How the Doctrines & Covenants 10:37 Apologetic
For the Hofmann Case Destroys Mormonism

The original Book of Commandments and Revelations and the corresponding section of the Doctrine and Covenants are shown. (credit: Jason Olson, Deseret News)

by Fred W. Anson
A common, recurring, Mormon apologetic for why if Mormon Leaders were true prophets of God, they couldn’t discern the real nature of the Hofmann forgeries goes like this…

“The Lord made it clear to Joseph Smith that a prophet is not granted to know all the designs of those who seek to destroy the Church:

‘But as you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous, therefore I say unto you, hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter.’ (DC 10:37)

The LDS doctrine of agency requires that those who plot evil be allowed a certain latitude, though (as President Hinckley prophetically noted) permanent harm to the Lord’s work will not be permitted.”
(FAIRMormon website, “Forgeries Related to Mormonism/Mark Hofmann”

Here is my response to this argument:
1) In the Hofmann case, Mormon Leaders (up and including the LdS First Presidency) did NOT “hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter”.
Putting out Press Releases so the news of Hofmann’s “finds” can be blasted out around the world and publishing articles about Mark Hofmann manuscripts in the Church produced, “The Church News” (see the “Week Ending May 3, 1980” edition, for example) is anything but “holding your peace”, isn’t it? So this premise is simply false, they not only didn’t hold their peace, they shouted it from the rooftops, didn’t they? If you doubt me, please consider the image below from The Church New insert to the Deseret News from the Week Ending May 3, 1980. 

The article regarding the Mark Hofmann “Anthon Transcript” find in the Week Ending May 3, 1980 edition of The Church New insert to the Deseret News, the Church-owned newspaper.

2) The folks who have claimed that Mormon Prophets have extraordinary powers of discernment and who have set the bar, high, higher, even highest, aren’t Mormon Critics it’s the Mormon Leaders themselves.
The expectation that a prophet has the type of unique type of discernment required to know all the designs of those who seek to destroy the Church so that it can’t be lead astray HAS been set by Mormon Leaders in general, and Mormon Prophets in particular. It has not been set by Mormon Critics. Consider the words of these official, correlated LdS Church manuals and publications:

“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place.”
(“Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff”, p.199, “Gospel Principles”, p.41, and “Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual”, p.20)

“President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98) declared that we can have full confidence in the direction the prophet is leading the Church:“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty” (Official Declaration 1, “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto”; emphasis added).

President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) taught this same principle:

“You keep your eye upon him whom the Lord called, and I say to you now, knowing that I stand in this position, you don’t need to worry about the President of the Church ever leading people astray, because the Lord would remove him out of his place before He would ever allow that to happen” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1996], 533).

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) gave similar assurance to Church members:“The Church is true. Those who lead it have only one desire, and that is to do the will of the Lord. They seek his direction in all things. There is not a decision of significance affecting the Church and its people that is made without prayerful consideration, going to the fount of all wisdom for direction. Follow the leadership of the Church. God will not let his work be led astray” (“Be Not Deceived,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 46; emphasis added).”
(LdS Church, “Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual”, Chapter 2: The Living Prophet: The President of the Church)

Friends, these aren’t the claims of Mormon Critics, are they? They are the word of Mormon Prophets in official, LdS Church publications aren’t they? So tell me, who is setting this extremely high “we have the highest level of spiritual discernment that’s so unique and special that we can never lead you astray” expectation? Is it Mormon Critics or is it the Mormon Prophets themselves?

This is REALLY the biggest enemy of the LdS Church, isn’t it?

3) As a result of #2, the unstated, implied argument that D&C 10:37 is arguing against (again, “a prophet IS granted to know all the designs of those who seek to destroy the Church”) is, in reality, a Strawman Argument, isn’t it?
Thus, Mormon Apologists’ REAL debate opponent when they use the D&C 10:37 apologetic is their own Church’s Prophets, isn’t it? Again, and in actual fact, Mormon Critics are simply holding Mormon Prophets to the standard that those Mormon Prophets have set for themselves, nothing more, aren’t they? 

Mormons Leaders, you have met the enemy and he is you, not your critics, haven’t you? 

4) D&C 10:37 is in direct contradiction with the oft-cited Latter-day Saint application of the bible proof text that, “The Lord will do nothing without revealing His secret to the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
The practical, real-world, application that Mormonism gives this text is that the current living Mormon Prophet possesses some kind of special discernment that the rest of us lack. Thus, if they truly possess the type of highly tuned and refined Amos 3:7 spiritual discernment that they claim they do, then the Lord should have revealed to the prophet the secret that Hofmann and his manuscripts were fraudulent and about to lead the LdS Church astray, correct?

After all, “The Lord will do nothing without revealing His secret to the prophets”, right? Again, this isn’t the Amos 3:7 application standard established by Mormon Critics, is it? However, it is the standard that Mormon Prophets have set for themselves, isn’t it?

So if it ain’t true, then why are Mormon Prophets saying it?

5) Since D&C 10:37 absolves Mormon Prophets of, in reality, possessing the type of special and unique, highly tuned spiritual discernment that they so often claim they do elsewhere, then in reality Mormon Prophets are simply nothing special.
They are, in fact, just as common and ordinary as you and I, aren’t they? That’s because anyone “can hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter”, can’t they? Stated plainly “holding your peace” and saying nothing until after all the facts about the matter are known, doesn’t require any kind of special gifting at all, does it? In fact, it’s just good old common sense, isn’t it? Anyone can do it, it doesn’t require any type of special divine anointing or gifting at all, does it?

6) Due to #5, D&C 10:37 is really saying that there is really nothing special about Mormon Prophets at all. They are, in reality, no different than any other Religious Leader on the planet, are they?
So whether the religious leader is a Latter-day Saint, Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, the Prophet of some other Mormon Denomination, or that weird independent Pentecostal guy running the church downtown out of the converted movie theatre, they are what they are, and nothing more: Just ordinary men running churches, aren’t they?

And the LdS Church leaders are just one of the boys, aren’t they? They have absolutely no special or unique spiritual discernment that the other guys in this religious scrum, do, do they? Yes, they have said they do since the inception of Mormonism, but no, in reality, they clearly don’t. The Hofmann case proved it.

7) The LdS Prophet was clearly leading the LdS Church astray by starting to change doctrine based on being deceived by Hofmann.
I mention this one because this is an apologetic argument that Mormons like to use regarding the Hofmann case which is another false premise when it’s examined against the evidence. Specifically, in addition to leading the Church astray in regard to the authenticity of the forgeries (see above, #1 in particular), the LdS Church leaders were also changing Church origin doctrine (see above) based on Hofmann’s deceit. This is an easily documented fact.

The most blatant example of this is Dallin H. Oaks, “Reading Church History” 16 August 1985, CES Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, which was given at BYU and is now being suppressed by the LdS Church on its official Church website, in which he said this:

“Another source of differences in the accounts of different witnesses is the different meanings that different persons attach to words. We have a vivid illustration of this in the recent media excitement about the word salamander in a letter Martin Harris is supposed to have sent to W. W. Phelps over 150 years ago. All of the scores of media stories on that subject apparently assume that the author of that letter used the word salamander in the modern sense of a “tailed amphibian.”

One wonders why so many writers neglected to reveal to their readers that there is another meaning of salamander, which may even have been the primary meaning in this context in the 1820s. That meaning, which is listed second in a current edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “a spirit supposed to live in fire” (2d College ed. 1982, s.v. “salamander”). Modern and ancient literature contain many examples of this usage.

A spirit that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the angel Moroni: a personage in the midst of a light, whose countenance was “truly like lightning” and whose overall appearance “was glorious beyond description” (Joseph Smith-History 1:32). As Joseph Smith wrote later, “The first sight [of this personage] was as though the house was filled with consuming fire” (History of the Church, 4:536). Since the letter purports only to be Martin Harris’s interpretation of what he had heard about Joseph’s experience, the use of the words white salamander and old spirit seem understandable.

In view of all this, and as a matter of intellectual evaluation, why all the excitement in the media, and why the apparent hand-wringing among those who profess friendship with or membership in the Church? The media should make more complete disclosures, but Latter-day Saint readers should also be more sophisticated in their evaluation of what they read. For Latter-day Saints, evaluation also has a spiritual dimension. This is because of our belief in Moroni’s declaration that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). That promise assures spiritually sensitive readers a power of discernment that will help them evaluate the meaning of what they learn.”
(Dallin H. Oaks, “Reading Church History”, 16 August 1985, CES Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, BYU; also see https://si.ldschurch.org/performance/Talks%20For%20Teachers/reading-church-history_eng.pdf [restricted link on official LdS Church website])

And the Ostlings said so well in Mormon America in regard to the Mormon Church origin story, if you change Mormon History then Mormon Theology must shifts too in order to accommodate it.

“History, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is more than pageants, parades, trail markers, monuments, and restored homesteads. There is a very real sense in which the church’s history is its theology, and that not merely the supernatural events surrounding the church’s beginnings with the Angel Moroni and the golden plates at Hill Cumorah. In a body that believes itself the recipient and expression of continuing revelation, it is everything that has happened to the church ever since. And just as creedal churches have official statements of faith, the Mormon Church tends to have official versions of sacred history.”
(Richard & Joan Ostling, “Mormon American (Rev. Ed.)”; Nook Edition position 638.8-640.0/1200)

8) Therefore, and as a result of all of the above, D&C 10:37 is REALLY the complete undoing of Mormonism, isn’t it?
Isn’t it, in fact, telling us that at the end of the day, the LdS Church in general and its Prophets in particular, have nothing special or unique to offer that you can’t get from any other human institution when it comes to special insight, spiritual discernment, or revelation? D&C 10:37 is really telling us that Mormon Leaders can lead the LdS Church astray, isn’t it?

Further, and that said, the Hofmann case also shows us that they have led the Church astray in the past, haven’t they? So, once you fully analyze and deconstruct this Mormon Apologist D&C 10:37 argument it not only doesn’t vindicate or absolve Latter-day Saint Prophets from performing to the extremely high standards and expectations that they have set for themself, does it? Rather, it exposes, indicts, and condemns them and their religion, doesn’t it?

Neither are what they claim to be, are they?

Spencer W. Kimball, the LdS President at the time, examines the Mark Hofmann forgery known as “The Anthon Transcript” with a magnifying glass. Surrounding him (left to right) are Mark Hofmann, Eldon Tanner, Marion Romney, Boyd Packer, and Gordon B. Hinckley

Based on a True Story (Many, Many, Many of Them, Actually)

by Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy
1. Immediately resort to personal attacks. If your opponent is ex-Mormon tell him every apostate leaves because of Word of Wisdom or chastity issues. Whether or not he’s ex-Mormon, question his intelligence, maturity, or even his commitment to his spouse. Nothing is off-limits. The goal is to demoralize your foe in the first few minutes.

2. Be as arrogant and condescending as possible. Claim that you’ve been an apologist for however many years and have never seen a valid argument against the church. Intimidate your opponent by saying they will be embarrassed if they choose to continue the conversation because you know your stuff.

3. Make sure your responses are novel-length so your opponent loses the energy to respond. Even if they do, they won’t be able to respond to everything, granting you an easy win on unchallenged statements.

4. Remember, context is not your friend. Twenty scattered, cherry-picked Bible verses that support your point is a much better way to go than exegeting a particular passage from within its full and complete context.

5. If your opponent uses Bible verses that are critical of Mormon doctrine, inform him that the Bible has been corrupted and that what he is citing is wrong. Tell him that your prophet and personal revelation are much more credible than the Bible is.

6. If your opponent uses quotes from your former or current prophet to cast the church in a negative light, inform him that the prophet was speaking as a man. Revelation isn’t infallible after all, because it has to be filtered through our finite human understanding. Also, point out that whoever transcribed the prophet’s words probably messed up what he was actually saying.

7. Mock your opponent when they bring up proof that Mormons believe in doctrines like human deification or polygamy in heaven. Say things like, “Wait, you actually think we believe that? What else do you believe, that Mormons have horns?”

8. Make sure to create rabbit trails to derail the topic as often as possible.

9. Don’t hesitate to quote agnostic scholars like Bart Ehrman because the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Don’t worry that agnostic/Atheistic arguments run parallel to Mormon ones. It’s probably a coincidence.

10. Never answer a direct criticism. Avoid, deflect, dodge, and ignore. Better yet, pull a “Millett” and answer the question they should have asked instead.

11. When cornered, use Protestant language to convince Bible believers that you’re just a normal Christian too. Say things like “I believe I am saved by grace.” Hopefully, they won’t catch on that your definitions are wildly different from theirs.

12. If you get into trouble, find 10-20 of your Mormon apologist friends and gang up on the critic using tactics 1-11 repeatedly. No one can withstand that. Logic is unnecessary when you have numbers on your side!

About Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy
The Ex-Mormon Apologist was a Born Into The Covenant Mormon. His Mormon heritage dates back to a family member, Jones Flournoy, who sold Joseph Smith land for the Temple Lot temple. He faithfully served a mission in Anaheim, CA. When he returned from his mission he became a published Mormon Apologist. He served several callings faithfully and successfully in his 30+ years in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint. He still has Mormon friends and family members to this day. And he is still in Mormon Studies despite leaving the LdS Church.

A cover from dime novels and the NY Detective Library (Courtesy of the University of Rochester’s Rare Books and Special Collection)

compiled by Fred W. Anson
In my last article, I considered the interesting genre parallels between the Book of Mormon and 19th Century Dime Novels (which in Joseph Smith’s day were known as “Story Novels” and typically were serialized in newspapers)1. In that article, I gave examples of frontier and historical fiction. However, Dime Novels were also the birthplace of crime fiction, detective stories, and today’s modern mystery story. While this particular Dime Novel genre didn’t really come into its own as a standalone genre later in the 19th Century it was still present earlier in the century as well. As Wikipedia explains:

“The genre of mystery novels is a young form of literature that has developed since the early-19th century. The rise of literacy began in the years of the English Renaissance and, as people began to read over time, they became more individualistic in their thinking. As people became more individualistic in their thinking, they developed a respect for human reason and the ability to solve problems.

Perhaps a reason that mystery fiction was unheard of before the 19th century was due in part to the lack of true police forces. Before the Industrial Revolution, many of the towns would have constables and a night watchman at best. Naturally, the constable would be aware of every individual in the town, and crimes were either solved quickly or left unsolved entirely. As people began to crowd into cities, police forces became institutionalized, and the need for detectives was realized – thus the mystery novel arose.”
(see Wikipedia, “Mystery Fiction”

In Joseph Smith’s day, the genre was just in its infancy and the setting was more typically rural than urban. So the setting for a Story Novel mystery in his day would be a crime on the American Frontier rather than say, Chicago, or New York.

So what does any of this have to do with the Book of Mormon? Well, nothing, except for the fact that we have an archetypical 19th Century Dime Novel detective story anachronistically in a work that claims to be ancient – the entire ninth chapter of the book of Helaman in fact. Sadly, due to its length, I couldn’t include it in my prior article, but I also didn’t want it to get away either. So here we are.

In the Book of Mormon, our intrepid Dime Novel detective is Nephi, the son of the Prophet Helaman (the second), who was the son of the Prophet Helaman who was the son of King Benjamin – got all that? (if nothing else, Joseph Smith was great at recycling Book of Mormon names wasn’t he?). This Wikipedia synopsis will set the stage for our story:

Upon returning to the “land of his nativity”, Nephi found the people in a state of “awful wickedness.” The Gadianton robbers had usurped positions of power and the government had, therefore, become full of corruption. [see Helaman 7:4] 

Being filled with sorrow because of the wickedness of the people, Nephi ‘bowed himself’ and prayed upon a tower in his garden, which was by the highway leading to the ‘chief market’ in the city of Zarahemla. In the ‘agony of his soul,’ Nephi lamented the state of the people and wished that he could have lived during the time of Lehi, the forefather of his people. [see Helaman 7:6-10]

Those passing by heard his prayer of anguish, and they ran and called others together to determine the cause of this great mourning. Upon seeing the gathering people, Nephi turned his attention from praying to preaching. He counseled the onlookers to repent and to overcome the attraction of pride and riches. He prophesied of the loss of their great cities if they did not repent and earn the protection of the Lord. He also explained that the Lamanites, who were traditionally more wicked, would enjoy a better fate in the afterlife, and live longer in the promised land because they had not “sinned against that great knowledge” that the Nephites had received – representing a principle of the accountability that comes with knowledge. Lastly, he testified that he knew what he had spoken was true “because the Lord God has made them known” unto him. [Helaman 7:7-19]

Upon hearing Nephi’s words, there were some judges, who were members of the Gadianton robbers against whom Nephi taught, who roused others to opposition in an attempt to have Nephi arrested and tried. Others, however, were convinced of the truth of his words to the extent that those who were opposed feared to lay their hands on him. [see Helaman 8:1-10]

Seeing that he had convinced at least some of the crown, Nephi continued his preaching. He began by addressing the skeptics in the group who did not believe in his status as a prophet of God by comparing himself to Moses using the example of the parting of the Red Sea. From there he transferred into a discussion of different prophecies that had been made concerning the coming of Christ, first by teaching of the parallels between the serpent staff Moses raised in the wilderness and then teaching of the Priesthood given to Abraham, which was after the order of Christ. He also mentioned prophecies by Zenos, Zenock, Ezias, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Jeremiah he addressed specifically with respect to the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, something the people knew of from the descendants of Mulek in their own land. Lastly, he taught of the people’s ancestors, including Nephi and Lehi, as witnesses of the “coming of Christ.” [see Helaman 8:11-24]

Then, after reminding the people of their wickedness due to choosing riches and pride rather than following the counsel of these prophets, he testified that their destruction was “even at [their] doors” and reveals the secret murder of their Chief Judge by his brother – both of whom were Gadianton robbers. [see Helman 8:25-28]

Five members of the crowd ran to the judgment-seat to test Nephi’s words.
(Wikipedia, “Nephi, son of Helaman”

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, the game is afoot!

An artist’s rendering of a scene from Helaman 9. (“Seantum” by Briana Shawcroft)

Helaman 9:1-41
Behold, now it came to pass that when Nephi had spoken these words, certain men who were among them ran to the judgment-seat; yea, even there were five who went, and they said among themselves, as they went:

Behold, now we will know of a surety whether this man be a prophet and God hath commanded him to prophesy such marvelous things unto us. Behold, we do not believe that he hath; yea, we do not believe that he is a prophet; nevertheless, if this thing which he has said concerning the chief judge be true, that he be dead, then will we believe that the other words which he has spoken are true.

And it came to pass that they ran in their might, and came in unto the judgment-seat; and behold, the chief judge had fallen to the earth, and did lie in his blood.

And now behold, when they saw this they were astonished exceedingly, insomuch that they fell to the earth; for they had not believed the words which Nephi had spoken concerning the chief judge.

But now, when they saw they believed, and fear came upon them lest all the judgments which Nephi had spoken should come upon the people; therefore they did quake, and had fallen to the earth.

Now, immediately when the judge had been murdered—he being stabbed by his brother by a garb of secrecy, and he fled, and the servants ran and told the people, raising the cry of murder among them;

And behold the people did gather themselves together unto the place of the judgment-seat—and behold, to their astonishment they saw those five men who had fallen to the earth.

And now behold, the people knew nothing concerning the multitude who had gathered together at the garden of Nephi; therefore they said among themselves: These men are they who have murdered the judge, and God has smitten them that they could not flee from us.

And it came to pass that they laid hold on them, and bound them and cast them into prison. And there was a proclamation sent abroad that the judge was slain, and that the murderers had been taken and were cast into prison.

And it came to pass that on the morrow the people did assemble themselves together to mourn and to fast, at the burial of the great chief judge who had been slain.

And thus also those judges who were at the garden of Nephi, and heard his words, were also gathered together at the burial.

And it came to pass that they inquired among the people, saying: Where are the five who were sent to inquire concerning the chief judge whether he was dead? And they answered and said: Concerning this five whom ye say ye have sent, we know not; but there are five who are the murderers, whom we have cast into prison.

And it came to pass that the judges desired that they should be brought; and they were brought, and behold they were the five who were sent; and behold the judges inquired of them to know concerning the matter, and they told them all that they had done, saying:

We ran and came to the place of the judgment-seat, and when we saw all things even as Nephi had testified, we were astonished insomuch that we fell to the earth; and when we were recovered from our astonishment, behold they cast us into prison.

Now, as for the murder of this man, we know not who has done it; and only this much we know, we ran and came according as ye desired, and behold he was dead, according to the words of Nephi.

And now it came to pass that the judges did expound the matter unto the people, and did cry out against Nephi, saying: Behold, we know that this Nephi must have agreed with some one to slay the judge, and then he might declare it unto us, that he might convert us unto his faith, that he might raise himself to be a great man, chosen of God, and a prophet.

And now behold, we will detect this man, and he shall confess his fault and make known unto us the true murderer of this judge.

And it came to pass that the five were liberated on the day of the burial. Nevertheless, they did rebuke the judges in the words which they had spoken against Nephi, and did contend with them one by one, insomuch that they did confound them.

Nevertheless, they caused that Nephi should be taken and bound and brought before the multitude, and they began to question him in divers ways that they might cross him, that they might accuse him to death—

Saying unto him: Thou art confederate; who is this man that hath done this murder? Now tell us, and acknowledge thy fault; saying, Behold here is money; and also we will grant unto thee thy life if thou wilt tell us, and acknowledge the agreement which thou hast made with him.

But Nephi said unto them: O ye fools, ye uncircumcised of heart, ye blind, and ye stiffnecked people, do ye know how long the Lord your God will suffer you that ye shall go on in this your way of sin?

O ye ought to begin to howl and mourn, because of the great destruction which at this time doth await you, except ye shall repent.

Behold ye say that I have agreed with a man that he should murder Seezoram, our chief judge. But behold, I say unto you, that this is because I have testified unto you that ye might know concerning this thing; yea, even for a witness unto you, that I did know of the wickedness and abominations which are among you.

And because I have done this, ye say that I have agreed with a man that he should do this thing; yea, because I showed unto you this sign ye are angry with me, and seek to destroy my life.

And now behold, I will show unto you another sign, and see if ye will in this thing seek to destroy me.

Behold I say unto you: Go to the house of Seantum, who is the brother of Seezoram, and say unto him—

Has Nephi, the pretended prophet, who doth prophesy so much evil concerning this people, agreed with thee, in the which ye have murdered Seezoram, who is your brother?

And behold, he shall say unto you, Nay.

And ye shall say unto him: Have ye murdered your brother?

And he shall stand with fear, and wist not what to say. And behold, he shall deny unto you; and he shall make as if he were astonished; nevertheless, he shall declare unto you that he is innocent.

But behold, ye shall examine him, and ye shall find blood upon the skirts of his cloak.

And when ye have seen this, ye shall say: From whence cometh this blood? Do we not know that it is the blood of your brother?

And then shall he tremble, and shall look pale, even as if death had come upon him.

And then shall ye say: Because of this fear and this paleness which has come upon your face, behold, we know that thou art guilty.

And then shall greater fear come upon him; and then shall he confess unto you, and deny no more that he has done this murder.

And then shall he say unto you, that I, Nephi, know nothing concerning the matter save it were given unto me by the power of God. And then shall ye know that I am an honest man, and that I am sent unto you from God.

And it came to pass that they went and did, even according as Nephi had said unto them. And behold, the words which he had said were true; for according to the words he did deny; and also according to the words he did confess.

And he was brought to prove that he himself was the very murderer, insomuch that the five were set at liberty, and also was Nephi.

And there were some of the Nephites who believed on the words of Nephi; and there were some also, who believed because of the testimony of the five, for they had been converted while they were in prison.

And now there were some among the people, who said that Nephi was a prophet.

And there were others who said: Behold, he is a god, for except he was a god he could not know of all things. For behold, he has told us the thoughts of our hearts, and also has told us things; and even he has brought unto our knowledge the true murderer of our chief judge.

And there you have it folks: Nephi, Son of Helaman, Dime Novel Detective Extraordinaire! Nick Carter, Allan Pinkerton, and William J. Burns (aka “America’s Sherlock Holmes”) would be proud.2

NOTES
1 “Throughout the Victorian period, novels in serial parts were published in abundance in newspapers and magazines—by far the most popular form—or in discreet parts issued in installments, usually 20 monthly issues.

Many 19th century authors established themselves by first publishing original fiction in serial format. Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, George Meredith, Robert Louis Stevenson and more, all published serial novels, either in monthly magazines or as discreet serial parts.”
(University of Victoria Library, “19th Century Serial Novels”

2 For those unfamiliar with these names, here’s a primer:

Nick Carter
“Nick Carter is a fictional character who began as a dime novel private detective in 1886 and has appeared in a variety of formats over more than a century. The character was first conceived by Ormond G. Smith and created by John R. Coryell. Carter headlined his own magazine for years, and was then part of a long-running series of novels from 1964 to 1990. Films were created based on Carter in France, Czechoslovakia and Hollywood. Nick Carter has also appeared in many comic books and in radio programs.”
(Wikipedia, “Nick Carter (literary character)”

Allan Pinkerton
“Allan J. Pinkerton (25 August 1819 – 1 July 1884) was a Scottish–American detective and spy, best known for creating the Pinkerton National Detective Agency…

Pinkerton produced numerous popular detective books, ostensibly based on his own exploits and those of his agents. Some were published after his death, and they are considered to have been more motivated by a desire to promote his detective agency than a literary endeavour. Most historians believe that Allan Pinkerton hired ghostwriters, but the books nonetheless bear his name and no doubt reflect his views.”
(Wikipedia, “Allan Pinkerton”

Willliam J. Burns
“Despite the fact that Holmes and Dr. Watson are fictional characters, though, their cultural influence can even be discerned in the history of the world outside of the printed page. Ever since the end of the Victorian age, real detectives and police officials have often been held to the standards of fiction and have even seen their exploits re-cast as updated versions of one of Doyle’s many gaslight era tales. One American law-enforcement figure, in particular, bore the burden of living up to Holmes’s legacy: William J. Burns, an Irish-American sleuth who bore more than a passing resemblance to Doyle himself.

According to William R. Hunt’s biography Front-Page Detective: William J. Burns and the Detective Profession, 1880-1930, Burns was a friend of both President Theodore Roosevelt and Doyle—the latter of whom publicly hailed Burns as “America’s Sherlock Holmes.” For much of his career, Burns was almost guaranteed a headline each time he caught on to a forgery or risked his life in the line of duty…”
(Benjamin Welton, “The Man Arthur Conan Doyle Called ‘America’s Sherlock Holmes'”, The Atlantic, November 20, 2013) 

An Honest Take on “The Articles of Faith
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”  Based on Current LDS Church Doctrine and Practice

A young girl reads the Articles of Faith from the Pearl of Great Price in the printed scriptures.

by Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy
1 We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Ghost, and in Heavenly Mother. We believe we are the same species as God and may ascend to Godhood someday, just as countless other heavenly beings have done.

2 We believe that neither Adam’s transgression nor Christ’s obedience is imputed to mankind. Both of these events are merely incentives that entice us to do good or evil.

3 We believe that the Atonement of Christ merely opens a path for us to repent of our sins and reach perfection through our own righteousness.

4 We believe the path to heaven consists of faith, repentance, baptism, a temple endowment, marriage, and honoring and keeping all of the temple covenants because Jesus isn’t enough.

5 We believe that we solely have the authority to preach the gospel and baptize. Christ’s Great Commission and Royal Priesthood (see Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:5-6; 5:10) aren’t enough, you must also have the LDS priesthood or any and all claimed authority is utterly illegitimate.

6 We rely on bishops, apostles, prophets, and so forth because we reject Jesus as our living prophet and high priest.

7 We theoretically believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, and so forth. These things are not seen in our church and our prophet doesn’t prophecy, but that doesn’t mean the Spirit isn’t working in mundane yet significant ways that we just can’t witness.

8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it supports LDS doctrine. The rest of it has been corrupted and is no longer trustworthy. We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God inasmuch it is interpreted correctly, which only the Prophet can do. All this is why the Prophet is ultimately our highest authority.

9 We believe all that God has revealed unless it contradicts what the prophet teaches today. As far as tomorrow, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

10 We believe that 99.9% of us are from the tribe of Ephraim and are tasked with the gathering of Israel, or in other words, missionary work. When someone is baptized into our church, they become the seed of Abraham. Yes, we are that arrogant.

11 If cornered, we will say we believe all the same things as Christianity. It’s our similarities that really matter, outsiders should act like the differences aren’t important, just like we do!

12 We believe in fashioning God’s decrees after the laws of the land in general, and the United States in particular. God’s command to stop practicing polygamy and the parallel laws of the U.S. government make for excellent plausible deniability for Official Declaration 1. Ditto for dropping the Priesthood ban on those of African descent for Offical Declaration Two.

13 We believe in appearing honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and virtuous. In essence, we mimic Christian ideals and language in order to ensnare and confuse Christians into joining our ranks. We follow the morally compromised admonition of Joseph Smith — “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another… Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is.” (History of the Church, 5:135)

An artist’s depiction of Joseph Smith writing the Wentworth Letter which later became the canonized, “Articles of Faith”.

Appendix I: The Backstory of the Articles of Faith
by Fred W. Anson
From the official LdS Church website:

The Articles of Faith outline 13 basic points of belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Prophet Joseph Smith first wrote them in a letter to John Wentworth, a newspaper editor, in response to Mr. Wentworth’s request to know what members of the Church believe. They were subsequently published in Church periodicals. They are now regarded as scripture and included in the Pearl of Great Price.
(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Gospel Topics: The Articles of Faith”, official LdS Church Website; retrieved 2022-02-05) 

It has been noted that the Articles of Faith, which was originally called “The Wentworth Letter”, was deliberately word crafted by Joseph Smith to sound “Christian” and downplay any unorthodox or controversial Latter-day Saint doctrine because it was written for an outsider, Christian audience. As the neutral source Wikipedia explains: 

“The “Wentworth letter” was a letter written in 1842 by Latter Day Saint movement founder Joseph Smith to “Long” John Wentworth, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat. It outlined the history of the Latter Day Saint movement up to that time, and included Mormonism’s Articles of Faith.

The letter was written in response to Wentworth’s inquiry on behalf of one of his friends, George Barstow, who was writing a history of New Hampshire. The letter was first published on March 1, 1842, in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo, Illinois.

A similar letter (with some slight revisions) was published by Daniel Rupp in 1844 in a book called An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States.”
(Wikipedia, “Wentworth letter”; retrieved 2002-02-05) 

In addition, the Wikipedia article notes that “The wording of some of the articles was modified in 1851 and 1902” (Ibid). Regardless, the fact of the matter remains that the Articles of Faith have never truly been reflective of Mormon Theology or orthodoxy. And it has always been used as a kind of Public Relations tool to buttress and protect the LdS Church from outside criticism of its unique doctrine – the stuff that mainstream Christians might find offensive or evidence of the lack of true biblical orthodoxy. In other words, it has never met the standard of honesty that the LdS Church itself teaches which includes the following criterion:

“There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”
(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Gospel Principless” Chapter 31, “Honesty”, official LdS Church Website; retrieved 2013-06-29) 

Therefore, Michael Flournoy’s “The LDS Articles of Faith: Honest Version” may, in fact, be the first version of the Articles of Faith that is truly representative of current Brighamite doctrine, theology, and practices. 

note: The current canonized version of “The Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” can be read by clicking here.

About Michael “The Ex-Mormon Apologist” Flournoy
The Ex-Mormon Apologist was a Born Into The Covenant Mormon. His Mormon heritage dates back to a family member, Jones Flournoy, who sold Joseph Smith land for the Temple Lot temple. He faithfully served a mission in Anaheim, CA. When he returned from his mission he became a published Mormon Apologist. He served several callings faithfully and successfully in his 30+ years in the LdS Church. He still has Mormon friends and family members to this day. He is still in Mormon Studies despite leaving the LdS Church.

by Fred W. Anson
Dime Novels are as American as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. They are so entrenched in the American psyche and culture that most consumers of American Pop Culture have been exposed to the Dime Novel genre even if they have never actually seen or read a Dime Novel. As Wikipedia explains: 

“The dime novel is a form of late 19th-century and early 20th-century U.S. popular fiction issued in series of inexpensive paperbound editions. The term dime novel has been used as a catchall term for several different but related forms, referring to story papers, five- and ten-cent weeklies, “thick book” reprints, and sometimes early pulp magazines. The term was used as a title as late as 1940, in the short-lived pulp magazine Western Dime Novels. In the modern age, the term dime novel has been used to refer to quickly written, lurid potboilers, usually as a pejorative to describe a sensationalized but superficial literary work.”
(Wikipedia, “Dime Novel”

If you have ever seen an early 20th Century Western, or Mystery that was produced in America you have been exposed to Dime Novel fiction. American Television, Radio, Movies, popular literature, and plays all followed the Dime Novel formula which was as follows: 

“[Western] Protagonists would often come into conflict with Native Americans, which would become a recurring feature of the genre and lend it a reputation for racism and jingoism. These stories are occasionally fictional accounts of real historical figures, such as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, but more often the characters are completely fictional, like Nick Whiffles. It wasn’t long before the setting of these novels shifted to the contemporary Western frontier, especially mining camps in the Dakotas and California. At first, outlaws, gamblers, and other anti-heroes were especially popular, such as Edward L. Wheeler’s Deadwood Dick or real-life gang leader Jesse James. These characters were almost always driven to a life of crime by their circumstances, but often had basically good intentions. With growing concerns about the moral appropriateness of dime novels for children, however, stories about cowboys and plainsmen came to replace outlaws…

At the dawn of the dime novel era, historical fiction was almost as popular as Western stories, with tales about the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 predominating. In many ways, America’s popular conception of its early history can be attributed to these novels, which often focused on the exploits of self-reliant patriots, either spies or privateers, who would heroically stand up against English and Tory oppression…

Real historical figures sometimes featured in these novels, like George Washington or Ulysses S. Grant, but more often these stories deal with few real historical events or characters, even sometimes leaving the date unspecified (e.g. 187-). When historical figures do appear, their character is often based on their popular conception, with seldom any relation to reality.”
(North Illinois University, “Nickels and Dimes: Genre”)

For those of us who have read through the Book of Mormon at least once is this all beginning to sound eerily familiar: 

      • Morality Plays
      • War Rhetoric
      • Battlefield Narratives
      • Racism
      • Jingoism
      • Patriotism
      • Cardboard, Two-Dimensional characters
      • Heroes (the “White Hats”) 
      • Outlaws (the “Black Hats”) 
      • Self Reliant Patriots (fighting to defend their religion, freedom, peace, and families)
      • Spies 
      • Privateers
      • Real Historical Figures inserted into fictional settings

Interesting, isn’t it? Now consider all the above in light of the following excerpts from the Book of Mormon: 

Mosiah 19:4-7
And now there was a man among them whose name was Gideon, and he being a strong man and an enemy to the king, therefore he drew his sword, and swore in his wrath that he would slay the king.

And it came to pass that he fought with the king; and when the king saw that he was about to overpower him, he fled and ran and got upon the tower which was near the temple.

And Gideon pursued after him and was about to get upon the tower to slay the king, and the king cast his eyes round about towards the land of Shemlon, and behold, the army of the Lamanites were within the borders of the land.

And now the king cried out in the anguish of his soul, saying: Gideon, spare me, for the Lamanites are upon us, and they will destroy us; yea, they will destroy my people.

Now just recontextualize that for the Old West with guns, Sheriffs and Desperados and you have a great Western story, don’t you? 

Helaman 6:16-20
And in the commencement of the sixty and seventh year the people began to grow exceedingly wicked again.

For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars, nor to bloodshed; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain.

And now behold, those murderers and plunderers were a band who had been formed by Kishkumen and Gadianton. And now it had come to pass that there were many, even among the Nephites, of Gadianton’s band. But behold, they were more numerous among the more wicked part of the Lamanites. And they were called Gadianton’s robbers and murderers.

And it was they who did murder the chief judge Cezoram, and his son, while in the judgment-seat; and behold, they were not found.

And now it came to pass that when the Lamanites found that there were robbers among them they were exceedingly sorrowful; and they did use every means in their power to destroy them off the face of the earth.

And there it is, another otherwise good territory has privateering outlaws running amuck. So the good guys have to hunt down them and clear them out. Several exciting armed conflicts ensue. Sound familiar?

Alma 46:19-24, 34-36
And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:

Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.

And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments.

Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression.

Moroni said unto them: Behold, we are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; yea, we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces; yea, and now behold, let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain.

Yea, let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph; yea, let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said—Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment…

Now, Moroni being a man who was appointed by the chief judges and the voice of the people, therefore he had power according to his will with the armies of the Nephites, to establish and to exercise authority over them.

And it came to pass that whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom.

And it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, which was possessed by the Nephites; and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites.

I can almost feel the flag fluttering in the air while Moroni proudly hugs his scripture to his chest, can’t you? Haven’t we all seen this scene before somewhere… 

The Jay Ward cartoon characters Dudley Do-Right and his nemesis Snidely Whiplash were satirical takes on Dime Novel heroes and villains as they manifested themselves in the American Silent Film era.

1 Nephi 4:6-27
And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.

Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine.

And when I came to him I found that it was Laban.

And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.

And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.

And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.

And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.

And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.

Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.

And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.

And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.

Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.

And after I had smitten off his head with his own sword, I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.

And after I had done this, I went forth unto the treasury of Laban. And as I went forth towards the treasury of Laban, behold, I saw the servant of Laban who had the keys of the treasury. And I commanded him in the voice of Laban, that he should go with me into the treasury.

And he supposed me to be his master, Laban, for he beheld the garments and also the sword girded about my loins.

And he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them.

And I spake unto him as if it had been Laban.

And I also spake unto him that I should carry the engravings, which were upon the plates of brass, to my elder brethren, who were without the walls.

And I also bade him that he should follow me.

And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me.

And he spake unto me many times concerning the elders of the Jews, as I went forth unto my brethren, who were without the walls.

And there you have it, a good and righteous man is forced to slay an evil villain for the sake of the greater good due to circumstances beyond his control. Surely this is one that we’ve never heard before, well, except for in just about every Dime Novel Western Hero story ever, that is, of course.

I think you get the idea, here. I would encourage you to read (or reread) the Book of Mormon in light of these Dime Novel genre formulations and consider how they just pop out at you. 

Consider, for example, The “Dudley Do-Rightism” of the courageous and righteous Nephi against the constant malice and murmurings of the scheming and the conniving “Snidely Whiplash” characters of Laman and Lemuel in the opening books of the Book of Mormon. 

Then compare and contrast those simplistic protagonists and antagonists against the deep, complex, characters in the Bible. The biblical characters are never cardboard, they’re deep and conflicted. Case in point, King David was a man after God’s whole heart due to his devotion and passion for God, but he was also a murderer and an adulterer. This isn’t a superficial, shallow, easily understood, literary figure, is it? 

Ditto for Noah who God calls just and perfect (see Genesis 6:9) but who still manages to get crazy, drunk, and naked in the midst of God’s calling on his life. Furthermore, the Noah narrative in the Bible, it has been noted, has strong parallels to the Sumerian and Babylonian flood narratives (see Wikipedia, “Gilgamesh Flood Myth”)And let’s not forget the book of Job for which there are similar “lamentation songs” and stories from the ancient Mesopotamian basin (see, for example, Morris Jastrow, Jr., “A Babylonian Parallel to the Story of Job”)Thus, regardless of whether you believe that it’s divinely inspired or not, the body of evidence is clear that the Bible is indeed ancient, Middle Eastern literature.

On the other hand, The Book of Mormon claims to be an ancient work of Middle Eastern origin but is actually more reflective of a uniquely American literary genre from the 19th Century – which would suggest that it is neither. Rather, it is strongly suggestive of American culture in general and 19th Century American culture in particular. Couple that with the fact that as of a decade ago, 150-Million copies of The Book of Mormon had been published (see LdS Newsroom, “Book of Mormon Reaches 150-Million Copies”) and you will understand why my assertion is that based on the body of evidence, The Book of Mormon is, quite simply, the most successful 19th Century Dime Novel in history. 

Presenting the Most Successful 19th Century Dime Novel in History.

A 19th Century etching of Alexander Campbell preaching at the 1801 Cane Ridge Revival, the birthplace of the American Restorationist Movement.

From “Andrew” A Mormon Source

What follows is an excerpt from a review of David Bercot’s book, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up” that was published on the Mormon-friendly website “Mormon Matters” in 2009. The full, original article can be found by clicking here. — Fred W. Anson

“Another movement to restore primitive Christianity sprung up in America in the early 1800s out of the Presbyterian church. . . . Barton W. Stone, a Presbyterian minister, began a movement in Kentucky to restore apostolic Christianity. Stone’s chief objective was to restore the holy living and separation from the world that had marked early Christianity.

In the 1820s, Stone’s movement merged with a separate movement begun by Thomas and Alexander Campbell, who were also seeking to restore primitive Christianity. One of Alexander Campbell’s primary objectives was to achieve unity among all Christians, forsaking all man-made creeds and traditions and returning to the forms, structures, and doctrines of the apostolic church.”
(David Bercot, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up”, p. 151)

Both Stone and the Campbells published journals urging a Restoration of the Early Church in the early 1800’s (The Christian Baptist, Millennial Harbinger, and The Christian Messenger).

Those familiar with Mormon history will recognize the names of Thomas and Alexander Campbell as the founders of the “Campbellite” Restoration movement that Sidney Rigdon, Parley Pratt, Edward Partridge, Isaac Morley, and at one point a majority of all Mormons belonged to before converting to Mormonism. When Sidney Ridgon read the Book of Mormon in 1830 while he was a Campbellite preacher, he converted to Mormonism as did many other Campbellites. This enormous influx of former Campbellites into Mormonism doubled the Church’s membership in three weeks and resulted in Joseph Smith relocating the Saints’ gathering place by joining the former Campbellite converts in Kirtland, Ohio.

Why was Mormonism so appealing to Campbellites? Starting in 1823, Campbell’s publication The Christian Baptist advocated an abandonment of all creeds and sects that divided Christendom and a restoration of a unified Church in which the “original gospel and order of things” are present. (Alexander Campbell, “The Christian Baptist”)

Alexander Campbell explained the Campbellites’ “distinguishing views and practices” as follows:
“They regard all the sects and parties of the Christian world as having, in greater or less degrees, departed from the simplicity of faith and manners of the first Christians, and as forming what the apostle Paul calls “the apostasy.” . . .

They look for unity of spirit and the bonds of peace in the practical acknowledgment of one faith, one Lord, one immersion, one hope, one body, one Spirit, one God and Father of all; not in unity of opinions, nor in unity of forms, ceremonies, or modes of worship. . . .

Thus while they proclaim faith and repentance, or faith and a change of heart, as preparatory to immersion, remission, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, they say to all penitents, or all those who believe and repent of their sins, as Peter said to the first audience addressed after the Holy Spirit was bestowed after the glorification of Jesus, “Be immersed every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The immersed believers are congregated into societies according to their propinquity to each other, and taught to meet the first day of every week in honor and commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus, and to break the loaf which commemorates the death of the Son of God, to read and hear the living oracles, to teach and admonish one another, to unite in all prayer and praise, to contribute to the necessities of saints, and to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord.

Every congregation chooses its own overseers and deacons, who preside over and administer the affairs of the congregations; and every church, either from itself or in co-operation with others, sends out, as opportunity offers, one or more evangelists, or proclaimers of the word, to preach the word and to immerse those who believe, to gather congregations, and to extend the knowledge of salvation where it is necessary, as far as their means extend.”
(Alexander Campbell, “The Christian Baptist”)

Although the Campbellites and Mormons held many other beliefs in common, the above provides a sampling of the types of similarities that have presented religion historians with a fascinating chicken-or-the-egg question: did Joseph Smith’s teachings resemble the Early Church’s “original gospel and order of things” because Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God whose authentic revelations enabled him to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ, or because contemporary Restorationists like Alexander Campbell first identified correct Early Christian beliefs and practices that were later adopted by Joseph Smith? In other words, did God use the broader Restoration movement of the American frontier as an “Elias” that prepared Rigdon and eventually thousands of souls to embrace the true Church of Jesus Christ restored later by Joseph Smith, or was Joseph Smith’s success in duplicating many Early Christian beliefs and practices the result of his simply mimicking the beliefs and practices of contemporary Restorationist preachers who got it right first.

Because Campbellite converts to Mormonism such as Parley Pratt reported that they were converted Mormonism because they were inspired by the truthfulness of the doctrine contained in the Book of Mormon (Parley Pratt, “Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt”, Chapter 1), it seems the answer to that question depends on whether the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation of an authentic record compiled by Early Christians living on the American continent, or is a fabrication cobbled together by Smith and possibly others inspired by the Restorationist ethos that pervaded the American frontier when it was published. (We know where Alexander Campbell stood on that question: in 1831 he denounced the Book of Mormon as a fraud because it all-too-coincidentally addressed “every error and every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years.” (Alexander Campbell, “The Mormonites,” Millenial Harbinger 2, (January 1831): 93.)

(source: Andrew, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up” (Book Review), Mormon Matters website)

Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) from a period life portrait painting.

compiled by Fred W. Anson
A common refrain from the LdS Church and other Latter Day Saint sources is that founding Prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr. wasn’t motivated by money in the founding and perpetuation of Mormonism in general and in his role as the Great Prophet of the Restoration in particular. If this is the case then why does the historical record clearly indicate that he benefited financially from both? Please consider the following two summations of the body of evidence.

First, from renowned Mormon Historian, D. Michael Quinn’s last book:

“The municipal assessment rolls for taxation from 1841 to 1843 show an unprecedented divergence between the church president’s assessed wealth and everyone else’s (table 1.4). This was not simply due to Joseph Smith’s role as trustee-in-trust after 1841, because LDS assessors itemized his personal real estate as distinct from each parcel of land he owned as the church’s trustee. . . . in 1842 and 1843, Smith’s personal ownership of land remained at least twenty-one times higher than for Nauvoo’s average resident. His personal property (non-land wealth) remained at least 2.7 times greater than for Nauvoo’s non-hierarchy. During those years, he also owned at least twice as much personal property than the average general authority, and his personal ownership of land remained at least 4.9 times their average.”
(D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power”, Kindle Locations 507-516. Signature Books. Kindle Edition)

D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power” Table 1.4 (part one)

D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power” Table 1.4 (part two)

Second, from the RfM (Recovery from Mormonism) website archives:

1. Joseph Smith cleared over $73,000 in debt by filing for bankruptcy in 1842 (his brothers Hyrum and Samuel, along with other LDS dignitaries took advantage of a brief window where Congress enacted a lenient bankruptcy law only to rescind it months later when $440 million in liabilities in the country were wiped clean for $44 million in assets). Joseph’s $73k debt represented nearly $2 million in 2010 dollars. [see Dallin H. Oaks & Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo”, pp.767-782; https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=lawreview]

2. By Joseph’s own account, he owed approximately $70,000 again by the time he was killed just 2 years later in 1844 (over $1.84 million in 2010 dollars). [see Dallin H. Oaks & Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo”, pp.767-782; https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=lawreview]

3. LAND SPECULATION. Nauvoo land purchased for $2 per acre, lots sold for average price of $500 per acre (minimum $200 per acre | maximum $800 per acre) multiply by factor of 25 to 28 for value in 2010 dollars—this is how frontier land speculation works when masses of people are gathered by revelation.

SPIRITUAL BLACKMAIL TO PROMOTE SALES.
February 13, 1843: I spent the evening at Elder Orson Hyde’s. In the course of conversation I remarked that those brethren who came here having money, and purchased without the Church and without counsel, must be cut off. This, with other observations, aroused the feelings of Brother Dixon, from Salem, Massachusetts, who was present, and he appeared in great wrath. [“History of the Church”, vol 5., ch.14, p.272; https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/volume-5-chapter-14]

The Front Page of the Nauvoo Neighbor.

SPIRITUAL COERCION TO PROMOTE SALES.
[NOTE: “ The Nauvoo Neighbor was a weekly newspaper edited and published by Latter Day Saint Apostle John Taylor in Nauvoo, Illinois from 1843 to 1845. While it was not an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Neighbor was consistently pro-Mormon and its primary target audience was the Latter Day Saint residents of Nauvoo. When The Wasp ceased publication in April 1843, the Neighbor replaced it as Nauvoo’s premier secular newspaper.” (Wikipedia, “Nauvoo Neighbor”; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauvoo_Neighbor )]

———-BEGIN NAUVOO NEIGHBOR EXCERPT ———-

20 December 1843, Nauvoo Neighbor 37: To Emigrants and Latter-Day Saints Generally: I feel it my duty to say … that there is in the hands of the trustee in trust, a large quantity of lands, both in the city and adjoining townships in this county, which is for sale, some of which belongs to the Church and is designed for the benefit of the poor, and also to liquidate debts owing to the Church, for which the trustee in trust is responsible. Some, also, is land which has been consecrated for the building of the Temple and the Nauvoo House.If the brethern who move in here and want an inheritance, will buy their lands of the trustee in trust, they will thereby benefit the poor, the Temple, and the Nauvoo House, and even then only will be doing that which is their duty, and which I know, by considerable experience, will be vastly for their benefit and satisfaction in days to come. Let all the brethern, therefore, whey they move into Nauvoo, consult President Joseph Smith, the trustee in trust, and purchase their lands of him; and I am bold to say that God will bless them. …We hold ourselves ready at any time to wait upon the brethern and show them the lands … and can be found any day, either at President Joseph Smith’s bar-room, or the Temple Recorder’s office at the Temple.

———- END NAUVOO NEIGHBOR EXCERPT ———-

4. ABUSE OF POWER.
Nauvoo city council awarded Joseph Smith sole right to sell liquor in city limits. He established bar in Mansion House/Hotel for that purpose, but Emma forced him to remove it by threatening to take the kids and move back to the Homestead house.

5. ASSETS OWNED BY JOSEPH/EMMA:
• Joseph Smith Mansion House (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith_Mansion_House)
• Nauvoo House built by order of revelation at the Church’s expense (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauvoo_House)
• Homestead house in Nauvoo (http://cofchrist.org/js/homestead/default.asp)
• Brigham Young claimed that Emma owned $50,000 in *city property* when they finished settling the assets with Emma ($1.4 million in 2010 dollars). This apparently referred to the Hugh White purchase which Joseph had deeded to her before his death (http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V17N03_89.pdf).
• Quincy property (aka Cleveland farm)
• One or more additional farms (Brigham Young twice used the plural when referring to farms given to Emma, saying that “besides these farms she owned city property worth fifty thousand dollars”).
• Owned at least two steamships: the Maid of Iowa and the Nauvoo (Joseph Smith owed a debt on the latter at the time of his death that was settled for over $5,000 (over $140,000 in 2010 dollars). [see Dallin H. Oaks & Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo”, pp.767-782; https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=lawreview]
• Steamship docks (ownership was under dispute—still looking for more info on this one).• Egyptian papyrus and mummies purchased by friends of Joseph Smith for $2,400 in 1835 ($60,000 in 2010 dollars).
• Mother Smith would charge admission (25 cents or around $7 in 2010 dollars) to see the Egyptian mummies and papyrus. Lying, Joseph reportedly told visitors that his mother had purchased them herself for $6,000 ($150,000 in 2010 dollars).
• They remained in the Smith family until Emma sold them shortly after Lucy Mack Smith’s death in 1855.
(source = http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1190844,1220856 )

Banner Art: A fictional Million-Dollar Bill featuring Joseph Smith’s profile that was produced by Mormonism Research Mormonism (MRM) a few years ago.

An Explanation of Sanctification for Latter-day Saints

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)

by Michael Flournoy
In a previous article, I described two types of gospels: the gospel of amputation and the gospel of imputation. The gospel of amputation says we must remove the sin from our lives in order to become righteous. Since this includes sins of omission, we must also do all that God requires. In short, this is the gospel of obedience rewarded by grace. It also happens to be the gospel Latter-day Saints adhere to.

If you’re LDS reading this, there’s about a 50% chance you take umbrage at what I just said. However, I can be reasonably sure that I’ve spoken the truth based solely on the fact that the LDS church is a religion. 

Let me ask you a few questions. Does an ordinance bring you into a covenantal relationship with God? Can major sins overturn that relationship? If another religion showed up that did baptisms and sealings for the dead, would they be discredited as a false church? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you’re an adherent of amputation. I’m fully aware that some Latter-day Saints prefer grace over obedience. But even if you only have to keep one commandment and it’s the equivalent of clipping a fingernail, that still falls within the bounds of amputation. 

Imputation is the opposite proposition. Instead of cutting off sin, we put on the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness drowns out our wickedness and immediately makes us worthy of the Father’s presence. What’s more, it occurs before we obey commandments or undergo a single ordinance. Since obedience doesn’t lead to salvation, our sin can’t undo salvation. It’s not even in the equation. And if another religion pops up that does ordinances like baptism, but claims they’re saved by faith first, they are considered a legitimate faith. 

This is why many Protestant denominations can coexist, but the LDS Church can’t tolerate another organization appropriating their temples and performing their rites. If another religion does baptisms, those baptisms are considered illegitimate by the LDS church. Again, this is because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ties the ordinances themselves to eternal life. Once a religion does this, they must claim exclusive rights to their rituals, or else there would be no need for their faith. This is true not only of your religion but of every belief system on earth. 

The exception is those that believe in imputed righteousness. Those who accept Christ and His vicarious work on the cross become His children and are immediately and forever worthy of eternal life.  After we are declared perfect in Christ, we enter a sanctification process whereby we grow closer to God in love and trust. Our hearts are gradually changed so we desire the things of God. In practice, this isn’t all that different from how Latter-day Saints live out their lives. 

The difference is twofold. First, grace acts as a safety net to catch us when we fall, thus keeping us inside the covenant. And second, we don’t have to reach a certain stage of sanctification to gain eternal life, since we are worthy the moment we’re born again through faith. 

A painting by Jerry Thompson depicting Lehi reaching for the fruit of the tree of life while holding onto the iron rod; (from the official and correlation LdS Church “Primary Manual 4-14”).

The Iron Rod
To demonstrate these two gospels, let’s look at a well-known Book of Mormon analogy: the iron rod. Lehi has a dream in 1 Nephi 8, where he sees a rod of iron leading to the tree of life. Throngs of people hold tight to this rod as they make their way to the tree. This is a good representation of the gospel of amputation.

The tree symbolizing the love of God lies at the end of the path and effort is required to get there. The journey is treacherous, and many fall into forbidden paths and are lost. Others wander into filthy waters and drown therein. Even after reaching the tree and partaking of the fruit, some are embarrassed by the mocking of onlookers in a great and spacious building. They discard the fruit and enter the building, which later collapses.

The point is, there’s no assurance in the gospel of amputation. There’s no point in the journey where anyone can rest in the knowledge that their salvation is secure. Even after reaching the end of the journey and partaking in the love of God, they can be coaxed away. But what if I told you there’s another route to the tree?

After wandering around in the darkness for hours, Lehi prays for mercy and the darkness subsides. He finds himself in a spacious field near the tree. He simply walks up and eats the fruit. And he’s not the only one to forgo the rod. Nephi, Sam, and Sariah also approach the tree without using it. Of the four of them, none are lost to forbidden paths or drowned in the filthy waters, making this path far superior to the iron rod.

Imputation teaches that Christ already did the hard work of obeying God’s word. He made it past the iron rod, planted the tree of life, and built an escalator to heaven. This is the path of mercy. Justice is satisfied that Christ walked the path, and now Jesus can take us straight to the tree. The tree isn’t the end of the path, it’s the beginning.

Once we board the escalator through faith, we can rest assured that our salvation is secure in the blood of the lamb. There’s no way to get off and wander into the swamps of damnation. Our future in heaven with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is an absolute certainty. 

Sealed for Eternity
When faced with salvation by faith alone, Latter-day Saints often ask what role obedience plays. Allow me to answer that with an analogy about marriage.  When we get married to someone, all we have to do is say the words, “I do.” We don’t enter this relationship to earn the other person’s love, rather we marry as a result of that love.

Contrary to what fairy tales teach, the story doesn’t end at marriage. It’s the beginning of the adventure. It’s a rollercoaster of highs and lows. It’s an opportunity to grow closer to your spouse and learn to trust each other. But even during the tumultuous drops, the marriage covenant remains intact.  Nothing changes within us when we enter this relationship. There’s no transformation of character shouting to the world that we’re married. A couple may wear rings as an outward sign of their devotion, but that isn’t what makes them married. What makes them married is simply a legal declaration that they are. 

Now let’s pretend the bride was 100,000 dollars in debt on the day of the wedding but she married a billionaire. By virtue of her husband’s name, she is now a billionaire too despite all that debt. That’s how imputation works. We take Christ’s name upon us and acquire His righteousness. The difference is, His righteousness is infinite. So there’s nothing we can do to make up the difference or slide back into spiritual debt. 

In my analogy, the husband may teach his bride to be wiser with money, but that comes after the marriage. In the same way, God’s word is a standard to teach us morality, but our covenantal relationship with Him predates our obedience. Consider this question by the apostle Paul: when was Abraham counted righteous? Was it before or after he was circumcised? He answers that it was before circumcision and explains why in Romans 5:11-13 (KJV) which reads:

“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:  

And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.  

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.”

“And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.” (John 9:37-38 KJV)

Can Salvation Be Lost?
Most Latter-day Saints balk at the idea that grace is sufficient for eternal life. They consider sola gratia to be “cheap grace” and a license to sin. Let’s shift over to a parent/child analogy. Some Latter-day Saints have told me they give rules to their children to teach them discipline, and argue that our loving Heavenly Father employs the same methods.

I agree, but with a caveat. Disobedience doesn’t undo the covenantal relationship. Can you imagine kicking your kid out of the house because he didn’t clean his room? Or disowning him because he told a lie? Or is your love unconditional? Do you value your relationship with your children, even when they do things you’re ashamed of? If your child grew up and said they hated you and walked away, wouldn’t they still be a son or daughter in your eyes?

I believe this resembles the relationship we have with God. When we sin, God doesn’t abandon us until we get our act together. If anything, He’s closer to us in these times, giving us the comfort and direction we desperately need. As Paul so eloquently preaches in Romans 5:20, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

This is evidenced in the story of David and Bathsheba. Not only does King David commit adultery, but he puts the woman’s husband on the front lines of the battle to die. When Nathan the prophet confronts him, David confesses his sin and Nathan replies: “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13) How great is God’s grace, and how boundless is His mercy that He could forgive so great a sin! Surely there is nothing cheap about grace like this. 

So to my LDS reader I ask, does the same God who forgave David of murder and adultery really take away salvation when we do less evil than that? Does the Jesus who died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8) abandon us because we’re still sinners? Jesus prayed for the very people who condemned him to death saying, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 KJV) And I posit that it’s against Christ’s nature to turn around and disown His own children. 

But what about us? Can’t we turn our backs on Him? We can leave him, but He will move heaven and earth to bring us back to the fold. Ultimately, the question that needs to be asked is this: do we adopt God or does He adopt us? If God adopts us, what right do we have to nullify that? We can complain or act out in disobedience, but nothing we do can sever our relationship with Him. Even if we walk down an escalator, the stairs still work to bring us up.

Another disagreement Latter-day Saints have with Evangelicals is our tendency to say those who leave Christianity never believed in Jesus at all. But let me explain, using marriage as an example again. I was married to my first wife for nine years. At the end of it, she informed me that she wanted to date other men. When I protested, she filed for divorce. I spent months in a state of agony, reliving our most cherished memories, and yet they meant nothing to her. She saw my sorrow and wasn’t fazed. 

Did she fall out of love? No. The simpler explanation is she never loved me at all. What she felt for me was actually infatuation. Many people have an infatuation with the idea of God, but as soon as being a disciple becomes inconvenient, they abandon their Christian ideals. My friends, do not be deceived. Someone like this could never have loved God. 1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. If it doesn’t endure then it isn’t true love, is it? 

As a Latter-day Saint, you may say: people get divorced all the time. Doesn’t that prove someone can walk away from God’s covenantal relationship? Can’t we reject His love? The question of divorce was posed to Jesus by the Pharisees and He replied,

“For the hardness of your heart [Moses] wrote you this precept.  But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
(Mark 10:5-9 KJV)

In other words, divorce is not a God thing, but a man thing. And according to the New Testament, Christ is our bridegroom (Matthew 25:5). If we have been sealed to Him, how can we be separated?

I would also note that love can’t be rejected. If someone loves us, that love is present whether we feel it or not. It’s there whether we want it or not. However, the rod of the iron gospel teaches the opposite. Since the tree in Lehi’s vision represents the love of God, we can infer that God’s love only covers those who make it to the shade the tree provides. He doesn’t love those who walk away from Him. He doesn’t love the lost, or even the ones obeying His word, because they haven’t endured to the end. This love must be earned, and therefore is not love at all. This resembles an abusive, narcissistic relationship more than it resembles real charity. Like the iron rod itself, this love will inevitably rust.  Contrast that with what Paul writes in Romans 8:35-39 (KJV):

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ‘As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'” Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If you’re tired of fighting a losing battle to reach perfection, if broken covenants condemn you, if your sins have traded your peace with fear, and if a love that runs at the sight of your imperfections is what you’re used to, then I invite you to flee from it. You will never be or do enough in a gospel like that and you will never finish proving your worthiness. Instead, I invite you to embrace the unconditional, unending, fully accepting, ever merciful, totally sufficient, and all-encompassing love of Christ.

“Security” by David Bowman

An artist’s interpretation of what downtown Cahokia would have looked like in the late Sterling period after the palisade wall had been built around Monk’s Mound and the Grand Plaza. credit: National Geographic (click to zoom)

compiled by Fred W. Anson
A common body of evidence that’s often presented by some Mormon faithful as the best evidence for The Book of Mormon is the Hopewell Mound Builder culture in general and the mount builder complex of Cahokia in particular. A well-known case in point is Rock Waterman’s article in which he attempts to make that very case, starting his lengthy treatise like this:

“What struck me when I first arrived in Cahokia was the incredible stink.

I had been called to serve in the Missouri-Independence Mission, but my first area, Plattsmouth, Nebraska, was far from any of the historic church locations I had expected to to see when I got my call. Now, near the end of 1973, I had been transferred to my second location. I would spend my first winter as a missionary in smelly Cahokia, Illinois; as far from Far West or Independence or Adam-Ondi-Ahman as a guy could possibly get.

The small town of Cahokia was located next to East St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi river, famous for its slaughterhouses. The smell of bovine death and gore hovered in the air long after slaughtering had ceased for the day, floating up and mixing with the rancid smoke spewed from the smokestacks of the nearby Monsanto chemical plant, then slowly settling down over the hapless town of Cahokia to choke its residents while they slept. “It’s something you just get used to,” my new companion told me.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have been delighted to find myself in Cahokia instead of dreading it. As it turns out, I had landed smack dab in the middle of Book of Mormon Central and never even knew it.”
(Rock Waterman, “Best Evidence For The Book of Mormon”, Pure Mormonism website, November 1, 2011)

Mr. Waterman then goes on to point to a long list of secular and Mormon Apologist sources, especially Heartland Apologists like Rod Meldrum, to support the case that Cahokia and the Hopewell Culture as stunning historical and archaeological support for The Book of Mormon. There’s only one problem: It’s been already been soundly discredited by both those inside and outside of Mormonism. Consider, for example, well-known RLDS/CoC scholar “Uncle” Dale Broadhurst, who concluded thusly:

“The Mississippian Culture was NOT a “civilization.” Its members did not live in cities.

Cahokia was NOT Teotihuacan nor Pekin nor Rome — it was a ceremonial center surrounded by farmers’ huts and connected by waterways to other, smaller villages.

We should not think of its residents as engaging in city life, with artisans, shops, government workers, city planning, etc.

If you want to look at a culture on the verge of becoming a civilization, look at the Valley of Mexico at the time Cortez arrived.

No reputable paleo-anthropologist will resort to exotic, transoceanic dispersions to account for the technology, social structure, language, etc., of American Indians associated with the Adena, Hopewell, or Mississippian cultures.

Take a minute to address letters of inquiry to the topmost cultural anthropologists at Brigham Young University, asking them what aspects of the Mississippian Culture necessarily depended upon importation from elsewhere — in other words, what parts of their society could not have been “home-grown” from the ground up.

The answer you will get back is: maize agriculture.

That, and perhaps some external “hints” on how to make better pottery, or weave better baskets, or better shape native copper into ornaments.”
(Dale Broadhurst, Mormon Discussions, Thu Feb 25, 2010 12:39 pm; link now dead)

And then there’s this from secular Science Journalist, Charles Mann, in his award-winning book, “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus”:

“The Hopewell apparently sought spiritual ecstasy by putting themselves into trances, perhaps aided by tobacco. In this enraptured state, the soul journeys to other worlds. As is usually the case, people with special abilities emerged to assist travelers through the portal to the numinous. Over time these shamans became gatekeepers, controlling access to the supernatural realm. They passed on their control and privileges to their children, creating a hereditary priesthood: counselors to kings, if not kings themselves. They acquired healing lore, mastered and invented ceremonies, learned the numerous divinities in the Hopewell pantheon. We know little of these gods today, because few of their images have endured to the present. Presumably shamans recounted their stories to attentive crowds; almost certainly, they explained when and where the gods wanted to build mounds. “There is a stunning vigor about the Ohio Hopewell …,” Silverberg wrote,

‘a flamboyance and fondness for excess that manifests itself not only in the intricate geometrical enclosures and the massive mounds, but in these gaudy displays of conspicuous consumption [in the tombs]. To envelop a corpse from head to feet in pearls, to weigh it down in many pounds of copper, to surround it with masterpieces of sculpture and pottery, and then to bury everything under tons of earth—this betokens a kind of cultural energy that numbs and awes those who follow after.’

Vibrant and elaborate, perhaps a little vulgar in its passion for display, Hopewell religion spread through most of the eastern United States in the first four centuries A.D. As with the expansion of Christianity, the new converts are unlikely to have understood the religion in the same way as its founders. Nonetheless, its impact was profound. In a mutated form, it may well have given impetus to the rise of Cahokia.”
(Charles C. Mann, “1491 (Second Edition): New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” (Kindle Locations 5242-5255). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition)

In regard to The Book of Mormon, Mann explains elsewhere in the same book:

“Contact with Indians caused Europeans considerably more consternation. Columbus went to his grave convinced that he had landed on the shores of Asia, near India. The inhabitants of this previously unseen land were therefore Asians—hence the unfortunate name “Indians.” As his successors discovered that the Americas were not part of Asia, Indians became a dire anthropogonical problem.

According to Genesis, all human beings and animals perished in the Flood except those on Noah’s ark, which landed “upon the mountains of Ararat,” thought to be in eastern Turkey. How, then, was it possible for humans and animals to have crossed the immense Pacific? Did the existence of Indians negate the Bible, and Christianity with it?

Among the first to grapple directly with this question was the Jesuit educator José de Acosta, who spent a quarter century in New Spain. Any explanation of Indians’ origins, he wrote in 1590, “cannot contradict Holy Writ, which clearly teaches that all men descend from Adam.” Because Adam had lived in the Middle East, Acosta was “forced” to conclude “that the men of the Indies traveled there from Europe or Asia.” For this to be possible, the Americas and Asia “must join somewhere.”

If this is true, as indeed it appears to me to be, … we would have to say that they crossed not by sailing on the sea, but by walking on land. And they followed this way quite unthinkingly, changing places and lands little by little, with some of them settling in the lands already discovered and others seeking new ones.

Acosta’s hypothesis was in basic form widely accepted for centuries. For his successors, in fact, the main task was not to discover whether Indians’ ancestors had walked over from Eurasia, but which Europeans or Asians had done the walking. Enthusiasts proposed a dozen groups as the ancestral stock: Phoenicians, Basques, Chinese, Scythians, Romans, Africans, “Hindoos,” ancient Greeks, ancient Assyrians, ancient Egyptians, the inhabitants of Atlantis, even straying bands of Welsh. But the most widely accepted candidates were the Lost Tribes of Israel. Tribes of Israel.

The story of the Lost Tribes is revealed mainly in the Second Book of Kings of the Old Testament and the apocryphal Second (or Fourth, depending on the type of Bible) Book of Esdras. At that time, according to scripture, the Hebrew tribes had split into two adjacent confederations, the southern kingdom of Judah, with its capital in Jerusalem, and the northern kingdom of Israel, with its capital in Samaria. After the southern tribes took to behaving sinfully, divine retribution came in the form of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V, who overran Israel and exiled its ten constituent tribes to Mesopotamia (today’s Syria and Iraq). Now repenting of their wickedness, the Bible explains, the tribes resolved to “go to a distant land never yet inhabited by man, and there at last to be obedient to their laws.” True to their word, they walked away and were never seen again.

Because the Book of Ezekiel prophesizes that in the final days God “will take the children of Israel from among the heathen … and bring them into their own land,” Christian scholars believed that the Israelites’ descendants—Ezekiel’s “children of Israel”—must still be living in some remote place, waiting to be taken back to their homeland. Identifying Indians as these “lost tribes” solved two puzzles at once: where the Israelites had gone, and the origins of Native Americans.

Acosta weighed the Indians-as-Jews theory but eventually dismissed it because Indians were not circumcised. Besides, he blithely explained, Jews were cowardly and greedy, and Indians were not. Others did not find his refutation convincing. The Lost Tribes theory was endorsed by authorities from Bartolomé de Las Casas to William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and the famed minister Cotton Mather. (In a variant, the Book of Mormon argued that some Indians were descended from Israelites though not necessarily the Lost Tribes.) In 1650 James Ussher, archbishop of Armagh, calculated from Old Testament genealogical data that God created the universe on Sunday, October 23, 4004 B.C. So august was Ussher’s reputation, wrote historian Andrew Dickson White, that “his dates were inserted in the margins of the authorized version of the English Bible, and were soon practically regarded as equally inspired with the sacred text itself.” According to Ussher’s chronology, the Lost Tribes left Israel in 721 B.C. Presumably they began walking to the Americas soon thereafter. Even allowing for a slow passage, the Israelites must have arrived by around 500 B.C. When Columbus landed, the Americas therefore had been settled for barely two thousand years.

The Lost Tribes theory held sway until the nineteenth century, when it was challenged by events. As Lund had in Brazil, British scientists discovered some strange-looking human skeletons jumbled up with the skeletons of extinct Pleistocene mammals. The find, quickly duplicated in France, caused a sensation. To supporters of Darwin’s recently published theory of evolution, the find proved that the ancestors of modern humans had lived during the Ice Ages, tens of thousands of years ago. Others attacked this conclusion, and the skeletons became one of the casus belli of the evolution wars. Indirectly, the discovery also stimulated argument about the settlement of the Americas. Evolutionists believed that the Eastern and Western Hemispheres had developed in concert. If early humans had inhabited Europe during the Ice Ages, they must also have lived in the Americas at the same time. Indians must therefore have arrived before 500 B.C. Ussher’s chronology and the Lost Tribes scenario were wrong.

The nineteenth century was the heyday of amateur science. In the United States as in Europe, many of Darwin’s most ardent backers were successful tradespeople whose hobby was butterfly or beetle collecting. When these amateurs heard that the ancestors of Indians must have come to the Americas thousands of years ago, a surprising number of them decided to hunt for the evidence that would prove it.”
(Charles C. Mann, “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus”, positions 331.0-334.2/1222 Kindle Edition)

Therefore, it should come as no surprise when modern amateur scientific voyeurs retread the same path trod by those after 1492 and prior to better, more complete evidence arising that discredits these now long-discredited American Lost Tribes theories. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In short, and in conclusion, the only way to turn Cahokia and the Hopewell Culture into evidence for The Book of Mormon is to come to the conclusion first and then both cherry-pick the body of evidence for “hits” while ignoring the far more numerous “misses”. In other words, this is yet another one where Mormon Confirmation Bias reigns supreme over logic and reason. Cahokia and the Hopewell Mount Builders are not only not a bull’s eye for The Book of Mormon, but they’re also not even in the same pub where the dartboard resides.

An artist’s recreation of downtown Cahokia, with Monk’s Mound at its center. (click to zoom)

 Artwork courtesy of ArsTechnica

… Read the Book of Mormon Without Proper Mormon Grooming!

Social Justice Warrior, Greta “How Dare You!” Thunberg, weighs in on the matter.

by Fred W. Anson
The Book of Mormon is one of the worse pieces of American literature ever published. I say this as someone who has read it cover-to-cover not just once but more than once and then only after studying it for decades prior to that. But hey, don’t take my word for it, take the word of the man who is considered by many to be one of America’s greatest authors and creator of some of the best American literature ever written, Mark Twain, who said of the book:

“All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the “elect” have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow,” so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle—keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, accourding to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason…

The Mormon Bible is rather stupid and tiresome to read, but there is nothing vicious in its teachings. Its code of morals is unobjectionable—it is “smouched” from the New Testament and no credit given.”
(Mark Twain, “Roughing It”, Chapter 16)

Or how about the assessment of Charles H. Spurgeon, one of the most respected and influential preachers of the late 19th Century:

“One of the most modern pretenders to inspiration is the Book of Mormon. I could not blame you should you laugh outright while I read aloud a page from that farrago.”
(C.H. Spurgeon, “Our Manifesto”, April 25th, 1890)

And if you don’t believe Mark Twain, C.H. Spurgeon, or me, consider the words of Harold Bloom, American’s leading 20th Century Literary Critic:

“With the Book of Mormon, we arrive at the center of Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission, but hardly at any center of Mormonism, because of Smith’s extraordinary capacity for speculative development in the fourteen years that remained to him after its publication. The Book of Mormon was not only his first work; it is the portrait of a self-educated, powerful mind at the untried age of twenty-four. It has bravura, but beyond question it is wholly tendentious and frequently tedious. If one compares it closely to Smith’s imaginings in the Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants, it seems the work of some other writer, and I don’t mean Mormon or Moroni.”
(Harold Bloom, “The American Religion”, Chu Hartley Publishers. Kindle Edition, Locations 1184-1189) 

And if you’re thinking, “Well, that’s not fair, you and Harold Bloom are critiquing a 19th Century literary style based on today’s modern standards”, consider this from Alexander Campbell, the founder, and leader of Campbellism, who said this of the book only two years after its publication:

“These are but as one drop out of a bucket compared with the amount of Smithisms in this book. It is patched up and cemented with “And it came to pass” — “I sayeth unto you” — “Ye saith unto him” — and all the King James’ haths, dids and doths; in the lowest imitation of the common version; and is, without exaggeration, the meanest book in the English language; but it is a translation made through stone spectacles, in a dark room, and in the hat of the prophet Smith from the reformed Egyptian!!! It has not one good sentence in it, save the profanation of those sentences quoted from the Oracles of the living God. I would as soon compare a bat to the American eagle, a mouse to a mammoth, or the deformities of a spectre to the beauty of Him whom John saw in Patmos, as to contrast it with a single chapter in all the writings of the Jewish or Christian prophets. It is as certainly Smith’s fabrication as Satan is the father of lies, or darkness the offspring of night. So much for the internal evidences of the Book of Mormon.”
(Alexander Campbell, “Delusions an analysis of the Book of Mormon…”, (1832), p.14) 

And if that’s still not enough, I would encourage you to speak to anyone who has read the book on its own merits without having Mormon Missionaries or any other Mormon influence hovering around them and telling them what a marvelous work and a wonder this insipid mess of mangled Elizabethan English combined with antiquated 19th Century ideas (such as American Restorationism and American Anglo-Israelism) it really is.

So the question remains, then how and why can millions of Mormons all over the world claim that this horrible book is some kind of inspired glory? Enter the power of suggestion. From the 2004 edition of the current, official LdS Church Missionary Manual:

“This message of the Restoration is either true or it is not. We can know that it is true by the Holy Ghost, as promised in Moroni 10:3–5. After reading and pondering the message of the Book of Mormon, any who desire to know the truth must ask in prayer to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ if it is true. In order to do this, we address our Heavenly Father. We thank Him for our blessings and ask to know that the message of the Book of Mormon is true. No one can know of spiritual truths without prayer.

In answer to our prayers, the Holy Ghost will teach us truth through our feelings and thoughts.

Feelings that come from the Holy Ghost are powerful, but they are also usually gentle and quiet. As we begin to feel that what we are learning is true, we will desire to know all that we can about the Restoration.

Knowing that the Book of Mormon is true leads to a knowledge that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet and that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through him.”
(LdS Church, “Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service” (2004 edition), p.39)

Not enough? Then how about this from former LdS Church President and “Living Prophet” Thomas S. Monson?

“This morning I speak about the power of the Book of Mormon and the critical need we have as members of this Church to study, ponder, and apply its teachings in our lives. The importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated.

We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true—and I solemnly testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children.

If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one. It is essential for you to have your own testimony in these difficult times, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far. However, once obtained, a testimony needs to be kept vital and alive through continued obedience to the commandments of God and through daily prayer and scripture study.

My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives. I so testify with all my heart in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
(Thomas S. Monson, “The Power of the Book of Mormon”, Spring General Conference 2017)

I mean, with over-the-top hyperbole and gushing like that how can it possibly be anything but one of the greatest, most powerful, stunningly inspired, incredible, works of English literature ever produced, right?

Two words in response: Read it. Yes, read it yourself so you can experience “inspired” prose like this, for yourself:

1 Nephi 14
23 Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.

24 And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see.

25 But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.

Wow, how can you argue with circular, over-blown, repetitious, grammar-challenged, gibberish like that?

Missionaries weigh in on the matter.

Back in December 2019, my Mormon Studies colleague, Kathy Petersen, had the brilliant idea of setting up a Book of Mormon daily reading program so non-Mormons could do just that – read it all in a year, cover-to-cover, just like many Bible reading programs out there do. And to do all that without any Mormon influence or interference, so the group could discuss the book honesty without being told (see above) what we should think and feel about it in advance, during, or after it was read. So she did. And, full disclosure here, I agreed to help her get it established, running and maintained because, candidly, I thought that the idea was pure, absolute, genius (still do!) Here’s how the group description, in part, reads:

“The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year (aka “TOYBOM”) is specifically for Non-Mormons reading the Book of Mormon in a year as a group so that we can openly and honestly discuss and deconstruct it without any Mormon interference, umbrage, or offense…

NO MORMONS ARE ALLOWED HERE
Mormons (that is, members of any Latter Day Saint group or denomination) are NOT allowed in this group. Period.

That’s so we can speak freely and deconstruct the Book the Mormon honestly and openly without having to deal with the typical Latter Day Saint agendas, dogmas, thin-skinned offense, spin doctoring, and confirmation bias driven apologetics that typically swirl around the Book of Mormon in public.

Our goal here is to quietly, objectively, civilly and dispassionately consider the Book of Mormon devoid of any of such partisan Latter Day Saint encumbrances.”
(see Facebook, The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year

The wailing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth that we got from Latter-day Saints in general, and Mormon Missionaries was swift and to the point: We were told that no one could possibly understand or appreciate this great, soaring, inspired, paradigm-changing work on its own without Latter-day Saints being in the room to explain it to them. We were told by virtue of the fact that Mormons could not be a part of the discussion and conversation the Book of Mormon would, no doubt, be completely misunderstood and misinterpreted by the non-Mormons in the group.

To all this, my Latter-day Friends and Mormon Missionary friends I just have one question: Why?

After all, if the Book of Mormon is truly everything that you all claim it is, shouldn’t it speak for itself? Shouldn’t its stunning inspiration and clear veracity be apparent simply by cracking its cover and reading it? Shouldn’t it be exactly as the Moroni 10 Challenge states?

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
— Moroni 10:3-5

Latter-day Saint friends, can you please show us where in the Moroni 10 Challenge it says, “Unless, of course, there are no Latter-day Saints around or present to groom and guide you, in which case, fuggedaboutit!”? I can’t seem to find it, and neither can anyone else.

So, back to the “The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year” group. We started the daily readings and it didn’t take long before the wailing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth were soon coming from these intrepid non-Mormons who had committed to reading this overwhelmingly boring and dreadfully written book in a year. They were stunned, absolutely stunned from the front cover to the back cover that anyone could come to anything but the obvious conclusion that (to borrow and paraphrase from Lamoni’s queen in Alma 19:5): As for myself, to me it doth truly stink.

So I will end this article the way that I began it: The Book of Mormon is one of the worse pieces of American literature ever published. Or to put it another way, friends, the Emperor has no clothes! And if you doubt that, then just read it for yourself. With no one else around. It speaks for itself, and it says loudly, “These things are not true.”

(click to zoom)

I think that anyone who has actually done it can relate to this.