Last week when I took my vacation I went on a trip to Pennsylvania to see my younger sister, and while I was in the area, I decided to go see some of the historic LDS Church history sites in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois. During my time in the LDS Church and after I left it, I have been studying the Church for seventeen years and wanted to visit some of the history sites that I read about all those years.
The LDS Church has a rich history and its members generally stick together in tight-knit communities, though they don’t have all things in common as they once did. In fact, if the Church today asked all of the members to give all they have to the Church and let the Church decide what each member would get back, I imagine that people would leave in droves. There is still a commitment that all temple going Mormons are required to make that they would give all they possess to the Church if called upon to do so, though judging by how many grudgingly pay their ten percent tithing, I have to assume at least some of them did not actually mean it when they promised it, like a kid who promises while simultaneously crossing their fingers behind his or her back.
Part of the draw to the LDS Church is its focus on strong families and communities, and in that area they excel. Typically Mormons have strong, loving families and go out of their way to help other Mormons in their community, so long as those other Mormons are faithful to the Church. Mormons often say that “even if the Church isn’t true it is still the best way to live a life,” and if there wasn’t the matter of a potential lost salvation to contend with than perhaps a case for that could be argued, but life is more than family and community, it is also the ONLY time we have to prepare to meet God. If we live this life without honoring God we don’t get another chance. Mormons criticize Christians for death bed repentance and confession, but they believe in after death repentance and even do proxy baptisms and other ordinances for people who died without believing in the LDS Church. The Bible is clear that we only have until the end of life, and then it is as Bill Paxton’s Private Hudson in Aliens said, “game over man! Game over!”
‘For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.’ -2 Corinthians 6:2
Even the Book of Mormon, the supposed most correct book on earth, says that this life is all the time we get to prepare. “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” -Alma 34:32
In another place it says that after people die they will believe in God and beg for mercy but his response will not favorably. “But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” - Helaman 13:38
While the Church is always eager and willing to bring in new converts, it seams to me that the focus at Church history sites is to strengthen the faith of the people who already believe it, and faithful Mormons are by far the main people who visit the sites. While the Church certainly does not want this to happen, some of the senior missionaries at the Church history sites, retired married couples who serve a mission together, go off the rails a bit with their speeches and say things in defense of the Church that are not only factually in error, but also highly offensive to anyone who is currently not a member of the LDS Church, especially if they are strong in a Christians church. Rudely telling people they are wrong never changes anyones mind.
As would be expected, the younger and less experienced missionaries are required to recite a prepared statement or statements on the historical area in which they are serving, but the senior couple missionaries have a lot more freedom, partially because they are stronger in the Church and have more knowledge, but also because most older people don’t do well with staying with a script and some would even refuse to serve a mission if they could only say what the young missionaries are allowed to say.
One of the places I visited was the jail in Carthage, Illinois where Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob while waiting to stand trial on charges of treason against the state of Illinois and for destruction of a printing press to keep them from printing unfavorable things about him. The older lady who gave the tour of the jail that day was laying it on pretty thick and the urge to be the proverbial fly in the ointment was almost overpowering, but out of respect for the deluded people who were sobbing like children over the loss of their dear prophet, I held my tongue.
The tour guide made a number of fallacious statements that were not approved by the Church, some of which had not one shred of truth to them, and she made the blanket statement that anything spoken against or questioning the Church, even if it is true, is the work of the devil. I so badly wanted to stand and tell her that anyone who throws out the Trinity to teach a god who was once a mortal man is the one who is truly working for the devil. Truthful claims have no fear of being challenge by the truth.
Last summer I went fishing with a co-worker and he accidentally lost my Coleman gas powered lantern off the boat into the lake, and while I grieved the loss of the lantern because I’d had it since I was sixteen, I was not angry. Shortly thereafter I purchased a new lantern to take fishing with me, but this time I got a battery powered lantern that was waterproof and floated. What would you imagine was the very first thing I did when I bought it? I took out of the package, put batteries in it, turned it on and threw it into a bucket of water to test the claim, and since the claim was true there were no issues. If you don’t think I would have immediately returned the lantern had either the waterproof or the floating claims proved to be false than you are crazy.
A lot of times a manufacturer’s printed claim will be followed by an asterisk, which means that their claim has limitations or is only true in some situations but they want you to notice the favorable claim and not follow the asterisk to the accompanying notice. Half-truths are, more often than not, worse than outright lies because they are more easily believable while still having all the potency of a bold face lie. A half-truth is poison coated with sugar, but poison all the same. On college exams there are often a lot of tricky multiple choice questions where only part of some answers are true, but the professors always say to read them carefully because if part of the answer is false than the answer is false.
Mormonism is like a gold coated brass ring with a few extremely small diamonds set next to large cubic zirconium stones; it looks impressive at first but is, upon closer examination, ultimately worthless. Mormonism has some true tenants of Christianity, but they are so choked out and deluded by false and blasphemous teachings that they lack all power and meaning, and even when the Church uses Christian sounding terms they don’t mean what they would if taken from the Bible.
A good example of words not meaning the same to Christians and Mormons is salvation. To Christians, salvation is the greatest thing that we will ever get from God, which is the opportunity to spend eternity with God in heaven. To Mormons, salvation is anything that does not include going to what they call outer darkness and the only people who go there are the apostate Mormons and the angels who followed the devil. Exaltation is what Mormons strive for and the celestial kingdom is their holy place where they believe they will one day be gods. To Mormons, what Christians think of as heaven is what they think of as one of the lower ranks of heaven, and no honest Mormon would ever say they are happy just going to heaven and serving God for eternity without the possibility of becoming a god someday.
What Christians think of as the ultimate goal, Mormons think is settling. What Mormons hold as their ultimate goal is blasphemy at its highest order as God did not make us to be gods, He made us to worship him and not be worshipped ourselves.
What Christians think of as heaven Mormons would consider the terrestrial kingdom, a place where we can see God but not have the opportunity to be gods ourselves or the ability to be eternally married to our wife or wives. They also believe there is another lower kingdom, the telestial, which is where everyone not good enough to go to the higher levels and is not an apostate Mormon goes to. In the LDS theology, Hitler, mass murderers, pedophiles, and other people of that moral caliber would go there. While it is unlikely to actually be true, LDS people hold the tradition that Jospeh Smith said about the telestial kingdom, “if we could get one little glimpse into the telestial glory even, the glory is so great that we would be tempted to commit suicide to get there.”
The LDS Church looks Christian on the outside, like a whitewashed sepulcher looks clean on the outside but is full of dead men’s bones, but in the ten plus years I was in the Church I only rarely heard talks or lessons on the savior, and when I did his power was watered down from what Christianity teaches. Instead of a capital G God who can do anything and can save us without our help, they teach a lower case god, a god among many, a god who was once a man, a god who can only save us if we do our part, a god who is so lowly that we can one day attain the status he currently holds when he gets a promotion.
Christianity has worthless humans and a great God who saves them out of love and mercy and allows them to serve and worship him for eternity. Mormonism has a weak god (in comparison to the God of Christianity) who helps humans who were born to be gods to become gods so that one day they may be worshiped in the same capacity in which they worship their god. Blasphemy of the highest order. The Mormon god is a god who had to merely assemble the earth and humans out of stuff that existed before or as long as he existed. The Christian God created EVERYTHING, including the smallest possible aspects of the atomic structure.
One of the things that immediately struck me when visiting Church history sites was how engrained it is in the minds of the Mormons that anything that questions the Church, regardless of how true it may be, is inspired by and is the work of the Devil to destroy the Church and only things that promote or strengthen the faith should be studied. If the truth destroys the The Church was than the Church is not True. Just like one should not be afraid of putting a water proof item in the water, one should not be afraid to test a truth claim with truth.
Elder Boyd K. packer of the quorum of the twelve apostles of the LDS Church said, “There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful” (p. 7).
In other words, it is the will of the church that members of the Church, and especially leaders and teachers, should only study and teach things about the Church that promote faith in the church, and regardless of how true or founded something is, if it casts an unfavorable light on the church than it is to be considered “anti-Mormon.” Packer said, “some things that are true are not very useful,” which is true if the only goal is indoctrination and truth will shatter the lie that is being force fed. No, truth is not very useful to a snake oil salesman, especially one who is selling people something that doesn’t exist for a price they can’t afford to pay. The Church is offering “exaltation” and all you have to give up us your time, your life, all you possess and all you may possess, oh, and your soul. The Church is convincing people to willingly give up their money and even their souls for an empty promise of becoming gods, and most rank and file Mormons won’t know they have been duped until it is far too late and I feel sorry for them. I, however, feel no pity for the plight of the upper echelon of the Church as there is no possible way that they don’t know what they are peddling for their livelihood is not only a lie but the most vile of poisons.
I sometimes have a difficult time understanding how people within the LDS Church fail to see the con for what it is. The Church’s history is full of stories where Joseph Smith and a few select leaders would claim to see God, angels, heavenly messengers and see visions and none of the people around them saw any of it but were convinced to believe it, and those stories are told proudly at the Church history sites. It is like the emperor with no cloths on a whole other level. I used to wonder why I was the only one in the Church who had not received a spiritual witness of the truth of the Church until I realized that no one in the Church wants to be the only one who hasn’t had a spiritual witness of the church, and none of those in Smith’s time wanted to be the only one who did not see at least a heavenly light.
During interviews with witnesses and survivors of both the latest deadly school shooting and the shooting in Las Vegas, many people claimed to have seen, with their own eyes, multiple shooters despite the plethora of evidence that there was only one shooter. There will always be people who believe the false claims despite the evidence, so it is not a stretch to say that Smith and his inner circle were able to convince people that they had indeed seen or heard angels, etc. I have no doubt that if the witnesses had been separated and questioned about specifics the story would fall apart like the sandy foundation it is.
In an attempt at covering the deception and hiding the men behind the curtain, The LDS Church teaches publicly that members and those investigating the Church should avoid “deep doctrine” which is anything beyond what is typically taught in Church; they say it will lead you away from what is important and cause you to doubt the Church, causing you to loose faith and go astray. The Church likes to say that looking beyond the mark will cause you to go astray, and where that comes from is a verse in the book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon that talks of the Jews wanting to learn things they could not understand. “But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.” - Jacob 4:14
Another thing that is often spoken of in the Church is “the rod of iron,” which references a story that takes place early in the Book of Mormon where Lehi, the prophet at the time, had a vision where people had to follow a rod or iron, kind of like a handrail, through a dense fog along the edge of a deep ravine above a raging filthy river to get to the tree of life. On the other side of the ravine was an open field with a fancy building floating in the air filled with people who were poking fun at the people who were trying to get to the tree of life. If anyone would let go of the rod of iron or look to the fancy building they would loose their way and fall into the river or wonder off into “strange paths” and get lost. A lot of those who reached the tree and ate of it became ashamed when the people in the building made fun of them and either got lost or joined the people in said building, (1 Nephi chapter 8).
In the Church, the tree is everything the Church has to offer, the rod of iron is the rules of the Church (they are really big on rules), the filthy water is everything the Church considers sin, the fog, or mist of darkness as they call it, is the devil’s attempt to confuse people and get them to falter, and the fancy building is the critics of the church, both within and without.
Morons are constantly reminded to “hold fast to the rod of iron” by following everything the current “prophet” tells them to do, even if it contradicts everything his predecessors said (C.O.P. p.6), and to question the prophet is a sin. It is a common tactic in cults to tell the members how bad of a sin it is to question the leader. Mormons are punished for questioning the Church and its leaders, but God did not punish the people of the Bible for questioning Him. Let that sink in. A few of the people many people who questioned God are Habakuk, Thomas, Gideon, Sarah and Abraham.
Let us contrast the view of the LDS Church on questioning the truth and authority claims to that of Christianity. I have heard Christian leaders of all capacities say, literally thousands of times, that people, especially the youth, should investigate for themselves the claims of Christianity from sources outside the church, should study every doctrine to ensure it is Biblical, and should even investigate what historians and archeologists have to say about the Bible. Any LDS leader would shudder at the thought of the youth of the Church investigating the lesser known doctrines and history, especially from outside sources. Any LDS leader would also strongly, and I am not sure strongly is a strong enough word, discourage the youth from judging every LDS doctrine against only the Bible.
Packer spoke in depth on the matter:
It is a matter of orientation toward scholarly work—historians' work in particular—that sponsors my concern. I have come to believe that it is the tendency for most members of the Church who spend a great deal of time in academic research to begin to judge the Church, its doctrine, organization, and history, by the principles of their own profession. Ofttimes this is done unwittingly, and some of it perhaps is wholesome. However, it is an easy thing for a man with extensive academic training to consider the Church with the principles he has been taught in his professional training as his measuring standard.
In my mind it ought to be the other way around. A member of the Church ought always, particularly if he is pursuing extended academic studies, to judge the professions of men against the revealed word of the Lord.
I do feel, however, and feel very deeply, that some tempering of the purely historical approach needs to be effected. Otherwise these publications will be of interest to other historians and perhaps serve them well, but at once may have a negative effect upon many. Particularly can they affect our youngsters, who will not view the publications with the same academic detachment that a trained historian is taught to, (p. 3).
It is no secret that the Church carefully guards what is taught and learned, especially by the youth of the Church. Before my LDS mission there was an issue that I had questions about within the church and started investigating it exclusively from Mormon sources, but when I asked my Stake president about it he said he would rather have me look at porn than research the issue because I could repent from porn, but looking beyond the mark would cause me to doubt the Church, go far astray and loose my exaltation. In case you are curious, the issue I was investigating was whether or not Joseph Smith had more than one wife, and yes, he did.
At the time I went on my mission most of the Church still denied that Smith participated in polygamy and the Church had not officially admitted it yet either, though they also did not officially deny it. Mostly they downplayed it and hoped no one would talk about it. Joseph Smith had forty wives that we know of, one of which was a fourteen year old child when he married her, and many others had living husbands when he married them, so not only was Smith a polygamist, he was also guilty of polyandry and taking advantage of an impressionable child.
The Church quietly but officially admitted Smith’s polygamous past in a publication on their official site only a few years ago, (LDS). However, the Church still downplays the implication of those marriages, especially to the child. The Church also does not hide the fact that when the Nauvoo Expositor said Smith was a polygamist that he vehemently denied it and called it slander. The thing about slander and libel is It isn’t slander or libel if it is true.
Legal zoom says, “A person who wishes to successfully sue you for libel must generally prove the statement is false. In most states, truth is a complete defense to a libel action. You generally can't sue if the statement in question is true, no matter how unpleasant the statement or the results of its publication” (Atkins). The Church does not deny that Smith had the printing press for the Nauvoo Expositor destroyed to silence them, but they claim he was well within his rights since they were printing Slander. Even if the Church’s claims that Illinois didn’t have protection of press in 1844 was true, the Expositor was still not guilty of slander or libel and therefore Smith had had no right to his criminal actions.
When I visited the Smith family farm and the Sacred Grove, the man who was in charge there was a constitutional lawyer and wrote five text books on the subject, and he freely admitted that Jospeh Smith nor the Nauvoo City council had any more legal right to destroy the printing press belonging to the Nauvoo Expositor than the mob did to destroy the press in Missouri that belonged to the LDS Church or any more right to declare martial law than Missouri did to run the Mormons out, but held that Smith had a moral right to break the laws that he broke. He also said he did not believe Smith was inspired by God to destroy the press and just made a poor decision in a time of great trial, a decision that cost him his life.
Another common tactic of the LDS Church is to make the Book of Mormon out to be the most important book to have ever been written, even though it does not contain most of the doctrines the Church holds as essential for salvation, which is an issue I will discuss in depth in another episode. Every Mormon is expected to have an unshaken faith that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and is superior to the Bible, and whenever they have doubts they are expected to fall back on that. The Church says that if the Book of a Mormon is true than all of the Church has to be true, but that is an obvious logical fallacy, especially when you consider that some of the later doctrines contradict the Book of Mormon.
Let us examine the claim that if the Book of Mormon is true than everything else in the Church is true. For the sake of argument let us take the claims of the Book of Mormon for face value, including the claim that it contains the fullness of the everlasting gospel, (Introduction), despite the fact that it says nothing about work for the dead, temple marriages, condemns polygamy, teaches that God is a spirit, makes no mention of the LDS doctrine of exaltation to a godlike status and no mention of God once being a man.
Suppose I wrote the “definitively guide to baking a cake” and said it contained everything anyone would ever need to bake a perfect cake, but then I later published another book that contained ingredients and steps that were not in my supposed “definitive guide” that I claim are absolutely essential to the cake baking process, would anyone believe me? Forget for a Minute that the cake claims would be easy to test, either my first guide was not the definitive end all, be all book of cake making or else the later book’s new information was incorrect at best and disastrous at worst.
The LDS Church goes out of their way to make a case for the Book of Mormon being divine and written in such a way that it could only have been written with help from the divine. However, it is ONLY LDS people who agree with this claim as “non-Mormons” both from academic and non-academic standpoints don’t view the book as special, don’t see a cohesive story in it, can pick out numerous errors and think it is misguided in matters of spirituality, completely wrong on history and anthropology, fails at being poetic except where it plagiarizes the Bible, and as a novel is complete garbage.
One of the claims for the divine origin of the Book of Mormon is that it was “translated” in approximately two months and they say no one could do that, but a number of great books were written in two months or less. A Christmas Carroll was written in less than two months and The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas was written in two days. LDS people also think there is no way Smith could have written the Book of Mormon because he was Uneducated, but storytelling does not require an education when you have a scribe, and especially if you have a school teacher and a seasoned pastor helping you with it. I know a woman who never graduated high school, and in fact, didn’t have any formal education past the fifth grade, and she can weave the most complex stories on the fly with an astounding level of internal consistency.
The man I mentioned earlier that was a constitutional lawyer, he used his textbooks as an example of why Smith could not have possibly written the Book of Mormon and said it took him and a committee of highly educated people many months to revise a single text book. In response I said that a textbook on law has to be perfect as to properly represent every aspect of the laws it contains, but The Book of Mormon is far from being perfect and has hundreds of errors and inconsistencies before you even get past the first book. Of course, instead of conceding the errors this man used the typical Mormon response of saying the things in question only appear to be errors because we don’t understand everything yet.
Another problem is there is no actual proof that the Book of Mormon was written in that short of a time period and the people who supported Smith in that claim are the people purported to have helped him write it. From the time Smith started talking about the “golden Bible” until the time it was “translated,” he had four years to come up with a story, and even more time if you believe his timeline of when he told his parents about his first vision.
From the time Joseph Smith claimed to have his first vision in March of 1820 to the publication of The Book of Mormon in March of 1830 was ten years, more than enough time to concoct a story, especially if most if it was inspired or plagiarized by existing works. Once the Book of Mormon was official translated it took seven months to write the printers manuscript, and there is no logical reason to believe that during that time the story was not still being polished and refined.
Almost every LDS person will say the Book of Mormon has been scrutinized for hundreds of years by its critics and no errors could be found, but only faithful LDS people believe that. Yes, the book has been heavily scrutinized, but on every shovel full of serious inquiry serious pay dirt was found. I don’t have time to go into it in this episode, but I will go into the problems with the Book of Mormon in detail in later episodes, and the problems and errors with the supposedly most correct book on earth are not few in number.
With the way LDS apologist weave the narrative, if a person were to only listen to what they have to say it would appear that the Book of Mormon and the Church are rock solid, but with independent examination it is obviously a house of cards, and that is why they only want you to see it from their point of view, and they definitely don’t want you to touch it or blow on it.
Another common tactic the Church employs is to say that one of their prophets was speaking as a man and not by God when some of his more obscure or eccentric statements are brought up, but the problem with that is in the church’s Official Declaration-1 contained in the Doctrine and Covenants it states that, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty,” (291).
Unlike Christian churches, the Mormons don’t teach their youth about other faiths or even about anything controversial about their own, and as a result, they are woefully unprepared when they go on their missions. Before my mission, I read the entire canonized LDS scriptures and EVERY book the Church recommended for missionaries. Still, I was completely unprepared for what I was to face in the real world outside of the missionary training center.
Since the emphasis is on whatever the current prophet says, and the prophet is allowed to change any church doctrine up to and including scripture (C.O.P p.6), many members consider anything that contradicts the current narrative to be irrelevant and not worth studying. In studying only the current and approved doctrine for Sunday school, the Church mostly eliminates questions and doubt.
For many of the reasons mentioned, it was not uncommon for Christians to know more about the LDS Church than I did, and that bothered me, but what bothered me more was the fact that the questions and objections they had to the Church shook my faith and I did not have any good answers. Of course, I would always give the prepared answers the Church had taught me to give, and as the ultimate filibuster move, I would give my testimony of the “truth of the restored gospel” and say that since I had a spiritual witness nothing they could say would change my faith. The problem was, none of that was true, especially the part about having a spiritual witness of the a Church. Anytime a Mormon is challenged with something they don’t have an answer for, he or she will bear their testimony as the ultimate end to the argument, or as someone told me once when I did it, it is the stick your fingers in your ears while shouting, “na na, an na, I can’t hear you,” approach.
All systems of faith have issues, if not they would not require faith, and the honest faiths admit problems exist, but since the LDS Church is fabricated whole cloth its members utterly deny any problems exist as any serious investigation would reveal the major cracks in the foundation that would condemn the entire structure.
The Church stresses the importance of a spiritual testimony of the Church over any evidence, any knowledge and above literally any other measuring standard of truth. During the ten plus years I was in the Church, I never received any spiritual witness or testimony of the Church and when I would mentioned that I hadn’t received such a witness they, meaning the LDS leaders, would either say I wasn’t given a witness because I already know it is true, or they would say “a testimony is gained in the bearing of it.” In other words, keep telling people how much you believe it until you have convinced yourself that you believe it, and eventually you will actually believe it.
One of the problems with having people pray about the truthfulness of the Church’s claims is that it is set up so that the only acceptable answer is one that affirms the Church. At one of the last LDS history sites I visited, I had a nice long, pleasant, conversation with an older gentleman about the church and he challenged me to pray about the Book of Mormon, so I told him a bit about my journey into and out of the LDS Church.
When I finished my story I said, “what if I were to tell you that after years of praying I received an unmistakable and undeniable witness from God that the Book of Mormon and all that came because of it is not of God, and is in fact, quite contrary to God’s word?” The man I had been conversing with, the man in charge of the visitor center and the history sites there, said he would have to say my answer was not from God.
“Oh, I see ” I said, “so if I get the answer you want me to than it is from God and if I don’t it is from the devil?” At this point the man politely insisted I was I oversimplifying it, but I don’t think so. The Church, for obvious and logical reasons, never talks about or places focus or importance on any claimed spiritual witness that denies the truth of the Church. Some members and leaders will even say it is the spirit of the devil deceiving you, but if it is that easy for the devil to fool a person into thinking he is the spirit of God than why pray at all? If it is true that the devil can make a person think it is God’s spirit telling him or her the Church is false than why can’t the opposite be true? If it is true than how can anyone be sure of any spiritual witness? For those exact reasons, Christianity urges people to follow logic reason and evidence and not merely a good or warm feeling. A good dinner and a myriad of other things, including a feel good movie, can give a person a good feeling and a burning of the bosom. Does that mean God is saying they are true and of him?
When the nice man insisted that I again pray about the Book of Mormon I said, “I can’t ask again, look where that got Martin Harris!” Any person who is familiar with the history of the LDS Church knows why that statement was significant, but for those of you who are not familiar with the history I will explain.
LDS tradition holds that during the translation of The Book of Mormon, Martin Harris was not only serving as a scribe but also bankrolling the publication of the book and his wife was understandably questioning the truth of it and thinking her husband was being swindled by a charismatic young fraud, especially since he had to put their farm up for collateral for the loan to publish the book. Mrs Harris asked her husband to bring some of the translated papers to her and let her to see them so she may know for herself. At first when Martin Harris made the request of Joseph Smith it was flatly denied, but after much prodding the two prayed about it again and God permitted Martin to show the pages to his wife and no one else.
Nearly as soon as Martin Harris returned home with the papers they were lost or stolen from him, and while it can’t be proven, it is believed that Mrs Harris took the sixteen pages to prove Joseph was not a prophet when he tried to translate the same thing again. Of course, Joseph covered all his bases, so to speak, and said he was commanded not to translate that part again but to move on, and Martin was no longer allowed to help with the book, other than paying for it that is.
As was bound to happen, one day in my mission I bore my testimony to a person that was having none of it. I was politely but forcefully slapped in the face with the fact that firm and unshaken faith in something untrue does not make it true, because if that was the case, I would have to convert to Islam. After all, I don’t know any Christians who would willingly and happily die for their caused while taking out innocent people, including children. The mental hospitals are also full of people with unshaken faith in absurd and fallacious views on life and the world.
In LDS missionary lingo, “tracking” is when missionaries knock on stranger’s doors, and while it is the absolute worst method of finding converts, the Church insists on missionaries doing it, partially because if done in accordance with the Church training it often strengthens the missionary’s faith. With one of the Christians I tracked into, it immediately became obvious that his knowledge of my church far surpassed mine and he exploited it to its fullest.
I was asked to recite the stories of the angels that supposedly visited Joseph Smith, and than I was asked whether or not Smith had asked any of them to shake his hand. At the time I had forgot about the pertinent verses in the Doctrine and Covenants and had no idea where the conversation was going, but I was a bit nervous. Once I confirmed that Joseph Smith had not asked any of the spirits to shake hands the man had me open and read D&C section 129 that reads:
There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones—
For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.
When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.
If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.
If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear—
Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message.
If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.
These are three grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God
Once I read the verses in question I was asked to explain them so he could be sure I fully understood them. Satisfied with my understanding of the passage, the man laid bare the implications of Joseph Smith not asking to shake hands with the spiritual visitors. I was also pointed to the Bible verses that say the devil can appear as an angel of light and even deceive the elect.
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” -Matthew 24:24
Joseph Smith deceived and mislead multitudes and the Bible also tells us why false prophets and false Christs are able deceive people.
“And no wonder, since Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” -2 Corinthians 11:14
Feelings don’t mean anything in relation to truth. Sometimes we have a misunderstanding with a loved on and “feel” that they don’t love us. Sometimes we have a feeling that if we put our money into a specific slot machine that we will win or that if we do a specific ritual that our team will win. My ex-wife accused my mother of some horrible things that all evidence showed was false, and when asked why she believe my mother had done it she said, “I don’t have any evidence and have never seen her do it, but it is a feeling I get.”
My hope and prayer is that everyone who is in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or thinking about joining it would look critically at the wealth of information available, compare the claims of the Church against the Bible, and accept the facts where they lead instead of just following the line that is pointed out to them by the LDS Church. My hope and prayer is that everyone would follow the Christ of the Bible and not be blinded by false teachers and false prophets that promise things God never promised. I pray that all would come to Christ, the true Christ, and be saved by his mercy and grace.
Atkins, Michelle . “Libel Laws and the Truth: What If the Statement is True?” Online posting. Dec . 2009 . Legal Zoom . 22 July. 2017 <https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/libel-laws-and-the-truth-what-if-the-statement-is-true>.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints . The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints . “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo.” 22 July . 2018 <https://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-in-kirtland-and-nauvoo?lang=eng> .
(C.O.P.) Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Missionary Gospel Study Program. Salt Lake City : The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints . 1988 .
The Book of Mormon . Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints . 2013 .
Doctrine and Covenants . Salt Lake City : The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ,1979 .
New International Version Bible . Grand Rapids : Zondervan , 2011 .
Packer, Boyd K. “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect.” BYU Studies Quarterly 21:13 (Summer 1981) : 259 - 278 .