This is my response to: brother’s list of why the church is true for him- many holes, could use some help.

Joseph Smith got too many thing right for it to be an accident.

Joseph Smith definitely organized an impressive amount of religious thought from his time. Still, the vast majority of things Joseph Smith revealed can also be viewed as amalgamations of thoughts from his time. Several responses below get into this in more detail.

Ancient writing on metal plates..it was unheard of…ridiculed for it, but was proved correct years later…same with the stone box it was stored in Plates hidden in a stone box—

This is definitely a win for the historical model. However, if the stone box is sitting in the hill Cumorah, why hasn’t anyone found it and analyzed it? On the other hand, we have this statement from a respected BYU archaeologist about the hill Cumorah:

In summary, the archaeology of New York is persuasive evidence that Book of Mormon peoples did not live in that region. By implication, the Cumorah of the golden plates is not the Cumorah of the final battles. These conclusions follow from a few basic points and assumptions. First, I presume that the archaeology of New York State, as currently published (2004), is a fair representation and adequate sample of what is there, and particularly that the evidence for some periods has not been systematically destroyed. Second, I presume that the evidence published for the various regions and time periods is accurate—that is, that the majority of archaeologists working in this region are competent and academically honest in terms of their archaeology. Third, I assume that additional research and discoveries will not significantly alter current understandings of the times or places of prehistoric occupation nor of the cultural practices involved; rather, such data will lead to minor adjustments to some of the details of prehistory. Fourth, the archaeological record lacks evidence for cities, sedentism, corn agriculture, fortifications, and dense populations during Archaic, Early Woodland, and Middle Woodland times. In accord with these general observations about New York and Pennsylvania, we come to our principal object—the Hill Cumorah. Archaeologically speaking, it is a clean hill. No artifacts, no walls, no trenches, no arrowheads. The area immediately surrounding the hill is similarly clean. Pre-Columbian people did not settle or build here. This is not the place of Mormon’s last stand….

Chiasmus in the book of mormon…..How did Joseph Smith know about an ancient form of Middle Eastern Poetry….yep lucky there too…

Chiasmus is very cool, and it is consistent with the BoM being an ancient record. However, consider that chiasmus is common in the bible, the late war (which has many similarities with the BoM), and just happens frequently without people even realizing it.

Joseph Smith predicted the Civil War…..NY newspaper even asked if we had a prophet among us….because it was so far “out there” when it was revealed

Consider this list

Why would Joseph Smith and company read from the BOM for comfort in Liberty jail? Why would you try and get comfort and peace from a made up book? You wouldn’t!!

It’s a good question, and that fact should weigh in favor of the book’s authenticity. However, many of those who start up religions believe deeply in what they created (i.e., caught up in the fantasy). Consider Heaven’s Gate, Warren Jeffs, Jonestown, David Koresh, Christopher Nemelka, Matthew Gill, Denver Snuffer, Ron Hubbard, etc.)

Also, why did Joseph Smith never use the BoM in his sermons? That seems consistent with avoiding bringing attention to the book.

Nature of the Godhead…3 separate, physical bodies……holy ghost is a spirit…..yes!

It is a beautiful teaching. However, this doctrine was not cleanly taught that way from the beginning (BoM: mostly trinitarian, lectures on faith: HG was merely influence)

Families are Forever!! The family unit is eternal and will exist in the next life….yep, makes sense to me….and how many church’s teach that? That’s right, not a single one!!

It is a beautiful concept in many ways. However, it also has some downsides (also Families, Eternity, & Collateral Damage).

In addition, if sealing itself is such an important principle, why was Joseph Smith never sealed to his parents or children (while alive)? And why was Emma sealed to Joseph Smith after more than 16 other women? (see Questions to Ask for sources)

Book of Mormon brings people closer to God….eliminates the confusion….Ie infant baptism…another testament of Christ

Richard Bushman, a well-known Mormon historian, recently stated:

… there is phrasing everywhere–long phrases that if you google them you will find them in 19th century writings. The theology of the Book of Mormon is very much 19th century theology, and it reads like a 19th century understanding of the Hebrew Bible as an Old Testament …

The number of similarities with early 1800s thought is extensive. All of those teachings were in JS’s milieu (also see echoes).

Baptism by immersion…yep

It is consistent with how Jesus was baptized, so that has to count in favor of the LDS Church. However, baptism by immersion was a common theme among restorationists of the time (i.e., the Campbellites). In addition, the Church used to do anointings fully naked, but today do only a single drop on the head. Perhaps that is a similar deviation from an original, sacred practice (that wasn’t supposed to be altered)?

Baptisms for the dead….justice and fair for all!! yes, it’s only 1 verse in the bible, so I guess every other church in the world can ignore it…NOT!

It is a beautiful concept and solves lots of problems. In general, the LDS Church seems to have been a response to flaws in standard Christian teaching of that time. The idea for baptism for the dead was probably inspired by a reading of 1 Cor 15:29. In addition, the Ephrata cloister, located in Pennsylvania, also practiced baptisms for the dead from the late 1700s into the 1840s.

One church, one faith, one baptism…..IE….Baptists don’t believe the same…everyone/church has their own beliefs…..too much confusion!

Except we have the same situation among all the various LDS movements today (there are many). They all believe in variants of the Gospel. Why isn’t there one faith, one baptism etc. in the Mormons movement?

The importance of baptism. Holy Ghost by laying on of hands

These seem to be ideas that were heavily emphasized in the early 1800s. Today? They don’t seem as relevant.

Annointing with oil…..Check…in the bible……how many churches teach that?

Anointing seems to be used in many christian churches

Why are all the anti Mormon films filled with lies? I like how they twisted Hinkley’s words around to make it seem like we believed in a different Jesus…And the guy telling it was so sincere…..made me sick!

Virtually all totalistic organizations attract opposition, and it tends to becomes polarized and not always accurate. See The Two Camps of Cultic Studies, Leah Remini’s attack on scientology, and these examples in Under Satan’s Attack.

A Jehovah’s Witness sounds similar defending their organization from attack:

Every person in this organization—every one of Jehovah’s Witnesses including the governing body—we’re all imperfect and thus we are subject to making mistakes. Which means that if you look hard enough, all you will see instead of seeing these amazing things that Jehovah is accomplishing and our tremendous privilege of being part of it, all we are going to see is the errors of men. But when we focus on the good, on the guidance and loving support that we’ve received, aren’t we moved with appreciation to cleave to this body of fellow worshipers. And just look at what Jehovah is accomplishing by means of his imperfect servants. There is no other organization on earth providing spiritual food like the one that we belong to. When we look at all of this, how could we possibly let the failings of just a few people undermine this overwhelming proof of Jehova’s backing? 2016 “remain loyal to jehovah” regional conference

Also, consider this video.

Temples….check………..We visited the Community of Christ temple after we left the LDS visitor center across the street. Our kids made the comment that something was missing…..Innocent children can tell the difference between the spirit they felt while on the LDS side and the Reorganized LDS temple. We also felt it…it was an empty feeling.

One’s cultural orientation strongly determines how a person feels about something. Consider that many worthy Latter day saints feel badly when they first go to the LDS temple! (see the story of Marlin Jensen’s first daughter in footnote #24)

Priesthood authority….Aaronic and Melchizedek….how many churches teach that? None!

Why do so many blessings given by patriarchs through the spirit contain promises that were never fulfilled? (see here)

weekly sacrament and it’s meaning…check

It’s a beautiful experience in many ways.

spirit world

The discussion in Alma 40 on the spirit world matches closely the discussion in Matthias Earbery’s book “Of the state of the dead and of those that are to rise”, including suspiciously similar phraseology:

What the future State of the Soul is after the Corporeal Dissolution; or concerning the middle State of Souls betwixt Death and the Resurrection, as to the Degrees of Happiness and Misery. [emphasis added]

As we have already proved from natural Reason, and from the Evidence of sacred Writ, That human Souls survive the Body; we must next examine in what State they are, and what Life they enjoy after this corporeal Separation. We must first enquire if they are invested with another Body after they have parted from this; of what Nature that Body is; or, whether they remain naked and divested of all Matter to the Resurrection. The Solution of this Question leads us directly into a Knowledge of a future State. But as the other, concerning the Degrees of Happiness and Misery, is more general and less obsure, we shall bring upon the Test into Examination, the Opinion of some * Neotericks, who will have the Souls immediately after Death carried up into Heaven, and to the highest Glories of the Beatifick Vision; or to be depressed into the utmost Miseries of Hell: Both, I think are too much upon the Extremes. The reformed Divines, to avoid the Terrours of Purgatory, have entirely taken away the intermediate State; as we are too apt in avoiding one Folly to fall upon another. It is very well known, the Roman Purgatory is adapted to the Humours of the People and the Benefit of the Priest: But why should these Phantasms fright us away from the Search of Truth, and the Opinion of the Ancients concerning the hitherto unfulfilled State of Misery and Happiness, before the Day of Judgement. We shall at present defer to speak of the Miserable, and confine our selves to shew, how dissonant it is to the sacred Writings and the ancient Faith, to assert the immediate Translation from this Life to the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Beatifick Vision, before the Resurrenction and coming of CHRIST. [emphasis added]

See additional similarities with Earbery here.

In addition, current LDS doctrine on the eternal nature of spirit gender locks the Church into gender binaries where the biological reality is much more complex (from Beyond XX and XY: The Extraordinary Complexity of Sex Determination)

Missionary work in the spirit world…..yep, make sense

This does address some problematic teachings in Christianity.

grace vs works….we are saved by grace after all that we can do…make total sense…..everyone makes works to be a terrible thing

Again, the LDS religion seems to be a response to deficiencies in Christianity.

degrees of glory after the resurrection

Another beautiful concept, but probably borrowed from Emanuel Swedenborg.

prophets and apostles…..They speak monthly through Ensign and every 6 months through General Conference….everything that I’ve ever heard is meant to bring us closer to Heavenly Father……Yep, mormons are the worst!!

Much of what leaders have said is wonderful. But some of it has not been. Consider leaders’ teachings on homosexuality over the years and their teachings on race in the Lowry Nelson and Stewart Udall letters.

revelation…living church…check

In theory, the idea is beautiful. In practice, what exactly have they revealed, prophecied, or seen in the past 100 years? The Proclamation on the Family, for instance, seems to be mostly a rehash and was directly prompted by legal needs (so, not in advance of the need).

Also, when asked if he has revelations, Joseph F. Smith said, under oath, “I have never pretended to nor do I profess to have received revelations.” (see here)

Additionally, consider that the Community of Christ Church now has 165 sections in their Doctrine and Covenants. Who is receiving additional revelation?

This pattern seems to me how revelation has waned in the modern LDS Church: Revelation direct from God “thus saith the Lord” (JS, most of D&C) -> Thoughts that may be taken as the word of the Lord (BY, D&C 136) -> dreams canonized (JFS, D&C 138) -> manifesto -> declarations -> proclamations -> unsigned essays written by historians. They have the seer stone. Why do none of the prophets, seers, or revelators use it?

Nahom fits perfectly with Lehi’s journey from Jersusalem…..just lucky I guess

Nahom is an interesting find that seems consistent with the historical model. However, read the comment section of this post to see that it’s not nearly as clean as it sounds. And, as pointed out earlier, the Book of Mormon has so much 1800s thought in it, it is difficult to see it as anything but an 1800s document (i.e., that weighs more heavily than NHM).

Polygamy…weird, but biblical

The way Joseph Smith practiced polygamy was highly problematic, both theologically and ethically. It is far more consistent with someone who didn’t have any direction from an omniscient being in the matter. Consider:

  1. LDS Historian Brian Hales wrote of Joseph’s relationship with Fanny “it is obvious Emma did not believe the ceremony was valid and concluded the relationship was adulterous. Ironically, Oliver Cowdery, who Joseph summoned to diffuse the situation, sided with Emma, discounting the validity of the polygamous marriage.” Why did Joseph (apparently) not get permission for his relationship with Fanny as suggested by D&C 132:61?

  2. For what purpose did Joseph Smith get sealed to other righteous men’s wives (e.g., Zina Huntington and Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde)? In particular, what justified Joseph’s marriage to Zina Huntington, a happily newlywed, pregnant mother?

  3. To whom was Zina Huntington married when her second child was born? Who fathered her third child? To whom will Zina Huntington’s children (those fathered by her first husband, Henry Jacobs, and the one fathered by Brigham Young) belong in the eternities?

  4. Why did Zina Huntington become Brigham Young’s wife after Joseph died and not Henry Jacob’s wife (especially considering that Henry already had children with Zina)?

  5. What made it okay for Joseph Smith to re-seal himself to the Partridge sisters in order to hide the first sealings from Emma?

  6. Joseph Smith directly or implicitly denied practicing polygamy 5 times in his own words and was responsible for 3 additional direct denials. What made it okay for Joseph Smith (and other early leaders) to repeatedly lie about their practice of polygamy?

  7. What was the point of a union with 14 year old Helen Mar Kimball? Specifically, if polyandrous unions with Joseph were good enough for the Huntington and Hyde families, why would a potential polyandrous union with Vilate be inadequate for sealing to the Kimball family?

  8. According to his daughter Helen, Heber C. Kimball was instructed by Joseph Smith not to tell his first wife, Vilate, when he married his first plural wife, Sarah Noon. Why did D&C 132:61 not apply to this union?

  9. If Joseph was pressured into polygamy by an angel with a drawn sword, why did the angel not give sufficient instructions to ensure that polygamy and/or sealings were done “correctly”?

  10. As alluded to before, D&C 132:61 outlines three requirements by which a plural marriage may be “justified” and not adultery: 1) “the first give her consent”, 2) “the second…they are virgins”, and 3) “have vowed to no other man.” Why didn’t Joseph follow these guidelines? Does the breaking of all of these guidelines mean that some or all of his relationships were adulterous in whole or in part?

The Pre-earth life of mankind….Makes sense, is biblical, and the LDS church is the absolutely only church on the earth that teaches that one….HUGE!!!!

Terryl Givens recently wrote a book on the topic of the premortal existence in various thought across time (When Souls Had Wings). He recently commented:

The LDS faith is the only significant Christian denomination teaching this doctrine today. But it turns out, literally dozens—perhaps hundreds—of poets, mystics, philosophers, theologians and pastors have taught this same principle across the centuries.

And, Givens indicated that Joseph Smith was likely exposed to these ideas.

Finally, there is also the question of why the author of Alma 13 repeatedly alludes to teachings and phrases from the New Testament rather than the Old Testament.

Plus, how do models of pre-mortal life deal with scenarios where two distinct twins exist and one twin subsumes the other (i.e., creating human chimeras)? What happens to the spirits?

Word of Wisdom….pretty amazing it came 200 years ago

Cholera was the leading known cause of death among the early Pioneers:

Cholera was the biggest killer and actually took a greater toll in late summer as the temperatures rose and rivers fell.

Compounding the problem was the fact that the cause of cholera was a mystery to the pioneers. They didn’t know how to defend themselves from cholera bacteria, which secrete a toxin that inflames the large intestine, causing diarrhea and rapid dehydration. In severe cases, cholera can kill within hours.

Hundreds of Mormon Pioneers would have survived their trek if they would have merely boiled their water before drinking–i.e., if they had been drinking hot drinks.

Or, God could have merely said something like, “don’t drink water downstream from where people are pooping.” Something that simple would have also saved so many of them.

And, the Word of Wisdom seems to be wrong about tea and coffee, for example.

The world hates the church….I’d be concerned if they didn’t

Consider

True Believing Mormons are some of the best people in the world……by their fruits. Church is a force for good….morally and physically…..what church sent 10,000 people to help with the Harvey flood? Yep, you guessed it……Who has the largest assistance program outside of the US government? yes the mormons…….

All totalistic groups are quick to point out how good they are.

But several scientific studies suggest that the non-religious are as moral in everyday life as the religious.

Read many many near death experiences from non mormons that coincide with teaching of the church

The well-respected psychologist of religion, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, noted:

Mystical experiences, considered unique and individual, are totally culture-dpendent. We know that the specific content of visions, the most intense and personal of religious acts, is wholly predictable from exposure to certain ideas, which are always learned. Visions of the Holy Virgin occur exclusively among Catholics or those exposed to Catholic ideas. They have never occurred among Orthodox Jews…

Name a church that teaches against the moral decline of society more than the Church of Jesus Chris of latter day Saints??? yep, no one!!

The world may not actually be in moral decline.

Also, consider these arguments.

Pornography is bad! The church is always preaching against it…..the world says it’s ok, but we know better, don’t we brother?

There are significant problems with the current mainstream pornography industry (exploitation, misogyny, unhealthy/immoral sexual attitudes, racism, etc), and I think healthy and moral sexual attitudes are probably best developed in the absence of, or at least minimizing to some extent, pornography usage.

Still, stigma significantly exacerbates negative effects of pornography:

And, in general, the LDS Church seems to generate the strongest feelings of guilt about sex of any religion.

and God is real….this wonderful universe just didn’t happen by chance

We appear to be psychologically primed to believe in a God, as explained by the well-known psychology of religion professor Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi:

Human brains look at the environment and it seems like all they see are agency, intention, and consciousness, whether they exist or not. Powerful mechanisms lead to the attribution of consciousness and volition to numerous non-human objects, real and imagined. The apparently universal tendency for over-detecting causality and agency is so powerful because of the cost of not detecting them in ambiguous situations. The ability to recognize threats and opportunities, and to identify intentions, is crucial. The search for causality is vital for human survival, and because of the way it operates humans often cannot tell the difference between intentional actors, imagined intentional actors, and inanimate objects (Tremlin, 2006, p. 74). They also connect causation to conscious intentions.

Related to the over-detection of causality are several cognitive shortcuts, which pull the mind toward supernaturalist ideation. They undoubtedly overlap, but their analysis as discrete processes provides important insights. Our innate animism, anthropomorphism, Theory of Mind (TOM), dualism, and teleology lead to seeing ourselves as surrounded by minds and by intentions, real (in the case of other people) and imagined (in the ease of spirits and objects).


The church is true my brother! I will never deny it!

I am happy that it brings you peace and joy and that you have peace in your spiritual knowledge of its truth.

There are, however, good reasons to question the reliability of spiritual feelings in determining truth. Consider:

  1. Why do members of other religions receive strong spiritual experiences confirming to them that their religion is the correct religion? (See Spiritual Witnesses and additional discussion in Testimony, Spiritual Experiences, and Truth: A Careful Examination)

  2. Given how missionaries instruct members to pray about the Book of Mormon, in what fashion could a person arrive at the conclusion that the Book of Mormon is not true? If a person persistently followed Moroni’s promise with any sufficiently inspiring book, what would be the end result?

  3. Elder Holland shared “the missionary speech of all time” at a New Mission President Seminar. It was shared by many others, who also found it to be very powerful. Ultimately, key parts of the story were found to be in error, calling into question the validity of the entire story. Why did people report feeling so touched (e.g., “the most powerful message to my heart…”) by a story that was deeply flawed factually? Is it possible for a person to have received a similar witness of the “truth” of the Book of Mormon and for it to be factually flawed?

Most mormons who leave the church will turn atheist or agnostic because there is nothing better out there!!!

If the data best fit an agnostic/athiest model, why shouldn’t it be adopted? Morality transcends religious belief. Here’s one person’s formulation of their beliefs after leaving the LDS Church: my beliefs. What do you find objectionable in that belief system?