This is a summation and not a conclusion. The reader must reach their own conclusions with regard to the validity of Mormonism.
I have tried to provide what from my perspective are the most troubling issues related to the Book of Mormon and the Joseph Smith story. I have tried to interpret the material I present and cite from the perspective of what a reasonable person might find convincing or invalid.
As promised, I have given voice to the many nameless apologists at FairMormon. I think it must be apparent however to anyone familiar with apologists in general or in other areas that the cadre of individuals at FairMormon are bad apologists.
Not only do these apologists confuse unreasonable certainty with reasonable doubt, they act as if they have never heard of Occam’s Razor – that the answer having the fewest assumptions and inconsistencies, and requiring the least elaboration is most likely to be correct. Their arguments are often fallacious and fail to lead logically to their desired conclusions. Even worse, they knowingly present arguments that are false and contradictory, designed solely to prevent the reader from discovering the truth about the issue.
I have organized my concerns in the form of interrogatories as if eliciting information and evidence preparatory to the presentation before a court or tribunal. This construct sees you as the judge.
As I said at the beginning, I genuinely wish that the true Gospel is just as the Mormon church teaches; for what an amazing and beautiful future it portends. To be forever together with loved ones, walking with the Savior, growing, and learning and progressing forever.
That said, let me briefly summarize each of the points of examination and my belief as to what a reasonable person would conclude solely based on the material and arguments I and Mormon apologists have presented herein:
The Book of Mormon
Archeological or Linguistic Evidence Showing the Authenticity of the Book of Mormon
I believe one must conclude that there is no evidence that the peoples and cultures outlined in the Book of Mormon ever existed, indeed there is compelling evidence that the characters and peoples presented in the Book of Mormon are entirely fictional.
It is my considered opinion that no reasonable person could accept that during the 2600 years that the Jaredites, Nephites, and Lamanites supposedly occupied the Americas, they could have done so without leaving so much as a helmet, a tool, any weapons of war, or skeletal remains. As well, the fact that there are no inscriptions in either Hebrew or ‘Reformed Egyptian,’ nor any Semitic roots found within the many languages of the aboriginal people of North, Central, or South America demolishes the Mormon apologists arguments.
Anachronisms in the Book of Mormon
The numerous anachronisms in the Book of Mormon point to the book being a work of 19th Century fiction written by an individual or individuals largely ignorant of pre-Columbian America. Absent any convincing explanation for the myriad anachronism contained in the Book of Mormon the apologists have resorted to absurd rationalizations epitomized by the suggestion that the horses spoken of in the book were deer or tapirs.
DNA Evidence Supporting the Book of Mormon Story
The overwhelming evidence is that the native peoples of North, South and Central America have Asian DNA markers. Hebrew, Semitic, or Middle Eastern DNA that would support the Book of Mormon story are completely absent. The church’s change to the Book of Mormon people being among rather than there principal ancestors is evidence that it recognizes how damaging science is to the BOM narrative.
Book of Mormon Plagiarism
The Book of Mormon shows considerable evidence of widespread plagiarism from numerous sources including the King James Version of the Bible as well as other contemporary works of fiction available to Joseph Smith. Further, the nature of the plagiarism is often anachronistic. The dominant narrative of the Book of Mormon with warring dark and light-skinned peoples eventually destroying one another was suggested by other other books published prior to the BOM including View of the Hebrews.
The Dearth of Jewish Customs in the Book of Mormon
Unlike the Bible, there is no mention of Passover, Ark of the Covenant, Circumcision, or the Day of Atonement in the Book of Mormon. The importance of these things to the Jewish tradition cannot be overstated.
There is a brief mention of the Year of Jubilee as the apologists assert, however it would seem reasonable that devout adherent Jews would speak of celebrating Passover, the commemoration so central to the Jewish faith.
How the Book of Mormon was Translated
Joseph never used the Gold Plates to translate the Book of Mormon; rather he utilized a magic rock he found in a well which he had previously used during his questionable treasure-hunting career. Putting his head in his hat, besides being bizarre, also begs the question; why were the Gold Plates created and preserved for thousands of years just to be used as a prop? How would the church membership today respond to the current president sticking his head in his hat to determine policy or receive ‘revelation?’
The Most Correct Book in the World
There have been thousands of changes made to the Book of Mormon. Many of them substantive – not just spelling and grammar as the apologists would have you believe. The Book of Mormon might be more accurately labeled the most ‘corrected book in the world.’
Testimony of the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon
There is evidence that each of the three witnesses confessed at some point that they only saw the plates and angel by. “visions of the mind,” or “second sight.” Statements by Whitmer and Harris make it clear that their experiences were much more subjective than the testimony statement written by Joseph Smith for their signature would suggest.
Martin Harris was by any standard a gullible and superstitious man. He stated publicly that neither he nor the other witnesses viewed the gold plates with their real eyes. His words and actions make him an unreliable witness.
Nevertheless, there is also conflicting yet compelling evidence that the three witnesses stated to their dying day that their testimony was true. This is the thing I have grappled with the most. Not the testimony of the eight, for Smith could have MacGyvered something to fool them, but the statements of the three witnesses. Wether they actually saw an angel or not, it would appear they believed they did.
Smith’s Undue Influence on Women and Minor Children to Marry Him.
There is much evidence that Smith promised guarantees of eternal life to the families of the young girls he desired. As well there are reports that he suggested he would be killed if his targets did not comply with his wishes. I think any decent, let alone reasonable person, would find him methods of persuasion unconscionable.
It is now acknowledged by the church that Smith married’ many teenage girls, some as young as 14 years of age. The arguments by Mormon apologists that he did not have sexual relations with his child brides are also destroyed by the evidence.
A 37-year-old man marrying and having sexual relations with a 14-year-old child is beyond alarming and was not, as some Mormon apologists suggest, a common occurrence in Smith’s day.
Polygamy and Polyandry
Likewise, Smith’s marriage to, and sexual relations with, women already married to other men is vile.
The evidence also shows that Smith ‘married’ Fanny Alger before his alleged revelation on plural marriage, making this ‘”dirty, nasty, filthy affair,‘ as Oliver Cowdrey described it, as just that – an extra-marital adulterous sexual encounter.
Smith’s polygamy and polyandry are further unjustified by the fact that modern-day prophets including Gordon B. Hinckley have said that polygamy is not doctrinal.
I think any reasonable person would conclude that these facts combined with Smith’s serial lying to his associates, followers, and wife about his polygamy throws a negative light on the nature of his character.
Restoration of the Priesthood
The fact that neither Joseph Smith nor Oliver Cowdery testified to church members, nor record anything about the appearances of “John the Baptist” or “Peter, James, and John” in any publications, until five years after the event purportedly took place, creates doubt about its actual occurrence. Likewise, the documented fact that Smith and Cowdery changed the wording of earlier revelations when they compiled the 1835 D&C, adding the appearances of John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John creates suspicion.
Mistranslation the Egyptian Papyri
It is well settled that the papyri Smith purchased were common funerary texts with no nexus to Abraham whatsoever. While Mormon apologists desperately reach for explanations – missing scrolls, the catalyst theory, etc., these suggestions just don’t fit the facts. Joseph’s translation got everything wrong.
Smith’s Numerous False Prophecies
Smith mouthed numerous false prophesies, including but not limited to, the coming of the Lord within 56 years, the United States government being overthrown and Congress broken up, the Saints finding treasure in Salem, Massachusetts, the copyright of the Book of Mormon would being sold in Canada, the Saints enemies being destroyed, the Nauvoo House remaining in the Smith’s family forever, all nation bowing down to the Mormon gospel, the Saints gathering in Independence and building a temple there, W.W. Phelps would never seeing death until the coming of the Lord, all nations being drawn into the American Civil War, and the illegal Kirtland Anti-banking’ society swallowing up all other banks. A lot of misses for a true prophet of God.
Differing First Vision Accounts
The fact that no one – including Joseph Smith’s family or the Saints – had ever heard about the First Vision for twelve to twenty-two years after Joseph said it occurred is incriminatory.
As well, there are at least nine different accounts offered by Smith which differ substantially one from another. It appears too that as Joseph’s beliefs about the Godhead shifted, the earlier versions that talked about only one Being also changed.
If Joseph had a vision of God and/or Jesus in 1820 why did he tell us that in 1823 that he prayed to know whether God existed?
Smith’s more precise detailed account many years later than the original vision is illogical and runs in the face of what we know about human memory.
Smith’s more elaborate accounts also correspond chronologically with his attempts to re-establish his authority with members of the church.
Smith’s Translation of the Kinderhook Plates
The fact that Smith made the following statement regarding this acknowledged hoax speaks to his abilities as a seer: “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…”
Free Masonry and the LDS Endowment Ceremony
It is acknowledged by those in and out of the church that the LDS endowment ceremony was essentially copied from Free Masonry. The signs and tokens are identical. It has also been shown that Free Masonry does not date back to the time of Solomon extinguishing the argument of a common source.
Joseph Smith’s Extensive Criminal History
The numerous criminal charges, many resulting in conviction, casts considerable doubt on the honesty and character of Joseph Smith:
March 1826 and June 1830, Disorderly Person; February 1837, Illegal Banking; June 1837, Conspiracy to Murder; January 1838, Banking Fraud; August 10, 1838, Threatening a Sitting Judge; Nov. 12, 1838, Treason; August 1842, again Conspiracy to Murder; June 6, 1843, Treason once again; May 1844 Perjury; May 1844, Fornication & Adultery; June 1844, Inciting a riot; and June 24, 1844, Treason once more.
Clearly, there is quite a litany of serious problems with the Book of Mormon and the Joseph Smith story.
Is it possible that in the face of all these myriad difficulties and inconsistencies that the LDS Church is true?
Yes, it is possible.
But it is not just a matter of possibility, there are few things that are not possible. it is a matter of probability. What are the probabilities that in spite of the overwhelming evidence that the church’s narrative does not correspond with reality, and whose founder, while brilliant, was a lascivious, self-aggrandizing liar, that the Mormon church is nonetheless the, “one true church?”
These are the questions you must ask yourself.
Is it wrong for you and I to ask these questions?
Not according to many leaders in the church that have given lip service to the diligent search for truth:
“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”
J. Reuben Clark
“If a faith will not bear to be investigated: if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.”
George Albert Smith
“This book [“The Book of Mormon”] is entitled to the most thorough and impartial examination. Not only does it merit such consideration, it claims, even demands the same.”
James E. Talmage
But is this what the Mormon leadership today really believes?
Ask Jeremy Runnells or John Dehlin or Sam Young or Fawn Brody or Kate Kelly or Michael Quinn or Simon Southerton or Paul Toscano how accepting the Mormon Church is to those who question.
Elder Hugo Montoya of the Seventy is more reflective of Mormon reality. Montoya says that doubt, “can originate from “so-called friends” who are “asking hurtful questions.” It can be exacerbated by Internet information that is taken out of context. Most of all, though, it happens when we don’t close our ears sufficiently to the “father of lies” and “his sinister purpose…”
The best thing to do, he says, is simply to, “erase doubt from our minds.”
Hermano Montoya, Dáme un respiro!
If the Mormon Church has nothing to fear, questioning, critical thinking, and yes, even doubt should be tolerated, not discouraged or punished as it is now. The Mormon Church has a long history of secrecy, deception and subterfuge. It still continues to gaslight, modify its scriptures and hide its true history.
If we don’t love the truth, we resist it, If the church has nothing to fear why not be open and honest?
There is no reason to be discouraged when we uncover the truth, no matter what we discover we need to love and acknowledge the truth. So welcome it with am open heart, even when it hurts to acknowledge that what we have been taught was a lie. Is it not better to face a cruel truth than to live a comfortable delusion?
Let the truth be your best friend.
The good Lord gave you an intellect. Use it. Think about what I have written here. Pray about it, but not for a confirmation that your beliefs are correct, but for the truth.
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”