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Monday, April 22, 2019

10. Letter to Family

 Dear Family and Friends,

If you are reading this letter it means I’m already dead…just kidding, I’m not dying. It means you have made the cut as someone important enough in my life to include you in this information. It may seem strange receiving a letter from me out of nowhere. Hopefully it will make sense shortly. I really wanted to get out and make clear everything that I have been thinking and feeling for numerous months now. You may have questions as you continue reading but please read to the end before asking as the letter may help you understand.

The reason I am giving you this is because I no longer believe that the LDS church is the one true church. I realize that this may be an earth-shattering thing to hear, but I have not made this decision lightly. One thing that I need to make clear is the reasons for my decision. But before discussing the reasons why, I want to make clear what did not happen in coming to this conclusion.  I am not making this decision because I am lazy and just want to stop attending church because it’s hard to attend. I was not offended. I did not get to this place because I want to sin. I also did not make this decision because of any problems in my personal life or unresolved sin. This was, and is, a very difficult decision that I agonized over for many months and was based on real issues that I have discovered. There are many preconceived notions of why people stop believing in the church and I want to make clear that these things are not part of my decision.

As for what did happen, it started with small doubts. For many years, I have not seen direct blessings from certain aspects of the church. For example, I did not feel energized or recharged from attending church. It was stressful, and I did not feel more blessed by attending. I noticed that people outside the church could be just as happy as people within the church. People that did not pay their tithing were often just as well off as those that did pay tithing. I questioned the idea that I, as a member of the church, was happier or received more blessings than those outside the church. I was open with [my wife] about my feelings and we had many discussions throughout the years. We pushed each other to continue doing the things the church taught, hoping for the peace and happiness that was promised.

Last fall/winter, I reached out to friends about some of my concerns. I approached several faithful members who counselled to continue reading scriptures, praying, and to generally remain faithful. They bore their testimony that the church is true and that things would improve. I renewed my efforts to do these things in the hope that I could find comfort. After a time of not feeling better, I began to question how long I needed to be doing these things without receiving the promised blessings of comfort and the spirit. In time, I also reached out to other active friends who believe that the church has good within it, as well as some truth, but that told me there were difficult issues within church history and doctrines.

Needless to say, I wanted to determine for myself the truth of these things, so I began researching. It began with the LDS Gospel Topics Essays on that discuss the church’s official position on difficult questions. Some of these include: DNA studies of Native American people, the rock in the hat translation of the Book of Mormon, the several different versions of the First Vision, the actual practice of polygamy, black people not being allowed to receive the priesthood or to be sealed to their families in the temple, and the incorrect translation of the Book of Abraham scrolls. These major issues within the church’s history began to cause a lot of stress and concern.

To try to find faithful answers, I also researched Fair Mormon, which is an unofficial church website made by faithful members that try to give answers to difficult questions about the church. These sources seemed to answer some questions but other difficult questions remained. And upon closer inspection, many answers did not make sense. As the search for answers continued, I researched several sources of information. A book called Rough Stone Rolling, which is an honest biography about Joseph Smith written by Richard Bushman, an active member of the church and a church historian. He stated, “For the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained.” This statement came from an active member who is a professional in church history! I read a book called An Insiders View of Mormon Origins, which was a summary of 20 years of research began by an active member working for the Church Educational System who eventually lost his testimony because of the things he learned. Mormon Think is a website that attempts to relay the truth about church history and difficult questions based on the best evidence available. The CES letter is a document written by a previous member based on difficult questions that he could not make sense of.

I focused on keeping an open mind when investigating all aspects of the church, both from sources inside and outside the church. I decided that I would determine for myself whether claims were true or not regardless of who made what claim. I would go back and forth between the church answers and the answers from sources outside the church. By looking deeper than what was said in the documents, through researching the actual source material these documents were based on, I determined that the most accurate answers were from the sources external to the church. These answers led me to the conclusion that the church was not what I had believed. 

To make a long story short, I stopped believing that the church is the only true church on the earth due to many factors. These factors include concerns with church history, certain past and present doctrines as well as changes to doctrines, actions of past and more modern church leaders, and the belief that a person can learn truth from spiritual feelings alone, among other things. I won’t go into details as it is not my intention to force any information on you or to change anyone’s minds on their beliefs; however, after you finish this letter, if you have any questions to further understand how I got here, please feel free to ask. 

I shared my conclusions with [my wife] and it was very upsetting for both of us. During this process it was very important to us to keep communication open as neither of us wanted this to pull our marriage apart, as this is the most challenging thing we have faced in our relationship. We talked, laughed, and did our fair share of crying. 

During this process, a statement by President Hinckley kept coming to my mind, “Either the church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and Kingdom of God, or it is nothing.” Another quote that fits my experience is by Martin Luther King Jr.: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him he is right.” It is my conscience that led me to make this decision and to share this information with you. I agree that I have had many positive experiences in the church. It made me who I am. It led me to my amazing wife and family. I believed that it was true and acknowledge that I have had spiritual experiences, but I had to re-evaluate what those experiences actually meant.

As far as the kids, we have not told them anything. We have not completely decided how to bring them into this situation, so please don’t discuss this with them yet. We realize the importance of doing this in a timely manner, but we just want to figure out the best way to proceed. While [my wife] has some concerns with the church, she believes there are benefits to attending and I support her in this and still attend myself. We feel it is important that we are both open and honest with the kids, so it may end up as a, “Mom believes this, Dad believes this,” but we want our kids to be able to exercise their free agency as to what they choose to believe. Our main concern is to continue to work together to raise our kids to be good people and help them to be happy and healthy individuals.

At this point I want to restate that I did not make this decision lightly. I realize that there is good in the church. I worry that I will be judged for my decision and am somewhat terrified of how people may react. I know how people think and feel about those that stop believing in the church, both because I have witnessed it and because I have judged others myself after they have stopped believing. Please don’t judge me. Please don’t think that I’m weak for taking this path. I can’t express to you so that you would truly understand the feelings of loss, hurt, and betrayal that I have felt for months learning that the church isn’t what I was taught it was. This has been a very painful process. I realize that you can’t understand how I could come to this place and that you believe that I have been deceived. I did not want to end up here. I wanted the church to be true. I wanted life to remain simple. But I cannot ignore what I have learned. There is a saying I’ve read recently that fits perfectly with my situation: “When an honest man discovers he is mistaken, he will either cease being mistaken, or cease being honest.” I feel that I have to stand up and be open to you about my current position as well as how and why I came to this point.

My purpose in writing this letter is not to convince you of anything. I’m not trying to destroy your faith. My reason is to help you understand my process in getting to this place. I respect you enough to give you this information myself rather than you having to hear it from someone else.

I want to make it clear that I want to be involved with you and your family regarding church. I acknowledge the positive aspects of the church that you benefit from. While I don’t agree with everything the church teaches, I am not antagonistic. As I said before, as of this moment I continue to attend. As church leaders have said, I will take whatever good and truth that is there.

Please understand that I am still the same person. I don’t know how life is going to look and it is frightening, but I am still a good person. I am not bad or sinful for looking into these things; I have been seeking truthful answers to difficult questions. I love you guys so much and hope you understand, and I hope my relationship with you and your family remains close and strong. 

One final thing, while [my wife] and I realize this may be an uncomfortable topic for you, this has also been very difficult for us as we haven’t had many people to talk about this with.  We both feel that having support from those we love by just checking in on how we’re doing instead of ignoring the elephant in the room would help a lot.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

9. My Reaction/Stages of Grief

I’m excited to move on now that the past three posts on specific issues within the church are out of the way. I felt like I needed to include them so people can understand. That has been one of the biggest difficulties in this whole process; not feeling understood. I wanted members to realize that I had valid reasons for my disbelief, rather than being labelled lazy, offended, or a sinner. Like I have said before, I have spent months researching and the only conclusion that I could come to after all that time was that, while the church and its leaders are doing the best they know how, the truth claims cannot be sustained. But now that I have written that piece of my story, I can move on to other aspects of this process.

But before I do, I wanted to relay a story. I attended church last Sunday. I wasn’t struck by lightning. I didn’t spontaneously combust. And I didn’t get throat-punched. I was pleasantly surprised! Seriously though, I need to say that this last Sunday was really positive. Members were very friendly, which they typically are. The message from the pulpit was very welcoming. And while I did not agree with all aspects of what was taught, I felt like I was beginning to be able to look outward rather than only inward while at church. I saw the meaning and purpose behind what was being taught and I could appreciate that. I seemed to be able to think less about how this message could be applied to me in my situation of disbelief and more about what the message tries to convey for the believing members. The lessons were essentially that all are welcome and that we should seek to continually improve ourselves. I could generally appreciate and agree with those messages! So, I believe it is becoming easier for me to let go of some of the more difficult emotions that I had struggled with in the past. I’m sure negative feelings will arise in the future, but I’m hoping that my path continues to become easier as time goes on.

Anyways, to summarize where we are at this point, I researched for months into the history and current practices of the church. While I believe that there is a lot of good in the church, the history did not add up and I was able to see certain negative aspects within some church practices that I did not realize until I was able to take a step back. While this all began for me around December of 2017, the process of researching took me to early July 2018 before I had determined that I could no longer believe the truth claims of the church. This post will be about how I felt as I began to realize that I could no longer believe what I had been taught over the course of my life. The five stages of grief exemplify my process, as I definitely was grieving. I was grieving the loss of my planned future, of my belief, of everything I had done in the past leading up to that point believing it was for a purpose. I was grieving the loss of my community, and possibly my family. I was grieving the loss of relationships (as things inevitably and unfortunately change) and most importantly, the surety of my afterlife. People typically don’t go through the stages of grief in order, nor do they complete a stage then move on to another. I fluctuated between each of the stages throughout my process, and continuing through to the present, but I definitely went through every one.

Stage 1. Denial
This was likely the first stage I encountered. As I researched, I began to feel overwhelmed with the information I was learning. I vacillated between shocked disbelief to severe anxiety about the history I was uncovering. I wanted the church to be true. I couldn’t imagine my life outside it. I would have arguments with myself in my mind trying to find ways to make it work. Before all this, I had my life laid out before me. I knew what to expect. I denied that this information could be correct. I denied that these things I was reading were true. I would research and re-research, looking at the same information over and over. I admit, there was information that I did not believe. I was able to scrap poor sources of information through careful research. But there was too much accurate, believable information to throw it all out. As I researched, there were times when I had to just throw my hands in the air and walk away due to the frustration and fear I felt. What would this mean for my marriage? What would this mean for my family? What would this mean for my afterlife? I kept looking at the problems from different angles, but I could not make it work. No matter how I tried, no matter what direction I looked at it, there were no good answers available for many of the issues. I slowly allowed myself to entertain the idea that it was possible that the correct answers weren’t the ones I had been hoping for. Perhaps the correct answers were the difficult, scary answers; that the church wasn’t true. As soon as I was able to at the very least be open to the possibility that the church might not be all I thought it was, the floodgates opened and it all made sense. It’s not that I secretly wanted the church to be false, it’s that I could no longer believe that it was true due to the evidence I had. I began to accept the reality of the situation. Not that I enjoyed it or was okay with it. I accepted that I had to start thinking about life moving forward and what that might look like.

Stage 2. Anger
This stage was perhaps the strongest for me. I’m typically very in control of my emotions. I’d like to think that I’m a logical thinker and focused on what I can and cannot control. As such, it takes a lot for me to become upset. It takes even more for me to show that I’m upset. But I felt it this time. Before I told my wife that I no longer believed, I was attending church regularly. I would sit and listen to the talks and lessons given and I would feel horrible. I would grind my teeth when my children heard messages about people that no longer believe. I would be upset when I knew that something being taught was not historically accurate.

While this example was more recent, it describes my frustration well. The church recently had its General Conference. Leaders of the church give talks from Salt Lake City, Utah and these messages are broadcast to church buildings and over the internet so members can watch at home. Members are strongly encouraged to watch the 8-10 hours of these talks over Saturday and Sunday on Conference weekends. In a message by the current president and prophet of the church, Russel M. Nelson, he stated that those that do not remain in the church will not be permitted to live with their families in the afterlife. Those that do not fully embrace the gospel of the LDS church are “choosing to settle for second best.” That we are “settling for a most meager roof over your head throughout all eternity.” He suggested that those that have distanced themselves from the church should “do the spiritual work to find out for yourselves. Time is running out.” Statements like these are infuriating. What this man has no idea about is that I have done the work! I prayed with everything that I had while I was going through this process! If God wanted me to have an experience, I would have had one. Nelson goes on to say, “If you truly love your family and if you desire to be exalted with them throughout eternity, pay the price now – through serious study and prayer – to know these eternal truths and then to abide by them.” This is spiritual blackmail. How am I expected to sit in church hearing these messages and have my family listen? How is it okay that my family hears that I don’t love them enough to work harder, to put the effort in, and to live what the church teaches. I have seriously studied and have come to a conclusion that I believe is true. I came to the only conclusion that made any sense at all. I have prayed. There was no answer. If my child was struggling and came to me for help, I would IMMEDIATELY be there for them. I would do anything for them. So why wasn’t God there when I needed Him? Nelson doesn’t get to tell me that I don’t love my family enough. He doesn’t get to say that I need to pay the price now. I have paid the price. I paid ten percent of my income for decades. I paid in time, effort, and belief. I have paid the price by going through this faith transition with little to no support. We have had several friends and family members ask how we are doing and talk with us openly, but it has been the exception rather than the rule. To return to the talk, it’s not a matter of making a choice to not abide because I deep down know it’s true and I just want to take the easy road. This road is not easy. No one would choose to follow this road if there were any other option available. Nelson does not give talks to people that are struggling with doubt or who no longer believe. He gives talks for active members in order to keep them in the church. Because the stories that are told about those that leave are inaccurate and horrible.

Wow, I guess I’m not completely through my anger phase…But messages like these were extremely harmful for me. Not because I believed them, but because my family would. And because the leaders of the church are so woefully unprepared to understand people that leave the church that its frustrating. They have no clue what we go through. And it hurts. As I went through this, I felt irritable at home. I felt betrayed by the founder of the church, Joseph Smith. I felt betrayed by current leaders. I felt betrayed and abandoned by God. This led to anger, and underneath that anger was pain.

Stage 3. Bargaining
I had to think about this stage as it was less apparent than denial and anger. But I did go through bargaining as well. At first, I bargained with God. As my doubt was growing and my faith hanging on by a thread, I attended the temple one last time. After completing an ordinance there, I sat in the Celestial Room after the ordinance was complete. This room signifies the peace and beauty of heaven and we are taught that it is here that we are as close to God as we can possibly be. As I sat there, I pled with God to answer my prayers. I held nothing back as I sought Him out and promised Him that I would do anything that He required of me if he would simply answer my prayers. But I received nothing. I’m sure some will find reasons why my prayers were not answered, and that’s fine. I know that I sought out answers from God and there is no adequate reason why I should not have received them.

I also bargained with my wife in the hope that we could maintain the status quo. I was terrified of our relationship breaking down, so I did what I thought I needed to. Initially I told her that I could fake belief. I promised that I would continue attending church and that I would pretend to believe. I honestly thought that this would be sustainable and that I could do it. I wanted to do it for my family. But in the end, I couldn’t. It was a battle between doing what I thought I needed to in order to keep my family together and my integrity. Luckily my wife and family were supportive of me and my process, as I could not continue living this inauthentic life. I already discussed the anger. It worsened as I made attempts to internalize my frustrations by not speaking out. I felt guilty for not standing up for what I believed in.

At times, I wanted to go back in time. This is a type of bargaining. Wishing that I could reverse the clock and forget what I had learned. Ignorance is bliss as the saying goes…but this was impossible. I tried pretending that it was okay. That nothing had changed. But I couldn’t do this for long. I know members that choose to stay in the church. Some try to be a catalyst for change from within. They speaking out without letting others know they no longer believe. Others choose to continue pretending. They find a way to cope through the façade, which I was not able to do myself. But as I stated in a previous post, research has found that those that choose to attend church while no longer believing exact the highest price in the form of mental anguish. I hope those people are okay and I’m available for anyone to talk to if needed.

Stage 4. Depression
As the reality of what I had learned solidified, I had periods of depression. While I understand that I did not meet diagnostic criteria for clinically significant depression, I definitely had moments of very low mood. I had previously thought I had life figured out. I thought I had all the answers to all the questions that really mattered. But I discovered that I didn’t have any of that. I was unsure about what my future would look like moving forward. Would my wife leave me? Would I only get to see my kids four days in a month? What would my family believe about me due to my change in belief? As I ran these questions and others through my mind incessantly, there were days that I hated every minute of that day. I didn’t want to get out of bed (I always did but I didn’t feel like it). I didn’t want to go to work. I wanted to call in sick and go home early. But on certain days I didn’t want to be at home either. There was no way to escape these feelings.

Some members will likely say that I had lost the spirit and this caused my low mood. That this was caused by being led astray by Satan. Or that I could never feel joy like I could if I was an active believer. I don’t believe its fair to paint me with this brush. While I have had very low times, I have also had many joyful times. Being able to 100% authentically support and empathize with my gay and trans clients brings me feelings exactly like those I used to attribute to the spirit. I have had spiritual experiences telling others about special moments I’ve had being in nature. I have had many great, happy, and joyful times. Just because I have had low times doesn’t mean its because of my disbelief. Members of the church can become depressed as well. People in the LDS church don’t have a monopoly on spiritual experiences or happiness. Just like members aren’t immune to negative events, bad times, and depression.

I felt low because my life was upside down. There was no clear path forward. I realize that I have been repeating myself. I know I’ve said certain things multiple times in this post as well as similar things in past posts. But part of my purpose in writing these is to help people understand. Because I have not felt understood. The things I repeat were the things that were constantly on my mind. Members of the church may think they know what my process has been. But unless you have spoken to me at length about it all, no one really knows. If you are leaning on what has been taught in church about those that leave, those narratives are about as far away from accurate as is humanly possible. So, to help you understand, I can say that I was in pain. In certain ways, I am still in pain.

Stage 5. Acceptance
I am not quite here yet. I do believe I am getting closer but it’s still a way off. I am hoping that by the time I complete these blog posts (I have around eleven more with possibly some guest posts) I will be ready to move forward. Which will hopefully be by the end of the summer.

There is a saying in the church that people can leave the church but they can’t leave it alone. I don’t believe this is a fair statement either. On the one hand, people can leave the church but the church can’t leave them alone. Personally, I want to continue with any and all positive relationships, regardless of an individual’s beliefs. But there are constant reactivation efforts for those that request that this not occur. Members are told to never give up on people and to continue contacting them even though they may not want contact. Even if only by letter once per year, there is still contact. The pot does not get to call the kettle black. On the other hand, those that leave have a lot of processing and unpacking to do. We grew up believing a thing so completely that when that belief ends, it takes years to sort out. We cannot be expected to just walk away.

The path to acceptance is almost always a long one when speaking of loss. It doesn’t mean that we are okay with the situation but that we acknowledge the reality of it and find a way to learn to live with that new reality. I realize that I have a future ahead of me, a very positive and fulfilling future, but it is a bit different than the one I had planned. For instance, couples in the church often plan to leave for a mission for the church after retirement, whether it is a church history mission, a proselyting mission, or a service mission. My wife and I will never go on a church mission together. There were difficult discussions and feelings of loss about this as well. But we have also discussed alternatives, such as leaving to a struggling country to build schools or dig wells for drinking water. So, while life may not look exactly as we had originally envisioned it, life will continue to reflect what is important to us.

I currently have to take each day moment-to-moment. My optimism, mood, and outlook on the future fluctuates but, in the end, I know that my family and I will be okay. We will keep some relationships but unfortunately have to let others go. I obviously don’t want to let go of any, but I have come to the realization that no matter what I do, some people may not be able to remain comfortable with me considering where I’m at. We will find a way to move forward. But I hope that as I continue this blog, members of the church will begin to realize my purpose in writing it: a means of understanding. Understanding what this is actually like. Understanding the whys. The process. The pain. And eventually, the healing. The progress. The happiness. The joy.

I hope that friends and family continue to read these. I know these posts may become tiresome or uninteresting, if they aren’t already there. But I hope that by reading, we can get to a place where we are comfortable again. I don’t like these things constantly being the elephant in the room. It seems like the expectation is that I should be able to continue to speak about church, missions, callings, etc. while the struggles of this faith transition are not discussed. It has been…disappointing. But part of my journey towards acceptance is that I accept this state of affairs may have to continue for many of my relationships. And I am willing to do this. But I hope we can get to a place where at the very least I’m understood.

My next post is already written, I plan on posting sometime next week. It will include the letter I gave to my family and close friends explaining my disbelief. I find it somewhat sad that I needed to write something like this but I have found that it is a common occurrence among those in my position. I hope it helps those in a similar situation to mine as well as increasing the understanding I wrote about earlier.

Friday, April 12, 2019

8. What Made Me Lose My Faith Part 3 – Problems the Church Doesn’t Acknowledge


Just as a reminder, as in the last post, don’t read this if you don’t want to know or believe your life would be significantly negatively impacted by a faith crisis or faith transition. If you do read on, do so with your spouse. If you look up information, either on the Gospel Topics Essays, at Fair Mormon, or outside sources, take the journey with your spouse. I will also ask the same question as I did in the last post: If the church is not true, would you actually and honestly want to know?

Before I get into this post, I need to put something out there. I’ve been struggling to complete this post. My first five articles were based on my personal experiences, feelings, and reactions. I felt really good about writing those and putting words to what I was going through. It helped me to cope and externalize as not too many church members close to me reached out to specifically ask how I was doing or what I was going through. While I can definitely understand the whys behind those decisions, it was still difficult. I felt isolated and writing helped. But my last two posts, as well as this one, have been about specific issues within the church. I have not enjoyed writing or posting these. I feel like it is important to write about the issues I came across in my research, so those that desire to understand my journey can have that opportunity, but I feel anxious about posting these. Three of my kids continue to attend church activities. When I go to the church to drop them off, I worry what the reactions will be from members there. I worry that I am driving my church attending family and friends away. I understand that I don’t get to have my cake and eat it too. I don’t get to choose the consequences of my actions; the dice fall as they will. But I want people to know that I am not gleefully posting these issues with the purpose of ruining the church for people. I am actually looking forward to moving on from posting about the issues and going back to writing about my experiences.

But before I do that, this post needs to be completed, which is about issues I have discovered that have not been acknowledged by the church. This will not be an exhaustive list. There are many problems that I just don’t have the space or time to write down. But I will include the major ones that I believe were most impactful for me in my faith transition. The issues that I will discuss in this post are:

1.       Book of Mormon Problems
2.       Validity of Spiritual Experiences in Determining Truth
3.       Prophets’ Testimony and Revelatory Process
4.       Discernment/Hofmann Forgeries
5.       Church Finances
6.       The Second Anointing

1.       Book of Mormon Problems
In the church we are taught that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on the earth. This statement came from the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith. We were told that because this book came directly through revelation from God that there were no problems with it. There were no translation or copying errors, as there were in the Bible, because it came directly from the source of scripture, namely God. Some members are aware that there have been changes to the Book of Mormon over the years, but we were reassured that these changes were grammatical or to correct mistakes in printing, essentially to bring it back to what it was when it was spoken from Joseph Smith’s mouth. What many members aren’t aware is that there have been close to four thousand changes over time. There have been around fifteen editions of the Book of Mormon over the years. Sometimes the changes have been spelling and grammatical, it is true. But even these changes are problematic when you know how the book itself was translated. Multiple accounts from different individuals, including Joseph’s scribes, tell us that Joseph would place his seer stone in his hat then place his face in the hat in order to block out light. A character in “Reformed Egyptian” would appear in the stone and below it, a word in English. The next character and word would not appear on the stone until the previous word had been documented correctly, without mistakes. So, following this pattern, there should be absolutely no mistakes in spelling or word choice. But there were a significant number of these exact changes over the decades. I have read the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon and confirmed these changes for myself. Sections that used to say that Jesus was God or the Eternal Father or the Everlasting God were changed to the Son of God or the Son of the Eternal Father, etc. The incorrect plural of seraphims/Cherubims was changed to the correct plural seraphim/Cherubim at a later time. As discussed before, a racist section stating that the Native Americans would become a white and delightsome people was changed to pure and delightsome. Several places where there was excessive usage of “And it came to pass” were removed. Spelling mistakes such as “phrensied” were corrected. Misusing the word subsequent. Making up the word “numerority”. None of these errors should have crept into the earliest print of the Book of Mormon considering the method of translation.

The Book of Mormon is full of anachronisms. This was a major issue for me during my faith crisis. The definition of anachronism is attributing something to a period to which it does not belong. An example of this would be saying that I found a long-lost play by Shakespeare in my attic. Upon reading the script, I discover that the main character owns a Walkman. I know that Walkmans (Walkmen?) weren’t invented until 1979. Shakespeare lived from 1564-1616. That means it is impossible that this play was written by Shakespeare because a Walkman is anachronistic. It is not possible for Shakespeare to know what a Walkman was during his lifetime as it was not invented until later. When writing the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith took things that he was familiar with and placed them in the Americas; things that did not belong there at the time the Book of Mormon was supposed to take place. Examples of anachronisms in the Book of Mormon include: horses, elephants, cattle, domesticated swine, wheat, silk, chariots (including wheel technology), and steel (including swords, and the technology used to create them). Joseph Smith didn’t know that these things were either introduced to the Americas after Columbus arrived or they never were present in the Americas at all (I’m looking at you, elephant). Along with these anachronistic problems, Joseph did not include extremely common things that were native to the Americas at the time. Things like jaguars, monkeys, bison, turkeys, dogs, llamas, deer, corn, squash, cocoa beans, etc. He did get serpents and goats correct though…But by placing these things in the Americas during a time when it was impossible for these things to be present, Joseph reveals that he was not writing a true history.

Which finally brings me to the meaning of tapir in the title of my blog. A specific LDS apologist suggested that the word “horse” in the Book of Mormon didn’t actually mean horse. It could mean some other four-legged creature that was similar to a horse but that was actually native to the Americas, such as a tapir. While this theory has fallen out of favor, it caused the post-Mormon community to accept the tapir as a mascot. The image of the Native Americans riding tapirs into battle or tapirs pulling their (anachronistic) chariots was humorous to say the least. So instead of the term “Straight from the horse’s mouth,” I decided to substitute horse with tapir for the title. “Straight from the tapir’s mouth.” I thought it was clever, anyway…

Other issues with the Book of Mormon include King James Version Bible translation errors and passages from Deutero-Isaiah. Members of the church consider the King James Version of the Bible to be the most correct version. Bible scholars agree that this is not the case as there are many other versions that were translated more closely to the original, ancient documents that comprise the Bible. There are translation errors in the KJV that are also found in the Book of Mormon. If God were directing Joseph Smith on the exact words to include in the Book of Mormon, God would have corrected these errors by giving Joseph the correct translations. But this was not the case. This greatly increases the chances that Joseph was copying from the specific 1769 edition of the KJV Bible which the family owned, as these errors were from that specific edition, and including these passages in the Book of Mormon. Bible scholars also agree that Isaiah was written by more than one author. Early Isaiah passages are from Proto-Isaiah while later passages are from Deutero-Isaiah. The problem here is that Deutero-Isaiah wasn’t written until after the people from the Book of Mormon left Jerusalem. So, there would have been no way for these passages of scripture to be brought with them when they left Jerusalem or to have been included on the Gold Plates, since they weren’t written yet. Joseph Smith would not have known about the KJV errors or about Deutero-Isaiah before adding these Bible verses into the Book of Mormon.

Many of the themes in the Book of Mormon were common in the early 1820s. The revival culture in the Palmyra area where Joseph lived is extremely similar to several sermons in the Book of Mormon. In both there were settings where the people would camp/pitch tents; preaching was designed to produce a powerful emotional impact; the conversion pattern of being convinced of sin, prayer for forgiveness, receiving a calming assurance of being forgiven, accompanied by trembling, tears, falling, etc.; denunciations of those that believe all will be saved no matter what they do in life; denouncing the belief that God doesn’t interact with mankind; and descriptions that humans are in a fallen, degenerate state. Anti-masonic temperament was high at the time and is akin to secret combinations in the Book of Mormon. Richard Bushman, the believing member who wrote the book Rough Stone Rolling 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…” Blake Ostler, another LDS scholar stated, “Many Book of Mormon doctrines are best explained by the nineteenth-century theological milieu.” Joseph should not have been able to add 19th century theology into the Book of Mormon considering every word was supposed to come by revelation from God.

There are numerous impossibilities written about in the Book of Mormon. I will only write about one: the Jaredite submarines. We are taught that around 2200 BC, God commanded a group of people to build 8 submersible boats in order to traverse the ocean. Considering transoceanic travel was unheard of for thousands of years, this would be an impossible feat. These ships were constructed to be submersible when waves crashed against them, generally like a submarine. They were completely closed off except for a hole at the top and bottom of the ship that could be opened or shut when needed. Now imagine taking a year long voyage in one of these with flocks and herds (male and female of every kind), swarms of bees, and fish. These submarines would not only carry human passengers and these creatures, but enough food and water for all for a year’s journey. There being only one hole that could be open at a time, there was no ventilation for breathing or the gasses that would be created. Can you imagine how much even one cow eats, and excretes, during a year long journey? Where were the stores of grass and water that would have to have been hundreds if not thousands of pounds themselves? And factor in that these ships were made to be tossed on the sea. With bees. And poop. And extremely heavy animals. The food would be ruined, the water spilled, bones broken, etc. And this is considering you could even fit the amount of food and water in these ships with the animals and your family. This does not sound like the design of an all-knowing God. It sounds impossible.

There is an account of Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon, taking characters that Joseph Smith copied from the Gold Plates to a scholar named Charles Anthon. In the church we are taught that Professor Anthon stated that “…the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. [Harris] then showed him those not yet translated, and said they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic"; and that they were "true characters." According to Harris, Anthon wrote Harris a letter of authenticity declaring the fragment to contain true Egyptian characters. Anthon was also reported to have confirmed the translation of these characters as correct. When informed that an angel of God had revealed the characters to Smith, Anthon reportedly tore up the authentication stating that there was no such thing as angels and asked Harris to bring the plates to him for translation.” Except there are numerous problems with this account. First, Professor Anthon repeatedly denied ever authenticating these characters. He stated, “The whole story about my having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be 'reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics' is perfectly false .... I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick, perhaps a hoax…” Anthon stated that it was all “a scheme to cheat the farmer [Harris] of his money.” In a later account, Anthon stated, “The import of what I wrote was, as far as I can now recollect, simply this, that the marks in the paper appeared to be merely an imitation of various alphabetical characters, and had, in my opinion, no meaning at all connected with them.” Considering that the ability to translate Egyptian by way of the Rosetta Stone had not made its way to America at this time makes Anthon’s supposed account that the characters were true Egyptian characters impossible. Anthon could not translate ancient Egyptian because no one in America could translate ancient Egyptian at that time. I have included two links, one from Wikipedia showing the “Caractors” that Martin showed to Professor Anthon, and another showing the similarities of many of these characters to English letters. Scholars today do not recognize any of these characters as legitimate letters or words from any language.

Scholars have identified many of the sources that Joseph Smith used to write the Book of Mormon, as well as the Book of Abraham (which, if you recall, is acknowledged by the church as being incorrectly translated), and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.

For the Book of Mormon, Joseph used copious amounts of the King James Version of the Bible. Not only did he copy passages straight from the 1769 or later edition, he mimicked several stories. For instance, the story of Alma and Paul are extremely similar. Joseph also had access to the Apocrypha, in particular 1st and 2nd Maccabees. The name Nephi is contained in 2 Maccabees. The book View of the Hebrews discusses how the Native Americans were one of the 10 tribes of Israel and came to the American continent and spread throughout the land. Joseph Smith did specifically mention that the View of the Hebrews supported the Book of Mormon (even though VotH was written before the Book of Mormon), so Joseph was very aware of it. Some would say that Joseph Smith plagiarized from this book but I disagree. Joseph got ideas from VotH and integrated them into the Book of Mormon rather than specifically plagiarizing from it. The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain was another source but it is clear that this book was plagiarized by Joseph Smith. The following link describes the parallels found through statistical analysis: This book was common reading material in schools of the day and uses a scriptural style. Chiasmus is contained in this work. The phrase “It came to pass” was common throughout. Warfare was discussed at length. Hebraisms, negative questions, adverbials, all of which were items that apologists used to claim the Book of Mormon was authentic and historical are also found in The Late War. And finally, The First Book of Napoleon was another book whose phraseology and word usage is extremely similar to the Book of Mormon. As with The Late War, The First Book of Napoleon contains rare 4-gram phrases, word strings of four words that are not common to the English language, that are shared between the Book of Mormon at a rate that is statistically significant. Meaning that Joseph read and used these phrases that he found in these books when writing the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Abraham’s sources are essentially completely accounted for in five 19th century works. All were available to Joseph in the Nauvoo library. These are: The Works of Flavius Josephus (biographical information about Abraham), a 1769 or later edition of the King James Version Bible (86% of Abraham 2, 4-5 come from Genesis 1, 2, 11, and 12), Philosophy of a Future State by Thomas Dick (19th century astronomical concepts), The Six Books of Proclus on the Theology of Plato by Thomas Taylor (especially volume 2, Newtonian astronomy and model of the universe, which have been discredited by modern Einsteinian models), and Joseph Smith’s study with Hebrew scholar Joshua Seixas in the winter of 1835-36 (Hebrew names and phrases). Another source for some of Joseph’s doctrine came from Emanuel Swedenborg, who wrote the book Heaven and Hell, which Joseph had access to. Similarities include three levels of heaven, compared to the sun, moon, and stars; marriage being essential to exaltation; the spirit world; one way to qualify for perdition is to know the truth and deny it; the law of consecration; and God as a man. For those that argue that the Book of Abraham makes sense, that Joseph couldn’t have come up with these ideas on his own, or that they just feel right must take account of these sources before determining the divine nature of these writings.

In a paper published in March 2017, two students at BYU, Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, stated they had “uncovered evidence that Smith and his associates used a readily available Bible commentary while compiling a new Bible translation, or more properly a revision of the King James Bible [The Joseph Smith Translation]. The commentary, Adam Clarke’s ‘Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments’, was extremely well known for Methodist theologians and biblical scholars alike, and was one of the most widely available commentaries in the mid-1820s and 1830s in America. Wilson and Wayment state that “the number of direct parallels between Smith’s translation and Adam Clarke’s biblical commentary is too numerous and explicit to posit happenstance or coincidental overlap. The parallels between the two texts number into the hundreds…”

This information severely discredits the authenticity and historicity of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Joseph did not receive revelation in order to write these books. He utilized the information that he had available and copied others ideas while calling them revelation.

2.       Validity of Spiritual Experiences in Determining Truth
Whether we are talking about missionaries teaching people about the church or members trying to gain or strengthen their faith, a scripture in the Book of Mormon is always discussed. Moroni 10:4-5 reads, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” So, essentially the way people can know if the Book of Mormon is true, or if the LDS church is true, is to pray about it. The belief is that God will answer your prayer by the Holy Ghost. Either a still small voice or a burning in the bosom will occur to tell you what is truth.

Except the problem with this idea is that every person from every religion has spiritual experiences testifying either that their church is true or they are part of the religion that God wants them to be in. How can people from different belief systems have experiences where God tells them they are doing what is right but they all come to different conclusions? If this is God’s perfect method of telling us His will, how is it possible that people can get completely different answers to the same questions? And to say that one person’s spiritual experiences are somehow more valid than someone else’s is the height of hubris and arrogance.

As I have stated before, I have had spiritual experiences myself, but I had to re-evaluate what they actually meant. I determined that feelings and spiritual experiences cannot tell us what is objective truth. Two of the most powerful videos I have seen in regards to what I am talking about here are in the following links. The first depicts real people from numerous religions and faiths saying exactly the same thing: that they know their church is true or their belief is correct. The method by which they know is prayer and feelings that God sends to them. In the second video, the important part starts at the ten-minute mark. It shows a man by the name of Marshall Applewhite. He suggests a way for people to know if what he says is true. He tells them to go into a private place and ask God. He says that God will tell them that his message is correct. The video goes on to show members of his following bearing their testimonies that they KNOW that what he teaches is the truth. This group was known as the Heaven’s Gate and in 1997, thirty-nine members of the group committed suicide. They did this because of their belief that God had answered their prayers, told them Applewhite’s message was true, and to join this group and follow its leader. We look at this now and believe they are naïve. They should have known better. But in the LDS church we are told that the prophet speaks for God. If he told us that Jesus was coming soon and to sell everything we as members have and to move to Utah, or Missouri, we would be expected to do so. It’s no different just because it’s a different religion. Trying to determine objective truth from a feeling is in no way accurate.

3.       Prophets’ Testimony and Revelatory Process
Most members of the church believe that the modern prophet and apostles see God or Christ regularly in order to run the church. Or perhaps they only see them on occasion or once, when they are called as an apostle or prophet. But members believe that these men have sure knowledge that Jesus runs this church. I will include several quotes from apostles and prophets to clarify this belief.

“I don’t think we’ll get it [a testimony] like Paul did on the road to - where an angel appeared to him, where Alma the Younger had a startling experience. The Lord used a few of those kinds of experiences, and they’re recorded in the scriptures to catch our attention and teach us the answer. But I’ve never had an experience like that and I don’t know anyone among the 1st Presidency or Quorum of the 12 who’ve had that kind of experience.” – Dallin H. Oaks, Multi-Stake Youth Fireside in Bellevue, WA, January 23, 2016.

Interviewer: As the world leader of the church, how are you in touch with God? Can you explain that for me?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I pray. I pray to Him. Night and morning. I speak with Him. I think He hears my prayers. As He hears the prayers of others. I think He answers them.
Interviewer: But more than that, because you’re leader of the Church. Do you have a special connection?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I have a special relationship in terms of the Church as an institution. Yes.
Interviewer: And you receive........
Gordon B. Hinckley: For the entire Church.
Interviewer: You receive?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Now we don't need a lot of continuing revelation. We have a great, basic reservoir of revelation. But if a problem arises, as it does occasionally, a vexatious thing with which we have to deal, we go to the Lord in prayer. We discuss it as a First Presidency and as a Council of the Twelve Apostles. We pray about it and then comes the whisperings of a still small voice. And we know the direction we should take and we proceed accordingly.
Interviewer: And this is a Revelation?
Gordon B. Hinckley: This is a Revelation.
Interviewer: How often have you received such revelations?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh, I don’t know. I feel satisfied that in some circumstances we’ve had such revelation. It’s a very sacred thing that we don’t like to talk about a lot. A very sacred thing.

-          Gordon B. Hinckley, Compass Interview, November 9, 1997

McComas: I should like to ask one question.  You say that the councilors are appointed by the president of the church.  How are the apostles selected?
Smith: In the first place they were chosen by revelation.  The council of the apostles have had a voice ever since in the selection of their successors.
McComas: When vacancies occurred thereafter, by what body were the vacancies in the twelve apostles filled?
Smith: Perhaps I may say in this way: Chosen by the body, the twelve themselves, by and with the consent and approval of the first presidency.
Hoar: Was there a revelation in regard to each of them?
Smith: No, sir; not in regard to each of them.  Do you mean in the beginning?
Hoar: I understand you to say that the original twelve apostles were selected by revelation?
Smith: Yes, sir.
Hoar: Through Joseph Smith?
Smith: Yes, sir; that is right.
Hoar: Is there any revelation in regard to the subsequent ones?
Smith:  No, sir; it has been the choice of the body.
McComas: Then the apostles are perpetuated in succession by their own act and the approval of the first presidency?
Smith: That is right.
Chairman: You have revelations, have you not?
Smith: I have never pretended to nor do I profess to have received revelations.  I never said I had a revelation except so far as God has shown me that so-called Mormonism is God’s divine truth; that is all.
Chairman: You say that was shown to you by God?
Smith: By inspiration.
Chairman: How by inspiration; does it come in the shape of a vision?
Smith: “The things of God knoweth no man but the spirit of God;” and I cannot tell you any more than that I received that knowledge and that testimony by the spirit of God.
Worthington: What was the last revelation that came to the church from the one authorized to give it as the law of the church?
Smith: Well, according to my best recollection, it must have been about 1882 [21 years prior].  The purport of the revelation was calling to the apostolate or apostleship two men, who are named in the revelation.
Worthington: Who was the president through whom that revelation came?
Smith: President John Taylor.
Worthington: You say that was the last one?
Smith: I do not now recall any since then except the manifesto.
Worthington: Except the manifesto?
Smith: Yes, except the manifesto.
Worthington: Then do I understand you to say the only revelation that has come to the church in the last twenty years is the one that says polygamy shall stop?
Smith: Since 1882?
Worthington: Yes, since 1882 – twenty-one years.
Smith:  Yes, sir; I think it is
-          President Joseph F. Smith, Reed Smoot Congressional Hearing, 1903

These quotes tell us several things about revelation to leaders of the church and how exactly prophets and apostles know that what they are doing is the will of God. The quote by Dallin H. Oaks tells us that none of the 1st Presidency or the Quorum of the 12 Apostles has ever seen God, Christ or angels. That is not the way God communicates with the leaders and it is not how they received a witness of the truthfulness of the LDS church. The interview with Gordon B. Hinckley tells us that the way God communicates with the prophets is that they pray and they “think” those prayers are answered. Hinckley specifically says the church doesn’t need a lot of continuing revelation. It is only when there is a problem that needs an answer. The way the leaders receive the answer is they pray, they discuss it as a group, and they feel the still small voice of the spirit. They do not see God. They do not see Christ. They do not have visions. They pray and feel the spirit in the exact same way everyone else in the church does. The final interview, with the president of the church at the time, Joseph F. Smith, tells us that apostles since the 1830s-40s are not chosen by revelation, they are essentially chosen by vote. Joseph F. goes on to say he had never received a revelation. He gained his testimony by the same way everyone else does, the spirit. A feeling. From his perspective, the only revelation that had been given in the 21 years prior was the Manifesto in 1890, ending the public practice of polygamy. Church sanctioned polygamous marriages continued until 1904, but that is a story for another day. So, to conclude, leaders of the church don’t know better than the regular members that Christ is real or that the LDS church is the one true church on the earth. They do not see Christ. They do not have visions. Revelation is infrequent and is through the exact same process as regular members get it, through feelings. Which begs the question, why don’t we see miracles like we hear about in the Bible? Joseph Smith saw numerous angelic beings, why don’t current leaders of the church?

The recent change in the November 2015 policy of exclusion is evidence of the process of decision making in the church. In November of 2015, the LDS church made an announcement. The children of gay parents would no longer be permitted to be baptized into the church. If they desired to join the church, they would have to wait until they turned 18 and renounce the lifestyle of their parents. Many members were extremely upset and hurt by the decision of the leaders of the church to withhold blessings to children. Jesus always allowed children to come to him. This decision was not Christlike. In describing this pronouncement, Russel M. Nelson, then an apostle, explained “This prophetic process was followed...with the recent additions to the Church's handbook, consequent to the legalization of same-sex marriage in some countries. Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord's will in this matter. Ever mindful of God's plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration. And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord [to prevent baptism for children of LGBT parents], each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson. Revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process...” Then, several days ago in April 2019, the leaders reversed this decision. A message from the First Presidency stated “These policy changes [to allow baptism for children of LGBT parents, reversing their previous decision] come after an extended period of counselling with our brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and after fervent, united prayer to understand the will of the Lord on these matters.” How could both of these decisions be revelation or the will of God? Did God change His mind less than four years later or is He the same, yesterday, today, and forever? Would God honestly cause that much pain then arbitrarily tell the leaders of the church to reverse the change? Or were the leaders of the church mistaken? Were they wrong in their belief that God led them to make that decision? Do they really know the will of God? Or does God not lead these men at all?

We know that prophets can be wrong. They have been in the past. Brigham Young taught that Adam is God. He taught this over and over, in General Conference and in the Temple. If Brigham Young, the president and prophet of the church at the time, did not know the nature of God, how can prophets be trusted to teach us His will? Brigham Young also taught Blood atonement. This doctrine was that some sins were so terrible that it would be better to kill yourself, to spill your blood on the ground as a sacrifice to God, than to continue living. Some of these things that were considered terrible sins were mixed race marriages and having mixed race children. The church now disavows the theories that black people were cursed even though there are scriptural passages in the Book of Mormon and in the Book of Abraham stating that black skin is a curse. If modern prophets can be wrong, what is the point of following them? Why should we unquestioningly follow them when we know they can be mistaken? What else are they currently wrong about?

4.       Discernment/Hofmann Forgeries
In the 1980s, a man named Mark Hofmann claimed to have found several LDS church history documents from the early days of the church. These documents included a blessing given by the church founder, Joseph Smith, to his son, naming him as his successor as prophet and leader of the church rather than Brigham Young. Another was the White Salamander Letter. This document discussed Joseph Smiths involvement with treasure digging, magical practices, and replaced the angel that gave Joseph Smith the Gold Plates with a supernatural white salamander. Needless to say, these documents would be very problematic for the church’s truth claims if they came to light. With the case of the White Salamander letter, Hofmann himself leaked the documents existence, which forced Dallin H. Oaks, an apostle, to present an explanation in 1985. In a presentation to Church Educational System educators, Oaks asserted that “white salamander” could be equated to an angel because in the 1820s salamander also meant a mythical being thought to be able to live in fire. He told them that a “being that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the Angel Moroni.”

Unfortunately, Oaks apologetic explanations were unnecessary. When Hofmann’s debts began to pile up and collectors began asking for their documents, he murdered two people with homemade bombs. After the murders, Hofmann met with several high-ranking leaders of the church, including then president Spencer W. Kimball, future president Gordon B. Hinckley, and apostle Boyd K. Packer. These men purchased his documents for thousands of dollars with the intent of hiding them. Hofmann was eventually arrested and it was discovered that his documents were all forgeries. How did the prophet and several apostles not know they were meeting with a murderer? Why did God not tell them that these documents were all forgeries? The practice of hiding documents that do not substantiate the truth claims of the church is extremely dishonest. And the principle of discernment that members of the church believe the prophet and apostles have does not exist.

5.       Church Finances
Although the principle of tithing has evolved significantly over time, the church has made it a requirement for members to pay 10% of their income since 1941. If members don’t pay this amount, they are not considered members in full fellowship and are not permitted to engage in the highest form of worship in the church, namely temple attendance. The president of the church recently visited a poverty-stricken African country and told the people there that the way to get out of poverty was to pay their tithing!

The church reports a membership of 16.3 million people worldwide. While only about a third of these are actively attending, the church still makes a significant amount of money. Estimates of the total worth of the church seven years ago were 35 billion, making it the richest church in the world, richer even than the Catholic church (approx. 1 billion members but worth only 30 billion dollars). The church brings in 8 billion dollars per year in tithing and investments. One would expect that a large percentage of this income would go towards humanitarian aid, but this is not the case. Reports of the amount the church donates to humanitarian causes is approximately 40 million per year. This equates to half of one percent of its annual income. That’s 1/200th of its income.

So, the question is, where does the church spend its money? The fact is, we don’t know exactly, as the church has not disclosed its finances since 1959. Obviously, there is maintenance and upkeep of buildings. These costs have been decreased as much as possible in recent years. Paid cleaners for church buildings were let go and members are expected volunteer to clean meetinghouses weekly. Temples are multi-million dollar buildings. Despite the church teaching that we have no paid ministry (this is true, however, for local leadership), General Authorities are given $120,000 American per year. This is after all their debt is paid off by the church. The City Creek Center, a shopping mall in Salt Lake City, was paid for by the church at an expense of 1.5 billion dollars. The church owns 2% of the entire state of Florida! I have issues with the church spending money on investments rather than making a positive difference in the world. The Seventh day Adventist church, founded in 1863, has almost 21 million members. They have purchased almost 200 hospitals, 133 nursing homes, and roughly 8500 schools. While the Seventh Day Adventist church makes one third of what the LDS church makes in a year, they contributed 22 times the amount of humanitarian aid in 2014. These financial discrepancies should not be occurring if the LDS church were the one true church on the earth.

6.       The Second Anointing
The final point that I will make is about the ordinance of the Second Anointing. Also described as making your calling and election made sure, this is an ordinance that is not known among most members of the church. There have been three first hand accounts that I personally know of regarding this ordinance. Essentially, a high-ranking member of the church (stake president, mission president, etc.) is called in by a General Authority under the direction of the prophet. They are told they will receive their second endowment or the second anointing in the temple. They are asked to prepare by reading what Bruce R. McConkie had written on the subject of making your calling and election made sure in his book “Mormon Doctrine.” The ordinance includes an apostle washing your feet, you are anointed with oil and blessings are pronounced upon you, your wife washes your feet and then your wife gives you a blessing. This is unusual in the church, as women are not permitted to hold the priesthood, which is required in order to give blessings. One of the blessings pronounced is that you are sealed up to eternal life. From that point onward, no matter what sin you commit (except murder or the unpardonable sin of denying the Holy Ghost) your exaltation is guaranteed. This goes against everything the church teaches. We are taught that we have to endure to the end of our lives and can only receive exaltation if we have done so. The idea that high ranking church leaders are giving each other blessings that signify they are guaranteed salvation no matter what they do from that point onward is not okay with me and shouldn’t be okay with anyone else.

I apologize for another long post. I didn’t want to make this into two separate ones because, like I have said earlier, I want to move on from discussing issues with the church and get back to discussing my experiences. But I hope that by going through these problems that other members of the church can see that my issues were not trivial. I have legitimate issues with many aspects of the church. If this church told its members that it is one of many good places to worship, it would be easier for me to go. But because the church claims itself as the one true church, it needs to be able to back up this claim. And unfortunately, at least in my opinion, it does not. That is why I have taken a step back, why I do not attend regularly. I believe that I can be a better person outside of the church than I could ever be inside it. I can allow people to live their own lives, by their own conscience, without judging them. I can choose the charity and causes that I donate my money to. I can decide on my own what is right and what is wrong. I don’t have to listen to any other person tell me the “right way” to live. I still have high standards and good morals. I can follow my conscience and be a good person not because someone else tells me to but because I want to. In a lot of ways, this process has been extremely liberating. But in other ways it has been terrifying.

In the next post I will discuss the stages of grief I experienced due to losing my faith in the LDS church. I want people to understand that it was a horribly difficult event to have to go through, not at all the easy way out. I hope it helps members of the church to love those that leave rather than pushing them away, and hopefully to accept their choices, because they are honestly made due to integrity and their conscience. We are all trying the best we can to live our lives in the best way possible. And all roads are legitimate.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

7. What Made Me Lose My Faith Part 2 – Church Acknowledged Problems Continued


Just as a reminder, as in the last post, don’t read this if you don’t want to know or believe your life would be significantly negatively impacted by a faith crisis or faith transition. If you do read on, do so with your spouse. If you look up information, either on the Gospel Topics Essays, at Fair Mormon, or outside sources, take the journey with your spouse. I will also ask the same question as I did in the last post: If the church is not true, would you actually and honestly want to know?

Before I get into this post, I want to dispel some myths about why people choose to leave the church or no longer believe. There was an amazing study completed in 2012 at the following website that delineates many of the reasons:

This study asked more than three thousand people who used to believe the LDS church was the one true church on the earth but no longer held this belief a series of questions. The study is a fairly long read but I will summarize some of the findings. The significant majority of respondents were long-term members who had previously held leadership and other callings. Members in faith crisis tend to be married, more educated than average, and earn higher than average incomes. A little less than half of these disbelievers continue to attend church (I personally know quite a few who attend but quietly no longer believe). The majority of those who left did so relatively recently (since 2005). Among historical issues, the Book of Abraham and Polygamy/Polyandry were the most significant factors to loss of belief. The exposure to several factors (historical and social) collectively led to their disbelief. Members who continue to attend church regularly (as opposed to those that stop attending) tend to suffer the most mental anguish. For many, faith crisis extracts an extremely high cost in spousal and familial relationships. A strong sense of betrayal often accompanies a member’s loss of faith. Only one in six people that go through a serious faith crisis remain LDS in belief, although often their faith does not remain the same as that which is taught by the leaders of the church.

It is interesting that the two factors that contributed to disbelief that were rated the lowest were being offended and wanting to engage in behaviours viewed as sinful by the church, which is often the cultural belief behind why people stop attending. After decades of faithful activity in the church, individuals almost never leave because of negative actions by other members or being rebellious. The top reasons for faith transitions were listed as ceasing to believe in the church’s doctrine/theology and studying church history. These are the things that I will go on to discuss in this second part of church acknowledged issues.

To recap, the church acknowledged issues that were discussed in the last post were:
1.       Kinderhook Plates
2.       Masonry and the Temple
3.       Witnesses of the Book of Mormon
4.       Book of Mormon Translation, Geography, Lamanite Identity, and DNA
5.       Problems with the First Vision

The church acknowledged issues that I will be discussing in this post are:
6.       Polygamy/Polyandry
7.       Race and the Priesthood Ban
8.       Book of Abraham Historicity

6. Polygamy/Polyandry
There are several essays on the website dealing with polygamy. It is difficult to find all of them but I will summarize them the best I can. The church’s argument is that there were times where polygamy was practiced in the Bible. Joseph Smith was commanded by God to reinstitute the practice of polygamy. The church acknowledges that the reasons why God commanded this are not known except possibly to increase the number of children born, or in other words to raise up seed unto the Lord. The article acknowledges that polygamy was illegal in the U.S. at the time. It is claimed that the revelation came in 1831, but for some reason was not written down until 1843, as part of a restoration of all important doctrines of the ancient church. The revelation to restore polygamy was also comingled with the revelation that members could be married to their spouse(s) for all eternity. The crux of the church’s argument is that God revealed only parts of how to practice polygamy, allowing the possibility for leaders to make mistakes. The article states that those that practiced polygamy kept it “confidential” and that leaders of the church would offer “carefully worded denials” when asked about polygamy. The church acknowledges that Joseph told others that an angel with a drawn sword came to compel him to take on extra wives under the threat of death. Joseph’s first polygamous wife was Fanny Alger in 1833, a 16-year-old girl living in his home at the time. The priesthood keys required to seal marriages for eternity were not given until 1836. The article relates the doctrine of eternal procreation, that women will continue to have children forever in the afterlife.

When speaking further about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, the church article acknowledges that Joseph did have sexual relationships with at least some of his 30-40 wives (although the number of his wives is hidden in the footnotes of the article and not expressly stated). The church also states that Joseph’s youngest polygamous wife was 14 years old. The article explains that Joseph married women that were already married to other men (defined as polyandry). A possible reason given was that it could be a way to link families together. Joseph is described as reluctant to enter polygamy due to the negative effects it would have on his wife Emma, who the article acknowledges did not know about all of Josephs wives. The article quotes Zina Huntington Jacobs, saying that she obtained a testimony through prayer that she should marry Joseph, even though she did not want to engage in being a polygamous wife. The article concludes with the doctrine that polygamy will be practiced in the afterlife, as men who are married but have a spouse die can be remarried and sealed to more than one woman.

Okay, so there is a lot to unpack here. The article states that God commanded polygamy in the Bible. This is untrue. Nowhere is it stated that this was a command from God. For example, it is actually Sarah who gives Hagar to Abraham when she had not had children and was aging. Bible scholars today agree that polygamy in the Bible was a cultural practice of the time that was allowed by God to occur rather than being a command. If you read closely, nothing positive comes out of any polygamous relationship in the Bible. For example, in the case of Abraham, Ishmael (Hagar’s son with Abraham) was essentially kicked out of the house. Ishmael’s descendants lived by thievery and plunder. What could possibly be the purpose of God allowing Abraham to have a second wife when his first wife ended up having a child. It was Sarah’s child Isaac that was the child of promise, where the blessings God promised to Abraham were fulfilled. Ishmael did not fulfill any purpose except to create a wandering people that lived by theft.

The argument that polygamy was restored by Joseph Smith for the purpose of raising up seed is also faulty. Joseph Smith did not have any children with any of his 30+ wives. Wouldn’t God have known that there would be no offspring from these relationships? There has also been research on the early Saints that shows that polygamous marriages had fewer children per woman than did monogamous marriages. God would have known this, so why command polygamy when it goes against the stated purpose of raising up seed to God? An example of this is Brigham Young. He had 55 wives and 56 children. From what I understand, only 16 of his wives had children with him. That’s between 3-4 children per wife. This was lower than the average number of children for that time. If each of these women would have had their own husband, they would have had more than 3-4 children each on average. Another study on 19th century Mormon families compared relatively wealthy polygamous families with relatively poor monogamous families. The study found that the children of the monogamous, poor families had a greater chance of surviving to the age of 15.

Another argument for polygamy is that these men took polygamous wives due to LDS men being killed due to the persecutions and wars that the Saints had endured. Census data of Utah show that there were actually more men than women in every single decade that polygamy was practiced. And for every woman who was in a polygamous marriage there was a man that did not have a wife, considering the vast majority of people living in Utah at the time were members of the church. And men marrying widows is not actually what happened. Apostle Heber C. Kimball stated “Brethren, I want you to understand that it is not to be as it has been heretofore. The brother missionaries have been in the habit of picking out the prettiest women for themselves before they get here, and bringing on the ugly ones for us; hereafter you have to bring them all here before taking any of them, and let us all have a fair shake.” Heber C. Kimball also stated that he thought no more of taking another wife than he did purchasing a cow. There are documents that state in some areas there could not be a girl found that was 14 or older that was unmarried.

The article claims that Joseph may have begun teaching about polygamy as soon as 1831. This is important for the church to try to justify because Joseph’s first polygamous wife was Fanny Alger in 1833. The earliest documented mention of this 1831 revelation is by W.W. Phelps, writing to Brigham Young in 1861, a full 30 years after the supposed revelation occurred. The revelation was apparently given before Elders were going to preach the gospel to the Native Americans. Phelps stated the words of the revelation, given through Joseph Smith, were: “For it is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites [Native Americans], that their posterity may become white, delightsome and Just, for even now their females are more virtuous than the gentiles.” Phelps is said to have asked “how 'we,' that were mentioned in the revelation could take wives from the "natives"—as we were all married men?” To which Joseph replied “In th[e] same manner that Abraham took Hagar…” Considering these statements are horribly racist it is not hard to see why they would be left out of the article. But the church needs there to be a revelation before 1833, as this was when Joseph was caught with Fanny Alger. There is documentation that Joseph and Fanny were caught together in a barn, “in the transaction,” and that after Emma found out, Fanny was kicked out of the house. Oliver Cowdery had this to say about Joseph and Fanny, that it was a “dirty, nasty, filthy affair/scrape of his [Joseph] and Fanny Alger’s…in which I strictly declared that I had never deserted from the truth in the matter.” Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated at least partially for refusing to back down on his conviction that Joseph and Fanny had an affair. There was no documentation for any marriage for decades until a second-hand account was related, which contained several discrepancies. Also, the sealing power was not restored until 1836, which was 3 years after Joseph was discovered with Fanny. How could he possibly have sealed himself to Fanny when the authority to do so was not restored for another three years?

The church does not include in the article that polygamy and celestial marriage were one and the same when these revelations were given. The secrecy of the temple ceremonies was due to keeping polygamy a secret from even the membership of the church as a whole. The body of the church were not taught about polygamy until after Joseph Smith’s death. Almost all early sealings were reserved for polygamous marriages, and not even active members that were civilly married were sealed to their (one) wife. Joseph was actually sealed to 27 women before he was sealed to his initial wife, Emma, and he never was sealed to his children, parents, or siblings.

There are numerous statements given by leaders of the church at the time that polygamy was essential to salvation. In 1891, after the Manifesto that slowed polygamy, the First Presidency and Apostles of the LDS Church made the following statement in a petition to the President of the United States: "We formerly taught to our people that polygamy or celestial marriage as commanded by God through Joseph Smith was right; that it was a necessity to man's highest exaltation in the life to come." (Reed Smoot Case, Vol. 1, page 18). Brigham Young stated: "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory..." (Journal of Discourses, Vol 11, p. 269). There are many quotes like this from early leaders describing how polygamy was required for salvation and how monogamy was a broken system of marriage that created whoredoms and weak men.

The idea that God did not explain clearly how to engage in polygamy is also false. In Doctrine and Covenants 132, there are very clear rules given, and Joseph and other leaders broke them. The purpose of polygamy is set out, to multiply and replenish the earth. As discussed earlier, Joseph had no children with his over 30 polygamous wives. And those leaders that did have children had less per wife than if these women were in a monogamous relationship and children of polygamous unions were less likely to survive to age 15. In D&C 132 there was a command to gain consent from the first wife. Joseph’s wife Emma did not even learn about polygamy until at earliest 1842, a full 9 years after his first polygamous relationship. Joseph did not give Emma the chance to consent for almost a decade and he married close to a dozen women before Emma learned about what was happening. Another piece of instruction was that every extra wife was to be a virgin. Joseph married 11 women that were already married to other men, some of these men being active members of the church, meaning he broke yet another rule given. To say that Joseph had little instruction in how to engage in polygamy, when in sacrament meeting God requires the prayers over the bread and water to be recited exactly, makes no sense. How could God leave any room for error with polygamy when in the church we are taught that sexual sin is the sin next to murder?

Another aspect of polygamy that the church doesn’t teach is about Joseph’s coercion. He promised numerous girls that if they would marry him, he would guarantee not only their salvation but that of her family as well. In the church it is taught that we all work out our own salvation and it is not guaranteed until we have endured to the end (until death). If the girls were hesitant or refused, he would say that an angel with a drawn sword would destroy him if they did not marry him. How could they chance the death of their prophet by refusing his advances? If they still refused, there is significant evidence that Joseph would threaten to destroy their character. And there is documentation that he did accuse certain women that turned him down of being adulterers, among other horrible things. On at least two occasions, Joseph would send men on missions and while they were away, he would marry their wives without the husband’s consent. This occurred with church apostle Orson Hyde. What could possibly be the point of God requiring Joseph to marry active members wives?

Joseph also made numerous advances towards Zina Huntington Jacobs…while she was pregnant with her husband Henry’s child. Joseph was courting Zina at the same time as Henry, but Henry won Zina’s hand. Joseph was supposed to officiate their wedding but because she refused his advances, Joseph didn’t show up. Her husband was sent on eight missions for the church and Joseph was eventually able to convince Zina to marry him. Then after Joseph died, Brigham Young told Henry "it was time for men who were walking in other men's shoes to step out of them. Brother Jacobs, the woman you claim for a wife does not belong to you. She is the spiritual wife of brother Joseph, sealed up to him. I am his proxy, and she, in this behalf, with her children, are my property. You can go where you please, and get another, but be sure to get one of your own kindred spirit." After Zina went to live with Brigham, Henry wrote her letters about his love for her. On 2 September 1852 he wrote: "O how happy I should be if I only could see you and the little children, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh." "I am unhappy," Henry continued, "there is no peace for poor me, my pleasure is you, my comfort has vanished.... O Zina, can I ever, will I ever get you again, answer the question please." In an undated Valentine he added: “Zina my mind never will change from Worlds without Ends, no never, the same affection is there and never can be moved I do not murmur nor complain of the handlings of God no verily, no but I feel alone and no one to speak to, to call my own. I feel like a lamb without a mother, I do not blame any person or persons, no--May the Lord our Father bless Brother Brigham and all purtains unto him forever. Tell him for me I have no feelings against him nor never had, all is right according to the Law of the Celestial Kingdom of our god..." Henry felt trapped. He believed in the church but two presidents of the church had essentially stolen his wife from him even after he had married her and had children. The relationship between Brigham and Zina was clearly a sexual relationship as she had two children after she began living with him while Henry was in a different state. Brigham Young taught, “If a woman can find a man holding the keys of the priesthood with higher power and authority than her husband, and he is disposed to take her, he can do so, otherwise she has got to remain where she is.”

I could go on and on about how polygamy just doesn’t work in any way, shape, or form but if I did that this post would be dozens of pages long. The last thing that I will add is to discuss the idea that Joseph married other men’s wives in order to create a link or bond between families. This also does not make sense as Joseph married several sets of sisters as well as one mother-daughter pair. He would only have had to marry one sister or either the mother or daughter in order to create this link between families. But he didn’t, he married both.

In the end, after months of research, there is no way that God would have commanded Joseph Smith to engage in polygamy. He married seven girls younger than 18 years old. He married 11 women who were already married, some to active members of the church. He married three sets of sisters and one mother-daughter pair. Every single possible reason that the article gives for why polygamy was okay is easily refuted. The fact that men can still be sealed to other women after a first wife dies shows that polygamy will be occurring in the afterlife, at least as far as the LDS church believes. I find the entire subject of polygamy repugnant and there is no evidence whatsoever that there was a legitimate purpose other than for men in the church to engage in dominion over others due to their own desires.

7. Race and the Priesthood Ban
The article spends time describing how the church currently teaches that all races are equal before God. To quote the article, “Despite this modern reality, for much of its history—from the mid-1800s until 1978—the Church did not ordain men of black African descent to its priesthood or allow black men or women to participate in temple endowment or sealing ordinances.” The article states that it was common among churches of the day to discriminate due to race. Joseph Smith allowed two black men to be ordained to the priesthood, while Brigham Young and every leader of the church between the early 1850s to 1978 did not allow black men to receive these blessings. The article claims that Brigham Young said that one day black people would have all the privileges enjoyed by other members. One possible reason for the priesthood ban being implemented is the belief that black people were descended from Cain and were cursed with black skin as a punishment. Another reason put forward in the article was that black people were said to have been less valiant in the premortal battle against Lucifer and, as a consequence, were restricted from priesthood and temple blessings. In 1975, the church announced that a Temple would be built in Brazil. The church realized that many black Brazilians had volunteered time and money to the building of the temple and would not be allowed inside. Soon after, in 1978, the leaders of the church stated they received revelation that all worthy members may receive temple ordinances and all worthy men could hold the priesthood, ending the ban on black people. To quote the article, “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.” The article concludes with this: “The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the second book of Nephi: “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

I suppose one of the main problems I have with this whole issue is that you have to make an assumption here. Either you have to assume that God is racist or you have to assume that the early prophets were racist. If God commanded the prophets to not allow black people the blessings of being sealed to their families forever, I’m sorry to say but that’s not a God I want to follow. It runs counter to scripture that God is capable of changing His mind as God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But either way, it means that either God was or God is racist. Since this makes no sense whatsoever, I will throw out the idea that God commanded the leaders of the church to deny black people these blessings.

That means the alternative must be true, and this is what the article argues for, that the prophets were like others of that time and were extremely racist. The early leaders of the church were also pro-slavery but we don’t need to get into this too deeply here. The crux of my argument is that if God leads the LDS church through prophets, how is it remotely possible that he allowed them to deny blessings to an entire race of people for more than one hundred years? At any time, God could have and should have intervened to fix or prevent this from occurring. But He didn’t. Which suggests to me that God does not lead these men. If He did, the church would be decades ahead of social issues rather than decades behind like it has been. The LDS church should have been different from every other church of the day if it was actually led by God. These issues from the past should not be present if God was giving these men revelation as His mouthpieces on the earth. But this was not the case. In order to believe that God leads the church, you have to believe that prophets can make mistakes. And not only small ones, but extremely large mistakes that have far reaching consequences. I don’t believe that God would allow prophets to make these errors if he was leading the church.

Joseph did ordain two black men to the priesthood. But if God is at the head of the church, why did He allow Brigham Young to lead the church astray with false doctrine that black people were not valiant in the war in heaven or that they were descended from Cain and cursed? Was Brigham any less of a prophet than Joseph, or are all prophets considered equal and are the only men on earth able to receive revelation for the world? These teachings should have been consistent if God was directing these men.

The next point I will make shows how dishonest the Gospel Topics Essays of the church can be. This is why it is so important to read the source material rather than just take what is said at face value. This put an extreme amount of weight on my shelf. And it came from the official church website. Anyway, the article states that Brigham Young taught that one day black people would have all the privileges enjoyed by other members. Except the actual quote from the source material that is cited is, “What is that mark [black skin]? you will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth, or ever will see. Now I tell you what I know; when the mark was put upon Cain…the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the preisthood nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had received the preisthood, until the redemtion of the earth. If there never was a prophet, or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are, I know that they cannot bear rule in the preisthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them, until the resedue of the posterity of Michal [Adam] and his wife receive the blessings, the seed of Cain would have received had they not been cursed; and hold the keys of the preisthood, until the times of the restitution shall come, and the curse be wiped off from the earth, and from michals seed” (emphasis mine). Brigham Young himself, as well as numerous other prophets after him, preached openly these racist theories that the church now disavows. Brigham Young also taught that people that were in mixed race marriages or had mixed race children should be killed in order to appease God. Another of Brigham’s teachings was that the only way black people could make it to the highest degree of heaven was as a servant. But I digress. In the source the article cites, Brigham states that black people can only have the same blessings as white people until every other child of Adam and Eve received it, and this would not be until the redemption of the earth. So, Brigham actually taught that black people would not receive all the blessings of white people until every single white person that ever would live would have those blessings first, and it would not be until the end of the world. Insinuating that Brigham taught that black people would one day, presumably much before the end of the world, receive all blessings that white people could receive is extremely disingenuous.

In reality, the matter of race and the priesthood was on the minds of the leaders of the church because of the social pressure due to the Brazil temple. There was not any easy way to tell which people with black skin were descended from African people and which were not, in racially diverse Brazil. And to prevent black people from attending after they spent time and money on the temple would have been horrible. It would have been a public relations nightmare. So, the leaders talked and prayed and felt it was time to change the doctrine. Which really shouldn’t have been the case if God was leading these men. Either the ban should never have happened in the first place or it should have continued forever if that was correct doctrine given from God. On August 17, 1949 the First Presidency made the following statement: “The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization…” (emphasis mine). The prophet of the church and his two counsellors specifically stated that the priesthood ban was not policy but was a direct commandment from the Lord. They go on to say that doctrine is founded upon these direct commandments from the Lord. I find it interesting that eternal truth and doctrine can and does change based on the social climate of the day.

The final thing that I will say about this issue is that the Book of Mormon had to be changed due to racist language within it. When the people of the Book of Mormon travelled from Jerusalem to the American continent, they were considered white. Over time, a portion of them became wicked and broke off from the righteous group (descendants of Nephi, or Nephites). The Book of Mormon teaches that God cursed the wicked ones (descendants of Laman, or Lamanites) with black skin to differentiate them from the righteous and to make them less beautiful to them. There were times where this “curse” of black skin was removed from people due to personal righteousness, and they became white. In 2 Nephi 30:6 it used to say “…their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delightsome people.” In 1981 the Book of Mormon was changed to say “…they shall be a pure and delightsome people.” It is interesting that the book that Joseph Smith called “the most correct of any book on earth” had to be changed to become less racist, although many racist themes remain.

Again, there is no way that God should have allowed the prophets of his church to teach false doctrine that black people were any less than white people. And to allow it for more than 100 years! This makes no sense whatsoever. I have heard some say that the church would have been destroyed by persecution if black people were allowed all blessings that white people had. But somehow polygamy did not destroy the church, so how would allowing black people to hold the priesthood? There were other churches, including some new religions and some break off LDS sects, that allowed black people all the benefits that white people had. And these religions were not destroyed. God did not command prophets to ban black people from the priesthood. And if God was directly guiding the leaders of the LDS church, there is no way He would have allowed these racist doctrines to occur.

8. Historicity of the Book of Abraham
This is an issue that as a believing member of the church I had never heard before; it was completely new to me and a huge shock. This was probably the main issue that led to my disbelief that the LDS church was the one true church, as there is concrete evidence that disproves Joseph’s claims to revelation from God.

The Book of Abraham is considered modern scripture in the church, translated from Egyptian papyri, by the founder Joseph Smith. The header to the Book of Abraham as it is currently written states, “Translated from the papyrus, by Joseph Smith. A translation of some ancient records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus” (emphasis mine). It will be important to remember this information going forward. The article on the official church website states that only small fragments of the papyrus that Joseph Smith used to translate still exist. The article states that Joseph didn’t have expert knowledge on languages but received revelation from God in order to translate. The main argument is that the authenticity of the Book of Abraham cannot be determined through physical evidence or archeology. The only way to know if it contains the Word of God is by faith and receiving a spiritual witness of the teachings contained in it through the Holy Ghost. The article explains that Joseph created a Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL) that included hieroglyphics with an English explanation beside them. To quote the article, “Neither the rules nor the translations in the grammar book correspond to those recognized by Egyptologists today.” The article goes on to say that the papyri were sold and later thought destroyed, although 10 fragments that Joseph Smith possessed were later found. To again quote the article, “None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham… Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies. These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived.” This means that Joseph translated these documents incorrectly and it is acknowledged by the church. The article spends a lot of time trying to explain why Joseph translated incorrectly and why it might still be ok. It also goes to great lengths to explain that while the papyri could not have been “written by [Abraham’s] own hand,” it may still be authentic revelation. The article discussed a common LDS apologist theory that there are portions of the papyri that we no longer have and that they may have been what Joseph translated from. Finally, the church discusses research done by BYU and other LDS scholars that they claim supports the ancient origins within the Book of Abraham.

As this is a major issue for me, I do not believe I can do it justice within a page or two. I will include the best summary of the facts about the Book of Abraham that I have come across in my months of study.

It was written by Robert Ritner, who is one of the world’s leading Egyptologists. He does not have stake for or against the church. His only reason for writing his summary is academic integrity. He wants to relay truth and accurate information. If you want factual information without any mincing of words, this is the place to find it.

To summarize some of the issues raised, Joseph Smith claimed divine ability to translate ancient documents. In the case of the Book of Abraham, we have verifiable evidence that he was not able to translate correctly. The papyri were not written by the hand of Abraham as it is agreed upon by Mormon and non-Mormon scholars alike that the papyri were standard funerary texts that had nothing to do with Abraham. These were also written much later than Abraham was said to live. The argument that there are missing scrolls is also unfounded. Ritner shows that we do have all of the papyri Joseph used, and he proves it with evidence. Ritner had access to the specific papyri the church owns and included pictures of these papyri, which are shown in the link above.

On a related note, Brian Hauglid was a well-known Mormon apologist that has authored several books on difficult church topics. He is a professor at Brigham Young University and a visiting fellow at the Maxwell Institute. He also worked on the Joseph Smith papers project. He had agreed with many of the arguments contained in the church article on the Book of Abraham, until recently. In late 2018 he wrote the following: “For the record, I no longer hold the views that have been quoted from my 2010 book…I have moved on from my days as an “outrageous” apologist…I wholeheartedly agree with Dan’s [Vogel] excellent assessment of the Abraham/Egyptian documents…I now reject a missing Abraham manuscript…I no longer agree with Gee or Mulhestein. I find their apologetic “scholarship” on the BoA abhorrent.” So, Brian used to defend the church’s narrative about the Book of Abraham and how it could still be given by the divine while being an incorrect translation. He no longer holds his previous views, even though being public about it puts his job at the church owned BYU at severe risk. But his integrity was more important than his career. He specifically stated that the arguments offered by certain apologists are “abhorrent.”

Another point that I have issue with when speaking of the church’s characterization of the translation of the Book of Abraham is that regardless whether we have all fragments Joseph used to translate, we do have all three of the original facsimiles. We have Joseph’s translations of all three with nothing missing. These pictures continue to be displayed in many church scriptures. And Joseph got these translations completely wrong. There is no way to get around these facts. The Book of Abraham is another instance, as with the Kinderhook Plates, where there is physical, testable proof that Joseph lied about his claim to receive revelation from God to have the ability to translate. And why would God go to such lengths to ensure that Joseph wouldn’t be proven wrong with the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon then allow him to translate the Book of Abraham incorrectly. It makes no sense.

These three issues were some of the biggest problems for me in my faith journey. As soon as I began looking into polygamy and the priesthood ban, rather than continuing to just leave them on my shelf to be answered in the next life, I found that there actually were answers to these difficult questions. And I had never even heard of issues with Joseph Smith’s incorrect translation of the Book of Abraham. These problems led me to continue to ask difficult questions. In my next post I will continue to discuss my major concerns with the truth claims of the church. But this time I will include things that the church has not officially acknowledged. And since this post was a continuation of the last one, I will FINALLY include the meaning behind Tapir being in the name of this blog. After the next post, I will move back into discussing my experiences with learning these things. I will discuss my stages of grief, my letter to family that I no longer believed, and the outcomes of being public with my faith transition process.