Skeptical about the NYT’s Mormon skeptic piece

We joke about having guilt files here at GetReligion — folders full of stories that we’d like to look at and analyze but don’t get around to for one reason or another. I have one from May of last year headlined “Mormons struggling with doubt turn to online support groups.” I thought it such an intriguing topic and one handled well by focusing on a particular expression of doubt in a single religious community.

Doubt is a topic explored much more within religious communities than most people realize, and is seriously undercovered — or poorly covered — by the media.

I thought of that 2012 story today because we have another story along the same lines, this time in the New York Times, and headlined “Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt.”

There is much to commend about the story and I encourage everyone to give it a read. I also will pass along some reader questions:

In the small but cohesive Mormon community where he grew up, Hans Mattsson was a solid believer and a pillar of the church. He followed his father and grandfather into church leadership and finally became an “area authority” overseeing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout Europe.

When fellow believers in Sweden first began coming to him with information from the Internet that contradicted the church’s history and teachings, he dismissed it as “anti-Mormon propaganda,” the whisperings of Lucifer. He asked his superiors for help in responding to the members’ doubts, and when they seemed to only sidestep the questions, Mr. Mattsson began his own investigation.

But when he discovered credible evidence that the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, was a polygamist and that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures were rife with historical anomalies, Mr. Mattsson said he felt that the foundation on which he had built his life began to crumble.

I grew up in Mormon areas and have Mormon family members and ex-Mormon family and friends — the way this was worded struck me as slightly weird. Namely, while it’s true that polygamy might be more formally associated with Brigham Young, everyone is taught that Joseph Smith introduced the principle of polygamy. I’m not sure how much people get into how much he practiced his own teaching, but for those of us with some knowledge of LDS teaching on the matter, the idea that it would be foundation-crumbling to learn he practiced what he taught is — weird.

The story includes the explosive claim that “the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith.” The basis for the claim? We get a story built around one doubter, a vague reference to “interviews” and, uh, an internet poll. More on that in a little bit.

The story suffers from a general problem of not seeming to understand at all how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized. Namely, there is no “priestcraft,” which is sort of a derogatory term for traditional clergy. It’s proudly lay run. If you are a Mormon for any length of time, you will almost assuredly hold some type of leadership position. This is considered a feature, not a bug, of how the church is organized. We learn that Mattsson became an area authority but I’d like to know a little bit more about what that means. Is it paid? Is it organizational? We hear it involved organization and preaching, but for the context of the story — which hinges on this person being uniquely responsible for rocking the foundations of the LDS from within — I think the reader could be helped along with a bit more specificity.

The story does get specific about what questions resonate with the doubters including whether it’s “true that Smith took dozens of wives, some as young as 14 and some already wed to other Mormon leaders, to the great pain of his first wife, Emma?”

We’re told that Mattsson found the last question shocking. Presumably the shock of the question is related to wives being wed to other Mormon leaders and to the pain it caused his first wife rather than the polygamy itself. Or is that right? I don’t know. Later we hear from Richard Lyman Bushman, a Columbia University historian and Mormon. We’re told that his book “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling” set off Mattsson.

The story doesn’t mention something that is noteworthy — the book is sold by Deseret Book Company — a Mormon company. Not just a Mormon company but a huge Mormon-owned bookstore chain.

For what it’s worth, Bushman is quoted saying that many Mormons don’t think Smith practiced polygamy.

We got much reader feedback on this story but I’ll go ahead and quote from a media professional who had some questions about the story. This person’s family almost became Mormon and he has negative views about Mormon teachings. But he had even more negative views about the story.

Here are his slightly edited questions “upon reflection”:

Why is this guy all that important? The reporter writes that his experience “is a sign that the church faces serious challenges not just from outside but also from skeptics inside,” and then presents no data for that assertion at all — except a quote from a guy who says this is the equivalent of a Catholic Cardinal’s apostasy (which, if you know how many “bishops” there are in Mormonism, isn’t so), plus a “survey of more than 3,300 Mormon disbelievers, released last year.”

But wait a second — that survey was an online survey posted to various websites and ENTIRELY self-reported. Heck, it even says under methodology, “we make no claim of representativeness or statistical significance in the sample” — oh, and better yet, “302 respondents were removed due to incomplete data or because they answered ‘yes’ to still believing that the Church was ‘the only true and living church.’” Oh. So people who don’t believe in Mormonism and want to talk about it are against Mormonism? Hey that’s some awesome journalism.

Again, I’d like to know a bit more about this area authority position before seeing how weird the cardinal comparison is but I’d agree that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or the Quorums of the Seventy might be the more apt comparisons within the LDS. It’s hard to say without more information.

The correspondent wonders why the media are more interested in some skeptics over others (e.g. Islamic skeptics, atheists, etc.). As a frequent skeptic and fan of learning about other skeptics, I think that’s a great point. It can be overdone but if stories on skeptics are good, go ahead and report on all kinds.

More:

And this passage buried deep within the story — seriously, a) doesn’t it contradict the thesis of the piece, and b) couldn’t it as easily have been the lede?

“In the last 10 or 15 years, he said, ‘the church has come to realize that transparency and candor and historical accuracy are really the only way to go.’ The church has released seven volumes of the papers of Joseph Smith and published an essay on one of the most shameful events in church history, the Mountain Meadows massacre, in which church leaders plotted the slaughter of people in a wagon train in 1857.”

The reporter’s followup assertion is just baffling: “But the church has not actively disseminated most of these documents …” What … what does that mean? What’s the standard for active dissemination? They’re being open and honest in secret?

What I find interesting about this particular reader’s comments is that he opposes Mormon teaching, was hoping for a good piece on Mormon doubt and yet still thinks it “looks like a random-ish hit piece.”

What do you think about the journalism of this piece? What was good about it? What could be improved?

Image of skeptical woman via Shutterstock.

  • Thinkling

    I saw a link to this from Bob Smeita’s [sp?] Twitter feed, coming from him I expected a well written piece. I too was disappointed, there was not much “there” there.

    I suppose that Mommons might be more disturbed about the type of incidents in the story, but to me it seems like just some embarrassing dirty laundry. The hypothetical about the cardinal supported my thought that this is more problematic for Mormanism (there are cardinals who have recently spoken out against their own teachings…their biggest audiences are not fellow catholics but rather secular anti-catholics, the former roll their eyes). A journalistic point here is there is not much reporting on why this is more than just embarrassing or awkward.

    • wlinden

      Cardinals have spoken out against their OWN teachings? MPS rampant in the College?

    • Darren Blair

      Sadly, ever since Romney became a serious candidate for president, some media outlets have basically taken to making stuff up if it means brow-beating us Mormons.

      If you don’t believe me, consider the tacky “What Would You Do?” episode set in Utah. Most of the skits sought to prove that the negative stereotypes about the church are true, but only two or three people on the entire show responded “according to script”; everyone else poked holes in the stereotypes. The show actually went so far as to stage a fake “abusive husband tears into his timid wife” scenario right in the middle of a packed small-town diner; not only did several patrons offer to help the “wife” in their own way, one man very nearly hauled the “husband” off into the parking lot for what would have been a brawl.

      • bytebear

        It would be interesting if Harry Reid ran for president. Do you think the media would highlight his Mormonism, or simply say religion is off limits as they did with Obama.

        • Darren Blair

          Pretty much.

  • Guest

    Mollie,

    Mattsson was an Area Seventy. He published a short personal essay in the December 2004 Ensign (see here https://www.lds.org/ensign/2004/12/book-of-mormon-principles-how-could-i-testify?lang=eng) where it reaffirms his position as “Area Authority Seventy Europe Central Area”.

    However, you are right to question the analogy of a Cardinal losing faith. I punched in the numbers into excel to see the leadership to laity ratios to see if it is a comparable comparison. It turns out that for ever 1 area authority there are almost 64,000 lay members. However, for every 1 Cardinal there are almost 6.4 million lay catholics. Basically a Catholic Bishop represents 100x the lay members as does a area authority.

    Comparing different positions from different churches is somewhat comparing apples to oranges though. However, Cardinals are much more rare and prestigious in the Catholic church then Area Seventies are in the LDS church. It is not a very good analogy.

    To see the results of my work see here (https://app.box.com/s/eo3yr6gjab1zpn07tnzu)

    • anon

      I was bored, so I thought I’d do my own comparison, bear in mind some of the numbers aren’t exact, but they should be close enough. There are 232 area seventies, according to wikipedia, plus the first and second quorums suggests there are about 330 seventies in the church. There are 29000 wards, or about one seventy per 88 wards.
      Now, the catholic church. There are 221000 parishes worldwide, and approximatel 2900 cardinals, or on cardinal for every 76 parishes.

      Seems like the comparison, as far as church organization goes, is spot on. Probably due to the large number of cultural, “non practicing” catholics, who, although I’m sure they would respect a cardinal, have never met one. On the other hand, most mormon’s will hear are seventies speak during at least four different conferences yearly.

      • Lynden Jensen

        Anon,

        While my numbers for Seventies are almost the exact same as yours, I believe you made a mistake in your count of Cardinals. Doing a quick search “2,900 cardinals” I believe I found your source on the Wiki page “size of the College of Cardinals”:

        “From 1099 to 1986, the total number of cardinals was approximately 2,900″

        This number is a cumulative from 1099-1986. Most estimates of current cardinals center around 200.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_living_cardinals)

        This would adjust your calculations to:
        1 Seventy for every 89 Wards
        1 Cardinal for every 1,096 parishes

        ———————

        As an important note, in my calculations I made a distinction between General Authority 70′s and Area Authority 70′s. This make Area 70′s more rare (as you are segregating them) but also lower down on the hierarchy.

        Area 70′s are much less known than GA 70′s and very few get to speak in general conferences. They don’t get their pictures published twice a year or received much media attention. They are very present in the area they reside but virtually no one else knows of them (at least that has been my experience with the A-70′s i’m aware of.

        You have a good point about inactivity. Due to the way the Catholic church handles it’s membership it makes it more sticky. When I first made this I considered accounting for it, but I decided to just keep it simple.

        My link above doesn’t seem to be working so I have another down here. I updated it a little. The spreadsheet is available to anyone who wants it, just ask. As far as 70′s — I factored them pooled and separate for whichever way you prefer.

        https://app.box.com/s/fuha5pddojkb6sfvgp8w

        • bytebear

          It’s also important to note that the first quorum of GA 70s (about 50 people) are full time clergy. All others are temporary positions, and they are simply released. I believe the article called him “emeritus” meaning retired, but they don’t actually retire, but are released from service after a number of years (5-10).

  • Lynden Jensen

    Mollie,

    Mattsson was an Area Seventy. He published a short personal essay in the December 2004 Ensign (see here https://www.lds.org/ensign/200… where it reaffirms his position as “Area Authority Seventy Europe Central Area”.

    However, you are right to question the analogy of a Cardinal losing faith. I punched in the numbers into excel to see the leadership to laity ratios to see if it is a comparable comparison. It turns out that for ever 1 area authority there are almost 64,000 lay members. However, for every 1 Cardinal there are almost 6.4 million lay catholics. Basically a Catholic Bishop represents 100x the lay members as does a area authority.

    Comparing different positions from different churches is somewhat comparing apples to oranges though. However, Cardinals are much more rare and prestigious in the Catholic church then Area Seventies are in the LDS church. It is not a very good analogy.

    To see the results of my work see here (https://app.box.com/files/0/f/46130666/1/f_9332991248)

  • Eric83

    As someone who’s both an active Mormon and former journalist, I can find more positive to say about the article than negative, but you’ve raised most of the things I would criticize about the article.

    I’d also add a few other random points:

    1. The sort of issues that are raised in the story are discussed constantly in various online blogs and forums frequented by people connected to the church. If you look at online discussions, you might think that these are hot topics that are roiling the church. But I’m not sure how much they are topics in the offline world. For better or worse, they are barely talked about in church settings, although details about some of them (such as Joseph Smith looking into a hat when translating the Book of Mormon) have been noted in church publications.

    2. The article suggests that the LDS church is facing unique disaffection problems because of its troublesome, relatively recent history. But my observation has been that whatever the church’s disaffection problems are, particularly among young adults, they aren’t all that much different than what evangelical Protestant churches, which don’t have the same history but do have many of the same values, are facing. I suspect that history is less of a problem for the LDS church these days than are the changing societal sexual mores and growing secularism that are also affecting evangelical denominations.

    3. It just seems weird in 2013 to have an article that focuses so much on something that happened in 2010. Why now, I have to wonder.

    4. Being an area authority is kind of a big deal. It certainly is interesting that a former one of them (although he hasn’t been since 2005) has become skeptical (although apparently still a participating church member), but that hardly seems significant enough to suggest some kind of a trend.

    5. The article has a too many weasel words and phrases. Among them: “a wave of doubt,” “some members,” “many said” and “others said.”

    6. Finally, the statement that “church leaders” plotted the Mountain Meadows Massacre is a bit misleading. The plotters were local leaders only.

    • Darren Blair

      About Mountain Meadows –

      In 1977, a writer named Norman F. Furniss published a book entitled “The Mormon Conflict: 1850 – 1858″, which talks about the period in Utah history that led up to Johnston’s Folly. (Half.com link: http://product.half.ebay.com/The-Mormon-Conflict-1850-1859-by-Norman-F-Furniss-1977-Hardcover-Reprint/4548926&tg=info .)

      Furniss’ research indicated that the local militia members who participated in the massacre were acting in part out of a misplaced desire for revenge for anti-Mormon persecutions in Missouri and Arkansas that was exaggerated by the panic over the impending arrival of Johnston’s Army. In that sense, Mountain Meadows was more akin to My Lai or the Boston Massacre in that it was the result of discipline among an armed military unit breaking down under extreme stress, causing them to lash out at the nearest perceived target.

      Young actually had no knowledge of what the militia was planning, and actually sent orders that the militia should stand down; he was aware that the Paiutes had a legitimate grievance against the Franchers, but didn’t want anyone from the church to get involved. Sadly, Young’s orders arrived a full day too late.

      Outside of Furniss’ work, it’s been shockingly rare for me to encounter a non-Mormon history of the incident that addresses either fact.

  • LetoII

    I thought it interesting that the internet was a key part of the story–how it makes all these pieces of Mormon history easily available to anyone. Has that affected this religion’s membership in an adverse way? Or is this an isolated case?

    The claims being talked about online (DNA evidence, steel not being available in ancient America, etc.) have been around for many years. I am Mormon myself, and I heard all the same things all throughout high school in the 1990s. In those days these arguments existed mostly in book and article form. Is the story suggesting that the internet plays a bigger role in Mormons losing their faith? Is it suggesting that this is a major problem in the church today?

    Are any Mormons using the internet and these new online resources to strengthen their faith? The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship has got hundreds, thousands of scholarly, peer-reviewed essays that address all the concerns mentioned in the article.

    The whole piece kind of had this feeling of just saying, “Hey, look at this Mormon official who has doubts because of these topics he researched! Allow us to tell you about what the topics were…” I went in thinking to myself “Wow if this guy was an important leader in the church he must have discovered something pretty major to shake his faith.” But it turned out to be the same stuff people have been saying for years. I grew up in the church and I was taught about polygamy as I learned the church’s history in Sunday School. There are many Mormon apologists and historians who have happily explained the church’s side of these issues for a long time.

    I guess what I’m getting at is if this was a story about how the internet has shaped how religious people have questioned their faith, then I would have liked more on that topic. But as it is, I don’t know what is newsworthy about a Mormon man having doubts after visiting anti-Mormon web sites.

    • John C. Perry

      The internet makes it a lot harder to hand wave the concerns away as mere lies or inaccuracies …. it makes it possible to quickly validate for example that yes indeed, Joseph Smith did have 14 wives, and what ages and married to what other men at the time. Most normal members had no way to do such validation before – definitely not without spending impossible amounts of time … so YES, the internet is making a huge difference.

      • Rathje

        Naw, what the Internet does is provide incompetent people with the illusion that they are informed. And then allows them to make stupid decisions and pretend they are informed ones.

        We call this an “information age” but it’s only an “information age” in the sense that more people than ever have shallow, inadequate and superficial knowledge of more topics than ever before in history.

        It’s the “I found it on wikipedia” disease.

        • LetoII

          Huge, huge AMEN to this. This is exactly why good journalism is so important today.

      • Darren Blair

        It’s my understanding that the exact number of wives is in dispute due to the fact that some of the purported “wives” weren’t sealed to him until after his death.

        Furthermore, I also understand that for at least some of the wives, they were more “marriages of convenience” than anything overtly sexual.

        • Krell Jans

          There is no evidence that any of his marriages in life were platonic in nature, and much evidence to suggest they were sexual.

          • Darren Blair

            Mind citing your sources on the matter?

            I ask as, according to Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_Latter_Day_Saint_polygamy#Smith.27s_alleged_children – there is currently no evidence to indicate that he had children with anyone other than Emma.

          • Krell Jans

            As a self-described apologist, I’m surprised you aren’t aware of the many affidavits of his plural wives saying that they slept with him.

            The children issue is not evidence that the marriages were platonic, any more than Bill Clinton’s lack of children with Monica L. is evidence that their relationship was platonic.

            There is actually good historical evidence that Smith impregnated some of his wives. LDS apologist and scholar Don Bradley discusses some of this evidence here:

            http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/50479-dating-fanny-alger/page__st__40

            and here:

            http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/60966-wrestling-with-polyandry/page__st__120#entry1209265207

            And let us not forget that marriage implies a sexual relationship, and is prima facie evidence of the same.

          • Rathje

            Unfortunately for critics there is next to no evidence he ever consumated any of the “most controversial” marriages however.

          • Krell Jans

            There is a great deal of evidence that the marriages were sexual (like other 19th century polygamous Mormon marriages) – even your apologist Don Bradly admits as much.

            You may continue to plug your ears and pretend their is no evidence, but you cannot make it go away.

          • Rathje

            What evidence? Helen Mar Kimball wasn’t one of those testimonials you mentioned. And there is no good evidence she ever did consummate the marriage with Joseph. Same deal with the women who were already married.

            You’re being rather vague here in which marriages you are talking about. Is that on purpose I wonder…

          • Krell Jans

            The evidence that Helen’s marriage was consummated is the fact that she married Joseph. That alone is a check in the “evidence for” category. There is nothing to contradict it.

          • Darren Blair

            ………

            So you’re saying that your argument ultimately rests upon “He married them, so he must have had sex with them”?

            That’s flimsier than single-ply toilet tissue.

          • Krell Jans

            That is the prima facie evidence, and it’s not flimsy. But the evidence goes a great deal further than that, and your misrepresentation of my argument does not do you credit.

          • Darren Blair

            It’s already been confirmed that the marriage to Fanny Alger was a “marriage of convenience” to hide the fact that she was a girl in trouble, so that right there pokes a hole in your hypothesis.

          • Krell Jans

            Actually what the evidence suggests is that Fanny was impregnated by Joseph. The baby either miscarried or was aborted.

          • Darren Blair

            [citation needed]

          • bytebear

            The affidavits are interesting. They were coerced by church leaders when they were claiming ownership of the church’s resources in the East that were owned by Emma Smith (and later the RLDS church). Brigham Young had to show that Joseph Smith’s heirs and “wives” also had such a claim on Emma’s property. Emma was not a fan of Young for good reason. And Young lost the case, which is why the RLDS (Community of Christ) to this day owns the Kirtland temple.

          • Krell Jans

            It’s kind of sad that apologists have to throw Joseph’s wives under the bus as liars, when we have Joseph himself on the record lying about his polygamous relationships.

            The nature of the “marriages” sadly was almost entirely sexual. He certainly didn’t provide for any of his wives. In one case he actually spent the inheritance of one of his young wives, who was an orphan and who was under his care.

            The challenge for apologists is to provide some evidence that these polygamous and polyandrous marriages consisted of anything at all besides the sex. Because as it stands they less resemble real marriages and more resemble, to use the colloquial term, “f*** buddies”

          • bytebear

            References please…

          • bytebear

            Actually the opposite is true. DNA has proven that bloodlines from Smith’s supposed children were not his. The whole Fanny Alger story completely falls apart on this fact.

          • SallyTomato

            Josephine Rosetta Lyon Fisher was Joseph Smith’s daughter by a polyandrous wife, one Sylvia Porter Sessions Lyon. Josephine left an affidavit attesting to this fact.
            “Just prior to my mothers death in 1882 she called me to her bedside and told me that her days on earth were about numbered and before she passed away from mortality she desired to tell me something she had kept as an entire secret from me and from all others but which she now desired to communicate to me. She then told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband, Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the church.”
            When one looks at the photo of Josephine there is no doubt that her Daddy is Joseph Smith, Jr.
            The family history library in SLC lists Josephine’s father as one Joseph Smith, Jr. It was very important to the Utah Mormons that the Emma Mormons know that Joseph did have off-spring living in Utah.

          • bytebear

            Interesting that DNA testing doesn’t quite jibe, and that Josephine has no actual proof of this death bed confession. The Family History Library is updated by users and it’s quite likely that she was sealed to Smith as a daughter, since it was very common at the time to be sealed to Smith (even men sealed as brothers), although it makes sense for Brigham Young to bolster Utah Mormons as heirs to Smith’s legacy since they were fighting the RLDS church for Smith’s Eastern assets.

  • Darren Blair

    As an active Mormon who has spent over a decade doing apologetics work?

    I’ll have to look at the full article later, but from what you’ve cited the author has apparently missed a major detail that affects the story.

    As noted in the “Mosser-Owen Report” of about 15+ years ago (http://www.cometozarahemla.org/others/mosser-owen.html ) and confirmed by apologists such as myself, many critics of the LDS faith – like many reporters in news rooms across the nation – are in such a hurry to get out the latest “argument” and / or generate hype for their “ministries” that they don’t always fact-check their work. In a few instances, we’ll see critics of the church pull a “Jayson Blair” and simply make things up.

    The result is that there is a large body of “critical” material that sounds convincing at first glance but which falls apart upon closer examination.

    For example, consider the infamous Bloomberg Businessweek article about the church’s business holdings. It answered the “who”, “what”, and “where” of the matter, in the process making it seem that the church was a sinister conglomerate that was only in it for the money. Thing is, the article failed to answer the “why”, “when”, and “how”. What Bloomberg failed to mention is that the church established these businesses to either meet a need within the church (such as Bonneville Communications being established to help the church broadcast the bi-annual General Conference and other important meetings) or meet a need within the general community (the name ZCMI stood for “Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile, Incorporated”). In that sense, the church’s decision to purchase the City Creek Mall and several blocks around it makes perfect sense: the church was investing money in order to help stop blight in downtown Salt Lake City.

    In order to deal with such misinformation, about 20+ years ago we Mormons basically began crowd-sourcing with one another in order to develop websites and community forums where people could share research into critical claims, thereby establishing repositories of information and debate techniques for use whenever people are challenged with criticisms and counter-cult operatives.

    In that sense, what the article talks about isn’t all that surprising to anyone who’s been around for a while.

    • LetoII

      I had the same thought about the less-than-surprising nature of the claims in this article. It’s sad that this man lost his faith over these facts, but with just a little more digging the guy (and the reporter) would have seen that there are indeed many communities of Mormons out there (online!) who have addressed all the issues at hand.

      • Darren Blair

        For example, one argument was the “papyrus” argument.

        It’s my understanding that contemporary accounts of Joseph working with the papyrus indicate that what was ultimately recovered is merely a fraction of what JS originally purchased; it’s entirely plausible that the text comes from a portion that was lost in the Great Chicago Fire.

        • Ritualistic

          Is that really the best justification for the fact that the facsimiles currently printed in every edition of the LDS scriptures do not at all mean what Joseph Smith said they meant? No fire got to those, since they are direct copies that have been re-printed. The ‘translations’ given by Smith for the facsimiles are also printed in each edition, with corresponding explanations for specific figures and characters found in the illustration. Thanks to the Rosetta Stone, and other discoveries we can now truly translate ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, and we know Smith’s interpretations to be completely false. Why is it that LDS apologetic linguists and egyptologists out of BYU seem to be defending this?

          • Darren Blair

            For the facsimilies, that’s a matter of faith.

          • Krell Jans

            It’s not a matter of faith, any more than it would be a matter of faith to think that the French version of The Plague can reasonably be translated into a Tom Clancy novel

          • Rathje

            Actually this criticism has been adequately met and answered on several different levels.

            One analysis of the facsimiles simply points out that the pictograms were likely just an ancient cut-and-paste job where an ancient Canaanite scribe saw some Egyptian pictures, thought they looked neat, and decided to paste them into his own written account telling the story of Abraham. This sort of cut-and-paste has happened before in the ancient world, and was actually rather common.

            In which case, the Egyptological interpretation of the facsimiles is actually irrelevant – because it wasn’t an Egyptian using them. It was a Canaanite, telling a Canaanite story.

            There are also other answers to the facsimile issue that make this far from a slam-dunk for critics.

          • Ritualistic

            That does not change the fact that Joseph “translated” them completely wrong. If he was truly translating and was truly inspired, than it’s reasonable to assume that the translation would be correct. Or at least close to correct. It’s neither.

            It seems quite convenient that Mormon Apologists are quick to dismiss criticisms of JS that are based on actual source documents that he translated, but are willing to assume that all the stuff he “translated” that we don’t have source documents for are 100% correct and accurate. Its like saying that my Grandfather translated a document from Japanese to english, but nobody who actually speaks Japanese agrees with the translation at all. Should I still believe that my Grandfather could accurately translate Japanese, even when all the evidence points the other way?

            At some point, the excuses and mental hoops to jump through accumulate enough as to require more than Faith… it requires a complete disregard for fact, reason, and logic.

            And that goes for the whole religion, not just the Book of Abraham. Dig into any aspect and eventually you’ll get to the inexcusable, and then you are told to “just have faith”. No thanks.

          • Rathje

            Yeah, obviously you didn’t even understand my explanation in the first place. So you felt like repeating yourself was a proper response.

          • Ritualistic

            What am I mis-understanding? Smith claimed very clearly to know what the Egyptian said, but new evidence proves he had no idea. Are you saying that JS did actually translate them correctly, it’s just that he translated what a Canaanite MEANT for the images to mean as opposed to what they truly do mean?

            So in my Grandfather example, I should assume that my Grandfather was actually translating some Japanese text that a German copied and pasted into the document with the intention of it MEANING something totally different than what the Japanese actually says? Is it some sort of Divine code-breaking? Talk about mental hoops to jump through.

          • Rathje

            First off, you are confused as to what you actually have.

            As was pointed out to you – the scrolls Joseph Smith worked from were massive. And most of them were destroyed in a fire except for a few fragments – containing a couple of the facsimiles.

            Now since, the facsimiles are commonly used in Egyptian funery documents that have nothing to do with Abraham, you claim this means Egyptology has disproven the Book of Abraham.

            But there are all sorts of inferences, logical leaps and assumptions you need to make to draw that conclusion.

            What if Joseph Smith translated from a different part of the scroll than the one that survived? The thing was massive – 16 feet long by some eyewitness accounts. He could have been anywhere on that scroll.

            Secondly, the PORTION that survived contains the facsimiles, but that doesn’t prove that that portion is the only place they were present. They could easily have been present elsewhere on the scroll, or one of the scrolls we are missing entirely.

            And here is where the Canaanite redactor idea comes into play – because it analyzes whether a Canaanite scribe writing IN EGYPTIAN, and cut-and-pasting Egyptian pictograms into his story could have used the material for the story of Abraham, and it’s pretty clear that he could have done exactly that, and that ancient scribes have done exactly that in the past.

            Finally, you are using a view of “translation” compromised by your modern prejudices. The word “translation” means something today – an exact linguistic word-for-word rendition of a text from one language into another. But Joseph Smith made it clear that what he was translating was not the text – but the mind and word of God. That’s how he viewed it.

            This opens the possibility of another explanation that Mormon scholars have proposed – that Joseph Smith actually used the scrolls as nothing more than a physical medium to get himself into the proper frame of mind to receive revelation directly from God.

            I’m personally not a fan of this theory – but YOU at least need to be aware that it’s out there before making all your bold and one-sided declarations.

            Anyway, the opinion of Egyptologists on the facsimiles is utterly irrelevant, because it’s not an entirely Egyptian document at issue. It’s a Canaanite document, telling a Canaanite story, written in Egyptian, and borrowing Egyptian funeral imagery to tell its story.

            Now, with that possibility in mind, your claim that this has been decisively refuted doesn’t stand.

          • Rathje

            In fact, the only way the Egyptology attacks on the Book of Abraham even work is if you assume most of the scroll Joseph Smith actually used survived.

            Which according to multiple eyewitness accounts, clearly was not the case.

          • Krell Jans

            Actually, eyewitness accounts confirm that we have large portions of the original “source material”

            I’m afraid you’ve been mislead by apologists who care more for defending their dogma than for respecting their audience

          • Darren Blair

            [citation needed]

            Exactly which accounts are you referring to?

          • Ritualistic

            “But there are all sorts of inferences, logical leaps and assumptions you need to make to draw that conclusion.”

            I’m the one making logical leaps here? Really? Pot, meet Kettle. You’ve given unlikely possibilities of stuff that maybe, perhaps could have happened, most of which requires one to work backwards from the assumption that JS was a true Prophet to even accept in the first place, and then you take that as refuting me? *eye roll*

            And I’m sure the Kinderhook plates were also just a medium for revelation as well?

          • Rathje

            Yup, and FAIR has a whole section on their website devoted to the Kinderhook Plates too. Another non-issue.

            As to assumptions… well no freaking duh.

            Of course I’m starting from the assumption of faith. Of course I’m starting from the assumption of Joseph Smith being a prophet. I would have thought that was obvious and didn’t need saying. I’m a religious believer.

            But here’s the part you left out.

            The only way YOUR arguments are compelling is if you ASSUME that Joseph Smith was not a prophet, that miraculous translations don’t exist, and maybe even that the whole religion idea is bunk.

            You, my friend, are operating from just as many unproven assumptions as I am.

            I love how secularists often try to rig the game so they are magically the only “objective” people in the room. It’s almost endearing in it’s oblivious naivete.

          • Ritualistic

            Essentially, there is only one source for most of your answers – FAIR, which is an openly apologetic organization with the slogan “Defending Mormonism”. It baffles me how you can sit back and say that you are being Objective, and then in the same comment openly admit to your preconceived assumption that the LDS church is 100% correct no matter what. By definition one cannot be Objective if they have already determined the answer before the question has even been asked.

            Trust me, I do not come at this from the assumption that JS was a false Prophet – for over 30 years I fully accepted that he was, and unsurprisingly I also defended the faith with ever thinning hairs that needed splitting as many apologists find themselves doing. It was all that I had known for most of my life. I have been where you are my friend, but I’d venture to say that you have not been where I am now. Doubt is not evil, it brings us to Truth. Tell me, if JS was in fact a fraud, would you even want to know?

          • Rathje

            And who, pray tell is the source for your data?

            My guess would be anti-Mormon websites like lighthouse ministries or MormonThink. Funny how critics expect Mormons to use unbiased sources when they have no scruples about using hopelessly biased sources themselves.

            That said Ritualistic, there’s a reason the best scholarship on Mormonism comes from Mormons.

            Because up till now, no one else cared about Mormon issues. That may change with all the attention Mormonism has been getting, but for now, your choices are basically either go to Mormon sources, or to sources openly hostile to Mormonism.

            And either one can be attacked equally for bias.

            Que up Ritualistic to blather about how unbiased the Egyptologists he cited were – even though I just finished explaining why their expertise (reputable as it was) was irrelevant to the question here.

            In fact, the Egyptologists are a good example of the problem facing experts who want to opine on Mormon topics. They may have expertise in Egyptology or archeology or whatever, but they have no familiarity or expertise in Mormonism and don’t know their way around all the ins and outs of Mormonism’s controversies.

            Which makes them prime targets for dishonest church critics who try to trap them into misleading soundbites to be used against Mormon claims.

          • Rathje

            And your experience as a former member doesn’t count for much here.

            Vocal ex-Mormon critics are usually the most biased, irrational, and emotionally compromised voices in the world of Internet Mormonism.

            But either way, I don’t care about your past. I’m talking about your glaring confirmation bias NOW – the emotional impulse to try and defend your hard-fought position of disbelief in the church, in spite of upsetting evidence to the contrary that you may have been too rash in your dismissal of the faith claims.

          • Ritualistic

            What “upsetting evidence to the contrary” are you even talking about? You present something that you admit you need Faith to accept, and then you pretend that all the facts line up in your favor. Really? I can openly admit to my own confirmation bias, it kept me in the Church for decades, and now I must constantly check myself because I know from experience that I can be deceived. I will promise you that I will once again analyze everything regarding the Church taking into account my own Confirmation Bias, it’s something that I do quite often actually because I do not want to fall victim once again. Are you willing to do the same?

          • Darren Blair

            Okay –

            How about “Several prominent critics of the church, such as J. Edward Decker, Loftes Tryk, and Grant Palmer, have been caught lying about their time with the church”?

            How’s that for starters?

          • Krell Jans

            How did Grant Palmer lie about his time with the church?

            And what is the apologetic need to attack the character of critics while ignoring their arguments?

          • Darren Blair

            I posted this elsewhere in the discussion, so here’s a summation:

            *Back in the 1970s, counter-cult pundit Walter R. Martin kicked off the Credential War by telling his audiences that individual members of “cults” were fair game for being targeted.

            *In academia, if you take out a person’s credentials then you take out their arguments by proxy. This is due to the fact that one’s credentials are what gives one the ability to speak on a particular topic.

            *The counter-cult pundits and anti-Mormon authors lost the Credential War due to the slew of prominent members – including Martin himself – who were found to have been lying about their credentials.

            *As a result of the Credential War, it became common practice for both sides to investigate the credentials of their opposite numbers.

            So that’s why it’s so common to see debates between Mormons and critics of the church to involve questions about credentials.

            As far as Palmer goes –

            Palmer claimed that he was an active member in good standing who suddenly came to a number of conclusions.

            In reality, Palmer was *not* in good standing at the time he wrote his book: he was removed from a paid teaching post for heterodoxy and professional misconduct, and had been shuffled between increasingly undesirable posts.

            Furthermore, at least one reviewer I’ve read has found circumstantial evidence to link Palmer to a series of anti-Mormon tracts that were in circulation during the 1980s; specifically, the reviewer found enough similarities between those tracts and some of Palmer’s arguments to suggest that he was at least aware of the tracts back when they were first published, raising questions about how “suddenly” he reached his conclusions.

          • Darren Blair

            I responded to you a bit earlier, but the long and short of it?

            In academia, a person’s credentials are what gives them the authority to speak on a topic.

            If a person’s credentials are successfully challenged, then they lose their authority.

            This was demonstrated back in the 1980s when the credentials of several prominent counter-cult pundits were revealed to be phony. For example, D. J. Nelson made his claims on the basis of his having a doctorate in Egyptology; when his doctorate was proven to be bogus, even non-Mormons immediately came to regard his arguments as void.

            **

            As far as Palmer goes, he was *not* a member in good standing at the time he wrote his book (he had been removed from a paid teaching position for heterodoxy and misconduct) and there is reason to believe that instead of “suddenly coming to certain realizations” he was actually influenced by anti-Mormon tracts written in the 1980s.

          • Josh Segundo

            “In academia, a person’s credentials are what gives them the authority to speak on a topic.”

            Does your MBA make you an authority to speak on the Book of Abraham?

          • Darren Blair

            I noted elsewhere that I’ve been doing apologetics work *and* have done my own research.

          • Krell Jans

            I’m not sure who told you that, but it’s not true. He was a member in good standing. Further, his credentials are irrelevant and are just an excuse to engage in ad hominem. Either the material stands or it does not, but apologists largely ignored the material and attacked the man.

            BYU was wise to oust the Maxwell Institute old guard Danites. They were an embarrassment to the church.

          • Darren Blair

            As noted in the discussion on Azlan, a person’s credentials can make or break their entire case. Take out someone’s credentials, and you’ve potentially taken out their entire argument.

          • Ritualistic

            My sources? “History of the Church” by Joseph Smith, “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith” compiled by Joseph F. Smith I believe, “Journal of Discourses” which I’m sure you are familiar with, and of course Deseret Book specials like “Rough Stone Rolling” by Richard Bushman, “No Man Knows My History” by Frawn Brodie, and “An Insiders View of Mormonism” by Grant Palmer. Quite the Anti-Mormon, bias-as-hell line-up, no?

            You present a false choice between only overtly anti-mormon material, and church sanctioned sources. Nice try. Essentially you are arguing that anything that disagrees with the preconceived notion of a faithful believer is “anti-mormon”. That tactic is effective in scaring members from even investigating these claims, but it does not hold up to debate in the general public.

            In the words of Hans Mattsson, “Why are you afraid for the Truth?”

          • Rathje

            I was talking about the Book of Abraham scroll length Ritualistic.

            Read a little more carefully next time.

            Oh, and I went through my own period of doubting the LDS Church’s claims myself. So did a lot of the volunteers at FAIR.

            We came to different conclusions than you did looking at the same data.

          • Ritualistic

            Ahhh.. so you work for FAIR huh? Of course. So did you arrive in these comment sections thanks to the email blast that FAIR sent out asking their people to flood the comment sections of online articles with positive comments about the Church? I hope they notice your diligence in completing the assignment.

          • Rathje

            If they did it wouldn’t matter since no one there gets paid a dime for doing anything they do.

            But that aside, no I didn’t arrive here via email blast. I’m a subscriber to Patheos and actually wrote an article here once waay back when the website was just starting. That’s how I got here.

            How did you get here?

            An “email blast” on an anti-Mormon message board?

          • Ritualistic

            Google alerts for “Mormon Skeptic” actually. But I guess you could call that an anti-mormon alert.

          • Rathje

            I used to have Google alerts for “Mormon” “Mormonism” and “Joseph Smith” – took me to all sorts of interesting places (and quite a few really uninteresting places). But I haven’t checked those in years. I imagine they’re still piling up in my unchecked gmail folder.

          • Darren Blair

            I’ve been reading Get Religion for several months now; if you check through the archives you’ll likely see my name in multiple places in the comments page.

          • Darren Blair

            Actually, not all of those works are considered credible.

            *The Journal of Discourses was not canonized as a whole due to large portions of the work either representing Brigham Young’s personal opinions or representing items that BY himself would later retract.

            *Grant Palmer was far from the “insider” that he claimed to be; he had actually been removed from a paid teaching position for heterodoxy and breach of professional ethics, and was slowly being churned through increasingly undesirable positions at the time he decided to “leave”. Furthermore, numerous allegations were made against him concerning doctored source citations, allegations that so far as I know he never successfully defended against.

            In fact, it has been my personal experience that most of the ex-Mormon “insiders” who take up the cause of anti-Mormonism have not been honest with their audiences about their position within the church at the time they left and/or the specific reasons of their departure. For example, back during the 1980s /early 1990s writer Loftes Tryk conveniently failed to mention the fact that he was a convicted sex offender and that the church had excommunicated him for his crimes; the minute it was revealed that Tryk had been dishonest about his criminal record, his career was toast as even his fellow anti-Mormons promptly abandoned him.

            *Fawn Brodie’s work represents a “psycho-biography”, wherein she basically took wild guesses at JS’ mental state. Had her subject been a non-Mormon, the book likely would have not been deemed fit for print.

          • Ritualistic

            Really? You’re going to connect sex-offender status to Church detractors? Digging a bit deep i’d say.

          • Darren Blair

            Not really.

            For example, Decker was a serial adulterer whose wife got tired of taking him back after each affair and so she dropped the hammer on him: not only did she divorce him over it, Decker wound up facing excommunication over his inability to keep his pants zipped. When Decker tells the story, however, he claims that his wife was pressured into divorcing him when he “found God elsewhere”. Decker’s ex-wife surfaced with her copy of the divorce paperwork some time in the early 1990s, and the specific charges were such that even some non-Mormons I know wrote him off.

            Or one critic who I dealt with elsewhere got ex’d for living in sin and assorted other misdeeds, but he tried to tell everyone that his bishop randomly tracked him down despite his being largely inactive (in reality, his mom asked the bishop to speak with him) in order to make an example out of him. He broke down and confessed to everything when I (and a few other posters) started pulling the threads on his story.

            So yeah – generally speaking, the louder an ex-Mormon claims to have been a “good member” of the church, the greater the odds that there’s something they aren’t telling anyone.

          • Ritualistic

            Would you like examples of “Faithful” church members who are child molesters, rapists, criminals, etc? Is that what this discussion is descending into? I’m in AZ, I’ve got plenty of local counter examples, but I have no idea what that has to do with anything productive.

          • Darren Blair

            Actually, it was counter-cult pundit Walter R. Martin, author of “Kingdom of the Cults”, that fired the first shot in the Credential War; back in the late 1970s he told his audiences that the members of “cults” were fair game alongside the cults themselves. The then-rising generation of apologists for the church decided to turn the tables by applying the same standard to Martin & co. as they wanted applied to members of the church. The results were devastating.

            By the early 1990s, it was determined that many of the then-popular critics of the church (folks like Martin, Decker, Tryk, and others) had serious issues with their credentials; for example, it was discovered that self-proclaimed Egyptologist D. J. Nelson’s doctorate degree actually came from a diploma mill and that he had been lying about the field work he claimed to have conducted.

            Martin himself wound up getting his own credentials hammered after it was discovered that he had been falsely claiming to be a direct descendent of Brigham Young (his family tree showed no connection between the two) and that he had likewise gotten his doctorate from a diploma mill.

            As a result of such discoveries, the anti-Mormon movement was put on the defensive for the first time since the equally disastrous Smoot Hearings of several decades prior resulted in several hostile politicians humiliating themselves in public.

            As to why credentials are so important, the answer is simple. Many critics of the church seek to gain extra leverage in theological debates by claiming that something gives their words special weight, such as an advanced degree in a relevant field and/or prior membership in the church. Thing is, if it can be proven that the “something” is false, then the person’s arguments are automatically rendered void by default as the “evidence” that supported them is now deemed invalid.

            For example, Martin claimed that as a direct descendent of Brigham Young he had access to a secret collection of books from which he drew information about the church; by being forced to admit that he was lying about his lineage, he essentially admitted to lying about the existence of these books that he relied upon as “source material”.

            This is why in academia, people live and die by their credentials and their citations.

          • Ritualistic

            How the hell did we get from Joseph Smiths ability to translate Egyptian, to the dramas of LDS church critics’ lives? Gees, you guys sure know how to Ad Hominem.

          • Darren Blair

            Lying about credentials –

            As an MBA, I had to fight tooth and nail to get my degree; in fact I put more time and effort into each individual paper I had to do than some critics of the church put into their entire “career” as a critic.

            Go to most other people with post-graduate degrees from accredited institutions, and they’ll tell you similar stories concerning how hard they had to work in order to earn their degree.

            As you can imagine, then, one of the biggest cardinal sins among academics is “lying about one’s credentials”. If a person lies about their credentials, they’re toast; they will find no mercy, especially if they lied about military service and/or having a post-graduate degree. Everything they’ve ever done is essentially thrown out the window, where *maybe* someone will sort through things in the off-chance that they actually did something worth salvaging.

            In that sense, critics of the church who lie about their credentials are simply being shown the same degree of disdain that they’d be shown in secular circles.

            **

            Lying about / doctoring citations –

            In academia, you live and die by your citations.

            The idea behind the focus on citations is that it enables the writer to prove that they aren’t simply making things up; instead, they did their own research and gathered information from one or more sources.

            You see, no matter how bonkers the assertion or erroneous the conclusion, if a person has followed proper protocol concerning citations then their audience can work backwards to figure out how and why they arrived at the destination they arrived at.

            In that sense, proper citations serve to strengthen a person’s work, both by allowing the person to present a more solid piece *and* by allowing the audience to fact-check if they so desire.

            As you can imagine, then, such actions as “using references that are known to be wonky”, “doctoring your citations”, and “failing to follow proper citation protocol” undermine the integrity of a work. After all, if I can’t trust that you actually researched things out, then why should I listen to your arguments?

            In that sense, what’s being discussed is actually *quite* important to the movement as a whole.

          • Ritualistic

            Go ahead and attack the sources, not the information. I guess none of what any of them has said is true then?

            “The Journal of Discourses was not canonized”

            You are correct, the Church now distances itself from those past Church leaders’ teachings which don’t line up with the current correlated version of what “Truth” is. But thats the thing, the LDS Church now openly admits that past “Prophets” were wrong in some of their teachings because they were “speaking as only men” or that they were “products of their times”. It sets up the leaders so that they can never really be wrong in the mind of the believer. If their teachings stand the test of time, then its held up as proof that they were “the mouthpiece of God on earth”. But if their teachings end up being Racist, Homophobic, Sexist etc. by modern standards, than they get a free “speaking as men/product of their times” pass. Win-win.

            But are you telling me that during Brigham Young’s time his teachings that are now found in “Journal of Discourses” were not considered “Doctrine” by church members? Really? What would have happened if I could go back in time to a general conference with President Young presiding and speak? What would he do if I stood at the pulpit and told the congregation that his Adam-God doctrine was false? Or that Polygamy was actually bad, and was not in fact the only way to get to the highest degree of heaven? Or that everyone practicing polygamy should be excomunicated? Or that people of every race should have equal standing in the Church? Do you think he would have been ok with me contradicting him in any of that? These were not only his personal opinions, they were also the Church approved “Truth” of that time.

          • Darren Blair

            Actually?

            I’ll have to go back and find where I read it, but it was *Young himself* who essentially ended the conversation about Adam / God; he was frustrated over the fact that so few people at the time comprehended exactly what he was trying to tell them, and so basically said that it was not immediately needful to understand as a way of ending the various debates and steering the conversation elsewhere.

            And the church’s decision to end polygamy came after the church expended all available means at its disposal to fight the anti-polygamy laws; the church’s last recourse, an appeal to the Supreme Court, came in 1889, the year before the end of polygamy. In other words, the church made the decision to be compliant with the laws of the land once it realized that there were no legal alternatives.

          • Rathje

            Nope, but I’ve presented enough to show that you didn’t prove anything about the Book of Abraham.

            Which is more than enough to demonstrate that your judgment may have been a tad rash.

          • Ritualistic

            Your right I didn’t ‘prove’ anything about the BofA in the same way that I cannot Prove to you that Unicorns do not exist. They might be out there, who knows? It’s just pretty unlikely. Or would you say its “Rash” of me to fall on the side that the evidence suggests?

            I’ll tell you what is Rash, arguing a point of Faith as if it was scientifically and historically provable.

          • Rathje

            Now you’re just resorting to lazy Dawkins.net argumentation. It takes no great skill to doubt something Ritualistic. Any idiot in America or anywhere can pull off a good sneer, and raise their eyebrows skeptically.

            Yes, it is rash to throw out something good you devoted your life to based on shallow information about faith claims that is easily disputed by informed arguments from the faithful.

            The evidence doesn’t fall on your side. It doesn’t fall on anyone’s side. As I’ve demonstrated to you here.

          • Darren Blair

            Actually, there’s no proof aside from one or two journal entries (entries for which the authorship is in doubt) to suggest that JS actually had anything to do with the plates.

            If anything, there is a key piece of evidence to suggest that he didn’t touch them: the fact that the last surviving conspirator waited until some time after JS’ death to try and declare that JS had attempted to translate them; had JS tried to translate them, they could have gone to the media shortly after and dropped their bombshell then. Instead, they waited until JS was no longer able to defend himself against his charges.

          • Krell Jans

            “Actually, there’s no proof aside from one or two journal entries (entries for which the authorship is in doubt)”

            This is misleading to the extreme. There is no doubt as to the authorship, and the evidence is not in question.

          • Krell Jans

            They weren’t that massive, and we have large portions of the surviving original “Book of Abraham”

          • Darren Blair

            No, we don’t.

            At least one vintage account points to the papyrus that JS had as being large enough to cover the floor of a room.

            What was recovered fits neatly on a desk.

          • Krell Jans

            There is no good historical evidence to suggest that the scrolls were as long as you suggest – only the late life recollection of a single witness who saw them as a young boy.

          • Darren Blair

            Sometimes, when it comes to history one or two witnesses is all there may be of an incident.

          • Ritualistic

            “Actually, there’s no proof aside from one or two journal entries (entries for which the authorship is in doubt) to suggest that JS actually had anything to do with the plates.”

            So 1-2 accounts about how long someone thought the scroll might have been is enough for you, but the same number of accounts (your numbers) about Joseph and the Kinderhook Plates are not enough? Seems inconsistent to fully accept one, and completely dismiss the other.

          • Darren Blair

            Note the phrase “entries for which the authorship is in doubt”.

          • Ritualistic

            Ok, than I guess your sources are the only valid ones. My bad.

          • Darren Blair

            http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_BMProblems.shtml#fooled

            The best, most recent (as of 2012) scholarship is that JS did *one* character off of the Kinderhook Plates and then dropped them like a hot potato.

            And as far as the journal entries go – at least one journal entry traditionally credited to Joseph Smith was later found to have been the work of William Clayton; biographers of the day were pretty sloppy about fact-checking, and so tended to take things at face value.

          • Krell Jans

            William Clayton was Joseph Smith’s scribe and is a reliable source

          • Darren Blair

            Thing is, there’s a question as to whether or not Clayton wrote down JS’ actual words or if Clayton made jive up so that there could be an entry for the day.

          • Krell Jans

            There are many other witnesses much more contemporary, and their account does not match the “long scroll” claim

          • Darren Blair

            Mind citing them, then?

          • Krell Jans

            There are many other witnesses, and none of them described as being extraordinarily long.

            I should allow you to drag me down into these weeds. The erroneously translated figures published in the POGP are sufficient to discredit the entire enterprise. Joseph could not translate Egyptian, whether by divine means or otherwise.

          • Darren Blair

            Who’s been trying to drag who down?

            I’d like to see some citations for some of your various arguments.

          • Rathje

            From what I’ve seen, we only have fragments enough to piece together a portion about a foot and a half to two feet long.

            That’s a far cry from scrolls that could stretch the length of a couple rooms in the Nauvoo house.

          • Krell Jans

            There is no good historical evidence to suggest that the scrolls were as long as you suggest – only the late life recollection of a single witness who saw them as a young boy.

            We have enough to determine what the scrolls were. And of course the is the nagging issue of the facsimiles, which are grossly mistranslated

          • Rathje

            Before responding – please clarify whether you are questioning scroll length, or the existence of extra scrolls (either one of which would be sufficient for my train of argument).

          • Krell Jans

            There was another scroll, identified by Joseph as written by the Biblical Joseph (of the 12 tribes). Context of the English BOA plus eyewitness testimony plus surviving facsimiles contradict your version of events.

            As to the the length of the scroll, there is no good evidence that it was as long as it suggests. Not that it matters, as we have samples of Joseph’s translations, and they are dismal failures.

          • Rathje

            We have Joseph’s attempts to translate Egyptian AFTER his work on the Book of Abraham. He did not claim to be inspired in that translation or have any gift from God in doing it.

            That was just hobby stuff Joseph Smith did after the fact – like picking up Hebrew and German.

            As to the scroll length, there have been calculations in addition to the eyewitness account I mentioned.

            http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Abraham/Joseph_Smith_Papyri/Text/Size_of_missing_papyrus

            I’m aware that some of the ex-Mormon crowd threw together a study challenging those figures. Which basically means the issue is currently in dispute – not settled like you would like to have people here believe.

          • Krell Jans

            It’s not really in dispute, and there is no evidence to support your assertion about his “hobby” (not that it would rescue Joseph from this problem).

      • Krell Jans

        There are not good answers for most of these issues. Waving your hand and claiming they have been addressed is not the same as addressing them. The church’s official emissaries did not have good answers, and apologists are not sitting on better ones.

        • Ritualistic

          Exactly. Both the Audio and the transcript of Elder Jensen, and R. Turley in Sweden are now available online and their efforts, while commendable, fell far short of resolving anything. Thats the absolute best the Church had to offer to the saints in Sweden, and the results were abysmal. It all comes down to “just have Faith”, but when Faith and cold hard facts don’t match up, history has shown which one we can trust.

          • Rathje

            Seeing as how those men are busy leading and administering the church, I wouldn’t expect them to be well-versed in the controversies surrounding church history.

            Even among apologists it takes extensive study to become well-versed in only one controversial area.

            Anti-Mormon critics usually tend to be poorly versed in a huge number of areas which creates the illusion of being informed for the gullible or ignorant.

            The leaders in that transcript also made the mistake of allowing people to “shotgun” them with questions and then try to handle them all at once.

            A better approach is usually to say “let’s take the first issue you raised and talk about it until we all agree it’s resolved” and refuse to move on to other questions until the first has been dealt with.

          • Ritualistic

            Elder Jensen was the Church Historian at the time, and Bro. Turley was the assistant Church Historian. If anyone is qualified “to be well-versed in the controversies surrounding church history.” it would be them.

            And regardless of the setup, they should have been able to produce some sort of reasonable arguments. Instead it’s mostly “We don’t have time for that”. Why did they travel all the way to Sweden, only to blame the time restraint and duck most of the questions?

          • Rathje

            Ritualistic, no one on earth is “well qualified” to be well-versed in all the controversies out there.

            The level of expertise needed to competently handle each question is simply too high. On the Book of Abraham alone you need to be an expert in half a dozen different academic disciplines to speak authoritatively on it.

            And no human alive is qualified to competently respond to a barrage of criticisms thrown out shotgun style in rapid succession. Which is why anti-Mormons are so fond of using this method. It allows them to be stupid while requiring an impossible level of expertise from their victims.

          • Krell Jans

            Gee is one of the most educated of the apologists, and his defense of the BOA is so poor that one feels a distinct sense of embarrassment for him, even as a critic.

          • Krell Jans

            “Seeing as how those men are busy leading and administering the church, I wouldn’t expect them to be well-versed in the controversies surrounding church history.”

            The church historian can’t be bothered to learn about church history? And unordained apologists must then take up the mantel? Sounds like apostasy to me.

          • Rathje

            Krell, when you are ready to do more than offer bare assertions accompanied by the typical atheist ploy of “sneer and hope nobody notices how content-free that remark was”, do let me know.

        • LetoII

          But with the internet, people don’t have to take your word for it that they are “bad” answers. They can find out what educated scholars, historians and academics think about these issues and then make up their own minds. Maybe the guy in the article did this and wasn’t satisfied with what he found. Maybe he didn’t because he had no idea such a thing existed. We don’t know, and the article gives the impression that answers either don’t exist or that LDS people have just not addressed these issues and are covering them up. Despite me “waving my hand” the issues mentioned in the article HAVE been addressed by the LDS community.

    • Luman Walters

      “I’ll have to look at the full article later, but from what you’ve cited the author has apparently missed a major detail that affects the story.”

      I’d like to point this out. Pay attention to what he said. He refered to himself as an apologist. He also said, very blunty, I’ll have to read the article later. AFTER I criticize it. I’m going to tear this man’s(hans) conclusions apart BEFORE I fully read about it.

      This is a true apologist. Have your conclusion 1st, then find an explanation that supports your conclusion. No need for data, no need to look deeply into the situaiton. Keep all your preconceived notions, keep your biases, and search for whatever supports whatever you’ve already conlcuded.

      Darren Blair and mormon+christian apologists everybody!!!! Give them a hand !!!!

      • Darren Blair

        I was typing in reference to specific questions Mollie asked + the portions of the article she cited.

        In other words, my remarks were in light of the Get Religion bit.

        • Luman Walters

          I don’t want your blood. I don’t know what I would do with blood. I can’t find my own car keys. I don’t think it would be wise for me to handle blood or any kind of material that could be potentially hazardous. I haven’t even had anything resembling legitimate medical training. I guess I’ve watched the people at carter blood care but I doubt I could figure out all those tubes on my own.

          All kidding aside, it’s fine to be an apologist. They sat down with him for hours, at least honor the fact that they put in 10 times the amount of time for their article as you did for your comment.

          You are just trying to show your love for your church. You don’t need to attack the author. You also don’t need to start bringing up other articles that you have had a problem with in the past out of the assumption that everybody has read them. Like mormonsim is the one big thing going on and there isn’t a civil conflict in Syria. There are much bigger things happening in the world bro.

          Hey mormonism is your path, it’s what brings you peace. So be at peace. You can’t be at peace if you’re always rushing to defend these perceived threats.

          • Darren Blair

            I’m not kidding around here.

            Even here in America, there are people who want to hurt – or even kill – us Mormons just because we’re Mormon.

            We apologists are up there with the missionaries in terms of the people who want us dead.

            I actually know a guy who got attacked; the “Good Christians” who came after him busted his rib and then put a rope around his neck. And yes, they were Christians – they were members of the guy’s former congregation, and they didn’t take kindly to his becoming Mormon.

            Or down here in Texas there was a hit-and-run incident in which a guy plowed into a pair of missionaries and promptly vanished.

            It’s bad out there.

            **

            As far as the article goes, you’re not getting what I said.

            This discussion we’re having? It’s appended to the bottom of an article. The article in question… is an article about a piece in the NYT.

          • Krell Jans

            I think this is somewhat exaggerated and hysterical. One can always find unbalanced nuts on the internet, but that is not a sign of institutional persecution

          • Darren Blair

            Not on the least.

            In fact, the chapel I attend services at has been vandalized, entered, robbed, and even desecrated on so many occasions that the police are on speed-dial.

            Yes, desecrated.

            For example, a few summers back someone painted a pentagram on the front lawn and stapled a dead deer to said pentagram.

          • Krell Jans

            You can find similar “persecution” of high schools across the nation, not to mention other churches.

          • Darren Blair

            Actually, the pentagram and the dead deer bit mean that we’d be looking at a hate crime under the federal statutes.

          • Krell Jans

            That’s more than a little melodramatic.

            Besides, the pentagram is a symbol of Mormon worship, and Joseph’s treasure digging activities involved animal sacrifice. Why should you be offended?

            The culprit in these sorts of things 9 times out of 10 is a rebellious kid trying to get a rise out of his controlling parents.

          • Darren Blair

            The pentagram hasn’t had any Christian associations in over a century. You should know that.

          • Rathje

            Actually it wasn’t “apologists” who sat down with Mattison. It was high-ranking members of LDS leadership who “sat down” with him. Mormon apologist organizations did not meet with him.

          • Luman Walters

            Where did I claim that apologists met with him? I was responding to Darren Blair who called himself an apologist and referenced other apologists in his comment.

          • Rathje

            “All kidding aside, it’s fine to be an apologist. They sat down with him for hours”

            Right there Luman.

      • Darren Blair

        PS –

        Do you want to know how we Mormon apologist gauges our level of success?

        By the number of people who want our blood.

        *Serious* Mormon apologists aren’t in it for any sort of reward or bonus points. Rather, we do what we do because we love the church, and we allow the consequences to follow. If anything, the time we spend researching things out and responding to criticisms drains time away from endeavors that can actually pay the bills.

        I’ve actually had threats of violence leveled against my person in the past simply because folks didn’t like the fact that I stood up for the church.

        • Krell Jans

          I know of internet critics who have received similar threats of violence from members. Being disliked is not a sign that you are correct, or incorrect, for that matter.

  • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

    Mollie, it’s unreasonable to expect a member to have read RSR, especially when Deseret Book doesn’t even exist in Sweden, and most of the members there are not very proficient in English. Unless it’s part of the Church’s official curriculum, I don’t think you can validly claim that a member should have known about it, even if they are a leader, especially when you consider that members are discouraged from reading unofficial sources of information about the Church.

    • Todd Hadden

      The church has cleverly hinted these facts in the Doctrine of Covenants,

      Joseph Smith and polygamy D&C 132

      Money digging D&C 111

      Translating without looking at the plates D&C 7,8 and 9

      I belief that the D&C is in Swedish

      • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

        Todd, it can hardly be claimed that these are adequate and exhaustive answers, based on the problems that the Church is currently experiencing and the number of faithful members who don’t know about them. Not only are these issues not adequately addressed; the culture actively dissuades members from learning about them.

        • CalGTR

          I completely DISAGREE with your categorization of LDS culture being one of discouraging study. This is not a faith where one is ever told “just take my word for it”. Quite the contrary. Everyone is always encouraged to develop their own testimonies, to study issues out and then take the questions to the Lord for confirmation. After all, “ask, and ye shall receive” is still in full force in the LDS faith.

          Now, if you want to say that church leaders would rather folks not get lost down these rabbit holes, but study subjects that actually have bearing on the here and now, then sure, that’s true. Has nothing to do with hiding anything, but rather focusing on what’s really important. What’s really funny to me is that folks tend to “verify” these problematic issues through church resources. In other words, the information is there, and has been all along, for anybody that cares to make a study of these various subjects.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            I’m saying that the culture discourages people from reading uncorrelated information about the Church. If it’s from the Church curriculum, it’s highly encouraged. Otherwise, a good deal of skepticism and concern is usually expressed. I have been active since birth and grew up in Provo attending seminary, seminary council, mission, BYU, etc etc. I have personally had an interest in apologetics for quite a while, and I can say from personal experience that most mainstream members look on even faithful apologetics with suspicion, let alone Mormon studies.

          • Darren Blair

            I live in Central Texas, and down here people actually turn to me for answers whenever they have questions due to the fact that I’ve done so much in the way of apologetics work and done so much research into critical claims.

            My guess is that it therefore varies from region to region how accepted apologetics are.

          • M-Theory

            Uhm, not sure you can speak for “most mainstream members” or how they view apologetics Carl. You are making sweeping generalizations regarding your limited environmental experience with “skepticism and concern…expressed” by leaders. All church members are a different levels of learning including any misguided leaders who may have tried to discouraged you from reading “uncorrelated information.” Provo is NOT representative of the entire world of Mormonism. I also grew up attending seminary, mission, BYU etc and never in my 48 years had a single person express one bit of discouragement regarding the reading of “uncorrelated information.” Hugh Nibley said something like, “read everything and then accept or discard accordingly.” What exactly are you trying to prove here Carl? That the Swedish Saints weren’t educated enough to do thorough research (all available on BYU Studies if they cared to look), that they were “young” in the Gospel and when they got into the nitty-gritty of history, they couldn’t hack the limited view of the past, that their shock is justified and we should be ashamed for letting them go along thinking their naive thoughts? What? I don’t get it. You keep chiming in with defense of their church history ignorance, but the facts are, no one stopped them from reading ALL the information, they just chose to stop.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            M-Theory, of course I realize that Provo is not representative of the whole Church. I have lived and been an active member in Provo, South Jordan, Seattle, many parts of Brazil, Norway and the United Kingdom. I have gained enough experience in the global church to know that these challenges are widespread and not confined to a single area.

            When you say I’m “trying to prove” something, you are not approaching my claims in good faith. I’m trying to persuade you and others that more humility is in order on the part of faithful LDS. Rather than deriding and ridiculing the likes of Hans Mattsson because he ‘couldn’t hack it’ and claiming he was woefully ignorant, members should realize that his situation is far from unique, even for church leadership, and that we brought this problem on ourselves.

            Please, I beg of you, read this well-written respectful post that responds to John Welch’s helpful post in BYU Studies. This is what I’m trying to say, only it articulates it better than I can:

            http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/07/23/reading-as-response-an-introduction-courtesy-of-byu-studies/

            After you read that, if you still don’t understand what I’m trying to say, please respond here and I’ll do my best to clarify.

          • Chris

            You’re doing it too. “Now, if you want to say that church leaders would rather folks not get lost down these rabbit holes” is the exact attitude most people who raise these questions experience from the average member. Was Joseph Smith “lost down a rabbit” hole when he started Mormonism? Most Mormons would say no, but maybe the Methodist minister would say yes.

            Here are some questions that you might consider to be down the rabbit hole:

            Was Joseph Smith emotionally or spiritually manipulative in the methods he used to proposition plural wives?

            Was Joseph Smith correct when he said the earth has a 6,000 year temporal existence?

            What EXACTLY is the church’s stance on the creation since prophets and apologists teach differently to different audiences?

            If I can’t get a straight answer to questions like these and a hundred others, why should I believe that faith in the gospel according to the Mormons is what I need for eternal life?

          • Darren Blair

            Back in the 1930s, the church issued a statement to the effect that “science in the classroom, religion in the chapel”.

            You see, the church is content to leave science and medicine alone unless there are specific ethical issues to be addressed. In fact, there have been numerous members of the church, past and present, who have backgrounds in science and/or medicine.

            This includes James Talmage, a high-level member of the church who was a geologist by trade. In fact, the reason why the church declared itself neutral on scientific matters is because back in the 1930s, there was a three-way dispute between B H. Roberts, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Talmage over whether or not evolution should be included in the Sunday School manuals. (Roberts proposed it, Smith opposed it, and Talmage moderated.)

            As such, most of the people who you hear talking about science in regards to the church are individual members and apologists operating independently of church authority.

          • Chris

            When I taught the Astronomy merit badge to an LDS troop, I used a very similar argument (including quotes from Henry Eyring and a Biology professor at BYU) to show that officially the topics we were discussing (the big bang, but also by association biological evolution, etc), are not in conflict with the LDS faith.

            Ultimately, I found that I had to be selective with who I quoted, because it seemed that “official sources” all but unilaterally condemned what I was teaching. The “Flood and the Tower of Babel” by Donald Parry published in the Ensign was a huge influence on me that my views are incompatible with the LDS faith. I don’t consider the Ensign to be operating independent of church authority.

          • Darren Blair

            How old is that article? I’ve actually never heard of it before.

            Either way, I’ve had a bit more of an education in medicine and science than some members I’ve met over the years (and *far* more than a lot of the critics of the church I’ve encountered), and so I’m used to butting heads with people who tried to presume religion to be equal to science. I’ve found that the key is “remembering to keep it civil” and “remembering to remain firm but not being argumentative.”

          • Chris
          • Darren Blair

            Thanks; I’ll get it in a little bit.

          • Darren Blair

            I got about halfway through before I had to close the link; whoever wrote it apparently never sat through a comprehensive geology class.

          • Sharee

            I just read this article. It is unfortunate that Brother Parry is still teaching at BYU. He probably thinks God created the earth in a literal 6 days. The truth is, we really don’t know if the flood was local or global. In those days, the known world was very small. For people, including prophets, in those days, a localized flood would seem to them to cover the whole earth. Many cultures have a flood myth, so it could have been fairly widespread, but covering the whole earth? That’s something we will probably not know for sure until the next life. As for the Tower of Babel, Brother Parry said that happened “shortly after the flood.” Excuse me, EIGHT people survived the flood, if it was, indeed, a global flood. Seems to me considerable time would have needed to pass before there were enough people to have to be scattered and their language confounded.

          • Darren Blair

            Hence why I try to avoid mixing religion and science unless I absolutely have to.

          • Hello_World

            These are rabbit holes. How can you possibly get the final answer on Joseph’s spiritual or emotional methods? And wouldn’t you have to know the answer to the earth’s temporal existence? And does it matter? These are rabbit holes and there are better places to spend your time than grappling with abstract questions that when answered won’t make a hill of beans difference to your life.

          • Chris

            Choosing to believe in Mormonism makes a big difference in your life. I have to find some objective way to determine that Joseph Smith at least has a decent chance of being a prophet before I can commit myself to believing doctrines like D&C 84:40-41:

            “40
            Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.

            41
            But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.”

            To me, it’s quite likely that someone who incorrectly teaches the temporal age of the earth would also be wrong about eternal punishment. To trust what Joseph taught about the unverifiable, I must understand his track record about what I can verify.

            I have to know that if I get called to be a Bishop or serve on the High Counsel and follow the church’s guidelines on church discipline and disfellowship or excommunicate people that I am not being spiritually or emotionally abusive. I have to have more than a hunch or a hope before I pretend to represent deity in these matters with other humans.

            I don’t really know of any objective way of doing this without concerning myself with whether or not the Nephites actually existed, whether doctrines regarding science are literally true, whether the way Joseph treated his wife and other women while speaking for God aligns with a loving God, or simply whether all the answers to these sorts of questions sound more like I’m forcing the answer to fit a pre-conceived notion that the church is what it claims to be.

            Mormonism is one of hundreds of religions to choose from. If I took your advice and didn’t worry about these “rabbit holes” that don’t matter, I might as well join any one of them.

          • Hello_World

            So you’d prefer to go rabbit hunting, digging up things you can’t verify and then making strong arguments that all the sheep have gone astray. Rather than accepting that no one here is perfect whether prophet, bishop or disciple. You hold up a ruler that is made from your own vision and when a person doesn’t measure up, they fail. You can’t analytically approach faith. However, you do have to at least feel comfortable with it. For Mormons, they have to at least agree on 2 things in order feel comfortable. 1. Joseph Smith talked to God face to face and 2. He translated the Book of Mormon from ancient records given to him by a angel who was himself a Nephite. All the rest so will follow once those two are addressed.

            The scriptures you quoted aren’t very stringent. It’s a two person commitment. On God’s side, his promise can’t be moved otherwise he’d cease to be God. On your side, all you have to do is keep trying. Seems to be a pretty easy contract.

          • ChssAddct

            Chris, I would offer a friendly caution regarding using a person’s stance on the temporal age of the earth as a litmus test of their ability to actually be prophet of God. An analogy would be to reject Noah as a prophet because he said the flood covered the whole earth. From Noah’s perspective, the flood *did* cover “the whole earth”. For him to write it that way does not make him a false prophet, nor make him a deceiver or lier. He was simply reporting what was true from his perspective. It was as true as for you to say that the sun rose this morning, which from your perspective is true, but from a broader “more true” scientific perspective, the sun never rises nor sets. So too with “the earth is 6K years old”. It’s as true as saying the sun rose this morning, or to say that the moon waxes or wanes, or is full or new, or to say that the stars come out at night. Which is to say – it isn’t true. But saying it is not to be wrong or to lie or deceive, any more than saying the sun came up is to lie, be wrong, or to deceive. It is merely to be speaking from a particular, limited perspective. To attribute the lowest possible motive for speaking in more localized terms is a choice of course. Or one could admit that men speak from from their particular vantage point.

            To say the world is only 6K years old is true from one perspective – Joseph taught that world doesn’t mean planet, it means family. And sometimes he probably used earth to mean world. In other words, meanings and words were fluid, not always spoken with scientific precision. From the perspective of family, the human ‘family’ of Adam is probably indeed about 6K years old. Of course, to adopt such an approach some may term “mental gymnastics” or worse “intellectual dishonesty”. But others might say, “generous benefit of the doubt”. Holding Joseph to a high standard of scientific accuracy and specificity is to hold him to a standard that he wasn’t actually focused on. His focus was theologic advancement, not scientific advancement.

            Hugh Nibley writes, in Before Adam,
            “The Latter-day Saints, inheritors of the Christian version of this teaching, are constantly converting statements of limited application to universal or at least sweeping generalities. To illustrate, I was told as a child that the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachians, and the Andes all came into existence overnight during the great upheavals of nature that took place at the time of the Crucifixion—an absurdity that plays into the hands of critics of the Book of Mormon. But what we find in the 3 Nephi account when we read it carefully is a few sober, factual, eyewitness reports describing an earthquake of 8-plus on the Richter scale in a very limited area. Things that appear unlikely, impossible, or paradoxical from one point of view often make perfectly good sense from another. The Nautical Almanac gives the exact time of sunrise and sunset for every day of the year, yet astronauts know that the sun neither rises nor sets except from a particular point of view, the time of the event being strictly dependent on the exact location. From that point of view and that only, it is strictly correct and scientific to say that the sun does rise and set. Just so, the apparently strange and extravagant phenomena described in the scriptures are often correct descriptions of what would have appeared to a person in a particular situation. You and I have never been in those situations…. They were reporting as well as they could what they had seen from a vantage point on which we have never stood.”

            “The earliest Abraham books are supposed to be autobiographies, and the story told from his point of view makes perfectly good sense. So with Noah in the ark. From where he was, “the whole earth” (Genesis 8:9) was covered with water as far as he could see; after things had quieted down for 150 days and the ark ground to a halt, it was still three months before he could see any mountaintops. But what were conditions in other parts of the world? If Noah knew that, he would not have sent forth messenger birds to explore. The flood as he described it is what he saw of it. “He sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground.” (Genesis 8:8.) Couldn’t he see for himself? Not where the dove went. It was not until seven days later that he sent it out again; and after flying all day, the bird came back with a green leaf fetched from afar; “so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.” (Genesis 8:11.) Still he waited another seven days. When the dove did not return, Noah had his answer. In some distant place, trees were bearing and there was birdfood to be found. But not where Noah was. All that time he had not dared to open up.

            “Note that the author does not fall into the literary trap of telling where the birds went and what they saw. That became a standard theme of early Oriental literature, faithfully reflected in the classical stories of the sea-eagle and the hoopoe. All Noah tells us is what he saw of the birds and the flood. The rain continued at least in spots, for there was that magnificent rainbow. Why do Christians insist on calling it the first rainbow, just because it is the first mentioned? Who says that water drops did not refract light until that day? Well, my old Sunday School teacher, for one, used to say it. The rainbow, like the sunrise, is strictly the product of a point of view, for which the beholder must stand in a particular place while it is raining in another particular place and the sun is in a third particular place, if he is to see it at all. It is a lesson in relativity.”

            You are trying to evaluate the ability of a man to be a priest based on how good of a scientist you think he is. I think this is a mistake. Priest and scientist are two different roles. One could fail miserably at one while being great at the other. Do you only accept a man as capable of being a good scientist if he is also good at being a priest? Then why insist that a man could only be a ‘true’ priest if he can be determined to have been a good scientist?

          • Krell Jans

            “Has nothing to do with hiding anything, but rather focusing on what’s really important.”

            Isn’t that just a more diplomatic way of saying they’re hiding something?

          • Darren Blair

            Not really.

            Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually pretty common for “experts” in particular fields to “dumb things down” or “keep details to a minimum” when first speaking to different individuals so as to prevent information overload.

            Similarly, slang and jargon are frequently kept to a minimum in order to prevent confusion.

            For example, compare the two statements:

            1. “‘Gold Plastic Syndrome’ is a bizarre situation reported by some collectors of Hasbro-branded toys wherein certain products (mostly Transformers toys but some G. I. Joe toys) made during certain period and featuring a unique gold-colored plastic with swirls and a sparkle effect are abnormally prone to breakage. The cause is not known, but it is suspected that the culprit is the polymer bonds between the plastic itself and the dyes used to produce the coloration.”

            2. “‘Gold Plastic Syndrome’ is a term used to describe a process by which the gold-colored plastic used in certain toys made between 1985 and 1998 becomes abnormally brittle, leaving the affected toy prone to breakage. We’re not sure why this is happening, but it appears to be a flaw in the plastic itself.”

            (source: http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Gold_Plastic_Syndrome )

            Both statements convey the same basic information, correct?

            But while the first statement is wordy and uses terms that the average person might not be familiar with, the second statement is right to the point, and follow-up statements can provide the “missing” information.

            So it is with the way the church handles things: give people the basic information so that people know what’s going on, and then build upon the information as you know they can comprehend the details.

          • Krell Jans

            ‘Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually pretty common for “experts” in particular fields to “dumb things down” or “keep details to a minimum” when first speaking to different individuals so as to prevent information overload.’

            The problem with this claim is that the church provides a great deal of history if they think it is faith promoting. What they tend to do is leave out anything that would tend to put the church in a bad light, which does not resemble your description here.

            They do not simply give people the “basic information.” They give entirely one-sided information unless their hand is forced.

          • Darren Blair

            FYI –

            I got to looking at the article after I posted it, and noted that several items made *after* 1998 have since been added to the list of affected product, indicating that a second type of gold plastic has been confirmed as being flawed.

      • Krell Jans

        Can you point to the section in the D&C where polyandry is authorized and explained?

    • Rathje

      Carl, English is pretty much a second language in Sweden that much of the population speaks with a high level of skill. Furthermore, the CRITICAL sources the Swedish doubters cited were in English.

      So what then? It’s OK to read critical sources in English and then, when asked if you read Rough Stone Rolling say “oh, I didn’t read that because English isn’t my first language.”

      Uh huh. Sure, whatever.

      • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

        No, Rathje, I’m saying that Mattsson wasn’t in the habit of reading uncorrelated sources of information, much less in English, until he was exposed to questions by other members of his congregation with more interest in the history. The only sources available to Swedish church members are correlated official publications of the Church. There are some members who have the time and interest to peruse other uncorrelated materials but they are a relative few, and such things are somewhat discouraged. I just spent 3.5 years as an active member in Norway, where things are very similar. When Mattsson was finally exposed to these questions, of course he studied them, both from RSR and from other sources. But of course at that point it was too late for him to avoid a feeling of shock and surprise.

        • bytebear

          But his thesis has strong implicatoins (even accusations) that the church was purposely hiding this information and that it took outside sources to reveal them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The church publishes everything. This article correctly goes over some of them and an article in Meridian Magazine goes over each in detail and shows documents (all of which are online and easily accessible and have been for years) that anyone can find. The church simply is not hiding their history, and to use a language issue as an excuse for his lack of scholarly research is a poor excuse indeed.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            bytebear, there are very few official sources where the Church’s history can be found. It is in the process of publishing more, but most of it is not available from official sources. The JS papers project will eventually put a lot more out, but still, the correlated manuals have next to none of the more challenging aspects of LDS history in them. Almost all the stuff that Mattsson and his brothers and sisters in Sweden struggled with was published by non-church sources, such as Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling.

            There is a disconnect between the lay culture and the scholars here. The church is more open about Mormon Studies these days, but it has not yet figured out how to bring the discoveries of Mormon scholars into the mainstream curriculum.

          • bytebear

            So now it’s correlated Material and not a language issue. Seems to me, when your theory is deflated by fact, you change the theory.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            bytebear, my argument was never confined to a single one of these planks. It is possible to have an argument that contains more than one claim. I’m trying to persuade you and others that more humility is in order on the part of faithful LDS. Rather than deriding and ridiculing the likes of Hans Mattsson because he ‘couldn’t hack it’ and claiming he was unusually ignorant, members should realize that his situation is far from unique, even for church leaders, and that we brought this problem on ourselves.

            Please read this respectful response to John Welch’s helpful post at BYU Studies that articulates my position far better than I am able to:

            http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/07/23/reading-as-response-an-introduction-courtesy-of-byu-studies/

            If after reading that there are still any points that don’t make sense, let me know and I’ll do my best to clarify.

          • sip

            When was the last time someone brought up Joseph Smith’s polygamy in Sunday School? When was the last time seer stones were brought up compared to the Urim and Thumim? When was the last time the kinderhook plates were discussed? When was the last time Zelph was talked about? When was the last time you heard that Joseph Smith miraculously found the altar of Adam in Missouri, of all places? When was the second anointing discussed?
            Maybe some members know about these things, but 99% don’t.

          • bytebear

            Wow, considering most of that falls under “folk doctrine” or just rediculous. I suppose they could do a lesson on the Kinderhook plates, but why? They were a forgery that Smith never directly addressed (despite the accusations of critics). The simple fact, is you are a non-Member (I assume) and you know all about them. How did you find out about them? What are the primary sources? (hint: LDS Archives and historical writings). It always amazes me that the presumption is that non-Mormons know all the evil little secrets of Mormonism and the Mormons are just too dumb to find it out. Sorry, but the fact is, most Mormons outside brand new converts know this and more. I certainly did when I was a teenager.

    • Lynden Jensen

      “members are discouraged from reading unofficial sources of information about the Church.”

      Being one who does a lot of reading of “unofficial sources” I have never encountered this. I believe that if you were to say you were going to read Ex/Anti-Mormon material you would probably be met often by hesitant caution, but the I have seen LDS church publically and privately as a huge endorser of non-official scholarship.

      • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

        Most of my large extended family, to the extent they have become aware of my study and exploration of unofficial Mormon scholarship, have expressed concern about it, or even before I was into it, they would often warn us about studying unofficial sources of information. In general there was an attitude that such things were dangerous. I grew up in a typical middle class Mormon family in Provo. My wife also grew up in Provo, and her family has similar attitudes. Many families in my ward were similar and all my seminary teachers at Provo High School warned us about such things.

        • Sharee

          This is really stupid. Provo is “Happy Valley” and lots of members there have tunnel vision. I do not believe the church leadership is against us reading scholarly works about the church by either LDS scholars (such as Bushman) or non-LDS scholars. Mattsson had to be woefully ignorant of church history not to be aware of the practice of polygamy. I don’t care what country he lives in.

        • mrmandias

          Anecdote isn’t data. My experience has been the opposite of yours.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            Never said it was. I challenge you to read the BCC post I just linked to and see if the author doesn’t make some valid points. He speaks favorably of the BYU Studies article from John Welch, which by the way was much more charitable to the likes of Mattsson than you and your colleagues have been here.

          • mrmandias

            Already read.

            Stop being so judgmental about other people’s perceived lack of charity. You are mighty quick to cast stones about it, while your whole participation in this thread shows a lot of antagonism and hostility and very little love.

            Worry a little less about people with more faith or a less sheltered history than you and worry a little more about your own walk with Christ, not critiquing others’.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            mrmandias, I find your accusation of hostility highly ironic. So what did you think of the BCC post? Did you agree or disagree with it? Did you feel that it made any valid points?

          • mrmandias

            Deleted by author.

          • mrmandias

            Of course you do. Critique worshippers use charity as a weapon to condemn others, not as a personal principle for self-guidance.

            Irony, like other distancing mechanisms, lets you keep your hypocrisy at arm’s length.

        • JDDurr

          I also grew up in a typical middle-class Mormon family in Utah. My family never discouraged me from researching Mormon history through unofficial sources. My dad even lent me his copy of Rough Stone Rolling. We’re all very faithful, orthodox Mormons. I don’t doubt that there are some members of the church who discourage unofficial sources, but I don’t think that discouragement is as widespread as you assume.

          The truth of the matter is: 1) Most members of the Church don’t really care about the nitty-gritty details of Mormon history. They care about the spiritual feelings they experience as a Mormon. 2) The Church is a faith-promoting organization, not a historical society. It doesn’t hide its history, but it would be silly for it to make the more controversial topics the focus of Sunday school every week. 3) The historical details are widely available for those who are interested. RSR is available in the Church-owned Deseret Book stores, for example. There are even pages about controversial topics on lds.org now. For people who care, the information is available.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            JDDurr, these pages you refer to on the Church’s web site just barely came out. They are a new thing, not the way it has always been. And your own family is not necessarily representative of the Church as a whole, by your own admission. Not being interesting in Mormon history is in itself sufficient to create a discouraging effect, since it makes honest intellectual inquiry that much more rare and abnormal. As Joseph Smith taught, “the first grand fundamental principle of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” According to him, if we fail to do this, we are not “pure Mormons.”

          • JDDurr

            Hi Carl. While it’s true that the pages you mentioned are new, their very existence speaks broadly against an alleged “culture of secrecy.” A church trying to keep secrets doesn’t post pages like that. It doesn’t sell books like “Rough Stone Rolling” in its bookstores. It doesn’t permit talks like Elder Uchtdorf’s recent “Come, Join with Us.” Etc, etc.

            While it is true that my family is not __necessarily__ representative of the church, it is also true that it may well be representative. Given how many other people have posted on this page stating that they always felt comfortable researching church history from any source, it seems it is representative. Someone should do a sociological study so we can draw more than anecdotal conclusions.

            “Not being interesting (sic) in Mormon history is in itself sufficient to create a discouraging effect, since it makes honest intellectual inquiry that much more rare and abnormal.” No offense, but this statement is ridiculous. First of all, it’s a false equivalency. Just because someone is not interested in a topic does not mean they are somehow dishonest. I don’t care whether or not there’s cheese on the moon. Does that make me an intellectually dishonest “cheese apologist”?

            Furthermore, by the same reasoning not being interested in fluffy bunnies is a bad thing because it discourages those who do want to honestly study fluffy bunnies all the more rare and abnormal. If people aren’t interested in something, they’re not obligated to study it for the sake of those who are interested. Those who so desire have free access to well-researched, objective information about Mormonism. Most people in any church, nation, organization, etc., don’t care about detailed, centuries-old historical details. It’s kind of sad (Mormon history is fascinating!), but people aren’t in any way obligated to spend time studying things that don’t interest them. For those who are interested, the church does not impede them.

            The purpose of the church is not to serve as a historical society. Its purpose is to build faith. That’s why 95% of Mormons go to church. To distract from that purpose with details that most people don’t care about would be unfair. As fascinating as church history is, a detailed understanding of these historical details is not required for one to attain the spiritual truths to which Joseph was in fact referring.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            JDDurr, I never used the phrase “culture of secrecy.” I said that people are often discouraged from learning more about this stuff by many seminary teachers, leaders and parents. Certainly this culture is improving and changing, but the problem is still widespread. I have experienced it in Utah, Brazil, Washington, Norway and in the UK.

            Your appeal to absurdity (fluffy bunnies) is a false equivalence. Certainly the events and historical context of the Restoration are more important to Mormons than fluffy bunnies. Given their higher priority, it is not unreasonable to assume that Mormons should want to know a good deal about them, and to assume that those who are not interested in such things are not that serious about their religion.

            “The purpose of the church is not to serve as a historical society. Its purpose is to build faith.”

            I do not claim that it’s necessary to be a historical society, but I do contend that it is impossible to build lasting faith without following the first grand fundamental principle of Mormonism (to seek truth regardless of its source), especially in relation to the foundational events that we claim are essential to Mormonism. If we build “faith” without at least demonstrating a willingness to investigate these claims, I submit that it is not really faith.

      • Paul Bradley

        Anti-Mormon publications are defined by the Encyclopedia of Mormonism as: Anti-Mormonism includes any hostile or polemic opposition to Mormonism or to the Latter-day Saints, such as maligning the founding prophet, his successors, or the doctrines or practices of the Church. Though sometimes well intended, anti-Mormon publications have often taken the form of invective, falsehood, demeaning caricature, prejudice, and legal harassment, leading to both verbal and physical assault. From its beginnings, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members have been targets of anti-Mormon publications. Apart from collecting them for historical purposes and in response to divine direction, the Church has largely ignored these materials, for they strike most members as irresponsible misrepresentations.

        Pretty much anything that has a critical view of any aspect of the church can and in my experience is often classified as anti-Mormon. Here’s some advice given regarding how the youth of the church should respond to literature containing critical material.

        1. Read the scriptures instead.
        2. It would be a waste of time.
        3. Talk to someone knowledgeable about the gospel

        And these quotes sums up the entirety of the attitude towards critical materials to me.

        “The Lord has commanded us to search the scriptures. His writings are the words of eternal life. We know what the Lord says is true. We have a prophet and inspired men to direct and counsel us. With so much light and truth available, how can we find time to read anti-Mormon literature? Was this literature written by holy and just men when moved upon by the Holy Ghost? Or is it the work of darkness? The Lord has never commanded us to study evil.”

        “It is quite evident that there are many false and deceiving books printed about the Mormons. The question remains: should one read literature that tears down and opposes the Church, or would it be better to read something else?”

        When in doubt, throw it out as my parents told me. There are also a couple references in the sources to how you could possibly read it if you have already made up your mind about the material ahead of time. I love when I have the answer before I’ve even been asked the question.

        Sources:

        http://cdev.lds.org/semantic/view.xqy?s=/topic/anti-mormon-publications

        https://www.lds.org/new-era/2007/07/qa-questions-and-answers?lang=eng

        http://www.lds.org/new-era/1973/05/what-would-you-do?lang=engI

    • RaymondSwenson

      I am a 63 year old Mormon and have lived in both intensively Mormon Utah and Idaho, as well as Maryland, Virginia, Nebraska, Colorado, California, and Japan. I can’t recall ever hearing a bishop or stake president, let alone a top church leader from HQ in Salt Lake, ever telling us not to read “unofficial sources of information about the Church.” Indeed, I spent a year doing historical research in the LDS Church archives back in 1976-77 that was summarized in article in the Utah Law Review. I provided a copy to the Church and was asked to do a presentation to Church employees.

      Back in 2005, to commemorate the 200th birthday of Joseph Smith, the Church sponsored with the Library of Congress a two day seminar on the impact of Joseph Smith in which half the presenters were not Mormon.

      The publication online of digital copies of original correspondence from Joseph Smith could hardly be.more open. Finding similar levels of transparency in the personal papers of presidents of the.US is not yet achieved.

      At the places that most actively engage critics of Mormonism, such as FAIRLDS.org, the criticisms are fully aired along with the response. Indeed, there are lengthy and detailed articles and even recorded videos that address each of the issues mentioned in the article, and many more.

      As far as Swedes learning English, have ever heard of ABBA? Like most Europeans, English is a second language for a large.part of the population. That is even more the case for Swedish Mormons, who serve missions alongside missionaries from the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and for those in leadership positions who deal with Americans from Utah often. It is certainly true for Mormons in Japan, many of whom attend BYU in Utah, Hawaii or Idaho and even serve missions in the US and other English speaking countries.

      • Lucy Mcgee

        Given that Hans Mattsson has been an LDS Church member his entire life, isn’t it clear that when he states that the Church has hidden aspects of its history, that he is referring to that incomplete information, published by the Church over the decades, not what has come to light during the past several years? In other words, his belief system was based on an incomplete history, some of which does not track with what is offered today by the Church and by other sources. His concern, it seems to me, is much more about the silence which has existed throughout the majority of his time in the Church.

      • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

        Raymond, it does not necessarily follow that your experience is typical. I have mentioned in more than one place in these comments that my experience growing up in Provo was quite different from yours.

        The JS papers project is not a part of the correlated curriculum and it has only recently begun to publish things. And it’s publications hardly cover any of the challenging aspects of Church history yet. FAIR gives plenty of coverage of the criticisms–its whole purpose is apologetic. But it’s not a church-sponsored site and its material is not a part of the curriculum.

        Until the challenging material gets mention in the core curriculum that is translated for all members, a situation like Mattsson’s will be common.

        Even if Mattsson spoke English well, which he does not, the unofficial publications you’re referring to are fairly difficult to even be aware of, let alone to get a hold of for a member who doesn’t live near Utah or who isn’t intensely involved in Mormon studies and apologetics.

        Even if all this material were available to Mattsson, the answers that FAIR and other sources provide are not overwhelmingly satisfying. They leave plenty of room for reasonable people to come to differing conclusions about the character of Joseph Smith and other early church luminaries.

  • Natasha

    As an ex-Mormon, I can attest to members not being taught that Smith practised polygamy himself. Instead, we’re taught that it absolutely PAINED him to introduce the revelation, and that he kept it secret from Emma for so long, and kept it secret from the church, because he didn’t want to practise it himself. Nowhere are we ever taught that he married 14-year-olds, nor the galling circumstances under which he married young women, nor that he married women who already had husbands, after sending those husbands away on missions.

    The church also actively dissuades members from searching the internet for church information. They strike fear into members about being led away by Satan’s “anti-Mormon lies.” They quote a Mormon scripture about “even the very elect” falling away from the church. They have even set up their own search engine for Mormons to use when searching for church information, so that they won’t come across anything “upsetting” that is also true. And in the worlds of Mormon Apostle Boyd K. Packer, “not everything that is true is very useful.” When members first start to read anything about the church on a site that is not church-sponsored, they widely report feeling as though they are looking at pornography.

    An Area Authority is someone who is in a Quorum of the 70. These people are called to these callings by the Quorum of the Twelve. It’s a huge deal because these men often work directly with the Apostles. And yes, it would be good if the article had explained why this man’s position is so noteworthy.

    It’s disingenuous to refer to the study spearheaded by Dehlin as “a internet poll.” It was academic in nature and took over an hour and a half for me to complete. It is common for academic studies to target specific groups of people only. It is common to gather responses from people from the internet. It is common to have people self-report. Why would a study targetting people who no longer believe in the Mormon church include responses from people who believe in the Mormon church?? How would that be helpful?

    Active dissemination of church history would require actively teaching correct history to Mormons in church. There are Sunday School classes where for a whole year, members study church history. Except that they are NEVER taught these problematic pieces of history. They are never told that Joseph Smith revised his “First Vision” story multiple times, with drastically different details in each revision. The church has also not always made historical documents widely available. This is new. And also meaningless for lay members who can’t even read the documents, never mind comprehend their implications. Few Mormons are academics.

    Rough Stone Rolling might be sold by Deseret in an effort toward plausible deniability. “We’re not trying to hide anything, see? We approve of the sale of a book about the church which ultimately asserts that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, written by an active Mormon!” Rough Stone Rolling was my exit book, but it’s still far more faithful than many books… which Deseret doesn’t sell.

    Finally, Mormonism’s claim to unilateral truthfulness separates it from other protestant churches. Its arrogance and piety, its claims of being the one way to return family members to each other after death and to return individuals to God—and its assertion that belief in Christ is insufficient for all of this—is the reason for media interest in stories such as this one. Plus, it would make sense that American media would focus so much on an American-grown religion; America loves nothing more than itself.

    • Darren Blair

      As someone who’s done apologetics work for 12+ years?

      I’ve had critics of the church lie to my face about different issues.

      I’ve also found numerous instances in which critics of the church have doctored citations in order to make texts and quotations say what the critics wanted them to say.

      So yes, more than a few opponents of the church are actively engaged in dishonesty.

      • Krell Jans

        John Gee has engaged in similar tactics. There is always the temptation to distort, if one is passionately partisan about some topic.

        • Darren Blair

          [citation needed]

          • Krell Jans

            A summary of the issue can be found here:

            http://www.mormondiscussions.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?p=89262#p89262

            Summary: John Gee relied on some color-manipulated copies (Gee had access to the original documents) of the Kirtland Egyptian papers to make an apologetic claim to excuse Joseph from responsibility for the mistranslation of the characters, but full color versions of the manuscripts reveal that the characters are written in the same ink as the interpretations.

          • Darren Blair

            I’ll look at it later; I’ve got a lot to do today.

    • http://wasatchintercept.blogspot.com/ Gary Moore

      The fact that historical details, that you now deem as crucial knowledge, was not taught in church meetings, in no way relieved you of your responsibility to do independent study at home. A subject is best understood when viewed from multiple angles, to view from only one will always produce a limited perspective.

      The obnoxious and stifling word-of-mouth rumor being passed around by fellow members, church authorities have decreed “anti-Mormon literature”, is no impediment. When asked for an authoritative source to back it up, those members thoughtlessly repeating this claim never can provide one. That is because the only ban on reading material that legitimately exists in the Mormon Church is the ban on pornography.

      It only stands to reason people who want to debate over the truth claims of the LDS Church, and people who consider the truth of the church a settled matter, are both going to consider some facts critical, that the other deems irrelevant. The charge that there is fraudulent concealment of the church’s true history is unfounded.

      • Darren Blair

        Agreed.

        I’ve presently* got a larger collection of pro-Mormon material than most Mormons and a larger collection of anti-Mormon material than some preachers. I’ve also done a lot of studying into various secular topics, and in the process have found a fair bit to bolster some of the church’s claims.

        *My car broke down again, and so I might have to part with a few items to help pay for repairs.

      • Natasha

        “The obnoxious and stifling word-of-mouth rumor being passed around by fellow members, church authorities have decreed “anti-Mormon literature”, is no impediment.”

        I think your sentence is missing some words. Several words.

        I think you’re attempting to say that church leaders have not said that members should not read outside sources. If so, you would be wrong. It’s as if you haven’t been to General Conference. The last session brought up this point and the church has created a search engine to filter out non-church-approved information.

        You’re also ignoring the fact that many local leaders—ward and stake—will give members instructions and that the GAs instruct members to listen to their local leaders… without actually having a method of reporting in place to know what the local leaders are even teaching.

        • http://wasatchintercept.blogspot.com/ Gary Moore

          You have entirely failed to substantiate your claim that LDS policy is that outside materials are not be read.

          A page number from the General Handbook (easily found on the internet, despite the efforts of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. to preserve the integrity of their copyright), or the date which a letter of instruction from was read sacrament meetings, would certainly constitute proof. Telling me that the hierarchy instructs members to listen to their local leaders, then speculating about what local leaders functioning under that commission might be counseling in private, does not suffice.

          A search tool tailored to provide only authoritative material is a useful thing. We have a problem of rumors being spread, and being taken as official church doctrine or church policy. The fact that many Mormons believe the church wants then to stay away from “anti-Mormon literature”, despite the fact that no reference can be cited, is a good illustration that the problem exists.

          I’m all for keeping to what the leaders have actually said, and filtering spurious material out of church meetings and people’s chatting in the foyer. Whether that comes from speculation on some member’s blog, or comes from mormonthink.com.

          If the word comes down, dump what I have been using, and use the new church search tool for all internet activity, on that day I’ll join you in your conclusion that there is something sinister going on.

          • Natasha

            Gary, I haven’t provided you with quotes because you can easily look them up yourself. You’re the one who wants them. Maybe members repeatedly fail to provide you with references because your demand for them makes it clear that you either don’t listen in conference; or you’re crazy; or you’re so argumentative and out-to-lunch that you will try to argue that because specific sources are not explicitly outlawed in the GHI, that the leaders haven’t actually warned people away from reading outside sources or searching the internet; and they don’t feel a need to waste their time arguing with someone so clueless about what church leaders say… repeatedly… in many places.

            Educate THYSELF, Gary. I’m busy.

          • Darren Blair

            Sorry, but in an academic-level debate, saying “You can look it up for yourself” doesn’t fly.

          • Natasha

            True. In an academic-level debate. I’m not debating anyone, therefore there is no debate.

          • Darren Blair

            Actually, the default for debates like this *is* academic.

          • Josh Segundo

            CFR

          • Krell Jans

            “Here are a couple of things to remember about anti-Mormon material.

            “First, it would be a waste to spend a lot of time and energy reading it. For one thing, it’s incredibly repetitive. Most of its questions and claims have been brought up—and answered—time and time again for over 100 years. But because anti-Mormon authors want to discredit the Church, they keep writing the same stuff over and over in the hope that they can reach a new audience. For another thing, you may not have the knowledge and experience to successfully investigate and counter all of
            the arguments they make. If you do end up reading something that criticizes the Church, discuss it with someone you trust who is knowledgeable in the gospel, like your parents, bishop, or seminary teacher. They can help you find answers and, more importantly, put things in proper perspective.

            https://www.lds.org/new-era/2007/07/qa-questions-and-answers?lang=eng

          • http://wasatchintercept.blogspot.com/ Gary Moore

            That quote, taken from a church magazine published for teenagers, actually contains some very good advice. The point that these authors reprint the same handful of quotes from early Mormon sources, over and over again, is quite valid.

            What this quote does not do, in any way, is prove that Mormons (children or adults) are under orders not to read about Mormonism from non-Mormon sources, as user “Natasha” falsely claimed.

    • Carlos Danger

      of the church members who know JS practiced polygamy… how many know or explain why it involved JS breaking EVERY rule: marrying women who already had husbands and sealings, not getting permission of the first wife, not taking the hand of virgins only.

      • Darren Blair

        Actually, it’s my understanding that some of the sealings were done *after he was already dead* as part of a misunderstanding of how the sealing process and vicarious sealings were supposed to work.

        This is a part of the reason why it’s been such a mess figuring things out.

        • Josh Segundo

          How do you respond to what Carlos mentions above? (breaking EVERY rule)

          • Darren Blair

            That goes back to “trying to figure out who, what, and when”.

    • Sharee

      Natasha, for an excellent discussion on Joseph Smith’s polygamous (and polyandrous) marriages, you should read the paper given by Brain C. Hales at last year’s FAIR Conference: Joseph Smith’s Sexual Polyandry and the Emperor’s New Clothes: On Closer Inspection, What Do We Find? You can find that at http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference.

  • s11pm1

    Area Authority means he was in the Quorum of the 70. There are multiple quorums of 70. Altogether, it’s 200-something people, ranking just below the First Presidency (3 people) and Quorum of the 12 Apostles (12 people). This is out of a church that officially reports 14.8 million. So yeah, he was pretty high ranking, and the comparison to a Cardinal is a good one.

    Secondly, many Mormons have a vague idea of Joseph Smith’s polygamy. It’s certainly not common knowledge that he practiced polyandry, which is to say that he married women that were already married. In some cases, Smith had sent their husbands out on missions. Most Mormons also don’t know that Emma Smith was unaware of so many of these relationships. The official canonized doctrine (D&C 132) says: “…if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse aanother, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified…” (see http://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/132?lang=eng) So many Mormons would be justifiable shaken by some of the historical details of polygamy.

    • Neal Rappleye

      Actually, conflating all members of a quorum of the 70 overstates the issue. Only the first two quorums of 70 are “general authorities” ranked just below the 12 apostles. The area authority 70s, of which there are something like 6 quorums of, answer to an area presidency, which is composed of members of one of the first two quorums. AA 70s, thus are ranked below GA 70s, and much more distant in the hierarchy than a Catholic cardinal would be. (Any one of which could theoretically be the next pope… meanwhile, no AA 70 has a chance of being the next LDS prophet.) Not to mention the fact that cardinals are professionally trained in theology and religious history, which helps make them more immune to the kind of experiences of Brother Mattsson.

      • s11pm1

        Thanks for the clarification. You are correct that Area Authority 70s are below the first two Quorums of the 70. The comparison to cardinals is not exact, but we’re still talking about a small number of high-ranking men. (There are 82 total between the First and Second Quorums, and 232 Area 70s. So he was one of the top say 350 out of 14.8 million.)

        You’re also correct about theological training, but you could say that about virtually all LDS leadership. The Prophet/President isn’t trained. If you are Mormon and trained, you’re most likely a college professor or historian, not a high-ranking leader.

        • Neal Rappleye

          It is true that you can say that about all LDS leadership, but I don’t think that makes the point any more or less important. Most people reading something like that NYT article will see terms like “leadership” and comparisons to Catholic cardinals and imagine someone who is well trained and knowledgeable on the kind of subjects that are being discussed as causing doubt. My point is, while the comparison to cardinal is apt in some ways, it can give the wrong impression to those who don’t understand how LDS leadership works. I’m fine with people making the comparison, so long as they explain in what ways they mean it, and also are clear about differences.

          But I certainly won’t deny that he is a fairly high ranking leader, and that is what makes this interesting. As someone who studies LDS scholarship and engages in apologetics fairly regularly, I am personally quite interested in understanding how this happens to such a high ranking and involved leader. (So that we can understand how to remedy the problem.) My personal hunch is that location had something to do with it. Europe is a well-developed part of the world, so he and other members likely had good internet access (which is where most people find critical info on the LDS Church), but LDS scholarship doesn’t really circulate widely beyond the US. Most LDS scholars are Americans who write from American Mormon audiences.

    • Lynden Jensen

      s11pm1,

      I posted as the second comment on this article so I realize you probably didn’t read it, but I did a numbers study on the Cardinal=Area 70 and found them to be not very similar, read below or just reference this spreadsheet I made. I have both grouped all the 70 or separated the Area Authorities from General Authorities, so you can use whichever you like.

      https://app.box.com/s/fuha5pddojkb6sfvgp8w

      • s11pm1

        I actually did see your comment, but found it of limited value. By the same logic, the Prophet’s position is not much like the Pope because the ratio 1:14.8 million is orders of magnitude away from 1:1.2 billion.

        For a two page New York Times article written to the general population, the comparison of Cardinal to 70 is imperfect, but pretty darn good.

        • Lynden Jensen

          I apologize in advance s11pm1 — I know this issue is of very little important and rather ancillary to the issues. Time would be much better spent on figuring out a way to better inform members of the church on these issues. So I’ll leave my comments on these issues to my last below message.

          You are right, this analysis is of limited use, and will always be because they have different hierarchies and will be somewhat comparing apples to oranges, but you look at it, it is a bad analogy.

          The cardinals are so rare and prestigious. There are nearing twice as many 70′s as there are Cardinals whereas the Catholic church has 70 times the membership the the LDS church has. It just doesn’t scale.You notice my other calculation where it shows “how high up the latter” they are. An area 70 is in the top 1% of LDS church hierarchy whereas a cardinal is at the top 0.05% of church officials.

          Cardinals are the second highest position from the Pope, whereas to get to area authorities you have to go through the Prophet, the First Presidency, the 12 apostles, the general authority 70′s, and then get to the area 70′s (and this is ignoring the president of the 12, and the presidents of the 70′s).

          Honestly, I am sure it doesn’t matter to many people to start with. Most people don’t really even know what it means to be a Cardinal now-a-days. To them it is a perfect analogy. Some high religious figure coming to terms with some inconvenient truths.

          Anyhow, I’m not trying be a nazi, I hope I don’t seem contentious.

        • Bob Smith

          That’s absurd. Mattsson is probably a very nice guy, but he is not an LDS General Authority (which only includes Seventies of the first two quorums, of which he is not a part). Indeed, the only persons who have a hand in selecting the next LDS Prophet are members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and counselors in the former First Presidency — usually about 15 men total. They alone have that responsibility and authority.

          • John Pee

            Bob,
            The neither the 12 or the remaining two counselors select the next prophet. It is written in the articles of incorporation for the corporation of the president. The senior apostle is the next prophet and president period.

          • Bob Smith

            Nice in theory, John, and I appreciate the additional info. However, no one becomes the next LDS President without apostolic approval, no matter how senior, and the membership would be likely to accept whatever decision might be made by that supreme council, regardless of tradition or articles of incorporation.

            My main point was that it is utterly silly to equate an area seventy with a Roman Catholic cardinal, as Mollie emphasizes below.

    • Darren Blair

      I’m descended from a plural marriage.

      Shocking? Hardly. In fact, it’s almost hilarious just how everything went down. (Basically, it was wife #1′s idea.)

  • Ryan Bingham

    The NYT article is pretty spot on. The pain experienced by Mormons who were never taught their complete history is often more intense than what the article indicates.

    If I’m not mistaken, Mattson’s being the Area Authority over the European area means that he oversaw all of the stakes and wards in Europe. The assignment of Area Authority is given to members of the Quorums of the Seventy.

  • Luman Walters

    I think it’s quite a significant piece actually. If you are such a fan of skeptics you would know why this so much more significant. A protestant can doubt the resurrection but still participate fully in his/her congregation. Not the case for mormons. I’m skeptical of the church, so I don’t get to see my siblings get married in the temple. You either have to pretend to beleive everything or it’s out the door for you.
    And as far as that commentor. I can promise you that it was a mormon who was just claiming to be a non-mormon to hide their subjectivity.This is their tactic. There is a group called mormon voices and whenever there is a article on mormonism they send out an email to have people go and “defend the church from attacks” it’s regular practice for them to pose themselves as non-members.

    • Darren Blair

      I presume that you have proof for this particular allegation?

      • Luman Walters

        Dear MormonVoices volunteer,

        The New York Times has published a front page article about leaving the church. This, of course, has started a lively discussion in the comments section. The article can be found here:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/us/some-mormons-search-the-web-and-find-doubt.html?pagewanted=all&_r=3&

        Please provide some balance to the comments section by leaving a comment based on your own knowledge and experience. The article brings up many factual and historical issues, so it may help you to consult the resources at mormonvoices.org and en.fairmormon.org. Please also contact email@mormonvoices.org with specific questions.

        As always, avoid debates and keep the tone as friendly as possible. Even those who seem hostile may only be mistaken.

        If you haven’t yet, please remember to sign up for FAIR’s Front Page so that you can receive a digest of articles about the church each day. Many of the articles could use your perspective and comments, even if we don’t send out a formal Call to Action. Subscribe here: http://mormonvoices.org/

        Thank you for your help!

        The MormonVoices Management Team

        FAIR, PO Box 491677, Redding, CA 96049, USA

        • Darren Blair

          “I can promise you that it was a mormon who was just claiming to be a non-mormon to hide their subjectivity.”

          This is what I was asking you to back up.

          And personally, I’m still waiting.

          • Rathje

            He can’t back it up. It’s just plain tinfoil hattery.

            A common thing in the world of anti-Mormonism.

          • Darren Blair

            The one I used to run into a lot was the “sock puppet” allegation.

            The “sock puppet” allegation tends to occur when critics of the church note that multiple Mormons are working together to respond to their arguments. Rather than comprehend the fact that members of the church often work in sync, the critics will allege that the most vocal Mormon in the group is the only “real” person and that the other Mormons are nothing more than the “real” person maintaining sock puppets.

            The allegation is more likely to occur when someone who claims to be a non-Mormon joins with the Mormons in rebutting a particular argument, as the critics fail to understand why a non-Mormon might do so.

          • Luman Walters

            what?

          • Darren Blair

            Sorry if you didn’t quite catch on.

            In internet slang, a “sock puppet” is a dummy account created by a poster on an internet forum.

            How they work is that the poster switches back and forth between their main account and their “puppet” account during debates, thereby making it seem like more people are in agreement about and in support of a particular matter than there actually are.

            For obvious reasons, “sock puppetry” is frowned upon by most forum administrators, with penalties swift to follow if a person is discovered using puppets.

            As an extension of this, it used to be common (at least, on the different websites I was on at the time) for critics of the church to allege individual Mormons (like myself) of sock puppetry whenever they realized that multiple Mormons were coming out to answer their arguments; either they could not comprehend how seamlessly the individual Mormons on the forum were working together or did not believe that so many people would come to the defense of the church. (There were literally instances in which one of us would have to stop for whatever reason, only for another one of us to pick up right where they left off and continue the counter-arguments from there.)

            And as astounded as they may have been at the prospect of multiple Mormons working together, the concept of a non-Mormon defending the church was mind-blowing; while there would usually be a bit of lag time between first spotting the additional Mormons and the critic making the accusations, the appearance of a friendly non-Mormon tended to invoke instant whining and complaining.

          • wlinden

            You mean Mormon commenters often AGREE with each other? Yes, it must be an underhanded plot!

          • Darren Blair

            A lot of critical material presents Mormons as either being too stupid to know better, too corrupt to care about the “truth”, or somehow being coerced into staying.

            As a result, a lot of critics don’t quite know what to do when they encounter Mormons who are intelligent, ethical, and willing to stand up to them. All these critics can do is throw rote criticisms at people and pray that they work.

          • Luman Walters

            Yes I did this when I would go and defend the church. I talked with other friends of mine who would do it to. We had our justifications.

          • Darren Blair

            In other words, it sounds like it was just something that your little group did.

            I, personally, would put a stop to such things if I found out about them.

      • sigmund5

        He is not pulling this outta his butt…it is very common here in Utah. And yes the church has an office with a lot of computer power to track what people write and say. Heck back in the 80′s and 90′s it has admitted to putting cams in students dorms and following them around to find if they were gay.

  • Darren Blair

    An associate of mine has asked that I post the following links for those who want additional information:

    *http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2013/07/another-response-to-the-recent-new-york-times-article.html – brief response by apologist and college professor Dan Peterson.

    *http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/finding-faith-in-the-midst-of-doubt/ – list of links to assorted apologetics items about matters raised in the article.

  • Justin Brady

    I read Rough Stone Rolling and loved it. I recommend it to everyone, Mormon or not. It actually increased my faith. Hmmm…imagine that? Maybe they should write a story about me.

    • Darren Blair

      As I noted to an associate of mine –

      The average news outlet isn’t going to care about the fact that 999 planes landed safely at Red Rock International last year.

      They’re going to care about the 1 in 1,000 that didn’t.

      A Mormon who keeps the faith in light of information that not everyone considers flattering to the church? Just not newsworthy.

  • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

    Here is an excellent response to general lack of sympathy for Mattsson expressed by apologists on this and other blogs. Please read it:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/07/23/reading-as-response-an-introduction-courtesy-of-byu-studies/

    • Krell Jans

      “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well. (2 Nephi 28:20–21)”

  • SJ Bobkins

    Damn those Mormons and that Joseph Smith are some weird characters, about as weird as the characters in the Bible that claimed to commune with God. Shocking isn’t it, now what do I throw away Mormon ideas or Bible Ideas on the same line?

    Throughout the Bible there are various ways in which God gave revelation to prophets. These range from visions, angels, hearing the voice of God, God speaking from a burning bush, seeing writing on a wall, writing on a tablet, casting lots, magic rods, magic cups, dreams, and hearing the voice of his Spirit in the heart and mind. I think God can decide for Himself how he wishes to give a prophet a revelation or a translation. Who is man that he should tell God how He can or can’t give a translation?

    Nevertheless, the method in which Joseph Smith was given the text of the Book of Mormon, by the gift and power of God is amazingly similar to other Biblical accounts of God giving written material to prophets.

    For example, Daniel’s experience of seeing God’s writing on the wall is similar to Joseph Smiths experience of seeing God’s writing on a stone:

    “In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.” (Daniel 5:5)

    Moses struck a rock and water flowed out of it. Moses struck the ground and the Red Sea parted.

    The Old Testament Joseph had a silver cup which he used to divine (Genesis 44:2, 5).

    We read, for instance, that Aaron had a magical rod (Exodus 7:9-12). Jacob also used magical rods to produce speckled offspring from Laban’s cattle (Genesis 30:37-39). We read that a priest could tell if a woman had committed adultery by seeing if her thigh swelled after drinking a special potion (Numbers 5: 11-13, 21)

    As recorded in 1 Samuel 14:41, 1 Samual 10:22, and 2 Samual 5:23 that the urim and thummim was used to receive revelation from God.

    The prophecy of John the Revelator, wherein he said that some would have a white stone which would have writing on it is amazingly similar to what actually happened to Joseph Smith:

    “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” (Revelations 2:17)

    Note that John tells us that “no man knoweth” about the stone and the writing “saving he that receiveth it.” So, of course, critics will doubt and mock.

    And, of course, we have what is probably the best known example of a prophet receiving writing from God on a stone, that of Moses:

    “And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.”(Exodus 31:18) And also:“And the Lord delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the Lord spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.” (Deuteronomy 9:10)

    Here, God writes words on a stone tablet, very similar to words being written on the stone that Joseph used.

    God can give revelation to a prophet in whatever manner He chooses. And He did use a variety of methods with various prophets, some of which would look like folk magic to us today.

    Emma Smith, wife of Joseph Smith

    “In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after

    day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face

    buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour

    with nothing between us.” (History of the RLDS Church, 8 vols. Herald House, 1951, Volume 3, page 356, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma.”)

    David Whitmer, one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon

    “I will now give you a description of the manner in

    which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer

    stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely

    around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual

    light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would

    appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would

    appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph

    would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal

    scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to

    see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character

    with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was

    translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.”

    (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, 1887, p. 12)

    Martin Harris, one of the witnesses and scribes to the Book of Mormon

    “Martin Harris related an incident that occured during

    the time that he wrote that portion of the translation of the Book of

    Mormon which he was favored to write direct from the mouth of the

    Prophet Joseph Smith. He said that the Prophet possessed a seer stone,

    by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and

    Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone, Martin

    explained the translation as follows: By aid of the seer stone,

    sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by

    Martin and when finished he would say “Written,” and if correctly

    written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place,

    but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the

    translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the

    language then used.” (Edward Stevenson, “One of the Three Witnesses,”

    originally Deseret News, Nov. 30, 1881, later in the Millennial Star, Feb. 6, 1882, pp. 86-87. Stevenson would later become a member of the First Council of Seventy).

    Oliver Cowdery, principal scribe for the Book of Mormon

    “These were days never to be forgotten — to sit under

    the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the

    utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued,

    uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated, with the Urim

    and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the

    history, or record, called ‘The book of Mormon.” (Messenger and Advocate, 1834, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 14; Note

    that at that time among the members of the Church, the term “Urim and

    Thummim” was synonymous with the seer stone that Joseph worked with).

    Joseph Knight, Sr., early Church member, and close friend to Joseph

    “Now the way he translated was he put the urim and

    thummim into his hat and Darkened his Eyes then he would take a sentance

    and it would appear in Brite Roman Letters then he would tell the

    writer and he would write it[.] then that would go away the next

    sentence would Come and so on But if it was not Spelt rite it would not

    go away till it was rite[,] so we see it was marvelous. thus was the hol

    [whole] translated.” (Joseph Knight, Sr., “Joseph Knight, Sr.,

    Reminiscence, circa 1835-1847″; see Dan Vogel’s Early Mormon Documents, Volume 4, pp. 17-18.)

    Michael Morse, Emma Smith’s brother-in-law

    “When Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon [I] had

    occasion more than once to go into his immediate presence, and saw him

    engaged at his work of translation. The mode of procedure consisted in

    Joseph’s placing the Seer Stone in the crown of a hat, then putting his

    face into the hat, so as to entirely cover his face, resting his elbows

    upon his knees, and then dictating word after word, while the scribes —

    Emma, John Whitmer, O. Cowdery, or some other wrote it down.” (Saints’ Herald, June 15, 1879, pp. 190-191).

    Isaac Hale, father of Emma Smith

    “The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret,

    was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with a stone in

    his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the

    same time hid in the woods.” (Affidavit of Isaac Hale, March 20, 1834,

    see Rodger I. Anderson’s book Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reexamined, Signature Books, pp. 126-128)

  • Carlos Danger

    articles of people leaving the church NEVER actually discuss the gaping holes in theological issues:

    why couldn’t God provide revelation JUST prior to Mountain Meadows Massacre saying how important it is to “love thy neighbor”?

    why did God accept blood money taken off the slaughtered innocent victims into the church tithing?

    why didn’t God speak up as Brigham Young claimed God was getting revenge?

    do members love God BECAUSE of this apathy, of IN SPITE of this apathy?

    could you imagine the fall out if Tony Hastings knew the oil spill was about to go down and doesn’t so much as pick the phone up to tell someone? that’s exactly what God did (according to the church) as church members were lying to innocent people to put their weapons down and come out from hiding.

    • Darren Blair

      Mountain Meadows was actually the result of gears that had been set in motion 20+ years earlier. If you’ll recall, both the Bible and the Book of Mormon have passages in which God allows bad things to happen to serve as a testimony against the people who commit them.

      Furthermore, Brigham Young – like just about everyone else in the territory – was under the impression that the Paiutes had committed the raid in retaliation for the Franchers giving them tainted meat; some of the men involved in the assault were of such repute that nobody thought to question them.

      (In fact, the Franchers *had* given the local Paiutes tainted meat, which *did* cause illness and at least one death. Most likely, the cattle the Franchers sold the Paiutes had eaten a type of local weed that was poisonous. The Paiutes believed that the Franchers had tried to deliberately poison them and so they really *were* out on the warpath at the time. The local militia took advantage of this by using it as a cover.)

      As it was, when the government first proposed an investigation ca. 1859, Brigham Young offered to assist the government by using his authority as head of the church to ensure that witnesses appeared to testify. Young was among the many people stunned when the government abruptly halted the investigation (Uncle Sam wouldn’t pick it back up for another 20 years), and publicly questioned the government’s motives in doing so.

      Put everything together, and what we have is BY and so many others trusting men who, in hindsight, they shouldn’t have trusted rather than listen to anything they might have been prompted to do.

      • Carlos Danger

        who the hell uses “on the warpath” this day in age?

        your information is coming from the murders who lied to their own prophet about their involvement, not what one could possibly consider trustworthy.

        Forney concluded that the Paiutes did not act alone and the massacre would not have occurred without the white settlers

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Meadows_massacre#Investigations_and_prosecutions

        • Darren Blair

          If you’d re-read my post, you’d see that I said “The local militia took advantage of this by using it as a cover”.

          In other words, I stated what you accused me of not having said.

          Elsewhere, I made note of a work by Norman F. Furniss. Among other topics, Furniss talks about a deal being struck between the Paiutes – who did legitimately see an outbreak of disease after trading with the Franchers – and the local militia. The terms of the deal were that if the Paiutes couldn’t do the job, then the militia would step in; in exchange, the Paiutes would take the blame.

  • shakeyquant

    I saw a similar question from a friend who grew up in Utah but not LDS. She said “How does anyone not know Joseph Smith was polygamist”. The answer is simple. Though a lifetime of Sunday School, Seminary classes in High School, and college level Institute classes you are given hundreds of stories about the life of Joseph Smith but no difficult stuff. Only faith promoting stories.

    For example, most Mormons know the story of Joseph refusing whiskey to numb the pain before he had a leg surgery. it’s told often. The story implies Joseph abstained from alcohol even when it might be justified. The truth is that he drank casually his whole life, including ordering a bottle of wine to his jail cell the night he was killed.

    • Darren Blair

      Actually, the “difficult” stuff isn’t all that hard to find, even if one goes through typically “Mormon-friendly” material.

      • Josh Segundo

        There is a substantial difference in being able to ‘find’ the difficult stuff, as opposed to being taught the difficult stuff in Sunday School, Seminary, Institute, etc.

        • Darren Blair

          Actually, it depends upon who happens to be teaching that day and how tight the lesson schedule is.

          Some teachers will get into however much they feel their students can handle, time permitting.

          I actually used to teach Gospel Principles, and so that was my MO; I’d even chuck the lesson plan altogether if people had a question that needed that much time to answer.

    • John M.

      I first learned of the Mountain Meadows massacre in high school seminary in the 70s–it was the subject of the lesson for at least one full day. You probably want to avoid generalizing a single person’s experience about nothing “difficult” ever being taught/discussed.

  • LakersTrent

    For regular readers of the NYTimes I don’t think the piece was a surprise. The Times still has paid subscribers and so can have *some* standards, but quality there as elsewhere has gone way down, and I doubt the piece received much thoughtful editorial oversight before being published. I would guess it went something like the following:

    Young Journalist: “Hey, I have a piece about Mormons, I heard from an ex-Mormon friend that some really high leader is disaffecting, and it’s juicy fresh, and it also highlights a supposed mass trend; my friend says Mormons are “hemorrhaging” away from their church because the internet shows the “real” truth but the Church is afraid and tries to cover up truth ’cause of course they’re a church and therefore a naive fraud”

    Editor, thinking: “Hmm, it’s about Mormons, so it will get some attention, and hey it also covers sentiment against religion, which we love to give place to since non-believers are so oppressed in our backward Judeo-Christian-normative country,. And, it even tries to bring in larger trends of millennials being less devout. Plus, there aren’t very many Mormons subscribing in New York, or working at the Times, so nobody that matters to me will complain. There’s a possible upside and little downside, and the “M” word gets good traction and attracts traffic. Might as well do it.”

    Journalist: “Ok, I’m ready for publishing. I even found a Professor to say something, and ‘recent poll’ that backs up my story’s claim”

    Editor: “Wow, I haven’t seen actual sources for anything in a while. We’ve mostly just been doing op-eds; they go more viral. I’m impressed. Publish away”.

    Young Journalist: “Yay.” (to source/friend)- “Hey, it went through. Make sure this circulates in Mormon-unfriendly circles. Those old religious guys will be powerless, and we will fulfill our journalistic mission to Change The World!!!”

    Yeah, as you can tell I’m a little bored (and loopy) tonight, but the point is (as this piece explains well) that articles against faith and religion are a pretty tired genre. I don’t blame them for giving voice to the guy if he came forward and said he was a former leader doing something groundbreaking and vocal against a big bad organization, but the piece wasn’t fleshed out very well and relied on attitudes that are far from fresh. People who want to say “gotcha Mormons” will gleefully do so and email it to their friends with subject line “aren’t you glad we saw past those pathetic Mormon tricks”, and people who know better with sigh and say “journalism these days” (like we are). But the piece will do little to inform anyone or provoke new thought.

    It’s cool that something Mormon was the second-most emailed piece in the nation’s biggest elitist publication, but it doesn’t really seem to have earned what it got.

  • Hello_World

    I think this article was very informed and made some very good points. I only have one question. You stated: “I grew up in Mormon areas and have Mormon family members and ex-Mormon family and friends…” But didn’t state if you were a Mormon or not. I’m impressed with the level of objectivity in your article. It’s not normally what one would see in an article from journalists who are not Mormons. Are you talking entirely from the outside or where you in and then out?

    • Darren Blair

      Normally, when a person says “in _____ areas and around _____”, it means that they were outsiders looking in.

      And “machine”?

      Really?

      • Hello_World

        I’m not looking to pick a fight. I know the author’s statements alluded to being an outsider looking in. This is one of the few articles that I find to be very objective without a single zing anywhere. I was impressed. And there’s nothing wrong with the word machine. In the context of my statement, I assume the author is non-Mormon, it appears from the statement I quoted that the the author escaped baptism. It’s no secret that the Mormon’s make Mormons out of non-Mormons.

        So yes. Really.

        • Darren Blair

          “Machine” has some very negative connotations when used in the fashion that you were using it.

          You see, whenever you say “_____ machine”, you’re saying that _____ is a nameless, faceless mass that operates mechanically and goes after all in its path in order to achieve its goals.

          • Hello_World

            Yes you are right. I am not nearly as objective as the author and the word I used was expressive of my opinion especially when I explained it as “escaped.” I will see if I can fix it.

          • Darren Blair

            Look for the “edit” button at the bottom of your post.

          • Hello_World

            Fixed.

  • Carlos Danger

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/53408134-78/church-lds-mormon-faith.html.csp

    “I definitely get the sense that this is a real crisis,” said Mormon scholar and writer Terryl Givens. “It is an epidemic.”

    even with the obvious stuff such as “why was God too apathetic to tell JS not to be marrying women who’ve already been sealed in the temple”…

    there is also interesting theological stuff that never gets brought up: such as “how did earth get from originally being created near Kolob, to this solar system? was it like an intergalactic UPS delivery or something?”.

    • Darren Blair

      God was simply using the star Kolob to mark time with, as it was convenient to his vantage point.

      There’s nothing about “Earth being made near there and moved into the solar system”.

    • Darren Blair

      Oh, and about the article you cited –

      “In a nonscientific online survey last fall, researchers at the Open
      Stories Foundation found that 81 percent cited loss of faith in Mormon
      founder Joseph Smith as a moderate or strong factor in their no longer
      believing in the LDS Church. Another 84 percent said they studied LDS
      history and lost their faith. About 79 percent lost faith in Mormonism’s
      founding scripture, the Book of Mormon.”

      If the poll in question was set up to where people could choose multiple answers, then this would work.

      If the poll was “one answer only”, then either someone made some major typos or the Trib got taken for a ride because some editor couldn’t do math.

  • RaymondSwenson

    Thanks for the insightful comments.

    Are there Mormons who are ignorant about the issues that critics of Mormon history and beliefs raise? Yes, there are, just like there are lots of Americans who have only the most superficial knowledge of US history, politics and law. A lot of people don’t read serious books for amusement, and don’t feel a need to improve their minds. That complacency does not prepare someone to deal with attacks on their beliefs (whether political, religious or scientific). When confronted by an attack, they have no practice in doing their own balanced research and drawing their own conclusions. They are tripped up by all sorts logical fallacies, such as appeals to credentialed authorities on the one hand and ad hominem attacks on the other.

    On the other hand, there is also a large community of Mormon believers who are not shaken by such critics. They often support and participate in scholarship in their own work, and don’t accept criticisms at face value. They are willing to take the time to study and compare facts and evidence and evaluate arguments. They don’t believe that every assumption handed down to them by parents or teachers is necessarily foundational to their religion, and they distinguish be tween the personal views of a leader or teacher in the Church and the core of what God asks us to believe. Most of all, they don’t confuse what they thought to be true, which may well have been mistaken, with what is really true, and they know that God only asks them to believe real truth, not myths and their own misconceptions. When a more intellectually engaged and curious Mormon grows up in a less curios family, it can be hard to understand that this other body of members exists and can help them.

    How do we get the complacent Mormons to turn into intellectually engaged Mormons? The Church supports a real university with graduate schools. It also offers advanced classes in Church history and doctrine to college students in many countries. It offers daily religious instruction to high school students all over the world. It publishes resources in print and online. A lot of Mormons have created unofficial organizations to help members understand and respond to criticisms, including FAIRLDS.org, with essays and even videos. It is holding its annual two day seminar in a week and is offering it as streaming video.

  • Library 1

    As a member struggling with the same issues as Mr. Mattson it is hurtful to be blamed for not knowing the history. I come from pioneer stock was raised in Rexburg, ID and am just learning this stuff and I am 39 years old. We spend 3 hours in church every Sunday and haven’t been taught a lot of this stuff. In all the Manuel’s when it talks about Joseph Smith it never says anything about him having 33 wives and that 11 of them were married to other living men. We don’t know we have to search for the whole story outside of church. How do we know what to search for when we didn’t even know these problems exist. It feels Like you have been lied to. You feel hurt and betrayed. Don’t blame the investigator. It’s not our fault the church has chosen not to teach us the whole story on Sundays.

  • sip

    I attended church weekly for over 30 years.
    I took four years of seminary.
    I took eight religion classes at BYU.
    I studied the scriptures daily.
    I was in the MTC for eight weeks.
    I studied at least two hours every day as a missionary and spent the rest of the day, every day, talking about religion.
    I read church books in my spare time.

    It wasn’t until I accidently stumbled across someone’s blog that I learned Joseph Smith practiced polygamy, had 30+ wives, some as young as 14 and many married to other men whom Joseph Smith had sent on missions.

    I am intelligent, studious, and I put in the time to learn about the religion. I had spent approximately 10,000 hours studying Mormonism and didn’t know that Joseph Smith was a polygamist. The church is incredibly adept at hiding its history from the members. Reading about many ex-Mormon’s experiences, mine is not unique but is rather typical. I found the piece about Hans Mattson very credible and interesting.

  • Scott D

    Mormon (or unbelieving Mormon) here. The church put out Rough Stone Rolling in RESPONSE to members doubting. This was the most candid book they’ve ever sold. And it didn’t happen before the creation of the Internet. Think about it.

    It doesn’t sound like you understand much of what’s happened with the wave of Mormon doubt over the past decade. If you’re not Mormon, how could you?

    • John M.

      The Church didn’t put out Rough Stone Rolling, period. It was written
      by an extremely respected and independent historian, who has written
      multiple previous books of Mormon history (especially regarding Joseph
      Smith and its founding), Richard Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History (Emeritus) at Columbia University, of his own accord. It
      wasn’t published by the Church. It was published by Vintage Books, a
      division of Random House. It is an extremely well written book, but the history has been written about for decades–it’s not something new (or a “response” to anything).

    • Guest

      Richard Bushman talks about him and others wanting to publish a more thorough church history book for the lay for a long time without receiving support from authoritative channels inside the church. He finally received support and began writing it a few years before published. Please listen to his interview: http://mormonstories.org/richard-bushman-and-rough-stone-rolling-part-1-experiences-as-a-mormon-historian/


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