The Book of Mormon Translation Process

In this article I am going to start going through various elements of the book of Mormon. Looking at the historical and evidential background to the book of Mormon, as well as if what the LDS church teaches today is the same story that history represents as to how the book of Mormon came to be.

Let me give a bit of a disclaimer in that I am no scholar so I am borrowing heavily from other sources particularly http://www.utlm.org and the book “An Insiders view of Mormon Origins” by Grant Palmer, I would really recommend you look at both of those for much better and more detailed explanations of all this,  however if I misquote something or say something that you can show to be false, not simply something you disagree with then please let me know and I will happily make appropriate changes.

However the information I give will be sourced and is worth consideration, by all means don’t accept these things because I say them, I simply want to promote dialogue and help LDS people see some of the issues that the church will rarely if ever present itself.

So a quick bit of background is the LDS belief that when Joseph Smith prayed which church to join God the Father and Jesus appeared to Him stating all the churches are wrong and to join none of them. After this Smith started getting visitations from an angel called Moroni, as time went on Moroni told Smith of some gold plates containing the records of ancient civilizations that came from Jerusalem to America. Moroni eventually showed Smith where these plates were and Smith then translated these plates into the book of Mormon. This is quite a cut down version but is just some background to the following information.

LDS Scripture Doctrine and Covenants 20:8-10 says this

8 And agave him power from on high, by the bmeans which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon;

9 Which contains a arecord of a fallen people, and the bfulness of the cgospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also;

10 Which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to aothers by the ministering of angels, and is bdeclared unto the world by them—

The plates were believed to be wrote in the language of reformed Egyptian and Joseph Smith translated these by the power of God.
LDS Church history records that Joseph Smith translated these plates translating them Using a Urimm and Thummim with a barrier of some kind between him and the scribe, writing down what he dictated from the plates.
From LDS  History a Urimm and Thurimm is described as below:
An ancient instrument or tool prepared by God and used by Joseph Smith to aid in the translation of the Book of Mormon. God provided a Urim and Thummim to His prophets in ancient times (see Exodus 28:30; 1 Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63).
From an LDS apologetics website I believe the Urim and Thummim look something like this. (see picture)
The Ever reliable Wikipedia says this about Smith’s use of these:

Joseph Smith, Jr., founder and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said that he used interpreters in order to translate the Book of Mormon from the Golden Plates. The interpreters he described as a pair of stones, fastened to a breastplate joined in a form similar to that of a large pair of spectacles. Smith later referred to this object as the Urim and Thummim. In 1823, Smith said that the angel Moroni, who had told him about the Golden Plates, also told him about the Urim and Thummim, “two stones in silver bows” fastened to a breastplate, and the angel intimated that they had been prepared by God to aid in the translation of the Golden Plates.[26] Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, described these Urim and Thummim as being like “two smooth three-cornered diamonds.”[27]

Smith also said he used these devices to assist him in receiving other divine revelations, including some of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants and portions of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Although many of Smith’s associates said they saw him use the devices, only Oliver Cowdery seems to have attempted to use them to receive his own revelation.[28] Latter Day Saints believe that Smith’s Urim and Thummim were functionally identical to the biblical Urim and Thummim. Previously, it was thought that there was no evidence that the latter were ever used to translate unknown texts.[29] However, Dr. Cornelis Van Dam of the Theological Colleges of the Canadian Reformed Churches recently published a book titled The Urim and Thummim: A Means of Revelation in Ancient Israel, in which he examines a new possible role of these ancient Israelite objects. Van Dam puts forth the idea that the Urim and Thummim were actually used in ancient Israel as a means of receiving revelation from God.[30]

Smith extends the use of the term “Urim and Thummim” to describe the dwelling place of God, the earth in a future state, and the white stone mentioned in the Book of Revelation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urim_and_Thummim)[31]

When Smith was given these plates along with a Urim and Thummim He then by the power of God (meaning with no knowledge of Egyptian) translated the Reformed Egyptian Gold plates using the Urim and Thummim, dictating to various people but mostly Oliver Cowdery with a sheet between so people could not see the plates Smith was translating from.

So Firstly in understanding the Historical background to the above it is helpful to understand something of Joseph Smith’s background,

Joseph Smith’ occupation early in life was Money Digging In Fawn Brodies biography of Smith “No man knows My History” She writes this:

Joseph’s money-digging began in earnest with this discovery of a “seer stone” when he was digging a well for Mason Chase. Martin Harris stated that it came from twenty-four feet under-ground, and Joseph Capron testified that Joseph could see wondrous sights in it, “ghosts, infernal spirits, mountains of gold and silver.” Joseph’s wife once described this stone as “not exactly black but rather dark in colour,” though she admitted to non of the early uses to which it was put.                                                                                                  (Letter from Emma Smith to Mrs Pilgrim, Nauvoo Illinois March 27, 1871, in the RLDS archives)

Additionally in 1826 Smith was tried in court and found guilty of being a Disorderly Person and an imposter, please go to this site (http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no68.htm#JOSEPH%20SMITH%20GUILTY) for the full story on this (too long to quote here)

In this court case Joseph Smith denied spending all his time looking for mines however admitted that “he had a certain stone which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were;” (see website quoted above)

The purpose of this article is to show from Historical sources that Joseph Smith’s activity in Money digging and occult practices carried on in the process of bringing about the book of Mormon, and that the Urim and Thummim the LDS church talks about today are actually Occult Seer Stones that Smith used to create the book of Mormon without any gold plates even being present in the dictation process.

Consider this Image below

In An Insiders View of Mormon Origins Grant Palmer says this:

For a time Emma Smith acted as her husbands scribe. She said that she recieved dictation from him as he sat “with his face buried in his hat…hour after hour with nothing between us. (Last testimony of Sister Emma”. Saints Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 290.

In 1834 Emma’s father, Isaac Hale, gave a similar description of the translation process:. . .

I went to the house where Joseph Smith Jr., lived, and where he and Harris were engaged in their translation of the Book. . . . I told them then, that I considered the whole of it a delusion, and advised them to abandon it. The manner in which he [Smith] pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods! (Isaac Hale Statement, Early Mormon Documents, vol. 4, p. 287)

David Whitmer frankly admitted that he never did see Joseph Smith use what was later known as the Urim and Thummim (the two stones set in silver bows). This information is found in an article in the Saints’ Herald:

According to the testimony of Emma Smith and David Whitmer, the angel took the Urim and Thummim from Joseph Smith at the time of the loss of the 116 pages. This was in June 1828, one year before David became involved with the work of translation. David Whitmer could never have been present when the Urim and Thummim were used. All of this he clearly states in his testimony to Brother Traughber:

“With the sanction of David Whitmer, and by his authority, I now state he does not say that Joseph Smith ever translated in his presence by aid of Urim and Thummim, but by means of one dark colored, opaque stone called a ‘Seer Stone,’ which was placed in the crown of a hat, into which Joseph put his face, so as to exclude the external light. Then, a spiritual light would appear before Joseph, upon which was a line of characters from the plates, and under it, the translation in English; at least, so Joseph said.” (Saints’ Herald, November 15, 1962, page 16)

LaMar Petersen, author and historian, observed:

The church has always been strongly committed to the belief that Joseph translated directly from the plates, but at least one modern LDS scholar, Nels L. Nelson, a professor at Brigham Young University, concluded otherwise: “Joseph Smith did not look directly at the plates while translating. In fact the plates, while they were in the possession of the Prophet, were probably not immediately at hand with him during most of the translation” (The Creation of the Book of Mormon: A Historical Inquiry, by LaMar Petersen, Freethinker Press, 2000, p. 96).

So where were the plates?

Martin Harris one of the 3 witnesses claiming to have seen the gold plates (more on this later) said the plates were hid in the woods while they were being translated. (Interview by John Clark in 1828 In the Episcopal recorder, quoted in Early Mormon Documents)

David Whitmer who observed the dication process said Joseph “did not use the plates in the translation” (Mormonism, Kansas city daily journal 5 June 1881)  and Whitmer also stated that Joseph used a seer stone placed in his hat.  (Van Wagoner and Walker, “The Gift of Seeing,” 51-52)

The more I look into the background of this the more clear it seems that Smith carried on his interest in seer stones as from his digging for magic items in his process of translating the book of Mormon.

What is a seer stone?

The website Crystal bear, a website devoted to the Magic side of crystals with no relation to Christianity, says this about seer stones (picture above also from that site)

This stone can be used to access past, present and the future. Imagine yourself as this beautiful stone because that is what you are beautiful. All people see is the outside of us, basing their opinion on what they can see and not what lies beneath. If people took the time to look at us differently they would find someone very special. As you look inside a seer stone you find yourself looking at what’s inside the quartz surrounding these trapped gems. I bet as you looked at these pictures you were drawn deep inside admiring the beauty within rather than the beauty on the outside. Strange don’t you think two striking individual objects special in their own way looked at in two complete different ways? Now imagine if the people we met could see what lies deep inside us. All that magic, our thoughts, our love, the way we care, our cute ways, what makes us laugh, our dreams and most importantly the complete you. (http://www.crystalbear.com/page18.htm)

The book of Mormon comes from this, Joseph Smith having his face in a hat looking at a seer stone (or a Urim and Thummim as called today), dictating what he saw. Joseph Smith carried on what he knew, which was occult practices previously used for finding money that he already had been to court and found guilty of being an impostor for, He used to bring about the Book of Mormon.

To Mormons reading this I would urge you look up what I have said, I have barely scratched the surface of all of the information out there on this subject, please go to http://www.utlm.org and you will find hours worth of reading material full of sources backing up what I have said.

However this still leaves a question, where did Joseph Smith get the book of Mormon from? How could he have made it all up?

Mormon Missionaries will always ask you how could a young relatively uneducated boy like Joseph Smith make up the book of Mormon? I would concede far enough to say I dont think he did make it all up, but more on that in my next article.


11 thoughts on “The Book of Mormon Translation Process”

  1. Again you’ve deleted my posting about the difficulties of finding a real urmmen and a thurmen. There is no such thing, can I say this? Is this permitted?

    I don’t see how people can gather hope and inspiration from little rocks. What the world really needs is more love and less readings and holy words. Without education and knowledge of this world, the real world and everything that gogoes in it from little animals to fish and the weather we are in a horrible and terrrible and bad situation where we take educated people seriously. Just cos a rich man with a propensity to tell tall tales of angels and mystical magic sayings little rocks can dictate a new bible we shouldn’t listen. Keep it up!

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  2. My thoughts:

    (1) Wow! You’ve covered a lot of ground in this post. It will be difficult to explore any of the issues you’ve raised in any detail, because there are so many issues you’ve raised at once! I like to call this the “shotgun” strategy. Critics do it all the time when they run through a list of items, each of which requires an in depth conversation that simply can’t be done effectively all at once. The primary goal of the “shotgun” strategy is to hope that something hits home, even if most of it doesn’t.

    (2) Regarding the little picture you have of the Urim and Thummim, that is not one I’ve ever seen, and is probably just a modern interpretation of what they would have looked like. One glaring problem, I think, is that one of them is black. I don’t think that was the case.

    (3) You mentioned that LDS consider Joseph’s Urim and Thummim to be functionally equivalent to the U&T mentioned in the Old Testament. While most LDS probably assume this is the case, I can tell you that the LDS Church has never done any kind of exhaustive study on the topic, and has not put forth any sort of official statement to this end. It is largely an assumption based on the fact that they have the same name. As you also pointed out, Joseph applied the name “Urim and Thummim” to other things, including God’s dwelling place. He also applied the name to his own personal seer stone. He, and his associated, used the word “seer stone” and “Urim and Thummim” interchangeably.

    (4) Joseph was not found guilty of anything. He didn’t even stand trial in 1826. Technically, it was an “examination” and nothing came of it but a lecture from the judge. The whole thing originated because Joseph’s friendship with Josiah Stowell troubled Stowell’s sons, who complained to the authorities about Joseph Smith. No charged were filed, and Joseph wasn’t found guilty of anything. He wasn’t even put under oath. Even the Tanner’s admit as much. More info here: http://en.fairmormon.org/Joseph_Smith/Legal_trials/1826_glasslooking_trial

    (5) Joseph used the Urim and Thummim given to him by Moroni during the translation of the first 116 pages. After the incident with Martin Harris, in which Harris lost the pages, the U&T were taken from Joseph and he was instructed to carry on the translation using his own seer stone. David Whitmer met Joseph only *after* all of this happened. That is why Whitmer said that he never saw Joseph use the U&T….because by that point Joseph was exclusively using his personal seer stone. Remember, the U&T was nothing more than a glorified seer stone.

    (6) I object to your use of the word “occult” in describing Joseph’s activities. That word has a negative connotation, and its use in your article is designed to polarize. Similar activities are found throughout the Bible, things that no doubt would considered “occult” by today’s mainstream Christians who don’t study their Bible’s enough.
    Seer stone gazing was a part of Joseph’s sub-culture, and he wasn’t even the most well known gazer in his area. He never really made any money at it, but it appears that he and his acquaintances all believed he genuinely had a spiritual gift for it. People came to him asking him to help find things, and he would find them! More here: http://en.fairmormon.org/Joseph_Smith/Seer_stones

    (7) You said, “The church has always been strongly committed to the belief that Joseph translated directly from the plates…” Where do you get this from? The Church has never really cared much how Joseph translated the plates. But, more to the point, LDS scholars have always known that Joseph translated most of the BoM with his own personal seer stone. The Church has not tried to cover up that fact at all. It has been published many times in official LDS magazines. Most LDS don’t care to do research on these things (with good reason, because it doesn’t matter to us) and usually conflate the U&T with the seer stone anyway.

    (8) The plates were not directly used in the translation process, so far as we can tell. I believe that the plates, and the seer stone, both simply acted as a faith strengthening object for Joseph. Joseph may have not understood or been able to carry out his mission if it didn’t seem real to him. As an analogy, consider the miracle when Christ healed the blind man by patting mud on his eyes. Was that mud really necessary? No. But it served as a faith-strengthening object for the man to focus on.

    (9) I want to conclude by saying that LDS scholars are way ahead on all of these issues. We have known about it all along, and they don’t bother us. You will find more information about these issues at pro-LDS websites than you will anywhere else.

    That’s enough for now.

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    1. James mate.

      (1) Not heard of this Shotgun approach just putting across the information and leaving it up to the reader to decide and look further, I am glad you acknowledge my hard work though 🙂 for a fairly short post this took me a while to do.

      (2) Fair enough its just to give people an idea, if you can show me one you think is more accurate I will change it no problem.

      (3) Interesting, I have also come across this idea in the Missionary’s Little Book of Answers by Gilbert Scharffs that I bought from Deseret Books, it is interesting that so many “opinions” are thrown around in the LDS church that can be ignored or picked up from within, almost like many denominations within a denomination?

      (4) Well I did source this leaving it up to people to decide, apparently there are 3 instances of Smith being in Court and the one I am talking about is the 1st one that is often missed, however I am still learning, full set of info here http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no68.htm#JOSEPH%20SMITH%20GUILTY I would encourage anyone reading to look into it themselves.

      (5) Was it not the case that Martin Harris’s wife hid or destroyed those pages to test whether Smith was really translating. Smith then had a revelation that the next set would come from a different set of plates coming at things from a different perspective? Convenient but understandable! However after this the use of seer stone with no plates present certainly did carry on as Oliver Cowdery who came in at that point stated as much.

      (6) You can object however if you look at the magic site I quoted and their definition of a seer stone it certainly sounds dodgy to me!

      (7) Give me some time on this one as I would like to ask around my Mormon mates not wrapped up in Apologetics and see what they think. As to be fair to you I knew that you would know much or all of what I said, however if day to day Mormons are taught the plates were present and Smith translated them in a fairly normal way this shows the LDS church is putting at least a lot of spin or at most outright lies on its history, as people who have looked into this like you know what the reality is.

      (8) Yes but at least Christ and the mud was present at that point, however the plates not being present in the Translation process is to me a massive problem and paves the way for the many influences Smith had in fabricating the book of Mormon.

      (9) I accept that and have no problem with that point, however normal day to day Mormons know nothing of what we are talking about and the church is only too happy for that to carry on, this blog simply exists to make people aware of the issues. I am far from a scholar and am learning this stuff as I go however I hope others will take not of this and look into it for themselves.

      Out of interest have you read Fawn Brodies no man knows my history? I am reading it now for the first time fascinating stuff.

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  3. Bobby,

    (3) Yes, well, the LDS Church on an official level simply doesn’t care all that much about critically analyzing the U&T. They have more important things to do, of course, like carrying out their mission of bringing the gospel to the world and bringing people closer to God. I explained something similar to Kate in the other discussion. As a result the membership is left to study and debate issues like these, and scholarship is allowed to flourish.

    (4) Regarding Joseph being in court, he spent his entire prophetic ministry wrestling in the courts. There was always someone trying to sabotage him through the legal system. Fortunately, he was never found guilty of anything. I realize that it is fun to poke Mormonism in the eye by highlighting Joseph’s legal troubles, but when examined it is all hollow. Paul the apostle also spent much time in the courts, and Jesus’ life ended because of legal troubles. Bottom line: legal issues don’t have anything to do with whether a prophet is a prophet.

    (5) If I recall, Lucy Harris did say that she burned the 116 pages. I’d have to check that though to be sure. Joseph had enemies at every turn looking for a way to snare him (as prophets often do) and so he struggled to know what to do about this. Joseph had asked the Lord if Martin could take the pages, and twice the Lord said no. Joseph asked a third time, and the Lord said to do as he sees fit, because he has free agency. When Martin told Joseph that he had lost the pages, Joseph exclaimed, according to his mother’s record, “O, my God! All is lost! All is lost! What shall I do? It is I who tempted the wrath of God. I should have been satisfied with the first answer.”

    After some divine chastening, the Lord told him to just forget about the 116 pages and keep translating. The highlights of the 116 pages (Lehi’s record) could be found in Nephi’s record, which Moroni appended onto the back of the Book of Mormon.

    (6) It is a bit silly to suppose that a modern website by some magic enthusiast, with absolutely no connection to Christianity much less to Joseph Smith, would be authoritative about how Joseph and his contemporaries understood seer stones. Again, the Bible is full of “occultism” as the word is defined today. It is the fallacy of presentism to judge the actions of historical figures by modern standards (which change with the wind).

    (7) Feel free to ask your LDS acquaintances, but that exercise won’t prove either way whether the LDS Church leadership has led people astray on the issue of Joseph’s translation method. It would be like asking a handful of average Christians to explain the historical setting of the Nicene council. It simply isn’t relevant to living the Christian life, so nobody but history buffs care. Same with the translation of the Book of Mormon.

    (8) The plates were likely present all of the time at first, especially during the translation of the 116 pages when Emma Smith and Martin Harris served as scribe. As time went on Joseph learned to receive revelation better and didn’t rely on the direct presence of the plates to bolster his faith and hone his focus. A similar thing happened when Joseph put away the seer stone because he no longer required it to be in tune with God’s spirit. He was being groomed by God to be a powerful prophet, and those physical objects were objects for him to focus his faith in the early years.

    Just imagine for a moment that Joseph’s story is true. If an angel appeared to a erudite and sophisticated gentleman or scholar, and instructed him to translate an unknown language by way of spectacular stones (the U&T), the scholar may be unable to comprehend, or unwilling to participate, in such a practice. But if an angel appears to a pious, though uneducated, young man who is already familiar with the workings of seer stones, the command to translate via the U&T is already second nature to the boy.

    The stone gazing boy grew up to be a prophet of God. He later came to understand those early spiritual gifts to be God given (as he indicates in the D&C about Cowdery’s gift with the rod, that it was “God given”).

    (9) Day to day Mormons aren’t aware of all the details of LDS history, and day to day mainstream Christians aren’t aware of all the details of Christian history. It isn’t because of a massive coverup. It doesn’t stem from some sinister plot in Salt Lake City. It is simply the nature of humankind that not everyone is interested, and as a result incorrect ideas become popular.

    Sincerely,
    James

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  4. Oh, and no I haven’t read Brodie’s book. Too many books, too little time. I have read Bushman’s biography of Joseph, though, and from what I gather it is considered to have superseded Brodie’s old book. I know Hugh Nibley reviewed Brodie’s book, though I haven’t read that review either.

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  5. Hello James, I am glad you are commenting on Bobby’s blog. He puts in a lot of effort and should be encouraged. If I could just address one or two items here I would be grateful.

    I can’t see that Bushman’s hagiography could be considered to have superseded Brodie’s truly investigative historical study. She wrote as an historian with dispassionate integrity and an honest reading of Bushman shows him to be writing as an unabashed apologist for Mormonism who assumes a Mormon position in all his writing. Where Brodie seeks to explain anomalies and contradictions from contextual historical data Bushman explains away what he can’t fully explain at all. Typically, there are an awful lot of couldhavebeens and mighthavebeens, sure signs of a tame Mormon scholar.

    She was excommunicated as an enemy of the church and maybe the test of Bushman is whether he will raise a fraction of the controversy. Maybe you should demonstrate your apparent open-mindedness and read Brodie. If she’s just another anti-Mormon you have nothing to fear. if she is a serious and trustworthy commentator you have much to gain.

    I was wryly amused to read your opening remarks about a “shotgun” approach. This is so very typical. You assume motives, tactics and scheming on the part of so-called anti-Mormons that are largely the stuff of fantasy. Do you reallyu think people get together in a room and ask “What shall we lie about this week?” Where I come from this is called paranoia.

    I know Bobby and there is not a scheming bone in his body. He writes and speaks from love and concern for Mormons and, although you don’t agree with it, the burden of his heart is to see Mormons saved. I am sorry if it is inconvenient and if he doesn’t fit your fond idea of an anti-Mormon.

    You know, it would be good just once to engage with a so-called apologist for Mormonism who doesn’t use an ad hominem argument from the outset. It would be nice just once to hear a Mormon say, “You may have a point there”. Someone who would concede in terms that the Mormon Church doesn’t always get it right and critics sometimes help us think about where it is wrong. Human nature being what it is it couldn’t be otherwise yet listening to Mormons you would think they had cornered the market on perfection.

    Your answers cast doubt without giving alternate explanations, your scholars, even your prophets apparently incapable of explaining exactly what Mormonism has restored. Don’t you think this failure of disambiguation strange in a church purported to be led by prophets? A people who insist that if we want to know the truth about Mormonism we should ask a Mormon? But we ask a Mormon and all we get is prevarication and speculation. Maybe you could learn the answers from anti-Mormon commentators. At least we have, like Bobby, gone to the trouble to study and learn the subject so we can give answers when people ask. Just a thought.

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  6. Hello Mike Tea.

    (1) Regarding Bushman’s and Brodie’s biographies of Joseph Smith, I’m not an historian and I don’t have the credentials to responsibly compare/contrast the two. I’ve read a few discussions that attempt to do that, and my takeaway was that Bushman had many more decades of scholarship to draw upon than Brodie did, and that Bushman’s treatment is a more “middle of the road” approach. When writing about Joseph Smith, or anything involving the supernatural, it is nigh impossible to remain neutral and dispassionate. Brodie fell on one side of the fence, Bushman on the other. But a measure of success, for me, is the reception of the book by the fringes of the spectrum. Brodie satisfied only one fringe of the spectrum, while Bushman satisfied neither fringes of the spectrum. I probably can’t develop any better arguments, but if you want I can point you to a couple discussions. I do plan on reading Brodie someday.

    (2) Regarding my comments about the “shotgun” approach, I don’t recall attributing any sort of less than honorable motives to Bobby. My brief online relationship with Bobby has been pleasant, and I consider him to be an honest investigator and to have only the best intentions. Of course he has motives, we all do. His motive is to discourage belief in Mormonism. I don’t fault him for that. I was only pointing out that the “shotgun” tactic (and I mean no negative connotation by the word “tactic”) is a common one. Bobby covered a lot of material and it simply isn’t possible to explore it all thoroughly all at the same time.

    (3) You’ve complained that I’m unable to concede a point. I’m not sure how it is you think you know me! I’m not absorbed in some zealous quest defend every single aspect of Mormon history, doctrine, or tradition. It is a complex web and there are things about it that I still have issues with. But, being in a forum such as this, it isn’t expedient for me openly discuss the weaknesses I perceive in the Mormon tradition. This isn’t a place for that sort of dialogue. Instead, I’m surrounded by individuals who would seize upon the slightest fracture and exploit my words in order to gain points before our invisible lurkers. Now, that may or may not be the case on this particular blog (I don’t know), but that is the case in most public online venues.
    But, to alleviate your stress, I’ll point you to an instance on this blog where I did the very thing you accuse me of not being capable of doing (I concede that Latter-day Saints often idealize Joseph’s martyrdom): http://mormonisminvestigated.co.uk/questions/#comment-350

    (4) Your last paragraph touches on an important issue that I think not enough Evangelicals, or LDS, quite grasp. Despite several noteworthy attempts within the Mormon community to systematize a single normative theology, Mormonism does not have any such thing. There are few precious beliefs that Latter-day Saints must affirm before being baptized. These include a basic faith in God, a belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior, a belief that Joseph Smith was called of God, a belief that Joseph’s modern successors are likewise called of God, and commitments to conduct a Christlike lifestyle. Beyond that, Mormonism is a vast tangle of history, beliefs, scripture, controversies, speculations, heresies, inspiration, and folklore. Just as the Protestant community has a myriad of disagreements, the Mormon community does too. I recommend this short article on this topic by an Evangelical blogger: http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Why-We-Confuse-Each-Other.html

    (5) You ask, “Don’t you think this failure of disambiguation strange in a church purported to be led by prophets?” Indeed, it is somewhat of a paradox. The more information we learn the more questions we have. That is the nature of any form of intellectual, or spiritual, inquiry. But that is simply the nature of the beast. A prophet can only know what God tells him. Prophets can’t conjure God up like some spirit from the underworld and demand answers. God apparently is content to let us work out these issues on our own for a while. Lest you be mistaken, this is not a uniquely Mormon problem. All Christians suffer from the same paradox. We only ask that we be carefully, and respectfully, represented. I personally don’t expect an outsider to grasp all of the nuances of LDS beliefs, or to be aware of all the details surrounding a particular controversy. But I do expect someone who is going to dedicate inordinate amounts of time to debunking Mormonism to at least recognize and vocalize the fact that Mormonism does not approach issues of doctrine the same way that Protestantism does.

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