The question herein addressed is simply a query of how much evidence must exist to make it sufficiently plain that a set of beliefs, or ideology is wrong or based on falsity rather than truth. The difficulty of this question lies in the reality that belief systems, especially religious systems of dogma, often transcend the need for evidence, and are based on such intangibles as faith, feelings, magic, myth, tradition, hope, fear, etc. Further, such belief systems are often a mixture of both myth and truth, mixed with their idiosyncracies, thus diminishing from the black and white nature, or “easiness” of discerning any sense of truth.
A television documentary shows Hindus in India wiping the fresh urine of cows from the ground with their hands and anointing their heads with it. The belief that the cow’s urine is holy and such anointing will bring blessing to the anointed is the apparent belief system. Could any amount of evidence ever disprove to these believing Hindus that this belief is simply erroneous? Probably not. And, even if cow urine is not holy and has no inherent positive qualities to grace the anointee, can the belief alone bring the potential of blessing or some positive outcome to the recipient? Perhaps. Could the evidence of deleterious effects disprove the truth of such a belief system? If it were scientifically proven that anointing one’s head with cow urine had a significant chance of bacterial contamination leading to sickness or even death, would such evidence cause adherents to discontinue the belief--or the practice? Probably not.
Of course the dilemma of science versus faith or belief emerges at this point. If the Holy Bible states that the first man was placed on the earth 6000 years ago, and carbon dating places the emergence of modern man on the planet at a significantly earlier date, what does the believer in the Bible do with this contradiction? How much scientific evidence would have to exist to disprove the 6000 year theory? Scientific evidence is often seemingly in opposition to religious and historical belief.
And what of history? Some claims of belief systems can be verified or contradicted through historical evidence. How much historical evidence would have to exist that might disprove the tenants of some belief systems? For example, how much evidence would persuade a non-believer to concede that the Holocaust was a reality? Suppose my belief system is based on an affinity for Adolf Hitler as a man with a healthy vision for world politics and governmental policy. Could any amount of historical evidence disprove such beliefs? In such cases, ideologies probably cannot be proven or disproved as true or “right.”.
When speaking of evidence we might look to legal thought to examine our primary question. The legal system has adopted subjective and qualitative measures of evidence leading to definitions of “truth” or reality. Subjectively, a preponderance of evidence might be quantified as evidence that exceeds 50% beyond doubt. Clear and convincing evidence might be quantified as 65% sure, while beyond any reasonable doubt raises the standard to 85% surety.
A dogmatic individual or belief is defined as the positive assertion of opinion especially when unwarranted or arrogant. Put in the vernacular this might be termed being narrow minded, or perhaps closed-minded. Wouldn’t most thinking people concede that in order to gain real wisdom one must abandon certainties--particularly dogmatic certainties-- and open completely to the potential of truth wherever sufficient evidence exists to warrant it?
Ken Wilber in his excellent book on integrating science and religion, The Marriage of Sense and Soul discusses the need for both science and religion to expand their respective scopes. Science must extend its empirical inquiry into the interior realms of subjective and experiential truth, including the spiritual realms. Religion too must be willing to abandon dogmatic claims and open to the possibility of falsifiability, exposing dogmatic beliefs or myths that are only operational to give the institution or individuals perpetrating the dogma power or control. In other words, religion must be willing to follow the same rigorous standards empirical science utilizes.
Consider the way Mormon missionaries ask their investigators to find the “truth” of Mormon claims. They must first open themselves to the possibility, and then seek it out with an open mind. Often, some are branded as closed-minded because they already think they know that Mormonism is false and won’t even give it’s claims a chance. However, the Mormon method seems a viable recipe for approaching the search for truth in all things. That is, keeping oneself open/receptive at all times to the possibility of learning and discovery of truth; and continuing the search for truth. When evidence exceeds the standard of clear and convincing, it seems that a wise person might begin to accept such truths--perhaps tentatively or relatively, rather than absolutely.
With that in mind, lets consider a statement of Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone (a Mormon general authority) to a friend of mine. This friend is an ex-bishop leaving the practice of Mormonism due to his loss of belief in the areas of the church. When my friend began to tell Elder Featherstone all the reasons he had lost belief in the total “package” of Mormonism, Elder Featherstone’s response was that one could deliver a truckload of evidence to the contrary of the claims of the truth of Mormonism and he would still believe in it.
I wonder if this is wisdom? If I believed the world is flat and someone had a truckload of evidence to the contrary, would I be wise to dismiss it? Or wouldn’t I examine each piece of so called evidence to determine its veracity? Especially when one is claiming they have an exclusive line on “truth.” Doesn’t a claim of absolute truth also come with the assurance that any oppositional claims could be thoughtfully rejected? In other words, upon scrutiny, such counter-claims could be shown to be inaccurate. Elder Featherstone couldn’t respond to the oppositional evidence of the claims of the truth of Mormonism thoughtfully, so he resorted to the “well, just bear them your testimony” concession.
Mormons will at this point inject that a certain kind of feeling experience supercedes any level of external evidence because the feeling experience is actually a member of the godhead telling them a truth. This seems viable if one could know that the feeling state they’re having is actually the Holy Ghost telling them something. How would they know this feeling state is the Holy Ghost? Because someone in the organization has told them it is. So, Catholics have their truths confirmed by this feeling experience, as do Born-again Fundamentalists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons....
How reliable could this be as an ultimate source of truth?
In another story, in 1921, a young man from Salina Utah sent a letter to Apostle James Talmage. The letter contained 5 questions submitted to him by another individual who was investigating the claims of the Book of Mormon. The questions contained within them contradictory elements of evidence of the possibility of the book being an ancient and true record. The letter and questions were forwarded to Elder B. H. Roberts, who had studied and written extensively regarding the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Elder Roberts was a scholar and intellectual general authority for the church. He had compiled and written works on the veracity of the Book of Mormon, as well as the Comprehensive History of the Church. He was known as the great defender of the Book of Mormon.
Elder Roberts, set off with the assurance that because the Book of Mormon is true, evidence to the contrary could necessarily be shown to be false or unsubstantiated. His response to the 5 questions was delayed due to finding the difficulties more serious than he had thought. He wrote President Heber J. Grant and requested a meeting with the First Presidency, 12 Apostles and Council of the Seventy. In this meeting he wanted to present a 141 page typed report in order to garner the collective wisdom of these Brethren, as well as the inspiration of the Lord to find satisfying solutions to the problems presented, both for this young man, and other potential investigators
Elder Roberts emerged from nearly two full days of interaction with the General Authorities deeply disappointed. His previous dogmatic beliefs and claims of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon had been replaced with painful doubts. He later wrote to President Grant expressing frustration that so much of what was said in the meetings was “utterly irrelevant” and not helpful in resolving the questions. The Brethren, in view of their lack of ability to thoughtfully address the problems presented, resorted to the “bear your testimony concession.”
Elder Roberts went on to write extensively (privately and unpublished in his lifetime) about the problematic origins of the Book of Mormon. Ironically, it was while serving as Mission President that he continued his investigations that lead to the embarrassing find of remarkable similarities between the Book of Mormon story and Ethan Smith’s book View of the Hebrews, published in 1823 and 1825; 6 and 4 years earlier than the first publication of the Book of Mormon. Roberts, in a letter to President Grant, presented his new ideas that Joseph Smith possessed an exceptional imagination that warranted his psychological ability to present to the world the Book of Mormon from plates that were not objective, but subjective.
Elder Roberts seems to be soft selling to the church president his belief that the plates weren’t real--thus making Joseph a liar. But in his written papers, unpublished until 1985, he shows how he believed Joseph essentially made up the Book of Mormon. Roberts argues that the book View of the Hebrews gave Joseph a skeletal framework from which to base his book. Joseph then filled in the body of the book with experiences, stories and beliefs from the context of his own life and experiences.
How obvious would it have to be for individuals to see through such a hoax if that were the case?
Confounding the ability of church members to honestly look at such a question is the indoctrination process that begins in early “programming.” Throughout the Mormon experience comes the indoctrination of knowing. “I know the church is true” programming and a discouragement of questioning the truth of Mormon scriptures and leaders strongly inhibits the process of an honest and ongoing search for truth. Mormons are typically unable to see this in themselves. The ability to objectively see this in their experience runs contradictory to the programming of knowing. But if we were to discuss this in the context of another religion--for example The Jehovah’s Witnesses, then Mormons can clearly see the error in someone believing they know the truth and then shutting off the process of ongoing critical examination and continued searching. Such individuals are dismissed by Mormons as being closed-minded--all the while missing that very quality in themselves.
And of course the indoctrination process is what confounds the feeling experience method of truth. If I am a Jehovah’s Witness, and have been “programmed” to revere the founder Pastor William Russell as inspirational, it is likely that I will have strong feeling experiences about him and the doctrines he introduced. I will have been taught this is the Holy Ghost telling me what is truth. I know it is true because I have had this powerful warm feeling.
A statement by Elder Thomas S. Monson’s in the Feb., 2001 Ensign deserves examination:
Remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other....Should doubt knock at your doorway, just say to those skeptical, disturbing, rebellious thoughts: ‘I propose to stay with my faith, with the faith of my people. I know that happiness and contentment are there, and I forbid you, agnostic, doubting thoughts to destroy the house of my faith. I acknowledge that I do not understand the processes of creation, but I accept the fact of it. I grant that I cannot explain the miracles of the Bible, and I do not attempt to do so, but I accept God’s word. I wasn’t with Joseph, but I belief him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it.
Elder Monson appears to be saying that we should never doubt or question. Had Joseph Smith followed this admonition he would have never enquired as to the truth of the churches of his day. Growth and the emergence of continued spiritual enlightenment is a product of continual doubting, searching and questioning. Erich Fromm’s comment seems cogent: “The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.”
Childish faith, subservience and conformity is the product of belief without question or on-going critical examination. Critical examination must include the quality of doubt, or uncertainty. Perhaps this explains the overwhelming existence of childish faith and the childish level of spirituality of adults indoctrinated in such narrow and damaging expressions. Perhaps this also explains the conformity and subservient attitudes of Mormons to their institution. An entire German nation demonstrated the same qualities under the institution of the Nazi regime. Incidentally, when Elder Monson broadcasts such expressions through modern printing and satellite transmissions, he does so through the results of the questioning and discovery of the truth of sciences that he denigrates as faith-destroying.
With this brief introduction into the question at hand. I would like to present the evidence that I assert leads to, at a very minimum standard, the subjective level of clear and convincing evidence that many of the claims of Mormonism are false or untrue. I concede herein, that false or untrue are qualitative standards, not absolutes. In other words, I think it is possible to show that the Book of Mormon is a creation of Joseph Smith. In one sense this makes him a liar and proves the book isn’t true . However, this does not mean that there are no meaningful, or perhaps true ideas expressed in the book. Similarly, we will demonstrate that Joseph Smith was probably a sexual addict in search of power. This doesn’t mean that he wasn’t enlightened at times and taught ideas of truth at times. Of course, the reader must determine the weight of the evidence and apply their own standard of judgement.
Book of Mormon origins: Historical or fictional?
The claims of the historical truth of the Book of Mormon are most likely evident to any reader of this article and so a lengthy review won’t be reiterated here. However it will be summarized that Joseph Smith claimed to have received gold plates from a resurrected angel in 1827. From these plates, and by looking at/through magical translation stones, (the Urim and Thummim, and seer stones), he was able to decipher the ancient Reformed Hebrew text and translate the writing into 17th century English--the language of the King James Bible--although he lived in 19th century America. The resulting book was subsequently published in 1829 and entitled The Book of Mormon. The original authors of the book are claimed to have been prophets who lived in ancient America.
While many things might be included in a critical look at the truth of the Book of Mormon, I will focus on just one aspect in this work. I will borrow from the investigations of Elder Roberts to summarize this evidence.
One of the evidences Mormons use to bolster the claims of truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is in questioning the capacity of a young Joseph Smith (or anyone else) to actually make up such a book. In light of this question we will consider the book View of the Hebrews, which is just such a creation by Ethan Smith. Ethan Smith was a minister of a Congregational Church in Poultney, Vermont from 1821 to 1826 when he wrote View of the Hebrews. It was first published in 1823. (The Book of Mormon was first published 6 years later in 1829.) Interestingly, Oliver Cowdery, scribe, and later witness of the Book of Mormon lived in Poultney for 22 years until 1825. Cowdery’s stepmother and three of his sisters were members of Ethan Smith’s congregation. No evidence exists that would prove or disprove Joseph Smith had read the View of the Hebrews. Incidentally, another book The Wonders of Nature and Providence Displayed was in the local Manchester Library (five miles from Joseph Smith’s home) and extant records show that it was reportedly checked out during the years 1826 to 1828. This book includes a long selection from Ethan Smith’s book and attempts to establish a Hebrew origin of the American Indians.
With this introduction lets consider the similarities between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews as summarized by Elder Roberts:
|Gives an Israelitish origin of the American Indian||Pleads for an Israelitish origin of the American Indian on every page|
|Deals with the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of Israel||Deals with the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of Israel|
|Deals with the future gathering of Israel and the restoration of the ten tribes.||Deals with the future gathering of Israel and the restoration of the ten tribes.|
|Emphasizes and uses much of the material from the prophecies of Isaiah, including whole chapters||Emphasizes and uses much of the material from the prophecies of Isaiah, including whole chapters|
|Makes a special appeal to the Gentiles of the New World--esp. the people of the United States to become nursing fathers and mothers unto Israel in the New World, holding out great promises to the great Gentile nation that shall occupy America, if it acquiesces in the divine program||Makes a special appeal to the Gentiles of the New World--esp. the people of the United States to become nursing fathers and mothers unto Israel in the New World, holding out great promises to the great Gentile nation that shall occupy America, if it acquiesces in the divine program|
|The peopling of the New World was by migrations from the Old World||The peopling of the New World was by migrations from the Old World|
|Migrating Jaredites are taken into that quarter where there never had man been||Its migrating people are taken into a country where never man dwelt|
|The colony enters into a valley of a great river. Peoples journeyed northward and encountered seas of many waters in the course of their long journey. The motive of their journey was religious. Ether is prominently connected with recording the matter||The colony enters into a valley of a great river. Peoples journeyed northward and encountered seas of many waters in the course of their long journey. The motive of their journey was religious. Ethan is prominently connected with recording the matter|
|Nephites divide into two classes, the one civilized, the other followed a wild hunting and indolent lifestyle that ultimately led to barbarism||The lost tribes divide into two classes, the one fostering the arts that make for civilization, the other followed a a wild hunting and indolent lifestyle that ultimately led to barbarism|
|Long and dismal wars break out between the Nephites and Lamanites divisions of people||Long and dismal wars break out between the civilized and barbarous|
|The Lamanites utterly exterminate the Nephites. (The same thing occurs with the Jaredite peoples in the exact place the Nephites would later be exterminated)||The savage division utterly exterminates the civilized one.|
|Civilized people develop a culture of mechanic arts; of written language; of the knowledge and use of iron and other metals; and of navigation.||Civilized people develop a culture of mechanic arts; of written language; of the knowledge and use of iron and other metals; and of navigation|
|Unity of race--the Hebrew race and no no other is assumed for the the inhabitants of ancient America||Unity of race--the Hebrew race, and no other is assumed for the inhabitants of ancient America|
|Book of Mormon peoples are assumed to occupy the whole extent of the American continents||With the possible exception of the Eskimos of the extreme north, this race of Hebrew peoples occupied the whole extent of the American continents|
|Joseph Smith used an instrument in translating the Book of Mormon called Urim and Thummim which he described as two stones and a breastplate||View of the Hebrews describes an instrument among the mound finds comprising a breast plate with two white buckhorn buttons attached, in imitation of the precious stones of the Urim.|
|Admits the existence of idolatry and human sacrifice||Admits the existence of idolatry and human sacrifice|
|Prophets extol generosity to the poor and denounce pride as a trait of the people. Polygamy is denounced under certain conditions as in the practices of David and Solomon||Generosity to the poor is extolled and pride is denounced as a trait of the American Indian. Polygamy is denounced|
|The original language of the people was Hebrew||The Indian tongue had one source--the Hebrew|
|Lost sacred records would be restored to the Lamanites along with the return of their lost favor with God in the last days||Indian traditions of a Lost Book of God and the promise of its restoration to the Indians, with a return of their lost favor with the Great Spirit are quoted|
|Sacred records were hidden or buried by Moroni, a character that corresponds to this Indian tradition in the Hill Cumorah||Ethan Smith’s sacred book was buried with some high priest, keeper of the sacred tradition.|
|Reports of extensive military fortifications erected throughout large areas with military watch towers here and there overlooking them||Reports of extensive military fortifications linking cities together over wide areas of Ohio and Mississippi valleys, with military watch towers overlooking them|
|Reports of prayer or sacred towers||Describes sacred towers or high places, in some instances devoted to true worship, in other cases to idolatrous practices|
|Some Book of Mormon people effect a change from monarchial governments to republican forms of government||Part of Ethan Smith’s ancient inhabitants effect a change from monarchial governments to republican forms of government|
|Civil and ecclesiastical powers are united in the same person in Book of Mormon republican people||Civil and ecclesiastical powers are united in the same person in Ethan Smith’s republics|
|Lehi, first of Nephite prophets taught the existence of a necessary opposition believed in all things--righteousness opposed to wickedness--good to bad; life to death, and so following||Some of Ethan Smith’s peoples in the constant struggle between the good and the bad principle by which the world is governed|
|The gospel was clearly preached among the ancient inhabitants of Americas||Ethan Smith’s book speaks of the gospel having been preached in the ancient America|
|The Book of Mormon brings the risen Messiah to the New World, gives him a ministry, disciples and a church||Ethan Smith’s book gives, in considerable detail, the story of the Mexican culture-hero Quetzalcoatl--who in so many things is reminiscent of the Christ|
Elder Roberts closes these parallels with this imposing question: Can such numerous and startling points of resemblance and suggestive contact be merely coincidence?”
I would add that it is preposterous to believe that such similarities might all just be coincidental. Any thinking person could not look at the similarities and not deduce that at least a clear and convincing level of evidence exists that either one work borrows from the other, or another work predates each of them from which they both arise. Because View of the Hebrews predates the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon claims to be an ancient original work, I would submit that a level of beyond any reasonable doubt exists that the Book of Mormon borrows from Ethan Smith’s work. As a matter of fact, it appears that Joseph Smith made little attempt to conceal the fact that he was borrowing from this earlier work. Further evidence of wholesale confiscation and duplication of other material by Joseph Smith will be given demonstrating that Smith made little or no attempt to even conceal the duplicity of his actions. How obvious would it have to get before thinking individuals might see they are being duped?
While trying to understand what the emergence and meaning of the whole Masonic experience is about, I asked a Mason during a tour through their temple in Salt Lake City in early 2001, “Just what are the Mason’s all about?” His answer to me was rather enlightening. He said the Masonic experience helps Masons be better than other people! He then discussed all the philanthropic endeavors and the amount of money the Masons raise and distribute to worthy causes etc.
For those not familiar with the Masons, perhaps the easiest understanding/definition would be that Masonry is a fraternity. It is not a religion, although for some it apparently acts as a surrogate religion, teaching morality as one of its most important ideals. It also has secret rites which include secret signs, passwords, handshakes and penalties for revealing secrets to non-Masons. There are varying degrees within Masonry From a developmental psychology perspective, the incorporation of such secrets (which apparently have no other meaning than to be secret or exclusionary) into an adult social organization is fairly regressive, reminiscent of perhaps the latency period, as evidenced by the common phenomenon of grade-school level clubhouses with secret passwords to gain entrance. Such secrets are meant to simply be exclusionary. This perhaps meets a need of that developmental period to feel special or elite. Processes of maturation or personal evolution bring one past this stage of development into more evolved states characterized by stronger identity states and more inclusive needs or processes.
Joseph Smith was initiated as an entered apprentice Mason on March 15, 1842, and received the fellow craft and master degrees the following day. He introduced the full endowment ceremony which included the secret signs (including handshakes), tokens, passwords, and penalties (denoting ways in which human life can be taken) to discourage divulging the secrets of the ceremony, just 7 weeks later on May 4,5 1842. The introduction of these secret Masonic rituals into the Mormon experience seems an attempt to meet this regressive need of elitism, perhaps an indicator of Joseph Smith’s own level of development.
There was no effort in the early history of the church to conceal any similarities between Masonic rituals and the Mormon Temple Endowment. Indeed, men like Heber C. Kimball said that: “Bro Joseph Ses Masonary was taken from preasthood but has become degen[e]rated. But menny things are perfect.”
Early explanations of the similarities between Mormon Temple rites and Masonic rituals were therefore promulgated using the common myth that Masonic rituals dated back to the time of Solomon’s Temple. This explanation doesn’t make any sense given the fact that there is a thorough description of what was actually done in the early Judaic temples, with no evidence of anything even remotely close to the Masonic rituals ever being a part of such practices. Even Brigham Young conceded that while Solomon’s Temple was constructed for the purpose of giving endowments, they were not fully restored until Joseph introduced it. Further, recent scholarship has demonstrated a much more recent emergence of the rituals of Freemasonary. The best credible evidence suggests the rites of Masonry emerge in the medieval era. This is a time that Mormon doctrine associates with the era of the great apostasy. For Mormonism to copy it’s crowing ordinances from rites that emerged during the dark ages presents a problem.
Later 20th century church leaders began to distance themselves from any ideas of Joseph plagiarizing Masonic rituals. Some even asserted that the endowment was revealed to Joseph Smith prior to his membership in Masonry. However, others, in view of the nearly identical rites and the historical evidence have been forced, under a more sincere conscience, to concede the replication of Masonry by Joseph Smith. I conjecture that Joseph incorporated these secret rites into his church in order to express and meet this need for elitism and exclusion. This was probably done without his conscious awareness, and was simply an act motivated from Joseph’s own regressed developmental level. As mentioned, more evolved levels of development lead individuals to seek for oneness, not ideologies that exclude and separate--the very nature of elitism.
Herein, I allow the reader to determine whether the evidence isn’t glaring that Joseph Smith simply plagiarized Masonic rituals, with seemingly little effort to conceal the plagiarization. I quote from Buerger:
The clearest evidence of Masonic influence on the Nauvoo temple ceremony is a comparison of texts. Three elements of the Nauvoo endowment and its contemporary Masonic ritual resemble each other so closely that they are sometimes identical. These are the tokens, signs, and penalties.
|I will now give you the signs and tokens of the priesthood...the first sign or token is to take hold of the right hand, placing the ball of the thumb between the two upper joints of the fore-fingers.||[The grip of the Entered Apprentice:] The right hands are joined together as in shaking hands and each sticks his thumb nail into the third joint or upper end of the forefinger...|
|The second sign is to place the thumb on the upper joint of the second finger;-these tokens signify you have two names; one of which is a new name||[The pass-grip of the Fellow Craft] is given by taking each other by the right hand, as though going to shake hands, and each putting his thumb between the fore and second fingers where they join the hand, and pressing the the thumb between the joints.|
|The third sign is called the Patriarchal grip, and has three names: the first, Patriarchal grip; second, the Son; the third, you will receive at the veil...||[The pass-grip of the Master Mason] is given by pressing the thumb between the joints of the second and third fingers where they join the hand.|
|We then held up both hands above the and arms to the elbows, he||[The sign and due-guard of the Master Mason] is given by raising both hands perpendicularly, one on each side of the head, the elbows forming a square. The words accompanying this sign, in case of distress, are, “O Lord, My God! is there no help for the widow’s son?... The Due Guard is made by holding both hands in front palms down.|
|and placed our right hand under the left ear, drew it across the throat,||[The sign and due-guard of the Entered Apprentice] is given by holding your two hands transversely across each other, the right hand upwards and one inch from the left... [and] by drawing your right hand across your throat,...|
|the left hand was placed to the right shoulder, then drawn across the breast, and the right hand suddenly thrust down the right side.||[Sign and Due-Guard of the Fellow Craft:] The sign is given by drawing your right hand flat, with the palm of it next to your breast, across your breast from the left to the right side with some quickness, and dropping it down by your side; the due-guard is given by raising the left arm until that part of it between the elbow and that part above it form a square.|
|We then raised our hands again, and were taught how to pray. This ceremony concluded, we proceeded singly to the veil, (which is a large sheet separating us from the upper part of the hall, having five holes in it--two for the eyes, one for the mouth, and two for the arms,) the person representing the Lord is on the other side of the vail, to take the signs and converse with us. Our Instructor tells us how to answer.||The Penal Sign is given by putting the right hand to the left side of the bowels, the hand open, with the thumb next to the belly, and drawing it across the belly, and letting it fall; this is done tolerably quick. He (candidate) is raised on what is called the five points of fellowship, which are foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back and mouth to ear. This is done by putting the inside of your right foot to the person to whom you are going to give the word the inside of your knee to his, laying your right breast against his, your left hands on the back of each other, and your mouths to each other’s right ear(in which position alone you are permitted to give the word), and whisper the word Mahhahbone.|
|Then the Lord asks for the signs: we give them; our new name is whispered in his ear; he then whispers the third name of the Patriarchal Grip in our ear, viz: Marrow in the bones, Strength in the sinews, and virtue in the loins throughout all generations.||The Master’s grip is given by taking hold of each other’s hands as though you were going to shake hands, and sticking the nails of each of your fingers to the joint of the other’s wrist where it unites with the hand...He is also told that Mahahbone signifies marrow in the bone.|
Other similarities with Masonic rites include the prayer circle which required Masonic initiates to assemble around an altar, place their left arm over the person next to them, join hands, repeat the words of the Most Excellent Master, and give all the signs from the initial ceremonial degrees...
This pattern of resemblances indicates that Smith drew on Masonic rites in shaping the temple endowment and specifically borrowed tokens, signs, and penalties, as well as possibly the Creation narrative and ritual anointings. Still, the temple ceremony cannot be explained as wholesale borrowing, neither can it be dismissed as completely unrelated. As Mervin Hogan, a Mormon Mason, explained in 1991, “[L]ittle room for doubt can exist in the mind of an informed, objective analyst that the Mormon Temple Endowment and the rituals of ancient Craft Masonry are seemingly intimately and definitely involved.
Again, I would simply assert that it is preposterous to think that such similarities might all just be coincidental. I also concede that Joseph added elements unknown to Masonry. However, Joseph Smith made no real attempt to conceal the fact that he was wholesale copying Masonic rituals. I would also assert that the Mormon temple rites are completely bereft of any real content, meaning or substance. Secrecy protects the rituals; safe from the light of any real scrutiny. However, thinking individuals interested in truth are again faced with a glaring reality of wholesale confiscation and nonsensical ritual. How obvious would it have to get?
Elder Roberts believed that Joseph Smith had an imagination sufficient to create such works as the Book of Mormon. Did his scripture creation stop with the Book of Mormon?
The inclusion of the saga of the book of Abraham is necessary in any work addressing the truth of Joseph Smith’s claims of being a seer and translator of ancient writings. In 1835 some mummies recovered from the Valley of the Kings in Egypt came into the possession of Joseph Smith. Along with the mummies were some papyrus scrolls. Joseph “translated” a portion of the scrolls and as incredible as it might seem some of the papyrus writings happened to have been written by the very hand of Abraham himself! More, not translated, were written by Joseph, the son of Jacob! This was of course quite a find! From the translated scroll written by Abraham comes the important doctrine that descendants of Cain (concluded and taught by Mormons to be Negroes) are unworthy to hold the priesthood, or the authority to act in God’s name. (This clearly racist policy was of course changed in 1978 through another “revelation.”) While Blacks could always be baptized into the Mormon Church, up until 1978 they could not hold the priesthood. This excluded them from the “saving ordinances” of the temple, and thus excluded them from exaltation as the Mormons’ defined it.
When Joseph presented his “translation” of the Egyptian papyrus, the Egyptian writings was still virtually unknown. Therefore, his translation couldn’t be verified as accurate, or inaccurate. However, the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 allowed the writings and hieroglyphs of the ancient Egyptians to be “cracked” or deciphered. However, at that time, the actual papyrus Joseph translated was thought to have been destroyed in a museum fire. Later, in 1967 some of the papyrus were rediscovered and subsequently returned or given to the Mormon Church. And, at this point the credibility of Joseph’s translation was now able to be verified.
When Egyptologists were eventually allowed to translate the scrolls they contained nothing in the ballpark of what Joseph Smith said they did. As a matter of fact, the scrolls were far too new to have been written by Abraham or Joseph. Indeed, Egyptologists with a considerable amount of parallel information and research referring to his translations of facsimiles concluded that Joseph Smith’s “translations” were “a farrago of nonsense from beginning to end...and added that “five minutes study in an Egyptian gallery of any museum should be enough to convince any educated man of the clumsiness of the imposture.” And one scholar wrote as an example of such clumsiness:: “Smith has turned the Goddess into a king and Osiris into Abraham.”
No credible explanation has ever been given from the Mormon Church to explain the completely unrelated “translation” Joseph Smith gave of the Egyptian papyrus, or to explain the gaping anachronism. Some suggested that the papyrus that was found must not have been the papyrus Joseph “translated.” This argument is preposterous because some of the facsimile (pictures) Joseph interpreted are on the scrolls with an inaccurate interpretation. It is also clear from descriptions of the papyrus, as well as writings on the back of the mounted papyrus that these are the very papyrus Joseph possessed and purported to translate. Other church apologists have tried to suggest that Joseph simply used the papyrus as a springboard for revelation. This would be clearly deceptive as Joseph stated that this was the Book of Abraham written by his own hand, not writings that launched him into further revelation! Another explanation is that the papyrus had as many as two or three meanings, with Joseph giving the true hidden meaning. Such explanations are nearly embarrassing to earnest investigators of the subject! How obvious would it need to get to show the deceptiveness of Smith’s supposed translations? The evidence seems clear and convincing.
Those interested in an objective review of this story are directed towards Charles Larson’s book By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at The Joseph Smith Papyri. LDS Egyptologist Dr. Stephen Thompson concluded in a paper presented at the 1993 Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City that Joseph Smith did not produce the Book of Abraham by translating it as he claimed from an Egyptian papyrus scroll. Further, Dr. Thompson stated it was his opinion that Larson’s book was the best source to go to if you want to know what’s been going on with the Book of Abraham.
The Kinderhook Plates: Further evidence of Joseph Smith’s ability to “translate” ancient writings.
One more example of Joseph Smith’s ability to randomly create translation comes from the hoax known as the Kinderhook Plates. In 1843, just more than a year before Smith’s death, some ancient looking bell shaped brass plates were given to Joseph Smith to test his ability to decipher the strange writings found thereon. Smith wrote in the History of the Church vol. 5: page 372:
I insert fac-similes 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 with 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 from the Ruler of heaven and earth.
Unknown to Smith was the fact that several men had created the plates as a “humbug,” apparently devised as a scheme to test the “prophet’s” seership. Three men, Robert Wiley, Bridge Whitton and Wilbourne Fugate were the conspirators. Whitton, a blacksmith cut the plates out of some pieces of copper; Wiley and Wilbourne made the hieroglyphics by making the impressions on beeswax and filling them with acid, and putting it on the plates. When they were finished, they put them together with rust made of nitric acid, old iron and lead, bound them with a piece of hoop iron, covering them completely with rust.
In 1980 one of the extant Kinderhook plates was subjected to a destructive test at Northwestern University. Examination by a scanning electron microscope, a scanning auger microprobe, and X-ray fluorescence analysis proved conclusively that the plate was one of the Kinderhook six; that it had been engraved, not etched; and that it was of nineteenth-century manufacture. There thus appears no reason to accept the Kinderhook plates as anything but a frontier hoax.
The hoax was not actually exposed until 36 years after it was enacted. No explanation was ever given by the creators of the hoax as to why they didn’t immediately expose Smith’s blunder. Some believe this detracts from the evidence. The evidence however stands. Smith did give a translation of the “ancient” plates that were admittedly not ancient. The hieroglyphics were obviously just gobbledegook, yet Smith created an extravagant story, demonstrating his ability to just completely concoct wild stories! How much more obvious could it get? For those who say “How could Joseph Smith just make up the Book of Mormon? The evidence seems beyond convincing that Roberts’ deduction is accurate: Joseph Smith possessed a “vividly strong, creative imagination....possible for him to create a Book such as the Book of Mormon is.”
The reader is again asked if the evidence is not rather glaring regarding Joseph Smith’s ability to simply make up supposed translated material. I submit that a level of beyond any reasonable doubt exists.
Perhaps the capstone of the incredulous: Joseph Smith and plural marriage.
Joseph Smith was apparently so reluctant to institute plural marriage after he was “commanded” to by God that he said an angel of God stood by him with a drawn sword and told him that unless he moved forward and established plural marriage, his Priesthood would be taken from him and he should be destroyed.
Mary Elizabeth Rollings Lightner reported Joseph told her Jesus appeared to him in the spring of 1831 and commanded him to seal her up to everlasting life, and gave her to Joseph to be with him in His kingdom. In 1834 he was commanded to take her as a wife. Joseph was afraid and an angel came to him three times, the last time with a drawn sword and threatened his life.
Would God send an angel with a drawn sword, threatening to kill anyone for lack of obedience? Not the God I worship. Especially to someone reluctant to have sex with women other than his own wife, including other men’s wives? How obvious would it have to be to see through that one?
William Law was Joseph Smith’s counselor in the First Presidency of the Church during the later Nauvoo era. He was for a time a trusted intimate of Smiths. He described Smith in a way not generally reported to believers:
One of Joe Smith’s weakest points was his jealousy of other men. He could not bear to hear other men spoken of. If there was any praise it must be of him; all adoration and worship must be for him. He would destroy his best friend rather than see him become popular in the eyes of the church or the people at large. His vanity knew no bounds. He was unscrupulous; no man’s life was safe if he was disposed to hate him. He sat the laws of God and men at defiance.
Such a characterization allows one to see the grandiosity and narcissism necessary to introduce and secretly carry out the practice of plural marriage, and then attempt to present it to the world as God’s plan. But, we must allow the evidence to speak for itself.
Mormonism agrees that Joseph’s ideas about plural marriage began very early. Indeed the “revelation” legitimizing plural marriage was reported to have been received as early as 1831, although it wasn’t written down until many years later. This was just one year after the church’s formal organization. However, documenting plural marriage evidence becomes difficult because it was instituted and practiced in a haze of secrecy, public concealment, and open lies.. Interestingly, it was not until 1852 that Mormonism publicly admitted to the practice of plural marriage. This was 8 years after Joseph Smith was murdered. This is why many Mormons are surprised to learn that Joseph Smith was ever a participant in plural marriage.
An example of the duplicity and dishonesty regarding Smith’s practice of plural marriage came in the Oct. 1, 1842 Times and Seasons, the Mormon Church’s official newsletter. This statement on marriage appeared many years after Joseph Smith began secretly practicing plural marriage and came in response to his anger at John Bennett also beginning to enjoy the “benefits” of plural marriage:
All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again...
We have given the above rule of marriage as the only one practiced in this church, to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a matter of his own manufacture; and further to disabuse the public ear, and shew that the said Bennett and his and his misanthropic friend Origen Bachelor, are perpetrating a foul and infamous slander upon an innocent people, and need but be known to be hated and despise. In support of this position, we present the following certificates:
We the undersigned members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, persons of families do hereby certify and declare that we know of no other rule of system of marriage than the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a creature of his own make as we know of no such society in this place not never did.
|S. Bennett||N. K. Whitney|
|George Miller||Albert Pettey|
|Alpheus Cutler||Elias Higbee|
|Reynolds Cahoon||John Taylor|
|Wilson Law||E. Robinson|
|W. Woodruff||Aaron Johnson|
We the undersigned members of the ladies' relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practised in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to the public to show that J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a disclosure of his own make.
Emma Smith, President,
Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Counsellor,
Sarah M. Cleveland, Counsellor,
Eliza R. Snow, Secretary,
|Mary C. Miller||Catharine Pettey|
|Lois Cutler||Sarah Higbee|
|Thirza Cahoon||Phebe Woodruff|
|Ann Hunter||Leonora Taylor|
|Jane Law||Sarah Hillman|
|Sophia R. Marks||Rosannah Marks|
|Polly Z. Johnson||Angeline Robinson|
Mormon historians today admit that Joseph only told a select and small group of people about plural marriage. At the time of this clearly deceptive statement (lie) in The Times and Seasons Joseph hadn’t even told his wife Emma or his brother Hyrum about “the practice” although he was clearly living it and teaching it to a few others. How obvious, or how much evidence would convince an objective seeker of truth of the reality of what was going on in the name of the Lord?
Would God command Joseph to secretly take his wife’s fellow presidency members in the Nauvoo Relief Society (as well as many others) as his own plural wives? Could it be proper or Godly for him to publicly deny such behaviors and privately practice them? Could it ever be proper to secretly take other men’s wives because he was the prophet, and as such was either testing the faith of others, (as was openly admitted by men whom Joseph indicated he wanted their wives for himself); or was offering these women a greater chance for exaltation in the eternities because of his position of authority (another reason women were told to marry polygamously)? Would it be proper to keep this information from his own wife? What about producing a “revelation” wherein God condemns the wife if she refuses to accept the practice--threatening her with destruction?
The contradictory and self-nullifying rule revealed as the Law of Sarah was used as justification for the seemingly audacious behavior of Smith. As revealed in section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Law of Sarah decreed that the first wife was to give her consent for subsequent wives, unless the first wife was unbelieving or unwilling. In that case the male was exempt from the Law of Sarah, and the first wife was found in contempt, labeled a transgressor, and even threatened with destruction. This “law” allowed the first wife to consent to other wives, unless she didn’t consent, wherein she was deemed unworthy and promised she would be destroyed! Is it not rather obvious this was Joseph attempting to convince his wife Emma to allow him to be with other women--with her consent-- and doing it through a supposed revelation?
Many contemporary members of the church are surprised to learn that Joseph Smith was married to anyone other than Emma! This demonstrates the obscuring or deception of history that has occurred within the Mormon Church today.. Obviously it is a big shock when lifelong members, after graduating from seminary and sitting through hundreds of hours of church instruction, discover that not only did Joseph take other wives, but many of them were married when he took them! Further, many of Smith’s wives were considerably younger than himself--with at least one as young as fourteen! Documenting how many “wives” Joseph took is difficult because of the secrecy in which it all occurred. The most recent and perhaps most conservative evidence lists thirty-three well documented wives of Joseph Smith. Perhaps more than three hundred were sealed to him and were not wives in a connubial sense. Eleven of the well documented wives were between the ages of 14 to 20 years old when they married him. Sexual attraction, therefore, seems to have been an important factor in Smith’s motivation. Eleven of the wives were married to other men when Smith married them.
Further, because it began in the early history of the church Richard Van Wagoner asks an interesting and poignant question regarding one of Joseph’s first plural “wives,” Fanny Alger:
If Smith and Alger were sealed in a plural marriage as 1899 church leaders were persuaded, who stood as witness for the ordinance? Who performed the ceremony? In the absence of an officiator or witness, did God himself seal the couple, or did Smith, as God’s only legitimate earthly agent marry himself to Alger? Smith did not claim publicly the power to “bind on earth and seal eternally in the heavens” until 3 April 1836, perhaps one year after the Alger incident (D&C 110: 13-16). Could he have viewed her as his common law wife, married by connubial relationship rather than by wedding ceremony?
This means that it seems possible Joseph’s first marriages amounted to a declaration of Godly directed marriage and sexual relations. This is typically called adultery.
It may be that Joseph Smith actually admitted that plural marriage was wrong or a hoax. I quote Van Wagoner:
Some have admitted that Joseph Smith became involved in polygamy but later tried to disentangle himself from the practice. Brigham Young conceded in 1866 that “Joseph was worn out with it, but as to his denying any such thing I never knew that he denied the doctrine of polygamy. Some have said that he did, but I do not believe he ever did” (Unpublished Address). But Smith’s niece, Mary Bailey, writing in 1908 said that her uncle finally “awoke to a realization of the whole miserable affair [and]...tried to withdraw from and put down the Evil into which he had fallen” (Newel and Avery 1984, 179). Prominent early leaders of the RLDS church also shared this viewpoint. Isaac Sheen, who became affiliated with the RLDS movement in 1859 and edited the church periodical Saints’ Herald, wrote in the first issue of that paper (March 1860) that though “Joseph Smith taught the spiritual-wife doctrine,” he “repented of his connection with this doctrine, and said it was of the devil.” Former Nauvoo stake president William Marks, a close friend of Emma, wrote in a July 1853 letter to the Zion’s Harbinger and Baneemy’s Organ that he met with the prophet a short time before his death. “We are a ruined people,” Marks quoted Smith; “this doctrine of polygamy, or Spiritual-wife System, that has been taught and practiced among us, will prove our destruction and overthrow. I have been deceived...it is wrong; it is a curse to mankind, and we shall have to leave the United States soon, unless it can be put down, and its practice stopped in the church.” Marks said that Smith ordered him “to go into the high council, and I will have charges preferred against all who practice this doctrine; and I want you to try them by the laws of the Church, and cut them off, it they will not repent, and cease the practice of this doctrine...I will go into the stand and preach against it with all my might, and in this way, we may rid the Church of the damnable heresy.” But Smith was killed shortly after this conversation, and when Marks related what Smith had said, his testimony was pronounced false by the Twelve and disbelieved.
Plural marriage, the secrecy of its early practice, and the ensuing social and political circumstances that emerged from its practice are probably the greatest factors leading to the murders of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, and the subsequent upheaval of that era of Mormon history. A careful analysis of the later Nauvoo era of the Mormon Church shows an institution and culture attempting to present a pristine public appearance, but having considerable conflict with the underworld of secrecy and private behaviors. Most likely empowered by the energy inherent in the sexual drive, the underworld of Nauvoo was a veritable shadow land of wonder! Accusations, denials, conspiracies, secret societies and practices, conflicts, and violent behaviors danced their way out of the shadow lands of the Mormon institution, colliding and conflicting with the Victorian outward appearance of the pristine church and its people.
Division within the highest ranking quorum of the church (First Presidency) would produce the circumstances that would ultimately allow the powderkeg to explode. When First Presidency counselor William Law could no longer condone the secret practices and peculiar doctrines Smith was advocating, he publicly split with the prophet and along with others determined to expose the truth. In an aptly titled publication, The Nauvoo Expositor, Law and his group produced a paper that brought some of Nauvoo's secret practices into public awareness and promised to reveal more of the truth in subsequent editions. Before further editions could be produced, Smith and the city council had the press destroyed. This clearly unconstitutional action provided the legal justification that would eventuate in Smith's incarceration. With Smith and others secure in jail, the explosive political climate erupted in mob violence and he and his brother were murdered. To many, Smith was hailed as a martyr. Others knew him as an obvious fraud and scoundrel exploiting his position of power to gain control over others and the sexual favor of many.
The practice of plural marriage within Mormonism would eventually be flushed from its seeming security in the closet. And although its practice became publicly acknowledged and nationally publicized, an obvious air of embarrassment would continue to surround the issue for most Mormons. Attempts by early and contemporary proponents of the practice to minimize the sexual aspects of plural marriages indicates the ongoing inability of the church to honestly face the sexual component of the issue.
Subsequent litigation and national disenfranchisement would force (or heavily induce) the church to abandon the practice of plural marriage. Complete abandonment of the practice proved to be a formidable task. This is most likely due to the fact that plural marriage was initially presented as essential and foundational in early Mormon theology. An era of purging those who refused to abandon the once believed essential practice ensued. Again, the emergence of conflicts, secret societies and practices resulted when the church attempted to abandon plural marriage in early 20th century. Mormon fundamentalism had its birth in this era.
The stage was set for the split that would occur in the 20th century individual and collective Mormon psyche. The church would eventually adopt a position of public disdain for the practice of plural marriage, but maintain somewhat of a repressed awareness of its eternal prominence. Further compounding this psychic split would be the repression of awareness of the sexual connotations inherent in plural marriage. To access this awareness, one only need bring up a serious discussion of plural marriage in a Gospel Doctrine Sunday school class and watch the repressed material begin to emerge! Contemporary Mormons generally demonstrate an unwillingness to face or confront the realities of the previous era of secret and eccentric marital and sexual behaviors. A position of "sweeping under the carpet" seems to be a common way of dealing with thoughts and feelings relative to the whole business of the earlier practice of plural marriage. This is true of the church's public and official dealings with the difficult topic as well. Van Wagoner postulates in his excellent research on plural marriage that Utah Mormons may be the most anti-polygamous group of all! It appears evident that the contemporary Mormon is socialized to repress or compartmentalize most thought and feeling about plural marriage. Openly, a pristine attitude concerning marriage and sexuality is embraced. A lurking awareness of this strange and eccentric practice previously embraced, and bound to re-emerge somewhere in the eternities is typically just repressed by Mormons today.
Is the previous summary ripe with enough evidence to convince the average person that Joseph Smith’s quest for power and influence also turned sexual. This is often the case when someone’s sense of power becomes severely distorted. Evidence abounds that Joseph’s sense of importance became so distorted. At the time of his death he was running for president of the United States. He had organized “the Kingdom of God” or the Council of Fifty to be the government that would replace the imperfect government. In this organization Joseph had allowed himself to be ordained the King to reign over the House of Israel forever.
I submit the evidence is beyond clear and convincing that Joseph Smith became so distorted regarding his own sense of importance or power within his community, that he was able to convince others that God wanted him to take other women, including married women. This distortion and subsequent practice of plural marriage culminated in his death, and the resulting turmoil of the Nauvoo history of the Mormon Church.
The forgoing does not begin to give a portion of the evidence that marginalizes the Mormon Church’s exclusive claims to truth. Indeed, it becomes ironic and obvious that “the true church” seems to have so much truth it is afraid of. Evidence abounds of Mormonism’s attempts to cover, distort, lie or mislead members about its past and other issues. This paper is in no way meant to be an exhaustive source of problematic areas in Mormon theology, history, or policy. I chose the previous topics due to the existence of “friendly” and objective sources that Mormons can perhaps trust as being real, fair and honest.
Finally, a disclaimer: I want to reiterate concerning a reality of indoctrination or brainwashing. This is given to post-Mormons who may think they can readily point out the obvious to the believer, and they will see the evidence as what it is.
Once a person has been indoctrinated they have a very effective “filter” system that works when someone tries to tell them something contrary to what they've been indoctrinated in. They do not hear what is being said to them.
The person who prizes truth, pointing out the obvious would say:
Mormon doctrine and practice wouldn't allow blacks to hold the priesthood for the 1st 150 years of their history, based solely on the color of their skins. This meant that blacks could not receive the saving ordinances of the temple and therefore could not go to the Mormon heaven (unless their work was done for them after they died?). The book of scripture that this clearly racist doctrine comes from has been proven to be a fraud (the book of Abraham). The papyrus that this scripture was supposedly "translated" from was rediscovered after the Egyptian language had been cracked and Egyptologists have since translated what it really says. It is a common funery text and was not written by Abraham. It was about 1000 years too new to have been written by him. Joseph Smith completely concocted the book of Abraham, including the idea that the descendants of Cain couldn't hold the priesthood. Further, why Mormons think that Negroes are the descendants of Cain is another quandary.
Those with the Mormon filter hear:
Someone is trying to attack my beliefs. I'm sure they have been filled with lies by those nasty anti-Mormons and therefore whatever they are saying to me cannot be true or credible, because after all, I already know the Mormon church is God's one and only true church on the earth. And I'm sure there is a perfectly good explanation why the blacks couldn't hold the priesthood, even if I don’t know or understand it. After all, intelligent men like Neal Maxwell believe it, so obviously there is a good explanation! And 11 million people believe in the church--including all my family and friends. It couldn't just be made up! You could bring me a truckload of evidence to the contrary and it wouldn’t shake my faith or belief! What church is true if Mormonism isn’t?
A Mormon so indoctrinated couldn’t even hear that. Perhaps a different example requiring a filter not had by Mormons is illustrative:
The person who prizes truth says to the devout Catholic:
The popes clearly committed ungodly behaviors during the mediaeval era, like popes committing adultery, popes selling forgiveness of sins etc. Based on these realities it therefore seems rather obvious that Catholicism’s exclusive claims to being the one and only true church and heir of real Christianity, with the only real spokesman for God on the earth-- the pope-- cannot be true.
My beliefs are being attacked. All of my family and friends believe in the Catholic Church. Very intelligent men study their whole lives and remain believers in Catholicism. After all, 300 million people on the planet couldn't be mistaken... The Catholic church has to be true, it is the only one that goes back to Christ himself. If the Catholic church isn't true what would I do, or what church could be?
A note to the believers on receptivity or remaining open:
Mormons get very good at compartmentalizing reality. Something that doesn’t fit is carefully swept aside, out of consciousness with the vague idea that somehow there must be an explanation for that. We just don’t know it now. For the typical Mormon, as he or she grows up in the church many experiences, thoughts and beliefs are resigned underneath this carpet somewhere in their minds. To them I finish with this quote:
Receptivity has many interesting areas. For example, our protests and objections to a truthful statement make a fine source for self-study. Notice how quick we are to object, and deny, and argue, whenever a new idea presents itself. We may think that we argue because we already know the truth, when, in fact, honest reflection reveals the exact opposite: we protest because our artificialities are threatened with exposure. This could lead to the honest insight, “Well, I’m not as sure as I thought. Here is an opportunity to crack through my false ideas.”
To Mormons who wonder where they would find truth if Mormonism doesn’t contain all. There is universe of truth and deeper spirituality waiting to be discovered once you are willing to let go of the safety of certainty, certitudes and “knowing.” Indeed, then you are ready to discover the wonder and awe of the great unknown!
The Mystic Path calls for the bravest and best within us. Uprightness. Integrity. Honesty. Fearlessness. That is all. There is nothing complex about success.
Truth is a strange creature. What does it take to prove something is true or false? Bill makes some good comments on the subject particularly where religion is involved. I have read a lot of anti-Mormon literature yet I remain active in the Church. I accept that I cannot convincingly answer all the issues raised in Bill's article. Perhaps I am burying my head in the sand. I do know that, over time, I have found answers to some criticisms levelled at the Church that, at the time, I thought impossible to answer. Also there are interesting features to the Book of Mormon that point to its truth, for example forms of Hebrew literature such as chiasmus.
May we all draw closer to God in the way we can each accept and show love towards others who travel a different path. - 07/15/2005 - from g.buckell
Let's say that everything Mr. Gardiner says is true. What other system of belief offers a better way of living and more hope? All other Christian faiths are break off from Catholocisim. It is always easy to criticise but I have yet to have someone offer me a better deal than what the LDS faith offers. - 01/05/2005 - martinseaw
Thank you for your very informed site. I have been a Mormon for seven years been to the Temple, etc. I had some doubts but no one can give me the answers to my questions, they just get angry. Have you investigated the trial of J.S. presided over by Judge Neely where he was found guilty of fraud I have read about it on another site but wondered if you had researched it.
What is the Mormon view that their are no remains of the cities, bones, pottery, etc spoken of in the B.O.M. I realise that you have left the church but I would appreciate your views. Many thanks, Theresa
I was a member of the LDS Church for some 35 years and during that time, always adhered to the admonition "NEVER, EVER READ ANY ANTI-MORMON LITERATURE." 5 years ago I left the Church and I just now got up the nerve to read some (yours, Mr. Gardner. 'Should have done it sooner. - 05/04/2004 - from Sandie
WOW! I, MYSELF, WHILE SITTING WATCHING A PBS SPECIAL ON LOVE ... HAD AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE THAT I BELIEVE WITH ALL MY HEART GAVE ME A SOLID KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT THE CREATOR IS AND WHAT HE'S ABOUT ...UNCONDITIONAL LOVE WITH THE PURIST COMPONENTS OF TOLERANCE, PATIENCE,UNDERSTANDING, FORGIVENESS,KINDNESS,HONOR,RESPECT,SELFLESSNESS, TRUTH ... AND FINALLY HAVING THE COURAGE WITH ALL MY HEART AND SOUL- SELF, TO WANT THE ANSWERS WITHOUT FEAR! I'M ALSO VERY GLAD NOT TO BE WEARING THOSE SILLY UNDERGARMENTS ANYMORE IN ARIZONA. TALK ABOUT INSANITY! I ONLY ASK MY HEAVENLY FATHER (OR WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL THIS LOVING CREATIVE BEING)TO KEEP ME IN REMEMBERANCE OF THIS KNOWLEDGE AND TO LOVE ALL MY MORMON FAMILY AND FRIENDS AROUND ME ... EVEN THOUGH I KNOW THE "CHURCH OF JOSEPH SMITH OF LATTER DAY SAINTS" TO BE CONTAMINATED BY A HUMAN BEING'S DESPERATE DESIRE AND NEED TO BE HONORED WHILE CONTROLLING OF THOSE AROUND HIM. SO SAD! BUT ... I'M JUST WAITING FOR THE QUESTIONS TO BE ASKED AS TO WHY I'M NOT MORMON ANYMORE!!! - 04/23/2004 - anon
Thanks Bill for taking the time to write such an informative article. I am excited to read the View of the Hebrews. I can definitely see the similarities between the BOM and the View of the Hebrews. It doesn't take a scientist to figure out that Joseph Smith took ideas out from one book and inserted it into the BOM. The book of Abraham I've just learned is also another made up fiction by Joseph Smith. So many facts to prove Joseph is not a Prophet but really an ordinary man, who was greedy and full of himself. It scary how he managed to fool so many people into believing he was a messager of God. A wolf in sheep's clothing is what comes to mind. Thanks again for this insightful article. - 02/01/03 - Nisha WA
I am a convert TO The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). I have seen over the last 38 years since I converted many leave including those in positions of authority. If they are happier where they are today that is their choice, but to condemn their previous faith and impune those who choose to remain is ungracious and small-minded, even vicious. As to revealing temple ceremonies I would remind you that you took a strict oath before God, not man, to keep these things private. You broke your oath. You are not an honorable person. May God have mercy on you as you pave your path and will someday regret the manner in which you have delt with your former religious affiliation -- wheather you believe it any longer or not. - 01/26/2004 - anon
I don't know if comments from the opposition are accepted here, but as a lifelong Latter-Day Saint and a firm believer in the prophethood of Joseph Smith, I can assure you there are two sides to every story. I don't have space for a full rebuttal of Mr. Gardiner, and from experience I expect my words would be twisted to say something I didn't intend anyway. But like Mr. Gardiner, I would like to appeal to the fair-mindedness of the readers and hope they will consider all the evidence before making their final decision. I have. That's why I'm still a Mormon. - 08/22/2003 - email@example.com
Awesome, totally awesome! Thank you for taking the time to write this article. I have left the church and have had my name taken off the membership rolls in doing so I have found happiness and liberation from a religion that controls, manipulates, uses and abuses, mind, soul, and body, and if that isnt bad enough it robs you of your time and money. I'm grateful to individuals such as yourself that takes the time to let people know how INSANE this susposed religion is. If you take the time to read about what makes a cult, you'll find the mormon church meets all the criteria. Thank you again! - 05/17/2003 - from jeannie
After very little research in a local book store; I found many, and I emphasize, many ritualistic practices, symbols, etc in Masonic/Mormon and even the Catholic Church to have strong pagan wiccan roots. Stated in the very first section of a witchCRAFT was that it wasn't important that someone fully understand the physical positions, symbols, words, etc it was only that were formed or spoken. I am trying to find more but so far it's extremely disturbing that so many people are performing rites that truly have everything opposite to do with Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is none in the Bible.
Note: that the Rites usually speak of Warden's in the East, West, and South and a Worshipful Master. Warden is another term for guardian or watch over, which is also spoken of the Watch Towers in witchCRAFT. So really "which" CRAFT are they practicing, unkowingly or knowingly. And the next time you walk past a car with the symbols on the bumper take some time to study them.
And while your researching the Masonic symbology, note that it has found it's way deep into America. So deep it is on "The Great Seal" (Readily seen on the back of the One Dollar Bill.
Using symbology, as Masons do, this reads It [the eye of "providence"] has favored our undertakings above/conquering the pyramid (meaning transfiguration and death) it's corner stone being 1776 and over a Novus ordo seclorum. "A new order of the ages" Now the eye symbol in the triangle (completion) and it has also been used as the Eye of Horus, Ra, Ammon-Ra, Odin all of whom claim to be lord of all or "Bel" Also Baal or Bel-Marduk, a babylonian god. Either way you take it, it's the opposite of the One True God. - 01/24/2003 - David
I applaud your courage! As a convert to Mormonism, when I discovered the issues you address in your article, it wasn't such an effort to disentangle myself from the Church's dogma. However, for someone born and bred in this system, to have the incredible courage you must possess to have been able to question unflinchingly, and then to be true to the truth as you discovered it, is nothing short of amazing. It has been said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." May I add, "The unexamined faith is not worth having." The more I question, the more I discover, and the more I grow spiritually. Truth does not fear inquiry. My questioning has led me to these simple personal beliefs: there is a creator force, that force is aware of me and cares about me, and the creator force is motivated by love rather than power. These three statements are enough to give my life incredible meaning. I need nothing more. Pondering them is enough to fill my being with endless wonder and m! ake my life experience of incalculable worth. Thank you for sharing your own spiritual odessey. I wish you well. - 11/02/2002 - janwyn@mnic
I dont know much about this really strange faith,but I do know that it sounds strange.I being a Black Male would not want to be part of this circus let alone be a priest for a bunch racist God fearing sickos that multiply like rabbits. - 08/11/2002 - Lyndon Brooks-Johnson Monchengladbach,Germany