Interrogatory No. 16
Joe & Emma & Bill & Jane
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.
- 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
- 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.
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
Interrogatory No. 17
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
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.
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?
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
Interrogatory No. 18
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?
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
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.”
1 Kathy Erickson, letter to the Salt Lake Tribune, 11 March 11, 2001.
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Interrogatory No. 19
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 an ordinary funerary text, and from a different time, having nothing whatsoever to do with Abraham or anything mentioned in LDS scriptures?
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
Interrogatory No. 20
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?
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 determine the plate’s age accurately. 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
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
Interrogatory No. 21
Was it just a coincidence that just seven weeks after Joseph’s Masonic initiation, that Joseph introduced the LDS endowment ceremony in May 1842?
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 1990s, 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.
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
“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.”
FairMormon says, “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.
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.
- Freedom of speech
- Right to bear arms
- Protection against housing soldiers in civilian home
- Protection against unreasonable search and seizure, protection against the issuing of warrants without probable cause
- Protection against trial without indictment double jeopardy self-incrimination property seizure
- 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
- Right to trial by jury
- Protection against excessive bail excessive fines cruel and unusual punishment
- Rights granted in the Constitution shall not infringe on other rights
- 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!”
1 Ray Anderson, The Book of Mormon, A Voice From 19th Century Dust, Seattle, WA, 2007, pp. 41-42
Interrogatory No. 22
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
“… These last records … shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father, and the Savior …”
“… 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
“… These last records … shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father, and the Savior …”
“… 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 …”
“… Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.”
“… Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.”
Mosiah 9, p. 200 … King Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings …
Mosiah 21:28 … King Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings …
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 …
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 …
2 Nephi 12, p. 117 … and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people.
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…”
“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, and it is not true.
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.
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.”
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,
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 own American Dictionary of the English Language was 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.”
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.
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