There comes a time in the life of many Church members when the desire to know the truth about the Church becomes stronger than the desire to believe the Church is true. Before you read further, you must ask yourself this question: Is knowing the real truth more important to me than the comfort the Church/gospel brings me? If it is, you are invited to read on. If it is not, stop here. Reading further will be waste of your time. This is obviously not a trivial question, nor a trivial subject.
The Church teaches us that there are three major tenants of "testimony": (a) Joseph Smith was a prophet, (b) the Book of Mormon is true, and (c) revelation continues today through living oracles, ie., the General Authorities of the Church. When someone stands and "bears testimony" of these three facets of belief, let us objectively examine ALL they are asserting:
If Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and implementing the will of God, we MUST accept the following:
1.All Christian ministers were corrupt in 1820.
2.God chose a man who admittedly preyed on the superstitions of the people for gain as His oracle.
3.Some revelations, by Joseph's own admission, are from God, some are from man, and some are from Satan.
4.Polygamy is an eternal truth and principle and inseparable from our theology.
5.Under polygamy rules, it is OK for men to take other wives without permission from the existing wife or wives.
6.That God would send an angel with a sword to strike down his prophet if he did not take additional wives.
7.There is no punishment for marrying women already married to another man if God commands it.
8.The laws of God trump the laws of the land, making it OK to destroy a printing press and conspiracy to commit murder.
9.That God is a racist, and discriminates against people based on skin color and lineage.
If the Book of Mormon is a true history of a real people, we MUST accept the following:
1.That somehow the Brother of Jared was familiar with glass windows 2000 years before the Romans invented glass.
2.That somehow Nephi owned a bow of fine steel 400 years before steel was invented and 2000 years before steel processing was advanced enough to fabricate such an item out of "fine steel".
3.That somehow the heavily laden families of Lehi and Ishmael were able to travel from Jerusalem to the shores of the Red Sea in three days, a distance of 170 miles, over some of the most rugged terrain in the middle east.
4.That somehow the horses, cattle, sheep, and elephants mentioned were swept off the continent without a trace or even a bone remaining, and none of the natives drew any likeness of these animals on cave walls.
5.That somehow the people, after knowing how to make steel and using it extensively for weapons of war, somehow forgot how to do it and miraculously erased all traces of it from this continent.
6.That somehow the people, after building chariots and making extensive use of the wheel, somehow forgot how to make wheels and erased all evidence that they once built wheeled vehicles extensively.
7.That somehow the prevalent wheat and barley and silk were eradicated from this continent without a trace.
8.That somehow a people all speaking a Hebrew/Aramaic dialect in 400 AD would have their language morph into a myriad of languages with no similarities to their legacy language, but rather contain similarities to far eastern languages. Add to this the fact that in a 2000 year occupation, not a single person wrote any Aramaic, Hebrew, or Egyptian character on the wall of a cave for us to find. Not one. This is unprecedented in the history of any people on Earth.
9.That a Hebrew-looking people with signature facial and skeletal structure and signature DNA would somehow morph into a people with anthropological characteristics and DNA common only to far east populations.
If revelation continues today through the General Authorities of the Church, we MUST accept the following:
1.God chooses NOT to warn his people regarding impending calamities (WTC attack, tsunami, hurricanes).
2.That current prophets can contradict dead prophets and Church members must accept the changes without question.
3.In a world filled with moral dilemmas, God has felt compelled to reveal that the number of ear piercings of member women is an important show of obedience and worthy of attention at the highest level.
4.That historians cannot be trusted to report history because they "idolize the truth". (B.K. Packer)
5.That General Authorities can be deceived by criminals (Mark Hofmann deceiving Hinckley and Oaks and others).
6.That the biggest challenges to the Church today are gays, lesbians, and intellectuals. (B.K. Packer)
7.That God chooses to reveal major new doctrines/policies under extreme duress (Manifesto, Blacks & Priesthood)
And we are to accept all this as sure knowledge based on a spiritual/emotional "witness" which supplants all reason and rational thought and sets them at naught. Using the emotional response as the ultimate truth test is not something unique to the LDS Church. It is/has been used widely throughout the world. An example: 80 million people embraced this method in 1939:
Reason can treacherously deceive a man, but emotion is always sure and never leaves him. - Adolph Hitler
Do not seek Adolph Hitler with your brains, you will find him with your hearts. - Rudolf Hess
Yes, Nazi Germany is an extreme example, but altering a strong misconception calls for a strong counter-example.
My purpose in writing this document is to succinctly express thoughts, concerns, and track progress in my search for the truth with regard to the LDS church. This is a work in progress.
Of course, the first question is "why question?" Haven't I already found the truth and now all is needed is to "endure to the end?" Well, for the past 30 years (since age 17) this is what I have thought. Recent events and feelings have changed my mind. To whit: (1) Several of my non-member friends seem to know more about aspects of church history than I, which is troubling to a four-year seminary grad, returned missionary, and life-long member; (2) An apparent reluctance of church officials to discuss and address questions arising from scrutiny of LDS origins; (3) We are counseled to search for and discover truth (see quotes below); (4) It is only in the past 25 years that any of this information has been available to the general public, and deserves (in fact demands) attention.
1 Thess 5:19-21: "Quench not the spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
"The truth will cut its own way." (Joseph Smith Jr.)
"To Latter-day Saints there can be no objection to the careful and critical study of the scriptures, ancient or modern, provided only that it be an honest study - a search for truth." (John A. Widtsoe)
"This book ["The Book of Mormon"] is entitled to the most thorough and impartial examination. Not only does ["The Book of Mormon"] merit such consideration, it claims, even demands the same." (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith)
James E. Talmage on closed mindedness:
"The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position..."
Brigham Young on science and religion:
"Religious teachers... advance many ideas and notions for the truth which are in opposition to and contradict facts demonstrated by science, and which are generally understood. In these respects we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular." (Discourses of Brigham Young, 397-98)
"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, counselor in the First Presidency)
"We are grateful in the Church and in this great university that the freedom, dignity and integrity of the individual is basic in Church doctrine as well as in democracy. Here we are free to think and express our opinions. Fear will not stifle thought, as is the case in some areas which have not yet emerged from the dark ages. God himself refuses to trammel man's free agency even though its exercise sometimes teaches painful lessons. Both creative science and revealed religion find their fullest and truest expression in the climate of freedom.
"I admire men and women who have developed the questioning spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas and stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent - if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression. This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it." (Hugh B. Brown, counselor in First Presidency, Speech at BYU, March 29, 1958)
Thomas Jefferson taught that however discomfiting a free exchange may be, truth will ultimately emerge the victor. English philosopher John Stuart Mill said that any attempt to resist another opinion is a "peculiar evil." If the opinion is right, we are robbed of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth. If it is wrong, we are deprived of a deeper understanding of the truth in its collision with error.
"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, Journal Of Discourses, v 14, page 216)
And on the subject of quotations; while many attempt to pass off plagiarized work as their own, I admit freely that much of what I say and discuss is borrowed and abridged. Others usually are more polished than me in my clumsy attempts to express thoughts, so when I find something that matches my thinking, I have freely plagiarized.
And finally, these issues are deeply important to me. I do not treat them lightly, whatever the shortcomings of my prose. The shortest path to the point is sometimes very blunt. Such bluntness should not be interpreted as making light, cheapening, or detracting from the seriousness and importance of the issue being discussed.
How can one know the truth? I believed as in the LDS mainstream truth is found as follows:
Read and study. Ponder, pray. What you "feel" to be true by the influence of the Holy Ghost ( Moroni 10), with a "burning in the bosom" as described in D&C Section 9.
However, I have learned that this method brings with it some difficulties. I have felt my version of the "burning in the bosom;" however, I have come to the conclusion that that feeling does NOT confirm the truth in my case. Specific examples:
1.Faith-building stories told by Paul H. Dunn. These stories were absolute treasures to me in my youth and gave me the tingly spine and burning in the bosom. Today we know that his stories were contrived.
2.I sometimes feel the same things when I hear other inspiring stories or quotes that have nothing to do with religion or the plan of salvation. I had the same feelings when I read "Where the Red Fern Grows" as a boy.
In addition to my own experiences, it is easy to see that thousands of Catholic nuns feel they have the truth and are living according to God's will through study and prayer, the same for followers of Islam, Hindus in India, etc. I think they share the same basic study, prayer, nurture the seed, and positive feeling recipe for their convictions. Since they can't all be 100% correct (since their doctrines conflict), there are just too many false positives using this method.
Conclusion: the "burning in the bosom" is a NOT a reliable way to determine truth, at least not for me. Perhaps for some people it is an accurate indicator, but I venture to say that some people think it is and it really isn't. I believe that in my case, based on my experiences, it clearly is NOT a reliable way to determine truth. Can it be used in a positive way? Of course it can. Do many people rely on this method and find themselves believing in error? I think so.
I will go on to speculate that this 'formula' for determining truth could be proven unreliable beyond a reasonable doubt. Take 100 people who have lived in a vacuum and have no knowledge of the book "Where the Red Fern Grows" who are also humble and teachable. Instruct them that to know truth, they should read and pray and watch for that "burning in the bosom", a 'tingly' feeling, or other sign from the Holy Ghost that what they are reading is true, which feeling may vary widely from individual to individual. Then give them a week to read and pray. I would venture to say that a high percentage would determine that the book "Where the Red Fern Grows" is truth in this experiment.
I believe that what is REALLY happening is that we get a unique feeling when a book, situation, lesson, movie, music, or statement touches us on a spiritual level and strikes a chord deep down in our soul. This is something we should seek after and experience as often as possible, since our life is enriched each time. However, at least with me, it is not a reliable indicator of truth, only a reliable indicator of a soul-awakening experience. While it pains me to say this, I believe that those who say that this method of discerning truth is complete and has to be fail-safe SOLELY BECAUSE it is described in modern scripture are caught in a no-exit track of circular reasoning or self-deceptive paradox. Trusting emotions over reason has a somewhat dubious track record in history; take for example the Third Reich:
Reason can treacherously deceive a man, but emotion is always sure and never leaves him. - Adolph Hitler
Do not seek Adolph Hitler with your brains, you will find him with your hearts. - Rudolf Hess
So, is there a fail-safe, reliable method for discerning truth, or are we forever guessing? Well some things, such as in math and science, can be proven beyond any rational or reasonable doubt. Regarding historical events, we are left to judge for ourselves based on available information and our instincts and intuition regarding human nature. In most cases with church history, there are several possible explanations for any one event, document, journal entry, newspaper article, etc. Historians use multiple sources and other reasonableness tests to assign a most likely probability. Generally, 'Occam's razor' holds true: the most likely explanation is usually the correct one. When I have sat on a jury and listened to opposing accounts of the same event, it has always been fairly obvious, after careful consideration, which account is true and which one is contrived. The contrived accounts have inconsistencies, require people to do unreasonable things, and break down under examination of physical evidences and are not corroborated by third-party accounts. These same tools will be useful in assigning probabilities to events in the origin of the church and established the truth beyond a reasonable doubt. When presented with a plausible argument, it is important to analyze the thread of logic involved. Ask yourself objective questions, such as: is this argument/scenario intuitive, or does it require mental contortionism? Does the explanation "make the path straighter," or does the explanation "make the path crooked?" Is the scenario compatible with the facts, environment, and other events? The final test is one of cumulative probability. When the story relies on a string of low probability events, its probability of holding truth becomes so small that it can generally be safely discarded.
To some degree, our understanding of the past is limited by the finite experience base of our lifetime. Luckily, historians have been able to recreate the moods, current events, gossip, and superstitious mindsets of the Joseph Smith era. In many cases, understanding event sequences and motivating factors require an in-depth examination of all surrounding circumstances, including the current events and prevalent superstitions. As an aside, this research reaffirms one sure conclusion: This lifetime is indeed very short, when one looks at the available information and opportunities for learning. "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." - John Archibald Wheeler
I have also learned through my teaching experience that shared inaccuracies are strong evidence of plagiarism. A large number of shared ideas, events, and especially a sequence of events is strong evidence for plagiarism.
Finally, I have been and continue to make my study a matter of fervent prayer. I have always believed in the power of prayer, and, as of this writing, this belief has not changed in any substantive way.
Here are some questions about "The Book of Mormon" that I continue to struggle with.
Matthew 6:13: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
JST, Matthew 6:14: And suffer us not to be led into temptation, but deliver us from.
3 Nephi 13:12-13: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
We have been told that plain and precious things have been taken out of the bible. However, "The Book of Mormon" is purported to be the word of God, being pure and hidden away from the evil and/or ignorant men who changed the bible over the centuries. ("We believe the bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe "The Book of Mormon" to be the word of God.") This was obviously a case of a mistranslation or deliberate change. If the Lord thought it was important enough to reveal to Joseph the change in meaning (God doesn't lead us into temptation, but we can ask for his help to avoid temptation) as he translated the bible, why didn't this meaning become obvious in 3rd Nephi?
Mathew 6:22: The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
JST, Matthew 6:22: The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single to the glory of God, thy whole body shall be full of light.
3 Nephi 13:22: The light of the body is the eye; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
Again, the JST does a great job clarifying the verse. However, the same question remains. Why is the 3rd Nephi verse exactly the same as the mistranslated or changed King James bible version?
"Ten centuries ago a handful of Norse sailors slipped into Newfoundland, established small colonies, traded with local natives, then sailed back into the fog of history. In spite of the small scale of their settlements and the brevity of their stay, unequivocal evidence of their presence has been found, including metalwork, buildings, and Norse inscriptions. Just six centuries earlier, the Book of Mormon tells us, a climactic battle between fair-skinned Nephites and dark-skinned Lamanites ended a millennial dominion by a literate, Christian, Bronze Age civilization with a population numbering in the millions. Decades of serious honest scholarship have failed to uncover credible evidence that these Book of Mormon civilizations ever existed. No Semitic languages, no Israelites speaking these languages, no wheeled chariots or horses to pull them, no swords or steel to make them. They remain a great civilization vanished without a trace, the people along with their genes." - Simon Southerton, Losing a Lost tribe, p. 199
How can an honest and informed person logically dismiss this evidence and continue to pretend that the civilizations and conditions presented in the Book of Mormon refer to a real people?
Most church members lend credence to the powerful testimonies of the "three witnesses" and "eight witnesses". I have been among those, as was my father. I was surprised to find out that the experiences of the witnesses were all through what was referred to as 'second sight' in the terminology of the day. The seeing of the angel, seeing the plates, and even handling of the plates were not actual physical events for any of the witnesses. It was only while they were carried away in vision did they experience anything. The Whitmers were staunch believers in second sight and their visions and experiences smack of one-upmanship as I read the accounts. Many of the witnesses were reluctant to sign the witness documents prepared by Joseph Smith due to the literal and physical tenor of the documents. Martin Harris testified publicly that none of the signatories to "The Book of Mormon" saw or handled the physical records. Stephen Burnett wrote the following in a letter dated 15 April 1838 to Lyman Johnson:
."I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes, only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver or David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them and hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do so."
On August 11 1838, Warren Parrish wrote: Martin Harris, one of the subscribing witnesses, has come out at last, and says that he never saw the plates, from which the book is purported to have been translated, except in vision and he further says that any man who says he has seen then in any other way is a liar, Joseph [Smith] not excepted."
To me, this is a denial of the testimony text as written in the preface to "The Book of Mormon". When instructors and church leaders assert that none of the witnesses ever denied what they had seen/heard, this seems to be telling a half-truth at best. I need to discuss this with a church leader as to the appropriate manner and forum in which the whole truth should be told. Remaining silent on something so plain and important is interpreted by many as accord, which makes me uncomfortable, since I am not in agreement with what is being taught.
I was also surprised to find out that after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, a man named James J. Strang professed to be the successor to Joseph Smith, translating characters from metal plates. Strang showed these plates to hundreds of people, produced 11 witnesses, and translated them, producing the "Book of the Law of the Lord". There is no direct evidence that any of the men ever denied their testimonies, which were similar to those in the preface to "The Book of Mormon". Three of the Whitmers, Martin Harris, Hiram Page, William Smith, and Lucy Smith all followed Strang's leadership from 1846 to 1847. This replication of an earlier pattern of belief gives us an idea that it may not have been as difficult as we might imagine having the witnesses accept Joseph's claim of having gold plates as an ancient record. Axiom: WHAT ONE MAN CAN DO ANOTHER MAN CAN DO.
And while we are on the subject of witnesses, 51 people willingly signed the following affidavit:
"We, the undersigned, have been acquainted with the Smith family, for a number of years, while they resided near this place, and we have no hesitation in saying, that we consider them destitute of that moral character, which ought to entitle them to the confidence of any community. They were particularly famous for visionary projects, spent much of their time in digging for money which they pretended was hidden in the earth; and to this day, large excavation may be seen in the earth, not far from their residence, where they used to spend their time in digging for hidden treasures. Joseph Smith, Senior, and his son Joseph, were in particular, considered entirely destitute of moral character.. "
When the account of the 3 and 8 reluctant witnesses to "The Book of Mormon" is mentioned in the Church, why do we ignore the statement of these willing and adamant witnesses?
The original papyrus scrolls that Joseph Smith translated into the Book of Abraham were found in 1967 and authenticated by LDS and independent scholars. Over a half dozen Egyptologists, including the expert hired by the Church, verified that the scrolls are Egyptian funerary documents typically found buried with mummies, and post-date the time of Abraham by 1500 years. The information contained on these scrolls bears zero resemblance to the Book of Abraham and could not have been "in Abrahams own hand" as asserted by Joseph Smith. Joseph's own cross-reference showing the characters and the corresponding meanings is complete nonsense, according to every Egyptologist who has examined the documents, some of which are in Joseph Smith Jr.'s own hand, according to handwriting analysts. With the Urim and Thummin and Joseph's expertise developed during "The Book of Mormon" translation, the translation of the papyri should have been a two or three day effort. The fact that it took three men about 8 months to 'decipher' raises a question regarding authenticity. All of the participant diaries indicate that the work was a literal translation, not a revelation inspired by funerary documents and vignettes as some LDS apologists suggest. None of the participants mention anything about funerary documents or excerpts from the Book of Breathings which are actually found on the papyri. An attempt to answer this question is found in the "I have a Question" forum on lds.org, but the explanation is insufficient. After examining all the facts, the serious investigator can only conclude that Joseph Smith was NOT capable of translating Egyptian. And furthermore, the alphabet and grammar that Joseph took great pride in and quoted later in life were obviously contrived gibberish. If Joseph Smith was indeed a Seer, had the Urim and Thummim, and God's blessing to translate, plus a load of experience in translating "The Book of Mormon", how is it possible that the papyrus scrolls could not be translated? If the Pearl of Great Price is indeed a literal translation, in Abrahams' own hand, as claimed by Joseph Smith and others in diary accounts, and noted in the Preface to the BoA, how does one explain this dichotomy?
With regard to the translation of the Book of Abraham, since Moroni kept the gold plates that were the purported source of "The Book of Mormon", the translation of the Book of Abraham is the only opportunity that we have to judge whether Joseph Smith really could interpret Egyptian characters by the "gift and power of God". If Joseph Smith could not translate these documents that yielded 11 pages of English text in 8 months (1.4 pages per month) with help, then how is it possible that he translated the 531 pages of "The Book of Mormon" in 19 months (28 pages per month) without help?
The Book of Abraham contains lengthy descriptions of astronomy and physics. Some examples:
Explanation of facsimile #2, Fig. 5 we read; ". this is one of the governing planets also, and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floese or the Moon, the Earth, and the Sun in their annual revolutions. This planet receives its power through the medium of Kli-flo-is-es, or Ha-ko-kau-beam, the stars represented by numbers 22 and 23, receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob."
Abraham 3:1-9 there is a lengthy description of the reckoning of time. The scripture states that "the set time of the lesser light which is set to rule the night."
The idea that some stars borrow their light from other stars was a short-lived theory among scientists in the 1830 timeframe. The theory that there was some medium in space that transmitted power and conducted gravitational forces was prevalent until about 1920. Now we know there is no medium. The laws governing relativity and time have nothing to do with the night or day or proximity to a particular star, only relative velocity as a percentage of the speed of light. This has been proven using atomic clocks and satellites. Planet or star rotation does not create light, light is emitted from the thermonuclear fusion process in active stars. None of the Book of Abraham theories on astro-physics match what has been discovered using the scientific method. Latter-day prophets have taught that true religion and true science will always agree, yet with the Book of Abraham there is direct contradiction. How is this possible?
Overwhelmed by evidence against the authenticity of the Book of Abraham and the Book of Moses, the RLDS Church (Community of Christ) no longer considers the PoGP to be part of its canon of scripture. When will the LDS Church face the music and follow suit?
The account of the First Vision is not readily reconcilable with historical information. The body of evidence indicates that Joseph experienced an epiphany or second sight experience, which was common and sort of an expected prerequisite for Protestant ministers of the day. Neither Joseph Smith nor anyone else prior to 1838 referred to the vision as authority to act as God's agent of the restoration. No one, friend or foe, remembers any persecution or even a claim to have experienced a vision prior to 1827. The persecution that began in 1827 was tied to money-digging and treasure hunting, not associated with a claim to have seen God. Had Lucy heard her son say that Jesus Christ had personally instructed him to "to go not after them" and to not "join any" church because "all" of the ministers, creeds, and churches were "an abomination in His sight," she and her several children certainly would not have joined the Presbyterians and worshipped with them from 1825 to 1828. Historians agree that the ("great excitement") revivals occurred in 1824-1825, citing fifteen documented sources. No source can be found for an 1820 revival or any religious excitement that year. Having a young man claim to have seen God and Jesus Christ would surely have been the talk of the town and found its way into local papers, letters of local inhabitants, diaries, especially the diaries of the Smith family. There are no such accounts from that time period, not from friends, family, or enemies. Such a lack of third-party evidence defies all logic and reason. Early portrayals of the Godhead as a single entity in the "The Book of Mormon" would surely have brought forth questions in Josephs mind and not found their way into "The Book of Mormon", and there would not have been any need for corrections to "The Book of Mormon" text after the first manuscript was drafted. How can an honest and informed member of the church accept the Joseph Smith history as accurate in light of the surrounding circumstances: lack of third party corroboration, and contrary evidence?
One of the many things that drew me to the Joseph Smith story was the unusual sequence of events that led up to obtaining the gold plates. I thought the story of the multiple visions, waiting periods, etc. much too odd to be contrived by a young man. Recent information now points to an uncanny number of parallels between the Joseph Smith History account and a series of folk tales written by ETA Hoffmann (ETAH). A listing of each parallel would take pages to enumerate. Not only are individual events paralleled, SEQUENCES OF EVENTS are shared between the two works. One example is that the plates could only be delivered on the day of the fall equinox. ETA Hoffmanns' tale has the treasure also being delivered on the day of the fall equinox. While it remains possible that the folk tales of ETAH merely influenced the fuzzy recollections of Joseph, or that ETAH had inspiration regarding the restoration of the true gospel, such is implausible (giant leap of faith at best). How can an honest and informed member of the church accept the Joseph Smith history (especially the story of the coming forth of the golden plates) as an original work?
In the trial of 1826, Joseph Smith was brought before the court on charges of fraud (money digging for profit). While apologists are quick to assert that Joseph was never convicted of any crime, whether or not there was a conviction is beside the point. At this trial, Joseph freely admits, under oath, that he was incapable of locating buried treasures using either his peep stone or while being carried away in vision. Anyone that objectively studies the trial of 1826 will reach one sure conclusion: At this time of his life, Joseph Smith was in the business of making money by preying on the superstitions of the people. Bear in mind that this is 6 years after the reported date of the 'First Vision'. Does it make logical sense that a young man of 19 years that had experienced a visitation from God would find his way into this line of business? The money digging went on for years, this was not just a one-time foible or lark. Objective historians agree that this early modus operandi set a pattern that lasted his whole life, while apologists dismiss this as just being a temporary weakness that Joseph was able to work through and put behind him. Which is it? In order for the members of the church to objectively examine the history of Joseph Smith, should not this information be brought up during church discussions on the subject? If not, why?
Joseph Smith produced three versions of his history, the official history of Joseph Smith that is accepted as part of scripture was the third and last attempt. The first two written histories made no mention of two personages in the vision. It was only after other prominent church members began claiming that they had had visitations from heavenly beings did Joseph Smith 'remember' that he had experienced a visitation from God and Jesus Christ, and that he had received a special directive to be the leader of the restoration. ANY trial lawyer or judge will tell you that a witness that changes his story with each telling is an unreliable witness and his testimony is always set aside. For what possible reason would a rational and reasonable person place credence in such flimsy story-telling?
In summary, the Joseph Smith story fails all the truth tests - and rather miserably. There is no third-party corroboration of any of the facts or events. The story, if true, has people doing unreasonable and illogical things. The highly questionable metamorphosis of the account really removes any doubt to an objective investigator: the story is contrived.
It should also be mentioned that the stories that Joseph relates regarding baptism, restoration of the Priesthood, and other visitations from heavenly messengers follow the same pattern. The memory and the recording of the event happens well after the supposed occurrence, and each event morphs from the metaphysical to the physical, and becomes more embellished with each telling. In a court of law, testimony from such a source is SET ASIDE.
Smith's journal for May 1, 1843 says: "I insert facsimiles of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook, In Pike County, Illinois, on April 23, by Mr. Robert Wiley and others, while excavating a large mound. They found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of the earth, which must have stood nine feet high. The plates were found on the breast of the skeleton and were covered on both sides by ancient characters. I have translated a portion of them, and find 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 form the Ruler of heaven and earth."
The six brass plates were actually fabricated out of copper by Wilber Fugate. Fugate admitted having used acid to burn the engravings into the copper and make them look old, then placing them where they were sure to be found. Smith fell headlong into this trap and was caught in a lie. How can a reasonable member dismiss this behavior and accept other 'translations' by Smith in good faith?
Since I have polygamist ancestors on both my fathers' and mothers' sides of the family, this is not a trivial question or issue for me. Questions about polygamy:
1.Why did Joseph and other General Authorities marry young girls?
Helen Mar Kimball, born 20 Aug 1828, married Joseph Smith May 1843 (14 years old)
Lucy Walker, born 30 Apr 1826, married Joseph Smith 1 May 1843 (17 years old)
Sarah Lawrence, born 13 May 1826, married Joseph Smith abt 11 May 1843 (nearly 17 years old)
Sarah Ann Whitney, born 22 Mar 1825, married Joseph Smith 27 Jul 1842 (17 years old)
Nancy Mariah Winchester, born 10 Aug 1828, married Heber C. Kimball 10 Oct 1844 (16 years old)
This seems to serve no practical purpose. I was taught that the reasons for polygamy were to build up the kingdom rapidly and to take care of women whose husbands had been killed. Fourteen-year-old girls are barely able to take care of themselves, let alone raise a family with a husband who is sharing time with 20 other women and their kids. Need clarification on this one.
2. Why did Joseph marry women that were already married?
Example: Zina Diantha Huntington born 31 Jan 1821. Married Henry Bailey Jacobs on 7 March 1841. Married Joseph Smith on 27 Oct 1841 while still married to Henry. After Joseph's martyrdom, married Brigham Young on 2 Feb 1846. (Source: Official church family history web site: Link is here.)
This seems contradictory to D&C 132: 61, which says that to be justified in taking more than one wife, the woman must not be vowed to any other man.
3. It is a documented fact (multiple accounts diaries, personal histories, and the LDS family search website) that Joseph Smith Jr. took multiple plural wives without the knowledge or consent of Emma. He was also caught in adultery with Fanny Alger. He persuaded women who were already married to marry him. Most (or all) of these marriages were performed outside of the temple, also verifiable using the same sources and documented Church history of the temples. Five different people (Joseph Smith, Joseph F. Smith, Benjamin F. Johnson, Mary Lighter, and Lorenzo Snow) assert that an angel of God with a sword commanded Joseph to institute polygamy or the angel would slay him. This event goes contrary to everything I have come to believe regarding agency, angels, and the nature of God. I can only conclude that this is a contrived vision to convince young women to marry him, which worked wonderfully well. The scriptures tell us that in the mouths of two or three witnesses all things are established, so I (as will any sincere investigator) accept these marriages and the so-called threatening angel story as fact. This presents a dilemma for me. How do I explain this to an investigator of the church? The progression from adultery to spiritual wifery to polygamy to polyandry casts a large shadow of doubt over the revelations Joseph Smith Jr. received during the latter years of his life. We are reminded frequently in the church that iniquity drives away the spirit and we lose any right to revelation. How would it be possible for Joseph to continue to receive revelation from God if he was not keeping God's commandments himself?
4. From Mormon Doctrine, page 578, second edition, Bruce R. McConkie, sustained as a prophet, seer, and revelator: "Obviously the practice will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium." This statement runs counter to the Gordon B. Hinkley assertion that polygamy is in the LDS past. Which is it? Is polygamy a practice never to be reinstated in this life, or only put on hold because it is against the current laws of the land?
5. Jesus practiced polygamy. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol 1, pg 119-120) True or false? If false, do I also discount other doctrines taught by Brigham Young? If true, may I bring this up in Gospel Doctrine when discussing the life of Jesus? After the movie "The DaVinci Code", Hinckley asserted that Jesus was never married and did not have children. Whom shall I ignore, Gordon B. Hinckley or Brigham Young?
6. Brigham Young, JoD, Volume 11, pg 269 "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy." What is to be made of this doctrine?
7. Why was Wilford Woodruff sealed to 267 women? Mar 1, 1877 - Wilford Woodruff describes his 70th birthday celebrations: "I was there Surrounded with one hundred and fifty four virgins, Maidens Daughters and Mothers in Zion from the age of fourteen to the Aged Mother leaning upon her Staff. All had assembled for the purpose of Entering into the Temple of the Lord to make me a birth day Present by being washed And Anointed and receiving their Endowments for and behalf of One hundred and Thirty of my wives who were dead and in the spirit world . . ." After the temple ceremonies are completed Woodruff attends a party in his honor where "their was presented before me a present of a birth day Bridal Cake three Stories high . . ." A poem composed and read for the occasion includes the lines "We meet to day with Joy to act A proxy for thy dead,/ And Give thee scores of wives who'll be Like Crowns upon thy head" On Woodruff's next two birthdays women go to the St. George Temple and act as proxies in sealing plural wives to him. In 1879 he writes that it "makes 267 in all of the dead single women who have been sealed to me in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, and in the St George Temple."
Worthy of note: The fact that temple marriage and polygamy stand or fall together was made very clear by Charles Penrose who was a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church. Elder Penrose showed that the revelation (DC 132) was the only one published on Celestial Marriage and if the doctrine of plural marriage was repudiated so must the glorious principle of marriage for eternity, the two being indissoluble interwoven with each other. (Millemial Star, Vol 45, page 454.) Polygamy is an integral part of LDS doctrine and attempts to distance the church from it are lip service.
It may seem cold and harsh to apply mathematical theory to examine the claims of the church. However, the work of Galileo and other pioneers of truth, in the face of adversity, have historically borne fruit. Mathematical truth is one facet of the scientific method, and is unique in that there can be no debate regarding correct results. There is no opinion, no bias, and no room for discussion. This is the unique beauty of mathematics: it stands on its own. Granted, an assigned probability or an estimated probability is only an opinion, but in engineering analysis, generous assumptions are routinely used as tools to obtain irrefutable results. This method is tried and true and will be employed in this section.
Another mathematical certainty has to do with cumulative probability. When two experiments or items are required to be positive, their probabilities are multiplied together to determine the probability of both experiment A and experiment B being positive. For example, if the chance of rain is 10% today and 25% tomorrow, the chance of getting rain on both days is 0.10*0.25 = 0.025, or only 2.5%. Simply stated, events that are unlikely become much more unlikely if they are connected to other events which must also have a positive outcome.
Hypothesis: In order for the claims of Joseph Smith to be factual, three key items must be positively true:
The Joseph Smith story fails all truth tests quite miserably (see Joseph Smith History section). But I will be very generous and say that there is a 10% chance that his story is true, or p1 = 0.10. If this seems unfair to the reader, factor in the actions of Joseph Smith family members and lack of corroborating testimony of persecution, etc. I assert that this probability is very generous in light of all the evidence at hand.
"The Book of Mormon" has eight references to days of the month. They are as follows:
|1||1||66 BC||Alma 52:1||Assassination of Amalickiah|
|2||1||62 BC||Alma 56:1||Helaman sends an epistle to Moroni|
|4||1||34 AD||3 Ne 8:5||Destruction before Jesus visits the Nephites|
|5||2||81 BC||Alma 16:1||Lamanites begin a war against the Nephites|
|3||7||Abt 64 BC||Alma 56:42||Account of a war between Nephites and Lamanites|
|4||7||81 BC||Alma 10:6||Amulek the younger is converted|
|12||10||81 BC||Alma 14:23||Alma the younger is freed from prison|
|10||11||72 BC||Alma 49:1||Lamanites march on the city|
There is nothing in the circumstances of the events to expect that they would be biased toward the first part of the month. In other words, we would expect these events to be randomly distributed throughout the days of the months. For 8 random month dates, the mean of the sum would be about 8*15.5 = 124. For the sum of 8 random month dates to be as low as 41 is relatively improbable. It is relatively simple to quantify the probability using a random number generator (in EXCEL 'randbetween') and repeat the experiment, counting the times that the sum of 8 random numbers between 1 and 30 is less than or equal to 41. I performed this experiment 1 million times, and got 139 positives, a statistically significant experiment. The probability of 139/1000000 is p2 = 0.000139 or about 1 positive every 7200 tries. There is therefore a 1/7200 chance that these dates describe randomly distributed events in history, and there is a 7199/7200 chance that the work is fiction and the writer of the book had a tendency to favor dates close to the first of the month for some reason. (See also Duwayne R. Anderson, "Farewell to Eden" pp 330-340) This is a very generous probability, since we are ignoring all the other incongruities associated with the book.
The probability that the Book of Abraham is an actual translation of the papyri or a revelation from God is probably the most remote of the three. NOBODY that has honestly researched this matter (that I know) has reached the conclusion that the BoA is an actual translation, and this includes many devout church members, including General Authorities. Therefore, the only remaining possibility for the believer is that the BoA is a pure revelation inspired by the papyri, and Joseph Smith misrepresented the revelation as a translation and cooked up the alphabet to justify the purchase of the papyri to the destitute saints to avoid their ire.
Therefore, the most fair approach in evaluating the truth of the Book of Abraham is to ignore the obvious deception regarding the purported "by his own hand" claim and assume that the book was pure revelation. Remember, the Book of Abraham is where we are told that God wanted to withhold the rights of the priesthood to the black-skinned people (Abraham 1:26-27) Is this an eternal truth?. In addition to Then, we must ask ourselves what the probability is that the astro-physics revealed in the book constitute eternal truths. That lesser stars "borrow" light from greater stars, that there is a medium of energy transference in space, and that somehow light emissions are tied to planet or star rotation, and that time reckoning has something to do with the night and/or proximity to a particular star or planet. Any physicist would assign a probability of zero to the possibility that these phenomena are eternal truths. I will assign what I consider a generous probability of one in ten thousand. My justification is that there are at least 10,000 expert physicists in the world today that would assign a lower probability than this, and I believe in the scientific method and cumulative results of science in this arena over the last 90 years. A one in ten thousand probability is p3 = 0.0.0001.
The cumulative probability that the restoration is an eternal truth and not contrived is therefore the product of the three:
Pcumulative = p1 * p2 * p3 = 0.10 * 0.000139 * 0.0001 = 1.39 * 10 -9 or about one in a billion.
Mathematically, this is a low enough probability to safely ignore the hypothesis. The great mathematician Pascal, the co-inventor of statistics, wrote that no matter how small the probability that religion is true, it makes sense to follow it, because the reward is infinite. This is commonly referred to as Pascal's Wager. Pascal realized that the probability of any religion being true is small. Pascal actually embraced Jansenism and gave up doing math and focused on religion. Now Jansenism is an insignificant footnote in religious history and all but forgotten. On the other hand, Pascal's mathematics will live on and will benefit mankind forever. Pascal, due to religious pressures, only gave mankind perhaps 1/100 of the math that he was capable of giving. What a waste of a wonderful intellect. I submit that it is more important to learn from Pascal's mistake than follow his advice.
How can the informed and logical church member be expected to supplant mathematical evidence with the nebulous and unreliable 'whisperings of the spirit"?
This has also been a time of introspection for me. This introspection has been healthful. The basis of my testimony can be summarized with five key points:
1. Gospel principles brought alive by "The Book of Mormon", particularly the heart of the Book of Alma (Alma 32 not the least among the important chapters), together with my version of the burning in the bosom while reading such great work.
2. Perceived inability of Joseph Smith to have written/conjured up "The Book of Mormon" without divine help.
3. Testimony of "The Book of Mormon" witnesses and assertion of no denials.
4. The peculiar story of Joseph Smith: the first vision and the odd tale of the coming forth of the golden plates. The first vision story so plain and straight-forward, the story of Moroni so strange. I thought the diversity in his story too peculiar to be a fabrication or the work of his imagination.
5. Faith healings, inspired events, and other manifestations of a higher power throughout my life. In each instance, I had attributed the event to the gospel as taught by the LDS church.
My study has provided credible alternate explanations for items 1-4, but not number 5. Item #5 is no small sack of potatoes, either. I believe that every Latter-day saint has spiritual experiences, some as often as daily. I have personally witnessed the power of faith relieve pain in a faithful woman in Troyes France , and I was the voice for the blessing. I felt that I have been moved to say certain things, go certain places, and in general led by the spirit. I do not doubt that these things are real. I feel that there is a higher power at work here. But I am just as certain that these manifestations of the spirit occur to other people and other religions, including non-Christians. Cheryl, a former massage therapist, describes casting a devil out of her son, and he has been a different young man ever since. Ministers of other religions have been guided and inspired to make visits, do or say certain things that they had not planned or prepared and touched a life as a result. I have read about clinical studies of prayer where a congregation prayed for a random group of hospital patients, by name, and the patients were unaware of the prayers. They healed more quickly and had fewer complications than the groups of people that did not receive the 'outside' help, statistically significant improvements. (The clinical studies were all done with non-LDS Christian congregations, by the way.) Would God withhold his spirit from a woman praying about how to help a child, or a Presbyterian minister wanting to help a member of his flock? Absolutely not. Does that help or guidance mean any one church is true and another false? Absolutely not.
When these manifestations of the spirit occur, therefore, all I conclude is there is a higher power at work and be thankful that it is. A manifestation of the spirit; however, does not necessarily bring with it a confirmation of the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith. This was a tough conclusion to reach, but if each manifestation of the spirit by a Latter-day saint means that our church is true, and each manifestation of the spirit that Cheryl has means her church is also true, and each Jewish Rabbi that has an experience confirms Judaism is true, and well, the logic of cause and effect breaks down. I believe there is no causal relationship between manifestations of the spirit and discerning a divine church or organization. Spiritual manifestations are an individual event and only an individual event by nature. Those that attempt to extrapolate an individual experience with a testimony of the divinity of any particular faith are deceiving themselves. But, if it makes them feel better to imagine this relationship, I say live and let live.
Some people attribute such events to statistical coincidence, the working of the subconscious mind, imagination, telepathy, angels, priesthood, or some unseen and/or unexplained forces. I find it amusing that some people feel duty-bound to make such judgments whenever an unexplained event occurs. Why bother? Just be glad it happened and happy for the person(s) who benefited. Hope and pray that it happens more often. End of discussion.
It is ironic that church members uniformly show distain and disbelief regarding the actions of radical Islam and Shiite Muslims. However, before I get to the irony, some background is appropriate. If history teaches us anything, it shows that fanaticism begets injustice. When teamed with greed, fanaticism, with its many faces, can be found at the root of virtually every large-scale crime against humanity on this planet. (It could also be pointed out that greed is really just fanaticism over money and power.) The 9/11 attack was Islamic fanatics. Hitler was a fanatical racist. The burning of the library in Alexandria and the end of the Greek era was precipitated by religious fanatics. The crusades were perpetrated by Christian fanatics. The characteristics of a fanatic are:
· Refuses to objectively examine evidence that might contradict a core belief
· Condemns any that depart from the fanatical group
· Resorts to 'declarationism' (testimony bearing) as a last bastion
· Believes they will be absolved from responsibility for their actions (Allah will save all who follow Osama!)
· Willing to give all and/or die for the cause
· Feels that he/she is persecuted
· Labels information that contradicts their core belief as "Anti" and believe it is all contrived
The LDS culture breeds fanatics and fosters fanaticism, yet they are generally oblivious to it. Immersion in the culture brings with it the blindness to its fanatical nature. While the LDS fundamentalist splinter groups have the more obvious fanatical tendencies, all the elements of fanaticism are self-evident in the mainstream LDS culture as well. I have personal friends that have actually banished and disowned family members for turning away from Mormonism. If this is not concrete evidence of fanaticism, I don't know what is. Choosing forced religious conformity over family ties? VERY SAD. Fanatical LDS simply cannot view apostasy objectively. An apostate is someone that 'went off the deep end' or 'became a tool of Satan'. If this mindset were not so sad, it would be hilariously funny. Real life, in many ways, is stranger than fiction.
From Hassan's book, "Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves": It is left to the reader to decide to the degree these characteristics are manifest and fostered in the LDS church.
Characteristics of a Mind Control Environment:
"The demand for purity: Establishing impossible standards for performance, thereby creating an environment of guilt and shame. No matter how hard a person tries, he always falls short, feels badly, and works even harder." (p. 34)
"Doctrine over person: The imposition of group beliefs over individual experience, conscience, and integrity." (p. 34)
"Loading the language: The use of vocabulary to constrict members' thinking into absolute, black-and-white, "thought-terminating clichés" understood only by insiders." (p. 34)
Social influence processes (p. 35): "In the 1930s, an early social psychologist named Kurt Lewin explained about his "field theory," which described how behavior is related to both a person's personality and his environment:"
A quote from Lewin in Hassan's book: "Each person, in this view, is surrounded by a "life space" or dynamic field of forces within which his or her needs and purposes interact with the influences of the environment. Social behavior can be schematized in terms of the tension and interplay of these forces and of the individual's tendency to maintain equilibrium among them or to restore equilibrium when it has been disturbed."
"Lewin was also interested in how a person's attitudes are changed by his being a member of a group that reaches a collective decision, and how such a person will tend to hold fast to that decision while ignoring later information that conflicts with it." (p. 35) "It is human nature to adapt to what is perceived to be "correct" behavior." (p. 37)
"If mind control techniques are used to empower an individual to have more choice, and authority for his life remains within himself, the effects can be beneficial. Mind control becomes destructive when it is used to undermine a person's ability to think and act independently." (p. 38) ".mind control seeks nothing less than to disrupt an individual's authentic identity." (p. 38)
"Cult mind control is a social process that encourages obedience, dependence, and conformity. It discourages autonomy and individuality by immersing recruits in an environment that represses free choice. The group's dogma becomes the person's only concern. Anything or anyone that does not fit into his reshaped reality is irrelevant." (p. 38)
"The key to mind control's success lies in its subtlety, the way it promotes the "illusion of control." The individual believes he is "making his own choices," when in fact he has been socially influenced to disconnect his own critical mind and decision-making capacity. In other words, he believes that he has freely chosen to surrender his free will to God or to a leader or ideology. When one steps back and objectively evaluates the vast amount of social influence used to get him to "surrender", the degree of manipulation becomes very obvious." (p. 40)
Cognitive dissonance: "If you change a person's behavior, his thoughts and feelings will change to minimize the dissonance." "."dissonance" is the psychological tension that arises when a person's behavior conflicts with his beliefs." (p. 40) "When you control the information that a person is allowed to receive, you limit his capacity for independent thought." (p. 42)
"Mind-controlled cult members can live in their own apartments, have nine-to-five jobs, be married with children, and still be unable to think for themselves and act independently." (p. 46)
This control mechanism deserves special mention. When I divulged my doubts regarding the 'restoration' to the bishop, his first reaction was "but look at everything we have worked for!" A person tends to value that for which he or she has paid a very dear price. Mormonism has always demanded great sacrifices: money, time, even all we possess if necessary.
Many are born into the sacrifice trap. From childhood they hear stories about the great price their parents and ancestors and pioneers have paid to preserve and build Zion. Children are saddled with a 'legacy of faith' responsibility at an early age. To shirk this responsibility is equated to being disrespectful of parents, grandparents, dead ancestors, and brave pioneers. They begin paying tithing at age 8 (or earlier) and sacrificing time and effort for the church in a myriad of ways. One example: even though the church could easily pay for building maintenance, member families are asked to volunteer their time, thus the sacrifice trap grips the members ever tighter. I am not saying work and service are bad, quite the opposite is true. However, once a person has sacrificed much for a long time period, his or her ability to objectively examine information that may contradict the 'cause' is compromised.
The great cementer of the sacrifice trap is persecution, either real or imagined. Nothing brings a culture together and steels their resolve more quickly than persecution. Brigham Young gloried in persecution because he knew of its power.
"Well, do you think that persecution has done us good? Yes. I sit and laugh, and rejoice exceedingly when I see persecution." - Brigham Young [This is not an isolated quotation. Over 100 similar quotes may be found in the JoD.]
A typical illusion created by religions is referred to as ethnocentrism. This is a strong conviction that a person's religion, political ideas, traditions, race, language, or homeland are special in the eyes of God, and that all other cultures are not just different but wrong and in need of conversion. This is one of the most seductive of all illusions.
One of the most ethnocentric assertions ever made was by Joseph Smith in relating that all the churches in the world were wrong and their creeds were "an abomination in His sight", and that the ministers of these religions were "all corrupt." This one doctrine led to a climate of confrontation, intolerance, bigotry, hatred, and persecution. What is worse, the doctrine was obviously untrue. There were many dedicated, loving, and sincere ministers of religion in 1820, just as there are today.
"Each ethnocentric group stresses its uniqueness and its differences in order to maintain its vitality and identity. Each builds walls against outsiders and foreigners. Ethnocentrism creates iron curtains, Zion curtains, and all kinds of barriers to keep out those who are different. Perhaps the most difficult challenge a person can ever have in this life is to transcend the limitations, narrowness, and ethnocentrism of his own cultural heritage in pursuit of truth. - Arza Evans
Another illusion shared by many religions is social paranoia. This illusion cements the religious, political, or ethnic community together by convincing them that there is safety and security only within the group. Stay in the boat, there are sharks out there! Outsiders are not to be trusted, only converted. Everyone hates people like us, we better stick together and follow our leaders in order to survive. The worst thing that can happen to social paranoids is to be ostracized. This becomes a fate literally worse than death.
Man as man is afraid of insanity, just as man as animal is afraid of death. Man has to be related, he has to find union with others, in order to be sane. This need to be one with others is the strongest passion, stronger than sex and often even stronger that his wish to live. For this reason the individual must blind himself from seeing that which his group claims does not exist, or accept as truth that with the majority say is true, even if his own eyes could convince him that it is false. The herd is so vitally important for the individual that their views, beliefs, feelings, constitute reality for him, more so than what his senses and his reason tell him.. There is almost nothing a man will not believe or repress when he is threatened with ostracism. - Erich Fromm
Morpheus: Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Neo: The Matrix.
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
The illusion of certainty is another popular social pathology. Certainty brings a sense of peace and security. It helps a person make sense out of this world and avoid the painfulness of ambivalence. A strong leader is one who knows what he is talking about. A person that only states opinions and speculates does not inspire deep loyalty nor great enthusiasm. Human nature craves certainty. This tendency has created serious problems for the world. Jesus was crucified by certainty. The airliners that flew into the World Trade Center were piloted by certainty. The Nazi concentration camps were built and operated by certainty. Certainty carried out the Mountain Meadow Massacre. Beware the man who is certain of the will of God.
"The longing for certainty and repose is in every human mind. But certainty is generally an illusion and repose is not the destiny of man." - Oliver Wendell Holmes
"The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure it is right" - Learned Hand
"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." - Jiddu Krishnamurti
I believe that many things can be established as truth beyond any reasonable doubt using the truth tests described and the scientific method. Unfortunately, the existence of God and knowing His will are NOT among those things that can be established beyond any reasonable doubt. Any who assert otherwise have been deceived or are delusional by definition and should not be trusted. In theology, the bare truth is that certain key tenants are unknowable.
Humility has been defined as nothing more than consistently recognizing truth and accepting the truth with all its consequences. To cling to a myth despite overwhelming contradictory evidence, denying the possibility that one has been deceived, and then purporting to occupy the higher moral ground is false pride at its ugliest and a manifestation of sociopathic behavior.
My entire research experience can be summed up in a conclusion reached by Hippocrates in 400 BC: "There are, in effect, two things: to know and to believe one knows. To know is science. To believe one knows is ignorance."
I believe that organized religion is beneficial only to the extent it helps its members be kind to other people and tolerant of others with different belief systems. Unfortunately, organized religion has a less than stellar track record in this regard. I do see this improving with time, and hope this trend will continue. I also hope that those that have read this document will adopt a more tolerant view of religion, abandon fanatical and ethnocentric tendencies, and resolve to treat all humans with kindness and respect, including friends and family that adjust their belief systems to align more closely with reality.
To me, trying to mix obvious illusions with spirituality is more frustrating than comforting. "All that the human race has achieved, spiritually, and materially, it owes to the destroyers of illusions and the seekers of reality." - Erich Fromm. I am resolved to abandon illusion and seek reality.
-Lyndon Lamborn, June 2007
"Studies of the Book of Mormon"B.H. Roberts
"An Insiders View of Mormon Origins" Grant Palmer
"The Keystone of Mormonism" Arza Evans
"Mormon Enigma, Emma Hale Smith" Newell and Tippetts
"Farewell to Eden" Duwayne Anderson
"No Man Knows My History" Fawn Brodie
"By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus" Charles M. Larson
Attached Book Report on "A View of the Hebrews" Lyndon Lamborn with abridged material from Arza Evans
Some Interesting Quotes to Ponder
Joseph Smith once corrected the high council for calling up a man for erring in doctrine. Joseph wrote that he did not like the concept of a creed, which a man must believe or be asked out of the Church. "I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels good not to be trammelled. It don't prove that a man is not a good man, because he errs in doctrine." Joseph also reportedly said: "The most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter-day Saints and sectarians was that the latter were all circumscribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived its members of the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter-day Saints have no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist." (What does this say about the book Mormon Doctrine?)
Similarly, President Joseph F. Smith testified before the Congress of the United States that Latter-day Saints "are given the largest possible latitude of their convictions, and if a man rejects a message that I may give to him but is still moral and believes in the main principles of the gospel and desires to continue in his membership in the Church, he is permitted to remain." At the same time, he added,
Members of the Mormon Church are not all united on every principle. Every man is entitled to his own opinion and his own views and his own conceptions of right and wrong so long as they do not come in conflict with the standard principles of the Church. If a man assumes to deny God and to become an infidel we withdraw fellowship from him. But so long as a man believes in God and has a little faith in the Church organization, we nurture and aid that person to continue faithfully as a member of the Church though he may not believe all that is revealed.
Galileo said, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with good sense, reason, and intellect, has intended us to forego their use."
Juanita Brooks' father to the wayward and questioning Juanita:
One day Dad said to me, "My girl, if you follow this tendency to criticize, I'm afraid you will talk yourself out of the Church. I'd hate to see you do that. I'm a cowboy and I've learned that if I ride in the herd, I am lost.…One who rides counter to it is trampled and killed. One who only trails behind means little because he leaves all responsibility to others. It is the cowboy who rides the edge of the herd, who sings and calls and makes himself heard, who helps direct the course. So don't lose yourself, and don't ride away and desert the outfit. Ride the edge of the herd and be alert, and know your directions and call out loud and clear. Chances are you won't make any difference, but on the other hand, you just might."
"To every man there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talent; what a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour." -Winston Churchill-
"The reality of it is that for thousands of years and thousands of religions all over the world it has NEVER been about honesty above image; it has always been about image over honesty, with the hope that people smart enough to see through it would also be smart enough to understand why. The essence of it has always been that dishonesty has always been able to more effectively motivate the masses to better behavior than any honest approach has ever been capable of producing. All "revealed" religions have always been fundamentally dishonest. Among educated people, honesty as a religious priority is almost never on the table for discussion, and the reasons for this are generally understood. Educated people are aware of this and are relatively comfortable with it. It has always been about "where there is no vision the people perish," and the need to create vision has brought about the need to be dishonest to one extent or another.
"Mormonism's problem is mainly that because we have a lay clergy, therefore we have a higher percentage compared to any other religion, of people who are trained to understand the doctrine and history and are therefore able to discern the differences between fact and cover-up. All of our members are educated in doctrine and history, and all are therefore potentially vulnerable to having their worldview bubble popped as real knowledge encroaches.
"The real choice is between something like atheistic humanism or Unitarian teachings on the one hand, and more traditional religious teachings on the other. By simply looking at where the greater numbers of people are we can see that humanism/Unitarianism doesn't work at all with the great majority of people. So the masses flock to the many kinds of religious fantasies that they prefer over reality, calling their particular fantasy reality, and thus they have the amount of dishonesty that they deserve. Complete honesty doesn't sell well, and is therefore scarcely bought among and by the vast majority of mankind. That's why things are the way they are, and that's why we won't be able to do much to affect the overall numbers. We might as well try to teach little boys to prefer to play with dolls and little girls to prefer to play with bulldozers and guns." Copyright © 2005 by Kent Ponder
"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." John Adams
"The tragic reality is that there have been occasions when Church leaders, teachers, and writers have not told the truth they knew about difficulties of the Mormon past, but have offered to the Saints instead a mixture of platitudes, half-truths, omissions, and plausible denials. Elder Packer and others would justify this because "we are at war with the adversary" and must also protect any Latter-day Saint whose "testimony [is] in seedling stage." But such a public-relations defense of the Church is actually a Maginot Line of sandy fortifications which "the enemy" can easily breach and which has been built up by digging lethal pits into which the Saints will stumble. A so-called "faith-promoting" Church history which conceals controversies and difficulties of the Mormon past actually undermines the faith of Latter- day Saints who eventually learn about the problems from other sources." - Michael Quinn
"I feel like I was insane, my friends. I feel like for most of my life, I existed in a state of altered consciousness. I literally felt, upon realizing things, that I was awakening from a kind of trance; and almost everyone else I talk to, who was a devout believer, says the same thing. It is literally like I instantly had access to parts of my mind, my consciousness, that I'd never even known existed before...like I had been almost drugged or something before, and had figured out I was, and had managed in that clouded state, to somehow pull the IV out, and now blurriness was being replaced by clarity, and I could see things I'd never seen before...
"How else could I have ignored all the logical impossibilities, all the disconfirming evidences, all the indications just through the normal course of church activity that there was something wrong? There was something wrong with my head...Heck, what else did "put it on the shelf" really mean, except "make yourself unconscious of what you are now conscious of"? I was stuck on some quest, the goal of which, seemed to increasingly restrict my consciousness to the point where it was operating just enough to be able to recognize commands from my church controllers, understand them, and then obey them, the end. That, after all, is the climax and culmination of life in a cult. What a waste.
"That insanity gripped us, preying off of our emotional and psychic needs...But thank God, now we are free. I know coming out of that state is hard, and our relationships are rocked...but life can be so profound and incredible now...how could anyone really want to go back to *not knowing*, back to that smug, somnolent state? Isn't every struggle worth it, just to fully BE? Just so our children never have to go through it?
"There is no chance to be all we can be in such a state. There is no chance to feel all we can feel, to think all we can think, to achieve all we can achieve, in it. There is no chance to feel truly whole there, even though while we are in it, we are convinced that just the opposite is true. But of course, everything is backwards in that poor mental state. Delusion is just like that." - Tal Bachman
For explanations of a universe that confuses him, he seizes onto numerology, astrology, hysterical religions, and other fancy ways to go crazy. Having accepted such glorified nonsense, facts make no impression on him, even if at the cost of his own life. . one of the hardest things to believe is the abysmal depth of human stupidity. - Robert Heinlein
Human beings never welcome the news that something they have long cherished is untrue. They almost always reply to that news by reviling the promulgator. - H.L. Mencken
Whoever tells the truth is chased out of nine villages. - Turkish proverb
The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and it goes away, puzzling. - Robert Pirsig
What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. - C. Hitchens from "Mommie Dearest"
Religion is based, I think primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing - fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death.
"People don't realize religion is never a search for truth. Religion is a search for security." - Spong
"One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back."--Carl Sagan
"All that the human race has achieved, spiritually, and materially, it owes to the destroyers of illusions and the seekers of reality." - Erich Fromm
"When you blame others, you give up your power to change." - Robert Anthony
There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.
That will be the beginning.- Louis L'Amour
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away."
"The question isn't whether something is inspired, but whether it is true. Truth doesn't need inspiration." - Robert Ingersoll
For truth is reality. That which is false is unreal. The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world. The less clearly we see the reality of the world - the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions and illusions-the less able we will be able to make wise decisions. Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost. While this is obvious, it is something that most people to a lesser or greater degree chooses to ignore. They ignore it because our route to reality is not easy." - Scott Peck
Book Report: "A View of the Hebrews" 1825 2nd Edition, Ethan Smith
(First edition was published in 1823)
Republished by Religious Studies Center, BYU, First Printing, 1996
With an introduction by Charles D. Tate Jr.
Tate's introduction indicates the huge variation in conclusions reached by historians regarding this books' influence on Joseph Smith. It all boils down to frame of mind and maintaining an objective viewpoint. The famous incident with BH Roberts and the Quorum of the 12 in 1922 (p ix)* and his letter to Heber J. Grant (p xvii) are mentioned. Tate also mentions that Oliver Cowdery was a printer in the town that first printed the book and may have actually helped with the first printing of the View of the Hebrews ("A View of the Hebrews" p xviii). What the introduction fails to mention that I believe is key to setting the stage is that the origin of the Native American was FRONT PAGE news as Joseph Smith was growing up. Someone that could explain where these people came from would be Batman (Ref BH Roberts, "Studies of the The Book of Mormon").
The basic premise and thrust of "A View of the Hebrews" is that Native Americans are actually descendants of the lost 10 tribes of Israel . The 10 tribes departed into the north country and then went east and north, and eventually traversed the Bering Strait to the Americas . Much of the book is devoted to studying the customs, traditions, ceremonies, legends, etc. of the American Indian and pointing out similarities to Hebrew traditions, ceremonies, holidays, etc.
There are stark differences between "A View of the Hebrews" and "The Book of Mormon", which apologists are quick to point out. "A View of the Hebrews" has the migration over the Bering Strait, which could have been frozen and not involved ships, whereas "The Book of Mormon" has a great sea voyage. The focuses on the 10 tribes aspect, whereas "The Book of Mormon" just has the families of Lehi and Ishmael. "A View of the Hebrews" quotes 775 BC as the date of the destruction of Jerusalem, "The Book of Mormon" starts at 621 BC with the event to follow. "A View of the Hebrews" discusses pyramid building at length (p 154-155), "The Book of Mormon" has virtually nothing on pyramids. "A View of the Hebrews" discusses parchments (p 168-169), "The Book of Mormon" has gold plates. Tate mentions a book that points out 84 "un-parallels" that could be added to these main ones (p xvii).
The most damning evidence FOR plagiarism is shared inaccuracy. This is primarily what I was looking for as I read. The shared inaccuracies, as I see them are as follows:
History teaches us that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is the most primitive existence and leaves virtually zero idle time. It is only through cultivated crops, irrigation, domesticated animals, specialization, division of labor, and permanent settlements can civilizations support people with idle time. Therefore, I count both "A View of the Hebrews" and "The Book of Mormon"" as inaccurate on this point, which may seem too subtle to be counted to many readers. I submit that I know of no other books that portray hunter-gatherers as idlers.
Weaker clues for plagiarism are common ideas. The shared ideas or "parallels" (that I could perceive) are as follows (BH Roberts lists 18 and can be viewed at Link is here.:
Anticipating that readers would have doubts about his book, Ethan Smith said:
"Ye friends of God in the land addressed; can you read this prophetic direction of the ancient prophet Isaiah, without having your hearts burn within you?"
Compare the Book of Mormon promise:
"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, and with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."
It is also interesting that Ethan Smith quotes the 11th chapter of Isaiah in his book. Joseph claimed the angel Moroni quoted the exact same chapter to him in his bedroom on September 12, 1828. Also interesting is the similarity of the name "Ether" to "Ethan". It could easily be coincidence, or it could have been Joseph Smith's sense of humor kicking in, a sort of inside joke that only he was privy to. Ideas for metal plate records may have come from long-winded descriptions of metal working (p 144, 146, 149). Joseph Smith would have definitely felt he was on solid ground asserting that the native Americans were of Hebrew descent after reading "A View of the Hebrews" based on 11 "proven" points (p 59).
I agree with BH Roberts. The average reader will get the impression of plagiarism when comparing the two works. Could Joseph Smith have written "The Book of Mormon" with this and other books as source material, an active imagination**, a background of Biblical study, keen intellect, a flair for writing or blessed with automatic writing skills, and some good sermon ideas from local pastors and poignant family life experiences (faith and seed, Tree of Life, Iron rod, etc.)? Not outside the realm of possibility in my mind. 20 years ago I would have said NO WAY! After 20 more years of reading fiction, I have to admit that it is possible. If Edgar Rice Burroughs can create a fictional world on Mars and write 33 complex books with hordes of names and personalities to grip the reader, others with that creative talent can do so too. I cannot bring myself to ignore this axiom: "WHAT ONE MAN CAN DO, ANOTHER MAN CAN DO."
* The incident of B.H. Roberts briefing the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in 1922 is classic and deserves special mention. Roberts spent several hours outlining for the brethren all of the 'problems' with the Book of Mormon as compared to historical and scientific evidence (domesticated animals, steel, plants, language, etc.). He then went on to describe the book View of the Hebrews and discussed the many parallels. He records in his diary that several members of the Twelve were visibly shaken by this information. Roberts, known today as 'The Defender of the Faith', was seeking guidance and direction, hoping the brethren could shed some light on his quandary and help him in the defense of the faith, and allow him to address the issues in an open format for the benefit of all church members. Roberts could foresee the day that this information would present itself to his descendants and was hoping for logical explanations he could provide to his progeny. He was gravely disappointed. All he got from around the table was testimony bearing (last bastion of the unreasonable fanatic), and a consensus opinion that for the church to openly address these issues would not benefit the cause and should therefore be squelched. Some months later, BH Roberts received a call to the eastern states mission. Thus began the pattern of hide, deny, duck, dodge, and misdirect that continues today.
**Regarding Josephs' vivid imagination, Joseph's mother Lucy wrote: "During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, their mode of traveling, and animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with much ease.. as if he had spent his whole life with them."
Excerpt from the journal of Joseph Smith Sr. (Note similarities to the dream of Lehi)
"I was traveling in an open desolate field, which appeared to be very barren. As I was this traveling, the thought suddenly came into my mind that I had better stop and reflect upon what I was doing, before I went any farther. So I asked myself, what motive can I have for traveling here and what place can this be? My guide who was by my side, as before, said, "This is the desolate world; but travel on". The road was so broad and barren, that I wondered why I should travel in it; for I said to myself, "Broad is the road and wide is the gate that leads to death, and many there be that walk therein; but narrow is the way and straight is the gate that leads to everlasting life, and few there be that go in thereat." Traveling a short distance further I came to a narrow path. This path I entered, and, when I had traveled a little way in it, I beheld a beautiful stream of water which ran from the East to the West. Of this stream I could see neither the source nor yet the termination; but as far as my eyes could extend I could see a rope running along the bank of it, about as high as a man could reach, and beyond me, was a low, but very pleasant valley, in which stood a tree, such as I had never seen before. It was exceedingly handsome, insomuch that I looked upon it with wonder and admiration. Its beautiful branches spread themselves somewhat like an umbrella, and it bore a kind of fruit, in shape much like a chestnut bur, and as white as snow, or if possible, whiter. I gazed upon the same with considerable interest, and as I was doing so, the burs or shells commenced opening and shedding their particles or the fruit which they contained, which was of dazzling whiteness. I drew near, and began to eat of it, and I found it delicious beyond description. As I was eating, I said in my heart, "I cannot eat this alone. I must bring my wife and children, that they may partake with me. Accordingly I went and brought my family, which consisted of a wife and seven children and we all commenced eating, and praising God for this blessing. We were exceedingly happy insomuch that our joy could not easily be expressed. While this engaged, I beheld a spacious building standing opposite the valley which we were in, and it appeared to reach the very heavens. It was full of doors and windows, and they were all filled with people, who were very finely dressed. When these people observed us in the low valley, under the tree, they pointed the finger of scorn at us, and treated us with all manner of disrespect and contempt. But their contumely we utterly disregarded. I presently turned to my guide, and inquired of him the meaning of the fruit that was so delicious. He told me it was the pure love of God, shed abroad in the hearts of all those who love him, and keep his commandments.. I asked my guide what was the meaning of the spacious building which I saw. He replied, "It is Babylon, it is Babylon, and it must fall. The people in he doors and windows are the inhabitants thereof, who scorn and despise the Saints of God, because of their humility." - Joseph Smith Sr.
Joseph Smith Jr. never completely abstained from consumption of alcoholic beverages. (see History of the Church, Vol II, pp 252, 369, 378, 447). In fact, Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards ordered a bottle of wine for $1 and were drinking, smoking, and singing songs to lift their spirits in the Carthage jail on the day of the 'martyrdom'. It appears that the WoW changed from a "word of wisdom, not by commandment or constraint" to worthiness criteria on December 4, 1836, in a vote by the Kirtland High Council, led by Sidney Rigdon. Joseph Smith was not present at that vote and never believed in it. If God's oracle that received the Work of Wisdom revelation never believed in complete abstinence, why should I?
In 1835 Smith prophesied that the second coming would take place by the year 1891.
April 5, 1843, at the General Conference of the Church, while the Spirit rested upon him, the Prophet Joseph said: "Were I going to prophesy, I would say the end would not come in 1844, 5, or 6, or in forty years. There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes." In "Mormon Doctrine" page 692, by Bruce R. McConkie, Elder McConkie (who was sustained as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator) reasons out that it's possible that some of that "rising generation" could be alive somewhat past the year 2,000 (as an aside, David O. McKay and the First Presidency vehemently objected to the publication of "Mormon Doctrine" and has been something of a disaster. I personally think the book should not find a place on a faithful and informed LDS family bookshelf). As a young man, I attended several firesides and lessons that all agreed on a drop dead date of the late 1990's or 2000. By my reckoning, the year 2000 is a very generous cutoff date and here we are in 2007; the 'time is far spent'.
Duet 18:22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him."
Since some of Joseph Smiths and other Latter-day prophets' prophesies stand unfulfilled, the scriptures direct me to "not be afraid" of these men, that is to say, discount anything they have said. How can I obey the command in Duet 18:22 and still remain in fellowship with the church? I need clarification and guidance on this question.
It appears from my research that perhaps nothing has been more thoroughly white-washed in its presentation to LDS believers as the events and circumstances surrounding the 'martyrdom'. Why would normally peaceful local farmers and merchants band together and risk life and limb to kill the leader of a neighboring religious community? On the surface it makes no sense. In order to understand it, one has to dig deeper into the history.
At this point in his life, Joseph Smith was enjoying playing the part of the leader of the largest private militia in the state. He had a uniform made for him and had a flashy sword. The Mormon militia conducted drills and was feared by the locals. He had more than 18 women married to him in the spring of 1844 (familysearch.org), but that was not apparently enough as he began to make overtures to Jane Law, wife of William Law. The rumors of Joseph's spiritual wifery were rampant in the region, among LDS and non-LDS alike. This turned out to be the last straw for William Law, who had disagreed with Joseph on financial matters and viewed polyandry as an equivalent to adultery. A heated argument ensued, and the Laws were excommunicated. William Law bought a printing press in an attempt to inform the world of the dark secrets of the church, with a paper called The Nauvoo Expositor. He managed to print one edition, which had a devastating effect on the church membership. Joseph was incensed with the turn of events and called together a mob to destroy the printing press and facility. What would make Joseph take such a rash and lawless approach to protecting the reputation of the church? To me it is obvious: William Law knew the truth, and the truth was the one thing that Joseph Smith could not allow to get into the hands of church members.
The people around Nauvoo had had enough. The military threats, the womanizing, the lawlessness - it was all too much for the good people of the region. In addition to the destruction of the free press, there was the assassination attempt on Gov. Lilburn Boggs, which Joseph Smith admitted to friends was his directive to Porter Rockwell. They took up arms and were willing to risk everything to rid themselves of this monster. The events at Carthage were actually more of a gunfight than a lynching. The LDS leaders were smoking, drinking, and singing to lighten their spirits. They were armed and expecting a fight. They were able to seriously wound several of the opposing force during the melee. While it is hard to condone bloodshed, the actions of the local populace at Carthage on June 27 1944 is readily understood.
The LDS theology requires a literal belief in the world-wide flood of Noah. In fact, the theology teaches that the earth is a living thing and required baptism by immersion (see Ensign, Jan 1998, p35: November 1981 Ensign, Mormon Doctrine p 289). All of our books of scripture reinforce the literality of the flood and its devastating effects (see Ether 6:7, Moses 8:30, 3 Nephi 22:9, D&C 133:23-24).
Belief in a literal flood that covered the entire earth (immersion) presents some fundamental obstacles for me. Here are my issues with the universal flood doctrine:
1. Ice. The ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica predate the flood. If water covered the entire earth, why didn't the ice sheets float away or at least leave a record in the ice core?
2. Genetic Diversity. There is simply too much genetic diversity on the planet to be consistent with the idea that every land-based animal today descended from a few breeding pairs just a few thousand years ago.
3. Worldwide distribution of species. It appears to me that some species evolve locally, and are necessarily geographically immobile. How could thousands of such species have become so widely distributed without any populations in between where they are today and where the ark supposedly landed? How, for example, did the duckbill platypus end up in Australia and nowhere else?
4. Fish and coral. Noah apparently did not take fish or coral on the ark. However, a worldwide flood would cause many fish types to be extinct and no coral would have survived. There are many coral reefs that are thousands of years older than the flood.
5. No room on the ark. Simple mathematics show that there was insufficient room on the ark to house all the animal species found on the earth, let alone the food required to sustain them.
6. No geological record. Vast floods have swept through regions of the earth, most recently after the last ice age. They occurred when huge ice dams broke, releasing stored water from impounded rivers. These floods left very clear and unambiguous signs in the soils, hills, canyons, and rocks. A universal worldwide flood would leave clear signs, but none exist.
7. Where did the water go? To the ancients, getting rid of the water must have seemed a trivial thing. After all, after seasonal floods the water just sort of disappeared, soaked into the ground, ran off to an unknown place, etc. If water covered the earth to cover Mount Everest, there is simply nowhere for all that water to go. Ad hoc arguments about the continents sinking and the oceans getting temporarily shallower don't work either. We have mapped the ocean sediments and they are much older than the flood.
8. How did the carnivores survive? There would not have been nearly enough herbivores to sustain the carnivores during the voyage and the months after the ark landed. For that matter, what would the herbivores eat after the flood subsided?
The idea of a universal flood simply does not stand up to any sort of scrutiny. How can an honest person deny his/her God-given intelligence and seriously believe in such an obvious myth?
To some it is given to believe and trust in the strength and intellect of others. This is not a gift that has been given to me. I have to understand and study and ponder and pray and determine things for myself. In discussions with Bishop Palmer and President Molina, I have been urged to trust other, more scholarly historians, and not delve into these matters on my own. Is this not trusting in the arm of flesh and denying the commandment to gain intelligence, light and truth on my own accord? (Note that this advice is in conflict with quotes mentioned in the preface.) After having read the widely varying interpretations and conclusions regarding the 'translation' of the Book of Abraham, I can never again trust any single point of view analysis of any particular event or circumstance. Some researchers will do anything to arrive at the conclusions they held infallible before they began their study, ignoring anything contradictory or unreasonable. BH Roberts said that "Justice will follow truth" as we study the facts, and this is the only reasonable approach.
Any person, persons, or organization that attempts to conceal or hide facts will ultimately find that the truth will emerge, and their efforts to conceal such truth will weaken or destroy their hidden agendas. History teaches us this lesson. We are now living in the age of information. It is a tidal wave of extreme proportions and power. Those of us who have found the steps leading up to the watchtowers can see it coming and feel the vibrations. It will rise up and wash away any who are not prepared. I find it interesting that in the last 15 years, the RLDS (Community of Christ) and Seventh-Day Adventist churches have seen the tidal wave coming and have made appropriate adjustments. Both of these organizations have owned up to the facts surrounding their roots, and emerged with a church and doctrinal base centered on Jesus Christ and de-emphasizing the founders of their faiths. The LDS church seems to be going the other direction, with more and more emphasis on the first vision, the coming forth of "The Book of Mormon", etc., and the prophecies of Joseph Smith and even more emphasis on the teachings of subsequent prophets. It will be very interesting to see how well the LDS church will weather the tidal wave. Perhaps there are enough members that will simply label the information 'evil' and not take any interest.
I have also witnessed a gradual departure in how the church deals with truth. When I was a missionary, an entire discussion was devoted to truth. Why the truth is important above all else, that our lives should revolve around truth, that in the church we will find all truth that God chooses to reveal to us, how the truth will set us free. Great stuff! None of the new discussions deal with these concepts and finding truth head-on. It is all about feelings and using the spirit to discern truth, the recipe for which has been found to be unreliable. The challenges given to the church membership in the 1970's were to STUDY and SEARCH the scriptures. Go as slowly as you need to and discover the underlying meanings, read the cross-references, compare, etc. We were also encouraged to read from the best outside sources to supplement scriptural STUDY. This approach has been tossed aside and we are given speed-reading contests instead. Just buzz through it like a chain-saw and look for that warm feeling. Read "The Book of Mormon" by Christmas and your family will be blest! "Speed limit 100, those seeking understanding will be bulldozed aside and labeled as heretics." Why the lack of challenges to read the New Testament? Why always "The Book of Mormon"? The overall emphasis appears to minimize understanding and finding truth and foster a touchy- feely-based faith. Without truth our goal of gaining knowledge is frustrated and a community of socio-paths develops (see social pathology section). Depression, anti-depressant drug abuse, white-collar crime, and suicide follow. Utah leads the nation in most of these categories. Is the church trying to distance itself from the truth? If so, why?
The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that God loves all his children equally and grants them equal privileges. The following passages from the Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses squarely contradict this doctrine.
2 Ne 5:21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon then, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
Jacob 3:8 Oh my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God.
Moses 7:8 For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.
Abraham 1:26-27 Speaking of Ham, son of Noah: ...Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood. Now Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of the Priesthood...."
Brigham Young added the following: (JoD Vol 7 pg 290) "You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin... How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam's children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion."
And regarding Jews: Brigham Young, JoD Volume 2 pg 142-143 "Can you make a Christian of a Jew? I tell you, nay. If a Jew comes into this Church, and honestly professes to be a Saint, a follower of Christ, and if the blood of Judah is in his veins, he will apostatize.. I would rather undertake to convert five thousand Lamanites, than to convert one of those poor miserable creatures whose fathers killed the Savior, and who say, "Amen to the deed," to this day. Yea, I would rather undertake to convert the devil himself, if it were possible. The I say to the Elders in those regions, be not astonished if you have to see hard times. And if I had a voice that would reach the ears of all those Elders, I would say, LEAVE THEM, AND COME HOME, THE LORD DOES NOT REQUIRE YOU TO STAY THERE, FOR THEY MUST SUFFER AND BE DAMNED. "
How can this fundamental doctrinal contradiction be explained? In order to be a true believer, I must accept, as eternal truth, that a loving God curses some human races due to the deeds of their fathers. In addition, I must embrace Smith's doctrine that light skin is an indication of favor with God. How can I be a member without condoning bigotry?
This is a perfect example of where mental contortionism is required to make any sense of the situation. (Entire books have been written to guide the faithful Latter-Day Saint through the required contortions, by the way.)
Mal 3:6: "For I am the Lord, I change not;"
D&C 76:4: Speaking of the Lord and Savior: "From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail."
D&C 1:38: "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice of by the voice of my servants, it is the same."
"Jesus set the ordinance to be the same forever and ever." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 168.)
"Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 308.)
"From the day that Adam was created and placed in the Garden of Eden, to this day, the plan of salvation and the revelations of the will of God to man are unchanged" (Discourses of Brigham Young, 1941, pg. 103)
The temple ordinances, tokens, etc. have been the same since Adam, and are necessary to pass the sentinels to attain celestial glory. Temple marriage is necessary to attain the highest glory of salvation. If temple ordinances are such an important, basic, and unchanging part of the gospel, shouldn't the criteria for being allowed to partake of those blessings be similarly important and unchanging? Why could a man who drank wine and chewed and smoked tobacco in 1836 be granted full temple access and salvation, yet a man doing the same things in 2005 is not allowed to have those blessings? Additionally, what of the revisions to the temple ceremonies? Are not the gospel and all associated ordinances supposed to fit the "unchanging" stipulation? The removal of the graphic references to blood oaths and the portrayal of a minister as an emissary of Satan in the endowment seem to be a move toward "political correctness" which should have nothing to do with unchangeable truth and Gods will.
The church credits Joseph Smith with defining, once and for all, the true nature of God. In fact, it is heralded as a great contribution and gift to mankind. However, most church members are unaware of the extent of the evolution of the concepts associated with the nature of God. A close examination of Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible reveals his early monotheistic beliefs. He consciously attempted to remove all references to a plurality of gods from the King James Bible. He also changed several passages to identify the Father and the Son as the same god. For example, he revised Luke 10:22 to have Jesus teaching that "no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it." These observations provide significant insight into understanding Book of Mormon passages which identify Jesus Christ as "God Himself," the "Holy One of Israel," the "Lord Omnipotent," the "Father of heaven and earth" who revealed himself to Moses and many of the ancient patriarchs. Apparently, Joseph's own early theology is reflected in his translation of the Book of Mormon. Similarly, some of Joseph Smith's early revelations freely switch the role of the God of Israel from the Son to the Father. In the "Lectures on Faith, fifth lecture, Joseph Smith defined the Godhead as consisting of two personages: the Father, a personage of spirit, and the Son, a personage of tabernacle. The Holy Ghost was not considered to be a personage, but rather was defined as the "mind" of the Father and the Son. Clearly, Joseph Smith originally taught that God did not possess a body.
Key passages in the original 1830 text of the Book of Mormon were changed in the 1837 edition to reflect Joseph Smith's evolving doctrine of Deity. What follows are specific examples from the original 1830 first edition Book of Mormon (which did not have verse divisions) compared with the altered text of recent versions.
|Original 1830 Text||Current, Altered Text|
|1 Nephi 3, p. 25* And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh *The 1830 text did not have verse divisions.||1 Nephi 11:18 And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God.|
|1 Nephi 3, p. 25 And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Eternal Father!||1 Nephi 11:21 And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Son of the Eternal Father!|
|1 Nephi 3, p. 26 And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.||1 Nephi 11:32 And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.|
|1 Nephi 3, p. 32 These last records…shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world.||1 Nephi 13:40 These last records…shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world|
Predictably, prior to his study of Hebrew in Kirtland, Ohio, Joseph's usage of Elohim and Jehovah reflects marked similarity to the King James Bible's (KJV) usage of these divine names. Elohim and Jehovah appear thousands of times in the original Hebrew Bible. However, they are generally translated as "God" and "Lord" in the KJV. The divine name Jehovah appears only six times in the KJV, while the name Elohim does not appear at all. Accordingly, Jehovah appears in the Book of Mormon only twice, one reference being an excerpt from Isaiah. The name Elohim appears nowhere in the LDS standard works. After Joseph's study of Hebrew in 1835-36, he began to use the name Elohim for the first time; he also began to use the name Jehovah more often. Jehovah appears for the first time in the Doctrine and Covenants after 1836. It appears twice in the first two chapters of the Book of Abraham, which was published in 1835.
In summary, Joseph originally taught that Jesus and theFather were the same person and that God had always been God, but laterdeveloped the idea that the Father and Son were separate Gods, but only the Sonhad a tangible body. Smith taught that both God the Father and Jesus had beenmortal men, even though scripture say God is the same always. Later on, God has a physical body (KingFollet Discourse), and was once a mortal man like us. Then Brigham Young says God is Adam. Jehovah and Elohim are the same person upuntil the turn of the 20th century, then that all changes with theastute theologian James E. Talmage, who makes the Son = Jehovah and the God ofthe Old Testament for the first time. ThenGordon B. Hinckley denies the God-was-a-man doctrine in the Larry Kinginterview, or at least down-graded it from doctrine to couplet.
Since Joseph Smith supposedly knew that God and Jesus wereseparate personages in 1820 (first vision), how is it possible that hisconfusion persisted? If the Book ofMormon was a literal translation and the most correct of any book, why theinaccuracies and need for corrections, especially in regard to fundamentaldoctrines like the form of Deity? Who isto have the final say regarding nature of Deity? Was God once a man, or not?
Every eyewitness account of thetranslation of the Book of Mormon describes Joseph Smith peering into a hatthrough a peep stone. Russell M. Nelson,Dallin Oaks, and other church leaders have confirmed this modus operandi. Various figures in the Old Testamentpossessed implements with divine powers, rods being the most common. Another passage in the Old Testament condemnsuse of such items (Leviticus20:27; Deuteronomy 18:11; 1 Samuel 28:7; 1Chronicles 10:13). Many haveassociated the use of such stones with the occult, and the debate rageson. The debate is of no real importanceto me. What is important is thatthe use of peep stones was part of the mystical and magical environment thatenveloped the people living in the early 1800's. Virtually all persons having a belief in'second sight', visions, etc. also believed implicitly in the power and use ofpeep stones. It permeated the society. Every man who lived on theearth," Joseph said to them, "was entitled to a seer stone, andshould have one, but they are kept from them in consequence of theirwickedness, and most of those who do find one make evil use of it."(Brigham Young's journal, as quoted in Latter-day Millennial Star, 26:118,119)
On three occasions, Joseph Smithadmitted that, in reality, he could see nothing through the peep stones; twicewhile under oath in a court of law, and the third time was to his father-in-lawIsaac Hale. One has to judge when ahuman being be more prone to tell the truth; (1) Under oath in a court of law and to ones father-in-law while assuringhim that his daughter was in good hands, or, (2) while telling stories to awealthy and superstitious Martin Harris. You be the judge, but I am inclined to believe that Joseph Smith wastelling the truth in court and to Isaac Hale and he could not, in fact, discernanything with the peep stones. The stoneand hat were simply props to give the appearance of a mysticaltranslation/revelation process. Josephalso used the stones for other revelations, not just the 'translation' of theBook of Mormon. If revelation throughseer stones is the proper method revealed by God for his 'prophets, seers, andrevelators', why aren't they still in use today? Why does the church of today distance itselffrom this practice if it is a divine conduit to reveal the will of God? Since Smith taught that all righteous menwere entitled to a peep stone, does one conclude that the men of the LDS faithtoday are all wicked?
And what should be made of theattempt to sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon inToronto,Canada? Joseph peered into his hat using the stoneand purportedly received a revelation that this endeavor would succeed. Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went on thismission and failed. Upon their return,Joseph inquired of the Lord regarding this failed attempt, and the followingrevelation came through the stone: "Somerevelation are of God; some revelations are of man; and some revelations are ofthe devil." If the method ofrevelation is unreliable (by Smiths' own admission), how can we be sure of anyof Smiths' so-called 'revelations'?
At the time of Joseph's martyrdom, he was working on a translationof the "Book of Joseph". Obviously, theLord wanted this work to come forward. The papyri were given to Emma, which she sold some years later, but theChurch reacquired them in 1968. Why was the 'translation' of the Book of Joseph not resumed in 1968? Joseph Smithindicates in his journal that the Bible translation was completed to hissatisfaction in accordance with the commandment he received from God.
Why are church members told that the translation was never completed? Why is the complete inspiredtranslation kept from the lay church member? The Reorganized LDS church members used the complete inspired translation for a hundred years. Is the LDS Church embarrassed by the inspired translation?