MormonThink's Response to FAIR


scales4

UPDATE - 11/29/12

FAIR's Review of MormonThink: http://en.fairmormon.org/Website_reviews/MormonThink

MormonThink.com has the distinction of being the only pro-truth website that has been reviewed by the apologetic organization known as FAIR. They did this in 2009 and MT responded then and now again in 2012 which we respond to below. We don't understand why we alone have this honor when there are other sites probably more deserving such as Richard Packham and the Tanner's Utah Lighthouse Ministry. Perhaps FAIR doesn't want people to know how many other credible sites are out there that corroborate information about the LDS Church's history.

First, before we let the critics and others that contributed to MT go on the defense, please see this recent well-done video about Mormon apologist's tactics, especially by Scott Gordon, president of FAIR.

Tactics of a Mormon Apologist

This excellent 18 minute video by FlackerMan analyzes methods used by typical Mormon apologists who try to devalue claims made by those questioning the LDS religion or expressing doubts. FlackerMan takes apart a presentation that Scott Gordon, president of the Mormon apologetic group FAIR, gave at Utah Valley University in 2012. Gordon presents two lists of references that he claims proves the church is being open and honest about Joseph Smith's polygamy and the translation method of the Book of Mormon. Do these lists show what Gordon claims, or are they simply obfuscation? Video

A note of thanks to FAIR

FAIR has a lot of resources and money (compared to MT) and they spend a great deal of time chasing us around, looking at various Mormon message boards trying to find posts that they think might have come from any of the many contributors to MT over the years and use any off-handed comment that any one of the MT contributors (even our IT people) may or may not have made in the past in a seemingly desperate attempt to discredit MT. They want to keep good church members, who want answers to their issues, from even looking at any other site than FAIR for the answers. What are they so afraid of to devote such time and effort against the good people supporting MT?

This is an indication of how weak their defenses of the problematic church issues must be when they resort to personal Ad hominem attacks instead of merely confronting the issues. MT doesn't attempt to police the past and present contributors or our IT people using the various Internet message boards so they are all free to say whatever they want. HOWEVER, the only official statements sanctioned by MormonThink are on our website and not Internet Message Boards which we have no control over. But FAIR prefers to use comments which may or may not have even been made by former contributors as if that would somehow explain all the problems raised by the critics. MT takes the high road and doesn't use the numerous snarky comments made by FAIR contributors on various, Internet message boards. We only respond to what's on FAIR's official website. Unfortunately FAIR will resort to any tactic to attempt to persuade readers that MT is dishonest instead of just responding to the official statements on MT's website.

First, a note of thanks to FAIR. It is kind of flattering to have your own private paparazzi following your team around hovering on your every word and every day searching for any tiny nugget of information from someone, that perhaps once contributed to the MT site, may have said one day on a message board that they can twist and quote snippets of trying to keep the focus off of church history. Ironically it's the same thing FAIR accuses the critics of doing by cherry-picking quotes from the General Authorities that are out-dated or only reflect the views of one man at one point in time and not officially adopted by the church. Of course FAIR never quotes from any of the MT contributors when they make positive comments about the church on message boards.

FAIR boosted MormonThink popularity

MormonThink was largely obscure until FAIR came along. First they mentioned it in their 2009 conference which caused MT hits to double. They then made it the only website 'worthy of a FAIR review' (they did John Dehlin's also but took it off when he complained) - hits went way up after that also.

Then they got into a war with MT about the translation process and MT hits continued to go up as readers tuned in.

Then they upped the stakes and started outing the MT contributors that they could find and reporting them to the church. Well, hits exploded after MT hit the media. We saw MT's Home Page on dozens of media outlets, on ABC News, etc. Reporters wrote and called constantly. We now have a large list of media contacts ready at our disposal whenever FAIR wants to publicize MT again.

Hits topped about 3 Million in Sep '12 with the David Twede media frenzy and have maintained a consistent rate more than double what they were before Sep - thanks to FAIR. MT had 2.3M hits in Oct and continues to grow with about 75,000 hits per day now (Nov '12).

We've had literally hundreds and hundreds of emails sent to us in just the week after the story prompted by Scott Gordon of FAIR hit the presses. Many of those emails were from people that just found out about MormonThink for the first time after reading about all the hub-bub on the Internet. These people were not happy that the church kept so much of its disturbing history from them and they thanked us for providing all this information in one, easy-to-find place.

We've received many offers to help improve the site by Internet developers. Also many active, but questioning members have joined the team. Some recent additions have been added here.

Donations also hit an all-time high so now we can fund more projects to help the site grow.

And all of this is due to you FAIR. Thank you so much for not ignoring us. We couldn't afford any better publicity than you give us for free. Please keep it up.

Sincerely
The MormonThink Staff

The latest attack

IN FAIR's latest attack on MT, they summarize the issues, often citing the weakest of the critics' claims and not the strongest, hoping readers will simply dismiss the whole issue without looking at any details provided by the critics' arguments given on MT. For example, the Lost 116 Pages they cite a quote made on the South Park episode lampooning the Lost 116 Pages. Of course this quote has really nothing to do with the analysis of the issue. We respond below, using comments from the critics and others that have contributed to MT, to the summaries FAIR gives in an attempt to dissuade the sincere truthseeker from even looking at MT's website and the pro and con analysis provided on MT by both critics and faithful members supporting both sides of the issues.

Another general comment: The most problematic issues are not even mentioned in their summary. The Book of Abraham is arguably the most hard to defend problem in Mormonism and it isn't even mentioned in their summary.

FAIR puts down MT for stating things that FAIR acknowledges are not correct LDS beliefs but beliefs that many LDS members still believe regardless. FAIR acts as if it's crazy to try to spend effort stating some things that members believe but that the church doesn't currently teach - in effect, blaming the members for believing things that they were taught in church and by other members. FAIR apologists already know these issues but we do this because the average member does not know these things and they continue to believe and say these things. For example, my bishop recently told me that polygamy was not illegal when the Saints practiced it. That of course is wrong and FAIR knows this but they cut down MT by stating "[the Saints] willingly went to jail for practicing it". Most members (including my bishop) still believe it wasn't illegal so FAIR please stop dismissing these issues because you know about them but the average member does not. It is not my bishop's fault for simply believing what he was taught in church and for passing those beliefs on to others in his congregation.

This is an understandable consequence given the church’s reluctance to discuss issues like polygamy and denying blacks the priesthood in any sort of detail in church lessons. It is also very disingenuous for FAIR to act as if there's no reason for any member to believe these things when they were taught them in church, even if some obscure church publications do state the facts. Most members aren't scholars and don't read scholarly publications like apologists do.

NOTE: John Lynch, chairman of FAIR in a mormonstories podcast told John Dehlin that many commonly-held beliefs of the members are untrue - specifically mentioned are that there were NOT more women than men in the Church when they practiced polygamy. Meanwhile on FAIR's review of MT, FAIR acts as if MT's statement that 'many members still believe that' is nonsense when they say "despite the fact that the Church has stated in a number of publications (including the 2008-2009 Priesthood/Relief Society manual) that the practice was initiated by Joseph Smith".

Since the chairman of FAIR in his comments on polygamy when he specifically stated on a public forum, mormonstories podcast, that there were NOT more women than men in the Church when they practiced polygamy, clearly he is making another point with regard to the practice of polygamy in the early church in addition to and other than the mere reference with regard to church publications stating that polygamy was started by Joseph Smith. Why would the chairman of FAIR bring up a point about the number of men and women in the church in a public forum concerning the practice of polygamy if it were irrelevant with all church members, even today? Could it be that many members still believe that despite what FAIR says on their website about some church publications that mention Joseph Smith starting polygamy, the number of women compared to the number of men is somehow related to the reason for polygamy? Perhaps the FAIR writers should read the statements of the FAIR leaders before criticizing MT?

FAIR's Detailed Analyses

We respond to FAIR's summaries below, but FAIR also did a detailed analysis of several sections. Some problems with their approach:

1) FAIR's detail pages omit much of the material on MT's pages so their analysis is hardly comprehensive. They cherry-pick comments made by critics and attack them instead of going through the whole, complete web page and the applicable essays often given only as links.

2) FAIR uses ellipses (...) and other selective copying of quotes to misrepresent and weaken arguments provided by critics on MT's pages without giving the full argument. FAIR continually states "MormonThink says..." (then they quote a critic and not a MT editor) to imply that the MT staff said the statement and not a critic, apparently to label MT as all critics. They often attribute comments made by critics as simply MormonThink comments such as:

MormonThink says...
It's very interesting that apologist Daniel Peterson of FARMS says that Alma 11, which describes Nephite coinage, is almost certainly wrong.

The actual statement on MT without the ellipses (...) is (underlining added):

It's very interesting that according to Jim Whitefield, apologist Daniel Peterson of FARMS says that Alma 11, which describes Nephite coinage, is almost certainly wrong.

FAIR omits that we are quoting Jim Whitefield and not giving our opinion. That's what MT does, we quote critics and defenders of the church. FAIR wants to portray MT as critics instead of people quoting them. NOTE: To avoid any misunderstanding, we removed this particular statement entirely. Why doesn't FAIR Quote MT when we use quotes from FARMS that disagree with FAIR such as in the Greek Psalter response?

3) FAIR's information is terribly out of date. Much of what FAIR quotes on MT is not even accurate - look them up on MT yourself before believing what FAIR responds to. They cite snarky comments they say are on MT's website, but when you go to MT to find those quotes, they aren't even on MT's site! They nitpick typos, bad links, semantics or verbiage that may have existed in draft form many years ago but were fixed by MT editors ages ago. Both MT and FAIR have editors that edit mistakes, clarify language and add new material so the only way to critique either site is to review the current web pages and not use old, draft ones before they were edited. For example, FAIR blasts MT for stating that the artwork of Moroni appearing to Joseph never shows his brothers sleeping in the same bed with him. That was a true fact when this page was first created in 2005 as the Church did not publish any accurate depictions of the event then. But as soon as an image appeared in the August 2009 Ensign, MT added it and praised the Church for doing so. FAIR's response [as of 11/8/12] still acts as if MT is hiding this yet we've had it on there since August of 2009.

MT went through a major redesign since FAIR wrote their review and MT has a new batch of editors and IT professionals that are continuing to improve the website. Much of FAIR's criticisms aren't even on MT's site. So before accepting anything FAIR quotes from MT as fact, please look up the exact reference on MT yourself. You might be surprised at how little of what FAIR says about MT is even accurately portrayed.

4) FAIR states incorrect facts. In responding to the anachronistic use of the word 'elephant' in the Book of Mormon, FAIR responds:

In addition to mastodons, another species of an elephant-like creature existed in the New World and did not go extinct until after the time of Christ. Mormonthink is again unaware or withholding information.

Elephants are only present in Jaredite times in the Book of Mormon. Both mastodons and gomphotheres are elephant-like creatures that are plausible candidates.

Mastodons are already addressed on MT's website by quoting the respected National Geographic Society::

Mastodons lived in North America starting about 2 million years ago and thrived until 11,000 years ago—around the time humans arrived on the continent—when the last of the 7-ton (6.35-metric-ton) elephant like creatures died off. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/10/061003-mastodons.html

If you google FAIR's suggestion of 'gomphotheres', you'll see that the scientific community believes they also went extinct long before Christ's time:

The Gomphotheriidae were a diverse taxonomic family of extinct elephant-like animals (proboscideans) — referred to as gomphotheres. They were widespread in North America during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, 12-1.6 million years ago. Some lived in parts of Eurasia, Beringia and, following the Great American Interchange, South America. Beginning about 5 million years ago, they were gradually replaced by modern elephants, but the last two South American species, in the genus Cuvieronius, did not finally become extinct until possibly as recently as 9,100 BP,and Stegomastodon remains have been dated as recently as 6,060 BP in the Valle del Magdalena, Colombia.Gomphotheres also survived in Mexico and Central America until the end of the Pleistocene. wikipedia [11/6/12]

Perhaps FAIR can search and search and maybe find a rogue scientist somewhere that endorses one of their theories but when the vast majority of the scientific community believes something, that should be used as the norm.

And how is MormonThink withholding this information?

5) FAIR's mocking attitude that everyone should of course dismiss every 'anti-Mormon' critic's research with a wave of the hand and simply accept the the apologists' attempt at 'quite reasonable' answers for something that 99.8% of the world doesn't believe in is absolutely the height of arrogance.

We wish we had the time to refute every item in their detailed analyses as much of their mocking responses are simply wrong or they missed the point entirely with their selective sound-bite analysis of the critics' arguments. But we doubt few people (other than the editors of both MT and FAIR) would even be interested in this never-ending back and forth critique.

CONCLUSON: Since websites from all sides are frequently updated and critiques are often out-of-date, the only way to really fully analyze any issue is to go to the various sites (pro and con) and read everything they currently have to say about the issue in their own words. MT makes this easy by providing actual links to all the major critics' sites and defense-of-the-faith sites. FAIR, on the other hand, will not provide any actual direct links to any critic's site. Which site sounds like they want every aspect of the issues brought out in the open - the one that makes it easy to see all the various sites critical AND favorable to the church or the one that won't even add one link to any critic's site and rarely even shows more than one critic site at a time?

Challenge: We provide actual working links to FAIR. FAIR will you do the same for MT and for the critics' sites? It's only fair.

2012

MormonThink's responses (in blue) to FAIR's 2012 summary of some of the issues mentioned on MT:

The website mormonthink.com is designed to lead Church members into questioning their beliefs in a non-threatening manner by claiming to be "objective" and "balanced." The site claims to be run by active members of the Church. In reality, however, they are "active" only in the sense that some of them still occasionally attend Church—they do not accept the Church's truth claims, and they have no interest in strengthening belief. Instead, the site portrays Church leaders as liars, Joseph Smith as a fraud and con-man, and the Church as "an oppressive empire building corporation." FAIR primarily quotes MormonThink, its own editors and the testimonials of those it has "helped" out of the Church. The site includes links to FAIR as a way of demonstrating their claimed "balance."

How would FAIR know how active MT's contributors are? Some of MT's contributors are actually believing members that are very active in the church but don't like how the church is less than forth-coming in its telling of Mormon history. For example, in the past year alone, over a hundred pages of material was written by two, active, believing, tithe-paying, temple-going LDS members. The information they compiled could be considered damaging to members that don't know about the true details of Mormon history but they wanted this information published as a way of helping members deal with certain disturbing accounts of its past in which they have their own theories on why they occurred. They knew the Church, the Neal Maxwell Institute (FARMS) or FAIR wouldn't likely publish their research so they contacted MT which is more open-minded.

Each page on MormonThink.com typically includes quotes from Church sources, large amounts of block text copied from websites critical of the Church, a few references to LDS apologetics that are followed by refutations by critics, an "Ending summary by critics," and an "Our Thoughts" section, which generally agrees with the critics. The bottom of each page contains links to critical sites, believers sites and to some sites which they consider neutral.

True, seems like a pretty fair approach to dealing with the subject matter. Let both sides present their arguments in their own words and provide many references and external resources, both pro and con so readers can delve into the details as they desire from many sources to help them arrive at their own conclusions.

 

  • Overview of the MormonThink website—The web site MormonThink.com claims to be operated by active members of the Church with an interest in objectively presenting the "truth" about Mormonism. In general, the conclusions reached by the site reflect negatively on the Church. The best explanation of the purpose of the website is offered the words of its own webmaster, and by the testimonials of ex-Mormons who claim that the site caused them to lose belief and leave the Church.

No, the purpose of the MormonThink website from an official consensus of its contributors is clearly stated on its site in the introduction section:

The purpose of this site is to generate discussion about little-known topics of church history to those interested in increasing their knowledge about these kinds of interesting, historical Mormon issues. We encourage people to think objectively about issues involving the doctrine, practices and history of the LDS church. Many Latter-day Saints are completely unaware of some or all of the issues discussed here, or have an incomplete, one-sided view of them. We present arguments and responses from both critics of the church and true-believing members and add some opinions of those that helped compile the data.

In our opinion, nothing on this site 100% proves or disproves whether or not the LDS church is God's one, true church. We merely present some of the strongest critics arguments used against the church and then find the strongest defenses we can find against those arguments.

There are many legitimate issues that many LDS members are concerned about and many Latter-day Saints have left the church over them. Our hope is that the church will start discussing these issues openly so members can know the facts from all sides so everyone can decide for themselves how important they think these issues are. We feel that if the church will start openly discussing these issues and perhaps provide some official responses, less people will leave the church over them and those in the church that already know about these issues, will feel more comfortable remaining in the church if they can openly discuss them.

  • Response to MormonThink's list of 25 items that would allegedly "make the Church true"—(http://www.mormonthink.com/endpage.htm) According to MormonThink.com, if the Church actually contained God's truth and authority, "we would expect the following things to have happened in this way." The following is a list of issues presented by the website followed by FAIR's response. Most items on the list are standard anti-Mormon fare, issues FAIR believes have been "asked and answered" many times. Nearly all points appeal to some type of intellectual or religious fundamentalism.

The above was from FAIR's original attack on MT from 2009 listed below with MT's original responses (this is provided in the section following the response to the 2012 comments).

 

FAIR's 2012 Attack:

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Translation of the Book of Mormon"—(http://mormonthink.com/transbomweb.htm) The website concludes that at least two Apostles have mentioned the use of the hat in public discourses which appeared in print, and at least one believing LDS defender of the faith has mentioned it on television. This, according to them, is "astonishing," since they conclude that if members or investigators knew that Joseph used a stone and a hat instead of two stones in a set of spectacles, and that he didn't need to look directly at the plates instead of viewing a mysterious conversion of reformed Egyptian characters to English words, that they wouldn't want to join the Church.

The stone & hat is mentioned in only two church articles in the last hundred years that we could find - those being in 1977 and 1993. The last one was two decades ago. Yet, how many times has the translation of the BofM been discussed when they don't mention the stone & hat - maybe hundreds or even thousands? How can two brief paragraphs in the volumes of information about translating the BofM possibly be seen as anything other than trying to keep this information from being common knowledge among the members? Every single time they show an image of Joseph translating the plates in an official Church magazine it never shows Joseph with his face in a hat. For example this image from the October, 2006 Ensign:

book of mormon translation

FAIR says "This, according to them, is "astonishing," since they conclude that if members or investigators knew that Joseph used a stone and a hat instead of two stones in a set of spectacles, and that he didn't need to look directly at the plates instead of viewing a mysterious conversion of reformed Egyptian characters to English words, that they wouldn't want to join the Church."

What FAIR is omitting is that virtually all members believe (as they were taught in church) that Joseph actually used the gold plates to translate the BofM. However, they don't say that the plates were not even present nor provide a reason why the ancient Nephites bothered to even make the plates in the first place if the plates were not needed in the translating process. They act as if substituting the two stones and a pair of spectacles for one stone in a hat is the only issue.

Also, they don't state that the stone is not the "urim & thummim" that was preserved in the stone box for thousands of years to translate the BofM but instead was a common stone found 20 feet underground on Willard Chase's property when Joseph and Hyrum were digging a well years before the BofM was translated. Also, not mentioned in their summary is that this stone was used by Joseph in his attempts to find treasure by putting this stone in a hat and putting his face in the hat (just like he did when he translated the BofM) but of course he never found any treasure.

Also, in FAIR's detail analysis they state that the stones were just ordinary rocks (we agree). If that's the case, then can FAIR explain why Joseph couldn't translate when Martin Harris swapped stones with him without Joseph's knowledge? Obviously if they were just normal stones and if Joseph wasn't even aware that Martin swapped them to test him, why wouldn't Joseph be able to continue translating? It seems more likely that Joseph noticed the stone swap and used this as an opportunity to deceive Martin so he would believe that the seer stone did indeed have magical properties. Discussion here

"Once Martin found a rock closely resembling the seerstone Joseph sometimes used in place of the interpreters and substituted it without the Prophet's knowledge. When the translation resumed, Joseph paused for a long time and then exclaimed, 'Martin, what is the matter, all is as dark as Egypt.' Martin then confessed that he wished to 'stop the mouths of fools' who told him that the Prophet memorized sentences and merely repeated them" (Kenneth Godfrey, "A New Prophet and a New Scripture," Ensign, Jan. 1988)

So yes, we believe that If most people knew that the gold plates were never used to produce the BofM, that a common stone found when digging a well was used to produce the BofM and that Joseph put this stone in a hat to translate the BofM without even having the plates in the same room, it might make a difference to many church members and investigators. We say this by experience as we have discussed the stone in the hat issue with many members and that has led many people to further question the church and even leave it as portrayed in the South Park episode. Now if it was mentioned to a non-member, we have little doubt they would not accept the Joseph Smith story - especially since the missionaries would tell them a completely different story and every image they ever saw in any church magazine would show a different method which would also likely make them think the church was misleading them. To any objective person, it seems pretty obvious that this is the reason the church doesn't openly teach the 'stone in the hat' method of translation.

FAIR, if you don't believe this would make any difference to an investigator, why don't you bring up these details in the first discussion the next time you go on a missionary split with an investigator?

Also, please see this video that shows how misleading Scott Gordon, president of FAIR is when he discussed this issue at UVU College in 2012. Tactics of a Mormon Apologist

MT information on the BofM Translation

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Book of Mormon Difficulties" (Part 1)—(http://mormonthink.com/book-of-mormon-problems.htm) The critics take the position that if an animal does not appear in a picture on a wall in a ruin, then it must never have existed. The critics claim that FAIR avoids mentioning certain Book of Mormon verses "at all costs," despite the verses being avoided actually appearing in the FAIR Vikki article on the subject. It is also claimed that apologists must be "embarrassed" when they correct mistakes based upon new data, and that apologists wish to redefine animals as different animals.

The absence of having a depiction of an animal anywhere on two continents is only one evidence that it likely didn't exist there. This seems to be in response to the anachronistic use of the word 'horse' in the BofM which scientists say did not exist in the Americas during BofM times. There is also the lack of bones of the horses. Also, there's the lack of bridles or saddles that have ever been found like they do in other ancient sites that had horses. Also, no written record by the other cultures that were in the same area. Then there's the fact that any society that has discovered horses had their culture totally transformed by this most useful animal like it did with the Native American Indians in the 1700-1800s. Certainly the Nephites and Lamanites would not let this most useful of all creatures die out.

Regarding the critic's claim that FAIR didn't mention those BofM verses, they were not mentioned when the critic originally wrote the piece years ago, but of course, MT corrected this comment as soon as we were informed that FAIR had added the verses.

The embarrassment comment had to do with a video that FAIR produced that showed the Spencer Lake horse as evidence of horses in BOM times. After the video was produced, FAIR had to put a disclaimer stating that this Spencer Lake horse has been found to be a hoax. Well frankly it is a bit embarrassing to actually make an "evidence video" citing something as evidence that later turns out to be a hoax.

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Book of Mormon Difficulties" (Part 2)—(http://mormonthink.com/book-of-mormon-problems.htm) The critics take the position that it should be "relatively easy" to locate the first temple built by Nephi's group of 30 to 40 people among the ruins of Esoteric (which have only been 5% explored due to the difficulty of uncovering ruins in the jungle). This also despite the fact that Melanesians tended to build their new temples on top of their older ones. They also assert that the Nephites and Lamanites should have used the wheel, despite the difficulty of the terrain. It is also asserted that none of the numerous archaeological remains located in the Americas could possibly be related to the Book of Mormon, including those 95% yet uncovered in Esoteric Finally, the critics conclude that despite solid evidence and correlation between the Book of Mormon narrative and the location in the Old World called NHM, that it simply doesn't count as evidence for the Book of Mormon.

It is even more amazing to think that 30 or 40 people could build a temple "like unto Solomon" in the Americas when it took 180,000 men seven years to construct Solomon's Temple. But this is just one ruin of many that should have been found if the BOM peoples really existed in the Americas.

The Wheel - so the entire terrain of every place the Nephites and Lamanites ever went was too rough for wheels? From Hill Cumorah in NY to the bowels of Central or possibly South America were all too rough? How about Illinois where Zelph the White Lamanite was found? Zelph was known from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains according to the church's website (search for Zelph) or this very detailed BYU study. The wheel was a great invention and Lehi and his group of course had knowledge of it and would have used the wheel. The BofM is largely about huge battles with Indians chasing each other over vast areas, some of which most not have been totally covered with rocky cliffs. Obviously, they would have had the opportunity, as well as the tactical military advantage to use the wheel. And of course how did Moroni move all those heavy plates after the last battle where he traveled for perhaps years to Hill,Cumorah? Wouldn't he have used some sort of wheeled cart or wagon?

NHM - Which isn't even in the Americas - If it was such great evidence then we know that the church would be singing its praises from the rooftops and non-Mormon scholars would be converting by the truckload but it simply isn't very convincing. Read about NHM here and you be the judge.

The critics sum it up this way; What seems more logical - a creative man at age 24 published a book that he either wrote himself and/or had others help him OR that this book relates a real history of people that came to America that were steel-smelting, chariot-driving, Christ-worshipping, temple building people that multiplied into millions yet left absolutely no trace of their existence?  No archeological, linguistic, DNA or any evidence of any Hebrew culture in the Americas has ever been found to support the BOM and the book is loaded with anachronisms like horses, elephants, wheat, barley, steel, silk, etc. that scientists say didn't exist in the Americas during BOM times.

MT information on the Book of Mormon Difficulties

 

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Could Joseph Smith have written the Book of Mormon?"—(http://mormonthink.com/josephweb.htm) This MormonThink article concludes that the Book of Mormon really isn't that special, and that pretty much anyone could have written it. It is asserted that Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon or Oliver Cowdery, or some combination thereof, used the work of Solomon Spalding, or Ethan Smith, or some combination thereof, to create the Book of Mormon without any assistance from God. The authors note that non-LDS authors are not impressed with the Book of Mormon enough to believe that it could "not have been written by a man," and that the Book of Mormon is not as impressive and complex as novels such as the Lord of the Rings or A Tale of Two Cities. The authors also conclude that Joseph was indeed educated because he was "home schooled," despite Joseph's own words stating that "we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading and writing and the ground rules of Arithmatic which constuted my whole literary acquirements." Regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon, it is noted that Joseph used a curtain to shield the process of translation from those around him so that he could consult all of his notes, and that Emma was lying when she stated that Joseph openly translated in the presence of others using a stone and a hat without the use of notes, despite the numerous other witnesses that confirmed the use of the stone and the hat.

B.H. Roberts (Asst. Church historian, General Authority and perhaps the most brilliant LDS man ever) admitted that it was certainly possible for Joseph Smith to have created the BOM.So if B.H. Roberts said it was possible, why does FAIR blast MormonThink when it quotes critics for suggesting the same thing? 

"In light of this evidence, there can be no doubt as to the possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph Smith, the Prophet. An imagination, it could with reason be urged, which, given the suggestions that are to be found in the 'common knowledge' of accepted American Antiquities of the times, supplemented [sic] by such a work as Ethan Smith's, View of the Hebrews, would make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of Mormon is.

"... There is a certain lack of perspective in the things the book relates as history that points quite clearly to an undeveloped mind as their origin, The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency...

"Is this all sober history ... or is it a wonder-tale of an immature mind, unconscious of what a test he is laying on human credulity when asking men to accept his narrative as solemn history."

"... was Joseph Smith possessed of a sufficiently vivid and creative imagination as to produce such a work as the Book of Mormon from such materials as have been indicated in the preceding chapters ...? That such power of imagination would have to be of a high order is conceded; that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question." B.H. Roberts (Studies, p. 243).

Note: Whenever FAIR defends B.H. Roberts, they state that he was just playing Devil's advocate. MT has always clearly noted that possibility in our section on him.

MormonThink does not say "that Emma was lying when she stated that Joseph openly translated in the presence of others using a stone and a hat without the use of notes, despite the numerous other witnesses that confirmed the use of the stone and the hat."

In fact MT uses Emma to support that Joseph translated using a stone in a hat as plainly stated here along with Emma's picture.

MT does show that Emma did in fact lie about her husband's involvement in polygamy "

Emma: "No such thing as polygamy, or spiritual wifery, was taught, publicly or privately, before my husband's death, that I have now, or ever had, any knowledge of."

Q. Did he not have other wives than yourself?

Emma: "He had no other wife but me; nor did he to my knowledge ever have."

The lie was shown as evidence that Emma may have also been less than 100% truthful about Joseph's writing ability.

Joseph was clearly able to write as shown in this letter he wrote to Oliver Cowdery on Oct 22, 1829:

Harmony Oct. 22d 1829

Respected Sir

I would in form you that I arrived at home on sunday morning the 4th after having a prosperous Journey, and found all well the people are all friendly to <us> except a few who are in opposition to evry thing unless it is some thing that is exactly like themselves and two of our most formadable persacutors are now under censure and are cited to a tryal in the church for crimes which if true are worse than all the Gold Book business. we do not rejoice in the affliction of our enimies but we shall be glad to have truth prevail there begins to be a great call for our books in this country the minds of the people are very much excited when they find that there is a copy right obtained and that there is really book, about to be printed I have bought a horse of Mr. Stowell and want some one to come after it as soon as convenient Mr. Stowell has a prospect of getting five or six hundred dollars he does not know certain that he can get it but he is a going to try and if he can get the money he wants to pay it in immediately for books we want to hear from you and know how you prosper in the good work, give our best respects to Father & Mother and all our brothers and Sisters, to Mr. Harris and all the company concerned tell them that our prayers are put up daily for them that they may be prospered in evry, good word and work and that they may be preserved from sin here and from the consequence of sin hereafter and now dear brother be faithful in the discharge of evry duty looking for the reward of the righteous and now may God of his infinite mercy keep and preserve us spotless untill his coming and receive us all to rest with him in eternal repose through the attonement of Christ our Lord Amen

Joseph Smith Jr

Oliver H. Cowdery

[Original spelling retained]

The readers can judge for themselves if Joseph "could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter" in the time before the publication of the Book of Mormon.

The lack of punctuation in this letter parallels the lack of punctuation in the original manuscript of the BOM that was given to the printer, E. B. Grandin, for the typesetting of the first edition. Grandin's typesetter, twenty-seven year old John H. Gilbert, had to supply all the punctuation himself. He was the first non-Mormon to read the entire Book of Mormon and he did it from the "printer's manuscript."

Notice the rustic construction "he is a going to try" in the letter. Interestingly the first edition (1830) of the Book of Mormon contains the phrase "as I was a going thither" (p 249) and "with the Lamanitish servants, a going forth with their flocks." (p. 271).

In addition it also has the following similar constructions:

  • "As I was a journeying to see a very near kindred" (p. 248).
  • "the destruction of this people is a beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your Judges" (p. 251).
  • "he met with the sons of Mosiah, a journeying towards the land of Zarahemla." (p. 269).
  • "And it came to pass that as Ammon and Lamoni was a journeying thither" (p. 280).
  • "and went about from house to house, a begging for his food." (p. 309)."
  • Moroni, on the other hand, had been a preparing the minds of the people to be faithful" (p. 357).
  • "the Lamanites saw that Moroni was a coming against them," (p. 403).
  • "did now behold the armies of the Lamanites a marching towards them;" (p. 529).

Add to this fact that JS had a former schoolteacher as a scribe (Oliver Cowdery) and JS's supposedly limited literacy is no longer a problem. In fact it appears that Joseph Smith had exactly the right amount of "illiteracy" to write the Book of Mormon.

Besides, the Book of Mormon is not composing a letter (which, judging from the above letter to OC, Joseph could do just fine) it is about story telling. And we have his mother's testimony that:

"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, mode of traveling, and the 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 as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life with them."

Note that Joseph Smith did this with "much ease." This is exactly what was done in dictating the Book of Mormon. Also, Joseph Smith's history written in 1832, not long after the BOM "translation" includes long passages in JS's handwriting which show equivalent (if not superior) literacy.

MT information on Could Joseph have Written the BOM

 

FAIR by their own admission is "a group of LDS defenders" who defend "the Church against detractors" and admit clearly their goal is not objectivity but defense. They are doing the job that the general authorities should be doing. But since the general authorities refuse to answer valid, gospel questions, FAIR tries to keep members from leaving the church.

FAIR refers to a quote made on the South Park episode lampooning the Lost 116 Pages. Many non-members do not believe the LDS version of “Book of Mormon Stories.” FAIR uses the quote in hopes that some Mormons will be insulted. However, FAIR does not offer a good, clear answer as to why ‘evil men’ stole 116 pages of Smith’s translation and never attempted to discredit Joseph Smith. The only story the church offers is that the stolen pages were useless after Joseph decided to translate from another set of metal records.

The critics contributing to MT offer logical reasons why this doesn't make sense.After all, the stolen pages could still have been altered to discredit Joseph. Also, the lost 116 pages, which would have been very valuable, never resurfaced, which seems unlikely if there really was a conspiracy by 'wicked men.'It is highly unlikely that thieves bothered to steal the 116 pages only to discard them. Lucy Mack Smith (Joseph’s mother) believed Martin Harris's wife stole the pages, because Martin was so gullible, and she wanted to end his relationship with Smith. (After all, Martin eventually lost part of his farm because of his belief in Joseph Smith.) If Lucy and many others like her are right, there were no wicked men as Joseph claimed in the canonized D&C 10 and in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. Joseph appeared to have invented the "devil has sought to lay a cunning plan" idea.There is no evidence that ‘wicked men’ stole the first 116 pages of Book of Mormon manuscript. MT chooses data points leading to accuracy. FAIR chooses advocacy instead.

Included in FAIR's detailed analysis, they mockingly ask, “How would destroying the pages immediately help Mrs. Harris recoup her financial loss? There would be no evidence of the scam! So we should believe that she just got mad, burned the manuscript and then said, "Oops! I just destroyed the evidence of the scam."

MT did not state that Mrs. Harris was trying to destroy the pages to recoup her financial loss. She was mad at Martin and either burned them out of spite for her husband or put them aside to see whether Smith could reproduce the 116 pages. She wondered if the new pages would match the stolen ones. The point FAIR misses is that Joseph claimed that God told him in direct communication that became canonized scripture, that wicked men sought to alter the stolen 116 pages, and this was a cunning plan from the Devil. There is no evidence for this hypothesis.

MT information on the Lost 116 Pages

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Moroni's Visitation"—(http://mormonthink.com/moroniweb.htm) The web page asserts that Moroni's visit would have awakened the rest of the Smith family, and that Church artwork does not accurately show Joseph's siblings asleep in the room during Moroni's visit, except those paintings that actually do show it. It is also asserted that if the Church continues to use artwork that shows Joseph alone in bed during Moroni's visit, that the Church is "not becoming more open and forthright about this issue." It is indicated that Moroni's visit was likely a "dream or hallucination."

Mormons look at church images from church curriculum and periodicals (hard copy and online versions) and naturally assume that the pictures are accurate depictions of ancient or modern church history. Casual readers of church literature also expect the pictures to portray historical events accurately. Based on past behavior, the church avoids embarrassment by depicting all-things-Mormon in only a favorable way. FAIR suggests, "except those paintings that actually do show it."MT has only found two paintings (none when this article was first written in 2005) of Moroni's visit showing Joseph's brothers in the same room. See the August 2009 Ensign and this LDS website. In the Oct. 2011 Ensign, the church had the opportunity to display the more correct version, but they resorted to the standard misleading depictions of Joseph appearing to be alone in the room with Moroni. The Church continues to be less than honest about the details of the event.

Note: As more proof that by far the most common image portrayed is of Moroni appearing to Joseph alone, go to google and search for "angel moroni and joseph smith" then click images and many images will show up. There are a total of 19 images depicting just Moroni with Joseph by themselves and only one image that includes one of Joseph's brothers [as of 11/8/12].

Religious art is powerful and often conveys a stronger message about historical events than the written word. A picture is worth a thousand words, repeated a thousand times. Sculpture, reliefs, video, hymns, and other artistic works reinforce incorrect ideas. Religious art is even more powerful when misleading representations are presented in the church’s curriculum for all age groups, decade after decade for over a century. When LDS scholars base their assumptions on faulty depictions of church history, it is disturbing, but also a good reminder of how pervasive the influence of historical error can be, when transferred through an attractive medium.

MT does assert that Moroni's three visits that took 'the whole of the night' would have wakened everyone in that room, especially the brothers sleeping in Joseph's bed. So it could not have been a real, tangible event as the church generally teaches and is shown in its artwork. It likely occurred in Joseph’s vivid imagination.

NOTE: A few years ago in my ward's gospel doctrine class, the instructor displayed the misleading Ensign image of Moroni and Joseph alone in his bedroom. He asked, “Why didn’t his brothers wake up? No one offered any answer, and the meeting ended awkwardly. MT contributors make no apologies for repeating questions that Mormons ask.

MT information on Moroni's Visitation

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "The Kinderhook Plates"—(http://mormonthink.com/kinderhookweb.htm) All we have to say is: Get with the program. The new data obliterates any old apologetics on the subject. Apologists update their positions based upon the discovery of new data. Continuing to quote old apologetics and calling the new data an apologetic "ploy" is simply a load of nonsense. Joseph attempted to translate a character on the Kinderhook Plates manually by matching it to a similar character in the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (which actually had nothing to do with Egyptian). The "translation" recorded by William Clayton matched the explanation given for the character in the GAEL.

FAIR uses the GAEL to exonerate Smith, and thus validating that he created the GAEL. The GAEL has been shown that Smith did not know any Egyptian. FAIR now underscores this problem in defending against the Kinderhook Plates dilemma.

Apologists’ standard defense from 1980-2011 was; “Joseph Smith never claimed that he translated the Kinderhook Plates.” They blamed his scribe William Clayton, but now they admit that the critics were right about Joseph being the author of the fraudulent translation given in History of the Church by Joseph Smith. So, well done critics, you have been vindicated by FAIR.

So FAIR came up with a new ad hoc “answer” based on a similarity between one character on the bogus Kinderhook Plates and a character of the Grammar & Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL).

But when FAIR tried to solve one problem, they created a newer, bigger one. No one, not even most LDS apologists, believes that the GAEL is real. FAIR admits that the GAEL "actually had nothing to do with Egyptian". So by admitting that the GAEL is not really the actual Grammar & Alphabet of the Egyptian Language, FAIR proves that Joseph did not understand the Egyptian language, despite having created the Book of Abraham (as well as the Book of Mormon from 'reformed Egyptian’).

The bulk of the GAEL is a rather detailed notebook showing Smith's apparent interpretation of the Egyptian language. Here is a sample of what is written, which every Egyptologist who has ever looked at this, has said is sheer rambling nonsense:

 

Egyptian Alphabet First Degree

Beth Ba=eth This character is from the first degree It has an arbitrary sound or signification which is Beth; and also a compound sound which is Za and comprise one simple sentence for its signification It is only increased or lessened in its signification by its connection with other characters. one connection with another character, gives it a compound signification, or enlarges the sentence. Two connections increases its signification still: Three increases it still: Four increases still and five still. This is as far as a sentence can be carried in the first degree. In its arbitrary sound it may have more sounds than one, but can not have more than five sounds. When it is compounded with others, it can only have one sound.

Every character in this alphabet is subject to the above restrictions

Iota or Ki

[From page 19: Beth Ka - a large garden, a large vall[e]y or a large plain. This ought to have been inserted between Iota and Zub Zool oan on the opposite page.]

Zub Zool-oan
Ki compound
oan compound

The signification of Beth is man's first residence Of Iota - The eye: of Zub Zool oan, The beginning of time:

Ah- broam The Father of the faithful. The first right- The elder

Ki Ah broam That which goes before, until an other time, or a change by appointment, The first, faithful, or father, or fathers.

Iota netahoch ah que a mark of distinction [p. 20] qualifying different degrees, increasing or lessening the power of the sentences according to the[i]r signification as for instance

Iota nilahoch ah que: (as in the margin) signifies "I saw twenty five persons," or it signifies twenty five persons''

Ah lish the name of the first being
Phah-eh The first man - Adam, first father
Pha-ah a more universal reign
Phah-ho-e-oop The lineage of the royal family
Ho-oop hah Crown of a princes, or unmarried queen
Zi virgin or an unmarried female
Kah-tou-mun The name of a Royal family in the female line
Zi-oop-hah An unmarried woman, a virgin princess
Ho e oop A young unmarried man; a prince
Zip Zi a woman married or unmarried or daughter, signifies all, or any woman
Ho-e oop-hah Crown of a prince
Oan The Earth
Toan, tou-ee tah es tou eh tou es. - A principle that is beneath, disgusting - not fit
Iota The eye, or I see
Iota toues-Zip Zi The land of Egypt
Su-e-eh ni who, whence, &c an interrogative prounoun through its degrees
Ho-e-oop-hah-Phah eh Riegn or rule, governments, power, Kingdom or dominion
Zub Zool eh In the beginning of the earth or creation [p. 21]

It is obvious from the level of detail given throughout the GAEL that the intricate details could only have come from the prophet himself. The scribes and any LDS members at the time Joseph lived, would of course have no idea what Egyptian hieroglyphics meant. FAIR also just confirmed Joseph's involvement with the GAEL.

In summary, the GAEL by Joseph Smith isn't real, so nothing derived from it can be real either, such as the Kinderhook Plates. It would make no sense for Joseph to have used the GAEL to even attempt to translate the Kinderhook Plates. Perhaps he should have used his seer stone in a hat pulled over his face instead.

MT information of the Kinderhook Plates and the Grammar & Alphabet of the Egyptian Language

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "The Witnesses"—(http://mormonthink.com/witnessesweb.htm) The website concludes that the witnesses may have only seen the plates in a vision, despite their repeated assertions that they saw them with their own eyes, and that some witnesses only saw the plates when they were covered, although none of the three or eight witnesses are included in this group. The website notes that most of the witnesses left the Church (which is also clearly taught in Church), but does not comment on why not a single one of these witnessed exposed the alleged scam.

MT does comment on: “why not a single one of these witnesses did not expose the alleged scam”, and is discussed here. Most critics believe that the witnesses were not lying, or trying to perpetuate a fraud.Critics, and MT agrees, that the witnesses actually believed that Joseph had gold plates, and believed that they “saw” a vision of them in their minds. All of them were quite superstitious and assumed “the power of God” let them see.

Critic Bill McKeever believes that none of the 11 witnesses saw actual gold plates with their eyes. He reasoned that the plates were seen in the imagination of each witness. He and many others believe Joseph Smith prepared a prop made to resemble a stack of metal plates under a cloth,that was handled by the witnesses. Several LDS sources misleadingly refer to the eleven men who said they saw gold plates as eyewitnesses. Evidence from the witnesses years later reveals that none of them actually saw the plates apart from a supernatural and subjective experience in their minds (imagination). Some claimed that they handled the plates while they were under a cloth. As suggested by Bill McKeever, it is more likely that they handled a prop instead.

Dan Vogel also gives his insights on the witnesses in this youtube video.

It suggests the premise of a dichotomy provided by apologists for the Mormons – either the witnesses lied or they saw and handled actual physical objects – is untenable. Based on evidence from the witnesses themselves and other church historical sources, it appears that the witnesses were gullible, believed that their imagined experiences were inspired by God, and then presented their experience as if it were a literal, natural experience. It was not uncommon during the 19th century, for Christians when recounting conversion experiences, to explain them as if they actually saw an angel or Christ in person.But when pressed, they admitted that it was a visionary experience seen through their spiritual eyes.

MT information on the BOM Witnesses

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "The First Vision"—(http://mormonthink.com/firstvisionweb.htm) The website takes the position that the First Vision "wasn't even known by church members until 1842," despite Joseph writing in his 1835 journal that he related the story to a man who happened to be visiting him. It is assumed that local newspapers would have been interested enough in a 14-year-old's claim to have seen God to have published it. They also claim that earlier accounts of Joseph's vision written by Joseph himself are not "official" (whatever that means), and that Joseph's different accounts of the First Vision are "relatively ignored" by the Church, despite an entire web page being devoted to them on lds.org and various mentions in the Ensign, including a statement by Gordon B. Hinckley. The website also repeats a claim that Joseph embellished his vision story in 1838 to bolster his leadership during a time of apostasy, despite the fact that he told the same story to strangers visiting his house three years earlier in 1835.

Most Church members did not know about the First Vision until 1842. Joseph said that he was persecuted for telling people that he had seen a vision. There seems to be little evidence that the complete First Vision account was openly taught. Perhaps some snippets of some kind of an encounter was recorded in other places, which wasn't really all that strange in the early 1800s, but not the complete First Vision with all the details that make Mormonism unique. It is absent from the core Church documents like the Book of Commandments which you would naturally expect to find the event that sparked the entire Mormon movement. The following evidence indicates that the First Vision either perhaps never really happened or was very different from what LDS leaders teach:

James B. Allen, who served as assistant church historian, frankly admitted that the story of the first vision "was not given general circulation in the 1830's." (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1966, p.33). Dr. Allen makes some startling concessions in this article. He admits, for instance, that "none of the available contemporary writings about Joseph Smith in the 1830's, none of the publications of the Church in that decade, and no contemporary journal or correspondence yet discovered mentions the story of the first vision...." Dr. Allen goes on to state that in the 1830's "the general membership of the Church knew little, if anything, about it." Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1966, pages 29-45.

"As far as Mormon literature is concerned, there was apparently no reference to Joseph Smith's first vision in any published material in the 1830's. Joseph Smith's history, which was begun in 1838, was not published until it ran serially in the Times and Seasons in 1842. The famous "Wentworth Letter," which contained a much less detailed account of the vision, appeared March 1, 1842, in the same periodical. Introductory material to the Book of Mormon, as well as publicity about it, told of Joseph Smith's obtaining the gold plates and of angelic visitations, but nothing was printed that remotely suggested earlier visitations."

"In 1833 the Church published the Book of Commandments, forerunner to the present Doctrine and Covenants, and again no reference was made to Joseph's first vision, although several references were made to the Book of Mormon and the circumstances of its origin."

"The first regular periodical to be published by the Church was The Evening and Morning Star, but its pages reveal no effort to tell the story of the first vision to its readers. Nor do the pages of the Latter-day Saints Messenger and Advocate, printed in Kirtland, Ohio, from October, 1834, to September, 1836. In this newspaper Oliver Cowdery, who was second only to Joseph Smith in the early organization of the Church, published a series of letters dealing with the origin of the Church. These letters were written with the approval of Joseph Smith, but they contained no mention of any vision prior to those connected with the Book of Mormon."

"In 1835 the Doctrine and Covenants was printed at Kirtland, Ohio, and its preface declared that it contained "the leading items of religion which we have professed to believe." Included in the book were the "Lectures on Faith," a series of seven lectures which had been prepared for the School of the Prophets in Kirtland in 1834-35. It is interesting to note that, in demonstrating the doctrine that the Godhead consists of two separate personages, no mention was made of Joseph Smith having seen them, nor was any reference made to the first vision in any part of the publication."

"The first important missionary pamphlet of the Church was the Voice of Warning, published in 1837 by Parley P. Pratt. The book contains long sections on items important to missionaries of the 1830's, such as fulfillment of prophecy, the Book of Mormon, external evidence of the book's authenticity, the resurrection, and the nature of revelation, but nothing, again, on the first vision."

"The Times and Seasons began publication in 1839, but, as indicated above, the story of the vision was not told in its pages until 1842. From all this it would appear that the general church membership did not receive information about the first vision until the 1840's and that the story certainly did not hold the prominent place in Mormon thought that it does today."

- Dialogue, Vol.1, No.3, p.31 - p.32

Why did Joseph Smith fail to mention his First Vision when he first wrote the church history in 1835?

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery wrote and published a history of the church that explained all of the important facts related to its origins. But Joseph Smith recorded a different story than the "official" one later published in 1842. In Joseph Smith's 1835 history of the church, he declared that his first spiritual experience was in 1823 after a religious revival in Palmyra that same year. Smith testified that he prayed while in bed one night, to discover if God existed (he would have already known the answer to this question, if the First Vision had occurred in 1820). He claimed that he was visited by an angelic messenger (Moroni) that forgave his sins. Elements of this narrative are similar to the later "official" version except the "official" version has different dates, locations, visitors and purposes for Smith's first spiritual experience. See: http://irr.org/mit/first-vision/1834-35-account.html

Some quotes by early church leaders that seem to contradict Joseph's First Vision account:

In 1854

"Some one may say, 'If this work of the last days be true, why did not the Saviour come himself to communicate this intelligence to the world?' Because to the angels was committed the power of reaping the earth, and it was committed to none else." - Apostle Orson Hyde, General Conference Address, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p.335

In 1855

The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowledge of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith Jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him." (Journal of Discourses 2:170-171)

(It is certain Young is speaking of the First Vision for he says the angel told Smith to join no church for they were all wrong. This is the very question the official version of the story states Smith asked of the Father and the Son in the Sacred Grove.)

A few days later Apostle Wilford Woodruff declared: "That same organization and Gospel that Christ died for, and the Apostles spilled their blood to vindicate, is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy angel from God,... The angel taught Joseph Smith those principles which are necessary for the salvation of the world;... He told him the Gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of His kingdom in the world,... This man to whom the angel appeared obeyed the Gospel;..." (Journal of Discourses, Vol.2, pp.196-197)

In 1857

Church Apostle Heber C. Kimball, speaking Nov. 8th, 1857, seemed to be oblivious to any vision where Smith saw God and Christ: "Do you suppose that God in person called upon Joseph Smith, our Prophet? God called upon him; but God did not come himself and call, but he sent Peter to do it. Do you not see? He sent Peter and sent Moroni to Joseph, and told him that he had got the plates." (Journal of Discourses, vol.6, p.29)

In 1863

Church Apostle John Taylor explained in a sermon March 1, 1863: "How did this state of things called Mormonism originate? We read that an angel came down and revealed himself to Joseph Smith and manifested unto him in vision the true position of the world in a religious point of view." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, p.127)

Church Apostle George A. Smith, Nov. 15th, 1863, preached: "When Joseph Smith was about fourteen or fifteen years old,...he went humbly before the Lord and inquired of Him, and the Lord answered his prayer, and revealed to Joseph, by the ministration of angels, the true condition of the religious world. When the holy angel appeared, Joseph inquired which of all these denominations was right and which he should join, and was told they were all wrong,..." (Journal of Discourses, Vol.12, pp.333-334)

In 1869

Five years later Apostle Smith again referred to Smith's first vision: "He sought the Lord by day and by night, and was enlightened by the vision of an holy angel. When this personage appeared to him, of his first inquiries was, 'Which of the denominations of Christians in the vicinity was right?' " (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p.77-78 June 20, 1869 )

 

During the first 50 years after the first vision was supposed to have happened, the apostles and prophets were actually referring to the visit of the angel Moroni and not the First Vision by God the Father and Jesus.

Fawn M. Brodie was one of the first to cast serious doubt upon the authenticity of Joseph Smith's story of the first vision:

The description of the vision was first published by Orson Pratt in his Remarkable Visions in 1840, twenty years after it was supposed to have occurred. Between 1820 and 1840 Joseph's friends were writing long panegyrics; his enemies were defaming him in an unceasing stream of affidavits and pamphlets, and Joseph himself was dictating several volumes of Bible-flavored prose. But no one in this long period even intimated that he had heard the story of the two gods. At least, no such intimation has survived in print or manuscript.... The first published Mormon history, begun with Joseph's collaboration in 1834 by Oliver Cowdery, ignored it altogether ... Joseph's own description of the first vision was not published until 1842, twenty-two years after the memorable event....

If something happened that spring morning in 1820, it passed totally unnoticed in Joseph's home town, and apparently did not even fix itself in the minds of members of his own family. The awesome vision he described in later years may have been the elaboration of some half-remembered dream stimulated by the early revival excitement and reinforced by the rich folklore of visions circulating in his neighborhood. Or it may have been sheer invention, created some time after 1834 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging (No Man Knows My History, New York, 1957, pp.24-25).

The Book of Commandments emphasizes that it was the Book of Mormon - not the first vision known to the church today - that constituted Joseph's "call . to his holy work" (24:7-11/D&C 20:6-11). Consistent with this passage are Joseph's 1832 and Oliver Cowdery's 1835 reports that cite an angel, later identified as Moroni, who called Joseph to the work, rather than Jesus in the first vision.

An Insider's View of Mormon Origins pp. 239.

Joseph's mother, likewise, knew nothing of a vision of the Father and the Son in the Sacred Grove. In her unpublished account, she traces the origin of Mormonism to a bedroom visit by an angel. Joseph at the time had been pondering which of all the churches were the true one. The angel told him "there is not a true church on Earth, No, not one" (First draft of Lucy Smith's History, p. 46, LDS Church archives).

MT information on the First Vision

 

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Polygamy"—(http://mormonthink.com/joseph-smith-polygamy.htm) The website concludes that Sunday School lesson manuals, priesthood manuals, seminary books, etc "almost never" mention Joseph's polygamy, despite the fact that some actually did mention it. They also claim we should believe that Oliver's claim that Joseph had an affair is true because Oliver was also a Book of Mormon witness. It is also concluded that Joseph wrote a "love letter" to one of his young plural wives and invited her and both of her parents to his single-room hideout for a tryst.

MT doesn't say that Joseph's polygamy was never mentioned. It was rarely or almost never mentioned. We challenge members to put this to the test and gather all the Sunday School lesson manuals they can find and see how many of them discuss details of Joseph's polygamy. Some briefly mention it, but the vast majority will omit in-depth, candid, facts regarding the practice - especially by Joseph. Two former Church Education Institute Directors indicate that many church members believe polygamy started with Brigham Young, not Joseph Smith because the church usually is not forth-coming about Joseph's polygamy.

For evidence, go to the LDS church website Josephsmith.net, which is perhaps the largest LDS website on Joseph Smith. Search for the term 'polygamy' or 'plural marriage' or ‘polyandry’. It does not show up.

Your search for polygamy has returned 0 results in JosephSmith.net.

Your search for plural marriage has returned 0 results in JosephSmith.net.

Your search for polyandry has returned 0 results in JosephSmith.net.

 

FAIR would have us believe that Oliver Cowdery is a believable witness when he claims to have seen an angel, but an untrustworthy witness when he witnessed Joseph’s affair - and with a woman that the LDS church admits became one of his many plural wives (before the sealing keys were even restored)? That makes no sense. Cowdery's integrity may be on shaky ground, but it is corraborated by the love letters and journal entry of several women believed to have been his polygamous wives.

MT refers to the letter Joseph wrote to Sarah Whitney and her parents as a "love letter” because it is a love letter. It uses phrases like "for my feelings are so strong for you", "affectionate", "companion", etc. Read it for yourself, and you decide. Of course, Joseph would not want Emma to see that letter. If it was an innocent letter, would he care? Joseph invited her parents to accompany her on her visit, but FAIR seems to imply that means they would have no 'alone time' and mocks the critics on MT for believing that Joseph couldn't have had some time alone with Sarah. There is no evidence to support FAIR’s unofficial, ad-hoc argument.

MT information on Polygamy

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Blacks and the Priesthood"—(http://www.mormonthink.com/blackweb.htm) The critics assert that even though the Church has refuted explanations for the priesthood ban, such as that of blacks not being valiant in the pre-existence, that they are bothered that these explanations are no longer acknowledged. Critics wish to assert that President Kimball did not actually receive a revelation ending the ban, despite his clear statement that he did. The critics believe that prophets should be "forward thinkers." Critics, therefore, take the position that the fact that prophets are influenced by the society and culture that they live in indicates that they cannot actually be prophets.

MormonThink bases its responses on evidence. The Church has chosen to be unclear about the reason for the priesthood ban. Most members we've spoken to offer a dozen different reasons for the ban. Gordon B. Hinckley would only say that leaders of the church interpreted the doctrine as a ban at the time - He did NOT say whether or not the leaders interpreted it correctly. Evasive answers leave FAIR and other members scrambling to fill the void.

The accounts from LDS leaders, like Elder Le Grand Richards, do not describe a revelation, but more of a 'it's just the right thing to do' type of group decision. Readers can judge for themselves.

Another serious issue related to race concerns the racist teachings contained in the Book of Mormon, that clearly declares that those with a dark skin are cursed by God. This troubling teaching needs definitive clarification by our leaders - especially for the sake of our black brothers and sisters in the Church.

Regarding Prophetic Influence:

In the D&C, OD-1 is this official statement: "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray."
This is doctrine in the D&C. It has been taught from the pulpit at general conference. It is in official church manuals.

Earlier in 2012, the church released a press statement that read: "It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago...We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church."

This statement is very profound. It tacitly admits that the previous statement, that the Lord won’t allow a prophet to lead the members astray, is false. For nearly 150 years the prophets have led the people astray with racist policies and the current prophet administration does not know why this happened, they just know firmly, racism is wrong. That repudiation of the former policy, of hundreds of statements made by Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, Bruce McConkie, and many more effectively opens the gate to an understanding that the current administrating prophets could be absolutely dead wrong on policies they have in place currently (such as on gays, on apostates, on non-tithers, temple marriage and more).

The issue of the blacks and the priesthood has become a pivotal issue about the integrity of past and current leaders. In 2006, then Church president Gordon B. Hinckley declared that “no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church. Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.”

By this standard any prophet that taught that a skin of blackness or descent from Africa is a curse would not be considered “true disciples of Christ”. This apparently includes Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Joseph Fielding Smith, Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra Taft Benson and Gordon B. Hinckley who have all taught dark skin as a curse.

MT information on Blacks and the Priesthood

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Conflicts with Science"—(http://www.mormonthink.com/scienceweb.htm) The critics assert that acceptance of scientific facts and a belief in God are incompatible. They cite the incompatibility of scientific facts with the idea of a global flood, the earth being created over a period of 7000 years, and the idea that Adam and Eve could not have been the first people on the earth. The assert that if believers disagree with these fundamentalist ideas, that they must be at odds with the Church.

The Church leaders have made it clear that Noah's Flood was a global event. From the January 1998 Ensign:

"we Latter-day Saints believe that Noah was an actual man, a prophet of God, who preached repentance and raised a voice of warning, built an ark, gathered his family and a host of animals onto the ark, and floated safely away as waters covered the entire earth. We are assured that these events actually occurred by the multiple testimonies of God’s prophets"

The Book of Mormon also mentions the flood directly in Alma 10:22 and indirectly in Ether 13:2. Add the Book of Moses as a source which cites a global flood (Moses ch 7-8) and especially that the Book of Abraham (Abr. 1:19-24) teaches the land of Egypt was discovered by the daughter in law of Noah after the flood, that Egypt was under water (implying it was the global flood) when she found it.

Many apologists at FAIR accept the scientists' evidence that a global flood did not really happen, despite the fact that the church leaders claim that it did as does the Book of Mormon, Book of Moses and Book of Abraham.

Should members believe the LDS prophets, the Book of Mormon, the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham or FAIR’s unofficial claims and the scientists?

If science is accepted over the doctrines of the church because FAIR agreed with the scientists, then why not also accept the scientific evidence against the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, etc. which is equally convincing? Is FAIR picking and choosing which doctrines it accepts from LDS prophets?

MT information on Conflicts with Science

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page" The Greek Psalter Translation"—(http://mormonthink.com/greekweb.htm) Joseph reportedly made a false identification about the language and contents of a Greek Psalter (book of psalms written in Greek). The website claims that this action speaks to whether Joseph was a prophet and whether he was capable of translation. Curiously, it is also claimed that no "church" sources or websites discuss this matter, although they cite the Church-sponsored Maxwell Institute and Hugh Nibley. MormonThink states that this "wasn't really a translation," but concludes that because of the "Book of Abraham, Kinderhook Plates and the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible," that the Greek Psalter story "further damages Joseph's claims to be a true seer."

MT states that we could not find it on the church's official website (LDS.org). We do quote the Neal A. Maxwell Institute and give their response; which FAIR knows does not constitute an official response. If Joseph really translated the Book of Abraham from Egyptian papyri and the Book of Mormon from 'reformed Egyptian', he would likely know that this Greek Psalter was not a Dictionary of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics. 

MT information on the Greek Psalter Translation

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Temple"—MormonThink originally removed this page containing detail information about the temple, not because it was offensive to Latter-day Saints, but only because it was driving ex-Mormons' believing spouses away from examining their critical website. The new managing editor has added the temple material back to the site "by popular demand." FAIR responds to a number of issues raised which are not related to the explicit temple content that they currently host.

The only parts of the temple people covenant not to reveal are the names, signs, tokens and penalties. FAIR is perfectly able to discuss the remainder of the ceremony without violating their covenants. Why don't they?

It's a convenient dodge for unofficial apologists to ignore serious problems with the temple playing the 'it's too sacred to talk about' card. But the fact is that the LDS temple ceremony bears a remarkable resemblance to rituals that came directly from Masonry. The church has historically claimed that the reason is that the Masons had the temple ceremony from Solomon's time. The problem is that the Masons’ ceremony, the source for the LDS ceremony, originated in the Middle Ages and did not originate from Solomon's Temple. FAIR admits this fact on it's website:

"Unfortunately, there is no historical evidence to support a continuous functioning line from Solomon's Temple to the present.We know what went on in Solomon's Temple; it's the ritualistic slaughter of animals."

"The Message and the Messenger: Latter-day Saints and Freemasonry" by Greg Kearney

fairlds.org (scroll to the last page)

"Masonry, while claiming a root in antiquity, can only be reliably traced to mediaeval stone tradesmen."

"It is clear that Freemasonry and its traditions played a role in the development of the endowment ritual."

fairlds.org

MT information on the Temple/Masonry

 

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Lying for the Lord"—(http://www.mormonthink.com/lying.htm) The critics conclude that lying is "standard operating procedure for Church leaders" from Joseph Smith's time to the present, and that pretty much every thing that the Church does is somehow related to deception (this is a standard position taken by many ex-Mormons after their disaffection with the Church).

No, the section does not say that every thing the Church does is somehow related to deception. The Church does teach and do many good things. This section gives over 130 examples where the Church leaders lied, thinking it was a good thing to do, because they were lying to protect the church or to keep the members from knowing disturbing historical truths. These things may be uncomfortable to learn but they are historical facts. Please note that FAIR has found nothing incorrect in the content of the piece.

MT information on Lying for the Lord

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Tithing"—(http://www.mormonthink.com/tithing.htm) The critics conclude that the Catholic definition of offerings is somehow supposed to affect the Mormon definition of tithing, and that the requirement by the Church for members to pay tithing and offerings is a "guilt trip." The critics also claim that the Church should divest itself of any profit-making businesses, and that any profit from those businesses should be given to the poor, classifying the Church as simply a corporation that does not provide sufficient return-on-investment to its members. Finally, the critics conclude that the Church spends little on humanitarian aid, and that members ought to send their contributions elsewhere.

This section provides some interesting discussion about something that the church keeps secret (not sacred), that many members would like to know more about; and have a right to know. It describes the history and compares how differently the LDS Church deals with money, when compared to other Christian denominations.

FAIR argues that critics conclude that the Church spends a small percent of its donated income on humanitarian aid. If FAIR believes this is untrue, we ask they provide the evidence showing otherwise. The following link is all the information we have at present (and Providentliving.org used to show more information and break down the values better, but the information is a limited financial theory at this time).
http://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/welfare/2011-welfare-services-fact-sheet.pdf

This kind of document is the only official source on the value the church gives to helping the poor. It shows that the LDS church since 1985 has given a combined $1.4 Billion in cash and service (hours and in kind donations) to the poor as humanitarian assistance. (Based on previous files at Providentliving.org, this breaks down to about $400M in cash and about $1B in non-cash service & in-kind donations.) In any event, $1.4B over 26 years is about $50 million a year in value. That comes out to be, on average, about $3.50 per year per current member. The critics seem to have it right according to the LDS statistics.

We stand by our conclusion:

We simply hope the church will some day be more open with its finances than it is currently and at least listen to the suggestions of the people paying the tithing. Perhaps if enough members voiced our opinion about the secrecy of the church's finances, the LDS church might consider opening their books like many of the other, apostate churches do and change some of the practices like bringing back the paid custodian jobs and provide more local funding for ward activities like we enjoyed in the past.

MT information on Tithing

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Joseph Running with the Plates"—(http://mormonthink.com/runningweb.htm) The website concludes that the plates didn't weigh 200 pounds, but instead that they weighed 40 to 60 pounds just as the witnesses stated that they did. The site also concludes that Joseph could not have run with the gold plates because he had a limp from his leg operation as a child (this despite Joseph's physical health demonstrated by his vaunted "stick-pulling" abilities), and that his story of running with the plates is a "tall tale."

We challenge FAIR to find a healthy, strong young man and have him carry a 50 lb. weight and see if he can outrun three pursuers. This has been recreated before as this youtube video demonstrates and it was very easy to catch the person running with the weight every time.

MT information on Joseph Running with the Plates

  • A FAIR Analysis of MormonThink page "Joseph's Translation of the Bible"—(http://mormonthink.com/jst.htm) MormonThink concludes that Joseph Smith's statement about the Book of Mormon being the "most correct book" means that there should be no mistakes in the text, despite the fact that the Book of Mormon title page (written by Mormon) itself states that any mistakes contained therein are the mistakes of men. They also claim that the JST footnotes in the LDS Bible are supposed to represent "correctly translated passages," yet acknowledges that Joseph was making "inspired" revisions rather than translating an ancient text. They conclude that translators who "go back to the original sources" have not "confirmed any of Joseph Smith's inspired version passages, and that the "Joseph Smith Translation" of the Bible needs to be added to the "Book of Abraham facsimiles and papyri, the Anthon Manuscript, the Kinderhook Plates, Joseph Smith’s Book of Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar and the Greek Psalter" as demonstrations that Joseph lacked the ability to translate anything.

This is an example of a straw man argument. FAIR purposely misquoted what the MT articles state.

MT information on the JST

2009

This is the unedited, original exchange from the initial attacks FAIR made against MT in 2009

The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) did a review of the MormonThink.com website in August, 2009. Below is FAIR's review as of 8/10/09 (links deleted for brevity). Some of the contributors to MormonThink have compiled a response below to each of their comments (in blue). FAIR also mentioned MormonThink at their annual conference, August 7, 2009.

MormonThink (MT) has linked generously to FAIR’s website. There are almost 100 links to FAIR’s website and over 300 links to other pro-LDS sources on our website such as FARMS, SHIELDS, etc. However we can find no working links to MormonThink.com or any critic’s website on FAIR’s website other than this page criticizing it. This is patently “UN-FAIR.” We welcome FAIR’s responses and will continue to link to them and other LDS apologists. As a contributor to MT, I have appealed to apologists in my Sunstone article to ask for their help in punching up the apologist point of view. We welcome the dialogue. Our main goal is to get discussion going on these topics. We want people to look at all points of view, including FAIR’s. In the interest of fairness, MT will put up the FAIR review unedited on our links here: FAIR’s review of MormonThink.com. FAIR, will you do the same with our response?

[Actually we did find one reference to MormonThink here on FAIR's site but in their childish way they refused to activate the link so readers will have to go through the trouble of copying and pasting the link into their browser instead of merely clicking on it. FAIR probably does that in an effort to not help MT's search rankings. MT doesn't play those games and simply links to anyone including FAIR so reader's can easily see the actual unedited arguments made by the critic or by the defender of the church.]

It should be noted that each of the items on this list that FAIR criticized is discussed in a section devoted to that issue on MT’s website. The points presented by FAIR can only really be evaluated fairly by analyzing the entire, related section for each item on the list. We encourage all those investigating Mormonism to analyze the related sections on the apologists' websites as well such as FAIR.

FAIR does not hesitate to engage in healthy skepticism when reading the MT site. If skepticism is a good tool for FAIR, it is a good tool for MT investigators as well. It’s only fair.

When members are asked to suspend critical thought or healthy skepticism by unofficial sources such as FAIR, it does not coincide with LDS leaders statements about truth claims of Mormonism. President Hugh B. Brown, counselor in the First Presidency said:

“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as 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 or 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 the freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.”(Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, ed. Edwin B. Firmage (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), 137-39;Hugh B. Brown, “An Eternal Quest—Freedom of the Mind,” a speech delivered at Brigham Young University, 13 May 1969, in Speeches of the Year (Provo, UT): Brigham Young University Press, 1969); rpt. In Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Spring 1984): 77-83)

Website reviews/MormonThink
From FAIRMormon
< Website reviews

MormonThink's list of 25 items that would "make the Church true"
You say that I may have contributed to “accelerating someone’s journey through Mormonism”. That seems to imply that they would eventually leave Mormonism anyway so all I did was speed up the process. If that’s the case, I would say that I probably did them a favor. If they would eventually leave the church regardless then isn’t it better that they make that decision now and just move on?

—"Truthseeker," webmaster at MormonThink.com, email, July 7, 2009
∗       ∗       ∗
Give me a Walter Martin anytime, a good stout wolf with his own fur on, instead of those more timid or sly parading around in their ridiculous fleeces with their teeth and tails hanging out. Give me "Ex-Mormons for Jesus" or the Moody Bible Tract Society, who are at least honest about their anti-Mormon agenda, instead of [those] camouflaged as..."Latter-day Saint[s]"....I prefer my anti-Mormons straight up.
—Stephen Robinson

 
Overview
FAIR's evaluation of the web site MormonThink

  • FAIR's responses to "Ask the Apologist" queries and data from the FAIR Wiki are placed in a context in which they are misrepresented to support the site's negative conclusions. FAIR does not endorse the use of its material to bolster the negative conclusions drawn by the MormonThink site, or the way in which the site addresses issues of LDS belief, history, and scripture which FAIR views as flawed in significant ways.   

MormonThink (MT) would first like to offer a correct perspective. FAIR does not represent the church’s official views on matters of doctrine. That is the province of the President of the Church only. ("When Are Church Leader's Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?" Church News, 31 July 1954, pp. 10–11. This quote is included in the Student Manual for Institute, Teachings of the Living Prophets, Unit 1, Chapter 3; Section 3-5)

FAIR is an unofficial, unauthorized site based on the speculations and opinions of zealous members. Members at MT hope for the day when the General Authorities at the church will give official responses to members’ valid questions, which is what they are called to do. Members are told that they may look to their leaders for direction, but when they need questions answered, too often (1) they receive no satisfactory answers, (2) are distracted by unrelated counsel by leaders unfamiliar with the issues, (3) told to put their questions on the shelf, (4) counseled to ignore evidence that contradicts Mormon claims, (5) advised to pray and study more (ironic that study is what causes the questions in the first place); or worse yet, (6) they are  accused of being unfaithful for asking valid questions.

We commend FAIR for trying to fill the void that general authorities are called to fill. But FAIR’s passionate defenses of the church are unofficial and merely the personal opinions of activist apologists, doing the best they can with limited resources, and without official authority. Often FAIR's unauthorized answers contradict church leaders’ past counsel.

Answers by FAIR are given in the context in which the questions were asked which is why we asked them in the first place. MT will amend any apologist comment if requested to do so, but reserves the right to present contradictions if they arise.

  • It is encouraging that a few small changes were made when LDS members pointed out various problems. However, though this seems to enhance the site's veneer of balance, the conclusions and insinuation about the Church, its leaders, and its members remain the same—always negative.

A backhanded compliment is no compliment at all. The “veneer of balance” is an unfair characterization and patently untrue. For each issue, we support the side that the weight of evidence seems to support. We don't always agree with the critics - for example we don't support what some critics cite as a problem when they assert that the gold plates must have weighed 200 lbs. The evidence speaks for itself and we invite all readers to view both sides of the arguments in their entirety before making up their minds about each topic.

This is the kind of snarky reply that drives honest investigators (members and others) away from the church. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), Jesus drove home the point of his ministry. The real “neighbor” to the “half dead man” was “He that shewed mercy on him. Then Jesus said unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:37) Many of those who investigate Mormonism objectively are shown everything but mercy. If the church wants to be recognized “by their fruits” (Matthew 7:20), FAIR and others should know that a spiteful attitude toward honest investigation is unfair.  

  • It is ironic that a site which frequently criticizes the Church for a lack of "honesty" or "transparency" claims to be a source operated by faithful and believing members who are not forthright about their own identities.

The reason for hiding the identity of members of the church is obvious and FAIR pretends not to know it. Investigators at MormonThink (MT) do not want to be excommunicated or disciplined by the church for exercising their right to investigate Mormon history, question official versions, think critically, and point out obvious contradictions with a request for clarification.Examples of this discipline include "The September Six", Grant Palmer and Thomas Murphy. Member investigators carry a heavy burden and they are shocked and surprised that the church purposely covers up uncomfortable historical truths. They are punished for discovering church history and asking for clarification. Some are branded with the epithet, “anti-Mormon.”We note that FAIR plays the “anti-Mormon” trump card in hopes of mocking a questioner or a critic instead of dealing with the issues.

Many who contribute to MT attend and serve the LDS Church and are enriched by their activity and involvement with the ward family. Though they may no longer believe the LDS Church represents “the-one-and-only-true-church-on-earth.”  They are happy and satisfied to serve their LDS community of believers.

Some contributing members of MT have decided that they will no longer remain in the church and have identified themselves. Some who had their names removed did so to avoid being excommunicated because they discussed their doubts and questions with church leaders about orthodox church doctrine and practice, and were threatened. They were driven away. Their names, and those who left for conscience’s sake, can be found on the site. When the LDS church ceases to punish its members for telling the truth about its history – warts and all – MT’s members may consider publishing their names.


Summary
The web site MormonThink.com claims to be operated by active members of the Church with an interest in presenting objectively the "truth" about Mormonism. In general, the conclusions reached by the site reflect negatively on the Church. Its purpose is to introduce members to as much information as possible in order to persuade them to "think" their way out of the Church, and, quite possibly, a belief in God. The site operators state they "would rather have a somewhat smaller church full of knowledgeable, loyal, full-believing members than a large church full of inactive, semi-believing members." The site is a popular reference for many anti-Mormon sites because it claims to be balanced due to its inclusion of links to a few faith-promoting sites such as FAIR. In fact, answers to questions sent to FAIR's "Ask the Apologist" have been included on the site and used to "support" some of the sites negative conclusions by omitting context and relevant information.


The argument in the Summary by FAIR is anything but fair.  Mormon scripture insists that members are free to use their “agency” to think for themselves and ask valid questions as they read the church’s history – yet when they find an obvious contradiction, example of prevarication or immorality by a church leader, they are punished for their discovery and obvious confusion (D&C 58:26-28). Most contributors and investigators on MT believe that, “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance” (D&C 131:6). Sadly, FAIR elevates loyalty and blind obedience above diligent study and honesty.

Recall that Boyd K. Packer insisted that “some [historical] truths are not very useful,” (Boyd K. Packer, "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect", 1981, BYU Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 259-271) And Dallin Oaks argued, “It does not matter that the criticism is true”when pointing out obvious contradictions, problems, inconsistencies and errors of the LDS leaders. (Dallin H. Oaks, "Reading Church History," CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium, Brigham Young University, 16 Aug. 1985, page 25. also see Dallin H. Oaks, "Elder Decries Criticism of LDS Leaders," quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday August 18, 1985, p. 2B) These statements are a monument to duplicity.

FAIR often resorts to disrespect, derision and condescension. It labels those who study and then question church historical sources, as “anti-Mormon.” Name-calling as a consistent defense seems desperate and childish. We expect more from FAIR, though they are unauthorized spokesmen for the LDS church.

As stated previously, answers by FAIR are given in the context in which the questions were asked which is why we asked them in the first place. Rather than innuendo, please tell us exactly where we have quoted you out of context, so that we can fix it, and link directly back to you where the reader can see the whole thing.

What quality of "thinking" is recommended?
The site is not merely an attempt to "steady the ark" by redirecting the Church according to the vision of its authors, but in some ways represents an attempt to actually lead members out of the church. The site's overall attitude toward religion is best summarized by their link to a routine by the late comedian George Carlin called "Religion is BS". MormonThink comments:

Comedian George Carlin has a 10 minute bit on why all religion is phony. Although comedic (and irreverent), it does make you think.

Thus, according to MormonThink, the validity of truth claims of not only the Church, but of any religion, ought to be reevaluated in light of a 10-minute shtick performed by a comedian. This is like recommending that one renegotiate his or her faith after viewing Bill Maher's Religulous. This then, represents the level of "thinking" that MormonThink wishes readers to engage in. While encouraging an honest, objective look at the Church, the site does not uphold the standards it claims, as discussed below.

Joseph Smith said, “I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm yet deals justice to his neighbors and mercifully deals his substance to the poor, then the long, smooth-faced hypocrite. (History of the Church 5:401, Sabbath Address in Nauvoo, Illinois on 21 May, 1843)

The George Carlin reference is provided for its entertainment value. It is a comedy routine, but he also makes some valid observations. MormonThink will consider a wide variety of perspectives, and then let the readers decide for themselves.

MormonThink (MT) respects religious belief and practice.MT takes no official position on Christianity, except to support Christian organizations that avoid certainty and particularism, model tolerance, and eschew dogmatism. Some contributing members of MT participate with other Christian communities of faith.

A list of things that "would make the Church true"
According to MormonThink.com, if the Church actually contained God's truth and authority, "we would expect the following things to have happened in this way." The following is a list of issues presented by the website followed by FAIR's response. Most of the list is actually standard anti-Mormon fare, issues FAIR believes have been "asked and answered" many times. Nearly all points appeal to some type of intellectual or religious fundamentalism.

Here is another example of FAIR using the ‘standard LDS tactic’ of spitefully labeling those with whom it disagrees instead of dealing with the issue on its merits. It labels MormonThink as ‘anti-Mormon’ in an attempt to paint MT as untrustworthy and dishonest in the eyes of Latter-day Saints. “Anti-Mormon” is a spiteful label designed to stop critical thinking and obstruct a healthy exchange of ideas.

MT agrees that almost all of these points have been asked and answered by apologists (unsatisfactorily), but the unofficial answers provided by unauthorized apologists, and the official answers, are insufficient. If the issues were as simplistic as FAIR states, the church ought to post these answers on its official website.

The unofficial FAIR site and the official church leaders ask investigators to accept truth claims based on faith and trust. Critical examination of the issues invariably leads to doubts and concerns because investigators note the evasive tactics used by LDS apologists. Intentional failure to tell the whole truth is a sin of omission. MT is dedicated to putting out all the facts, and letting readers make up their own minds. 


Further, it seems odd, to say the least, that a site devoted to "Mormon thinking" would express a series of items that would "make the Church true." Is one to assume that if this list were not required, in the eyes of MormonThink authors, that the Church would somehow be true? Nowhere do the authors address the very simple concept that the best way to find out whether the Church is true is to do what God directs—to ask Him. This list doesn't represent what would make the Church true; it represents a list of things which its authors feel make the Church false.


The list on MT demonstrates the problems associated with the LDS official presentation of church history, what actually happened, and how it’s being taught to its members. There is a substantial difference between what members have been taught in church and what is contained in the objective historical record. Members and those investigating the church have a right to know what those issues, gaps, contradictions and controversies are. They have a right to guidance from their spiritual leaders that consists of more than, “avoid anti-Mormon literature, study and pray more, and put your concerns on the shelf.” Investigators from other Christian denominations nurture their members’ questions, honestly share their own doubts, and join hands to walk the journey of Christian life together. MT waits for Mormonism to adopt this Christian practice. 

FAIR says “Nowhere do the authors address the very simple concept that the best way to find out whether the Church is true is to do what God directs—to ask Him.”Many have asked and investigated the fruits of Mormonism and get different answers. They vary from “I got nothing” to “It was confirmed that it’s not true.” In the section entitled “Conclusions” MT states that many investigators and contributors to MT have asked:

“. . . many of us sincerely prayed about these issues after they were brought to our attention.None of us received any answers that would have comforted us enough to maintain our beliefs.”


1. Joseph would have told the same version of the First Vision throughout his life. He would have gotten the details correct surrounding the most important, spectacular moment anyone could ever have in this life.


Response

  • One might expect a performer or con-man to tell the same story in exactly the same words to every audience. 

One might also expect an honest man to tell the same story, or at least avoid obvious contradictions that appear in the many different First Vision stories.

  • Joseph's accounts of the First Vision are both stable and consistent through time.

If this were true, it would not be so easy to point out the inconsistencies and obvious evolution of the First Vision accounts.  

  • The supposed "contradictions" are more in the minds of critics than in the texts themselves and this criticism is a form of question-begging.

Readers ought to judge for themselves instead of letting unofficial apologists perform a Jedi mind-trick by suggesting, “You will see no contradictions or problems! The stories are flawless and complimentary!”

The evidence available from early sources, including Joseph Smith and his family, establish a number of important facts. Joseph did not relate his story consistently, but changed key elements over the years.He changed:

  • Who actually appeared to him - a spirit, an angel, two angels, Jesus, many angels, the Father and the Son, all of them at once?
  • The date / his age - from 1823 (age 16), to 1821 (age 15), to 1820 (age 14)
  • The reason or motive for seeking divine help - from no motive (a spirit appears with the news ofgold plates), Bible reading and conviction of sins, a revival, a desire to know if God exists.

Examining all the versions of the First Vision story, one is presented with a pattern of contradictions and evolution, not mere elaboration on a single original experience. And the pattern of evolution points to a story growing more impressive and miraculous with each telling. This raises legitimate questions for fair-minded people.

FAIR says “in the minds of critics,” but it’s not only the critics that experience confusion, doubts or a problem with the various accounts of the First Vision. Here’s the account of a General Authority regarding the multiple accounts:

S. Dilworth Young was a senior member of the First Council of the Seventy, and one of the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is apparent from this Improvement Era excerpt below, that Young was surprised to learn of Joseph's evolving accounts about the first vision and seems to indicate that Brother Young was somewhat distressed upon learning about this.This statement is from the June 1957 Improvement Era magazine:

"I cannot remember the time when I have not heard the story concerning the coming of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith."

"I am concerned however with one item which has recently been called to my attention on this matter. There appears to be going about our communities some writing to the effect that the Prophet Joseph Smith evolved his doctrine from what might have been a vision, in which he is supposed to have said that he saw an angel, instead of the Father and the Son. According to this theory, by the time he was inspired to write the occurrence in 1838, he had come to the conclusion that there were two beings."

"This rather shocked me. I can see no reason why the Prophet, with his brilliant mind, (italics added by MT for emphasis) would have failed to remember in sharp relief every detail of that eventful day. I can remember quite vividly that in 1915 I had a mere dream, and while the dream was prophetic in nature, it was not startling. It has been long since fulfilled, but I can remember every detail of it as sharply and clearly as though it had happened yesterday. How them could any man conceive that the Prophet, receiving such a vision as he received, would not remember it and would fail to write it clearly, distinctly, and accurately?" Improvement Era, June 1957, p 436


Read the various accounts for yourself and decide how significant the differences are:

http://irr.org/mit/first-vision/fvision-accounts.html
To learn more of the problems with the different versions of the First Vision:http://www.mormonthink.com/firstvisionweb.htm#therareseveral

Joseph’s numerous conflicting accounts of the First Vision are merely one of the many problems with the First Vision story. This problem was not even the most significant one to MT contributors. To learn more about all of the problems related to the First Vision, see MormonThink’s information: http://www.mormonthink.com/firstvisionweb.htm


2. Joseph's five brothers (and probably the rest of the household) that were sleeping in his room on September 21, 1823 would have been awakened by the presence of Moroni. They would have testified of his visit as well.


Response

  • Admittedly, FAIR found this point odd, considering Joseph's visions involved both natural and supernatural elements, yet MormonThink spends over 3600 words in explanation (http://www.mormonthink.com/moroniweb.htm). FAIR's response is much simpler:
  • Luke 1:37

For with God nothing shall be impossible.

That might sound like a convenient and tidy excuse to someone with a sense of healthy skepticism; and another attempt to prevent further investigation. God can do anything, of course. God can change the Lamanite DNA from Hebrew to Asian. God can plant dinosaur bones on earth from other planets just to trick all the scientists. God can keep people from finding the hidden cave in Hill Cumorah that has wagonloads of plates as explained by Brigham Young. God can change the skin color of people when they accept the gospel. God can remove all the evidence from a huge civilization of steel-melting, chariot driving, temple building people that lived for over a thousand years and were so numerous that 2 million people died in a single battle. God could do all that, but did He? It’s a fair question that occurs to a majority of investigators and Mormons who think analytically when studying the Book of Mormon.

Exercising healthy skepticism is an every day behavior to keep from being taken in by misleading claims and false advertising. The unofficial FAIR apologists ought to welcome skeptics’ questions about Mormon sacred texts and related claims of origin. Elder James E. Talmage’s work, The Articles of Faith, states, “This book 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.”(1982, page 273)MT would add that the related claims of origin demand the same consideration.

  • The web site author's may wish to look at page 54 of the August 2009 Ensign. The painting "He called me by name," by Liz Lemon Swindle shows Joseph sitting up in his bed listening to Moroni. All three of his siblings are fast asleep alongside him.

We ask FAIR a reasonable question. What is the official and authorized position of the church’s leaders describing the Moroni visit? Was it a dream, a vision in the mind of J Smith, or an actual, physical event? MT isn’t as interested in unofficial FAIR opinions as the official and authorized church view. Does the picture in the Ensign represent the official view of the current church leaders?

Much of what is published in the official church magazines is designated as the opinion of the writer or the painter, rather than the church, though members are led to believe that everything in the pages represents official church doctrine and practice. FAIR points to the picture in the Ensign as if it is the official church position. It may or may not be a reflection of official church doctrine or understanding. We would like to know if FAIR is speculating again, while pretending to know the church’s official position. Reasonable investigators want to know.

Why is it uncalled for and naive to expect that an angel and a mortal would make noise if they were talking out loud in the dead of night? That is how the story is presented in the official Mormon version. Joseph said the whole room lit up so brightly that it was “lighter than at noonday” and the angel “called me by name and said unto me that he was a messenger from the presence of God. . . . He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent. . .”(Joseph Smith History 1:30-34) And he did this all night long in three visits, and again on the next day. This is made by J Smith to sound very literal. Why not take it as such from the pen of J Smith’s scribe? We have to take the official account more seriously than speculation and private interpretations by the unauthorized FAIR site.

If the event occurred in a dream, then the church should say so plainly and reveal it as the official position. There is plenty to question about the validity of human dreams. If it is not a dream, was it an event that took place in J Smith’s imagination? That raises another set of important and justifiable questions.

It is up to the church leaders to explain how an angel and a teenage boy can talk all night and not wake up the sleeping siblings, or tell us that it occurred in Joseph’s imagination or semi-conscious dream state. Until the church’s leaders define the exact nature of the event, it’s a reasonable question to discuss and question. And it’s fair to regard FAIR’s speculations and conjecture as unofficial, unauthorized speculation about the event.

NOTE: As soon as MT members learned of the just-released August 2009 issue, MT published the painting depicted in the Ensign and updated the section accordingly in Aug, 2009 .http://www.mormonthink.com/moroniweb.htm#update

Perhaps web sites like MT are motivating the church leaders to be more accurate in its depictions of historical events. We don’t know what motivates them, but MT welcomes a more honest depiction of historical events. We hope that in the next month’s Ensign the church leaders will provide a depiction of Joseph translating the Book of Mormon by putting his face in a hat and staring at one of his peep stones. If accompanied by an official declaration by the President of the Church that the picture is an accurate depiction of the process of translation, many investigators would have their questions answered.

For more on Moroni’s visit:  http://www.mormonthink.com/moroniweb.htm


3. If the angel did indeed take back the gold plates and the urim and thummim from Joseph when Martin Harris lost the first 116 pages, he would have returned the urim and thummim to Joseph when he returned the gold plates to him, instead of having Joseph finish the translation using a common stone he found when digging a well.


Response

  • If Joseph was perpetuating a scam, why would he use a method—the seer stone in the hat—that would be open to ridicule and misrepresentation? If he could perform the impressive feat of producing the Book of Mormon in two months, why not do it with eyes closed in a solemn voice to impress everyone? There are too many hypothetical points to consider to allow such a criticism carry much weight.
  • The critic overlooks the fact that the translation process was also a spiritual growing experience for Joseph. Granted, he initially required the Nephite interpreters and was thrilled with them. But, with practice, his abilities increased to the point that he did not require the use of the physical interpreters or seer stones.
  • Joseph did not regard the stone as "common"—he and the early saints referred to both the Nephite interpreters and his other seer stones as Urim and Thummim. Joseph was unable to translate when Martin Harris secretly swapped the seer stone with a common stone.

Staring into a dark hat pulled over one’s face, looking into a rock, could be characterized as “a spiritual growing experience” or it can also raise questions because it looks like a lot of hocus pocus to many intelligent, reasonable and objective investigators. Most of the fair-minded and good people in the world would likely agree that it looks like a scam in progress. So it’s a reasonable question and the rock-in-the-hat-process will be subject to ridicule and critical questioning until it can be demonstrated that it is a viable method of translating ancient documents. We are unaware of any credible scholars or linguists who use this method. Church employees who provide translation services indicate that they do not use the rock-in-the-hat-method either.

It is also important to point out that early scribes of J Smith describe his activities as a reader, not a translator. He saw English text on the rock in the bottom of his hat, the plates were never in view, and he dictated English sentences as they appeared. Those who reported this reading method were Emma Hale Smith (wife), Isaac Hale (father-in-law), Michael Morse (brother-in-law), Martin Harris, and Joseph Knight Sr. (For Primary sources and an excellent discussion of this issue, Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, Signature Books, pages 2-5, and footnotes).

The responsibility to prove that J Smith was actually translating something is left with the church leaders. At this point, the accumulated evidence after 180 years indicates that there were no golden plates, that Smith translated nothing, and God did not put sentences in English on the rock in his hat. The first edition Book of Mormon provides ample evidence of that, due to the thousands of grammatical errors and contradictions. An admission by Smith that this is true is evidenced by his campaign to clean up the book’s grammar and publish a revised and heavily-edited version in 1837.

Smith’s edited book, from 1830 to the present, has corrected approximately 4,000 errors in: (1) punctuation, (2) uneducated grammar (they was a runnin), (3) editing out obvious mistakes, and (4) changing 2 Nephi 11 to coincide with Smith’s evolving belief system about God. The Book itself is why critics and skeptics wonder why Smith referred to the Book of Mormon as the “most correct book of any on earth.” Thousands of revisions, is not evidence in favor of J Smith’s claims. And investigators should not be belittled if they choose to keep asking “Did J Smith translate golden plates?” It’s a reasonable question.

If God gave J Smith revelations about the ancient Americas, why does the Book of Mormon reflect 19th century American myths about American Indians? Why don’t the large Nephite cities in the Americas turn up Nephite artifacts to support the book’s claims? Why was Smith wrong about America’s language, culture, mode of transportation (horses and chariots), flora and fauna? Why do the errors in the King James Version of the Bible that J Smith used (1796 version), show up in the Book of Mormon? Why do unofficial apologists put BOM geography on coasters to be rolled all over the Americas to try and find a place for them that makes sense? The official authorities say the BOM events occurred exactly where Smith said they did – North and South America.

Apostle Marion G. Romney reminded zealous apologists like FAIR to remember this. "I remember years ago when I was a bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting, I drove him home. … When we got to his home I got out of the car and went up on the porch with him. Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: 'My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.' Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, 'But you don't need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.'" (Marion G. Romney, in Conference Report, Oct. 1960, p. 78.) How do you reconcile the counsel from an esteemed apostle with all the errors in the foundational sacred text of Mormonism?

FAIR has no valid reason to complain that members ask legitimate and reasonable questions regarding the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, especially when unofficial answers contradict the answers of the general authorities and past presidents of the church. Most of the humans on the planet who have considered the church’s claims as presented by the missionaries, also find them without merit.


Joseph’s peep stone was an ordinary rock
FAIR states that the stone Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon wasn’t common, claiming it possessed special revelatory properties. FAIR points to an event where Joseph claimed he was unable to translate when Martin Harris secretly swapped his favorite seer stone with a common stone. Smith’s stone was found some 20 feet underground on Willard Chase’s property when Joseph and Hyrum were digging a well for Mr. Chase years before the BOM was ever translated. A rock dug up from the dirt is not the equivalent of a “special” stone with special magical properties. Smith’s stone was not a singular stone carefully preserved in the stone box along with the gold plates for thousands of years. It was a rock – a very common, very ordinary, New England rock! Please provide evidence, other than “because we say so” that this rock had some special revelatory properties. If these supernatural rocks exist, why don’t the LDS prophets today use them? Since LDS prophets are seers, why don’t they end the controversy and answer all the justifiable questions reasonable people ask about magic, revelatory rocks?


Martin Harris swapping stones
As FAIR stated, Martin Harris wanted to test Joseph, so he found a small stone of a similar size, shape and color of the seer stone Joseph was using.He substituted this for the one Joseph was using when Joseph wasn't looking. When Joseph tried to translate again using this stone, he couldn't. So FAIR uses that as evidence that the seer stone must have had some special property and not merely have been an object to focus on, or Joseph would have been able to translate from the stone Martin substituted. Or perhaps more likely Joseph noticed that the stone was different and used this as an opportunity to prove to Martin that he was indeed a seer. Take in mind that Joseph carried this stone with him everywhere and gazed at it all the time, so he would have easily detected that Martin had switched the stone.

MT finds it unlikely that Martin could quickly find a stone that was lying around that matched the same size, color and shape almost exactly of the one Joseph had. To Martin, they would have looked similar enough, but Joseph would have known the difference.

FAIR has not explained why the very instrument preserved with the plates for the purpose of translating them (Urim and Thummim) was not returned to Joseph along with the plates, by the angel, after the lost 116 pages were stolen.

Since this stone is reportedly still in possession of the church, MT is willing to give FAIR 100 to 1 odds that if the church would let a panel of non-Mormon, disinterested, objective geologists examine the seer stone, that they would determine that it was just a common, ordinary stone. Please use your influence with LDS authorities to agree to an examination.

For more on the translation process problems for MT:http://www.mormonthink.com/transbomweb.htm


4. Joseph would likely have actually used the gold plates in the translation process, instead of putting an ordinary stone in a hat without even looking at the plates.


Response

  • This is like the "noisy angel" complaint—having Joseph translate ancient characters with divine instruments and aid with the text in front of him would be perfectly acceptable, but being able to translate the same characters without the text in front of him is too ridiculous to be believed?
  • The critic fails to distinguish between early and late stages in the translation process.

Saying that the critic fails to distinguish between early and late stages in the translation process is a weak complaint and a diversion away from the actual problem. The “criticism” is more of a skeptic’s analysis. MT values healthy skepticism as it searches for evidence rather than comforting feelings.

The church leaders should offer official and authoritative proof or supporting evidence that J Smith could translate anything at all using the “noisy angel” as revelator, using golden spectacles attached to a breastplate, or by staring at his favorite rock in a hat, claiming that God put the sentences on the rock for him to read while the plates were in a remote location. The evidence to date forces the reasonable person to conclude legitimately that J Smith fabricated the story about translation of golden plates. FAIR or authorized apologists ought to provide reasonable evidence.

There is no current prophet using these incredible aids to revelation. If they work so well, and inspire so much faith on the part of members, it would be more convincing if LDS leaders used them and reported the results publicly. If church leaders claim that Smith translated gold plates, objective investigators ought to be skeptical since everything he chronicled about the Americas is based on 19th century myths and wildly inaccurate information. The burden of proof is on the church leaders in authority.


5. When the 116 pages were lost, Joseph would have simply retranslated the 'stolen' pages. If the pages were really stolen by evil men bent on foiling Joseph, the pages would have resurfaced in some form - either as a ransom attempt or foiled attempt to discredit Joseph. The stolen pages wouldn't have simply been destroyed by men who went to such trouble to obtain them.


Response

  • The web site takes a very pedestrian view of the incident of the lost 116 pages. The Lord taught Joseph an important lesson with the loss of the manuscript, and He provided an alternate text to compensate. The Lord commanded Joseph not to retranslate the pages, therefore this is really an issue of whether or not one believes that Joseph was actually a prophet. Had the pages not been lost, we would not have the following:
  • D&C 3:6-10

And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men. For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words— Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble. Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall. But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work.

  • This was an object lesson for Joseph Smith—he learned of the very real consequence of transgression.

MT takes the reasonable person approach with this issue. This 116 pages story is identical to “the-dog-ate-my-homework” dodge used by grade schoolers. Teachers don’t fall for it, and no one else should either.

FAIR’s “testimony” does not explain adequately what happened to the “evil men” that stole the pages. What did they do with this valuable manuscript, just tear it up; and if so why? And who are “they?” The motive for explaining the theft in latter-day scripture is unconvincing to reasonable investigators. Most acquainted with the 116 pages tale agree that the manuscript was likely burned by Martin Harris’s wife. A legitimate explanation is that Joseph was afraid she did not destroy it, but feared she secretly hid it in an attempt to discredit or entrap him. As Rev. M.T. Lamb pointed out in 1887:

“If the work was really of God, the manuscript could be reproduced word for word without a mistake. If, however, Joseph inspired it himself, his memory would hardly be adequate to such a task, without numberless changes or verbal differences—and thus "give himself away," since he loudly professed to be all the time aided "by the gift and power of God. (The Golden Bible, pages 118-126)

Perhaps the most obvious question that official sources or unofficial activist apologists have not answered is this: If J Smith possessed a miraculous, revelatory seer stone, why did he not consult it, locate the manuscript pages and go get them? Where is the awesome “power of God” when you really need it? Didn’t the stone lead him to locate the gold plates once before according to his father-in-law Isaac Hale and even affirmed by FAIR.

For more on the lost 116 pages for MT:http://www.mormonthink.com/lost116web.htm


6. The translation of the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham would match what Egyptologists say they mean. The rediscovered papyri would also support the Book of Abraham as well.


Response

  • Evidently, the author has no professional expertise in Egyptology and hopes readers will accept the authority of non-LDS experts. Yet, there are LDS experts who disagree with the conclusions of the critics. In an area in which the author(s)—and most readers—are not competent to judge, a reasonable response might prefer less dogmatism.

Several qualified non-LDS Egyptologists have examined the facsimiles and papyri. They all have arrived at the same conclusion, that Joseph got it wrong - the translation is really no translation at all.MT’s position based on the evidence to date is that 99.9 percent of Egyptologists in the world would discredit Joseph’s translation of the papyri.

  • Since we are missing an estimated 80 percent of the papyri in Joseph's possession, the author's biases become apparent when he/she insists that the fragments we do have must support the Book of Abraham. However, it is not explained why the small parts of the whole are expected to match.

The papyri match perfectly with the "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar" produced by Joseph Smith. The facsimiles are specific as to the exact Egyptian symbols Joseph “translated”, and they are all wrong according to every objective Egyptologist that has ever examined the facsimiles.

  • The author actually ignores some Egyptological translations which do match Joseph Smith's translation.
  • The author also ignores the many textual elements in Joseph's translation which match the Abrahamic literature that has since become available.

Since Joseph did not translate the Egyptian symbols correctly according to Egyptologists, the unauthorized apologists attempt to find parallels to anything that may be in the BOA with ancient Egypt. One problem is that they use parallels from any time period in their grasping at straws attempt to prove Joseph right. Perhaps misleading parallels can best be addressed by a fellow LDS apologist:

Here is an assessment from a FARMS contributor, Larry Morris, in an article he wrote concerning the BOA:   

Douglas F. Salmon, “Parallelomania and the Study of Latter-day Scripture: Confirmation, Coincidence, or the Collective Unconscious?” Dialogue 33/2 (2000): 154—55. See William J. Hamblin’s review of Salmon’s article in “Joseph or Jung? A Response to Douglas Salmon,” FARMS Review of Books 13/2 (2001): 87—104. Believers in the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham have every reason to move cautiously when citing parallels in support of their belief because the use of parallels is a two-edged sword. Critics of the Book of Mormon, for example, have long cited parallels between that book of scripture and Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews (published before the Book of Mormon) as evidence that Joseph Smith borrowed freely from Ethan Smith. Similarly, Thomas E. Donofrio has recently attempted to prove that Joseph Smith drew on such sources as David Ramsay’s Life of George Washington and Mercy Otis Warren’s History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution in producing the Book of Mormon. Donofrio cites phrases common to both the Book of Mormon and either Ramsey or Warren, such as “the cause of liberty,” “in the cause of their country,” “surrendered themselves prisoners of war,” and “supply of provisions,” concluding that “the tally of similarities begin[s] to defy random chance.” Donofrio’s material is at the following Web site: www.post-mormons.com/tories.htm (accessed 6 April 2004).

Dr. Morris assumed that Donofrio “attempted to prove” Smith’s reliance on historical sources. MT cannot “prove” he had those works. However, it waddles and quacks like a duck. He did get the point about it being a danger to faith promoting parallels. There is no magic wand that makes the good parallels good, and the bad ones bad, except in the eye of the believer. MT believes it is reasonable and legitimate to use common sense when examining LDS claims. As stated before, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. All evidence points to J Smith as fraudulently claiming to translate an ancient document, which he said was written by Abraham.

  • The author neglects to account for the fact that Egyptological symbols and iconography may have been adapted when the papyri were produced, an unfortunate and simplistic assumption that does not deal with the relevant scholarship on the circumstances.

Until a reputable, objective, non-LDS Egyptologists supports Smith’s translation or until the church officially endorses the theory, it will be categorized as another unofficial, activist, apologist hypothesis, unsupported by any real evidence. MT did however add the link to our list of pro-LDS sources.

For more on the Book of Abraham from MT:  http://www.mormonthink.com/boaweb.htm


7. The Book of Mormon would not mention things that did not exist in the Americas during Book of Mormon times such as horses, elephants, cattle, goats, wheat, barley, silk, steel, etc. It would probably mention things that did exist such as corn, yams, beans, squash, llamas, sloths, jaguars, and monkeys.


Response

  • A solid understanding of the history of archeological method and findings would discourage such simplistic assertions. Many things supposed to have been "anachronisms" to Joseph Smith's contemporaries have turned out not to be anachronisms after all. More knowledge has made Joseph's construction more, not less, plausible. This trend encourages more humility when dealing with anachronism.
  • The claim about anachronisms ignores the nature of translated texts—even a true anachronism in a translated text is compelling evidence for the date of the text's translation, not its composition.

Scholars with a background in history and archaeology, who regularly submit peer-reviewed articles to well-established and internationally-recognized academic journals, know that J Smith made fraudulent statements and perjured himself when he testified that the Book of Mormon was (1) translated by the gift and power of God, and (2) represents an accurate history of the American Indians (ancient inhabitants of the Americas). That is the state of the evidence at the present time.

In 1973 Michael Coe, one of the best known authorities on archaeology of the New World, wrote an article for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. In this article he stated:

Mormon archaeologists over the years have almost unanimously accepted the Book of Mormon as an accurate, historical account of the New World peoples.... They believe that Smith could translate hieroglyphs.... Likewise, they accept the Kinderhook Plates as a bona fide archaeological discovery, and the reading of them as correct. Let me now state uncategorically that as far as I know there is not one professionally-trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon, who sees any scientific justification for believing the foregoing to be true, and I would like to state that there are quite a few Mormon archaeologists who join this group....

The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of early migrants to our hemisphere (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1973, pp.41, 42, 46).

Dr. Coe made it clear that nothing has changed since his statement in1973. He was interviewed for the PBS Frontline – American Perspective 2007 documentary by Helen Whitney entitled The Mormons.
 
For more on the Book of Mormon problems from MT:  http://www.mormonthink.com/bomweb.htm


8. The BOM would be supported by archeological and linguistic evidence. Perhaps not so much evidence that we still wouldn't need faith, but something to show that the ancient Jews could have been in America.


Response

  • The site authors are attempting to define just how much evidence is required in order to have faith. This presumption gives no compelling argument for its reasoning, and also directly contradicts the scriptures themselves. Moroni states that confirmation follows the exercise of faith, rather than the other way around:

And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
Ether 12:6

Many believers, including members of FAIR, believe that there is abundant information available to encourage and confirm our faith.

  • Archaeology and related disciplines have provided progressively more support for the Book of Mormon. Because some difficulties remain, even as the score improves, the critic hopes we will simply give up.

“If after a rigid examination, it [the Book of Mormon] be found an imposition, it should be extensively published as such; the evidence and arguments on which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived may perceive the nature of the deception and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion, may be silenced."-- Apostle Orson Pratt

Muslims, Roman Catholics and Baptists also believe there is abundant information available to confirm their respective faiths, and they outnumber the Mormons by a huge margin. By sheer numbers, Mormons cannot justifiably appeal to “we believe,” feelings that comfort the average Mormon apologist. All humans feel deep spiritual feelings from time to time. This does not make Mormonism’s claims true. It makes Mormons the tiny fraction of earth’s population who experience sentimental feelings about the Book of Mormon.

MT believes that clear, accurate, compelling evidence is required for a reasonable person to exercise faith. MT does not believe that one must believe in spite of contradictory evidence; but that evidence will support one’s beliefs. Members should not to be required to “put your doubts on the shelf” and suspend analytical thought.Hugh B. Brown, counselor in the First Presidency, again:

“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as 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 or 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 the freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.”(Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, ed. Edwin B. Firmage (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), 137-39;Hugh B. Brown, “An Eternal Quest—Freedom of the Mind,” a speech delivered at Brigham Young University, 13 May 1969, in Speeches of the Year (Provo, UT): Brigham Young University Press, 1969); rpt. In Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Spring 1984): 77-83)

MT notes that throughout history, LDS leaders have boldly claimed that there is plenty of evidence to support their religious claims. Yet the vast majority of good men and women in the world today, who have been exposed to those beliefs and attendant claims, find that the evidence points to a different conclusion – J Smith was less than honest about the origins of the LDS church. Members of other Christian churches read about Jerusalem in the Bible and can visit Jerusalem and other points of interest mentioned in the Bible. The believers in the Book of Mormon cannot visit any of the sites listed in their sacred text, and in fact, cannot agree where the actual events took place, though the book’s author was clear about one place – Cumorah was the location of the last Nephite battle and the location of the buried plates (see article below). But there is no evidence to support these claims.

Until evidence appears to support the Mormon truth claims, it is reasonable to assume a sensible position – the events did not take place, except in the imagination of J. Smith. That is after all, what Book of Mormon expert and General Authority B.H. Roberts concluded: [emphasis added]

"One other subject remains to be considered in this division... viz.—was Joseph Smith possessed of a sufficiently vivid and creative imagination as to produce such a work as the Book of Mormon from such materials as have been indicated in the preceding chapters... That such power of imagination would have to be of a high order is conceded; that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question....

"In the light of this evidence, there can be no doubt as to the possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph Smith, the Prophet, an imagination, it could with reason be urged, which, given the suggestions that are found in the 'common knowledge' of accepted American antiquities of the times, supplemented by such a work as Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews, would make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of Mormon is." (Studies of the Book of Mormon, pp. 243, 250)

"If from all that has gone before in Part 1, the view be taken that the Book of Mormon is merely of human origin... if it be assumed that he is the author of it, then it could be said there is much internal evidence in the book itself to sustain such a view.

"In the first place there is a certain lack of perspective in the things the book relates as history that points quite clearly to an undeveloped mind as their origin. The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency." (Ibid., page 251)

"There were other Anti-Christs among the Nephites, but they were more military leaders than religious innovators... they are all of one breed and brand; so nearly alike that one mind is the author of them, and that a young and undeveloped, but piously inclined mind. The evidence I sorrowfully submit, points to Joseph Smith as their creator. It is difficult to believe that they are the product of history, that they come upon the scene separated by long periods of time, and among a race which was the ancestral race of the red man of America." (Ibid., page 271)

FAIR, you state "Archaeology and related disciplines have provided progressively more support for the BOM". Would you please give the readers details of this evidence so they can examine it?

For information on whether Joseph could have written the BOM: http://www.mormonthink.com/josephweb.htm


9. There would be some remains of two large battles at the Hill Cumorah where over two million people fought and died.


Response

  • The author is assuming, without demonstrating, that the Hill in which the plates were buried was the site of the Nephites' last battle, even though the Book of Mormon text contradicts this assumption.

The conclusion MT draws about Cumorah is the authorized one, while FAIR’s unofficial, ad-hoc version contradicts the church’s official view. The LDS prophets are the only people authorized to offer the official views representing the Mormon Church doctrine and practice. For example, in 1990 a Mormon bishop asked the First Presidency about the location of the Hill Cumorah.In a letter dated Oct. 16, 1990, the Secretary to the First Presidency replied to his inquiry:


Dear Bishop Brooks:

I have been asked to forward to you for acknowledgment and handling the enclosed copy of a letter to President Gordon B. Hinckley from Ronnie Sparks of your ward. Brother Sparks inquired about the location of the Hill Cumorah mentioned in the Book of Mormon, where the last battle between the Nephites and Lamanites took place.

The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities, that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon.


FAIR has a right to form its own opinions contradicting Mormon official doctrine, but not to fashion its own facts. Does FAIR see the LDS prophets as fallen prophets who have led members astray regarding the Book of Mormon?

Even if Cumorah happened somewhere else in the Americas, where is archeological evidence of any location where over 2M warriors died in a single battle?

For more information on the Hill Cumorah location:  http://www.mormonthink.com/bomweb.htm#cumorah


10. DNA evidence would support that the American Indians and South American peoples descended from Israel.


Response

  • No LDS expert would expect that DNA evidence would provide any such support.
  • LDS scholars and leaders have made remarks in this vein for over a century.
  • LDS anthropologist John Sorenson warned in the Ensign as early as 1984 that this type of assumption would provide fodder for critics, and he was right. But, attentive students of such matters were aware (well before the critics discovered DNA) that such matters could say little about the Book of Mormon.
  •  The author's approach requires that we read the text in the most naive, ill-informed manner possible, and ignore more than a century of work on the topic.

The world lacks an official an authoritative Mormon position on this issue. Mormon authorities refuse to speak publicly on the matter as they are called and paid to do. FAIR and other unofficial and unauthorized organizations maintained by zealous, activist members, routinely produce hundreds of pages criticizing any who acknowledge that DNA evidence undercuts Book of Mormon claims.

DNA is recognized by the U.S. courts of law as admissible evidence.It is a proven scientific method. Why would the LDS Church reject it? MT stands by its article which is consistent with recognized standards, accepted by reputable genetic scientists who routinely publish peer reviewed articles for the scholars all over the world to critique. MT challenges readers to compare the defense by FAIR and other unauthorized sites to the evidence placed on MT. The evidence from reputable scientists speaks for itself.
For more information on the DNA evidence:http://www.mormonthink.com/bomweb.htm#DNA


11. Joseph would have either denounced the Kinderhook Plates as a fraud, or at least said he didn't know what they were.


Response

  • The best argument against Joseph's attempt to translate the Kinderhook plates is simply the fact that no one said anything about it at the time. A trap was laid for Joseph, but he did not step into it. Decades later, with Joseph safely dead, the conspirators came forward and announced they had 'tricked' the prophet. But, if they wanted to expose Joseph as a fraud, why did they wait for decades to do it? Why didn't they announce their success from the rooftops in Nauvoo and Illinois? Quite simply, Joseph didn't fall for their trap, and so there was nothing to announce.

Member and other investigators are frustrated because modern church presidents and apostles do not provide official responses on challenging historical matters, including the Kinderhook Plates. Past church leaders declared the Kinderhook Plates authentic, but now their “inspired counsel” is rejected by unofficial FAIR apologists.

Here is the argument framed by B.H. Roberts when he said (underlining added):

“How easy to have covered Joseph Smith and his followers with ridicule by proclaiming the hoax as soon as they accepted the Kinderhook plates as genuine! Why was it not done? The fact that Fugate's story was not told until thirty-six years after the event, and that he alone of all those who were connected with the event gives that version of it, is rather strong evidence that his story is the hoax, not the discovery of the plates, nor the engravings upon them.” (History of the Church' by Joseph Smith pages vol. 5, page 379


If the men were lying about faking the Kinderhook Plates, then the Kinderhook Plates must be real. In the History of the Church, not some anti-Mormon book, it says right there plain as can be:

"I insert fac-similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook... 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." Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, v. 5, p. 372

 

The following is from page 372 of History of the Church, vol 5. by Joseph Smith.

  • History of the Church, p 372-373

Notice to the left that it clearly says "Comment of the Prophet on the Kinderhook Plates".
There really is no valid reason to doubt that Joseph made those comments on the Kinderhook Plates.

The only way out of this debacle is if the plates were really genuine, but the church has already admitted that the Kinderhook Plates were a hoax in the August, 1981 Ensign, although they don’t say that prior to this time that the Kinderhook Plates were believed to be genuine by the church.


Why did the perpetrators wait so long? That’s a fair question. MT does not pretend to know, but can speculate as well as others can. They may have hoped that Joseph, or some other LDS prophet, would eventually write a long sequel to the Book of Mormon using the Kinderhook Plates, as was rumored by some at the time. Since that didn’t happen, and after Joseph was killed a year later, they probably just let it go as Joseph only wrote a paragraph of translation vs an entire hoped-for book. But obviously someone had to fake the plates as today no one, not even the church, believes that they are genuine. And since the modern-day analysis of the plates determined that it was made in the exact manner (etching with acid) as claimed by the alleged perpetrator Wilbur Fugate, it is reasonable to acknowledge that he was responsible for the hoax.

Also,

From the August 1981 Ensign:

The statement taken from William Clayton's journal didn't appear until September 1856 in Salt Lake City's "Deseret News." At that point, time itself had eroded away the opportunity for a hearty joke, if that were the hoaxers' intent; and the absence of an actual translation in spite of the Clayton entry in the "History of Joseph Smith" could only have added to frustrations - assuming that the hoaxers even knew of the "Deseret News" account which appeared thirteen years later and a thousand miles away.

The Ensign implies that the hoaxers were unaware of what Joseph said in 1843, since little was published publicly, so they probably didn't know what, if anything Joseph said beyond the newspaper accounts. It wasn't until 1856 that the statement attributed to Joseph appeared in print, and only in the Deseret News in Utah a thousand miles away - so who knows when they became aware of it?

What is clear is that J Smith fell for the hoax.Trying to excuse him from his boast that he could translate the “plates” by blaming his personal secretary is dishonest and misleading. Most of the official history of the church that church apologists accept was written by persons other than J. Smith. It is intellectually unfair to cherry pick segments of church history you like (written by a scribe) and then find weak excuses to disown the rest because it was also written by a scribe. Unofficial apologists fail to offer believable evidence why William Clayton, who was a faithful and diligent secretary, and with the prophet on that very day, would not write a correct account.

For more on the Kinderhook Plates from MT:http://www.mormonthink.com/kinderhookweb.htm

UPDATE: FAIR apologists now acknowledge (starting in 2011) that Joseph did try to translate the Kinderhook Plates and that those were his actual words written in History of the Church (just as critics have been saying all along). They believe he tried a secular translation using the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language. See the Kinderhook Plates section for more.


12. The witnesses would have said all objective statements testifying of the BOM's divinity. They would not have said things like "I did not see them as I do that pencil case, yet I saw them with the eyes of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see anything around me - though at the time, they were covered with a cloth", 'he never saw them only as he saw a city through a mountain', etc.


Response

  • Again, the historical record appears to be misrepresented. Consider the following:

And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true.
—From the Testimony of Three Witnesses

Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship.
From the Testimony of Eight Witnesses

Critics wish to suggest that the witnesses’ encounter with the angel and the plates took place solely in their minds. They claim that witnesses saw the angel in a “vision” and equate “vision” with imagination. To bolster this claim they generally cite two alleged quotes from Martin Harris. Supposedly Harris was once asked if he saw the plates with his “naked eyes” to which he responded, “No, I saw them with a spiritual eye.” In another interview Harris allegedly claimed that he only saw the plates in a “visionary or entranced state.” It is uninformed and misleading to present these quotes without the many other statements made by Harris and the other witnesses. Further, MormonThink's claims are unfaithful to the historical record, which is surprising, given MormonThink's stated goal of presenting accurate history. There can be no historical doubt that the witnesses regarded their vision of the plates as tangible and literal.

MT unapologetically cites confessions by Martin Harris admitting that he and others fabricated witness stories; or failing to explain that the witness accounts took place in their individual imaginations. Asking MT to cite all of the fabricated statements to the contrary (such as those written by J Smith for the witnesses), deliberately sidesteps an important consideration in the presentation of evidence.

Members are well aware of the church’s official position – that the three and eight witnesses claimed to have seen and handled physical objects, and it is explained fully on the MT site. What members are not taught, because church leaders believe that “some truths are not very useful,” is that Martin Harris confessed that he saw nothing, nor did the other witnesses. Asking that MT publish the many untruthful claims by Smith and his witnesses is like asking the Commissioner of Major League Baseball to publish all of Pete Rose’s denials that “I never, ever bet on baseball.” The few actual admissions or confessions by Rose that he did indeed bet on baseball, is sufficient proof that he lied. So it is with the myth of the three and eight witnesses.

This complaint by the unofficial group FAIR also gives members another opportunity to ask why it is that the church leaders do not trust them enough to tell them the whole truth about the church’s truth claims and the origins of Mormonism. Publish Harris’s confessions and explain that the witnesses’ events were the result of an active imagination, wishful thinking and magic-world view. Most people on planet earth find this to be the most reasonable explanation in light of the evidence.

For more on the witnesses from MT:http://www.mormonthink.com/witnessesweb.htm


13. Some of the witnesses should have been critics or skeptics and not related to each other. Each witness should have written their own testimony instead of merely signing a pre-prepared statement.


Response

  • It is strange to imply that enemies of Joseph Smith ought to have been included as witnesses. The Lord only granted that privilege to those who humbled themselves and were honestly seeking the truth, not to those who were attempting to destroy it. The Lord Himself set the requirements for being a witness:
  • D&C 5:23-25

MT never said enemies. There are unlimited numbers of non-relatives who are not enemies that could have served as impartial witnesses.

And now, again, I speak unto you, my servant Joseph, concerning the man that desires the witness—Behold, I say unto him, he exalts himself and does not humble himself sufficiently before me; but if he will bow down before me, and humble himself in mighty prayer and faith, in the sincerity of his heart, then will I grant unto him a view of the things which he desires to see. And then he shall say unto the people of this generation: Behold, I have seen the things which the Lord hath shown unto Joseph Smith, Jun., and I know of a surety that they are true, for I have seen them, for they have been shown unto me by the power of God and not of man.

  • From the time that the Book of Mormon was first published, the testimonies of the Three and Eight Witnesses were printed over their names as part of the book. At no time throughout their lives did any of these 11 men dispute what was printed in the thousands of copies of the book that went throughout the world.
  • It is inaccurate to claim that none of the witnesses were skeptical—for example, Martin Harris took repeated steps to test Joseph's story by visiting Charles Anthon and swapping Joseph's seer stone for another which matched it. The witnesses used their critical faculties—but they were not unremittingly hostile.

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. In its unauthorized capacity, FAIR offers only quotes from the Book of Mormon, which they cannot prove is what it claims to be. Until the LDS Church leaders support Book of Mormon claims and provide sufficient evidence that it is what it claims to be, it is silly to quote from its preface and ask reasonable people to accept statements by Smith as evidence.

Martin Harris was anything but a skeptical witness. He was known by his peers as an unstable, gullible and superstitious man. He claimed he saw Jesus Christ in the form of a deer. He claimed he walked alongside and conversed with him (Jesus/the deer) for several miles. (Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 271) Reports assert that he and the other witnesses never literally saw the gold plates, but only an object said to be the plates, covered with a cloth. Casual observers and fair-minded persons of all faiths are allowed to question the veracity of the three and eight witnesses, including the gullible Martin Harris.

Ronald W. Walker gave examples of Harris’s gullible and superstitious nature. He wrote, “His imagination was excitable and fecund [fertile]. Once while reading scripture, he reportedly mistook a candle’s sputtering as a sign that the devil desired to stop him. Another time he excitedly awoke from his sleep believing that a creature as large as a dog had been upon his chest, though a nearby associate could find nothing to confirm his fears. Several hostile and perhaps unreliable accounts told of visionary experiences with Satan and Christ. Harris once reporting that Christ had been poised on a roof beam. (Ronald W. Walker, “Martin Harris: Mormonism’s Early Convert,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 (Winter 1986): 30-33)

The Reverend John A. Clark, who knew Harris, said Martin “had always been a firm believer in dreams, and visions and supernatural appearances, such as apparitions and ghosts, and therefore was a fit subject for such men as Smith and his colleagues to operate on.” Lorenzo Saunders said Harris was a “great man for seeing spooks.” Presbyterian minister Jesse Townsend of Palmyra called Harris a “visionary fanatic.” Harris was gullible enough to believe Smith when told that if he were to look upon the plates, God would strike him dead. Harris was a perfect target for any con man. Unless the authorized defenders of the church can defend Harris’s character better than the unofficial FAIR site, it is reasonable to harbor doubts about the veracity of J Smith and his work with the witnesses.

Isaac Hale, Smith’s father-in-law stated that Joseph “pretended to read and interpret [the writing on the peep stone] was the same [method he used] as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and hat over his face, while the book of plates were at the same time hid in the woods. (Affadivit of Isaac Hale, 20 March 1834, in Susquehanna Register and Northern Pennsylvanian, 1 May 1834.)  Martin Harris confirmed that J Smith used the peep stone to discover the plates. (in Tiffany’s Monthly, 163; quoted in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 2:302)

This begs the question: If FAIR presents both sides of the truth, where are these stories about the superstitious Martin Harris located on their site? MT challenges FAIR to be fair and to research the unflattering side of Martin Harris and the other witnesses and present that side in full, alongside their complimentary and flattering descriptions.


14. God's true church would likely have been one of the first churches to proclaim equality for blacks instead of the last major religion in America to accept blacks as equals.


Response

  • In some ways, the Church was actually quite progressive with regard to its attitude towards blacks during a time when slavery was an accepted part of American society. The authors simplistically employ a 21st-century term "equality for blacks" without any regard for the social fabric of the 19th-century society in which this would have occurred.

We find it hard to believe that the church bowed down to societal pressures regarding the blacks yet ignored societal norms in order to practice polygamy which most Americans regarded as barbaric in the 19th century.

It is one thing to deny blacks the priesthood when everyone else did, but quite another to be the last major religion in America to grant equal religious status to blacks. It just doesn’t seem like the one, true church would be the last hold-out to change something that everyone now agrees is right.

FAIR states that “the Church was actually quite progressive with regard to its attitude towards blacks”. How progressive was Brigham Young when he said these gems? (emphasis added):

"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.)

"You may inquire of the intelligent of the world whether they can tell why the aborigines of this country are dark, loathsome, ignorant, and sunken into the depths of degradation ...When the Lord has a people, he makes covenants with them and gives unto them promises: then, if they transgress his law, change his ordinances, and break his covenants he has made with them, he will put a mark upon them, as in the case of the Lamanites and other portions of the house of Israel; but by-and-by they will become a white and delightsome people" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:336).

If Utah was admitted into the Union as a sovereign State, and we chose to introduce slavery here, it is not their business to meddle with it; and even if we treated our slaves in an oppressive manner, it is still none of their business and they ought not to meddle with it. Journal of Discourses 4:39-40 (Aug 31, 1856)

 

Does this sound progressive?
D. Michael Quinn records the LDS Church attitude toward people of color. The article may be found in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 33, No. 3, Fall 2000, 1-52.the article is entitled, Prelude to the National “Defense of Marriage” Campaign: Civil Discrimination Against Feared or Despised Minorities.

Brigham Young “instructed the Utah legislature in 1852 to legalize the slavery of African-Americans.”

“For more than a century, Utah restricted African-Americans from patronizing white restaurants and hotels, prohibited them from public swimming pools, and required them to sit in the balconies of theaters.”

“During World War II, African-Americans wearing their nation’s uniform had to sit in the balcony of Utah theaters, while German prisoners-of-war sat on the main floor with servicemen and civilians. Utah law also prohibited marriage between a white person and a black (including persons only one-eighth Negro).”

“Utah’s racial discrimination did not occur by happenstance nor did it continue into modern times by accident. It was promoted by the highest leaders of the state’s dominant church. As late as 1941, Counselor J. Reuben Clark used the word “nigger” in his First Presidency office diary.In 1944 the First Presidency authorized local LDS leaders to join ‘as individuals a civic organization whose purpose is to restrict and control negro settlement’ in Salt lake City.A year later, LDS president George Albert Smith wrote: “Talked to Pres Clark & Nicholas [G. Smith an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] about the use of [LDS] meeting houses for meetings to prevent Negroes from becoming neighbors.”Nicholas G. Smith described this action as race hatred.

Continuing quotes from Quinn’s article: “In 1949, while criticizing the legislative efforts in Arizona to ‘guarantee rights of Negroes,’ LDS presidency counselof David O. McKay said, ‘The South knows how to handle them and they do not have any trouble, and the colored people are better off down there—[but] in California they are becoming very progressive and insolent in many cases.Likewise, in 1950 Counselor Clark wrote: ‘Race tolerance: the trend is just terrible’ (emphasis in original).


“Joseph Fielding Smith wrote to the First Presidency about African-American members of the LDS church in Utah and referred to the “danger of intermarriage.”

Quinn notes that in 1953 the secretary to the First Presidency boasted to a white Mormon, “The LDS Hospital here in Salt Lake City has a blood bank which does not contain any colored blood.” This policy of separating “colored blood” from “white blood” “was intended to protect the purity of the blood streams of the people of this Church” so said President J. Reuben Clark.

When prominent African-Americans were invited to Utah, such as Nobel Peace Prize recipient Ralph Bunche, the First Presidency relaxed its normal policy of not allowing African-American celebrities to stay in the church-owned Hotel Utah. But they required him to use the freight elevator instead of the normal elevator provided to customers, and he was forced to take his meals in his room and not permitted to come into the dining room. President J. Reuben Clark explained, “Since they are not entitled to the Priesthood, the Church discourages social intercourse with the negro race. . . . Therefore, African-Americans were denied equal access to the LDS church’s hotel in order to ‘preserve the purity of the race that is entitled to hold the Priesthood.”

The LDS Church leaders promoted all-white neighborhoods in Utah. They used Utah’s Uniform Real Estate Contract, Form 30, which “prohibited the purchaser of real estate and his/her heirs from reselling the property ‘to any person not of the Caucasian race.’

“The Salt Lake City School District prohibited blacks from being teachers and from fulfilling student-teaching requirements of their university training.”

“Blacks were prohibited from eating at the lunch counter of Salt Lake City’s City-County Building.”

“All of Utah’s bowling alleys excluded African-Americans, and LDS hospitals segregated black patients, sometimes requiring them to pay for private rooms. This was also the policy at Utah’s Catholic hospitals.”

Conclusion: Contrary to what FAIR claims, it's clear that the LDS leadership, from the time of the restoration through the 1960s, was not more progressive than the rest of America in their racial attitudes and in some cases was far less progressive as other churches had allowed blacks the rights to the priesthood long before the LDS Church did.

For more on the blacks and the priesthood from MT:

http://www.mormonthink.com/blackweb.htm


15. There would never have been teachings such as blacks received the curse from Cain for being less valiant in the pre-existence, or that they are destined to be servants only in the next life.


Response

  • The concept of the "Curse of Cain" was a Protestant invention, and existed long before the Church was organized in 1830. The idea that the “mark of Cain” and the "curse of Ham" was a black skin is something that was used by many Protestants as a way to morally and biblically justify slavery. This idea did not originate with Latter-day Saints, although the existence of the priesthood ban prior to 1978 tends to cause some people to assume that it was a Latter-day Saint concept. Early Latter-day Saint leaders who converted from Protestantism brought along many of their previous beliefs regarding the "Curse of Cain."
  • This criticism reveals a naivete concerning the role of prophets. Latter-day Saints do not see prophets as perfect men removed from their environment, or without the weakness or perspectives of their host culture. Further, they do not expect God to immediately and decisively correct every error or misconception of truth. The truth is revealed "line upon line."

MT already mentions the “Curse of Cain” belief as pre-dating the LDS church belief. It's important to note that the Latter-day Saints have unique scriptures that say that blacks are cursed from God such as Moses 7:22, Book of Abraham 1:26-27, 2 Nephi 5: 21, Alma 3: 6, 2 Nephi 30: 6 and 3 Nephi 2:15.

Church members cannot find anything official from the church as to whether or not the ban on blacks having the priesthood, and the reasons for it, was divinely inspired or a mistake made by the leaders of the church. FAIR's response stated that the prophets are not perfect which implies that they made a mistake here. FAIR do you believe the prophets erred when they denied blacks the priesthood?

When Gordon B. Hinckley is asked publicly about the ban, his response is he doesn't know why blacks were banned from the priesthood for 150 years until 1978 and he just says it is all behind us now - much like his response to polygamy. If we are to accept the LDS Church as God's one true church on the earth, and is indeed lead by prophets that communicate with God, then we think we deserve more of an answer. Is that too much to ask?

Mormon prophets “are not perfect men” is a convenient dodge.Investigators object when Mormon prophets are not only imperfect, but dishonest, ignorant and dishonorable. Why Mormons are eager to claim that their “inspired leaders” had no more insight than early bigoted Protestants is a mystery. But if they want to insist that their prophets are no more inspired than the Protestants, then we have no disagreement.

It is disingenuous for unofficial apologists to hide behind “line upon line” as the method of revealed truth. It is patently false in many cases. And it sidesteps the point that Mormons deliberately regarded people of color as inferior. Elijah Abel was ordained to the priesthood but denied temple blessings, as was Jane Manning.Many enlightened men and women who were members of other faiths saw the horrible inequity driven by hatred, racism and slavery, and spoke out against it. Mormon prophet Brigham Young on the other hand, embraced slavery and further threatened blacks and whites with death on the spot should they marry. This is barbaric, whether it represented 19th century thought or not. This prophet led Mormons astray. Why didn’t God remove him from office?

If FAIR regards the LDS treatment and beliefs about blacks as merely an "error" or "misconception of truth" then what real value are the prophets over other religions where they corrected their primitive thinking long before the LDS did?


16. Polygamy would have never been practiced. If it was really commanded by God, then it would have been done differently. It would have been practiced openly, honestly and with dignity, with no marriages to women already married or to underage girls. Joseph's wife would have full knowledge of the marriages and would have had to give her permission for each one. And probably one additional wife would have been sufficient instead of at least 33 wives for Joseph.


Response

  • The authors of the site simply assume that the practice of polygamy could never have been ordained by God. They then further qualify this by saying the if it were ordained of God, then the way that the Church practiced it was not the correct way, even going so far as to determine just how many wives would have been "sufficient."
  • This is an unfortunate over-simplification of an extremely complex and difficult issue that faced the early Saints. The assumptions made by MormonThink diminish the tremendous sacrifice made by early Church members, both men and women, to practice something they sincerely believed the Lord had commanded them to do. The application of such naive or trite 21st-century retro-thinking to this issue is unlikely to provide any real understanding.
  • The critic ignores that most nineteenth century members felt at least as strongly about these matters as he/she does—yet, many reported powerful spiritual experiences which convinced them of the rightness of Joseph's course of action. Such a witness is equally available to modern members who are troubled as it was to those of Joseph's day.

MT does not assume that polygamy could have been ordained by God the way Smith introduced it. Having sex in the barn with Fanny Alger, without Emma’s consent, is adultery and not plural marriage. The keys for plural marriage had not been “delivered” yet.

MT does not look upon J Smith’s repeated threat, “an angel with a drawn sword appeared to me and ordered me to take you as a plural wife/practice polygamy/etc.” as an honest man’s account. If Smith did actually use this ruse, it ranks with other ruses men have used to have sex with other women such as “I belong to the CIA/FBI, etc.” It does not pass the smell test.

MT does not apologize for questioning the early church leaders’ honesty after learning that Smith did not support his wives, kept them secret from Emma, and threatened Emma with destruction in a revelation that conveniently told her to let Smith do as he pleased (D&C 132). MT questions anyone who would defend Smith for locking Nancy Rigdon (age 19) in a room and demanding that she marry him, and then lying about it afterward (Mormon Polygamy: A History by Richard Van Wagoner, 2nd Edition, pages 29, 32-33). MT condemns Smith for character assassination of young girls who refused his advances (Martha Brotherton and Sarah Pratt ) (Ibid. page 26, note 7; pages 29-36, 41). MT does not believe that God reveals certain laws to his church, and then requires disciples to intentionally lie to continue its practice. The practice of polygamy bears all the earmarks of a man-invented, man-sustained practice without any inspiration. There is no evidence to the contrary except FAIR’s offer to pray about it. If there is anyone out there reading this that can honestly say that they get a good, warm, spiritual feeling that God commanded Joseph to illegally marry other men's wives and 14 year-old girls and to lie about it, please email us and we'll post your impressions.

For more on the polygamy from MT:http://www.mormonthink.com/polyweb.htm


17. Joseph would not have proclaimed that a Greek Psalter was really a dictionary of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. He would have either said what it really was, or that he just didn't know.


Response

  • This claims stems from a single hostile source: Henry Caswall. There is no other evidence of Henry Caswall's claim save his own overtly anti-Mormon work. That Caswall took no steps in Nauvoo to get Joseph on record is fatally suspicious, since this was the entire reason he claimed to be there. He is also clearly attempting to make Joseph Smith appear uncouth and ignorant, having him say "them plates" and "them characters", when this contrasts markedly with other known examples of Joseph's speaking and writing style at the time.
  • Furthermore, Joseph was familiar enough with Greek to recognize Greek characters, and so is unlikely to have mistaken them for an unknown language—even if we believe Joseph was attempting to deceive Caswall, it seems unlikely he would fail to recognize the characters of a language he had studied. Critics who tell this story rarely provide the source details for the tale, and do not inform their readers about John Taylor's witness regarding Caswall's later dishonesty. Citing this example demonstrates a clear lack of historical analysis of the sources employed. It is akin to taking reports from the National Enquirer as reliable journalism today.

As The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship (formerly FARMS) is actually owned by the LDS Church (located on BYU’s campus), their arguments should trump FAIR’s arguments as FAIR is a private group of members with no authority to speak for the church. The Neal A. Maxwell Institute on the other hand is often referred to on the church’s official website for members to read probable explanations to troubling issues. It is troubling to members trying to understand historically embarrassing events, that general authorities of the church do not speak out on these issues rather than hiring others to speak for them.Members are told that church leaders are fearless defenders of truth.

In a review of Grant Palmer's book An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, the most prominent pro-LDS organization, the Neal A.Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, issued the following in response to the Greek Psalter incident as portrayed by Palmer:

Caswall wrote that when he challenged Latter-day Saint apostle Willard Richards with Smith's mistaken identification, Richards responded that "sometimes Mr. Smith speaks as a prophet, and sometimes as a mere man."  Knowing that Smith had a great interest in languages and studied them when he could, Richards understood this, but Caswall failed to grasp the distinction.  Apparently Palmer struggles with the distinction as well.  He takes the episode as evidence against Joseph's ability to translate anything.
http://www.farmsresearch.com/display.php?table=review&id=513

 

Note: FARMS has their usual disclaimer which they customarily have on virtually every article published on their website: "The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not represent the position of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."


According to an article published on the website of the Maxwell Institute (as close to official as one can find), they do not question that the Greek Psalter incident took place as described. They support Apostle Richard's assertion that Joseph was speaking as a man and that Joseph only gave his scholarly opinion to Caswall, thus not really harming Joseph's credibility as a prophet, seer and translator.

We support professor Caswall's response to Joseph's error: "Whether he spoke as a prophet or as a mere man, he has committed himself, for he has said what is not true. If he spoke as a prophet, therefore, he is a false prophet. If he spoke as a mere man, he cannot be trusted, for he spoke positively and like an oracle respecting that which he knew nothing."

When Joseph speaks and leads others to assume he is speaking as a prophet, then he needs to be accountable for what he says. It is too convenient to say Joseph speaks as a man whenever he's proved wrong, and as a prophet whenever his statements can't be proven right or wrong, or haven't been proven one way or the other yet.

 

Regarding John Taylor

FAIR states "Critics who tell this story rarely provide the source details for the tale, and do not inform their readers about John Taylor's witness regarding Caswall's later dishonesty." On the contrary, MT clearly states the source as Caswall yet FAIR doesn't inform their readers about John Taylor's dishonesty regarding his explicit denial of polygamy.

Here is a source for John Taylor's veracity: 

"We are accused here of polygamy,... and actions the most indelicate, obscene,  and disgusting, such that none but a corrupt and depraved heart could have  contrived. These things are too outrageous to admit of belief;... I shall  content myself by reading our views of chastity and marriage, from a work  published by us containing some of the articles of our Faith. 'Doctrine and  Covenants,' page 330... Inasmuch as this Church of Jesus 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 the case of death,..."' (tract published by John Taylor in  England, in 1850, page 8; published in "Orson Pratt's Works," 1851 edition).

 
At the time of Taylor's declaration, he had at least six wives back in the USA. 


For more on the Greek Psalter from MT: http://www.mormonthink.com/greekweb.htm


18. The prophets since Joseph, including the current one, would have the same prophetic abilities Joseph had. They would finish the translation of the Bible that Joseph started, and they would get answers from God for the many troubling issues members have about the history and doctrine of the Church like blacks and the priesthood or the Book of Abraham papyri translation problems.


Response

  • It is unclear why the authors assume all prophets should be identical in approach. The Bible itself demonstrates a wide variety of the nature of the prophetic office. Joseph Smith was establishing the Church. He therefore had to receive frequent, ongoing instruction in order to do so.
  • The authors appear to believe that a prophet should simply ask God to answer all of the tough questions in life. This was certainly not how Joseph operated:

Toward the end of his life [Joseph] told a Pittsburgh reporter that he could not always get a revelation when he needed one, but "he never gave anything to his people as revelation, unless it was revelation."

A significant part of one quote by J Smith to a Pittsburgh newspaper editor (David Nye White) was left out of the FAIR quote. Joseph Smith told David Nye White, senior editor of Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette on 28 August 1843 that when he was in a “quandary,” he asked the Lord for a revelation, and when he could not get it, he “followed the dictates of his own judgment, which were as good as a revelation to him.”(Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Volume 1, page 181).

This sounds like the feelings, hunches, intuition and imagination that all mortals use.

Smith also believed revelation consisted of “sudden strokes of ideas” that mingled with his thoughts. (Joseph Smith, 27 June 1839 discourse in History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B.H. Roberts, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978 printing), 3:381

Recall that scribes to J Smith admitted that the plates were not in view when he read from the peep stone.This appears to have set a precedent. God answers tough questions – all of them, including what to dictate to scribes. Many revelations were received in this way, or the way that J Smith described to David Nye White (his own judgment, which was as good as a revelation to him).

 In other words, his imagination or his guesswork is the engine that drove his revelations.  Most Mormons on any given Fast Sunday claim fervently (often in tears) that God does answer all the tough questions.

For more on the prophets since Joseph from MT:http://www.mormonthink.com/prophetsweb.htm


19. The temple endowment ceremony would not have come from the Masonry rituals that began in the Middle Ages.


Response

  • Joseph Smith's critics want to label him as an intellectual thief by claiming that he stole some of the ritual elements of Freemasonry in order to create the Nauvoo-era temple endowment ceremony. The greatest obstacles to this theory include the following facts:
  1. Joseph Smith claimed direct revelation from God regarding the Nauvoo-era endowment,

That’s hardly proof since Joseph claimed many things that can’t be verified such as the First Vision or historicity of the BOM.

  1. Joseph Smith knew a great deal about the Nauvoo-era endowment ceremony long before the Nauvoo period - and thus long before his entry into the Masonic fraternity, and

Joseph also knew about Masonry before Nauvoo as many of the LDS men that Joseph associated with, including his father and brother, were Masons and Masonry was commonly practiced where he lived.

  1. The Nauvoo-era temple endowment ceremony has numerous exacting parallels to the initiation ceremonies of ancient Israelite and early Christian kings and priests—parallels which cannot be found among Freemasons.

What evidence? Go to the link that FAIR provided to answer this question Temple endowment and Freemasonry, and you’ll see that there is no specific evidence given of the endowment ceremony performed in ancient Israel.

FAIR Masonry expert Greg Kearney admits on FAIR’s web site that the Masonry Rituals that resemble the LDS Temple Ceremony date from the 1700s and definitely were not used in Solomon's temple:

"Unfortunately, there is no historical evidence to support a continuous functioning line from Solomon's Temple to the present. We know what went on in Solomon's Temple; it's the ritualistic slaughter of animals.""The Message and the Messenger: Latter-day Saints and Freemasonry" by Greg Kearney
fairlds.org (scroll to the last page)


"Masonry, while claiming a root in antiquity, can only be reliably traced to mediaeval stone tradesmen."


"It is clear that Freemasonry and its traditions played a role in the development of the endowment ritual."
fairlds.org


Masonry cannot be traced beyond the mediaeval stone tradesmen, and it did not emerge from Solomon’s temple ceremonies. FAIR provides no evidence that the ancient Israelites and Christians practiced these ceremonies other than “because-we-say-so”.

FAIR did not provide any specific parallels on their website that we could examine. But even so, as noted above in our answer for Question #6, the use of parallels by the apologists (instead of just providing direct evidence for their claims) is a double-edged sword that works against the apologists in many circumstances, but FAIR does not recognize this, as they selectively pick and choose what parallels are meaningful and what parallels are coincidence.

For more on the Temple from MT:http://www.mormonthink.com/templeweb.htm


20. The temple endowment ceremony would be a spiritual, uplifting experience for everyone that went through it, and it probably would not be so secretive.


Response

  • The endowment is a spiritual, uplifting experience for those that go through it.

For some people it is uplifting, but many, many members have found the ceremony to be disturbing, especially those that went through the ceremony before 1990 when the death oaths and five points of fellowship were still performed.

  • What the web site authors are really saying here is that they would prefer that the endowment was different in some way. This is ironic, considering that the next criticism they offer is that the Church has changed the endowment ceremony over the years, and these changes have continued to keep the endowment in line with modern attitudes.

That’s true that MT would prefer the temple ceremony to be about Christ or something that inspires us to be better people. If one believes that the temple ceremony was revealed from God, even if it is not what we mere mortals would like, most reasonable people do not expect this divine ceremony to be changing significantly over the years. It begs the question: Who is really the author of temple ceremonies, mortals or God?

Older Latter-day Saints who experienced the temple before 1990 were told by church leaders that the ceremony was given to Joseph Smith by revelation, that it had never been changed, and that it would never BE changed. From August 2001 Ensign (page 22), in big bold print above a large colorful portrait of Joseph Smith:

"The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, '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.'"

The Church goes on to declare:

"It is this principle of consistent and unalterable requirements that gives true meaning to the performance of vicarious ordinances in the temple. The Prophet wrote that baptism for the dead and the recording of such baptisms conform to the ordinance and preparation that the Lord ordained and prepared before the foundation of the world, for the salvation of the dead who should die without a knowledge of the gospel."

"Through time and apostasy following Christ's Resurrection and Ascension, however, the divine authority of the priesthood and the sacred ordinances were changed or lost, and the associated covenants were broken. The Lord revealed His displeasure over this situation in these words: 'For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant; They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god.' This situation required a restoration of knowledge pertaining to the importance, significance, and appointed administration of sacred gospel ordinances, both live and vicarious, as well as the divine authority of the priesthood and priesthood keys to administer them."
- "Ordinances and Covenants", Ensign, August 2001, page 23

 

  • We consider temple ordinances to be very sacred in nature—we do not invite or encourage the public to make it a spectacle. Consider that the text of the endowment in its various forms has been published by critical sources for many years. Why, then, are members supposed to refrain from discussing it outside the temple? Because these things, whether or not the public mocks them openly, are sacred to Latter-day Saints. We make our covenants in the temple with God, not the general public. We honor those covenants even in the face of any mockery or criticism that we are attempting to keep "secrets."

 

The forced secrecy also has the benefit of keeping members from discussing the “strangeness” of the ceremony and possibly concluding that the ceremony really isn’t as divine as they were told it was, or how similar it is to Masonry.


21. The temple endowment ceremony would never have had...uncomfortable penalties, oath of vengeance, etc. would never have been in there either. If any of these things were really from God, then they'd still be in the ceremony now.


Response

  • NOTE: FAIR inserted the ellipsis in the quote above to avoid displaying temple content that was removed from the ceremony in the early 1990s. Although this particular content is no longer part of the temple ceremony, it was at the time many of us went through the temple. The covenants that we made with the Lord are still in force, and we will therefore not discuss such content in this forum.
  • The critic seems unwilling to accept that the endowment is a symbolic ordinance. As John A. Widtsoe of the Twelve noted:

We live in a world of symbols. No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand.

  • Symbols both give and are given meaning. As times and culture changes, the meaning and implication of symbols can also change. The purpose of the endowment is to teach the reality for which the symbols stand. Why is it therefore surprising that the symbolic means to teach those truths would be adjusted to suit the needs of a different time? Would the critics be any happier if archaic symbols that communicated the wrong message were left in place just because of 'tradition'—we suspect not. If so, that criticism would probably find its way onto a similar list as this one.

The ellipsis that FAIR inserted was for “the five points of fellowship in it, which came directly from the Masons, and has nothing at all to do with religion.”

FAIR said the reason they eliminated these words is that we “will not discuss such content in this forum.” This is silly since anyone can search for the “five points of fellowship” on FAIR’s own website, and that exact phrase is shown many times. So why is it reasonable to discuss this on the FAIR web site but not in response to MormonThink’s question?

The answer, of course, is that there is no good defense for why the five points of fellowship was ever in the temple ceremony to begin with for 150 years. Greg Kearney of FAIR openly discusses the five points of fellowship right on FAIR’s website:

“for instance, we used to have the Five Points of Fellowship--this is a direct Masonic thing.”http://www.fairmormon.org/FAIR_Conferences/2005_Latter-day_Saints_and_Freemasonry.html

Five points of Fellowship
> A Masonic tradition once used in the temple. Removed after 1990 as it had become meaningless to modern saints.  http://www.fairmormon.org/Misc/Similarities_between_Masonic_and_Mormon_Temple_Ritual.html


FAIR ducked the question by using the ellipses, but the question remains, why on earth would a purely Masonic ritual known as the five points of fellowship ever be part of the sacred temple ceremony to begin with?

FAIR said, “No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand”. So what do the symbols mean? They aren’t helpful if the people that go through the ceremony don’t know what the symbols even mean. Most LDS members that MT is acquainted with believe that they will have to present knowledge of the signs and tokens to gain entrance into heaven as Brigham Young taught .It doesn’t make much sense that members have to have perfect knowledge of the signs and tokens, if they are only symbols that most LDS don’t understand.

Until the LDS Church, in an official capacity, explains why these things were changed in the temple ceremony over the years, FAIR’s explanation is only unofficial, unauthorized conjecture. It is perhaps more likely that people were very disturbed by these parts of the ceremony, and the church changed them to appease the members (or prevent lawsuits), and not from revelation or changes in culture.

.


22. The Church would have always had the same, correct name since it was formed in 1830 and not changed four years later to a name that didn't even include Christ in the name. It would not have to change it again another four years later to yet another name.


Response

  • The only name for the Church established by revelation was the one mentioned in D&C 115:3. This is not to suggest that the members did not consider it the "Church of Christ," before and after the name change. Latter-day Saints have never held such ideas—they believe that God gives a fair amount of leeway to His children as they seek to learn and do His will. And, they remain confident that God will speak by revelation when necessary to ensure that His Church will not stray from His intentions.

If the church changed something as important and basic as its official name, and if they did so in error (without revelation), then that appears to reasonable people that the LDS leaders are not any more inspired than average humans. Since the name change took four years before they were ‘inspired’ to correct, it is also very troubling for these men to be called prophets, seers and revelators. It appears that the church is run by mortals with whatever administrative ability they happen to possess, just like most other institutions, organizations or corporations.

Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer also had a problem with the name change (emphasis added):

"In June, 1829, the Lord gave us the name by which we must call the church, being the same as he gave the Nephites. We obeyed His commandment, and called it the Church of Christ until 1834, when, through the influence of Sydney Rigdon, the name of the church was changed to `The Church of the Latter Day Saints,' dropping out the name of Christ entirely, that name which we were strictly commanded to call the church by, and which Christ by His own lips makes so plain" (Address to All Believers in Christ, pg. 73)

For more information on the name changes of the church from MT:http://www.mormonthink.com/nameweb.htm

 


23. Testimonies wouldn't have to override facts and conflict with science.


Response

  • Consider if such a statement were made in the 19th century. Many of the "facts" established by science at that time seem simplistic, misguided, or simply false in retrospect. Do the web site authors now consider all science and facts to be known?
  • Most informed members do not regard their testimonies in conflict with the "facts" or "science." Indeed, Church belief and activity has been shown to increase with the amount of secular education which someone receives—this pattern bucks the trend in most faiths, suggesting that there is something intellectually compelling and satisfying about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

All facts are not known, and this isn’t the 19th century.Science has taught us much in 200 years. We feel it’s important to know when established science dramatically conflicts with fundamental religious beliefs. For example, in the 19th century, Joseph Smith could have said that the Book of Abraham papyri meant anything he wanted because science couldn’t definitely say otherwise, but now science knows how to translate Egyptian. So it only makes sense to use this new-found knowledge to test the church’s extraordinary claims when possible. The church wouldn’t hesitate to use science if it would help its claims, would it?

Many members are simply not aware of the contradictions between science and what the church has taught. It’s only when members are informed of the many anachronisms in the BOM that this becomes a problem. For example, most members aren’t aware that the BOM mentions things that didn’t exist in BOM times in the Americas such as horses, elephants, wheat, barley, steel, silk, etc. Many members are not aware of the numerous impossibilities presented by the story of Noah and the Global Flood as taught by the church as a true account. The average member isn’t even aware that the Book of Abraham papyri has been found, and that Egyptologists (who can actually translate Egyptian) translate the papyri and facsimiles completely differently than Joseph did.

Even if a member realizes the problems encountered by science with the church, they will often listen to the gospel doctrine teacher (using the church-issued manual), who merely dismisses all problems with a wave of a hand by giving some ludicrous explanation such as how the dinosaur bones really came from another planet and not from life that existed here millions of years ago.

True believers may also cite research by some rogue scientist that supports the church, or worse still, be told that all they need to do is follow the prophet, even if he’s wrong (Ensign, July 1972, p. 98).

We only ask that members be informed of the problems related to the church’s conflicts with science that have been identified by respected scientists, and then they can make up their own minds as to how significant these problems are, as opposed to relying on a subjective testimony to supersede facts and ongoing scientific discovery.

For more information on conflicts with science from MT:http://www.mormonthink.com/scienceweb.htm


24. If testimonies are real, then everyone that prays about the Church or the Book of Mormon should get the same confirming answers.


Response

  • This misunderstands the LDS doctrine of seeking truth. The authors of the web site think that the search for spiritual truth should be a simple, one-step process of praying and waiting for the answer to come. Note the conditions that Moroni placed on his promise: Moroni 10:4

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, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

  • Prayer is only one part of the process. If an individual prays without having a sincere heart, or without real intent, or lacking faith in Christ, then they will get the answer that they are seeking—nothing. In other words, those who pray and expect not to receive an answer, will not receive an answer.
  • Moreover, how does the critic know what answer anyone else receives? Each person only has access to his own experience. How do we know others are truthful about their experiences? How do we know the critic is truthful about his/hers? We do not because we believe we cannot. We can only trust God and follow our own mind and heart—which is how it is intended to be. Truth is not discovered or declared by "majority rules."

Many people the world over have made known their experiences praying about the truthfulness of the LDS Church known. We have read countless stories of how there was either no confirmation given that the church was true, or in many cases a strong feeling that the church was a deception. Also, the contributors to the MT site have all prayed about whether or not the church is true, and none of us received any sort of confirming answer. Also as missionaries, we all had investigators that took the discussions, read the BOM and did not join the church because they said that they didn’t get a confirmation from God that it is true. These people wanted to know if it was true. They were sincere. We were sincere.

FAIR asked “How do we know others are truthful about their experiences? How do we know the critic is truthful about his/hers?” Please note that warm fuzzy feelings do not define truth. Given the very high inactivity rate, it doesn’t sound like the majority of members have solid testimonies anyway. All I can say is that speaking for myself, I prayed earnestly daily for 5 years every night after finding out about the true history of the church and asked the questions; ‘Is the church true?’, ‘Was Joseph a prophet’, ‘Is the BOM an actual true account of peoples that lived somewhere in the Americas thousands of years ago’? I never received any answers at all that would indicate the church was true. I implore all sincere truthseekers to use prayer also and try to get definitive, positive answers to those questions.

And of course, if we accept that some members do get answers in the affirmative about the LDS Church being true, then how do we account for members of other religions that get similar answers about their religions? Is it not arrogant to say that my testimony is real, but yours must be false? And the vast majority of humans on earth disagree with Mormons on that point.

For more information on testimonies from MT: http://www.mormonthink.com/testimonyweb.htm


25. The true church would be the most honest of organizations. It would never publish artwork or articles in its official magazines that mislead readers as to how the Book of Mormon was translated, or that Joseph was alone when Moroni visited him. It wouldn't sugarcoat its history. The true church would be totally open and disclose what the leaders get paid (even public corporations do that). They would publish their financial statements and budgets as do many other churches. The true church would teach everything honestly and lead by example. It would not change the wording in its lesson manuals to act as if Joseph Smith and Brigham Young only had one wife each. You should never have to worry that there is another side of its history not taught by the church itself.


Response

  • Artists, whether they be members of the Church or not, do not set out to mislead those who view their work. Art is the interpretation of the individual artist. The fact that the Church chooses to use the works of individual artists that may not be accurate as to historical details does not mean that the Church is attempting to be dishonest.
  • With regard to "Church art" leading people to believe that Joseph was alone during Moroni's visit, we refer the reader to the August 2009 Ensign, page 54, which shows a depiction of Moroni's visit by artist Liz Lemmon Swindle ("He Spoke My Name"). The painting clearly shows three of Joseph's siblings asleep in bed beside him as he listens to Moroni.

These pictures are used as teaching aids by instructors within the church to teach historic and doctrinal truths to the members. The vast majority of LDS members believe Joseph translated the BOM using the Urim and Thummim in conjunction with the gold plates. Most of them believe that by looking at these kinds of pictures published by the church. So why not make these teaching aids accurate – unless the church has something it wishes to hide from the common member?

And as stated in our answer to Question 2, as soon as MT members learned of the just-released August 2009 issue, MT published the painting depicted in the Ensign and updated the section accordingly in that very month. http://www.mormonthink.com/moroniweb.htm#update

  • The site states that "even public corporations" disclose what their leaders get paid. Public corporations are required to provide such information to their stockholders—private organizations are not.
  • It is unclear why the authors believe the Church should disclose all financial information. It would be useful to know the motivation behind the request.

We know it is not required by the church, but many churches are very up front about their finances, and we feel that financial disclosure is a Christ like quality of trustworthiness that is to be admired and aspired to. As members, we are of course, required to essentially disclose our income during tithing settlement (it doesn’t take a genius to calculate income from a 10 percent tithing payment), so why should not the church as an entity do the same and lead by example?

Simply put, we would expect the one, true church to be more honest and forthcoming about its money than churches that are not ‘as true’. Suppose we had two churches; the first church was completely open about how much money it has, where it spends its money and how much its clergy are paid. Then we have the second church where they are very secretive about their money, no one is told how much money they have or what exactly they spend it on, and no one has any idea how much their leaders are paid. So which church sounds like it is God's true church? By their fruits ye shall know them.

  • The constant accusations of dishonesty lead us to ask the question: Where do the critics think that this dishonesty is introduced? At the bishopric level? At the stake level? At the regional level? In the Quorum of the Twelve? It is difficult to imagine how a church which is operated primarily through lay leadership could institutionalize dishonesty in the manner in which the critics claim.

Most local leaders and missionaries merely pass on what they were taught, so they are blameless. And it’s possible that even at the highest levels that, many of the top brethren do not know about the true Mormon history or are not interested in knowing details about potential problems. Of course it is a little disconcerting to think that the FAIR apologists know more about the true nature of the church than the prophet and apostles. But certainly some of the top men know about these issues, such as Brother Nelson’s acknowledgement of the ‘stone in the hat’ or Brother Oak’s admission that Joseph lied about polygamy.

More to the point, the dishonesty begins at the highest levels. When members and Church Education System teachers and administrators are told not to teach an objective account of the church history, that some truths aren’t very useful, that’s an order to withhold vital information and practice unethical behavior – by ignoring full disclosure. This is patently dishonest.

The brethren certainly know that historians have problems with the history of the church. We can’t believe that the top leadership is unaware of the contents of the PBS Special, which detailed a few of the problems. So they must know about some of the problems at a minimum. So why don’t they address these issues that cause many thousands of members to leave the church every year? Instead, they actively encourage members to ignore historical issues and avoid reading objective histories, which they label as “anti-Mormon”.

Information is not clearly communicated to the members when it is known by the leadership of the church. Members still look at the numerous pictures of Joseph translating the BOM, using the plates, that continue to be published every year as accurate, and not a lone paragraph buried in an obscure church magazine article written over 20 years ago that gives a different method. If members are going to get their information from these sources, and use them as teaching aids no less, there is no reason that the church, with its vast resources, shouldn’t make a stronger effort to have the articles and depictions be reasonably accurate and consistent.

  • Regarding the accusation that lesson manuals ought to discuss polygamy, the most accurate response can be found in the 2008-2009 lesson manual Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007), pages vii–xiii:

Teachings for Our Day This book deals with teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith that have application to our day. For example, this book does not discuss such topics as the Prophet’s teachings regarding the law of consecration as applied to stewardship of property. The Lord withdrew this law from the Church because the Saints were not prepared to live it (see D&C 119, section heading). This book also does not discuss plural marriage. The doctrines and principles relating to plural marriage were revealed to Joseph Smith as early as 1831. The Prophet taught the doctrine of plural marriage, and a number of such marriages were performed during his lifetime. Over the next several decades, under the direction of the Church Presidents who succeeded Joseph Smith, a significant number of Church members entered into plural marriages. In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto, which discontinued plural marriage in the Church (see Official Declaration 1). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer practices plural marriage.

Well first of all, that 2nd to last statement isn’t even true: “In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto, which discontinued plural marriage in the Church”. Michael Quinn extensively researched this and found hundreds of examples of post-manifesto polygamous marriages performed by even the apostles themselves, so it clearly did not ‘discontinue plural marriage’.

From LDS researcher Todd Compton:

News of post-Manifesto plural marriages inevitably leaked out, and when Reed Smoot was voted into the Senate in 1904, he was not allowed to sit without hearings examining the LDS church's commitment to stopping polygamy entirely. These hearings were a considerable embarrassment to church leaders.Under great pressure, Joseph F. Smith released what is known as the "Second Manifesto" in 1904.

It was because of the embarrassing revelations of "new polygamy" in the Reed Smoot hearings (1904-06) that church leaders ceased authorizing new plural marriages. President Joseph F. Smith issued a "second manifesto" to let clandestine polygamists know that church leaders meant business this time (as opposed to Woodruff's 1890 manifesto, which critics say was merely a ruse to deceive the government.)

In fact on FAIR’s website http://en.fairmormon.org/Polygamy_after_the_Manifesto, FAIR admits that marriages took place after the 1890 manifesto:“It is estimated that fewer than two hundred plural marriages were sanctioned between 1890 and 1904.”

To read more of the post-manifesto polygamy:http://www.mormonthink.com/polyweb.htm#1890

Quinn's essay on post-manifesto polygamy can be found at: http://www.lds-mormon.com/quinn_polygamy.shtml

To the second point
The disclaimer in the lesson manual cited by FAIR does not say that the church took liberties with the actual historical accounts, and edited them by changing actual historical text to say ‘wife’ instead of ‘wives’ for example, which misleads the readers to believe that the early leaders of the church only had one wife each.

These actions sound like an organization that is trying to be deceptive. We feel that the one, true church should be held to at least as high a standard as that required of its members, e.g. to enter the temple we must formally answer that we have been honest in all our dealings. It would be interesting to see how the church as an entity would answer the temple recommend honesty question if asked.

 

CONCLUSION

Evaluating a brief summary list of 25 items mentioned without any supporting detail allowed by MT is hardly fair. But even so, we have responded on our web site to your comments about these 25 items. Show how fair you are by linking to our rebuttal on your site, the way we link to you and FAIR’s review of MormonThink.

MormonThink welcomes the opinions and theories that FAIR offers as evidenced by the numerous links that MT has to FAIR as well as to other pro-LDS web sites. Yet FAIR does not link to MT or to any of the critics’ sites so how can FAIR really be fair?

An important difference between FAIR and MT is that we aren't trying to hide either side's viewpoints in any way.

We at MormonThink.com want everyone to look at ALL of the credible information out there by all sides, even if we don't agree with it – critics, LDS apologists, average members, official LDS sites, etc.  But the people at FAIR only want you to only look at their information. We ask the readers out there, who do you think is dealing more fairly with you? Who has something that they don't want you to see – the people that link to sites on both sides of the debate so you can see all the evidence and lets each side argue the strongest for their viewpoint OR the site that frames problems the way they wish to answer them and provides no links to the other side for rebuttals?

FAIR would probably say that they adequately discuss the issues from their viewpoint. An analogy: If you were involved in a court case and the opposing lawyer said that you don't need a lawyer, that instead he would fairly state your case and then argue against it, would you do it? -  of course not. Only a lawyer working for you would present the strongest arguments for your side.

Also, FAIR and FARMS (and most other apologetic web sites) often only show part of the problem, and the average member would also then think that all of the issues have been covered in a given topic, but in reality only the issues that they choose to bring up are discussed. Also, since the apologist sites only present a sentence or two of the criticism they are defending, there is no way for the reader to view all the supporting documentation that the critics may have. FAIR, why won’t you simply let the critics, or at least MormonThink, explain the problem with a link to their sites and then you can argue against them? To do otherwise isn’t really fair, FAIR.

scales3


Related Link by Dr. Shades: Inside the minds of LDS apologists