Saturday, December 22, 2007

Elder Ballard Encourages Members to Create Blogs

" A prominent LDS Church official has urged young people to blog, create Web sites and take advantage of social networks online to help improve people's perceptions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"May I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet. . .to share the gospel and explain in simple, clear terms the message of the restoration," M. Russell Ballard told graduates at weekend commencement exercises at Brigham Young University-Hawaii."

Individual members are encouraged to self-publish blogs and websites about the church. This certainly is a change in direction for the church, as it has recently banned individual wards from publishing independent websites.

I think it is ultimately a good idea and will lead to forums where members and non-members alike can more openly engage in dialogue regarding Mormon topics outside of the structured Sunday School classes. I think already has begun, but this move will open the floodgates further.

When LDS members have tough questions, the internet is a great forum where even believing members can communicate. I think this will break people away from the standard recycled Sunday School lessons and I look forward to seeing more LDS blogs and websites.

I believe that everyone has a right to express themselves freely and worship they way they choose.

Disillusioned Mormon
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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is the Historicity of the Book of Mormon Relevant?

The Book of Mormon is supposed to be a historical document of religious texts of people that lived in Ancient America. In my previous post, I talked about how there is a change in the way the Mormon leadership views Native Americans.

Traditionally, it was widely believed, taught and accepted that Native Americans were all decedents of the Lamanites. Now, it seems that the church is starting to back off on that assumption and take the position that it is unclear who are the decedents of the Lamanites. However, it is clear the the church still stands by the Book of Mormon as being a historically accurate document of Native Americans and their religious practices.

Let's assume for a minute that the Book of Mormon is a historical record. My question is this: Why stop there? If the LDS church accepts religious texts of ancient America as scripture, why do they stop at just the Book of Mormon?

Other Religious Texts Of Ancient America

We have the Books of Chilam Balam, written in Yucatec Maya and consisting of historical chronicles mixed with myth, divination, and prophecy. Unlike the Book of Mormon lands and people, we know that the Mayas existed and that the Books of Chilam Balam are historicaly accurate.

The Aztecs had sacred texts like The Hymn of Huitzilopochtli. The great thing is that we know that the people that wrote this hymn existed. We can translate the texts from Nahuatl, which language actually exists, because people still speak Nahuatl in Mexico. I know this first hand, because I saw villages that still speak Nahuatl and even picked up a few words on my mission in Mexico.

Among ancient Aztec writings are prophesies concerning the years we are living in today. Why does the LDS church dismiss these writings, yet we know they are historical documents written by people that lived in Ancient America.

How Is The Book Of Mormon Different?

So my question is this: If the Book of Mormon is a historical religious document of civilizations of Ancient America, why do we accept it as being scripture if we don't accept the Books of Chilam Balam, or the Hymn of Huizilopochtli, which are also historical religious documents of civilizations of Ancient America?

I don't think the Book of Mormon is intended to be a historical document. If it were, the angel Moroni would have given it to the Smithsonian institute or maybe a wondering sheepherder like the dead sea scrolls. We could also ask the opposite, why didn't a Mormon prophet discover the dead sea scrolls?

So why does the LDS church try to prove the historicity of the Book of Mormon? If the historicity of ancient texts qualifies as scripture, then by that measure, the Book of Mormon shouldn't hold as much weight as the Books of Chilam Balam, or the The Hymn of Huitzilopochtli. Compared to those documents, the Book of Mormon should take a backseat, since we can all agree that they are historical documents from real people that we know existed, and we can actually point on a map of the real world where they lived.

What It Comes Down To

My point is that it has nothing to do with the historicity of the Book of Mormon as an ancient text. It has everything to do with the story of an Angel and the translation of a mysterious language on gold plates. The Book of Mormon is nothing more than a device to claim divine authority.

Disillusioned Mormon
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Word Change in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon

From an article in the Salt Lake Tribune

The book's current introduction, added by the late LDS apostle, Bruce R. McConkie in 1981, includes this statement: "After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians."
The new version, seen first in Doubleday's revised edition, reads, "After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians."
LDS leaders instructed Doubleday to make the change, said senior editor Andrew Corbin, so it "would be in accordance with future editions the church is printing.

I don't mean to brag, but "I told you so". In a post dated 4/10/2007 on a discussion board on the website , I said:

Do you think they will change the introduction to the Book of Mormon? The sentence that says "After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians." With all we know now about Linguistics, Archaeology, Anthropology and now DNA evidence.

Why the heck not? The BoM has gone through so many changes, it wouldn't be all that shocking, especially since it isn't the actual text itself, it is just the introduction page.

I predict that new editions of the BoM will have this sentence either omitted or altered in some way.

To which someone replied "
I imagine the "principal ancestors of the American Indians" will be replaced with something like "among the ancestors" in a future edition of the Book of Mormon."

That was 7 months ago and it is almost scary that it happend exactly word-for-word. The only discussion on the board was when this change would take place. Some believed that it wouldn't happen for years as the older generation are still around.

I think in many ways, it is a positive step in the right direction because here you have an organization that is finally starting to admit that it was incorrect about certain assumptions. It is the first step in admitting that it is not a literal history.

Some have suggested that both the Lamanites and the Nephites were destroyed a long time ago. The problem with that theory is that it contradicts scripture.

Enos 1:12-18
"12 And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith.
13 And now behold, this was the desire which I desired of him?that if it should so be, that my people, the Nephites, should fall into transgression, and by any means be destroyed, and the Lamanites should not be destroyed, that the Lord God would preserve a record of my people, the Nephites; even if it so be by the power of his holy arm, that it might be brought forth at some future day unto the Lamanites, that, perhaps, they might be brought unto salvation?
14 For at the present our strugglings were vain in restoring them to the true faith. And they swore in their wrath that, if it were possible, they would destroy our records and us, and also all the traditions of our fathers.
15 Wherefore, I knowing that the Lord God was able to preserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.
16 And I had faith, and I did cry unto God that he would preserve the records; and he covenanted with me that he would bring them forth unto the Lamanites in his own due time.
17 And I, Enos, knew it would be according to the covenant which he had made; wherefore my soul did rest.
18 And the Lord said unto me: Thy fathers have also required of me this thing; and it shall be done unto them according to their faith; for their faith was like unto thine."

Not to mention that the Doctrine and Covenants specifically mentions the Lamanites by name repeatedly:

D&C 32: 2
"And that which I have appointed unto him is that he shall ago with my servants, Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer, Jun., into the wilderness among the Lamanites."

D&C 54: 8
"And thus you shall take your journey into the regions westward, unto the land of Missouri, unto the borders of the Lamanites."

D&C 28: 8-9, 14
"8 And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive thy teachings thou shalt cause my church to be established among them; and thou shalt have revelations, but write them not by way of commandment.
9 And now, behold, I say unto you that it is not revealed, and no man knoweth where the city Zion shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter. Behold, I say unto you that it shall be on the borders by the Lamanites."

There is no doubt that it was widely accepted, publicized and taught that the Native Americans were Lamanites. The idea that the Lamanites might not be all Native Americans is a dramatic change in Mormon theology.

Disillusioned Mormon
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I Do Not Hate The LDS Church

Even though I no longer believe that the church is true, or anything that it claims to be, I do not hate the church. My intention is not to bring it down, or even to try to convince people that they shouldn't believe in Mormonism. However, the faith of most members is not based on all the facts. What I want is for people to see both sides and then decide, that way people can make an informed decision.

I do not think I am smarter than true believing members of the church. I simply think that with the new information that is available via the internet I have come to a different conclusion regarding the validity of the claims made by the church.

Interestingly enough, through this ordeal, I have become much more tolerant and open minded regarding other religions and belief systems. Why must we limit ourselves to one way of thinking? This includes the Mormon church. Although I no longer believe in Mormonism, I believe that people have the right to believe in whatever they want to believe in, as long as they are not violating the basic human rights of others.

Disillusioned Mormon
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Monday, September 3, 2007

Gideon in the Book of Mormon

I would like to go back to the subject regarding the veracity of the Book of Mormon. I would like to bring up authorship of the Book of Mormon. One of the criticisms of the Book of Mormon is that many of the names and stories that are found in the Book of Mormon came from various sources that can be found in publications and stories that predate the Book of Mormon.

Vernal Holey's Book "Book of Mormon Authorship" points out many of these specific criticisms. I would encourage anyone interested to see what some of these criticisms entail.

Vernal points out that the story of Gideon in the Book of Mormon is very similar to a Indian chief also named Gideon.

According to the Book History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations, the last Delaware Indian chief, who was originally named Tadeuskund, converted to Christianity and was baptized and christened with the name Gideon in March 1750. According to the book published in 1876, Gideon was a counselor in his nation and was often referred to as the "King of the Delawares". His greatest weakness was his "fondness for strong drinks, the temptation of which he could not easily resist, and would sometimes drink to excess". His weakness in this department is what led to his death. His enemies brought him alcohol to make him extremely drunk, then burned his house down with him still in it.

Although this book was published after the Book of Mormon, it refers to a historical character from the mid 1700's from Delaware. For those familiar with the story of Gideon in the Book of Mormon, one can find similarities and parallels between the 2 stories. The parallels are so strong, that it is worth further study upon the subject.

What is interesting is that many of the things that happen to Gideon the Indian chief happen to the enemies of Gideon, like tempting them with strong drink and his enemy King Noah suffering death by fire. Mosiah 19, 22

The main question is if Joseph Smith had actually heard the story of Gideon before publication of the Book of Mormon. According to the book history, manners, many legends regarding Gideon were fabricated among the whites. It is very reasonable that a loose version of Gideon the last Delaware Indian chief was common among upstate, NY folklore by the early 1800's.

Even with that, I am not 100% convinced. The only thing missing is evidence to suggest a direct connection demonstrating that Joseph Smith had actually heard this story before publishing the Book of Mormon. However, I would say I am 90% convinced after reading both the Book of Mormon and History, Manners... the parallels are so striking that it would be quite a coincidence if 2 historical figures named Gideon of 2,000 years apart had similar events surrounding them.

What it comes down to for me is what is more reasonable. It seems more reasonable that Joseph Smith simply used a loosely based story as part of the source for the Book of Mormon.

Disillusioned Mormon
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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Evolution and God: Why can't they get along?

Although the main focus of this blog is regarding Mormonism, I thought I would broaden the topic to the whole idea of God in general.

Let me first point out that I believe in evolution. There is so much overwhelming evidence that evolution isn't a debate in the scientific community anymore. Darwin's theory of evolution has been verified by fossil records, carbon dating and DNA. To deny that evolution exists today with how much evidence exists is like denying that the Earth revolves around the sun.

Let me also say that I believe in God. What I don't understand is why it is supposed to be either or. Why can't it be both? Why not? Perhaps God created evolution so that life can adapt to the ever changing environment here on Earth. I don't see how the concept of evolution diminishes the existence of God in any way.

However, I do have one problem and that is the origin of life. Scientists can explain how a single celled organism evolved to what we can see today, however how that single-celled organism is still a mystery. According to the theory of spontaneous generation, somehow life arose from non-living matter. The problem with this theory is that it isn't science. Nobody has been able to explain or reproduce how non-living matter becomes living matter.

Scientists have been able to take inert matter and make amino acids, the building blocks for proteins which construct cells. However, they have not been able to take those amino acids and construct proteins in order to construct living cells. To believe in spontaneous generation, one must have "faith" to believe it since there is no evidence or data that supports it.

Don't get me wrong, scientist have been able to explain a lot more about life than any religion has. However, the exact origins of life still remain a mystery. To add more insult, we now know that even a single celled organism still has amazingly complicated DNA strands. To look at the odds of how an organism came into existence without any assistance from some kind of outside source seems pretty irrational to me when I look at the scale and the laws of probability.

It is like when I look at a Rubik's cube. There are over 43 quintillion possible combinations in a Rubik's cube, but only one of those combinations is the correct solution. The odds of a blind person solving a scrambled Rubik's cube are so astronomical that even if this blind person moved it one move at at time every second of every day statistically, you would need over a billion years until that person would solve it realistically. The fact that people can solve a Rubik's cube in 20 seconds repeatedly tells me that there is some intelligence behind it, and it isn't just random chance. And we are talking about a Rubik's cube. Life is much more complex than that.

I look at the sun that seems to be the right temperature, size and distance to support life on Earth, it is amazing enough. Then I see a moon that is in a position to keep the Earth anchored on its tilted 23.5 degree axis to prevent wild swings and extreme weather and I can't help but be struck in awe. I see Jupiter that is so massive in size that its gravitational pull deflects meteorites that could potentially destroy Earth like big brother out there. Then I look at a strand of DNA, which is complicated instructions found within each cell of every living organism. I can't understand how all this can come about without some kind of creator behind it, at least in the time frame we are talking about.

Perhaps if the Earth was around for octillions of years before life came into the picture it might be more plausible, but the Earth is only 4.5 billion years old. The first microorganisms are believed to have existed between 3-4 billion years ago. It is truly amazing how the Earth is created and suddenly life is spawned from non-life within such a relatively short time frame, when you are talking about the odds it would take to create said living cells by random chance.

However, once the cell is created, scientists have been able to demonstrate how life evolved to more complex organisms. I just don't see how any of it disproves the existence of God in any way. My question is why don't religions in general accept evolution? Why does it have to be either or?

Disillusioned Mormon
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Saturday, August 4, 2007

"It Is Impossible For A Man To Be Saved In Ignorance" D&C 131:6

I would like to bring up the topic once again of intellectualism in the LDS church. In a previous post, I talked about how LDS church leaders have made recent statements discouraging intellectualism and scholarly thought, particularly topics, issues and facts that might not be "faith promoting". I compared it to the story of Adam and Eve, where in Mormonism, it was necessary for Adam and Eve to obtain knowledge of good and evil, even in disobedience to God. Yet, here are our church leaders telling us not to partake of the tree of intellectualism because it is a danger to the church.

If members of the church think they can ignore troubling facts surrounding church history and the veracity of the Book of Mormon and just slip into the Celestial Kingdom, they are mistaken.

D&C 131:6 says "It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance".

It appears the LDS church is doing a disservice to its members when it hides facts in ensign publications as well as priesthood and lesson manuals. According to the Doctrine and Covenants, at some point, church members will have to tackle these tough issues. When Dallin H. Oaks says "intellectualism is a danger to the church" that may be true, but discouraging intellectualism is a danger to the salvation of the church member according to our scriptures.

Disillusioned Mormon
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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Translation Of The Book Of Mormon

This seems to be the favorite topic of many, particularly of those that comment on this blog regularly. How exactly was the Book of Mormon translated?

The LDS version of how it transpired

Raised Mormon, I can testify myself of how I was personally taught in the church of the translation process of the Book of Mormon. The story goes like this: The angel Moroni appears to Joseph Smith and tells him about a book written on golden plates. Joseph recovers the gold plates as well as the Urim and Thummim deposited with the plates that he uses to translate the writing on the metal plates.

The Book of Mormon is translated to English with help from the Urim and Thummim and once the record is translated into English, Joseph Smith gives the golden plates back to the angel Moroni where they are now safely in his hands forever.

Regarding the actual translation process, on the official LDS website, we see depictions of Joseph Smith thinking and diligently studying the plates like a scholar. Joseph is depicted as a man looking at actual gold plates. Joseph Smith is supposed to be looking at actual characters etched on the plates and is working hard to translate the characters into English.

We are also told that there is no way Joseph could have been the author of the Book of Mormon because it was translated in a manner of months!

What the historical records tell us

Joseph is allowed to take possession of the plates on September 22, 1827, but apparently doesn't know what do do with them for 7 months because he doesn't begin translating them until April 1828. The manuscripts for the Book of Lehi are lost in June 1828.

However, this is where the story really starts to get fishy. Joseph starts to re-translate in September 1828 with Emma as his scribe. So that is 3 months after the manuscripts were lost. Joseph does this without any kind of instruction or revelation to do so. In fact, Joseph doesn't start the book of Lehi, not even the Books of Nephi. The really odd thing is that as Joseph is starting the re-translation process, he doesn't start at the beginning of the Book of Mormon. He starts where he left off: at the end of the Book of Lehi, or the beginning of the Book of Mosiah.

Joseph only manages to dictate a few chapters of Mosiah and forgets about the whole thing from September to April of the next year. Finally, 7 months after that, Joseph is ready to translate the Book of Mormon with rapid-fire succession, this time with Oliver Cowdery as principal scribe.

The Method of Translation

The manner of which the Book of Mormon was translated at this point is probably the most odd thing and troubling for most Mormons today. By this time, Joseph was not using the Urim and Thummim for the translation process as he did with Martin Harris. Now, instead of the Urim and Thummim, he used what he called a seer stone.

Here is where it gets a little complicated and confusing because people have referred to the seer stone as the Urim and Thummim, but they are 2 separate things. The seer stone is a magic rock that Joseph Smith found in 1822 while digging a well. There is no way the seer stone is the same thing as the Urim and Thummim, because he found it a year before he even saw the angel Moroni. The Urim and Thummim were some kind of crystal spectacles that were supposedly deposited with the plates, which were not uncovered until 1827. What makes it so strange is that the Angel Moroni gave Joseph Smith the gold plates to translate and said that the Urim and Thummim were prepared to assist him in the translation process, but Joseph Smith didn't use either one of those things.

and Joseph Smith had previously used this seer stone for locating treasure years before the gold plates came into the picture. In fact, Joseph Smith was brought to trial in 1826, a year before he received the gold plates and UrimThummim, for "glass-looking". He would place the seer stone into a hat and look into the hat to find buried treasure, a practice that was illegal. To the left is a copy of the original bill of Justice Albert Neely, which has been authenticated by both LDS and non-LDS historians. It says"Joseph Smith the Glass Looker March (20?)1826"

What is so odd is that Joseph Smith used the same method that he did in finding buried treasure as he did in the translation process of the Book of Mormon. He would place the seer stone into a hat, put his face in the hat looking at the seer stone and dictate the words that would appear to him. The plates would remain wrapped up in a cloth or sometimes in a different room, or even out in the woods somewhere. It begs the question why did Joseph even need the plates if he didn't even use them in the translation process? This is a very odd image of how we got the Book of Mormon. Neither the gold plates nor the Urim and Thummim were used in the translation process of the Book of Mormon, instead we have Joseph Smith sticking his head in a hat looking at a magic rock.

Oliver Cowdery Wants To Translate Like Joseph

Oliver Cowdery is absolutely amazed by Joseph's ability to look into the hat and translate the records by looking into the seer stone. So Oliver eagerly wants to help in this astonishing and amazing process and be more than just a scribe. Oliver is granted by God to be given the gift of translation in D&C 8 The lord responding to Oliver's request says "Ask may translate and receive knowledge from all those ancient records which have been hid up...and according to your faith shall it be done unto you". So Oliver looks into the hat, and.........nothing. All he sees is a rock in a hat.

I can imagine the conversation that transpired between Joseph and Oliver. Oliver looked into the hat and saw nothing. Joseph looks into the hat and says "yup, it is certainly working, I can see the words just fine." Oliver looks in to the hat and...still nothing...hmmm...Frustrated, Oliver Cowdery went back to writing what Joseph was dictating by looking at the rock in the hat some more. Joseph then receives a revelation that is found in D&C 9 and gives Oliver this message from the Lord:

Behold, I say unto you,(Oliver)...that because you did not translate according to that which you desired of me, and did commence again to write for my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., even so I would that ye should continue until you have finished this record...Be patient, my son, for it is wisdom in me, and it is not expedient that you should translate at this present time. Behold, the work which you are called to do is to write for my servant Joseph. And, behold, it is because that you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you. Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.
So the Lord Basically tells Oliver that he takes back what he said in D&C 8 about him being able to help out as translator, oh and and it's Oliver's fault for not having enough patience. God tells Oliver that because he started taking dictation from Joseph, now he lost his translating privileges all together. Oh, and Oliver, don't cry about it and be happy about being scribe.

Translation Continues

Joseph Smith STILL has not translated 1st and 2nd Nephi, and he still hasn't received any kind of revelation that instructed him to start the re-translation process of the Book of Mormon. However, finally in May of 1829 Joseph receives a revelation that is now known as D&C section 10 that tells Joseph to write the Book of Nephi instead of the Book of Lehi. So presumably after they finished with the rest of the Book, they went back and translated the 1st and 2nd books of Nephi and placed them at the beginning of the book.

The LDS church is Committing Fraud

Now the whole story sounds fishy to begin with. However, here is my biggest problem, and surprisingly, it isn't the 19th century folk magic, it is trying to match the dates with his story.

Revelation as published in 1833

Joseph Smith received what is now known as D&C section 10. However, the original publication of this revelation was in a book known as the Book of Commandments. The Book of Commandments was the original Doctrine and Covenants, which was published in 1833. The revelation is documented as chapter 9 in the original Book of Commandments. In it, it says that Joseph received the revelation in May of 1829.

Revelation as published in 1835

The original Doctrine and Covenants as published in 1835 also includes this same revelation and once again, it says the revelation was given to Joseph in May 1829. There is no doubt that Joseph had time to correct the date, because he made several "corrections" to the revelation, by adding the words "Urim and Thummim" and a few other alterations. The funny thing is that finally now in May of 1829, the Lord says referring to the gift of translation: "it is now restored unto you again...continue on unto the finishing of the remainder of the work of translation as you have begun"

So it is NOW restored to Joseph, even though he already had been continuing the translation since September of the previous year, 8 months prior. Hmm. So Joseph just instinctively knew not to re-translate the Book of Lehi when he began the re-translation process. Perhaps he thought it would turn up? But when he began the re-translation process, why did he skip over 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni and Words of Mormon to translate Mosiah without any instructions from God? It doesn't make any sense at all.

Revelation as currently published

The LDS church knows the dates don't make any sense at all and the revelation found in D&C 10 don't match Joseph's story. The historical records show us that Joseph began the re-translation process in September 1828, but he didn't receive the revelation with instructions on what to do about the Book of Lehi until May 1829. What the LDS church has done is simply changed the date of the revelation to better fit Joseph's story chronologically. In the current publication of the Doctrine and Covenants, the LDS church has changed the date of the revelation as found in D&C 10 from the actual date of the revelation in May 1829 to the summer of 1828. They have done this to reflect the fact that Joseph actually started the re-translation process in September of 1828. Now let's be clear on this, because, as I said, this is what is most troubling for me: The LDS church changed the date of the revelation to reflect a chronology that would better fit Joseph Smith's story. They have committed outright fraud. They are literally lying about the date of his revelation.

Apologists Response

The only arguments that I have heard is that the editor of the D&C only had the best intentions in mind and did not mean to commit fraud by changing the date of the revelation, yeah, as if making alterations to canonized scripture is done without authorization from the first presidency, riiight. Let's see what LDS apologist Richard Bushman has to say regarding the date change:

The order of translation in turn bears on the date of section 10 in the Doctrine and Covenants, currently dated "summer 1828". The manuscript version of the History of the Church gives May, 1829 for the date of section 10. The Book of Commandments, the first printed version of the Doctrine and Covenants dated the section May, 1829, as well. A later editor changed the date to summer, 1828, because the directions for translating I Nephi are in that section. The revelation would have lost its point by May, 1829 if Joseph had begun the translation of I Nephi three months previously
What Richard Bushman is saying is that whoever changed the date assumed that when Joseph began the re-translation of the Book of Mormon that he started with 1 Nephi and went to the entire book. Although I admire Bushman for his attempts that are much more satisfying than the typical "read the Book of Mormon and pray about it" response, the other problem is that the revelation instructs Joseph not to re-translate the Book of Lehi, which Joseph already skipped over. Joseph already skipped passed 1 Nephi as well, so if Joseph Smith had already translated 1 Nephi, the revelation would have been pointless. The whole thing just doesn't pass the "smell test". I think it is much more likely that Joseph Smith always had the fear in the back of his mind that someone had the original manuscripts and if he tried to reproduce the book of Lehi, his secret would be out. He probably came up with the 'replacing it with the Book of Nephi' idea mid-"translation".

Regardless, the LDS church is lying about the date of the revelation of section 10 to reflect a time line that makes the story more believable.

Regardless, if they have any integrity, they will change it back to the actual date to reflect reality. This is one of the biggest problems I have with the church, is that the date does not reflect the correct one. But then again, Joseph Smith might have been wrong about when he received his revelation and maybe he was just speaking as a man, after all, even prophets of God are not infallible. So what the LDS church is saying right now is that Joseph Smith didn't get the date right. If Joseph Smith couldn't even get the date right, how do we know he got the message straight? He made changes to the revelation years later, so how do we know we have the correct message now?

I think it is much more likely and reasonable to say that Joseph Smith simply got caught in his own lie. The date that he said he got that revelation doesn't match the historical records, so the LDS church changed the date. The LDS church has falsified a document and now knows the date is incorrect, and therefore is committing fraud.

So let's recap the timeline because it is a little confusing.

1822- Joseph Smith finds a seer stone while digging a well by his farmhouse
Sept 1823-Joseph Says he sees Moroni in a vision in his room and is allowed to see the plates but not take them.
Sept 1824-Joseph visits the plates again, but is not allowed to take them
Sept 1825-Joseph visits the plates yet again.
March 1826-Joseph is arrested for "glass looking" with the seer stone to find buried treasure
Sept 1826-Joseph visits the plates
Sept 1827-Joseph finally takes possession of the plates
April 1828-Joseph begins translation of Book of Lehi with Martin Harris as scribe
June 1828-Manuscripts for Book of Lehi are lost
July 1828- Joseph receives revelation telling him his gift of translating is taken away for a season
Sept 1828-Joseph starts re-translation of Book of Mormon without any instructions from God or any kind of revelation. He just does it on his own, the really odd thing is he doesn't attempt to re-translate the Book of Lehi, and skips 1Nephi, 2Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni and Words of Mormon. He continues where he left off chronologically at the end of the Book of Lehi, or the beginning of Mosiah. His wife Emma served as scribe.
April 1829-Joseph begins the "rapid-fire" translation now with Oliver Cowdery as scribe
April 1829- Oliver Cowdery wants to translate with the magic rock in the hat, is granted the ability, then God changed his mind because Oliver isn't patient enough.
May 1829-Joseph receives revelation not to re-translate Book of Lehi and to replace it with Books of Nephi. The Lord also tells Joseph that "NOW" his gift of translating is "restored" hmm...
June 1829-Transcript is finished, witnesses "see" the plates and Joseph gives them back to Moroni.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

2 Cumorahs? 1 Cumorah? Which Cumorah?

Going back to the topic of the Book of Mormon, the question is raised regarding the location of the Hill Cumorah in Upstate, NY and if it is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon, where 2 major battles took place.

There was always only one hill Cumorah

Every prophet from Joseph Smith to Gordon B. Hinckley has always taught that the hill Cumorah in Upstate, NY was the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon. In fact, as recently as 1990, the secretary of the first presidency reasserted this claim in a letter that states very clearly that according to the first presidency, there is only one hill Cumorah.
2 Cumorahs? Huh?

The first time I have ever heard of the theory that there are 2 hill Cumorahs was on my mission. I went on a mission in Latin America and as a missionary, I met an American living there that worked for the church-funded New World Archaeological Foundation. While on my mission, he told me in a dinner conversation that if the Book of Mormon lands occurred in Mesoamerica, it was impossible and unreasonable to believe that both major battles took place 3,000 miles away in Upstate, NY. He went on to say that they were looking for the "real" hill Cumorah in Mesoamerica. So the way he explained it was that the hill Cumorah in Upstate, NY was where the gold plates were deposited, but the battles in the Book of Mormon took place in another hill Cumorah in Mesoamerica. This is the first time I have ever heard of the idea that there might be 2 hill Cumorahs.

My companion and I both had the same reaction: "2 hill Cumorahs? Huh?" I told the other companionships that were living in our apartment. They all had the same response. We were all surprised and completely taken back, as this is the first time we had ever heard such a thing. Looking back, I can see how the cognitive dissonance was working its magic as we all started doing our little mental gymnastics. As it always does, a few weeks went by, and we put it out of our mind and didn't think much of it (selective retention). However, this experience was one of many that happened on my mission that planted seeds of doubt that ultimately led to my disillusionment 7 years later.

It is important to note that the overall consensus among LDS scholars and apologists is that there must have been 2 hill Cumorahs, which contradicts the teachings and long held established position of the LDS church.

Why did Moroni travel 4,000 miles?

One would ask why Moroni had to travel all the way from Mesoamerica to upstate, NY carrying the plates by himself. Did he really have to travel that far to get away from the Lamanites? Not only that, but according to Brigham Young, Moroni made a quick stop to Utah on the way to dedicate the site of the Mani temple. That is quite a walk for someone lugging around those heavy metal plates. Not just that, but why would he feel he needed to climb up the rocky mountains with the plates just to dedicate a site, hike back down the rocky mountains and go all the way to Upstate, NY? I suppose that "anywhere is walking distance if you have the time"(Steven Wright). I guess Moroni must have had quite a bit of time on his hands, but maybe he had some help from the 3 Nephites.

Moroni walked the same distance it would take to get to the core of the Earth. I guess Moroni wasn't very bright, as he made a 3,000 mile journey into a 4,000 mile journey by making that stop in Utah to dedicate the Manti temple site. I guess after 3,000 miles, what is another 1,000? But then again, that extra 1,000 mile journey included the rocky mountains. He also could have left the plates somewhere closer to Mesoamerica and make Joseph Smith make the 3,000 mile journey from Upstate, NY. Instead, Moroni was nice enough to deposit them just over a mile from where Joseph Smith lived at the time.

The Paradox

The paradox is that on one hand, you have the official first presidency of the church claiming there is only one hill Cumorah. On the other hand, you have LDS apologists and scholars claiming there are 2 Cumorahs. According to the church, it is best to side with the brethren because they are men from God and to rely on reason and logic is to rely on man's wisdom and not God's wisdom. Therefore, it seems that people that say there are 2 hill Cumorahs are apostates.

Really, none of it makes any sense at all. I think more likely Joseph Smith made it up. I don't think there ever were any gold plates. Perhaps Joseph Smith made plates out of common tin and used it as a "prop". Nobody besides Joseph Smith ever actually saw the gold plates with their physical eyes. It was either spiritually or felt through a sack cloth, but never directly.

And what about Brigham Young's comments about Moroni dedicating the Manti temple site? Once again, was Brigham Young just "speaking as a man"? It seems that the early prophets were wrong on just about everything they have ever said. That also begs the question if they were wrong about so many things, why would God call them as prophets in the first place?

Mormon Challenge

Now, I would like to turn the tables on defenders of the LDS church. Since I have provided a source for the official statement regarding the single hill Cumorah, I would like to know if you can find a single source where a prophet or apostle has said that there are 2 hill Cumorahs.

The really funny thing is that the first presidency has been really hush-hush about the hill Cumorah thing. Notice on the website they mention the hill Cumorah as a a part of the history of early Mormonism, but fail to mention anything about the Book of Mormon battles. What has happened is that there have been SOO many LDS apologists that have come up with the 2 Cumorahs theory that the first presidency has become overwhelmed and have had to change their position from an official "one hill Cumorah" to an official "we don't know how many Cumorahs there are" position. It seems that the church is run from the bottom up, not from the top down. It begs the question again, why do we need prophets?

Not just that, but most people today understand that there are 2 hill Cumorahs. The worst part is that people somehow believe that it was always taught this way, which is absurd.

Disillusioned Mormon
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Friday, July 20, 2007

Sexism In The LDS Church

Since the subject of racism in the LDS church was brought up in my previous post, I decided to talk about another type of discrimination that has and still exists in the LDS church and that is sexism.
Gender Roles In Mormonism

The LDS church is definitely gender specific when it comes to roles, particularly in parenting.

According to the Marriage and Family Relations Study Guide, The roles of men and women are different. The primary responsibilities of men are to provide for the material needs and spiritual leadership as the priesthood holder. The primary responsibility of women is to stay at home and nurture the children.

The problem here is that when a woman is financially dependent on a man, she pretty much has to be subordinate to the man. The other issue is that under this model, if the woman is in an abusive relationship, it is more difficult for her to leave if she is once again financially dependent on her husband.

Women And The Priesthood

Why are women denied the priesthood? I grew up with the idea that women were much more in tune with the spirit. If that is the case, you would think that they would be the ones that were running God's church. Not only that, but how can women enter into the celestial kingdom without the priesthood?

Women being denied the priesthood is against the teachings of Joesph Smith. According to some LDS historians, women received the priesthood under Joseph Smith as part of the temple endowment. Although women have never held priesthood offices, women could administer to the sick and afflicted with the priesthood under Joseph Smith. Once again, Brigham Young is the one that changed this doctrine.

The Community in Christ (formerly known as RLDS) continues the original teaching of Joseph Smith by continuing the practice of giving women the priesthood, but they have recently taken it a step further by allowing them to hold positions in the priesthood leadership.

Perhaps women will be able to hold the priesthood one day in the LDS church just as they did in the early church under Joseph Smith. Future generations will probably look at the church today and wonder why we were so sexist. However, it is no different than looking back at how blacks were denied the priesthood. Many people at the time didn't see it as being racist, just as a majority of Mormons, including women, do not consider it sexist that women are denied the priesthood.

Many say that men have the priesthood organization and women have the relief society and therefore they have equal treatment. However, the big difference is that the relief society does not have any leadership roles except within the relief society itself, whereas the priesthood organization is in a position of power and authority over the whole church.

Male Depictions In Mormonism

When you look at how men are depicted in Mormonism, they are exaggeratedly masculine, strong and beefy as demonstrated in the widely accepted Arnold Friberg paintings.

Phallic Symbols In Mormonism

Many people have pointed out that Captain Moroni's sword sheath is a phallic symbol. If it was not intended as being a phallic symbol, it is an unfortunate coincidence to say the least.

Many also see the tabernacle as phallic, although I think it was more influence of freemasonry, because like Joseph Smith, Brigham Young was also a Mason. You can compare a picture of the Mormon Tabernacle and on George Washington's Masonic apron and see obvious similarities.

Female Depictions In Mormonism

In Mormonism artwork including modern day statues, women are fragile fully covered submissive and almost asexual creatures with little distinguishing physical features. The hypocrisy is that the pictures of the men are very sexually explicit. There is a definite distinction between the roles of men and women as depicted in these two paintings. You have the men in the center gathering around Lehi and the Liahona as if they are the decision makers. You can see Lehi's wife Sariah in the background waiting to be told where to go and 2 women, presumably the daughters of Ishmael standing to the side. In the other painting, the submissive women are seeking comfort from the men as it is obvious that men are the ones in charge of the ship. It appears that the women are just there for the companionship or the ride. Either way, women have no positions of leadership or authority because after all, they are women, right?

Gender Roles In Heaven

Regardless of current attempts by the LDS church leaders to distance themselves from polygamy, it is still part of the core doctrine of the church that there will be polygamy in heaven. There are an equal number of men and women that have lived on the earth, so once again, this implies that women are much more spiritual than men. That will cause the celestial demographics to be lopsided. And yet once again, I ask the question if women are that much better, more worthy, more spiritual and closer to God by nature, why don't they have a say in what takes place on Earth or heaven?

What exactly is the role of women in the celestial kingdom? Let's say you are a woman and make it into the Celestial Kingdom. What will your responsibility be? Since God is perfect, one can only assume that the current model is the one and only way things can be, otherwise it wouldn't be perfect. It looks like the role of women in the celestial kingdom will be the same as mindless cattle-to produce offspring. Although if they are lucky enough, they might get mentioned in one verse of a hymn, but they still have no say in what goes on in the worlds their husbands create. I guess they will be like the daughters of Ishmael in the Book of Mormon- they will be referenced but will bear no real importance to the story except to serve the men.

Disillusioned Mormon
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Monday, July 16, 2007

The LDS Church And Racism

My thoughts regarding racism and the LDS church:

Since the subject of racism in the LDS church was brought up in the comments of a previous post, I thought I would dedicate a new post to the subject and copy all the comments from previous posts and paste them here, since they really have nothing to do with the original posts. I don't mind getting off on a few tangents, but the response was so overwhelming I decided to move the comments to a new post.

Racism Is Taught In The Book Of Mormon

The overall story of the Book of Mormon is the continual struggle and battles between the "white and delightsome" Nephites against the "dark and loathsome" Lamanites. The original Book of Mormon includes the phrase "white and delightsome" much more often. Modern versions of the Book of Mormon now say "pure and delightsome" in place like 2 Nephi 30:6. You can read the original text here, and compare it with the current text here. You can see how they have replaced the word "white and delightsome" with "pure and delightsome".

However, the phrase "white and exceedingly fair and delightsome" still managed to slip by the LDS PR patrol in their revisions of the Book of Mormon.

Before we continue, it is important to also point out that there is really no such thing as a "white" person. Nobody's skin is truly "white" white, it is just a lighter shade of tan.

The worst part regarding the Book of Mormon and racism isn't just the racial conflicts, but it is that the dark skin was a curse placed on the Lamanites and their posterity.

Some have said that the Lamanites were cursed and that the dark skin was only a "mark" of the curse, and not the actual curse. However, that is not what the Book of Mormon says.

2 Nephi 5:21 "And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them."

Alma refers back to the incident when they were cursed with the dark skin.

Alma 3:6 "And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren"

Alma 3:6 says specifically that the mark WAS the curse. So the dark skin wasn't a mark on the cursed people, the mark WAS the curse put on the people.

The Ban On Blacks And The Priesthood Until 1978

Joseph Smith never taught that blacks could not hold the priesthood. In fact, the first black LDS Elder was Elijah Abel, ordained an Elder by Joseph Smith himself on March 3, 1836 and ordained a seventy a few months later by Zebedee Coltrin. Elijah later became a seventy and served honorable missions. Although he was ordained to the office of seventy, he was not considered a general authority at the time. Other blacks were given the priesthood under Joseph Smith, but very few. However, the fact remains that Joseph Smith gave the priesthood to blacks.

Brigham Young is the person that changed the doctrine that placed a ban on the blacks to receive the priesthood. In fact, under Brigham Young, Elijah Abel was barred from receiving his temple endowments because he was black, even though he still remained a seventy and continued doing missionary work.

Brigham Young's Famous Journal Of Discourses

The journal of discourses is probably the most dreaded official church document by most LDS members, yet it is a favorite among those that are critical of the church. The entire journal of discourses can be read in the right column under "reference material". Some "spiritual thoughts" by Brigham Young as found in his Journal:

"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind....Cain slew his brother. Can might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, page 290).

"In our first settlement in Missouri, it was said by our enemies that we intended to tamper with the slaves, not that we had any idea of the kind, for such a thing never entered our minds. We knew that the children of Ham were to be the "servant of servants," and no power under heaven could hinder it, so long as the Lord would permit them to welter under the curse and those were known to be our religious views concerning them." (Journal of Discourses, Volume 2, page 172.)

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

What About The 2nd Article Of Faith?

To say that a darker shade of tan is a curse from God is bad, but to go further and say that their descendants also have a curse goes against the 2nd article of faith:

"We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression."

The second article of faith says that Adam's sins are not passed down to his children. So how is it that Cain's punishment of the dark skin is passed down from generation to generation, but the original sin, Adam's transgression, is not? Perhaps it should have said:

"We believe that white men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression, however black men will be punished for Cain's transgression".
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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mountain Meadows Massacre

Click Here PBS Frontline-Mountain Meadows Part 1

Click Here PBS Frontline-Mountain Meadows Part 2

In case you are unfamiliar with the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the above videos are the 2 parts produced by PBS Frontline that give an accurate account of what happened in Mountain Meadows.

LDS Church Responds

The LDS church has published an article regarding the tragic event that happened in Mormon history. Although the article is part of the September Ensign in commemoration of the 150th anniversary, the early publication on the website comes as no surprise. I think the timing of the publication on the website is in response to the Living Hope Ministries publication, the PBS Frontline Documentary that dedicated a large portion (that can be viewed here) to the event as well as the upcoming movie "September Dawn".

"On September 11, 1857, some 50 to 60 local militiamen in southern Utah, aided by American Indian allies, massacred about 120 emigrants who were traveling by wagon to California. The horrific crime, which spared only 17 children age six and under, occurred in a highland valley called the Mountain Meadows, roughly 35 miles southwest of Cedar City. The victims, most of them from Arkansas, were on their way to California with dreams of a bright future"

The perpetrators were members of the LDS church at the time including local leaders. The Mormons killed a group of emigrants from Arkansas without any provocation. Under the direction of priesthood leaders, the Mormon members killed the unarmed men first, but didn't stop there. After they killed the men, they went to the wagons that contained the women and children and shot and killed everyone over the age of 6 in cold blood. The reason the Mormon members killed the women and children is because they didn't want witnesses.

I remember being taught a brief lesson about the Mountain Meadows massacre in seminary. I was taught that the incident was initiated by a small group of renegade apostates that were not affiliated with the mainstream church. However, my seminary teacher was lying to me, whether he knew it or not. Dallin H. Oaks has made the first public admission that members of the church including local leaders were behind this terrible event. However, in the same interview, Dallin H. Oaks also said that it is wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true. So if the members at the time questioned the massacre, would they be in the wrong?

"As is true with any historical episode, comprehending the events of September 11, 1857, requires understanding the conditions of the time"

As stated in the article, it is important to understand the conditions of the time to better comprehend what lead to that atrocity, so I will talk about a few key events that lead up to the massacre.

Events that led up to the atrocity

It is important to point out that Parley P. Pratt, a member of the quorum of the 12 apostles(and happens to be Mitt Romney's great-great grandfather) was killed in Arkansas in 1857, the same year as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Since the Fancher party was from Arkansas, there were rumors that some of the people from the Fancher party were responsible for Pratt's death, even though those rumors were unfounded.

It is even more important to point out exactly why Parley P. Pratt was killed in Arkansas. A woman by the name of Eleanor McLean had converted to the Mormon church, but her husband did not. Elanor McLean left her husband and married Parley P. Pratt in a polygamist marriage. However, Elanor was still legally married to Hector McLean, her original husband, because they never got divorced. When Parley P. Pratt went to Arkansas in 1857 on a preaching mission, Elanor's legal husband killed him because he felt that Parley had taken her away from him.

So Parley P. Pratt was killed by a jealous husband of one of Pratt's plural wives, who was still legally married to Hector in Arkansas. The Fancher party had absolutely nothing to do with the assassination of Pratt, but because they were also from Arkansas, rumors had flied around that members of the party were responsible for Pratt's death. I think it is reasonable to say that Pratt's death could have influenced the tragedy at Mountain Meadows. In the minds of the Mormons at the time, they were in a way avenging the death of their apostle.

Other events that led to the Mountain Meadows massacre included the United States government breathing down their necks. I think that Mormons at the time had a frame of mind that America was the enemy.

Lessons Learned from Mountain Meadows

I think the Mountain Meadows massacre demonstrates the danger that exists when you have an organization that claims divine authority. To say that it is wrong to criticize the leaders of the church even if the criticism is true is exactly the mindset that led to this horrible atrocity. The people that participated in the murders and execution of innocent people were devout Mormon leaders and followers that did what their church leaders told them to do.

Mormon Hypocrisy

The LDS church had publicly denied involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre for 150 years. However, now 150 years later, they are making the position that it is in the past and behind us. The big hypocrisy in the LDS church is that they claim to embrace and celebrate the past, but only the history that paints the church in a good light. It is good to learn about the past, but only the past that has been re-written by the LDS church. However, regarding the "little flicks of history" that don't paint the church in a good light, they say "let the book of the past be closed".

Couple that with Dallin H. Oaks comments that Mormons, including local leaders of the church were the prime movers in the Mountain Meadows Massacre and participated in the killing, and yet it is wrong to criticise the leaders of the church even if the criticism is true.

Disillusioned Mormon

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Friday, July 6, 2007

At What Point Does The Spirit Enter The Body?

According to Nephi, son of Nephi, son of Helaman, Jesus spoke to him the night before he was born.

3 Nephi 1:13-14

Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets. Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given

At this point in time, Mary was 9 months pregnant with Jesus and ready to pop. That night, the sign was given to the Nephites of the birth of Jesus. So according to the Book of Mormon, Jesus' spirit had not entered into the world at this point, since his spirit had appeared to Nephi. It would be reasonable to conclude that according to the Book of Mormon, the spirit enters the body at birth, and not a moment earlier.

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

I No Longer Actively Participate In The LDS Church

I thought I would write one of very few blogs about me personally. The whole reason for this blog was to provide a way for me to organize my thoughts. I have found it therapeutic and very helpful in getting a clear picture of how I view the church. As I organize my thoughts, it isn't just one criticism of the church, it is when you look at everything that the whole thing just falls apart.

Imagine a Jenga tower representing your perception of the church. You are told that the Jenga pieces are glued to each other and the tower is glued down to the table. You are taught that no amount of wind can take it down. Then, You run into information that might cast doubt on the validity of the church, and suddenly a gust of wind comes in and a Jenga block is removed from the tower. You listen to apologetic responses to the criticism and you carefully place the Jenga piece back on the top of the tower, but as you do so, two or three more Jenga pieces fall out of place. You frantically try to place all the pieces on top of the Jenga tower. However, one-by-one more and more Jenga pieces fall out of the tower. As you try to reconcile all these pieces that keep falling out, you wonder why you were always taught that the Jenga tower was glued down. You then are told that it was just "speculation and one man's opinion" that the Jenga pieces were glued in place. Meanwhile, as the Jenga tower gets higher and higher, it also gets more and more hollow. By this point, your Jenga tower sways back and forth. It is just a matter of time until a final Jenga block is removed and the entire tower comes crashing down. You desperately try to salvage what you can, but you realize that the Jenga tower can never be rebuilt.

That has been my experience. I will continue to post other thoughts and ramblings about things that have led to my disillusionment, but at the current time, I have pretty much come to the conclusion that the church is not what it claims to be. Although I no longer actively participate in the LDS church, I still continue to attend sacrament meetings to support my family.

Now that I know what I don't believe, the question is what do I believe. Right now, I am still looking at the scattered Jenga pieces, so I can not say what I believe. I am a blank slate. I will say this: My feelings are not a good indication of what is true. Perhaps when I am ready, when I have completely left the LDS church I can begin a new quest on what I do believe. In the meantime, I will continue to post and discuss other topics that got me to this point.

Disillusioned Mormon
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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lehi's Dream-Did Joseph Smith compose it?

Boyd K. Packer, who was acting president of the quorum of the 12 apostles at the time, gave a speech at a BYU Devotional on January 16, 2007. In his speech, he talks about how the Book of Mormon is the cornerstone to his testimony. He goes on to talk about Lehi's dream, as found in the Book of Mormon and how the symbolism of his dream can be applied to our lives. At one point, he asks a very important question regarding the origin of Lehi's dream. What I discovered shocked me to the very core.

Lehi's Dream In The Book Of Mormon
For those that are unfamiliar with Lehi's dream, it is a story of a prophet named Lehi that receives a vision in the form of a dream, during which time he was living in the desert and the year was around 600 B.C.. In 1 Nephi chapter 8, we read about Lehi's vision. In this chapter, Nephi describes his father's dream:
I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me...I beheld a large and spacious field...[I] beheld a tree... I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof...and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen...And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also...I beheld a river of water; and it ran along, and it was near the tree of which I was partaking the fruit...I beheld your mother Sariah, and Sam, and Nephi...I did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit...And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood...on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth And it was filled with people... and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
Later in the Book of Mormon, Nephi records a similar vision in 1 Nephi 11, this time Nephi himself sees the vision of the tree of life. Eager to ask the spirit what the meaning of the vision is, Nephi is told that the field represents the world. The tree of life represents the love of God. The Iron rod represents the word of God, that leads up to the tree of life. We also learn that the great and spacious building represents the pride and materialism of the world.

Did Joseph Smith Compose Lehi's Dream?

In his recent speech, Boyd K. Packer goes on to talk about how we can apply the symbolism of Lehi's dream to our lives. Packer also brings up an interesting question in the middle of his speech, where he says: "Who wrote this incredible vision? There is nothing like it in the Bible. Did Joseph Smith compose it? Did he write the Book of Mormon? That is harder to believe than the account of angels and golden plates. Joseph Smith was only 24 years old when the Book of Mormon was published."

Joseph Smith Sr. Had A Similar Dream

Interestingly enough, Joseph Smith Jr.'s father, Joseph Smith Sr. had a very similar dream when Joseph Smith Jr. was about 5 years old. Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith Sr.'s wife recounted her husbands experience in her narrative Joseph Smith, The Prophet And His Progenitors For Many Generations:
In 1811, we moved from Royalton, Vermont, to the town of Lebanon, New Hampshire. Soon after arriving here, my husband received...[a] vision, which I will relate:

"...I (Referring to Joseph Smith Sr.)was traveling in an open, desolate field, which appeared to be very barren...My guide, who was by my side, as before, said, 'This is the desolate world... Traveling a short distance farther, I came to a narrow path. This path I entered, and, when I had traveled a little way in it, I beheld a beautiful stream of water, which ran from the east to the west....I could see a rope running along the bank of it.

...beyond me was a low, but very pleasant valley, in which stood a tree such as I had never seen bore a kind of fruit, in shape much like a chestnut bur, and as white as snow, or, if possible whiter...I drew near and began to eat of it, and I found it delicious beyond description. As I was eating, I said in my heart, 'I can not eat this alone, I must bring my wife and children, that they may partake with me'.

...I beheld a spacious building standing opposite the valley which we were in, and it appeared to reach to the very heavens. It was full of doors and windows, and they were filled with people, who were very finely dressed. When these people observed us in the low valley, under the tree, they pointed the finger of scorn at us, and treated us with all manner of disrespect and contempt. But their contumely we utterly disregarded.

I presently turned to my guide, and inquired of him the meaning of the fruit that was so delicious. He told me it was the pure love of God...He then commanded me to go and bring the rest of my children...Upon raising my eyes, I saw two small children, standing some distance off. I immediately went to them, and brought them to the tree; upon which they commenced eating with the rest, and we all rejoiced together.

...I asked my guide what was the meaning of the spacious building which I saw. He replied, 'It is Babylon, it is Babylon, and it must fall. The people in the doors and windows are the inhabitants thereof, who scorn and despise the Saints of God because of their humility.' I soon awoke, clapping my hands together for joy."
It appears that Joseph Smith Jr. was not the author of Lehi's dream, on that point, I can agree with Packer. If Lucy Mack Smith's story is true, It is reasonable to conclude that Joseph Jr. simply cribbed Lehi's dream from his own father's story.

Apologetic Responses

One apologetic response I have heard is that it was simply miraculous that Joseph Smith Sr. received the same dream as Lehi in preparation for the Book of Mormon. However, if they received the same dream, why are there subtle but key differences? For example, in Joseph Smith Sr.'s dream, instead of a rod of iron, it is a rope. The rod of iron is an important symbol of the firmness of God's word. If Joseph Smith received the same vision, why would God leave that part out of it?

The only other apologetic response I have heard contradicts the first apologetic response. I have heard the argument that since Lucy Mack Smith recounted her husbands dream after publication of the Book of Mormon, her recollection of her husband's dream was influenced by the text in the Book of Mormon. However, that still demonstrates that he did have a dream that was similar to Lehi's dream. So, Joseph Smith Jr. could have based Lehi's dream on Joseph Smith Sr.'s dream, then Lucy Mack Smith's recollection could have been influenced by the Book of Mormon text. Not only that, but if Joseph Smith Sr. had a dream that was similar to Lehi's in preparation for the Book of Mormon, why would it be similar, yet different? Wouldn't God give him the same exact dream as Lehi in preparation of the Book of Mormon?

Either way, Joseph Smith Sr. did receive a dream similar to Lehi's in the Book of Mormon in 1811, 19 years before publication of the Book of Mormon. It is possible and likely that Joseph Smith Jr.'s father recounted his dream to him.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Video: The Lost Book Of Abraham

The information in this video is what made me conclude that the Book of Abraham is a fraud. When I learned about the Book of Abraham, and the fraudulent claims made by the church, I lost complete faith in Mormonism.

The LDS church still includes the Book of Abraham as part of their canonized scripture. The only apologetic response for the Book of Abraham being translated from a common funerary text is that it wasn't a literal translation, but a "spiritual translation". I am sorry, but I just can not begin to wrap my brain around that argument.

The most important thing it demonstrates is that Joseph Smith had absolutely no clue how to translate Egyptian. The Book of Mormon was supposed to be translated from a form of Egyptian. Joseph Smith said he recognized the hieroglyphics on the papyri from the golden plates. Who is to say that the Book of Mormon wasn't also a "spiritual translation" and not a literal translation? Perhaps there never were any golden plates.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy this video.

The big double-standard with the LDS church is that they lecture people about honesty and integrity, yet they have known that the Book of Abraham was a fraud since 1967 and have lied about it. Mormon leaders give interviews to members that question their worthiness. One of the questions they ask is if they are honest in their dealings with their fellow man. Maybe we should be interviewing the church leaders and asking them if the church is honest with its members.

The LDS church continues to assert its position that the Book of Abraham is a literal translation from a first-hand account of Abraham written on the ancient documents that went into the possession of the church in 1835. This article was written in the official LDS church publication The Ensign as recent as 1997 that re-asserts this position.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Start Your Own Cult!

Enjoy this video on how to start your own cult. Read more!

Friday, June 22, 2007

How Do You Explain 4 Nephi 1:6?

Were The Plates Made From Gold?

If the plates were in fact made from gold, it is safe to say that it was a very scarce commodity. As mentioned in a previous post, there is no evidence of gold being used in Mesoamerica until at least 600 A.D., 200 years after the plates were buried. So, despite Nephi's exaggerations that gold and other metals were found in "great abundance"(2 Nephi 5:15), gold must have been pretty hard to come by.

Moroni said the plates were Gold

According to Joseph, the angel Moroni told him the plates were made out of gold.

When first I looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me. He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me and that his name was Moroni. . . . He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the sources from whence they sprang (History of the Church, vol. 1, by Joseph Smith, Deseret Book, 1976, pp. 11-12).
Even if the plates were not made of actual gold, they were gold in appearance and retained enough value that the angel Moroni was worried Joseph would be tempted to make himself rich. The plates were heavy and they were made from a precious metal. If the prophet Mormon knew Moroni might have to carry metal plates 3,000 miles from Mesoamerica to upstate, NY on foot, he might want to keep the load as light as possible. Not only that, but I am sure etching characters was a very time-consuming activity. Therefore, every square inch on each golden plate was valuable real estate, so I am sure that everything written on them was very important and was only included after a rigorous selection process. Mormon wouldn't include a single verse in his abridgement unless it was worth taking up the time and space to write it, and it had some kind of profound purpose behind it.

How Do You Reconcile This Verse?

If every little bit of space on the plates were so carefully selected when making an abridgement from the large plates of Nephi, why would Mormon see it fit to include 4 Nephi 1:6?

4 Nephi 1:6
"And thus did the thirty and eighth year pass away, and also the thirty and ninth, and forty and first, and the forty and second, yea, even until forty and nine years had passed away, and also the fifty and first, and the fifty and second; yea, and even until fifty and nine years had passed away."

When this verse was pointed out to me, I laughed out loud. Of course this verse is referring to the years following the mass conversions when there was peace in all the land. No wars, no conflicts, no contentions, just everyone living in harmony and peace as Christians of a single unified church. These years are supposed to exemplify the perfect model of how God intends us to live our lives on this earth; The absolute pinnacle of what we can reach as a church here on earth.

Why Was This Time of Peace Glossed Over?

You would think that we could learn about how they were able to keep peace for so long and read about all the good things that they did for one another and how they helped their fellow man. How they fed the poor, clothed the naked and made sure everyone was taken care of. You would think we could learn from their example and apply their teachings to our lives on how to live in righteousness. However, since there are no conflicts, no wars and no contentions during this time period, it doesn't make good reading.

The entire 200 year period of peace and harmony is merely a hiccup, summarized in one chapter. However, in his abridgement, Mormon thought it was more important to dedicate countless chapters on battle strategies, or the story of how Nephi ended up decapitating a passed-out drunkard, stealing his brass collection, kidnapping his servant and skipping town, as long as the end justifies the mean.

A More likely Reason

I think it is more likely that 4 Nephi 1:6 was included because it was simply one of the many "filler" verses Joseph Smith used in writing the Book of Mormon. Perhaps he needed to think about what he was going to say next or just needed to keep thickening the book up.

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