Timeline of events with my Stake President
From March 2003 - October 2010
By Grant H. Palmer
I met with Bishop O_____ and Stake President A_____ from 7:00–740 p.m. tonight regarding my book. They said they had about an equal number of complaints from within the stake (mainly those who had read the book in my ward) and outside of the stake but not from the general level of the church, President A_____ said. One complaint was from a fellow institute associate of mine, I believe. They were concerned that the book would hurt some people's faith, but they would not discuss what faith is. They dismissed the topic with the statement that our views of faith probably differed. A____, quoting Elder Jeffrey Holland of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles said that the Book of Mormon is either what the church says it is or it's all false. I explained that the Book of Mormon did bring people to Christ, that it did affect repentance but that I did not believe the book to be real history. I said that I believed that Holland's stark point of view would create problems in the church because the march of the evidence was increasingly showing the Book of Mormon as a nineteenth-century work; and that if a court trial were held today on the issue of the historicity of the Book of Mormon that the church would lose. Thirty years ago the evidence was about 50/50 but today is more like 80/20. Thirty-four years ago when I started teaching in the Church Educational System (CES), I knew of no teacher who did not believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Today, I said, I know of ten teachers personally in the SLC area alone who don't think the Book of Mormon is real history. I briefly explained how I discovered that many of the most important chapters in the Book of Mormon were taken from the King James Bible, evangelical Protestantism, Smith family biographical material, and from American antiquities. I also found the most important doctrines such as God, man, and others to be Protestant, mainly Methodist.
I think the purpose of the meeting was twofold. They wanted to know (1) if I wanted to stay in the church and (2) that it was their “stewardship” to watch over the church. This was repeated four or five times. They didn't seem to care why I believed; only what I believed. Bishop O_____ said that he had read the book, A____ said he had not. O_____ mentioned that some ward members some years before were upset because I said the plates were not used during the translation process, although he himself was not bothered. I asked Bishop O______ if he found anything in my book to be false. He said “not that he could tell.”
The meeting was very cordial and I think unpleasant for them, especially President A_____. He seldom if ever looked me in the eye when speaking. I also explained that the witnesses, angel gold plates, priesthood restoration and the first vision stories had all evolved in that order, developing from metaphysical to literal/physical events. The last two became more miraculous when Joseph Smith was confronted by serious challenges, especially from his own leaders. As a result, I was suspicious of Smith in retelling these stories, although I liked many of his teachings. The problem word for me is his credibility, and thus I thought one answer was to put a greater emphasis on Christ, especially at the local or ward level of the church.
Bishop O_____ asked why I wrote the book. I said because I am a historian, because it's probably true, and then read a statement by the First Presidency quoted in the Preface of my work, which says in part, “only error fears freedom of expression.” I said I believe in the marketplace of ideas and hoped the church still did. I said that I was a heretic but not an apostate from my perspective; explaining that to me an apostate was one who did not practice Mormonism (such a paying tithing, attending meetings, accepting callings and so forth). At the end of the meeting President A_____ said as he smiled, “I'm glad to hear you're not an apostate.”
I mentioned that when the church excommunicated six writers in September 1993, for their writings, they in essence through out their whole family, for ten years later (2003), 68% of the other family members had also dropped out of the church. This I explained was something they perhaps should keep in mind.
I also said that the books print run was about 1,400 copies and that it had sold 750 as of March 10, hardly a threat to a church of over eleven million members; that it was probably bought and read by professionals, except for apparently a few people in my ward which I was unaware of. I explained that I had not promoted the book or even announced that I had written a book during the sixteen years that I had taught the high priests in my ward, although a few knew from private conversations. They also asked what response I had received from my children and from others.I said that of my four children, one had read it, one had read some of it, and two had not read it. The one who read it, liked it, the other three seem afraid to deal with it. From the responses that I have received, they are all over the board so to speak (I should have said that most are very favorable, but I didn't). However, I did mention that Jeffrey Needles professional review, on Signature Books web site captured quite well what I was trying to say.
I met with President A____ and Bishop R_____ for one hour. They were very cordial and I believe them at this time to be fair minded men. A_____ asked me to review for new Bishop R_____ my motivations for writing my book, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins. I repeated what I had said in the March 2003 meeting with President A_____ and Bishop O_____. (1) I repeated the Methodist sermons I had studied during my PhD studies at BYU and how similar I found them to be in ten different ways with about a dozen preachers found in the Book of Mormon. (2) The very large amount of material I found from a 1769 A.D. Bible, including its errors, which was included in the Book of Mormon. (3) The American antiquities in Joseph Smith's information environment discovered by LDS Church authority, B.H. Roberts to be in the Book of Mormon. (4) Finally, “The Golden Pot” which triggered me to write several papers on magic and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, during 1985-87. Further research and a manuscript soon followed.
President A_____, not having read my book, then asked what my perception was of the book, or in other words what I believed the book was saying. I answered that the Book of Mormon is inspired, bringing people to Christ, but is a nineteenth century work written from nineteenth century influences. The nature of God, man, and other doctrines found in the Book of Mormon are not in harmony with the current teachings of the church. I also said that I believe that Joseph Smith received authority to baptize and so forth through the Spirit to start his work, but this initial story along with the angel gold plates, first vision, and the witnesses of the Book of Mormon were later embellished for institutional purposes, becoming more impressive, literal, and unique as time went on. The dramatic versions of the priesthood restoration and the first vision stories especially appear when he is in trouble with some of his own leaders. All four of these foundational claims are like Hollywood movies that claim to be based on a true story but then are hollywoodized throughout. Joseph Smith received authority like other church founders throughout history, but I don't believe the LDS Church is the one and only true church. I am orthopraxy, meaning I still practice Mormonism, even though some of my views are unorthodox. My conclusion being that we should quietly focus more on Jesus Christ, especially at the local level of the church and that our members should be evaluated on how they are morally and spiritually centered in Christ, not on the evolving and controversial foundational claims of Joseph Smith. I do not advocate in the book or in private for people to leave, but rather to stay and emphasize Christ in their own church participation.
A_____ third question was what I thought the General Authorities of the church would think of my book. (I thought of answering that I didn't think any of them were up to speed on what has been found during the last thirty-five years of research, but I didn't.) I said that I thought that President Hinckley believed as the First Presidency had said in 1969 (found in the preface of my book) that freedom of expression was a teaching of the church and that no ill “consequence” should come to those who have something to say and are not arrogant about doing so. I base this belief on what he said about freedom of expression in the church during the “60 Minutes” program with Mike Wallace and of my understanding of how he has intervened in cases like mine at the Stake level and stopped such church courts. Others of the general authorities, such as Elder Packer, would and do take steps at the Stake level to throw authors out of the church. I asked President A____ who had called for this meeting and he said his file leader, Area President Rasband, but that it likely originated higher up. He said that he was instructed to report back to his file leader. He said that he had a stewardship and would have to pray whether I had crossed the line from heretic to apostate. I reinforced the idea that it was indeed his stewardship and not a General Authorities. Returning to his third question, I observed that the march of the evidence had not been kind to the church during the last thirty-five years, that there was more room now for honest disagreement than ever before. For example, I said, consider the Book of Abraham. I showed them Michael Rhodes, 2002 book, The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary. I opened his book and showed them that Rhodes was a religion teacher at BYU, that BYU published the book using the tithing money of the church, that it was written for Elder Neal a Maxwell, and that his translation of the Egyptian papyri was no different than what other Egyptologists outside of the church had translated. There is not one word about Abraham in his or in any other translation. Elsewhere, in another place, Rhodes has written an article giving his spin on the Book of Abraham and I have given mine as a historian. We simply disagree. I explained that when Michael Chandler offered to sell the Egyptian papyri for 2400 dollars to Joseph Smith in July 1835, at Kirkland, that Joseph went into his house and asked God what was on the two scrolls of papyri. He returned and in the presence of Apostle Orson Pratt and Church Historian John Whitmer, they recorded what Smith said. Both wrote that Smith said that one of the rolls contained the writings of the patriarch Abraham and the other was of Joseph of Egypt. I believe he was wrong.
They also asked what my comfort level was in the church. I said that I would enjoy teaching a class on the life of Christ. I have also enjoyed making occasional comments on the Sunday school New Testament course of study this year. No one has complained and more than a few came up and liked what I said. They asked, what about next year's course of study on the Book of Mormon? I said that on the day they talked about the historicity of the book, I would stay home, but otherwise I'm sure I would feel comfortable most of the time because the lessons are divided into twenty-four gospel topics or core principles. Class discussions center on these principles. Bishop R_____ was interested in my forthcoming book “The Incomparable Jesus.” He wanted to know if LDS people would buy it and enjoy it. I answered yes, or Kofford Books, my publisher would not have signed a contract to publish it and market it through Seagull Books
Other items discussed: (1) They (A_____ and R_____) may have received some negative comments about the book, but that my e-mail, regular mail and telephone comments have been overwhelmingly positive. I mentioned to them two people who had previously dropped out of the church but had after reading my book decided to return to activity for the teachings, in spite of the historical claims of the church. A____ asked R_____ about current ward comments about me. R_______ said that when he first became Bishop there were quite a few but that now it had greatly diminished. He said that when I had given my thanks in a fast and testimony meeting for some ward members visiting me in the hospital during my first surgery followed by my testimony of Jesus Christ (only) that some members regarded me as a “hypocrite.” (Note--some members apparently hold that if a person does not fully accept Joseph Smith, they somehow can't have an abiding testimony in Jesus Christ). I said that I had not talked to ward members about the book and they had not asked, except the High Councilor who was assigned to our ward volunteered that he had read the book and had confirmed to him his belief that our history was more metaphysical than the literal/physical way we taught it. (2) Truth and understanding are more important to me than loyally defending the tradition of our past. (3) If A_____ and R_______ (both lawyers) are challenged for their license to practice law, they appear before the Bar. They are evaluated by a board of peers. A board of historians, my peers, in September, named my book as the Best Book of the Year, first runner up. (4) I commented that President A_____ had to decide whether he wanted a person like me in the church or whether I should be thrown out. I invited him to read the book and tell me what was false. How does one change their views when there is no real evidence to contradict them? What then becomes the point of disfellowshipping such a person? Moreover, if I am thrown me out of the church it affects my family and other members will probably resign. Furthermore, the press is anxious to publish the proceedings should a church court be convened. I personally don't want the publicity and I am sure the church doesn't either. Publicity will sell a lot more books. (Note: does the church really want the publicity of throwing a morally and spiritually devoted Christian out of Mormonism? The church is already sensitive about all the publicity of whether they are Christian.) (5) I also said that I would prefer not to have anymore of these chats until next summer because of the Christmas holidays; because I spend January and February each year in San Diego; because my cancer doctors have encouraged me to stay positive and avoid stress.
Dear President Monson November 18, 2004
You won't remember me but I have had several pleasant meetings with you over the years. La rue Stauffer, a member of my ward (I recall that you were her and her mothers Bishop in the Temple View Stake), arranged a meeting in your office to bless my wife Kathy in 1992, because she had cancer. I still remember how important you made us feel during our forty-five minutes with you. I also know your son Tom, having been in the same roller pigeon club. On several occasions when at your home, you joined us in the backyard to watch the birds spin.
President A______, of the ________Stake, in Sandy, Utah, called me Monday night (Nov. 15) and made it quite clear that he intends to hold a church disciplinary court on me in the very near future for writing a book two years ago called “An Insider's View of Mormon Origins.” I have been told by a person I trust that of the last 15 authors who have written a book that someone in authority did not like –that if a court was actually convened--that all 15 were thrown out of the church. I would hope to avoid such an action and thus am appealing to you before my court is convened. I don't want to be thrown out of the church. I believe I can do more good in than out. My publisher wants to conduct a media campaign when my court date is set. This will be embarrassing to me and harmful to the church.
In the church of Jesus Christ there should be room for a person who is morally and spiritually centered in Christ. By excommunicating a Christian/Mormon like me because I wrote a book revealing that I am not a total believer in Joseph Smith will mean that I will be forbidden to partake of the Sacrament on Sunday. This is sending a message, especially to outsiders that Jesus Christ is not as important as Joseph Smith in our church–that we are not Christian.
I don't know if you are aware of what is going on among scholars, historians, on the internet and so forth regarding our foundational claims. The march of the evidence has not been kind to the church during the last 35 years. The church is hemorrhaging and throwing me out is like putting a band aid over the problem.
President A_____ tells me that my book has caused “some damage” to testimony. On the other hand, for example, two white collar ex-convicts called to tell me that after reading the book and seeing that Joseph Smith had “problems” that they were both encouraged they could reach heaven. A brother from Virginia called and said that he had been totally inactive in the church for years, but that after reading my book that he decided to become active again. He said that if I was still active in the church after knowing the problems of the Mormon past, “then so can I.”
What I try to demonstrate in the book is summarized on the back cover; also some of my background in the church is cited. I have a solid testimony of Jesus Christ but admit that I have problems with some of Joseph Smith's visions. Some of his later accounts seem to become more miraculous. When talking to members who have told me over the years that they are troubled about the Mormon past or specifically about my book, I have always encouraged them to stay with the church. I was the institute Director at the Salt Lake county jail for the last 13 years of my C.E.S. career (I've been retired over three years) where I taught the New Testament and counseled with thousands of LDS inmates. Of these, I could count on my fingers and toes those who were disciplined in a church court because of their criminal actions. Why is it that the Strengthening Members Committee has such a penchant to investigate and go after authors?
Thank you for your consideration of this matter,
Grant H. Palmer
President A_____ called and wanted a meeting on November 16, 2004, but instead we talked on the phone. He said that it was time to “move things forward” that my book had caused “some damage.” He thinks that I now have more “spiritual strength” to deal with a church court now, a chance to start over again. I asked him what was prompting such an action now rather than during the last two years (the book has been available since November 15, 2002). He said, “the spirit” and nothing more. I said, I can't see any good coming from such an action, for “how do I repent from that (the book) which is probably true”? He didn't reply. I told him I was content with the way my situation is at the present time in the church. I said this because he said that I wasn't probably satisfied and thus wanted to start over, which is what prompted the above sentence from me. My current situation is that I am not asked to do anything but can bear my testimony of Christ, pay tithing and partake of the sacrament.
I asked President A_____ that since my trial was all about my book, if he had read it. He said no, but promised he would before the trial. One high counselor has read the book and 6 of them are supposed to champion my cause or defend in the court. My sense is, however, that Adams is not interested in the content of my book, whether it is true or false—but rather that it caused “some damage” to testimony to a few people that have read it.
On November 18th I tried to privately head off the court at church headquarters, but so far this has been unsuccessful [I wrote a letter that was hand delivered to President Thomas S. Monson. I know he read the letter because I received a reply, which is with my papers at Special Collections at the University of Utah. My letter and a copy of my book which I had sent with my letter were then sent by President Monson to Area President Merrill Bateman]. On November 28th 2004, two priesthood holders brought a court summons from the Stake President A_____ for me to appear on December 12, 2004 (Sunday) at the Stake center. I feel like A_____ is in a rush to judgment now that he has decided to move forward and thus is driving me out of the church. I will try to ward off court action with him one more time this week (Dec. 5-11) before my trial. The man hardly knows me.
Grant H. Palmer
Connie (wife) and I met with President A_____ one last time seeking to avoid the trial. During the brief meeting he opened D&C 42:23-24 and read the two verses which say that if a person commits adultery, he "shall deny the faith and shall not have the Spirit." Leaning forward he then asked: "Brother Palmer have you committed adultery?" Connie and I looked at each other in astonishment, then I answered with a firm "No." [I learned from others after this meeting that Elder Boyd Packer often asks people summoned to a church court this question.] I suggested that if he were looking for adulterers, that he could with some effort probably find a few members two/three miles from the circumference of the Stake Center.
I also mentioned to him that no good would come to either me or the church with such a trial. [I subsequently received a peptic ulcer and the church received a lot of bad publicity as many many newspapers carried my story throughout the United States and even in some foreign countries. Moreover, my book was at that time selling 75 copies per month, but with the trial, book sales jumped to over 1000 copies per month for a number of months. Still later, I told President A_____ that the court had publicized my book and had helped it penetrate the grass roots of the church, whereas before, it was mainly read by historians and other intellectuals.]
A____ said that he would think it over and let me know. I asked if he would let me know by Thursday morning, December 9. When he called he said he was going forward with the trial.
Signature Books then contacted the local newspapers and the Associate Press. Greg Prince from Maryland made arrangements for me to be interviewed by the Los Angeles Times.
Two days after my 6 hour church court, I dictated the entire experience to Lavina Anderson. She still has these notes as of April 2009. I hope to get them soon.
There has never been a "gag order." At my Church Court in Dec. 2004, I volunteered to the court that I would not appear on "60 Minutes." My SP [A_____] felt that after hearing of ALL the offers that I had turned down (one of which was to be a featured speaker on a southern states evangelical preacher tour), that my venue decisions did not require a gag order.
My last interview with my Stake President P_____ was in May of 2007. At that meeting, Pres. P_____ said that the options, according to the Handbook of Instructions, were that "I could repent," "be excommunicated" or "let the disfellowshipment continue," and that he had decided to let my situation ride. He also volunteered that he had learned that a person could be "disfellowshipped for life." I said very politely, "What would you like me to repent of?" He said, “I will have to think about it." I have not heard from him for over a year and a half.
To this date, I have never been told what they want of me. When I asked this question in my Court in 2004, Pres. A______ said that he would tell me the following Sunday. He never did except to say that I should read the scriptures and come up with a reason as to why I felt the way I did. In a subsequent meeting with him, sometime later, I said that I had read the scriptures as he had requested but that I did not identify with any of the reasons presented in scripture.
My research as an honest historian, as you know, is that most of the foundations of the LDS church as taught today are seriously flawed. However, I have always offered when speaking with church leaders to change things in my book that are demonstrated to be false. Unfortunately, they have never bothered to even read the book.
My guess is that the church will not change my status until the influence of my book dissipates. For now, "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins" continues to sell very well and influence people about how the LDS Church manipulated its foundational claims for institutional and religious purposes.
March 20, 2009
Thank you for your letter dated February 5, 2009. You may recall from our conversation in my living room almost two years ago that repentance was one of the options for my situation. I said I would gladly do so if I knew what it was I was supposed to repent of. The list you have given me entails propositions that I am required to believe rather than sins I need to repent of.I appreciate knowing what you require for my being restored to full membership. I find the specifics interesting. Only two or three of the seven are asked in a temple recommend interview; and your list far exceeds the requirements for baptism. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Twelve has written under “Prerequisites for Baptism,” there are two “fundamental things we want investigators to do prior to baptism: have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of their sins.” Holland then quoted the fourth Article of Faith to support his point (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Missionary Work and the Atonement, Ensign, Mar. 2001, 8). Holland noted that after visiting over half of the missions in the church, no one gave him the right answer, although many had their own list of requirements for baptism.
Grant H. Palmer
Joseph Smith's Five Sources for Composing the Book of Abraham
The content of the Book of Abraham is essentially one hundred percent accounted for by Joseph Smith's use of five, nineteenth-century sources. All of this evidence is detailed in, An Insiders View of Mormon Origins, chapter 1:
• Abraham 1; Facsimile #1, #3: Abraham's biographical information in Abraham 1 and Smith's claim of what these two Facsimile pictures portray comes from The Works of Flavius Josephus. Smith owned an 1830 edition of this book. Smith's detailed explanations for the individual Egyptian characters on these two Facsimiles in the Book of Abraham have been thoroughly discredited by Egyptologists.
• Abraham 2, 4-5: Eighty-six percent of the verses in these three chapters came from Genesis, 1, 2, 12, and 11:28-29. This material came from a 1769 edition or later printing of the KJV, including its errors.
• Abraham 3; Facsimile 2: The text of Abraham 3 and Facsimile 2 has some remarkable resemblances to the astronomical concepts, phrases, and other motifs found in Thomas Dick's, Philosophy of a Future State. Smith owned an 1830 copy of this book.
• Abraham 3; Facsimile 2: Thomas Taylor's 1816 book, The Six Books of Proclus on the Theology of Plato, especially volume 2, also has most of the motifs in Abraham 3 and Facsimile 2. Dick and Taylor both contain a number of exact phrases found in Abraham 3 and Facsimile 2. Importantly, Smith's Newtonian astronomy concepts, mechanics, and model of the universe that he borrowed from these Newtonian books have been thoroughly discredited by Einstein's twentieth-century model of the universe.
• Strange names: The few Hebrew names and phrases found in the Book of Abraham reflect Smith's study with Hebrew scholar Joshua Seixas during the winter of 1835-36, in Ohio.
Six Sources Joseph Smith Used in Composing the Book of Mormon
Seventy-five percent of the content of the book is accounted for by Joseph Smith's use of six, nineteenth-century sources of which he was very familiar. Twenty-five percent came from the Bible and another twenty-five percent came from the Methodist religion. The remaining twenty-five percent came from three other sources. Most of this evidence is detailed in, An Insiders View of Mormon Origins, chapters 2-4. In this format, I will go through the books of the Book of Mormon chronologically showing how these six sources were used by Smith.
The story line for the Book of Mormon probably came from Ethan Smith's, 1823 New York novel, View of the Hebrews (Elder B. H. Roberts, president of the First Council of Seventy after making an extensive study of the book concluded there was “a great probability” the Smith's had a close encounter with View of the Hebrews). The book told of a small colony of Israelites that left a European city about 600 BC. With difficulty they crossed the ocean and arrived in the Americas. They divided into two classes, an industrious and an idle group and engaged in many long wars. The gospel was preached and a Christ figure was emphasized throughout the book. Finally, the barbaric division utterly exterminated the civilized one.
• 1, 2 Nephi:
Bible passages dominate the text in these two books. Over one-half of the chapters in 2 Nephi alone are from the Bible. Smith's source was a 1769 KJV edition, or later printing. We know this because the Book of Mormon contains the specific errors of that Bible translation. (In 1 Nephi, two 1811 dreams of Smith Sr. are clearly seen in Lehi's first dream and Lehi's tree of life dream. A number of other Smith family biographical facts were used by Joseph in the Book of Mormon).
• Jacob, Enos, Mosiah, Alma 1-42:
These books are dominated by evangelical Methodist Camp Meeting, terms, practices, patterns and doctrines of which Smith was so familiar. The eleven main Book of Mormon preachers between Jacob and Alma II reflect in every way, what one would expect to find when making a study of the Second Great Awakening preachers of Smith's era.
• Alma 43-63:
These war chapters reflect the war strategies of the American Indian Wars and the War of 1812, especially the British/Indian fighting strategies used against the American soldiers in the War of 1812. Smith heard his relatives and neighbors recount stories of these wars.
For some of this evidence, see Mercy Otis Warren's 1805 book, History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution; and David Ramsey's 1789 book, History of the American Revolution.
• Helaman; 3 Nephi 1-7:
The text in these (“Gadianton”) chapters reveal strong influences from the anti- Masonic terms/rhetoric/methodology/practice/fears and sentiment reported during the presidential election of 1828-29. They flooded the newspapers (the Smith's subscribed to a newspaper) and the talk of the day. Andrew Jackson was a Mason, and the papers had a field day speculating on what Jackson would do to the Executive and Judicial branches of government if elected. Many of these anti-Masonic terms, concepts and predictions, are seen in this section of the Book of Mormon.
• 3 Nephi 11-28:
Again, Bible passages dominate this section of the BM, specifically a 1769 edition or later printing of the KJV, including it errors. Of the 490 verses in these chapters, 246, or fifty percent contain recognizable KJV quotations or phrases.
This book is Joseph Smith's essay on the central message of the Book of Mormon. The first half of Ether describes what happens to the Jaredites when they follow Christ and the second half explains what happens when they don't. In many ways Ether is a miniature Book of Mormon story of the Nephites and Lamanites, including the extreme annihilation of both the Jaredites and Nephites down to the last man.
It is more persuasive that Joseph Smith's used these six, nineteenth century sources for composing the Book of Mormon than that the book came from ancient plates and were delivered to him by an angel. While it is compelling that seventy-five percent of the book came from these six sources, F.A.R.M.S, located on the BYU campus, dwells on the unknown twenty-five percent. They argue that the book must have come from an ancient source because this material cannot (yet?) be identified in Smith's era. However, for the apologists to make an ancient case for the book they convincingly need to explain why three quarters of the book's content is in Smith's local culture and well known to him.
What Joseph Smith's Four Foundational Visions have in Common
All four of the foundational visions of Joseph Smith, namely: The eight witnesses, the angel golden plate's story, the priesthood restoration, and the first vision, reveal the same evolving pattern. All four start out as rather mundane metaphysical experiences, and then with each version the story became more literal, physical, unique, impressive, and yes miraculous. The most miraculous accounts of the priesthood restoration and his first vision are provided by Joseph Smith when he is in serious trouble with his own leadership. A witness in court that keeps telling a more miraculous version of his story each time loses credibility, their testimony becomes impeached. All of this evidence is detailed in, An Insiders View of Mormon Origins, chapters 5-8.
RELIGIOUS FEELING AND TRUTH
Grant H. Palmer
When Pontius Pilate interrogated Jesus shortly before his death, Jesus said, I came “into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice,” meaning to follow him. Pilate then asked his now famous rhetorical question, “What is truth?” and abruptly ended the interview (John 18:37-38). Earlier in his ministry the Apostle Thomas had asked: “How can we know the way?” and Jesus explicitly replied, “I am the way, [I am] the truth” (John 14:5-6). The Apostles John, Paul and Peter later repeated that “truth came by Jesus Christ,” that “the truth is in Jesus” and that Jesus is “the way of truth” (John 1:17; Eph. 4:21; 2 Pet. 2:2). The truth about God for the Christian is seen in the personality, character, wisdom, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament. For the Christian, Christ is religious Truth.
How then does a person specifically come to know religious Truth/Christ? I like the fact that Jesus emphasized an empirical test of his teachings to “know” him rather than a metaphysical approach to truth. It is instructive to bear in mind that Jesus never invited anyone to know him by a religious feeling. Instead of advocating a controversial and highly subjective spiritual feeling methodology to know him and his teachings, Jesus taught: “If any man will do his [Father's] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” And in one of his recorded prayers, Jesus said that taking upon us the name of God and his character is to “know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 7:17; 17:3, emphasis added).
The aged Peter reemphasized this doctrine to the saints —saying that the “divine nature” of Christ and his teachings can be known only by exemplifying the Christlike characteristics of: “Diligence [in our daily walk] … faith [in God] … virtue … knowledge [of the scriptures] … temperance [meaning self control, moderation and balance] … patience … godliness [goodness] … brotherly kindness [gentleness] … charity” [love and compassion]. Peter then explained that when these nine qualities “be in you, and abound'' then we “know … Jesus Christ'' (2 Pet. 1:4-8, emphasis added). Paul also taught the saints “to put on Christ,” to strive for these characteristics, until “Christ be in you,” “until Christ be formed in you.” His list of the fruits by which a Christian is known is almost identical with Peter's. He also lists nine qualities: “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Rom. 8:10; 13:14; Gal. 4:19; 5:22-23).
Shortly before leaving the earth Jesus promised his disciples that he would send to them His agent the Holy Spirit. Jesus then described the mission and responsibility of the Holy Spirit to his apostles: (1) He will “bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” —to sharpen and intensify all the words, teachings and example of Jesus' ministry to their “remembrance” (John 14:26, emphasis added); (2) “When the Comforter is come … he shall testify of me” —he will bring “comfort,” peace and tranquility to their soul that Jesus is Christ (John 15:26, emphasis added); (3) When “the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth [about me]: for he shall … glorify me” —He will “guide” or“sanctify [them,] through the truth,” which further “glorifies” Christ (John 16:13-14, emphasis added; cf. John 17:19); (4) And after the “power … [of] the Holy Ghost is come upon you: ye shall be witnesses unto me” —He will empower, embolden, and enliven, to fill them with enthusiasm (God in us) and the confidence to compellingly testify of Christ to others (Acts 1:8, emphasis added). Shortly after the Day of Pentecost, all these promises are plainly manifested by the Apostles in Acts chapters 2-5. In summary, all of the statements made by Jesus about the Holy Spirit during his ministry have this in common —the Holy Spirit is all about Christ!
One of the most emphasized teachings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is found in the oft quoted passage found in the Book of Mormon: “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moro. 10:5, emphasis added). In this verse we see a move away from the Holy Spirit's role of testifying of things Christ, as taught by Jesus in the New Testament, to the idea that one can know the truth about anything–about “all things.” An extreme example of this teaching within the Book of Mormon is when Nephi stated: “I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head” (1 Ne. 4:18). A more recent example of a Mormon being influenced by this teaching is when Ron and Dan Lafferty received a “revelation” of the “Spirit” to kill Brenda Lafferty and her infant child because, like Nephi's rationale, Brenda was interfering with the future progress of their religious movement.
The Holy Spirit may well tell a person the Book of Mormon is true because it testifies and brings a person to Christ, who is the Truth, but not whether the Book of Mormon's theological doctrines are true. For example, does the spirit that is felt when reading the book mean that it confirms that God and Christ is the same being or that man is more evil than good —both doctrines taught in the Book of Mormon, but later reversed by Joseph Smith? Since Mormons now believe that God and Christ are two separate beings, and that man is more good than evil, taught since the early 1840's in Nauvoo by Smith, which confirming spirit is a true one? Nor does the Spirit confirm the truth or falsity of whether the Book of Mormon is a real record of a historical people of the distant past. The Holy Spirit testifies of all things Christ, not “all things” as Joseph Smith taught in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.
When a church or group embraces the idea that when preacher and hearer “are edified,” or feel the “Spirit of truth,” and thus what they speak and hear is the truth (D&C 50:20-21), they open up a can of worms that leads to strange mis-directions and mischief, as witnessed throughout history. For example, many followers of the LDS and FLDS churches have received the confirming and edifying “Spirit” that Warren Jeff's or Thomas Monson are the “prophet, seer and revelator” for humankind. Moreover, some fundamentalist Mormon churches pass out literature quoting Brigham Young and others that polygamy is divine and is to be practiced. The promise being that one can know by reading, praying, pondering, and feeling the “Spirit.” Some claim they receive the edifying “Spirit of truth,” and join with these religious congregations. Some young Muslims become fully convinced through religious feeling that Allah wants them to strap bombs around their waist and detonate themselves and others for the glory of Allah. I was once invited by an enthusiastic promoter to invest $8,000 in a Fort Worth, Texas, oil well. After praying and pondering and feeling the “Spirit,” I gave him the money but lost every cent. I also felt the “Spirit” strongly after hearing the inspiring World War II stories of Paul H. Dunn and Douglas Stringfellow, which were later found to be largely bogus. Some people claim they found their car keys only after praying and being led by the Spirit where to look. These kinds of stories are plentiful. The tendency of religious people is to report only those spiritual feeling experiences that actually come true, seldom those that fail. The reality is that the Holy Spirit is not dependable about “know[ing] the truth of all things.”
My article Religious Feeling and Truth was published in the Midwestern Journal of Theology, an obscure Journal out of Kansas City, Missouri, in the spring of 2010. Someone sent the two page article to my Stake President P and he did not like it.
On October 19, 2010, he came to my home and stated to me that according to the Church Handbook of Instructions that he "must" hold a court. I don't believe this is true because I have an online copy of the 2010 handbook. The idea that a court "must" be held probably came from LDS Church headquarters. But as Bishop C observed, that in any case, President P was determined to hold the disciplinary action. Bishop C thought I had about a 50/50 chance of retaining my membership by attending the court and he encouraged me to do so. I offered to cease and desist any and all further writing or media appearances, but President P said that he was going forward with the court nevertheless.
A few days later Bishop C and I asked President P: "What was required of Grant to retain his membership in the church." President P said that I must repudiate my heretical foundational views found in my book, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, "and regain my testimony." In other words, the second court would again retry me for the contents of my book. Bishop C then acknowledged that my chance of retaining membership was practically nil.
Seeing the futility of participating in another church disciplinary council, I resigned my membership in the LDS church on October 25, 2010. In addition to my one page letter of resignation, I asked that the "Attachments" which are in this Timeline of Events be placed in my file.
Grant Hart Palmer
With this letter to you I officially notify you of my resignation from membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, effective immediately. With my resignation I voluntarily sever all my relationship to the church.
I therefore request you to make the necessary changes in the church membership records to indicate that I am no longer a member. Please put on the form "At members request." I expect this matter to be handled promptly, with respect and with full confidentiality. Please forward my name removal request to President P.
I do not take this step lightly. After long study I have very sadly concluded that the LDS Church is not what it claims to be. I will take my chances in the next life with our Lord Jesus Christ, who has more respect for truth.
Thank you for your courtesy in honoring my request.
Grant H. Palmer