Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Smith’


The Alarming Truths of So-called Anti-Mormonism

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Mormonism

False AlarmsDustin Phelps, a Mormon writer on the “Happiness Seekers” website, has written a blog article on “The Alarming Truth about Anti-Mormonism.” Within a few days it had over 30,000 “shares” on social media. In his article, Phelps claims “to expose what anti-Mormonism is and what its objectives really are.” The objective is to make Mormons become atheists:

Anti-Mormonism isn’t just about getting people to lose faith in our Church, it’s about getting people to lose faith in God, in Christ, in revelation, in religion. Once you’ve tasted the sweetest and most perfect form of Christianity, where else will you go when you leave?

Phelps arrives at this conclusion by the following reasoning:

  • “Basically every reason to doubt Mormonism is a good reason to doubt Christianity.”
  • Thus, arguments against Mormonism are really arguments against Christianity.
  • Once people lose faith in Christianity, they become atheists.
  • Therefore, presenting arguments against Mormonism turns Mormons into atheists.

He also restates his argument as follows:

  • Any arguments against Joseph Smith being a prophet also apply to the biblical prophets.
  • Thus, once one accepts arguments against Joseph Smith being a prophet, one has no sources of revelation about Christ and God that one can accept.
  • Therefore, any arguments against Joseph Smith as a prophet lead people to abandon belief in Christ and God.

Let’s look at these arguments, both of which turn on their first premises. Read the rest of this entry »

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Robert Boylan is the author of a fairly sophisticated blog entitled “Scriptural Mormonism,” in which he frequently criticizes “Trinitarians,” especially evangelicals. A check of Boylan’s blog shows that I am mentioned in some 14 posts, mostly in the past twelve months or so. I contacted Boylan through Facebook at the beginning of 2016 asking if he would be interested in some dialogue, but he did not respond. Boylan has said plenty in those posts that merits a response, but here I am going to focus on one in which I am not mentioned.

elohimNote: The day after this article was first posted on June 6, Boylan posted three articles on his blog in response. In the first of those blog articles, Boylan suggested that I should “rework the article” in light of his comments.[1] I have therefore done so instead of posting follow-up responses, as I would normally have done. After I posted a revised version of this article on June 8, Boylan posted two additional responses, which shall be mentioned very briefly in the appropriate places. This article, posted on June 9, is thus the third version of the article.


Bokovoy or Boylan?

On May 8, 2016, Boylan posted a piece he titled “David Bokovoy vs. Luke Wilson on the names of God.”[2] Boylan begins as follows:

A couple of years ago, the now-Dr. David E. Bokovoy (PhD, Hebrew Bible [Brandeis]) commented on an article produced by the late Luke Wilson of the Institute for Religious “Research” (anti-Mormons like to use [loosely] the term “research” in the names of their ministries, including Bill McKeever]). The post is no longer online, but I did save it for future use. It contains some interesting material, so I believe it worthwhile to reproduce it here:

Read the rest of this entry »

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In my previous article here on the Book of Abraham, I showed that there is some reason to think that it was written in direct dependence on the Book of Genesis in the King James Version (KJV). That is, Joseph Smith was not translating the ancient Egyptian papyri in his possession; he was revising and expanding portions of Genesis as he found it in his copy of the KJV. This article will show that this conclusion is true beyond reasonable doubt.

Any thorough examination of the relationship between the Book of Abraham and the Book of Genesis must take into consideration both the big picture and the little details. The big picture is that three of the five chapters of the Book of Abraham parallel chapters in Genesis:

Abraham 1: New material not found in the Bible
Abraham 2: Parallels Genesis 11:28-12:13 with substantial additions
Abraham 3: New material not found in the Bible
Abraham 4: Closely parallels Genesis 1 with some additions
Abraham 5: Closely parallels Genesis 2 with notable addition and omission

Although I could go through all of this material here line by line, the curious reader will learn far more by doing the exercise for himself. If you have never done so, I recommend opening a copy of the KJV to Genesis and a copy of the Book of Abraham and comparing the chapters as listed above. Even better, you might print out a copy of Genesis 11:28-12:13 and Genesis 1-2 on paper and go through them verse by verse, comparing them to Abraham 2 and 4-5 (even marking up your paper to show the differences, or using a highlighter to mark the parallel wording). It won’t take long, and you’ll make your own discoveries and reach your own conclusions rather than having someone else spoon feed the information to you.

As I said, we want to look at the big picture, but we also need to look at the details. Here we can take a page from the notebooks of famous detectives from Sherlock Holmes to Lt. Columbo: it’s the little, seemingly insignificant details that often tell the tale.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The recent article “Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham” attempts to explain a number of problems with the Book of Abraham, the most controversial text in the Mormon canon. The most basic problem is the fact that the Book of Abraham does not correspond to the Egyptian text of the Joseph Smith papyri, a fact for which the LDS Church has no definite answer. However, from another perspective a problem that is just as important, if not as basic, is the relationship of the Book of Abraham to the Bible. The new article addresses this problem briefly as follows:

Much like the Book of Mormon, Joseph’s translation of the book of Abraham was recorded in the language of the King James Bible. This was the idiom of scripture familiar to early Latter-day Saints, and its use was consistent with the Lord’s pattern of revealing His truths “after the manner of their [His servants’] language, that they might come to understanding.”

That sounds innocent enough. People were accustomed in the 1830s and 1840s to reading scripture in the idiom of the King James Version (KJV), produced not long after Shakespeare wrote his plays. That was the form that English readers in Joseph’s day would expect a newly translated scripture such as the Book of Abraham to take. The article is not specific, but the reader may be led to understand that the Book of Abraham uses such words as thee and thou, hearken, behold, and yea, just as the KJV does. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sometimes a researcher is looking for one thing and stumbles on something unexpected. This was my experience last week when I was researching Joseph Smith’s teachings about the temple. I knew that Joseph was looking for a rebuilt temple as part of the Restoration and that he also claimed that God had restored the Aaronic priesthood. However, the two didn’t seem to have much if any connection in LDS religion. My impression was that Mormons accepted the traditional Christian belief that the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ had made animal sacrifices obsolete, and I assumed this had been Joseph Smith’s teaching as well.

It turns out I was mistaken (hey, it happens!). Well, partly mistaken. For most of his career as a prophet, Joseph Smith apparently did hold that animal sacrifice had become obsolete following the death of Christ. I found an explicit statement from him making this point in 1834 (four years after he founded the LDS Church). However, in 1840 he took a different position, arguing that animal sacrifices would be performed in the restored temple. It’s right there in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Surprised, I did some searching in LDS publications to see what LDS authorities and theologians made of this. The answer was, not much: hardly anyone seems to have noticed it. The only well-known LDS teachers to have commented on it at all appear to have been Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, two of the most prolific LDS authorities who commented on just about everything Joseph Smith ever said. Even they had very little to say about it. Meanwhile, most of the LDS sources I found that addressed the general topic of animal sacrifices stated that Christ’s atonement had made them obsolete.

I have written up my research in a new article that we’ve added to IRR’s website, entitled “I Didn’t Know He Said That! Joseph Smith and the Restoration of Animal Sacrifice.” The article documents what Joseph taught on the subject and what other LDS teachers have said about it. I also offer some thoughts about why LDS authorities have said so little about this question in the 170 years since Joseph presented his view that animal sacrifices would be performed in the restored temple.

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Why Are We Still Talking about Polygamy?

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Mormonism

In the July 2010 issue of Ensign, an official magazine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the LDS apostle M. Russell Ballard has an article entitled “Sharing the Gospel with Confidence.” Ballard’s main point is that Mormons should not get defensive when telling others what they believe. His first suggestion for talking about faith without being defensive is this: “Don’t let irrelevant issues drown out more important subjects.” What would be an example of an irrelevant issue? Ballard’s example is polygamy:

“This ended in the Church as an official practice in 1890. It’s now 2010. Why are we still talking about it? It was a practice. It ended. We moved on. If people ask you about polygamy, just acknowledge that it was once a practice but not now and that people shouldn’t confuse any polygamists with our church” (47).

Why are we still talking about polygamy? Let us count the reasons:

  1. Polygamy was practiced by the founder and supposed first prophet of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith. Joseph had over thirty “wives” in addition to his legal wife Emma. Any “practice” of someone who claims to be a prophet of God and the founder of the only true church on the earth today is fair game.
  2. Joseph Smith lied about polygamy, including lying about it in scripture. Joseph practiced polygamy for several years, engaging in covert sexual relationships with women for years while lying about it, even in his own scripture. In 1835, Joseph had the following statement on marriage placed in Doctrine & Covenants: “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.” Yet Joseph had been engaging in extramarital relations under the cover of plural marriage for three or four years. (The statement no longer appears in D&C, of course.) Joseph deceptively denied being a polygamist as late as a month before he died: “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one” (History of the Church 6:411; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 119).
  3. As practiced by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other LDS leaders, plural marriage was on any reasonable judgment both illegal and grossly immoral. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that polygamy can be an acceptable practice (as many people argue by appealing to the dubious examples of Abraham, David, and Solomon). This doesn’t negate the fact that Joseph’s practice was both illegal and immoral. Both bigamy and adultery were crimes under state laws where Joseph engaged in the practice. The statement on marriage added in 1835 to D&C admits that these behaviors were illegal (“the crime of fornication, and polygamy”). Furthermore, Joseph claimed at least eight women as his wives who were already married to other men. Mormon apologists’ attempts to defend Joseph on this point (he was doing it to test their faith, or only for the women’s celestial salvation, etc.) are unconvincing. In addition to taking other men’s wives, Joseph also took several teenage girls, including several who were as young as 13 or 14 years of age. Plural marriage was not merely “a practice”; it was an immoral, illegal practice that raises serious, troubling questions about the founders of the LDS religion.
  4. LDS Church leaders continued the practice of plural marriage long after their supposedly “officially” ended it. The “Manifesto” of 1890 may have discouraged Mormon men from entering into plural marriages, but it did not stop the practice. In 1891, President Wilford Woodruff, who issued the Manifesto, lied under oath (as did other LDS leaders) by claiming that polygamy had ended when it had not. Only in 1904 did the LDS Church actually stop authorizing new plural marriages and begin excommunicating members who did not comply. Even after that date, most LDS men who had plural wives maintained those relationships until death. The first President of the LDS Church who was not a polygamist was George Albert Smith, whose presidency began in 1945! Polygamy was a reality in the LDS Church for well over a century, and has been completely absent from it for only about sixty years.
  5. It is clear that the LDS Church ended polygamy for pragmatic reasons, not because of any new revelation. Essentially, the United States federal government forced the LDS Church to comply with anti-polygamy laws. After decades of deception and defiance, the LDS leadership very reluctantly acceded to the government because, as Woodruff admitted in the Manifesto, they were afraid of losing their properties and being thrown in jail. In short, the Mormons did not admit to practicing polygamy until they were caught, and they did not stop the practice until they were forced to do so.
  6. Polygamous LDS splinter groups are simply being faithful to the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor. Such groups as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (which made national headlines in 2008) and the Apostolic United Brethren make a very strong case that they are simply practicing what their founding prophets both practiced and taught.
  7. Even now, LDS doctrine clearly allows for a return to polygamy, should it become legal. It would actually be more accurate to say that the LDS Church suspended polygamy than that it ended it. The LDS scriptures still contain statements teaching and justifying plural marriage as a divinely authorized institution (D&C 131:2-4; 132:37-39, 60-66).

For these reasons, Mormons cannot plausibly claim that polygamy is an “irrelevant issue.” Polygamy in America is the cultural offspring of the LDS Church, and they cannot divest themselves of their responsibility for it by disowning the child.

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In my February 16 entry on this blog, I listed ten suggestions that Mormons have offered over the years to explain the apparent failure of Joseph Smith’s Missouri Temple prophecy. These included the suggestions that the LDS Church was unable to build the temple because of opposition from enemies or disobedience of the LDS people themselves; that the prophecy referred to the Kirtland temple rather than one in Independence; and that it was not a predictive prophecy at all but rather a command for the Saints to (try to) build a temple in Independence. (Mormons occasionally suggest that no answer is needed because scripture need not be inerrant; this view admits that the prophecy is in error but denies that the mistake is evidence against Joseph Smith’s claim to be a prophet.) I have argued up to this point that all of these suggested strategies for handling the problem fail.

The explanations that remain attempt to resolve the difficulty by stipulating definitions of the word generation that overcome the problem. Read the rest of this entry »

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One of the most interesting explanations of Joseph Smith’s Missouri Temple prophecy is the suggestion that the words “shall be reared” and “shall be built” (D&C 84:4, 5) may be imperatives rather than indicatives. In other words, they may express commands of what the Saints were told to do, not predictions as to what would certainly occur. One LDS apologetics web site offers this explanation with some tentativeness: Read the rest of this entry »

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The explanations for the apparent failure of the Missouri Temple prophecy in D&C 84:1-5 that I have examined so far all agree that the prophecy does speak about the building of a temple in Independence, Missouri, within the lifetime of at least some of the people alive in 1832. Some Mormons, however, offer an alternative explanation of at least part of the prophecy.

According to Stephen Gibson, “the prophecy in (D & C 84:5-6) came to pass less than four years after Joseph Smith received it.” He points out that verse 5 speaks of “an house” rather than “the temple” and argues, “The use of words ‘an house’ indicate that the Lord is not necessarily referring to ‘the temple’ mentioned in verse 4…. The ‘house’ mentioned in verse 5 was dedicated in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836.” Thus, the “temple” of D&C 84:4 should be distinguished from the “house” of D&C 84:5, which refers to the Kirtland, Ohio temple dedicated in 1836, not to the Independence temple that has yet to be built. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Missouri Temple Prophecy as a Conditional Prophecy

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Mormonism

Mormons frequently lecture their critics on the fact that biblical prophecies were sometimes conditional. Michael T. Griffith offers the following “rules” for properly interpreting prophecy:

  1. Almost all prophecy is conditional to one degree or another, even if this is not stated in the prophecy itself (which is often the case).
  2. In many cases human actions and choices can alter, postpone, or prevent the fulfillment of prophecy.
  3. A prophecy is not always telling us what will happen, but what could happen under certain circumstances.

Mormons commonly cite various examples of biblical prophecies that seem to have been conditional as proof that their conservative evangelical critics are judging Joseph Smith’s prophecies by a double standard. Read the rest of this entry »

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