain characters, and there was no reference to authorities… All was as simple as when a clerk writes from dictation. The translation of the characters appeared… Sentence by sentence, and as soon as one was correctly transcribed the next would appear.”

Joseph Knight described the translation process. This way,

“Darkened his Eyes he would take a sentence, and it would appear in Brite (sic) Roman Letters. Then he would tell the writer and he would write it. Then that would go away the next sentence (sic) would come and so on. But if it was not Spelt (sic) rite (sic) it would not go away till it was rite (sic)…”

The above statements are significant, in that they explain the specific nature of the translating – the very words being given by God, spelled out, recorded properly, one character at a time, then repeated and corrected in the case of error. All directed by “the gift and power of God,”

Emma Smith, in an 1856 interview also described the process:

“When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made a mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling, although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time.”

The one thing that is consistent with all these descriptions is that they portray a visual “crawl” coming across something that looks like parchment. Obviously, the only way these witnesses would know of, and repeat almost verbatim; this account is that Joseph had told them that this was the method.

Ok, here is the rub. If we accept that Joseph Smith simply read words and sentences appearing on the seer stone, then we must assign responsibility for errors in language to Divine instrumentality, that is, God is not very skilled in the English language and a remarkably bad writer. This is absurd and ridiculous, even blasphemous. Or, if the contention is that the phraseology of the Book of Mormon, – letter for letter and word for word was given to the Smith by the direct inspiration of God, acting upon his mind, then again God is made accountable for the thousands and thousands of errors in the Book of Mormon again, inconceivable.

There have been many LDS leaders and Mormon apologists that have claimed that the errors in the original 1830 Book of Mormon are simply typographical. This is really grasping at straws.

The venerated early Mormon historian, B.H. Roberts made it clear that he did not buy it:

“That errors of grammar and faults in dictation do exist in the Book of Mormon (and more especially and abundantly in the first edition) must be conceded; and what is more, while some of the errors may be referred to inefficient proof-reading, such as is to be expected in a country printing establishment, yet such is the nature of the errors in question, and so interwoven are they throughout the diction of the Book, that they may not be disposed of by saying they result from inefficient proof-reading or referring them to the mischievous disposition of the ‘typos’ or the unfriendliness of the publishing house. The errors are constitutional in their character; they are of the web and woof of the style, and not such errors as may be classed as typographical. Indeed,the first edition of the Book of Mormon is singularly free from typographical errors.

Defense of the Faith, by B. H. Roberts, pp. 280-281;
reprinted in A New Witness For Christ in America,
by Francis W. Kirkham, Vol. 1, pp. 200-201)

How then could there be mistakes, English may not have been the Lord first language, but I would suggest He certainly has a perfect knowledge of it. Surely the Mormon apologists aren’t suggesting He only had a fundamental grasp of grammar, spelling, syntax and sentence structure.

Nor can these mistakes be blamed on typesetting errors. When we compare, the original handwritten manuscript allegedly dictated by Joseph Smith, and the corrected handwritten one from which the first printing was made, we discover copious changes—and this was before the typesetting was even done!

How then could the misspelled words below get into a translation supposedly overseen by the “power of God”?
adhear” (for adhere; Alma 60:34)

bablings” (for babblings; Alma 1:32)

bellowses” (for bellows; 1 Nephi 17:11)

feading” (for feeding; Enos 1:20)

eigth” (for eighth; Alma 53:23)

eatheth” (for eateth; 3 Nephi 20:8)

journied” (for journeyed; 1 Nephi 4:38; 5:6; 7:6; 18:25

phrensied” (for frenzied; Alma 30:16)

rereward” (for rearward; 3 Nephi 20:42; 21:29)

sayeth” (for saith; Mosiah 12:21)

tempels” (for temples; Alma 16:13)

yars” (for years; Alma 19:16)

Joseph’s grammar was even worse:

A few of the thousands of grammatical errors – incorrect adjectives and adverbs, double negatives, etc. are shown below:

  • “And this he done” (Alma 2:10).
  • “They did not fight against God no more” (Alma 23:7).
  • “And now behold the Lamanites could not retreat neither
    way” (Helaman 1:31).
  • “Yea, if my days could have been in them days” (Helaman 7:8).
  • “And Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could not understand
    them” (Omni 1:17).
  • “And it came to pass that there was certain men passing by”
    (Helaman 7:11).
  • “That all might see the writing which he had wrote” (Alma 46:19).
  • “I have wrote to them” (3 Nephi 26:8).
  • “I were about to write to them” (3 Nephi 26:11).
  • “…which was wrote upon the plates…” (Alma 44:24).
  • “…that there might not be no more sorrow” (Alma 29:2).
  • “Adam and Eve, which was our first parents…,” (1 Nephi 5:11).
  • “…the multitude had all eat” (3 Nephi 20:9).
  • “I Moroni have written the words which was commanded” (Ether 5:1).
  • “…the gates of hell is…” (3 Nephi 18:13).

Redundancy too is an issue; many words and phrases are repeated ad nauseam:

The phrase, “And it came to pass,” occurring over 1200 times. Mark Twain commented that “Whenever he found his speech growing too modern—which was about every sentence or two—he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as “exceeding sore,” “and it came to pass,” etc., and made things satisfactory again. “And it came to pass” was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.”

Also unlike the Bible, the Book of Mormon is much too wordy, another example of poor writing. Far too many words are used to express a simple thought or idea. For example, 4 Nephi 6:

“And thus did the thirty and eight years pass away, also the thirty and ninth, and forty and first, and the forty and second, yea even until forty and nine years had passed away, and also the fifty and second; yea, and even until fifty and nine years had passed away.”

Why not just say, “59 years had passed!”

Likewise, the overuse of the words “behold,” insomuch” and “thereof,” often used needlessly.

The Church’s apologists seem to follow three tracks in trying to explain away these myriad spelling, grammatical and syntactical errors:

Blame the Printer: The man responsible for punctuating the first edition of the Book of Mormon was John Gilbert, who worked for E. B. Grandin, publisher of the first edition. According to Gilbert, it was Hyrum Smith who brought the first twenty-four pages of the handwritten printer’s manuscript to the publisher:

“He had it under his vest, and vest and coat closely buttoned over it. At night [Hyrum] came and got the manuscript, and with the same precaution carried it away. The next morning with the same watchfulness, he brought it again, and at night took it away. … On the second day – [Martin Harris] and [Hyrum] being in the office—I called their attention to a grammatical error, and asked whether I should correct it? Harris consulted with [Hyrum] a short time, and turned to me and said: ‘The Old Testament is ungrammatical, set it as it is written.’

“After working a few days, I said to [Hyrum] on his handing me the manuscript in the morning; ‘Mr. Smith, if you would leave this manuscript with me, I would take it home with me at night and read and punctuate it.’ His reply was, ‘We are commanded not to leave it.’ A few mornings after this, when [Hyrum] handed me the manuscript, he said to me: ‘if you will give your word that this manuscript shall be returned to us when you get through with it, I will leave it with you.’ … for two or three nights I took it home with me and read it, and punctuated it with a lead pencil.’”

Wilford C. Wood, Joseph Smith Begins His Work,
vol. 1, Salt Lake City: Wilford C. Wood, 1959.

Blame the Scribe: “Although Joseph Smith was the translator of the Book of Mormon, the spelling in the first edition was Oliver Cowdery’s…”

George Horton, “Understanding Textual
Changes in the Book of Mormon,” Ensign,
December 1983.

Blame the English language itself: “Before we can understand why many of these corrections have been necessary, we must know that American English spelling in 1829 was not yet standardized.”

“…Webster’s ownAmerican Dictionary of the English Languagewas published in 1828; and, if it was available to Oliver Cowdery, that would add one more to the other five. Small wonder, then, that Oliver’s spelling would seem creative to the modern reader.”

Ibid.

None of these are of course satisfactory.

Why would Joseph not be given grammatically correct sentences rather than the dog’s breakfast found in the first edition? And surely the words that appeared on the seer stone were not misspelled?

If they were spelled correctly, (or at least in concert with Webster’s 1828 dictionary which the Lord knew was then and in the future, would be the standard) why did Smith not spell the words as they appeared if unfamiliar with them?

When the word ‘temple’ would appear on the stone, the spelling which Smith and Cowdery knew as ‘tempels,’ or ‘eighth’ rather than ‘eigth’ or ‘journeyed’ instead of ‘journeyed’, or ‘years,’ not ‘yars’ would they not catch on after a few hundred words?

I have also discovered several contradictions within the Book of Mormon:

The Book of Mormon states that at the tower of Babel the Jaredites had their separate language (Esther 1:34-35). The Bible, however, tells us that “the whole earth was of one language” (Genesis 11:1).

The Bible says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1). The Book of Mormon reads: “And behold, he shall be born of Mary at Jerusalem” (Alma 7:10).

The Bible relates that at the crucifixion there were three hours of darkness (Luke 23:44). However, the Book of Mormon states there was darkness “for the space of three days” (Helaman 14:20,27).

The Book of Mormon teaches that black skin is a sign of God’s curse (2 Nephi 5:21). In contrast, the Bible teaches that God “made of one blood all nations of men” (Acts 17:26).

The Book of Mormon tells us that “Melchizedek…did reign under his father” (Alma 13:18). However, the Bible teaches that Melchizedek was a priest under no one. The Bible states that Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without descent” in other words, he did not inherit his priesthood (Hebrews 7:3).

The people described in the Book of Mormon operated multiple temples (Alma 16:13; 23:2; 26:29). This violates the dictates of the Old Testament Scriptures – God commanded Israel to build only one temple to reflect that fact that there is only one true God (Deuteronomy 12:5,13-14; 16:5-6).

There are thousands of grammatical errors in the first edition of the Book of Mormon – double negatives, incorrect adjectives, adverbs and often wrong or changing tenses.

Smith also used colloquial terms common to his day. The frequent use of “a” with various participles is noticeable in such phrases as: “a journeying,” “a preaching,” “a marching,” “a coming,” and so on! Such lingo betrays the influence of the vernacular of the 1800s and is not the language one might expect to find in scripts from ancient times.

As well, the first edition of the Book of Mormon contains numerous instances of exceptionally poor sentence structure, which was, changed in later editions.

redd

References

1 1830 Book of Mormon, P. 351.

2 1830 Book of Mormon, page 382

3 Defense of the Faith, by B. H. Roberts, Deseret News, 1907-1912, pp. 278 – 308.

4 Defense of the Faith, by B. H. Roberts, pp. 280-281; reprinted in A New Witness For Christ in America, by Francis W. Kirkham, Vol. 1, pp. 200-201

5 Wilford C. Wood, Joseph Smith Begins His Work, vol. 1, Salt Lake City: Wilford C. Wood, 1959.

6 George Horton, “Understanding Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, December 1983

7 George Horton, “Understanding Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, December 1983

31. Is it not alarming that several witnesses to the Book of Mormon confessed that they did not see the plates with their natural eyes, but with “visions of the mind?”

threeFrom my perspective, the strongest proof of the truthfulness of the foundational claims of the church is the testimony of the witnesses, particularly the three witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris and David Whitmer.

The following statements by the three are very convincing:

Martin Harris (1875):

“The Book of Mormon is no fake. I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen and I have heard what I have heard. I have seen the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon is written. An angel appeared to me and others and testified to the truthfulness of the record, and had I been willing to have perjured myself and sworn falsely to the testimony I now bear I could have been a rich man, but I could not have testified other than I have done and am now doing for these things are true.”

David Whitmer (1881):

“I have never at any time, denied that testimony or any part thereof, which has so long since been published with that book as one of the three witnesses. Those who know me best, well know that I have adhered to that testimony. And that no man may be misled or doubt my present views in regard to the same, I do now again affirm the truth of all my statement[s], as then made and published.”

Oliver Cowdery (1848):

“I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or as it is called by the book, Holy Interpreters. I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates from which it was transcribed. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the Holy Interpreters. That book is true.”

I also feel that there is no convincing evidence that these three individuals participated in a fraud, rather the evidence points to the fact that, at least at one time, they all honestly believed that Joseph was a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon is what it purports to be.

Nevertheless, there are a few major problems.

I think we need to exercise some caution in judging the witnesses’ 1829 testimony by the rational worldview that most hold today. The three witnesses, like many, perhaps most people in the unsophisticated society of nineteenth-century rural America, viewed second sight, magic, spells, witches, and treasure digging as objective reality, and if anything, it drew them together as a society.

Where did the printed testimony of the ‘Three Witnesses’ Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer come from? Did they write their own personal witness statements?

No!

It is believed that Joseph Smith composed the statement for them to sign. This appears to be evident since, at that time, he knew none of the witnesses had ever seen the plates with their natural eyes, a fact every one of them admitted at one point. Joseph’s wording however deliberately gives the impression that they had.

Stretching or twisting the truth seems to be no problem for Joseph Smith when it suited his purposes. There is clear evidence he altered other revelations and made numerous retroactive changes to the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. According to Apostle William E. McLellin, “the testimony of the Twelve Apostles contained in the Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants was a ‘base forgery.’ David Whitmer himself, one of the Three Witnesses, alleged the same thing.”

Notwithstanding, their unsigned witness statement, carefully crafted by Joseph Smith does say they saw the gold plates as well as an angel. They attested to the same at other times that their experience with the plates and the angel were real in the sense that we would view something as ‘real’ today.

The problem is, there is also clear evidence that Cowdery, Harris, and Whitmer, made numerous contradictory statements and admissions, in which they also said that they saw these things only in a ‘visionary state,’ often after being prepared and probably coached by Joseph Smith.

The issue becomes, given this incongruity, which is true?

There is so much damning evidence that the Book of Mormon is nothing more than a work of 19th-century fiction – the lack of archaeological support, the anachronisms, the contrary DNA evidence, the rampant plagiarism and the almost laughable means of translation – A magical peep stone in a top hat. .

This coupled with Smith’s history of money digging, his many run-ins with the law. His many false and failed prophesies, his inaccurate translations of the Egyptian Papyri, and the Kinderhook Plates and most of all his dishonesty and immoral behavior. Lying to Emma and the Saints about his polygamy and polyandry. Convincing teenage girls, some as young as 14, by the use of coercive psychological techniques to marry and have sex with him, must give anyone with an ounce of sense pause. 

Were it not for the testimony of these three men I think a reasonable person would be ready to proclaim that the LDS church is false, that Joseph Smith was a narcissistic con-man who used his superior intellect and charisma to acquire wealth, power, and sex. If the testimony of these supposed witnesses is also highly suspect it must surely put the final nail in the Mormon coffin.

But there is Larry, Curly and Moe! – David, Martin, and Oliver.

I think we need to examine each of the three participants carefully, honestly and yes, judiciously, for I believe on them rests the veracity of the whole Mormon narrative.


Martin Harris

Background and Life Experiences

Things were going well for Martin Harris by 1827. He had built a comfy life for himself and his wife and cousin Lucy in Palmyra, New York. By all accounts, he was a hard worker and the half section of land he had acquired and worked over the previous 14 years, had made him, by rural New York standards, very close to being a wealthy man.

At age 26, Martin married Lucy Harris, his first cousin, and the couple had five children, three of whom lived to be adults.

But now at age 45, he received a visit from Lucy Mack Smith, the mother of Joseph Smith, Jr., that led to a series of events that would rock his world.

Lucy Smith had come to tell Martin that her son Joseph had finally obtained golden plates from an angel, with a message inscribed in an ancient language that would change the world. Lucy Mack Smith asked Martin if he would visit Joseph. He agreed and thus began their relationship. Joseph Smith and Martin appeared to become friends, at least Martin saw Joseph as his friend hiring Joseph as a day laborer on his farm. Joseph may have viewed Martin as a tool (and I mean that in every sense of the word) as compared to Smith, he was wealthy but none too bright.

Martin likely harbored some doubts about Joseph’s story, undoubtedly stoked by his wife, Lucy. But Martin was also a religious man, as well as a very superstitious one. Indeed some labeled him a “visionary fanatic.” This perspective explains Martin’s willingness to, not just consider, but accept the supernatural buying hook, line and sinker Joseph’s claims of angels and ancient buried golden plates. Martin was acting as a scribe for a time and, of course, he also journeyed to New York City in Joseph’s behalf seeking a reassurance from Professor Anthon, a well-known scholar that the plates were authentic. But Martin’s greatest contribution to the work was as a benefactor.

It is interesting that regardless of Professor Anthon’s caution to Martin, he still proceeded with his, “investment.”

Dr. Anthon’s account of his meeting with Martin Harris is certainly disimilar to the Church’s version of what transpired.

Professor Anthon described Martin’s visit as follows:

New York, Feb. 17, 1834

Dear Sir –

I received this morning your favor of the 9th instant, and lose no time in making a reply. The whole story about my having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be “reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics” is perfectly false. Some years ago, a plain, and apparently simple-hearted farmer, called upon me with a note from Dr. Mitchell of our city, now deceased, requesting me to decypher, if possible, a paper, which the farmer would hand me, and which Dr. M. confessed he had been unable to understand. Upon examining the paper in question, I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick, perhaps a hoax. When I asked the person, who brought it, how he obtained the writing, he gave me, as far as I can now recollect, the following account: A “gold book,” consisting of a number of plates of gold, fastened together in the shape of a book by wires of the same metal, had been dug up in the northern part of the state of New York, and along with the book an enormous pair of “gold spectacles”!.

The farmer added, that he had been requested to contribute a sum of money towards the publication of the “golden book,” the contents of which would, as he had been assured, produce an entire change in the world and save it from ruin. So urgent had been these solicitations, that he intended selling his farm and handing over the amount received to those who wished to publish the plates. As a last precautionary step, however, he had resolved to come to New York, and obtain the opinion of the learned about the meaning of the paper which he brought with him, and which had been given him as a part of the contents of the book, although no translation had been furnished at the time by the young man with the spectacles. On hearing this odd story, I changed my opinion about the paper, and, instead of viewing it any longer as a hoax upon the learned, I began to regard it as part of a scheme to cheat the farmer of his money, and I communicated my suspicions to him, warning him to beware of rogues. He requested an opinion from me in writing, which of course I declined giving, and he then took his leave carrying the paper with him. This paper was in fact a singular scrawl. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, were arranged in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calender given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived. I am thus particular as to the contents of the paper, inasmuch as I have frequently conversed with my friends on the subject, since the Mormonite excitement began, and well remember that the paper contained any thing else but “Egyptian Hieroglyphics.” Some time after, the same farmer paid me a second visit. He brought with him the golden book in print, and offered it to me for sale. I declined purchasing. He then asked permission to leave the book with me for examination. I declined receiving it, although his manner was strangely urgent. I adverted once more to the roguery which had been in my opinion practised upon him, and asked him what had become of the gold plates. He informed me that they were in a trunk with the large pair of spectacles. I advised him to go to a magistrate and have the trunk examined. He said the “curse of God” would come upon him should he do this. On my pressing him, however, to pursue the course which I had recommended, he told me that he would open the trunk, if I would take the “curse of God” upon myself. I replied that I would do so with the greatest willingness, and would incur every risk of that nature, provided I could only extricate him from the grasp of rogues. He then left me.

I have thus given you a full statement of all that I know respecting the origin of Mormonism, and must beg you, as a personal favor, to publish this letter immediately, should you find my name mentioned again by these wretched fanatics.

Yours respectfully, CHAS. ANTHON

Following a revelation from the Lord, given through Joseph Smith, Martin was commanded: “Thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon.” Harris mortgaged his home and farm for $3,000, a generous loan in that era. By some estimates, comparing Martin’s wealth to the local economy at that time, his gift would be worth about $1.6 million today.

Other Religious Affiliations

To say that Martin Harris was unstable religiously would be an understatement. He changed his religious affiliations 13 times. Even after his excommunication from the Mormon Church, he changed his religion beliefs eight more times.

Pick virtually any Protestant denomination, and Martin had at one time been an adherent!

Character, Gullibility and Mental Stability

His contemporaries found him to be somewhat odd, to say the least, “Once while reading scripture; he reportedly mistook a candle’s sputtering as a sign that the devil desired him to stop. Another time he excitedly awoke from his sleep believing that a creature as large as a dog had been upon his chest, though a nearby associate could find nothing to confirm his fears. Several hostile and perhaps unreliable accounts told of visionary experiences with Satan and Christ, Harris once reporting that Christ had been poised on a roof beam.” 1

Presbyterian minister Jesse Townsend of Palmyra called Harris a “visionary fanatic,” and Lorenzo Saunders said Harris was a “great man for seeing spooks.”

John A. Clark, reported that during the time the Book of Mormon was being translated, “on the way he met the Lord Jesus Christ, who walked along by the side of him in the shape of a deer for two or three miles, talking with him as familiarly as one man talks with another.”2

Martin Harris testified that his testimony for Shakerism was greater than it was for Mormonism. The Shaker’s “Sacred Roll and Book” was also delivered by an angel. 3

Regarding his honesty, after getting in Smith’s bad books, the official Mormon newspaper of the day included Martin Harris with a few other men, as having, “a lying deceptive spirit attend them…they are of their father, the devil…the very countenance of Harris will show to every spiritual-minded person who sees him, that the wrath of God is upon him.” 4

In the Elder’s Journal for August 1838, Joseph Smith himself denounced Martin Harris as “so far beneath contempt that to notice him would be too great a sacrifice for a gentleman to make. The Church exerted some restraint on him, but now he has given loose to all kinds of abominations. “

Surprisingly, the non-Mormon press was more generous toward Martin:

“Mr. Harris was among the early settlers of this town, and has ever borne the character of an honorable and upright man, and an obliging and benevolent neighbor. He had secured to himself by honest industry a respectable fortune—and he has left a large circle of acquaintances and friends to pity his delusion. 5

“We have ever regarded Mr. Harris as an honest man. We first became acquainted with him at Palmyra, in the spring of 1828, shortly after the plates from which the Book of Mormon is said to have been translated, were found.. . . Though illiterate and actually of a superstitious turn of mind, he had long sustained an irreproachable character for probity. . . . By his neighbors and townsmen with whom he earnestly and almost incessantly labored, he was regarded rather as being deluded himself, than as wishing to delude others knowingly; but still he was subjected to many scoffs and rebukes, all of which he endured with a meekness becoming a better cause.” 6

Dan Vogel reports that a friend, who praised Harris as being “universally esteemed as an honest man,” also declared that Harris’s mind “was overbalanced by ‘marvellousness‘” (sic) and that his belief in earthly visitations of angels and ghosts gave him the local reputation of being crazy. 7

Education and Intelligence

Martin had what passed for a normal education for people who worked the land in rural upstate New York at that time, not unlike that which David Whitmer and Joseph Smith received. Oliver Cowdery’s formal education was a step above these three.

Motivations for His Involvement

Martin was deeply invested in the success of the Book of Mormon. He went as far as to mortgage his farm to make the publication of the Book of Mormon possible. If the book failed, Martin stood to lose the most.

I think we need to keep in mind that Martin’s motivation, as could be argued of Smith’s, was not altogether altruistic.

Abigail Harris, Martin’s sister-in-law, spoke to this important feature of his motivation:

“… Martin Harris and Lucy Harris, his wife, were at my house (1828).In conversation with the Mormonites, she [Lucy Harris] observed that she wished her husband would quit them, as she believed it all false and a delusion. To which I heard Mr. Harris reply: ‘What if it is a lie; if you will let me alone I will make money out of it!’ I was both an eye- and ear-witness of what has been above stated, which is now fresh in my memory, and I speak the truth and lie not, God being my witness.”

Nevertheless, one of the most powerful confirmations of Martin’s testimony was recorded by William Harrison Homer, which was replicated in the Improvement Era.
“Young man,” answered Martin Harris with impressiveness, “Do I believe it! Do you see the sun shining! Just as surely as the sun is shining on us and gives us light, and the [moon] and stars give us light by night, just as surely as the breath of life sustains us, so surely do I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, chosen of God to open the last dispensation of the fullness of times; so surely do I know that the Book of Mormon was divinely translated. I saw the plates; I saw the Angel; I heard the voice of God. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. I might as well doubt my own existence as to doubt the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon or the divine calling of Joseph Smith.” 8

In law, a ‘deathbed’ confession or statement is given great credence as it should. The following is what amounts to Martin’s deathbed testimony:

“A few hours before his death and when he was so weak and enfeebled that he was unable to recognize me or anyone, and knew not to whom he was speaking, I asked him if he did not feel that there was an element at least, of fraudulence and deception in the things that were written and told of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and he replied as he had always done so many, many times in my hearing the same spirit he always manifested when enjoying health and vigor and said: ‘The Book of Mormon is no fake. I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen and I have heard what I have heard. I have seen the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon is written. An angel appeared to me and others and testified to the truthfulness of the record, and had I been perjured myself and sworn falsely to the testimony I now bear I could have been a rich man, but I could not have testified other than I have done and am now doing for these things are true.” 9

However, Martin also said repeatedly that he, and the other witnesses, only saw the plates in vision.

“Martin Harris, one of the subscribing witnesses, has come out at last, and says he never saw the plates, from which the book purports to have been translated, except in vision and he further says that any man who says he has seen them in any other way is a liar, Joseph [Smith] not excepted.” 10

In 1838 when the Church was in crisis and experiencing massive apostasy. Martin’s statement about not really seeing the angel and plates, was the final straw that caused apostles Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, and John F. Boynton, high priest Stephen Burnett and seventy Warren Parrish to leave the Church, Burnett comments:

“I have reflected long and deliberately upon the history of this church & weighed the evidence for & against it, loth to give it up, but when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundations was (sic) sapped & the entire superstructure fell a heap of ruins,…I was followed by W. Parish[,] Luke Johnson & John Boynton[,] all of the[m] concurred with me. After we done speaking M Harris arose & said he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true, he said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city through a mountain. And said that he never should have told that the testimony of the eight was false, if it had not been picked out of him but should have let it passed as it was… “ 11

And a few more of many more statements by Martin:

“While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state, I saw the angel and the plates.” 12

“I never saw the gold plates, only in a visionary or entranced state.” 13

Harris’ myriad public statement that he and his fellow witnesses only saw the plates and the angel in a ‘visionary’ or ‘second sight’ way caused many to leave the church as this letter from Stephen Burnett shows:

“. . . when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundation was sapped & the entire superstructure fell in heap of ruins, I therefore three week since in the Stone Chapel…renounced the Book of Mormon…after we were done speaking M Harris arose & said he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true, he said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city throught [sic] a mountain. And said that he never should have told that the testimony of the eight was false, if it had not been picked out of—[him/me?] but should have let it passed as it was…” 14

The foreman in the Palmyra printing office that produced the first Book of Mormon said that Harris “used to practice a good deal of his characteristic jargon and ‘seeing with the spiritual eye,’ and the like.” 1

Two other Palmyra residents said that Harris told them that he had seen the plates with “the eye of faith” or “spiritual eyes.” 16

John H. Gilbert, the typesetter for most of the Book of Mormon, said that he had asked Harris, “Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?” According to Gilbert, Harris “looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, ‘No, I saw them with a spiritual eye.” 17

When Martin Harris was asked, “But did you see them [plates] with your natural, your bodily eyes, just as you see this pencil-case in my hand? Now say no or yes to this.” Martin answered, “I did not see them as I do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see anything around me, though at the time they were covered over with a cloth.” 18

“Martin Harris later testified that he did not see the plates literally with his fleshly eyes: He said he saw the plates with ‘the eyes of faith and not with the natural eyes’. This we believe is the truth but it should eliminate him automatically as a witness none the less. This, of course, proves Mormonism is a fraud and that the Nephi Plates never existed and no one actually saw them.” 19

While Martin was not perhaps the smartest of men, I think he was a decent man. I think a case can be made that he might have been used and by a guileful and manipulative Joseph Smith. I think the conflicting statements Martin made throughout his life, his superstition, his magical mindset, and his mental instability coupled with his conflict of interest assail his credibility.

David Whitmer

Background and Life Experiences

David Whitmer was born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the fourth of nine children of Peter Whitmer, Sr. and Mary Musselman both of German ancestry. By the 1820s, the Whitmer family had moved to a farm in Fayette, New York. Whitmer and his family were among the earliest adherents to the Latter-Day Saint movement. Whitmer first heard of Joseph Smith and the golden plates in 1828 when he made a business trip to Palmyra, New York, and there talked with his friend Oliver Cowdery.

When the Church moved from New York to Ohio in 1831, the Whitmers went along as they did to Jackson County, Missouri the short-lived Zion or gathering place for the Saints. When the differences between the Latter-day Saints and their neighbors erupted again into open conflict. Driven from Jackson County, the Whitmers settled in adjacent Clay County, Missouri.

By 1838 things were going sideways quickly. David described the situation: “In the spring of 1838, the heads of the church and many of the members had gone deep into error and blindness. I had been striving with them for a long time to show them the errors into which they were drifting, and for my labors, I received only persecutions. In June 1838, a secret organization was formed, Doctor Avard being put in as the leader of the band; a certain oath was to be administered to all the brethren to bind them to support the heads of the church in everything they should teach. All who refused to take this oath were considered dissenters from the church, and certain things were to be done concerning these dissenters, by Dr. Avard’s secret band.”

In response to the Church’s threats against him as well as Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, William W. Phelps and Lyman Johnson, David left town and the Church.

This was Sidney Rigdon’s letter:

“To Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, and Lyman E. Johnson, greeting: Out of the county you shall go, and no power shall save you. And you shall have three days after you receive this communication…for you to depart with your families peaceably;…and unless you heed us,…there shall be no escape; for there is but one decree for you, which is depart, depart, or a more fatal calamity shall befall you…we will put you from the county of Caldwell: so help us God.”

Whitmer went on to condemn Smith’s church and raise some question as to the validity of his Book of Mormon witness statement. “If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon,” wrote Whitmer, “if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838 God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens and told me to ‘separate myself from among the Latter Day Saints, for as they sought to do unto me, so it should be done unto them.”

Religious Experiences

After Joseph’s death in 1844, many of Rigdon’s followers became disillusioned, and by 1847, William E. McLellin and Benjamin Winchester, remembering Whitmer’s 1834 ordination to be Smith’s successor, urged Whitmer exercised his claim to be Smith’s successor and the Church of Christ (Whitmerite) was formed in Kirtland, Ohio. However, Whitmer never joined the body of the new church, and it dissolved relatively quickly.

David Whitmer belonged to at least three Mormon splinter groups at different times, but he died still rejecting the LDS Church and its priesthood.

Like Martin Harris, David Whitmer later testified that he did not see the plates with his real eyes but, “by the eye of faith” handled by an angel. 20

During the summer of 1837, while in Kirtland, like Oliver and Martin, David pledged his loyalty and allegiance to a prophetess who used a black seer stone and danced herself into ‘trances.’ 21

Education and Intelligence

David also had what passed for a normal education for people who worked the land in rural upstate New York at that time. Somewhat like that which Martin Harris and Joseph Smith had received.

David Whitmer was excommunicated from the Church, and he never returned to it, nonetheless near the end of his life, he made the following statement in the Richmond, Missouri, Conservator on March 25, 1881:

“Unto all Nations, Kindreds, Tongues, and People, unto whom these presents shall come: . . . I wish now, standing as it were, in the very sunset of life, and in the fear of God, once [and] for all to make this public statement: That I have never at any time denied that testimony [of the Book of Mormon] or any part thereof, which has so long since been published with that book, as one of the Three Witnesses. Those who know me best well know that I have always adhered to that testimony. And that no man may be misled or doubt my present views in regard to the same, I do again affirm the truth of all my statements as then made and published. “He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear;” it was no delusion; what is written is written, and he that readeth let him understand. “And if any man doubt, should he not carefully and honestly read and understand the same before presuming to sit in judgment and condemning the light, which shineth in darkness, and showeth the way of eternal life as pointed out by the unerring hand of God?” In the Spirit of Christ, who hath said: “Follow thou me, for I am the life, the light and the way,” I submit this statement to the world; God in whom I trust being my judge as to the sincerity of my motives and the faith and hope that is in me of eternal life. My sincere desire is that the world may be benefited by this plain and simple statement of the truth. And all the honor to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen!”

However, again in the same document Whitmer testifies:

“If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens and told me to ‘separate myself from among the Latter Day Saints, for as they sought to do unto me, so it should be done unto them.” In the spring of 1838, the heads of the church and many of the members had gone deep into error and blindness. I had been striving with them for a long time to show them the errors into which they were drifting, and for my labors I received only persecutions.” 22

Statements by Whitmer that He Saw the Gold Plates and the Angel in Vision

While more stable than Martin Harris, David also had a magical view of the world and spoke of seeing things with his “spiritual” eyes.

He was once asked to describe the angel who showed him the plates. He responded that the angel “had no appearance or shape.” When asked how he could then could bear testimony that he had seen and heard an angel, Whitmer replied, “Have you never had impressions?” To which the interviewer responded, “Then you had impressions as the Quaker when the spirit moves, or as a good Methodist in giving a happy experience, a feeling?” “Just so,” replied Whitmer. 23

James Henry Moyle, a Mormon lawyer, interviewed Whitmer in 1885 He asked him if there was any possibility that he had been deceived. “His answer was unequivocal…that he saw the plates and heard the angel with unmistakable clearness.” But Moyle went away “not fully satisfied…It was more spiritual than I anticipated.” 24

“While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state, I saw the angel and the plates.” 25

“I never saw the gold plates, only in a visionary or entranced state.” 26

“In regards to my testimony to the visitation of the angel, who declared to us three witnesses that the Book of Mormon is true, I have this to say: Of course we were in the spirit when we had the view, for no man can behold the face of an angel, except in a spiritual view, but ‘we were in the body also, and everything was as natural to us, as it is at any time. Martin Harris, you say, called it “being in vision.” We read in the Scriptures, Cornelius saw, in a vision, an angel of God, Daniel saw an angel in a vision, also in other places, it states they saw an angel in the spirit. A bright light enveloped us where we were, that filled [the woods as] at noon day, and there in a vision or in the spirit, we saw and heard just as it is stated in my testimony in the Book of Mormon.” 27

David Whitmer changed his story about seeing the plates and later told of finding them lying in a field and later still told Orson Pratt that they were on a table with all sorts of brass plates, gold plates, the Sword of Laban, the ‘Director’ and the Urim and Thummim. 28

David Whitmer informed Zenas Gurley Jr. on January 14, 1885, when asked if the witnesses touched “the real metal,” “We did not.” The witnesses handled “the plates” in a vision only, according to Whitmer. 29

Also, the eight witnesses did not “imagine” seeing the plates or an angel at the same time as most members believe and as is popularized in church paintings. Rather the plates were imagined in two groups of four. 30

Marvin S. Hill, an LDS writer, remarked:

“. . . there is a possibility that the witnesses saw the plates in vision only. . . . There is testimony from several independent interviewers, all non-Mormon, that Martin Harris and David Whitmer said they saw the plates with their “spiritual eyes” only. . . . This is contradicted, however, by statements like that of David Whitmer in the Saints Herald in 1882, “these hands handled the plates, these eyes saw the angel.” But Z. H. Gurley elicited from Whitmer a not so positive response to the question,” did you touch them?” His answer was, “We did not touch nor handle the plates.” So far as the eight witnesses go, William Smith said his father never saw the plates except under a frock…” 31

Oliver Cowdery

Background and Life Experiences

Of the three witnesses, Oliver played the most significant role in the creation of the Church. He is also the most likely co-conspirator with Joseph Smith if the Mormon Church is a fraud.

He was the principal scribe, was a member of the Congregational church where Ethan Smith, the author of the View of the Hebrews preached and Oliver attended, and no doubt had a copy of it, as well, he was Joseph’s cousin.

There is evidence that Oliver knew Joseph before the time the Church claims. Lorenzo Saunders placed Oliver Cowdery on the Smith farm in Palmyra several years earlier in 1826:

“As respecting Oliver Cowdery, he came from Kirtland in the summer of 1826 and was about there [i.e., the Smith’s farm] until fall and took a school in the district where the Smiths lived and the next summer he was missing and I didn’t see him until fall and he came back and took our school in the district where we lived and taught about a week and went to the school board and wanted the board to let him off and they did and he went to Smith and went to writing the Book of Mormon and wrote all winter. The Mormons say it wasn’t wrote there but I say it was because I was there…” 32

Oliver also claimed, “second sight,” he reports seeing convoy after convoy of angels at a worship service in Ohio.

It is rarely mentioned in the discussion of the veracity of the witnesses but should be remembered that we do not have an actual document of actual signatures of the Book of Mormon witnesses. The closest we have is a document in Oliver’s handwriting, providing the names of the Witnesses.

Without the original document, it is impossible to know with certainty whether the witnesses truly signed it.

As well, the Church is not forthcoming about the statements by the witnesses, who claim to have seen Smith’s gold plates and handled them. The faith-promoting accounts do not tell us that their experience was one that took place in their imaginations, that they saw with their, “spiritual eyes,” “visions of the mind,” or through the “eyes of our understanding.”

David Whitmer informed Zenas Gurley Jr. on January 14, 1885, when asked if the witnesses touched “the real metal,” “We did not.” The witnesses handled “the plates” in a vision only, according to Whitmer. 3

Other Religious Experiences

There are often statements made within the Church to the effect that none of the three witnesses recanted their statements and I have no reason to believe that is not the case. However, there is some evidence that Oliver Cowdery came very close.

When Oliver joined the Methodist Church later in his life, he apparently offered to repudiate his witness to the Book of Mormon in writing but was not required to do so by the elders of the Methodist Church.

“We accordingly waited on Mr. Cowdery at his residence in Tiffin, and there learned his connection, from him, with that order, and his full and final renunciation thereof.

We then inquired of him if he had any objection to making a public recantation. He replied that he would if it were required of him. The following I from a sworn statement by G.J. Keen, one of the elders who interviewed Oliver.

“In a few years, Mr. Cowdery expressed a desire to associate, himself with a Methodist Protestant church of this city. Rev. John Souder and myself were appointed a committee to wait on Mr. Cowdery and confer with him respecting his connection with Mormonism and the Book of Mormon had objections; that, in the first place, it could do no good; that he had known several to do so and they always regretted it. And, in the second place, it would have a tendency to draw public attention, invite criticism, and bring him into contempt.

“But,” said he, “nevertheless, if the church requires it, I will submit to it, but I authorize and desire you and the church to publish and make known my recantation.”

We did not demand it but submitted his name to the church, and he was unanimously admitted a member thereof. At that time he arose and addressed the audience present, admitted his error and implored forgiveness, and said he was sorry and ashamed of his connection with Mormonism.

He continued his membership while he resided in Tiffin, and became superintendent of the Sabbath-school, and led an exemplary the while he resided with us. I have lived in this city upwards of fifty-three years, was auditor of this county, was elected to that office in 1840.

I am now in my eighty-third year, and well remember the facts above related.

(Signed) G. J. KEEN.”

Sworn to before me and subscribed in my presence, this 14th day of April 1885. FRANK L. EMICH, Notary

The Mormon Church claims Oliver came back to the Church, but if he did, he might have left shortly thereafter as he was buried by a Methodist minister in Richmond, Missouri. 34

Motivations for his Involvement

What was Oliver’s motivation?

He was in on many of the most important policies and revelations of the Church, including:

An Angelic Witness of the Plates
Translation of the Plates
Restoration of Aaronic Priesthood
Restoration of Melchizedek Priesthood
Restoration of sealing keys and return of Elijah

When anything important happens, Oliver is there. When Smith hit a roadblock with Emma and Martin acting as scribes, Oliver shows up and gets things moving – quickly. Suddenly, hundreds of pages are translated in just a few months.

There are some suspicious actions involving Oliver and Sidney Rigdon. Upon the event of his death, Rigdon commanded his wife to burn all his papers, which were many. A man of letters does not destroy the collection of a lifetime unless there is something damning within it. Why else would he have had them burnt? I don’t imagine we will ever know what was so incriminating. Was there a reworking of the View of the Hebrews, or the Late War or was it a rough draft of the framework of the Book of Mormon, entitled Manuscript Found at Conneaut Creek by a failed preacher named Solomon Spaulding?

Spaulding failed at most everything he put his hand to, one of those flops was writing and selling novels. He wrote a story called Manuscript Found at Conneaut Creek but failed to get it published, as the story goes, Spaulding reworked the book and renamed it Manuscript Found. He took the manuscript to a publisher in Pittsburgh who agreed to publish it if he could come up with the money, but Spaulding never did find a backer, so the manuscript sat in the publisher’s office gathering dust.

At it happens somewhere in the 1810s, a man named Sidney Rigdon was visiting that same publisher’s office, and he came across Manuscript Found. By then Spaulding had died, so Rigdon takes it. Now Rigdon was also an adherent of Campbellism, which sought to restore Christianity to its first-century form and Rigdon sees an opportunity, a promote Campbellism and unite the various Christian denominations as well as Native Americans. He hatches a plan, an idea incidentally that he shares with his closest friends in and around 1825 to 1827 Rigdon tells his closest friends that soon a new book of scripture that would unite Christian Americans, convert Native Americans, and explain where the people who built the thousands of mounds around the eastern U.S. came from.

During this same period, Oliver Cowdery who lived in Rigdon’s area gets wind of Rigdon’s idea. Cowdery used to live in New York and at one point went back to New York to visit with Joseph Smith, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Speculation, certainly but not wildly so. Several of Spaulding’s relatives familiar with Manuscript Found in the Wilds of Mormon swore affidavits that The Book of Mormon was a rip-off of Solomon’s second, missing manuscript. In fact, they claimed that “Nephites,” “Lamanites,” “Lehi,” “Mormon” and “Moroni” – these exact words were found in Solomon’s novel.

As we saw with the Hoffman affair, the church is quick to purchase and stick away in their vaults anything casting doubt on the official story.

I often wonder what we would find if Jeraldo got into that their safe!

Cowdery publicly confessed his sorrow and shame for his connection with Mormonism. But did not go so far as to expose it as a fraud? Why would he not admit that his witness statement was false?

Obviously, no one relishes the admission that they have been deceitful, or that they have perjured themselves and lied under oath. Oliver may have been a lot of things, but he was not a fool. He understood that if he came clean, he would put himself in a very bad position. People had invested their fortunes, their time, even sacrificed their children to the carnal desires of the polygamists. Any admission on his part would certainly put him in legal jeopardy.

Is it not just easier and less trouble to just to stick to the original story? There are literally millions of people on the Mormon rolls today that do not believe the church is true and want nothing whatever to do with it but just move on without making a fuss like the one I am making here. Just look at the statistics I have presented in my letter. Oliver was interested in pursuing a political career, being associated with the Mormons was bad enough but admitting that he was involved in the creation of a fraud would be political suicide.

Education and Intelligence

The fact that Oliver accepted the position of teacher in a small rural school in Manchester  Township in 1828 and 1829 speaks to the fact that he was the better educated of the witnesses. We also know that after his disaffection with the Mormon church he became an attorney. 35

Oliver Opens His Heart

Oliver Cowdery published the following, “Defense in a Rehearsal of My Grounds for Separating Myself from the Latter-Day Saints,”

“DEAR PEOPLE OF GOD: — I offer you a “Defense” which I am grieved to make, but my opposers have put me to the necessity, and so far as my memory serves, I pledge my veracity for the correctness of the account.

I deny that I have ever conspired with any, or ever exerted any influence to destroy the reputation of the First Elder [Joseph Smith], although evidence which is to be credited assures me that he has done everything he could to injure my standing, and his influence has been considerably exerted to destroy my reputation and, I fear, my life.

You will remember in the meantime, that those who seek to vilify my character have been constantly encouraged by him. There was a time when I thought myself able to prove to the satisfaction of every man that the translator of the Book of Mormon was worthy of the appellation of a Seer and a Prophet of the Lord, and in which he held over me a mysterious power which even now I fail to fathom; but I fear I may have been deceived, and especially so fear since knowing that Satan has led his mind astray.

When the Church of Christ was set up by revelation, he was called to be First Elder, and I was called to he Second Elder, and whatever he had of Priesthood (about which I am beginning to doubt).

But I certainly followed him too far when accepting and reiterating, that none had authority from God to administer the ordinances of the gospel, as I had then forgotten that John, the beloved disciple, was tarrying on earth and exempt from death.

I am well aware that a rehearsal of these things at this day will be unpleasant reading to the First Elder; yet so it is, and it is wisdom that it should be so. Without rehearsing too many things that have caused me, to lose my faith in Bro. Joseph’s seership. I regard his frequent predict devils nor the malice of men shall ever cause him to fall by the hand of his enemies until he has seen Christ in the flesh at his final coming, as little short of a piece of blasphemy; and it may be classed with that revelation that some among you will remember which sent Bro. Page and me so unwisely to (3) Toronto with a prediction from the Lord by Urim and Thummim that we would there find a man anxious to buy the First Elder’s copyright.

I well remember we did not find him, and had to return surprised and disappointed. But so great was my faith, that, in going to Toronto, nothing but calmness pervaded my soul, every doubt was banished, and I as much expected that Bro. Page and I would fulfill the revelation as that we should live. And you may believe without asking me to relate the particulars, that it would be no easy task to describe our desolation and grief.

Bro. Page and I did not think that God would have deceived us through “Urim and Thummim,” exactly as came the Book of Mormon; and I well remember how hard I strove to drive away the foreboding which seized me, that the First Elder had made tools of us, where we thought, in the simplicity of out hearts, that we were divinely commanded.

And what served to render the reflection past expression in its bitterness to me, was, that from his hand I received baptism, by the direction of the Angel of God, whose voice, as it has since struck me, did most mysteriously resemble the voice of Elder Sidney Rigdon, who, I am sure, had no part in the transactions of that day, as the Angel was John the Baptist, which I doubt not and deny not. When I afterward first heard Elder Rigdon, whose voice is so strikingly similar, I felt that this “dear” brother was to be in some sense, to me unknown, the herald of this church as the Great Baptist was of Christ.

I never dreamed, however, that he would influence the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator to the Church of Latter Day Saints, into the formation of a secret band at Far West, committed to depredations upon Gentiles and the actual assassination of apostates from the church, which was done in June last and was only one of many wrong steps.

These are facts which I am rehearsing, and if they shall be called into question, I am able to establish them by evidence which I can bring forward in abundance. Still, although favored of God as a chosen witness to bear testimony to the divine authority of the Book of Mormon, and honored of the Lord in being permitted, without money and without price, to serve as scribe during the translation of the Book of Mormon, I have sometimes had seasons of skepticism, in which I did seriously wonder whether the prophet and I were men in our sober senses when we would be translating from plates through “the Urim and Thummim” and the plates not be in sight at all.

But I believed both in the Seer and in the “Seer Stone,” and what the First Elder announced as revelation from God, I accepted as such, and committed to paper with a glad mind and happy heart and swift pen; for I believed him to be the soul of honor and truth, a young man who would die before he would lie.

Man may deceive his fellow man, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may seduce the unstable, untaught in the ways of righteousness and peace, for I felt a solemn awe about me, being deep in the faith, that the First Elder was a Seer and Prophet of God, giving the truth unsullied through “Urim and Thummim,” dictated by the will of the Lord, and that he was persecuted for the sake of the truth which he loved. Could I have been deceived in him?

I could rehearse a number of things to show either that I was then deceived, or that he has since fallen from the lofty place in which fond affection had deemed him secure.

I remember his experience as he had related it to me, and lacking wisdom, I went to God in prayer. I said: “O Lord, how dark everything is! Let thy glory lighten it, and make bright the path for me. Show me my duty. Let me be led of thy Spirit.”

Shall I relate what transpired? I had a message from the Most High, as from the midst of eternity; for the vail was parted and the Redeemer Himself, clothed in glory, stood before me. And He said:

“After reproving the Latter-Day Saints for their corruption and blindness in permitting their President, Joseph Smith, Jr., to lead them forth into errors, where I led him not, not commanded him, and saying unto them, Thus saith the Lord,’ when I said it not unto him, thou shalt withdraw thyself from among them.”

And I testify that Jesus, whose words I have been rehearsing, hath even so commanded me in an open vision.

The Lord revealed to me that the First Elder is leading the Saints astray, and ordered me to quit them after delivering the message which this “Defense” delivers. I shall ever remember this expression of the Saviour’s grace with thanksgiving, and look upon his amazing goodness to me with wonder.

When I had sufficiently recovered my self-possession to ask in regard to the errors into which Joseph Smith, Jr., was taking the Saints, the Redeemer instructed me plainly: “He hath given revelations from his own heart and from a defiled conscience as coming from my mouth and hath corrupted the covenant and altered words which I had spoken. He hath brought in high priests, apostles and other officers, which in these days, when the written word sufficeth, are not in my church, and some of his deeds have brought shame to my heritage by the shedding of blood. He walketh in the vain imaginations of his heart, and my Spirit is holy and does not dwell in an unholy temple, nor are angels sent to reveal the great work of God to hypocrites.”

I bowed my face in shame and said: “Lord! I entreat thee, give me grace to hear thy message in print where I fear to take it by word of mouth.”

And he said, “The grace is given thee,” and he vanished out of my sight.

Prepare your hearts, O ye saints of the Most High, and come to understanding. The prophet hath erred and the people are gone astray through his error. God’s word is open. We may read it.

There is no “First Presidency” there, no “High Priesthood” save that of Christ himself, no Patriarch to the Church, and wonderful to tell, the “First Elder” hath departed from God in giving us these things, and in changing the name of the church.

Oh, the misery, distress and evil attendant upon giving heed unto the “doctrines of men”! The gospel has been perverted and the Saints are wandering in darkness, while a full cup of suffering is poured upon them. A society has been organized among them to inflict death upon those who are deemed apostates, with the knowledge and sanction of the First Elder.

This, I confess, is a dark picture to spread before those whom I am to warn, but they will pardon my plainness when I assure them of the truth of what I have written.

Bearing this message to them is the hardest work of my life, although many have been the privations and fatigues which have fallen to my lot to endure for the Gospel’s sake since April 5th, 1829.

It is disgraceful to be led by a man who does not scruple to follow his own vain imagination, announcing his own schemes as revelations from the Lord. And I fear he is led by a groundless hope, no better than the idle wind or the spider’s web. Having cleared my soul by delivering the message, I do not deem it necessary to write further on the subject now.

Jesus has saved men in all ages and saves them now, and not by our Priesthood either. The “First Elder” errs as to that. The Lord has said, long since, and his word remains steadfast as the eternal hills, that to him who knocks it shall be opened, and whosoever will, may come and partake of the waters of life freely; but a curse will surely fall upon those who draw near to God with their mouths, and honor him with their lips, while their hearts are far from him.

I no longer believe that all the other churches are wrong.

Get right, O ye people, get right with God, and may the Lord remove his judgments from you, preserve you in his kingdom from all evil, and crown you in Christ. Amen.

  1. COWDERY, March 3, 1839.” 35

In 1841 the Mormons published a poem which stated, “Or Book of Mormon not his word because denied by Oliver.”

A poem of the time declares that Cowdery denied his Mormon testimony:

“Amazed with wonder! I look round
To see most people of our day
Reject the glorious gospel sound
Because the simple turn away:
But does it prove there is no time,
Because some watches wilt not go?

“Or prove that Christ was not the Lord
Because that Peter cursed and swore,
OR BOOK OF MORMON NOT HIS WORD
BECAUSE DENIED BY OLIVER?

Or prove that Joseph Smith is false
Because apostates say ’tis so?” (emphasis added) 36

The Church and her apologists quote David Whitmer’s account of Oliver’s alleged death-bed revival. Whitmer is reported to have told Apostles Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt the following on September 8, 1878, regarding Cowdery’s death: “Oliver died the happiest man I ever saw. After shaking hands with the family and kissing his wife and daughter, he said, ‘Now I lay down for the last time; I am going to my Savior,’ and he died immediately with a smile on his face.’” Forgive me, but this has a Paul Dunn ring to it.
Oliver Cowdrey is an enigma. He certainly gave testimony that he had seen an angel and the golden plates, yet he was excommunicated, fought with Joseph Smith accusing him of adultery with a teenage girl. After leaving the Church, he moved his devotion to a competing seeress, who like Joseph saw much in her ‘magic stone.’ He became a faithful member of the Methodist Church.

He stated publicly that he was ashamed of his association with the ‘Mormons’ and there is at least the suggestion that he admitted that it was all a fraud to his closest friend and law partner. Oliver was a political man, and one must wonder if his rejoining the LDS Church was to attempt to wrest control of it away from Brigham Young and take authority unto himself. On July 28, 1847, Cowdery wrote to David Whitmer that ‘we have the authority and do hold the keys. It is important, should we not be permitted to act in that authority…,”
Oliver Cowdrey’s funeral and burial were conducted by a Methodist minister.

Martin Harris stated in public that he never saw the plates with his natural
eyes only in vision or imagination and that neither did Oliver or David see
them except in vision.

If the golden plates did exist and were real, why would the witnesses make
the following kinds of statements:

“While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state, I saw
the angel and the plates.” 37

“I never saw the gold plates, only in a visionary or entranced state.” 38

“He only saw the plates with a spiritual eye.” 39

“As shown in the vision.” 40

“Never saw the plates with his natural eyes but only in vision or imagination.” 41

“I did not see them uncovered, but I handled them and hefted them while wrapped in a tow frock.” 42

There are also several other things that call the witnesses’ reliability and trustworthiness into question. We know that all the witnesses had close ties to Joseph and his family. Some like Martin Harris had a substantial financial investment in the success of the Book of Mormon.

“The witnesses” experiences may have only been visionary in nature. There are many statements given by the witnesses that indicate they only saw the angel and the plates in a visionary experience. Why would people need to see real, physical plates in a vision or a real angel that was physically on the earth? There are also several statements saying that the only time they saw the plates was when the plates were covered with a cloth or tow frock.

The three witnesses did not all see the plates or angel at the same time. Only David Whitmer and perhaps Oliver Cowdery saw the angel together. Martin Harris removed himself from the group and did not see the angel until perhaps three days later.” 43

FAIR says that this is well-documented in official Church sources but why then do the clear majority of members not know of this? Every
Painting and image of the three witnesses have them all together – does this constitute ‘well-documented.’

These men lived in the early 1800s and believed in magical things as many people did during that time-period such as divining rods, second sight, magic, dreams, seer stones, etc. Some of the witnesses, especially Martin Harris, were easily swayed by tales of the supernatural, especially in a religious context.

Many of the witnesses ended up leaving the church and following other leaders and religions such as James Strang, the Shakers, Methodists, etc. By 1847 not a single one of the surviving eleven witnesses was part of the LDS Church.

“Of the witnesses that left the church, most believed that Joseph was at best a fallen prophet, the church changed its doctrines in error and changed revelations against God’s will.

The witnesses, who have been heralded as good, honest, Abe Lincoln-type of men were later called liars, counterfeiters, thieves, etc. by Joseph Smith himself.

The “testimony of the witnesses” is similar to testimonials which were commonly included in books etc. in those days to help spur sales. And of course, the BOM’s producers originally intended to sell copies for $1.75 each.

All three witnesses believed that God Himself had told them (through Joseph Smith) that they had been specially chosen to testify to the world that they had seen the angel and the plates –– if they had enough faith. Martin Harris was even told the exact words he must use: Joseph Smith said he had a revelation in which the Lord commanded Harris to say, “I have seen the things which the Lord hath shown unto Joseph Smith Jun., and I know of a surety that they are true, for I have seen them.” And just to clinch the command, God threatened Martin Harris, saying, “But if he deny this he will break the covenant which he has before covenanted with me, and behold, he is condemned.” A personal promise (and a threat of condemnation) coming directly from God is bound to have a powerful influence on a person’s thinking! 44

Fred Anson remarks that if Joseph Smith’s goal was to provide truly convincing witness statements, there were several things he SHOULD NOT have done:

  1. None of the witnesses should have been related to Joseph or each other. Most of the witnesses were either related or good friends. Having unrelated people as witnesses would be far more effective than using your brothers and father.
  2. The witnesses should not have already been eager believers.
    There should have been some skeptics.
  3. There should have been no financial motive. Martin Harris mortgaged his farm and invested at least $3,000 of his own money into printing the Book of Mormon, so of course, he had incentives to ‘promote’ the book.
  4. Each of the witnesses should have written their own testimony instead of merely signing a prepared statement written by Joseph. If the prepared document wasn’t 100%, accurate many people would simply sign it anyway as it would be too much of a hassle to have it completely rewritten by hand – especially in the 1800s.
  5. The witnesses should have been much more detailed about this amazing event. What did the angel look like? What exactly did he say? How did he speak? There are almost no details provided which can be analyzed and compared. If each witness had simply written their own account and provided significant details, then their testimonies could corroborate each other.
  6. The witnesses should have been interviewed independently immediately after going public. They should have been interviewed the same way police do with witnesses to crimes or that investigators do with UFO cases. Ask questions to see if their stories match; How was the angel dressed? How tall was he? How did he speak?
  7. The witnesses should not have used subjective language and say strange things like comparing seeing the plates with seeing a city through a mountain or using spiritual eyes instead of their natural eyes to view physical plates.
  8. The witnesses should not have been gullible people that believed in things like ‘second sight,’ divining rods, finding treasure by placing a rock in a hat, etc. That the Three Witnesses were a gullible sort is illustrated by an incident in July 1837. Joseph had left on a five-week missionary tour to Canada, only to find on his return that all three of the Witnesses had joined a faction opposing him. This faction rallied around a young girl who claimed to be a seeress by virtue of a black stone in which she read the future. David Whitmer, Martin Harris, and Oliver Cowdery all pledged her their loyalty, and Frederick G. Williams, formerly Joseph’s First Counselor, became her scribe. The girl seeress would dance herself into a state of exhaustion, fall to the floor, and burst forth with revelations. See Lucy Smith: Biographical Sketches, pp. 211-213).
  9. All the witnesses should have been much more vocal and been interviewed much more often. There are very few interviews done with the witnesses that provide any additional information or corroboration of their statements. You would think that these people, after seeing such a magnificent sight, would spend their time testifying to the world about their experience instead of largely just signing a prepared statement and avoiding interviews by the media. Only three of the eight witnesses made separate statements that they had handled the plates. They were Joseph’s two brothers, Hyrum and Samuel, and John Whitmer.
  10. And of course, it would have helped had all the witnesses remained loyal to the Church for the rest of their lives instead of having most of them abandoning it. It doesn’t make much sense to leave the one, true Church of God if you have received an indisputable witness that it was true. Why would these people risk being cast in Outer Darkness for all eternity for denying what they KNEW to be true unless they maybe had some doubts? 45

And then there is Hypnotism

hyp

The 2014 American Psychological Association definition of hypnotic suggestibility;

“An individual’s ability to experience suggested alterations in physiology, sensations, emotions, thoughts, or behavior during hypnosis.” (APA, 2014)

A man they called Reveen, one of the world’s greatest concert hypnotists, put on a brilliant hypnotism show in the 1960s and 1970s. I attended more than a few of his performances and was greatly impressed by his ability to get regular people to do crazy things under a state of, “hypnosis.” He would have people shake hands and then tell them their hands were cemented together, and sure enough hard as they tried, they couldn’t separate them. I remember him telling a rather portly gentleman he was a famous ballerina after which he danced across the stage and doing pirouettes!

Incidentally, I was sitting in a typically dull sacrament meeting in Edmonton, Canada one Sunday when Raveen and his family walked in! Yes, he was a Mormon (at least for a time), and while touring would attend church.

We have often heard Joseph Smith described as charismatic and captivating, having a magnetic personality. Is it not possible that Joseph Smith understood the principles of hypnosis or mesmerism as it was called then? The English translation of Frans Anton Mesmer’s ground-breaking book, Mesmerism: The Discovery of Animal Magnetism (1779), was certainly known and available in the United States in Joseph’s day. No less than George Washington discussed Mesmer’s theories in a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette on November 25, 1784.

Put yourself in Martin’s place, you have a little formal education; you live in a place where news from the broader world is limited. Many perhaps most of your friends and family see the world as almost a mystical place. You believe in God, but you also believe in evil spirits and demons and witches and buried treasures. You have been affiliated with many churches and denominations, but none have excited you as much as Joe’s religion. You have invested heavily in this divine work, your time, your treasure, even your relationship with your wife have been sacrificed to the cause. You know the work is true. You know Joseph talks with God.

It is a beautiful warm morning as you go to the woods with David and Oliver and the Prophet. You have all knelt in prayer asking that the Lord will show you the plates, but nothing is happening. It must be you. You know how weak you are. You lack the faith of the others. You need to leave; you are ruining the experience for Oliver and David. Your heart aches as you walk on alone to another opening in the woods, where you again prey to your God for faith and forgiveness. Then suddenly Joseph is with you, comforting you and together you again knell down in prayer, with the prophet at your side, with your eyes closed.

You desire with all your heart, more than anything to have ever wanted to have the sure witness promised by a man you ‘know’ to be a true prophet of God, if only you could have enough faith.

Joseph begins, slowly, in that monotone ‘conference-ease’ voice that all of today’s general authorities seek to emulate. Joseph prays, “Oh God, our heavenly Father, we come to you in fervent prayer and petition that you will show your dear and faithful servant, Martin the golden plates of which are spoken. Lord, I ask that you send an angel from your presence to show your loving servant Martin the same vision that your servants Joseph, David, and Oliver have been blessed with. That he may know the truth.”

“And Martin my brother, have faith in our Lord. Martin concentrate on the glory of God, forget all your daily cares, the Lord will take care of all your needs, put these foolish things out of your mind as you pray to our God to show unto you the golden plates, Martin with every breath you take feel the spirit fill you, Martin, the veil begins to lift, see the veil between this world and the heavens parting and behold…” and on and on and on.

Joseph goes on until he feels Martin is ready. Then Joseph declares, “Oh Martin can you see the angel, in that dazzling robe, so gloriously white? Martin can you see, look, he turns over the leaves one by one so that we can see, and discern the engravings thereon distinctly? He is talking to you, can you hear him, he says, ‘Martin, blessed is the Lord, and he that keeps His commandments;’ listen Martin, to that voice declaring, ‘These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct, and I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear.’ Oh Martin, blessed are you can you see, can you see?

Yes, Yes, you cry out in an ecstasy of joy, ’Tis enough; ’tis enough; mine eyes have beheld; mine eyes have beheld;’ and jumping up, you shout, ‘Hosanna,’ I bless God, I bless God.”

Was what Martin and the others saw a product of their own mind? Remember, by Harris’ own admission, everything he and the others saw came as a vision. Historical accounts reflect that the witnesses could very well have been induced to see the plates in a vision because of Smith’s mesmerizing methods.

Smith persistently badgered them that only the faithful could see them. A persuasive but illogical technique Mormon missionaries still use today when they direct prospects to Moroni’s promise at the end of the Book of Mormon, which says that if one, “asks God, in the name of Christ, with a sincere heart, the truth will be manifest by the Holy Ghost.”

One of the weakest arguments that members of the church too often make is that if a person sincerely prays to Heavenly Father, he will not be deceived, again the Holy Bible never gives that assurance. 2 Cor. 11:14 says that Satan often transforms himself into an angel of light, and 1 Timothy 4:1 warns of seducing spirits.
Did Smith use this same wily manipulative manner of intimidation? Did he pray upon these simple witnesses’ emotions, inducing them to conjure up a vision by telling them that God was not allowing them to see the plates because they were ‘not worthy’ and needed to ‘repent,’ and have ‘greater faith? Under this kind of pressure, is it possible that individuals will see exactly what they are expected to see?

We know that Joseph had from an early age what only the most gifted revivalist preacher could boast of, the talent for making men see visions.

“An example of how Smith coerced the ‘Eight Witnesses’ to see a vision was told to the Governor of Illinois, Thomas Ford, by more than one of Smith’s key men:

‘They [Smith’s men] told Ford that the witnesses were “set to continual prayer and other spiritual exercises.” Then, at last “he assembled them in a room and produced a box which he said contained the precious treasure. The lid was opened; the witnesses peeped into it, but making no discovery, for the box was empty, they said, “Brother Joseph, we do not see the plates.” The prophet answered them, “O ye of little faith! how long will God bear with this wicked and perverse generation? Down on your knees, brethren, every one of you, and pray God for the forgiveness of your sins, and for a holy and living faith which cometh down from heaven.” The disciples dropped to their knees and began to pray in the fervency of their spirit, supplicating God for more than two hours with fanatical earnestness; at the end of which time, looking again into the box, they were now persuaded that they saw the plates.”

That they saw the plates in vision, or with their ‘spiritual eyes,’ rather than their natural eyes, makes it more likely, as Fawn Brodie notes in her book, ‘No Man Knows My History,’ ‘that the men were not conspirators but victims of Joseph’s unconscious but positive talent at hypnosis.’

The Three Witnesses and Hypnotic Susceptibility

Hypnotic susceptibility is a personality trait which remains remarkably stable over time. Hypnotizability, if I can call it that, or suggestibility have certain predictors.

Predictors and Correlates of Hypnotic Susceptibility

Absorption: Absorption is a disposition or personality trait in which a person becomes absorbed in their mental imagery, particularly fantasy. This trait thus correlates highly with a fantasy-prone personality. The original research on absorption was done by American psychologist Auke Tellegen.

Fantasy Proneness: Fantasy Proneness: ‘Fantasy-prone personality’ (FPP) is an expression coined by psychologists Cheryl Wilson and Theodore Barber in a 1983 paper based on a small study on hypnotic susceptibility. Their work developed a theme put forth by Josephine R. Hilgard, a pioneer in the study of hypnosis. FPP is a personality peculiarity in which a person experiences a lifelong extensive and deep involvement in fantasy. This disposition is commonly described as having an “overactive imagination” or “living in a dream world.” An individual with this trait (termed a fantasizer) may have difficulty differentiating between fantasy and reality and may experience hallucinations, as well as self-suggested psychosomatic symptoms. This is closely related psychological constructs include absorption and eidetic memory.

Graham Wagstaff cautions against using the terms “suggestible” and “susceptible” interchangeably, about the extent to which one individual responds to incoming suggestions from another.

“The two terms are not synonymous, however, as the latter term carries inherent negative bias absent from the neutral psychological factor described by suggestibility.”

In scientific research and academic literature on hypnosis and hypnotherapy, the term “suggestibility” describes a neutral psychological and possibly physiological state or phenomena. This is distinct from the culturally biased common parlance of the term “suggestible”. Both terms are often bound with undeserved negative social connotations not inherent in the word meanings themselves.

To be suggestible is not to be gullible. The latter pertains to an empirical objective fact that can be shown accurate or inaccurate to any observer; the former term does not. To be open to suggestion has no bearing on the accuracy of any incoming suggestions, nor whether such an objective accuracy is possible (as is with metaphysical belief).” 46

Hypnotic State, Suggestion, and Hypnotic Suggestion

Matthew Whalley provides clarification between a hypnotic state, suggestion and hypnotic suggestion. He holds simply that a suggestion is hypnotic if it is delivered in the context of hypnosis. For example, if it is delivered after a hypnotic induction. The same suggestions can also be delivered outside of hypnosis, to an unhypnotized individual. In this, the latter case, it is known as a non-hypnotic suggestion or an imaginative suggestion. There is considerable research showing that hypnotic suggestions are only marginally more effective than imaginative suggestions. A fact that may be significant as we evaluate the three witnesses’ susceptibility.

This brief discussion on hypnosis has shown that is not about a ‘battle of wills.’ People feel more comfortable when receiving positive suggestions in the understanding framework or context. People are less likely to resist the ideas for optimism or a positive perspective if they:

  1. Correspond with other ideas already held
  2. Contain positive rather than negative enforcement toward something good rather than away from something bad
  3. Flatter our self-identity to a level we accept.

Clearly, all three of these features were present regarding the ‘Three Witnesses.’ In fact, in every way, the position of the ‘Three Witnesses’ was ideal for a hypnotically-induced illusion or “vision.”

Was Smith trained in hypnosis or mesmerism, of course not, but neither were the magicians, priests, sorcerers or other charismatic individuals in the past who discovered it by accident?

How could the witnesses all make statements that suggest that their experience with the gold plates and the angel were visionary and later vehemently state they were real as you and I understand that word?

Remember a hypnotically-induced hallucination is very real to the person having it. In fact, it is only identifiable as a hallucination by someone other than the person hallucinating. If the individual having the hallucination recognized it as a hallucination, it would not then be a hallucination. It is almost impossible to convince a hallucinator that his or her experience is not real.

It is not that difficult to understand. Think of someone who witnesses a heated argument after school. When later asked about the “huge fight” that occurred, they recall the memory, but unknowingly exaggerate or distort it, because they now think of the event as a “huge fight” instead of a simple argument and the further away they get in time from the original event, the greater the distortion. There was no conscious attempt to mislead; it is just a feature of memory and the human mind.

There are, of course, examples of where suggestibility can also be seen in extremes which result in negative consequences.

Witness testimony is altered because the police make ‘suggestions’ during an interview, which causes that individual’s already uncertain observations to become distorted memories.

Another example might be a young girl suffering migraine headaches leading to sleep deprivation and depression. Her therapist, a specialist in child sexual abuse, repeatedly asked her whether her father had sexually abused her. This persistent suggestion causes the young girl to fabricate memories of her father molestation, which leads to her being placed in foster care and her father being tried on charges of abuse.

Were the ‘Three Witnesses’ targets of hypnosis or suggestion? We can only speculate, but one must consider the power Joseph Smith had over his followers and the differential in intellect and authority between these simple men and an ambitious, self-assured Svengali.

The subject’s attitude towards authority plays an important part as well. It has been long known that army officers are much more difficult to hypnotize than enlisted men and women. Why? Because enlisted men and women, through the process of indoctrination and training, are taught to obey and follow orders without thought or reason. The transference of authority by Smith was readily accomplished then as it is now through the authoritarian construction and structure of the Church.

Apologists Responses to the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon

In what I assume was a presentation delivered at the FairMormon Conference in 2004, this apologist begins with the comment, “Columbus started on faith, Edison started on faith, and it’s that faith that is called a hypothesis in this scientific method. You have to conceive of something in terms of imagination and logical extension, extrapolation before you ever really verify something beyond your little reality and so we’re really dealing with that basic issue below.”

Well, where do I start? The writer does not understand the scientific method nor for that matter faith. Faith and a hypothesis are not the same thing. A hypothesis is where – after doing your research, you try to predict the answer to your problem. Another term for a hypothesis is an ‘educated guess.’

Merriam-Webster defines ‘Faith’ as “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.”

Columbus was a self-taught man, but he was not an ignorant man, ‘after doing his research,’ he set out to find to find a western sea route to China, India, and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia.

He was aware that Pythagoras in the sixth century B.C. proved the earth was round, and that Aristotle in the fourth century B.C. provided the physical evidence, such as the shadow of the Earth on the moon, and like all sailors, he witnessed the curvature of the Earth approaching land.

I would suggest to you that my approach to the ‘witnesses’ to the Book of Mormon is a true application of the scientific method. I didn’t start with ‘faith’ I started by doing my research. Then I formulated the hypotheses that the ‘witnesses’ did not see the plates, angels, et cetera, with their ‘real’ eyes and/or they, for reasons best known to themselves, were not truthful.

The author of this article I quoted above goes on to beg the question, “Why in their personal statements do the eight witnesses consistently use the formulaic language that they ‘saw’ and ‘hefted’ and ‘handled’ rather than using other language or giving greater detail? Doesn’t this suggest a conspiracy?” Which he then goes on to answer his own question, “I come back to this issue where John Whitmer said if you doubt what happened… if you want my testimony go read it. I don’t see ‘hefted’ as formulaic. I think that’s, as I said, a very specific term of the period meaning they tried to estimate their weight. And whether it’s William Smith estimating the weight when he got handed the plates in a sack or the tow frock in the house when Joseph brought them home; or Martin Harris estimating the weight as he held the plates in a box, 40 to 60 pounds is basically what anybody who lifted the plates say.” 47

All this is, of course, meaningless as Joseph Smith carefully crafted the witness affidavits, which the individual witnesses simply signed.

The witnesses are a hard call. They clearly state they saw the plates and the angel. But there are also many statements made by the witnesses themselves that their admissions were more visionary than real. The Witnesses,’ particularly Martin Harris’s, use of terms such as, ‘second sight,’ ‘with spiritual eyes,’ ‘visions of the mind,’ or through the “eyes of our understanding,” certainly give one pause.

I think to truly understand the Book of Mormon witnesses; one must appreciate the magical worldview people held in early 19th Century in the backwoods of New England. Many folks believed in folk magic, visions, glass looking, divining rods, second sight, peep stones, treasure hunting and so on.

Additionally, several issues call into question the witnesses’ independence. All had close ties to Joseph and his family. Martin Harris had a substantial financial stake in the success of the Book of Mormon. And to be kind, the witnesses were not society’s ‘cream of the crop.’

As well they all left the Church at some point and most held Joseph Smith in very low esteem as he did them. Joseph Smith said Dec 16, 1838, “Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.” 48

David Whitmer—like the other witnesses—had been charged with being deluded into thinking he had seen an angel and the plates. Joseph Smith III remembered when David was such accused and said:

“How well and distinctly I remember the manner in which Elder Whitmer arose and drew himself up to his full height—a little over six feet—and said, in solemn and impressive tones: ‘No sir! I was not under any hallucination, nor was I deceived! I saw with these eyes, and I heard with these ears! I know whereof I speak!’.

Martin Harris used the same qualifying statements to describe his experience in 1829:

“In introducing us, Mr. Godfrey said, ‘Brother Harris, I have brought these young men to hear your statement as to whether or not you believe the Book of Mormon to be true.’ His face was turned to the wall. He turned and faced us and said, ‘Now I don’t believe, but I know it to be true, for with these eyes I saw the angel and with these ears, I heard him say it was a true and correct record of an ancient people that dwelt upon this the American continent’. 49

As I had mentioned above, a hypnotically-induced hallucination is very real to the person having it. In fact, it is only identifiable as a hallucination by someone other than the person hallucinating. I have said it before, but it is worth repeating, if the individual having the hallucination recognized it as a hallucination, it would not then be a hallucination. It is almost impossible to convince a hallucinator that his or her experience was not real.

References

1 Ronald W. Walker, “Martin Harris:

John A. Clark letter, August 31, 1840, in EMD, 2: 271

3 Martin Harris-Witness & Benefactor, BYU 1955 Thesis, Wayne C. Gunnell, p.52.)

4 Latter-Day Saints, Millennial Star, Vol 8 pp124-128

5 Wayne Sentinel, May 27, 1831, as quoted in Richard Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, 1981

6 Rochester Daily Democrat, June 23, 1841, as quoted in Richard Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, 1981

7 Pomeroy Tucker reminiscence, 1858, in Vogel & 1996-2003, 3: 71 Education and Intelligence

8 “The Passing of Martin Harris,” in the Improvement Era Vol. 29, No. 5 (March 1926):

9 George Godfrey, “Testimony of Martin Harris,” from an unpublished manuscript copy in the possession of his daughter, Florence (Godfrey) Munson of Fielding, Utah; quoted in Eldin Ricks, The Case of the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1971), 65–66 (Is that third hand?)

10 Warren Parris to E. Holmes, August 11, 1838.

11 Stephen Burnett, Early Mormon Documents, 2:288-93

12 Martin Harris, (Anthony Metcalf, Ten Years Before the Mast, n.d., microfilm copy, p. 70-71

13 Early Mormon Documents, 2:346-47

14 Letter from Stephen Burnett to “Br. Johnson,” April 15, 1838, in Joseph Smith Letter Book, p. 2

15 Mormonism: Its Origin, Rise, and Progress, p.71

16 Early Mormon Documents 2:270 and 3:22

17 Eric Nelson, Leaving the Church, Part 9 Oct. 24, 2015

18 History of the Mormonites, Kirtland, 1831. Josiah Jones, The Evangelist (1 June 1831) p.40

19 The Braden & Kelly Debate, p. 173

20 Palmyra Reflector, March 19, 1831

21 Biographical Sketches, Lucy Smith, pp. 211-213

22David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ
Statements by Whitmer that He Saw the Gold Plates and the Angel in Vision

23 Interview with John Murphy, June 1880, Early Mormon Documents 5:63

24 Moyle diary, June 28, 1885, in Early Mormon Documents, Dan Vogel, Signature Book, Salt Lake City, October 1996

25 Early Mormon Documents, Dan Vogel, Signature Book, Salt Lake City, October 1996, 2:346-47

26 Early Mormon Documents, Dan Vogel, Signature Book, Salt Lake City, October 1996, 2:346-47

27 David Whitmer, to Anthony Metcalf, 2 April 1887; printed in A[nthony] Metcalf, Ten Years before the Mast (Malad City, Idaho: n.p., 1888, 73-74

28 Millennial Star, vol. XL, pp. 771-77

29 Grant Palmer, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, Chapter 6

30 Deseret Evening News, 6 Aug. 1878

31 Marvin S. Hill, “Brodie Revisited: A Reappraisal,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, (Winter, 1972): pp. 83-84

32 Early Mormon Documents, 3:177-79

33 Grant Palmer, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins Chapter

34 The True Origin of The Book of Mormon, Charles Shook, 1914, pp. 58-59

35 Defense in a Rehearsal of My Grounds for Separating Myself from the Latter-Day Saints,” Presley Job Office, Norton, Ohio, 183

36 Seasons and Times, Vol 2, p. 482

37 Martin Harris, (Anthony Metcalf, Ten Years Before the Mast, n.d., microfilm copy, p. 70-71)

38 Early Mormon Documents, 2:346-47

39 “He only saw the plates with a spiritual eye

40 Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Vol. 1, 1958

41 Letter from Stephen Burnett to “Br. Johnson,” April 15, 1838, in Joseph Smith Letter Book, p. 2.

42 Early Mormon Documents 1:497

43 Anthony Metcalf, Ten Years Before the Mast, n.d., microfilm copy, p. 70

44 Facts on the Book of Mormon Witnesses, Jole B. Groat, July 8, 2011, Institute for Religious Research The Book of Mormon Witnesses, Recovery From Mormonism, http://exmormon.org/d6/drupal/file9

45 September 7, 2014, in Book of Mormon, Fred Anson, Mormon Studies

46 Wagstaff, Graham F. (1991). “Suggestibility: A social psychological approach.” Florence Kentucky: Taylor & Frances/Routledge. p. 141

47 Unnamed source, 2004 FairMormon Conference

48 History of the Church, Vol 3, p232

49https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_Could_Joseph_Smith_have_hypnotized_the witnesses.

FairMormon’s Comments

Several witnesses to the Book of Mormon confessed that they did not see the plates with their natural eyes, but with ‘visions of the mind.’

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS MISTAKES AND/OR ERRORS – THE AUTHOR HAS STATED ERRONEOUS OR INCORRECT INFORMATION OR MISINTERPRETED THEIR SOURCES

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

Again, FairMormon, as is their custom, talks about errors and suggests there is erroneous or incorrect information without providing any collaborating evidence or details.

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32. Joseph Creates a Witness Affidavit for Signature

Old Letter With Handwritten Text. Grunge Vintage TextureI think the testimony of the witnesses would be more credible if they had written their own accounts instead of merely signing a prepared statement carefully crafted by Joseph Smith.

As well, we now know that the three witnesses did not all see the plates or angel at the same time. Only David Whitmer and perhaps Oliver Cowdery saw the angel together. Martin Harris removed himself from the group and did not see the angel until perhaps three days later. 1

Joseph Smith was very charismatic and we know was quite persuasive, we have very little to go on in terms of how Joseph got them to sign.

Remember too that all the witnesses had very close ties to Joseph and his family. Some like Martin Harris even had a substantial financial investment in the success of the Book of Mormon.

The witnesses were a product of the early 1800s and believed in magical things – second sight, witches, dreams, seer stones, etc. It would seem that at least some of the witnesses were easily swayed by stories of the supernatural, especially in a religious context.

Most of the witnesses ended up leaving the church and many followed other leaders and other religions such as James Strang, the Shakers, the Methodists, etc. By 1847 not a single one of the surviving eleven witnesses had anything to do with Mormon Church.

Many of the witnesses who left the Church, believed that Joseph was at best a fallen prophet, who changed the church’s doctrines and revelations against God’s will.

Apologists Responses to Joseph Smith’s Creation of a Witness Statement for the Witnesses to Sign

There is very little from the apologists on this issue, Each of the witnesses should each have written their own testimony instead of merely signing a carefully prepared statement written by Joseph Smith. If the signatories did not find the document 100% accurate, it would have to be completely rewritten by hand – no mean feat in the 1800s.

As well we know there was not a signing ceremony, it was not like the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They did not all sign at the same time.

Had the witnesses written their own statement, perhaps we would have learned, what the angel looks like, what if anything did the angel say?

References

1 Anthony Metcalf, Ten Years Before the Mast, nd., microfilm copy, p. 70-71).

FairMormon’s Comments

Again FairMormon has nothing.

 

33. Why were words such as Baptism, Bible, Crucifixion & Synagogue Used Before Their Existence?

bapt

Baptism

The word “baptism” found in 2 Nephi 31:13 and other places. But this cannot be an actual translation of a word found on ancient plates, because “baptism” is a transliteration of the Greek word baptisma, and peculiar to the King James version.

Likewise, the word “epistle” in 3 Nephi 3:5 is an obvious copy of the King James Version. The word “epistle” (epistolos) was left in its original Greek form, but given an English ending; and, the words “alpha” and “omega” which appear in 3 Nephi 9:18, are, of course, English spellings of Greek words found in the Bible (Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13).

Bible

2 Nephi 29:3 reads, “A Bible, A Bible, we have got a Bible,” referencing the Jewish Old Testament, which dates to 550 B.C. However, the word “Bible” is the English transliteration of the Greek term “biblos,” which came into parlance a millennium and a half later.

Crucifixion

Crucifixion was unknown to Jews in Palestine in 600 B.C. It became first known to Jews in Palestine in the late fourth century B.C.

Synagogue

The word ‘synagogue’ or some derivative of it occurs more than 25 times in the Book of Mormon. In Alma 16:13, we read, “And Alma and Amulek went forth preaching repentance to the people in their temples, and in their sanctuaries, and also in their synagogues, which were built after the manner of the Jews.” This statement assumes that Nephites were aware of how the Jews built their synagogues.

But how could Alma and Amulek know how the Jews built their synagogues when the Jews themselves didn’t build them before Lehi (supposedly) left for the Americas in 600 BC?

FairMormon’s Comments

Again nothing from FairMormon.

 

34. Why does the Book of Mormon incorrectly state that Jesus was born in Jerusalem?

beth

We know, of course, that the Lord was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem is located on the southern portion of the Judean Mountains.The city is situated 73 kilometers (about 44 mi) northeast of Gaza City and the Mediterranean Sea, 75 kilometers (46 mi) west of Amman, Jordan, 59 kilometers (37 mi) southeast of Tel Aviv, Israel and 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) south of Jerusalem.Jesus was born from the tribe of Judah and Bethlehem is in the territory of Judah.Jerusalem is in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin, which would make Jesus having been born of the tribe of Benjamin!Apologists claim that Bethlehem is essentially a suburb of Jerusalem. There is not a single non-LDS expert who will state any such thing. Bethlehem is not Jerusalem. A big issue, perhaps not, but it casts additional doubt on the veracity of the Book of Mormon because God is not in the habit of just being close, He is perfect.

FairMormon’s Comments

Why does the Book of Mormon incorrectly state that Jesus was born in Jerusalem?

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS MISTAKES AND/OR ERRORS – THE AUTHOR HAS STATED ERRONEOUS OR INCORRECT INFORMATION OR MISINTERPRETED THEIR SOURCES

The Book of Mormon does not claim that “Jesus was born in Jerusalem”. It claims that Jesus was born “at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers.” It is referring to the land of Jerusalem.

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

We could accept this as a reasonable explanation, were it not for the fact that Joseph Smith in his arrogance made the fanciful and demonstrably false statement that the Book of Mormon is ‘the most correct book on earth.’

But to state that I have stated ‘erroneous or incorrect information’ by pointing out Smith’s mistake says a great deal about FairMormon’s raison d’être.

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35. The Council of 50 and An Accusation of Treason

Treason Law Concept 3D Illustration

Joseph Smith was a very ambitious man. Shortly before his death in 1844 he established a theocratic-political system which he named the Council of 50. And on April 11th, 1844 was named King and Ruler over all the earth with unlimited civil, military and ecclesiastical power.

This body met in Nauvoo seventeen times before he was killed.

Smith prophesied the entire overthrow of the United States within a few years.

Smith saw himself as reigning over all of America and eventually the entire world. Like so many things Joseph Smith did it was done covertly and undercover and those who were given knowledge of it or who was promised to become one of the ‘Princes’ were sworn to secrecy under penalty of death.

Wilson Law, the brother of William Law, the former second counselor in the First Presidency and the highest ranking Major General in the Nauvoo Legion, stated that Smith’s intended to:

“Set the laws at defiance; for the Government, he said, was corrupt, and ought to be overthrown, and he would do it, for he could get help plenty from the Indians, for he had communication with them all the time, and they were ready. And deponent further saith that he verily believes that said Joseph Smith is and has been, conspiring with the Indians against this Government, he having agents out among the Indians, passing to and fro ever since last summer; and that a number of Indians have come to Nauvoo, at different times, last winter and spring, and held secret councils with said Smith. And further, that Hyrum Smith, last winter, said to the affiant, that this Government must be changed; for it did not suit them, and they could never keep the revelations or build up the kingdom under the present form of Government.” 1

John W. Putnam. Putnam, a resident of Bear Creek, Illinois, a community not far from Nauvoo, stated on August 13, 1844: “That he saw in the lodge at Nauvoo, a number of arms, and he understood that there were plenty of arms in Nauvoo. He further states that the Mormons are endeavoring to seduce the Indian tribes from their allegiance to the United States and engage them to take up the hatchet against the people of the United States, and that white men are to lead them on to the conflict.”

He further states that “he has understood that Lyman Wight has already departed [to Texas] to stir up the savages, and prepare them for the final struggle with the whites. He also understood that cannon had been received in Nauvoo, sent there in hogsheads of sugar, and also fire arms and ammunition. He further states … that in conjunction with the Indians [the Mormon plan is] to attack the people and subvert the government, and establish Mormonism throughout the United States. He further states, that…. the Indians had twice held their powwows or war dances in Nauvoo.” 2

Smith’s determined goal of a theocratic-political empire is evident in the pretentious ‘Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To all the Kings of the World’ which the Council of the Twelve (who are also all members of the Council of Fifty), addressed: “To all the Kings of the World; To the President of the United States of America; To the Governors of the several States; And to the Rulers and Peoples of all Nations.”

The pronouncement warned world leaders: “You cannot…stand as idle and disinterested spectators of the scenes and events which are calculated in their very nature to reduce all nations and creeds to one political and religious standard, and thus put an end to Babel forms and names, and to strife and war.” 3

Is this not precisely the form of government militant Islam longs for today?

“Islamic government does not correspond to any of the existing forms of government… Islamic government is neither tyrannical nor absolute, but constitutional. It is not constitutional in the current sense of the word… It is constitutional in the sense that the rulers are subject to a certain set of conditions in governing and administering the country, conditions that are set forth in the Noble Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Most Noble Messenger (Imam). It is the laws and ordinances of Islam comprising this set of conditions that must be observed and practiced. Islamic government may therefore be defined as the rule of divine law over men.” 4

If you replaced the word Islam with Mormonism and the word Imam for LDS Church President you have Joseph Smith’s un-American dystopian society. Smith’s goal of world domination simply echoes the message of the Book of Mormon:

  1. And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive after they have scattered my people
  2. Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
  3. Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.
  4. And it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles. 5

3 Nephi 20: 15-17, 20 12

And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces and none can deliver.

14 Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;

15 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds;

18 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities.

21 And I will execute vengeance and fury upon them, even as upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.

3 Nephi 21: 14-15, 18, 21

Brigham Young speaking as a member of the Council of the Fifty on March 11th, 1845:

“The gentiles have rejected the Gospel; they have killed the Prophets and those who have not taken an active part in the murder all rejoice in it, and that is saying that they are willing the blood of the prophets should be shed. The gentiles have rejected the Gospel [And] we will sweep them out of existence.5

Treason has ever been deemed the highest crime which can be committed in civil society and in the past, has been visited with the deepest public resentment and the greatest of penalties – usually death.

Were Smith’s actions treasonous?

Probably. Black’s Law Dictionary: defines treason as “the offense of attempting to overthrow the state to which one owes allegiance, either by making war against the state or by materially supporting its enemies.”

Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution reads:

“Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

Had Smith not been killed in the gunfight at Cartage jail, I think it would have been unlikely that he would have been convicted of treason.

Treason is a high bar, ‘levying War against them.’

But the Jig was up for Joseph Smith and his illegal order to destroy the Expositor and call out the Nauvoo Legion was serious stuff. Even more serious, Smith’s adulterous affairs with other women and his now public revelation of plural marriage was very upsetting to many of the good citizens of his community; especially since teenage girls and married women were involved.

Had he not been killed, I suspect this time he would have spent a considerable amount of time in the penitentiary. It is perhaps telling that I have been unable to find any Apologists having commented directly on Smith’s accusations of Treason. 

References

1 Affidavit of Wilson Law, June 20, 1844, published in “Letters to Gov. Ford−No. II,” Alton Telegraph & Democratic Review, February 22, 1845,

2
Affidavit of John W. Putnam, August 13, 1844, published in “Letters to Gov. Ford−No. IV,” Alton Telegraph & Democratic Review, March 15, 1845.

3 Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1845, 1, 6.

4 Ayatullah Sayyid Imam Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini, ‘Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist’, Jan 21, 1970.

5 Council of 50 Minutes, 300

FairMormon’s Comment

Again, no specific comment on what I have written.

 

population36. How can we Account for the Astounding Population Growth Spoken of in the Book of Mormon?

How do we overcome the problem of large populations and armies arising in such a short period; from a handful of people to many millions?

The unparalleled population growth suggested in the Book of Mormon is also problematic. Could huge populations and armies arise in such a short period; from a handful of people to many millions?

The Book of Mormon tells us that in less than 30 years from the time Lehi arriving in America, their population multiplied so rapidly that they had to be divided into two ‘great nations.’ Nations? Even if they reproduced like rabbits they could only produce several dozen offspring in that amount of time. 

Professional demographers agree that this population growth rate would have to be about thirty times the rate that existed in the world as a whole during the same era to reach anything close to the numbers spoken of in the Book of Mormon.

Population growth during this pre-agricultural period was virtually nonexistent, roughly .0001 percent per year or less. This is an established fact that can easily be confirmed.

“For the Amlicite-Nephite war of 87 B.C.E., Alma 2:17-19 reports a total of 19,094 fatalities. On the basis of these figures John Sorenson, a professor of anthropology at Brigham Young University, estimated the total Nephite-Lamanite population to be over 600,000 at that time (about 200,000 Nephites-Amlicites and over 400,000 Lamanites). For an original band of thirty reproductive individuals in 590 B.C.E. to proliferate even to 19,094 by 87 B.C.E. would require an average annual growth rate of 1.3 percent sustained over the span of five centuries. To reach the 600,000 level Sorenson determined to have existed at that point; the growth rate would have had to be 2 percent, again maintained for five centuries. This is a level never reached on a global scale until C.E. 1960 and fifty times the actual world rate of the pre-industrial epoch.” 1

Also, who was producing the food for the hundreds of thousands, even millions of soldiers, so they could wage war? It is estimated that just 100,000 soldiers would need 400,000 farmers to produce enough food for them. As well, it would take thousands of tradesmen to produce weapons of war, armor and other tools, and basic needs – barrels, clothing, lumber, etc. Not to mention the thousands of workers dragging everything around on wheel-less carts dragged by tapirs!

FairMormon’s Comments

“How do we overcome the problem of large populations and armies arising in such a short period?

Question: Was the Lehite colony too small to produce the population sizes indicated by the Book of Mormon?

The Book of Mormon contains many overt references, and some more oblique ones, to ‘other’ peoples that were part of the demographic mix in Book of Mormon times

A superficial reading of the Book of Mormon leads some to conclude that the named members of Lehi’s group were the only members of Nephite/Lamanite society.

The Book of Mormon contains many overt references, and some more oblique ones, to ‘other’ peoples that were part of the demographic mix in Book of Mormon times. Indeed, many Book of Mormon passages make little sense unless we understand this. The Nephite record keeps its focus on a simplistic “Nephite/Lamanite” dichotomy both because it is a kinship record, and because its focus is religious, not politico-historical.

But, as one author observed, it is inescapable that there were substantial populations in the “promised land” throughout the Nephite record, and probably in the Jaredite era also. The status and origin of these peoples are never made clear because the writers never set out to do any such thing; they had other purposes. We cannot understand the demographic or cultural history of Lehi’s literal descendants without taking into account those other groups, too.

Hereafter, readers will not be justified in saying that the record fails to mention “others” but only that we readers have hitherto failed to observe what is said and implied about such people in the Book of Mormon.”

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

As I say in my letter, the population growth suggested in the Book of Mormon is unrealistic. If we work from the assumption the western hemisphere was empty when the Book of Mormon peoples arrived. Professional demographers agree that the population growth rate indicated would have to be about thirty times the rate that existed in the world as a whole during the same era to reach the numbers spoken of in the Book of Mormon. This suggests other preexisting populations.

This. however, conflicts with The Book of Mormon which seems to claim that the hemisphere was empty at the time of Lehi’s arrival. 2 Nephi, Chapter 1:

8 And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.

9 Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever. . . .

This NEW theory of other populations may help the apologists deal with their DNA problem.

yelloww

Does Smith’s Murder Make Him a Martyr?

Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith were murdered on June 27, 1844, by an armed mob, an event that has prompted many Mormons to classify them both as martyrs.

A close analysis of the term and even a superficial examination of the circumstances of Joseph Smith’s demise suggest that he was no martyr. To be labeled a martyr one must meet specific criteria, for example, the reasons why one is put to death and the way one faces that death.

An examination of the reasons why Smith was murdered and the actions he took to avoid this fate makes it problematic to maintain that Smith was like that, “lamb led to the slaughter.”

As I discussed previously Joseph Smith was properly arrested on the charge of treason for his destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor and the calling out of the Nauvoo Legion. These were not trumped up charges as many Church members have been taught.

Prior to his arrest, he fled the jurisdiction to avoid justice, only returning after his wife informed him that many of his followers viewed him as a coward for running away and leaving them to their own devices.

When Smith, who was also Nauvoo’s mayor, realized that several former members were planning to publish an exposé of his polygamy, polyandry, sex with young girls, dishonesty and political machinations in the Expositor, he convinced the Nauvoo City Council to declare the paper a “nuisance” and order the destruction of its press and type.

Then, on June 19, Smith declared martial law and put his four-thousand-member Nauvoo Legion on alert before he and his brother Hyrum Smith left town. When Joseph and Hyrum returned, they were arrested, charged with treason and placed in a minimum-security cell at the Carthage Jail. According to History of the Church 6:605, Smith had Emma tell church leader Jonathan Dunham to tell the people to just stay home and to “let there be no groups or gathering together, unless by permission of the governor.”

However, Smith’s biographer Fawn Brodie writes that Smith “hastily scribbled an order to Dunham to bring in the Legion, break the jail, and save him at all costs. Within seconds two messengers bearing this order and the letter to Emma were off at a frantic gallop on the fifteen-mile trip to Nauvoo.1

While Smith, Hyram and the others were drinking wine and singing, a mob storms the jail and rushed up the stairs to the room where Joseph was being held.

Hyrum approached the door as a volley of balls came through it. One struck him on the left side of his nose, and he fell on his back on the floor supposedly uttering, “I am a dead man!”

He was.

Joseph reached round the door casing, and discharged his six-shooter into the passageway, discharging all the bullets it contained. Reportedly he shot two men, one of whom may have died from his wounds.

Realizing any further resistance was hopeless, he attempted to jump out the window when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from the mob below, and he fell outward into the hands of his murderers, exclaiming. “O Lord, my God!”

As he fell to the ground below, he was propped up and shot again and died.

How did Smith come to have a weapon in jail?

Early LDS Church leader Cyrus H. Wheelock smuggled the six-shooter to him during a visit to the Carthage Jail. As Wheelock was about to leave, he took the gun out and said, “Would any of you like to have this?”

As Taylor writes: “Brother Joseph immediately replied, ‘YES, give it to me,’ whereupon he took the pistol, and put it in his pantaloons pocket.” 2

To say that Joseph Smith was martyred rather than simply murdered is important to many Latter-day Saints. Brigham Young University professor Robert Millet explained how Mormons consider Smith’s death to be like the death of Jesus when he wrote: “The life of Joseph Smith was in some degree patterned after that of the Master, Jesus Christ. That pattern holds true even when extended to its tragic conclusion. Like his Master, Joseph Smith also shed his blood so that the final testament, the reestablishment of the new covenant, might be in full effect.” 3.

A famous LDS hymn references Smith’s death this way:

Hail to the Prophet ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;
Death cannot conquer the hero again.
Praise to his memory, he died as a martyr;
Honored and blest be his ever-great name!
Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,
Plead unto heaven while the earth lauds his fame.

Joseph and Hyrum’s murder was a cruel, barbarous act but I do not believe it is accurate to classify Smith as a martyr.

Firstly, a martyr is one willing to die for his faith. Smith certainly did not die willingly; he engaged in a gunfight with his assailants after he had pleaded with his associates to ‘break him out’ and after he had first chosen to run away.

A true martyr would not have attempted to call on the Nauvoo Legion, nor shoot at, injure and possibly kill his attackers.

I am not suggesting that Joseph Smith or anyone else is not morally justified in defending themselves, however, Smith’s behavior can hardly be compared to Jesus who reprimanded Peter, saying “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”

Secondly, Joseph Smith did not die so much for his faith but rather to prevent a newspaper from going public with an exposé of his illegal sexual behavior and treasonous political ambitions. It was Joseph Smith’s deeds – not his Mormon beliefs that led to his murder.

Can we honestly put Joseph Smith in the same company as Saint Stephen who falsely accused, could have avoided his stoning had he just denied the Lord and whose last words were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…Lord, lay not this sin to their charge?

Can we honesty put Joseph Smith in the same company as the Lord Jesus Christ who wouldn’t allow His disciples to fight, but rather reprimanded Peter for resisting?

He could have called down angels and destroyed His accusers. But No, he suffered, bled and died for you and for me, whose last words were, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do?”

There have been many who have died for their Christian faith since the days of Jesus and the Apostles. Sadly, there are hundreds around the world who give their lives even today as true Christian martyrs.

Father Ragheed Ganni was born in 1972 in Iraq. After studying in Rome, Father Ganni requested to be sent back to Iraq to serve his country as a Catholic priest. As a priest who spoke four languages, he worked with “Asia News” as the Pontifical Institute Foreign Missions Correspondent.

One night, after celebrating Mass where his three cousins served as deacons, as the four men left the Church. A man approached the group and told Father Ganni to shut down the Church, to which he responded, “How can I close the house of God?”

Father Ganni and his three deacons were told to convert to Islam or die. They bravely refused and were then all shot to death, their bodies being placed in a car full of explosives so if anyone attempted to remove the bodies, they would also have been destroyed.

Father Ganni was a martyr.

Born in 1943 in Italy, Annalena Tonelli was a lawyer who at age 25 moved to Africa to work with the Committee Against World Hunger, an organization she helped found.

Later she moved to Borama, where she founded a tuberculosis hospital, whose $20,000 monthly maintenance bills were funded by her friends and family back in Italy.

She brought HIV/AIDS patients to the Borama hospital because she believed they deserved to be treated like human beings and children of God. This move was not received well, and protesters routinely threw stones breaking the windows of the hospital, chanting “Death to Annalena.”

On October 5, 2003, Annalena was shot in the head and killed while working in the hospital she founded.

Annalena was a martyr.

Considering Smith’s conduct, sleeping with other men’s wives as well as a small class of ‘Mia Maids’ and then lying about it to his only legal wife and his faithful followers. Considering his ordering the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, the newspaper intent on exposing him. I think it borders on blasphemy for Smith to compare the situation he got himself into to the pure and innocent sacrifice made by the Lord Jesus Christ by allegedly saying, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter.”

Just because a person is murdered does not make them a martyr. Mormons are free to venerate, exalt and worship their religion’s founder as they need, but it is simply not correct to refer to Joseph Smith’s death as a martyrdom.

References

1 Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Vintage, 1995), 391–392.

2 History of the Church 7:100.

3 Robert L. Millet, “Joseph Smith among the Prophets,” Ensign, June 1994, 22

Contemporary Issues

The Leadership of the Church’s Lack of Discernment

hoffman

I feel the leaders of the Church showed a clear lack of discernment by paying almost a million dollars to Mark Hoffman, to keep embarrassing documents out of circulation. Documents that were later shown to be forgeries, but not before several Church leaders had given talks rationalizing them.

I was led to believe that the President of the Church holds all the keys to this dispensation, including the keys of discernment. In a now famous Church News photo, President Kimball is shown posing with a magnifying glass while snuggling up to Mark Hofmann, a liar, forger, and murderer.

Doctrinal Changes in Response to AmericanPolitical Pressure

flagCan it not be argued that changes made to core doctrines of the Church were in direct response to American political pressure – the ending of polygamy, Blacks in the priesthood?

While the tone of the following letter to the editor is somewhat mocking, it nevertheless summarizes the view that many people had about the Church’s about-face when President Carter made it clear they would not allow the Church’s tax-free status to continue if they did not change their racist policies.

“What’s done is done. There no longer is any prejudice against blacks in the Mormon church, the power of money took care of that. Back in 1978, the federal government informed the LDS Church that unless it allowed blacks full membership (including the priesthood), they would have to cease calling themselves a non-profit organization and start paying income taxes. On $16.5 million a day in tithing alone, that’s a lot of tax monies that could be better used in building up the Kingdom of God.

The church immediately saw the error of its ways, and the brethren appealed to God for a revelation; it came quickly. God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform, and today The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has nothing but love for all races of people on Earth.” 1

in 1968, ten years before the Church saw the light, John Lund wrote the following:

“Those who would try to pressure the Prophet to give the Negroes the Priesthood do not understand the plan of God nor the order of heaven. Revelation is the expressed will of God to man. Revelation is not man’s will expressed to God. All the social, political, and governmental pressure in the world is not going to change what God has decreed to be.”

John L. Lund, The Church and the Negro, page 109

Yet ten years later, when the Church’s status as a tax-exempt organization was in question, and shortly after President Jimmy Carter discussed the Church’s racist policies with Spencer Kimball, the Heavens opened and ban was lifted.

Incidentally, there is no written record of Spencer W. Kimball’s supposed 1978 ‘revelation’; reversing the priesthood ban on African-Americans?

Why was this not important enough to make it into the D&C?

The Church’s apologists deny that President Carter’s candid message to Kimball had anything to do with this timely, ‘revelation.’ Some even claim that the President never broached the subject.

This is not true.

Below I have replicated a note President Carter sent to me in response to my letter to him:

carter

Becoming Gods gods

I only met Gordon Hinckley once. He didn’t make much of an impression on me one way or the other. I certainly didn’t get any loving or Christ-like vibe from him, I don’t think that arrogant is the right word to describe him but it’s close. He had what I would call an imperial manner, but that is only human with all the bowing and scraping he was the recipient of by his fawning TBMs and other sycophants.

I certainly can’t comment based on that brief encounter, if he was an honest or truthful man.

There is ample evidence that he was well practiced in gaslighting and lying for the Lord, often electing to provide misleading and untruthful answers when confronted with difficult issues.

Like many, I remember reading in Time Magazine, Aug 4, 1997, his response, when asked, “… Whether his church still holds that God the Father was once a man, his answer was uncertain and equivocal:

“I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it… I understand the philosophical background behind it, but I don’t know a lot about it, and I don’t think others know a lot about it.”

“I don’t know if we teach it?”

There seems to be a considerable amount of evidence, starting with Joseph Smith and continuing up to Hinckley’s day, that it is certainly taught as I believe Hinckley well knew.

“I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God, from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. … It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know…that he was once a man like us…. 2

“He [God] is our Father – the Father of our spirits, and was once a man in mortal flesh as we are, and is now an exalted being.” 3

“Mormon prophets have continuously taught the sublime truth that God the Eternal Father was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth life similar that through which we are now passing. He became God – an exalted being – through obedience to the same eternal Gospel truths that we are given opportunity today to obey.” 4

“God is an exalted man. Some people are troubled over the statements of the Prophet Joseph Smith … That our Father in heaven at one time passed through a life and death and is an exalted man…“ 5

“…God…is a personal Being, a holy and exalted man…” 6

And of course, Lorenzo Snow’s famous little couplet:

“As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” 7

He was asked on German television why the Church does not publish its financial records, to which he replied, “We believe that that information belongs to those who made the contribution, not to the world, that’s the only thing.”

This is not a truthful statement, members have no more access to the Church’s financials than the German interviewer.

When Hinckley was questioned by police during the Mark Hofmann murder investigation in the mid-1980s, he first denied he knew Hofmann, then amended his statement to say he barely knew him. The truth is Hofmann had Hinckley’s private phone number and met with Hinckley alone in his office at least 50 times. We know that Hinckley wrote checks to Hofmann.

President Uchtdorf, you have to admit that these types of prevarications give one pause. But you knew him, were these just a few examples of where ‘lying for the Lord’ was the expedient thing to do?

Racism

racismWhile today racism is no longer a major issue in the Church, it has certainly had a very ugly history of it.

“And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” 8

There is rabid Racism in the Book of Mormon and throughout the Church’s history. Why would a Church led by the Savior have allowed so much of this unbridled abhorrent behavior go on for so long in His Church?

The Book of Mormon paints a very narrow viewpoint regarding the concept of beauty. It seems, that anyone who is non-Caucasian, whose skin pigmentation is darker, is also “filthy”, “loathsome” or “not enticing.”

“21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

Second Nephi; Chapter 5, Verse 21

6 And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.

Alma; Chapter 3, Verse 6

15 And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites;

Third Nephi; Chapter 2, Verses 15

“…their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people.”

2 Nephi 30:6

What a toxic, counter-intuitive perspective, Does not every reasonable person recognize that natural beauty is inherent in all humanity – inclusive of all and exclusive of none.

Are the racist statements contained in the Book of Mormon Christ-like or do they represent moral depravity? Is the condemnation of another human being, solely because of the color of their skin, something the Lord would give such prominence to in ‘another testament to Him?’

Sadly, Mormon racism does not end at the Book of Mormon, there have been so many disgusting statements made by Mormon Prophets and Apostles who claim not just to be disciples of, but spokesmen for, the Master.

Brigham Young, ‘prophet, seer, and revelator’ shared his view of our African American brothers and sisters:

“You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race — that they should be the “servant of servants;” and they will be, until that curse is removed.9

“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so.”
10

“Not only was Cain called to suffer, but because of his wickedness, he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures…. they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning.” 11

Lovely!

As well, rather than being a leader in human and civil rights, the Church did very little.

The Church did not support the civil rights movement, in fact, Black leaders urged the boycott of Mormon Tabernacle Choir products and the NAACP brought discrimination charges against the Utah Boy Scouts for forbidding black members from assuming senior patrol positions. Many college athletes refused to even play Brigham Young University teams, and protestors picketed the Church’s twice-yearly general conferences in Salt Lake City.

During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Mormon apostles and other leaders continued to preach racist and discriminatory Mormon doctrines affecting persons of color.

Bruce R. McConkie taught that, “Negroes are not equal with other races” in spiritual matters and that this is God’s law, not man’s. Mark E. Petersen proclaimed that “people are born black because of their inadequate performance in the pre-existence. “

McConkie didn’t make his hurtful racist statement in 1830, but at a time when men and women of good will in this country were matching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. seeking equal human rights for ALL of God’s children. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, even human secularist leaders spoke up, but not Mormons. And sadly, it was not just LDS leaders whose silence was deafening but also the Mormon rank and file, yet it was the connection between religion, civil rights, and social justice found within “local people of faith” who did most of the actual work of the civil rights movement.

I regret the several derogatory terms of racial bigotry and hatred expressed in the following direct quotes by the ‘Prophets’ and ‘Apostles’ of the Mormon Church, but I think it is important to show the level of intense racism, and the abhorrent demeanor of, the leadership of this relatively young Church.

Former Mormon Bishop, Lee B. Baker has assembled, derogatory terms describing African Americans used by the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in official publications, scriptures, doctrine, and training for decades:

“Nigger” (89 times), “Darky” (15 times), “Sambo” (25 times) and “Skin of Blackness” (110 times). 12

It is also of value to note that while almost all other denominations have apologized for their past racism, in contrast, LDS Church leaders, while generically criticizing past racism, have carefully avoided any criticism of past Presidents and Apostles very carefully.

Having said that, the Church needs to be given credit for trying to put an end to any systemic racism, as this message delivered by Gordon B. Hinckley, at the April 2006 General Conference illustrates:

“Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. I was there in the temple at the time that that happened. There was no doubt in my mind or in the minds of my associates that what was revealed was the mind and the will of the Lord.

Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?

Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.

Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.”

LGBTQ Policies

lgbtq

Many Mormons, as well as non-Mormons, view the recent harsh administrative policies devastating the lives of many LGBTQ members sadly with many tragic results as un-Christlike.

The new policy calls for mandatory church discipline for LGBTQ individuals married to those of the same gender. It also bars the children of LGBTQ parents from baptism and other saving rights until they are 18 years of age, and then, in a rule that would have fit well within the ‘Nuremburg Laws’ of Nazi Germany, only if they openly disavow their parents’ relationship.

If the Church chooses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, they have every ‘legal’ right at present to do so. But I have a problem with the children of gay or lesbian parents also being barred from membership in the Church in the face of my Lord’s admonition to, “suffer the children to come unto me and forbid them not.”

Wendy Montgomery, a co-founder of the Mama Dragons, a group of Mormon mothers with gay children, reported that she had been told 32 young LGBTQ Mormons have recently died by their own hand.

While the families who have suffered these great losses requested privacy, given the tragedy of suicide and the alarm this report has raised in the LDS LGBTQ community, the Deseret News asked experts for insight and solutions. These experts explained that it’s all about support. Parents, friends and religious congregations could help prevent suicides by thinking carefully about what they say and do and by welcoming, accepting and supporting LGBTQ people.13

The Utah Attorney General has commented that statistics show that “… Suicide is the number one cause of death of Utah children ages 10-17.”

This comes as no surprise when more LGBTQ youth find themselves disenfranchised even disowned by zealous religious parents, who now feel more compelled than ever to choose between their child and their church.

Many active Church members, gay and straight, young and old, see this uncharitable, unkind and unloving move for what it is: another unabashed rejection of LGBTQ members.

And the cost in human terms is great. The evidentiary research done by the Family Acceptance Project which tells us that children who experience high levels of rejection are:

  • More than eight times as likely to attempt suicide
  • Nearly six times as likely to report high levels of depression
  • More than three times as likely to use illegal drugs
  • More than three times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and STIs

Political science professor Benjamin Knoll discusses the link between Mormonism and teen suicide in his paper, “Youth Suicide Rates and Mormon Religious Context: An Additional Empirical Analysis,”

Knoll reports that youth in the 15-19 age group who live in states with heavy Mormon populations are at higher risk for suicide. As Knoll put it, “These are objectively small numbers, but it means that (again, controlling for other factors) youth suicides are twice as high in states with the highest levels of Mormon residents compared to states with the lowest levels of Mormon residents.”

This association did not exist in any statistically significant way in 2009. There is a greater frequency of teen suicide in 2014 versus 2009 in Mormon-heavy states such as Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Alaska. In those states, teen suicide is increasing at higher rates than it is in many (not all) other states; in Utah, the rate has doubled since 2009.

This study shows definitively that youth who live in areas with higher Mormon populations are at a greater risk for suicide.

IMPORTANT: If you or someone you know are suffering because of the LDS Church’s policies toward sexual orientation, please reach out for help call: 1-800-273-8255, TheNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or 911.

If you are in pain because of issues relating to your sexual orientation and your Mormon faith, please recognize that a suicidal crisis is almost always temporary. Although it might seem that your unhappiness and your hurt will never end, it will end. Don’t let suicide rob you of the better times that will come your way. Regardless of what the Mormon Church teaches, you are as God made you and are of great value.

Please believe me that your perspective will broaden and “a year down the road,” the problems that currently seems catastrophic will have passed and you will go on to have a great life.

But most of all do not keep suicidal thoughts to yourself.

Help is available for you, call a friend, a family member, teacher, a therapist. Find a nonjudgmental individual you trust and let them know how bad things are. This can be your first step on the road to healing. You are a child of God, and HE loves you unconditionally. Hang in there.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”

Psalm 34:18

Take courage too from the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a tendency to suddenly reverse its policies when enough outside pressure is applied. The Church’s major revisions were clearly driven by cultural, economic, legal and political changes, even though the Church attributes them to ‘revelation.’

The most recent past injunctions to be overthrown, of course, was the ban on Blacks holding the priesthood and barbaric practice of polygamy. This pattern suggests to me that eventually, the Church will likewise change its stance on homosexuality.

Equal rights issues are significant to Americans and in the future, perhaps not even that distant a future, the Church’s discrimination against an identifiable minority will result in not just sanctions being applied to it, but devastating public relations emerging from it.

Today the LDS Church’s forbids “same-sex attracted” individuals, as they like to call them, to love and marry or even retain their membership or that of their children. But the top of any large organization is a very political place.

The old right-wing white men at the top the hierarchy, Boyd Packard, and his ilk are departing, at an almost acceptable rate, and hard as it might seem when we witness Dallin Oaks being promoted to the first presidency, appear eventually more inclusive men will emerge.

When there is the right mix of political, legal and most of all economic pressure, the time will be ripe for a revelation.

They are already opening the door. In its essay on polygamy, while the Church affirms its defense of traditional marriage, “Marriage between one man and one woman is God’s standard for marriage,” it also provides the caveat, “unless He declares otherwise.”

I believe that when the ‘brethren’ pray hard enough for what they want to hear, they will hear it.

The Role of Women in the Church

woman.jpgSome would argue, that women are given a structurally subordinate role in the LDS Church.

While most religions are attempting to equalize the roles and responsibilities of men and women, Mormonism is one of the exceptions. Indeed, the role of women in the Church has not changed significantly since Joseph Smith’s day.

As Bruce R. McConkie put it, “… Woman’s primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband.”

Wow!

When it comes to gender roles, the Mormon Church still clings to the increasingly outmoded beliefs of the nineteenth century.

Mormon women are still discouraged from seeking full-time employment, particularly in any career that might demand large amounts of time away from home. No such constraint, of course, on men.

Being an unmarried Mormon woman is especially problematic. They are counseled to seek marriage to a worthy man, failing which, they are told they will be married in the after-life, presumably to a man who has at least one other wife, or to one of the “odd” Mormon men who did not marry in this life. Now there is something to look forward to!

LDS theology is right wing and socially conservative. The Church actively supported the 2008 Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex marriage in the state. This proposition was eventually ruled unconstitutional. The Church also opposed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the 1970s.

A careful review of official LDS Church literature, including conference talks and articles from the Church’s Ensign magazine, by Professor Ryan Cragun, a sociologist of religion at the University of Tampa in Florida found that despite shifting mores in the rest of American society between the 1970s and today, the LDS Church’s views toward gender roles remain unchanged.

“We thought for sure they were going to soften the way they think about this [gender roles] — maybe they won’t talk about gender differences as innate and essential,”

“One of the things that really did surprise us is that there hasn’t been a shift in gender discourse in the Mormon Church over the last 40 years,” Cragun commented.

A convincing argument can be made, that the leadership roles that women play in the Church are, if anything, is being diminished. As late as 1946 women used to be “allowed” to give blessings to other women. That is, until Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith wrote the Relief Society, saying it would be “far better for us to follow the plan the Lord has given us and send for the Elders of the Church to come and administer to the sick and afflicted.”

In 1995, the First Presidency of the Church issued what it rather hyperbolically entitled a “Proclamation tothe World,” in which it states that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Fathers are to “preside over their families in love and righteousness and are to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”

The Relief Society was never consulted nor did it participate in the crafting of this Proclamation.

Sadly, Mormon women who, too visibly or vocally seek a greater role for women in the Mormon Church, are quickly silenced by the all-male leadership, often through excommunication. Lynne Kanavel Whitesides, Avraham Gileadi, Maxine Hanks, Lavina Fielding Anderson the four female members of the “September Six” were disfellowshipped or excommunicated in 1993.

One of the most recent examples is the excommunication of Kate Kelly, a feminist whose organization, Ordain Women, had lobbied for women’s’ admission to the Mormon priesthood.

But the greatest harm and abuse the Mormon Church brought to the lives of women was the practice of polygamy. It was a cruel practice that destroyed the lives of many women. One only need to read the diaries of the poor souls who fell victim to this evil practice that Gordon Hinckley merely dismisses as, “not doctrinal.”

Larry King asked Hinckley during an interview on his television program September 8, 1998, about the Church’s history of polygamy. His response was:

“I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law.”

If, in the name of Christ, it is not doctrinal? Does this mean then that the DOCTRINE and Covenants is not inerrant? Is Section 132 just an erroneous revelation, like the one directing Oliver Cowdery, et al. to travel to Canada to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon?

Granted, Hinckley was an old man even then and probably not anticipating any probing questions from a softball reporter like Larry King, but not doctrinal?

Section 132:4 doesn’t say this is a covenant for 165 years and then will be expunged. It says it is an ‘everlasting covenant’ and “no one (Gordon Hinckley) can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my [the Lord’s} glory.”

Why couldn’t Hinckley have just been honest and have said, yes, it is part of our doctrine and beliefs but we no longer practice it because it is illegal or even, Joseph Smith got it wrong, and it was a disgraceful practice which we now correctly disavow. But to say it is non-doctrinal leads to the inimitable conclusion that Smith then must have created it as a cover for his sexual cravings and proclivities.

Regarding these last two points, LGBTQ and women’s rights, it would seem like the Church still holds the view, expressed by Boyd K. Packer that the three “enemies” of the Church are, “…the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement, and the ever-present challenge from ‘so-called’ scholars or intellectuals.” 14.

The Church’s Secrecy when it Comes to its Finances

money

While it is difficult to accurately determine the wealth of the Mormon Church as, unlike other nations, United States legislation does not require transparency and the Church certainly does not volunteer any financial information. There are however jurisdictions outside of the United States that require financial reporting if not accountability, and from those data, we can extrapolate.

In Canada, there are about 185,000 members, mostly in the Western provinces. If we take the reported Canadian donations (approximately $500,000,000) and divide by the number of active members, it shows that Canadian members gave a little less than 8% of their income to the Church.

If we were to assume that active U.S. members give at a similar rate as Canadians, total U.S. tithing would be more than $6 billion. Members from the rest of the world, where donation rates are much lower would add another ½ billion in total donations. So, we have a reasonable estimate of $7 billion each year in tithing income alone.

Likewise, by using statistics from Canada and other countries that also require disclosure of the value of the Churches assets and spending. The total value of church buildings, temples and meeting houses would be about $35 billion.

The Church has, of course, substantial for-profit business concerns which include among many other things, a $2 billion megamall in Salt Lake City, an insurance business with assets worth $3.3 billion, a media organization with 17 radio and at least one TV station and an agricultural company that owns reportedly 1 million acres in the United States alone.

The Church does, however, provide greater transparency when it comes to its charitable contributions. Since 1985 the church has spent a total of $1.4 billion on relief for disasters such as Japan’s earthquake and Ethiopian famine. A great deal of money, yes but less than it spent to build one super-mall in Salt Lake City and far less than 1% of the likely $200 billion the Church made from tithes in those thirty-two years.

How much do Church leaders make? It is very difficult to say, due to the extreme culture of secrecy surrounding finances in the Church, these estimates can only be treated as speculative.

We know however that in Canada where disclosure is required by law, in 2009 the average salary paid to Church employees was $ 83,000 ($95,300 in today’s dollars). Two of the Church employees earned between 80,000 and $120,000, 6 between $120,000 and $160,000 and the two at the top between $160,000 and $200,000 ($230,000 in 2017 dollars).

One would assume that senior Church leaders in the United States would make substantially more than mid-level ‘managers’ in Canada. It has been estimated to be in the range of $300,000 to $800,000 per year, but this is just speculation, we really don’t know.

How much is paid by way of covered expenses and how much in cash? We don’t know.

But it is a fact that Apostles serve on the boards of the many of the Church controlled multi-billion dollar for-profit entities, such as Deseret Management Corp. ($1.2 billion in annual receipts), AgReserves, Hawaii Reserves, Polynesian Cultural Center ($59 million in annual profits), Beneficial Life Insurance (a $3 billion-dollar fund insurance company), Intellectual Reserve Inc., Deseret Trust Co., Ensign Peak Advisors, etc.

What are the directors’ fees paid to the Church leaders? We Don’t know.

Are stocks and shares are distributed among the many General Authorities.? We don’t know.

All financial records of these corporations are closed to public scrutiny by deliberate legal constructs the Church has designed. By forming the Corporation Sole of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is a separate entity than the Church, it makes the discovery of these board payments nearly impossible.

The point is, however, not how wealthy the Church is, although it might be argued that in a world where children still starve to death, this wealth might be better used than buying $2 billion malls, but the total lack of transparency.

If I invest a $100 in Exxon, I have a right to view that corporation’s financial statements. Why when I contribute a good deal more in tithing, to the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints am I refused any accountability?

If there were just one or two issues that would be one thing, but are many.

Max Weber also noted, that there is a tendency for those at the top of bureaucracies to lose touch with what is going on below, after all where is the problem? Life is very good at the top.

 Mormon apostles don’t live the humble life Christ’s apostles did. They live very ‘high on the hog.’ They are given a generous salary, great benefits, prestige, and the fawning adoration of true believers, sycophants and those whose livelihood depends on remaining in the power brokers good graces.

As well, in real “Emperors’ New Clothes” fashion, even constructive criticism or bad news from below is carefully vetted and filtered by minions and underlings who fear being shot as the messenger.

I have been told that my letter will not reach you President Uchtdorf. I will be sorry if it does not because I want to add my voice to the many others who could tell you that all is not well in Zion.

The Titanic cannot be turned around quickly, but it is not too late to enter that turn, for the Lord knows that a change in direction is dearly needed. An enormous iceberg looms on the horizon, and that berg is named truth.

The Mormon Church has done much good and helped many people through its well-publicized humanitarian efforts over the years. and I believe you cannot find better, more honest, decent people than Latter-Day Saints.

But I feel that if those at the helm do not embrace a new, more open and less defensive approach, these dear souls may eventually be harmed.

If I didn’t care about the Church, the truth and most of all the members I would not have gone to all this trouble.

Thomas Jefferson taught that “However discomfiting a free exchange may be, the truth will ultimately emerge the victor.”

There have been many leaders in the Church that have given at least lip service to the diligent search for truth;

“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

Reuben Clark

“If a faith will not bear to be investigated: if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundationmust be very weak.”

George Albert Smith

“This book [“The Book of Mormon”] is entitled to the most thorough and impartial examination. Not only does it merit such consideration, it claims, even demands the same.”

James E. Talmage

“Well, we have nothing to hide. Our history is an open book…”

Gordon B. Hinckley

Why not prove them right?

Questioning, doubt, critical thinking, and yes, even debate should be tolerated, not discouraged or punished as it is now.

The growth the Church experienced in the last century shows the bureaucratic structure has served the Church well, but this organizational form, that has functioned so effectively in the past may now actually destroy it.

I think dramatic new and open approaches are called for. I don’t presume to know what form this should take. Perhaps a series of informal, unrehearsed, unscripted televised round tables with a free exchange of ideas and concerns might be a step in the right direction. If done honestly, these ‘town hall’ type of meetings which would include the participation of the brighter general authorities as well as faithful members, questioning members and non-members – both men and women.

Would that take courage? Yes. Would it make some members aware of issues they are unaware of presently? Unquestionably.

But, you must surely be aware of all these issues. It would be truly frightening if, in the position, you find yourself, you have not thoroughly investigated each of them.

I assume that despite having done so, you are still a believer.

President Uchtdorf, how can you possibly hold a sincere “testimony” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Gospel it proclaims in the face of these challenging questions unless you have compelling answers to them?

In the name of Jesus Christ, and on behalf of the growing number of members who are hungering and thirsting for the truth, I am asking you, if in fact, you have any answers, share them.                

A real spiritual witness is powerful and important, but If we have serious, reasoned objections that fairly and wholly take into consideration the available evidence surely a “burning in the bosom” cannot negate those legitimate concerns. Proverbs 28:26 teaches that; “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.”

There is considerable evidence that ‘feel good feelings’ are not always reliable as a means of determining veracity.

Unlike the Book of Mormon, the truth of the Bible does not require that we abandon critical thinking and just pray for a ‘good feeling’ to prove it true.

The truthfulness of the Holy Bible is obvious to anyone willing to investigate it. Unlike the Book of Mormon, the Bible is self-consistent and extraordinarily authentic. Its geography exists, many of its characters have been verified. Unlike the Book of Mormon, the Bible has been confirmed countless times by archaeology and other sciences. It possesses divine insight into the nature of the universe and it has made correct predictions about future events with perfect accuracy.

I don’t doubt you must have strong feelings about the Church. However, I question whether these feelings are enough to suspend all application of intellect.

People from all religions report having the same feelings that witness to them that their religion and beliefs are true.

Aliza Kim a young devout Muslim shares her testimony:

“After reciting the Shahadah, what I felt cannot be accurately described. I felt a rushing sensation go through me which felt like a thorough cleansing. I felt pure and was given lightness, peace and genuine happiness. I had never felt such innocent gladness like that in my life. And, those feelings have stayed on till this day, and I know they will be with me until my last day in this world. I am happy with Allah, my Maker and with my chosen religion.” 15

If Moroni’s challenge works for Mormons and their faith, certainly the same principle must work for Moslems and theirs, Jews and theirs and Catholics and theirs. Surely you are not so arrogant to claim exclusivity when it comes to gifts of the spirit.

Indeed, many non-Mormons would describe this ‘burning in the bosom’ sensation as simply “heartwarming,” a warm feeling related to an emotional response or passionate elation. The event or drama which generates it need not be true. It may come from watching a ‘tear-jerker’ movie where the protagonist dies saving his friend or listening to a rousing rendition of the National Anthem or the Battle Hymn of the Republic or just reading one of Paul Dunn’s, ‘war stories.’

Like other members, I had viewed your calling to the first presidency as a breath of fresh air. But as I see it, you now have a choice. You can continue to attend temple dedications and appear on the scene at American natural disasters and cut the ribbons at new malls and continue to live a life of privilege, wealth and ease. You can continue to go along and get along with your Church broke colleagues, or you can lead and make a difference by addressing the legitimate questions I have enumerated here.

I hope you will take this in the spirit it is given,

I have been direct, even blunt, but you strike me as a man who would prefer candor to approbation. If it was wrong to ask why I will know soon enough.

While it should not be necessary to say it, my faith crisis is based solely on the problems and issues I have identified in this letter. While I have been told I don’t suffer fools gladly, my misgivings do not represent hostile aggression on my part or come in response to someone looking at me the wrong way at church.

My misgivings with the LDS Church, have come after examining and researching Joseph Smith and the history of the Church from LDS-friendly sources. Sources such as the Journal of Discourses, Lectures on Faith, official Church records, documents, talks, letters and the scriptures themselves, and thoughtfully, even prayerfully asking for help, as I am doing here.

Dr. John Dehlin has done work exploding the following five most common myths associated with why faithful members leave the church:

  1. Someone offended them: No one hurt me, I love and respect my friends and family many of whom are committed members.
  2. A desire to sin: I am 70 years old, so it’s a little late for that!
  3. Never had a testimony in the first place: Again wrong, I wouldn’t have served in various callings, paid my tithing or attended the temple if I had never believed.
  4. Lazy, not reading the scriptures: I love the New Testament and read it often; admittedly the Book of Mormon, not so much.
  5. Studying anti-Mormon literature: While we might disagree as to what anti-Mormon Literature is, I certainly have not gone down that rabbit hole. It is easy to identify people who hate or those whose agenda is to destroy. I would not, however, consider the work of Richard Bushman, Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Fawn Brodie, B. H. Roberts, Dan Vogel or Grant Palmer, Mormon Stories or even Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, and the award-winning Broadway hit “The Book of Mormon.” as anti-Mormon.

As it happens, and quite unintentionally, I am writing this letter to you on Father’s Day 2017. My father, Thomas Douglas was a truthful and honorable man. He taught me in his humble way that truth is essential, it endures forever, and we should dauntlessly seek to know it. The Lord too admonished us to pursue the truth, for “… the truth will set you free.”

I cannot dishonor my father’s memory by placing all these weighty problems on my drooping shelf and then just walk away.

You will remember that Christ told Pilate before his agonizing death, “… for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”

There is a wonderful allegory in Book Seven of Plato’s; The Republic often referred to platoas ‘Plato’s Cave.’         

It tells the story of many men held prisoner, chained and shackled such that they cannot look to their left or their right or behind themselves but only forward at the wall in front of them. Behind them is a blazing fire and between them and the fire is a walkway where men carry statues and other large objects.

All that the prisoners can see is the shadows of the objects that appeared on the cave wall in front of them which they then talk to each other about. Some of the older prisoners, ‘the elders,’ have developed explanations as to what these shadows represent; what their meaning is.

Then one day, a prisoner is released. Now free to wander around the cave, he sees the fire, and many of the objects moved in front of it. This former prisoner finally comes to understand the origins of the shadows, and to his amazement, he sees that the shadows were often misinterpreted.

He hurries back to share with his fellow prisoners the true meaning of the shadows, what the truth is.

But rather than welcome and embrace the reality, many of his former friends ridiculed him, particularly the elders, who even seek to take his life.

Finally, the freed prisoner is let out of the cave into the world beyond, a world filled with radiant sunshine where he can now see the fullness of reality illuminated by the brilliance of the sun.

I am speaking to my dear brothers and sisters here, you and I are like those prisoners. We see as it says in Corinthians, through a glass darkly. We live in a world where, like the prisoners, our knowledge is imperfect, a world of conjecture and illusion.

Some elders presume to know what the shadows mean, but they too are prisoners, and their shackles are just as firmly in place as are our own.

I don’t presume to be that prisoner freed from his chains who now longs to share the truth that only he can see. I am just a fellow prisoner, viewing the shapes and shadows on the wall, but seeking the truth by asking those questions that ‘the elders’ hope the prisoners dare not ask.

We will all leave the cave one day. Will we find in that day, as we enter that new world filled with the dazzling brightness of truth, that we had spent our time in the cave wisely or foolishly?

I hope that what I have written might provide greater clarity regarding the shadows that animate our actions and beliefs. At least it will show that there are alternative interpretations to those presented by the ‘elders.’

On a more optimistic note, the LDS Church has shown that, while rare, it can change. Thousands of changes have been made to the Book of Mormon.

Some of those changes to make it more politically correct, “White and delightsome,” to “Pure and delightsome.”

Others to reflect doctrinal changes; “…beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.” to “…beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.”

Others in response to American political pressure. Witness the suspension of polygamy, and acceptance of Blacks into the priesthood.

So, I would say to anyone reading this, fresh courage take, for when the pressure is on, the ‘Brethren’ receives revelation.

Just my opinion but, if in the future, the United States Government, moves to disallow tax deductibility for organizations discriminating against LGBTQ people as it was moving to do during the Jimmy Carter’s administration for organizations discriminating against African Americans; in that day, the heavens will open!

And while I have my head in my hat, let me say that I believe that women will finally be invited to play a meaningful leadership role in the Church, that an accommodation will be made for same-sex unions in some manner, practicing gay men and women will find a home in the Church and the ill-conceived policy of banning the children of Gay parents from Church membership will be lifted.

Why? Because the principal goal of any bureaucracy is viability – survival, and the LDS Church is certainly no exception.

None of these changes will make the Mormon Church any more or less true they will just advance the Church’s desire to be viewed as a mainstream Christian religion.

President Uchtdorf truth matters; it is a value, not an issue as the Church too often seems to view it.

I wrote to you asking these difficult questions not solely for myself, an insignificant sinner, but for of the myriad credulous men and women who put their unwavering faith in you and your colleagues. Particularly I wrote this in behalf of the generation of innocent little children who deserve to grow up knowing what is true.

If you ever read this open letter to you, I would still like to hear from you.

Let me end by offering you all my very best wishes for your future and leave you with this quote by Thomas Jefferson:

“Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.”

Pauly

Your brother,

Paul Douglas

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Galatians 4:16

References

1 Kathy Erickson, letter to the Salt Lake Phantom or Ex-Mormons (difference) Tribune, 11 March 11, 2001.

2 Joseph Smith “King Follett Discourse,” Journal of Discourses 6:3-4,

3 Brigham Young – Prophet, 2nd President, Journal of Discourses 7:333.

4 Milton R. Hunter, General Authority “The Gospel Through the Ages”, 1945, p 104).

5 Joseph Fielding Smith, Prophet, 10th President Doctrines of Salvation 1:10,

6 Bruce R. McConkie – Apostle Mormon Doctrine, 1966 edition p. 250.

7 The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1984], 1.

8 Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:21

9 Brigham Young, President and second ‘Prophet’ of the Mormon Church, 1844-1877 – Quotation from Journal of Discourses

10 Brigham Young, President and second ‘Prophet’ of the Mormon Church, 1863, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, p. 110.

11 Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 101, 1935

12 Mormonism, A Life Under False Pretenses, Lee B. Baker

13 Ted Walch & Lois M. Collins, Deseret News, January 28, 2016

14 Boyd K. Packer, Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council, 5/18/93.

15 The Truth That Found Me by Aliza Kim (January 2014) LGBTQ Policies.

A Few Comments on Uchtdorf’s Response

A Few Comments on President Uchtdorf Reply

Within just ten days of mailing my letter to president Uchtdorf, I received the reply below from a Brook Hales, secretary to the president. It might have come even earlier but for the fact that it was returned in the same, now torn, packaging I dispatched it in and postage due. Perhaps Brook doesn’t realize that Alberta is not one of the 50 United States.

I had also enclosed with my letter to president Uchtdorf a gift, specifically a Judean coin from the time of Christ which was neither acknowledged nor returned.

Nevertheless, I agree with Hales that I have asked the ‘wrong people’ for help.

As I say in my letter, I had only faint hope that Elder Uchtdorf would read my letter. However, by the content of his secretary’s short response, it would appear that neither did he.

I say this because of Hales bewildering comment that I asked the ‘wrong questions;’ and that I should have asked (and he lists them) the very questions which I did in fact ask!

Did God the Father and Jesus Christ appear to Joseph Smith?

Question #9

Was Smith a true prophet?

Question #7, #14, #15, #16, #17 and #18

Was the Book of Mormon translated by the gift and power of God?

Questions # 5, #12, and #13

Is the Book of Mormon a true record?

Questions #1, #2, #3 and #11

Are the keys of the priesthood resident in the church today?

Question #8, #19

Is the church true?

Questions #1 through #36

As well, I can’t say I am not a little disappointed with the tone of a letter coming out of an apostle’s office and the blame-the-doubter approach. This tactic is getting a little old, and I certainly do not apologize to Hales or his boss for having the audacity to ask WHY.

Hales concludes, what is clearly a form letter, by pulling out that old missionary Chestnut, Moroni 10: 3-7, which he calls a ‘formula.’

Hales suggests that if one would just sincerely pray to Heavenly Father, he will not be deceived but, “will know the truth.”

The Holy Bible never gives that assurance. 2 Cor. 11:14 says that Satan often transforms himself into an angel of light, and 1 Timothy 4:1 warns of seducing spirits.

As I say in my letter, it is possible for a person to sincerely pray and still end up being sincerely wrong!

I do believe that the Lord answers prayers, but we must be cautious ever cognizant of the fact that our ‘good and warm feelings’ may also be a result of the complex subconscious needs and desires that stir and animate us.

The Mormon Church would have you believe that truth it is not about facts, it is all about feeling.

I disagree with this. I think the truth is something that we must pursue. The proverb tells us, “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Matthew says it exquisitely, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

What are the indicators that something is likely true:

  • Conformity – Something that is true conforms to reality, it fits the facts.
  • Non-contradiction – Truth does not controvert or contradict other things which are also true.

The essence of my letter to president Uchtdorf focused on these criteria.

First, does the Book of Mormon conform to reality? Is the Book of Mormon just a poorly written 19th Century work of fiction?

Does Smith’s character and behavior – sex with 14-year old girls, his lengthy criminal ‘rap-sheet’, his polygamy and polyandry and his lies and denials regarding these things comport with a Prophet of God?

Did Joseph Smith see God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ as he claims in his last iteration of his ‘First Vision?”

Is the priesthood even necessary after the Lord’s Ascension?

Second, if the Bible is the word of God, then the Book of Mormon should be consistent with the teachings found in the Bible. Why then does the Mormon doctrine of salvation stress works in addition to grace?

Why do Mormons believe that humans (or more accurately, men) can achieve godhood where the Bible and Christians see this proposition as absurd, even blasphemous? 

The whole purpose of my letter to an Apostle was to simply discover what is true.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

Aldous Huxley

Paul Douglas
August 2017

The following is the response I received from Uchtdorf’s office:

reply

PS Someone was kind enough to supply me with a copy of an amazingly similar reply to another questioning member from ‘Brook Hales’ back in 2014. Compare with the letter I received.

jennifer

 

 

FairMormon’s Response

Response to “A Letter to an Apostle”

Summary: