A Letter to an Apostle
The raison d’etre
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.
I 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. So I would look at the statements that Grant Palmer’s GA supposedly 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 the work of
Richard Bushman, Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Fawn Brodie, B. H. Roberts, Dan
Vogel or Grant Palmer however anti-Mormon simply because they have 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 the Mormon Church and 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.
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 there is a very good possiblity that the 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.
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 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.”
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 immediately published a lengthy rebuttal to it. Their confutation can be found at:
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 if not 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.
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;
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?
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
I invite you to read below
A Letter to an Apostle
A Cry from the Canadian Wilderness, below:
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:
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%
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
Click Page 2 Below to View the First Interrogative – The Total Absence of Archaeological or Anthropological Evidence for the Book of Mormon
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?
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.”
The following is the response I received from Uchtdorf’s office:
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.
Response to “A Letter to an Apostle”
Summary: A Letter to an Apostle is an online document which is critical of Latter-day Saint truth claims. The document is comprised of a list of issues that the author states are related to “specific questions I had and still have with the truth claims of the Church”. 
About this work
The text of the July 2017 version of the document is generally respectful in tone, significantly more so than the “Letter to a CES Director,” and generally covers much of the same material.
Mockery comes into play, however, when the document relies heavily upon provocative images to illustrate the points that the author is making and generate emotional triggers, thus destroying any semblance of respectability. Given that the author complains at one point in his document that the Church utilizes “bogus pictures and hangs misleading paintings,” the use of the artwork described below seems hypocritical.
- Image of a Nez Perce war chief riding a tapir – The image is used in several locations within the “Research document” without explanation (pages 16, 53, 58). The original image of a War Chief on a horse is hosted on the First People web site Nez Perce War Chief, with specific instructions that it is “Not to be used on file sharing sites.” Despite this prohibition, a member of the ex-Mormon subreddit modified the image to exchange the horse for a tapir. This is the image that the author includes three times in his letter. It is intended to be a mocking reference to the popular ex-Mormon notion that apologists believe that Native Americans rode tapirs, despite the fact that no such apologetic claim actually exists. The idea of tapirs as a possible “loan-shift” for horses in the Book of Mormon originated with anthropologist John Sorenson. Apologists don’t even claim that Book of Mormon people rode horses.
- The wolf in sheep’s clothing – The author uses a photograph of a wolf wearing sheep’s clothing (pages 19 and 118) when he talks about Joseph Smith being a false prophet.
- The rape victim – The author uses a stock photograph representing a rape victim (page 24 and 166) with a torn nightgown and a large bruise on her arm to illustrate his claim that Joseph Smith bragged that he had “whipped” seven men at once and again later when the author discusses “Joseph’s coercive stratagems,” the implication being that Joseph abused women.
- Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice – The author uses a picture from the 1969 movie “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” (pages 25 and 180) showing two couples in bed together when he discusses Joseph Smith, Emma Smith, William Law and Jane Law.
- Image of Joseph and Emma Smith with a naked woman on the bed in the background – The image is used when the author discusses Fanny Alger (page 150). This image is popular on ex-Mormon web sites.
- Image of a young girl in a nightgown with an adult hand grasping her neck – The author uses a stock photo of a young girl with an adult hand grasping her neck (page 154), listed on the web as “Oppressive man behind a female victim of domestic violence or abuse,” to illustrate Joseph Smith’s marriages to young women.
The following links respond to individual claims contained in the following document:
- Paul A. Douglas, A Letter to an Apostle (Research Document) (July 2017)
Response to claims made in “A Letter to an Apostle” by Paul A. Douglas
JUMP TO SUBTOPIC:
Summary: This section responds to claims made in the actual letter which was sent to President Uchtdorf’s office.
JUMP TO SUBTOPIC:
- Response to claim: “The dearth of any archaeological, anthropological or linguistic evidence of the Book of Mormon chronicles”
- Response to claim: “Would we not find some evidence of the battles in which supposedly more than 2 million soldiers died at the Hill Cumorah – bones, swords, armor, even hair”
- Response to claim: “Is it not disconcerting that virtually every non-Mormon archaeologist, anthropologist or linguist and even some funded by the Mormon Church declare that there is no evidence to support the Book of Mormon narrative?”
- Response to claim: “Thomas Stuart Ferguson…had to admit that, ‘you can’t set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere – because it is fictional'”
- Response to claim: “how can we account for the numerous anachronisms in the Book of Mormon – chariots, horses, goats, wheels, elephants, steel, wheat, etc.?”
- 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?”
- Response to claim: “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”
- Response to claim: “2 Nephi 2:22 asserts as does Alma 12:23 24 that there was no death of any kind upon the earth before the “Fall of Adam,” which the D&C indicates was about 6,000 years ago”
- Response to claim: “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”
- Response to claim: “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?”
- Response to claim: “Joseph’s money digging and his arrest, trial and almost certain conviction for being a “glass looker,” imposter and disorderly person by a justice of the peace in Bainbridge, New York, in 1826”
- Response to claim: “How can we reconcile Joseph Smith’s numerous false prophecies, with the test of a true prophet as found in Deuteronomy 18?”
- Response to claim: Joseph Smith’s prophecy that “the US government would be, ‘utterly overthrown and wasted'”
- Response to claim: Joseph Smith’s prophecy that “a temple would be built in Missouri within Smith’s generation”
- Response to claim: Joseph Smith’s prophecy that “all nations would be involved in the American Civil War”
- Response to claim: Joseph Smith’s prophecy that “he would find treasure in Salem, Massachusetts”
- Response to claim: “when the Book of Commandments was rewritten as the D&C after apostles apostatized, etc., many revelations were modified and failed prophecies removed”
- Response to claim: “Joseph Smith’s various and differing first vision accounts”
- Response to claim: “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”
- Response to claim: “in the first ‘History of the Church,’ written by Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith in 1834, why was there no mention of” the First Vision
- Response to claim: “why would Joseph Smith have written a Trinitarian view of the Godhead in the first edition of the Book of Mormon?”
- 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”
- Response to claim: Joseph Smith “used a rock; he found while digging a well” to translate the Book of Mormon
- Response to claim: Joseph Smith used “the same stone” to translate the Book of Mormon that “he employed in his treasure hunting career”
- Response to claim: “What then was the point of the golden plates and the Urim and Thummim being preserved for 1,500 years, if never to be used in translation?”
- 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?”
- Response to claim: “Why did Joseph Smith’s polygamy pre-date any revelation sanctioning it?”
- Response to claim: “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”
- Response to claim: “FairMormon’s attempt to make it sound like young girls barely past puberty marrying middle aged men was quite common place is deceitful”
- Response to claim: “Joseph Smith may have been a pedophile”
- Response to claim: “Mormon apologists…focus now on the lack of direct evidence that he actually have sex with them. What evidence are they looking for?”
- 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”
- Response to claim: “three weeks after his secret wedding to Sarah Ann Whitney age 17, she received a letter from Joseph instructing her to come to this house that night”=Response to claim:
- Response to claim: “Joseph’s use of coercive stratagems to get women, often young girls, to enter plural marriages with him, including the promise of eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom for her and her family”
- Response to claim: Joseph Smith’s “arrogant and boastful behavior, trumping the Savior himself”
- Response to claim: “Why was the restoration of the priesthood not reported by Joseph and Oliver Cowdrey until years later and then earlier revelations changed to match that account?”
- Response to claim: “Joseph and Emma’s disturbing attempts…to partner swap with William and Jane Law”
- Response to claim: “Joseph’s ordering the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor for unmasking his polygamy”
- Response to claim: “the many similarities between the Book of Mormon and The View of the Hebrews”
- Response to claim: “the many similarities between the Book of Mormon and ..The Golden Pot”
- Response to claim: “the many similarities between the Book of Mormon and…The First Book of Napoleon”
- Response to claim: “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”
- Response to claim: “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”
- Response to claim: “Joseph’s gross mistranslation of the Egyptian papyri that formed the basis of the Book of Abraham”
- Response to claim: “The embarrassing Kinderhook Plates episode wherein primary sources show that Joseph “translated” forged items with meaningless symbols”
- Response to claim: “Why did Joseph Smith misidentify a simple Greek Psalter, as an Egyptian document?”
- Response to claim: “Was it pure coincidence that Freemasonry symbols, signs and tokens were incorporated into the temple ceremonies shortly after Joseph becomes a Mason?”
- Response to claim: “The Church speaks of the “Fullness of the Gospel” in the Book of Mormon, but many essential elements are not contained therein”
- Response to claim: “Why was it necessary to make thousands of changes to the Book of Mormon, ‘the most correct book in the world?'”
- Response to claim: “Can it not be argued that changes made to core doctrines of the Church such as outlawing polygamy and Blacks in the priesthood, were in direct response to American political pressure?”==
- Response to claim: “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'”
- Response to claim: Martin Harris “tells us that because they had not seen a physical object, only a vision of them, some balked but were eventually persuaded by Smith to sign the document he had prepared”
- Response to claim: “Why does the Book of Mormon mention the …use of the word Bible, crucifixion, and synagogue?”
- Response to claim: “Why does the Book of Mormon incorrectly state that Jesus was born in Jerusalem?”
- Response to claim: “How do we overcome the problem of large populations and armies arising in such a short period?”
Below are links to a number of websites and blogs that I feel can help both those who are struggling with their faith as well as those who simply want to know more about Mormonism. I recommend each of them.
MormonThink – Presenting a range of perspectives and viewpoints concerning LDS history, privileging those they believe are the most accurate, consistent and empirically valid. This is the go to place for individuals with questions about the LDS church. It is fair-minded and tells the whole story – both sides. It is extremely well organized and comprehensive.
Investigating Mormonism, by Richard Packham Richard Packham is a brilliant writer and thinker and provides a corpus of valuable material for those wanting to investigate the Mormon religion from an intellectual perspective.
Mormon Stories John Dehlin is a straight-shooter and has interviewed almost everybody with an important story to tell about the Mormon Experience. Mormon Stories does not have an axe to grind and the conversations are well worth watching.
Utah Lighthouse Ministry Sandra Tanner with her late husband Jerald, dared to critically examine one of the richest and most powerful religious organizations in the world – at a time and in a place, the 1960s in Salt Lake City, Utah when to do so was not only ill-advised but dangerous. Great information.
LeeBaker.4Mormon.org Lee and his wife Kathy are committed and caring Christians who are tirelessly and selflessly trying to bring Mormons to Christ. Lee is a former Bishop in the LDS Church which affords us through him valuable insights into the operation of the Church at the grass roots. The site is excellent.
Richkelsey.org Rich is a very bright guy and not at all mean-spirited. His articles are a wonderful read, and his research on the LDS Church both thorough and impressive.
Dan Vogel Few people have delved as deeply into Mormon History in a scholarly way as Dan. No nonsense and absolutely reliable information. It is easy to get hooked on his YouTube video as I have. I would also highly recommend his books to anyone who really wants to expand their knowledge of early Mormon history.
Mormon Research Ministry Bill McKeever founder MRM in 1979 in the hope of informing the Body of Christ about the differences between Mormonism and Christianity. He has done a great job and has brought many people to Christ. This is a very comprehensive and important site. It tells the truth but in a loving Christ-like way.
MormonInfo.org I find this site operated by Rob Sivulka to be very worthwhile, particularly as it compares Mormonism to Christianity.
Grant Palmer Sadly we lost Grant in 2017. He left us three important books and numerous articles and YouTube videos. I really honest man who lived a life of service. I would highly recommend his important work to you.