Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/"Questions and Answers" on Mormon Stories

"Questions and Answers" on Mormon Stories (revision 25 June 2014)

Overview

The referenced document had a brief lifetime on the Mormon Stories Podcast site (http://mormonstories.org/questions-and-answers/) of roughly two days starting 25 June 2014 before it was revised substantially on 27 June 2014. The following was only a portion of the larger document which listed specific issues with the Church. We provide responses only to the portion listing issues related to Church history or doctrine.

From John Dehlin's "Questions and Answers" revision posted 25 June 2014:

  • I learned that Joseph Smith provided multiple and varying accounts of his first vision story, and that some of these accounts (e.g., his descriptions of the Godhead) seemed to evolve over time to correspond with his own changing beliefs.
  • Joseph Smith married over 30 women, some as young as 14 years old, many of whom were married to other men at the time he married them (i.e., polyandry).
  • Joseph Smith would frequently approach other men’s wives about being his own plural wives — often while the men were away.
  • Joseph Smith publicly lied about his practice of polygamy, and lied to his own wife (Emma) about the practice.
  • When an LDS First Presidency member and his wife (William and Jane Law) refused Joseph Smith’s attempt at making Jane Law a plural wife, Joseph publicly slandered both Jane and William Law, including publicly calling Jane Law a “whore” (if I’m wrong about this, someone please correct me). When the Laws (with others) purchased a printing press in an attempt to hold Joseph Smith accountable for his polygamy (which he was denying publicly), Joseph ordered the destruction of the printing press, which was both a violation of the 1st Amendment, and which ultimately led to Joseph’s assassination.
  • As a youth and young adult Joseph Smith engaged in folk magic and treasure digging, promoting himself as one who could help others find buried treasure by placing a magic stone in a hat. I am unaware of Joseph ever finding any treasure, though it appears as though Joseph was still able to convince many people that he had special powers.
  • Joseph Smith used this same stone in the hat (from his folk magic days) to produce the Book of Mormon. It is also well-documented that this “translation” process did not involve the golden plates (as we have been taught as Mormons) — which begs the question as to why the plates were needed at all. This, of course, had led me to question whether or not the Book of Mormon is a translation of an ancient record, as the church continues to teach.
  • A mountain of scientific evidence strongly suggests that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century work of fiction, and not an ancient history of the Native Americans. This includes the Book of Mormon’s mention of materials (e.g., steel) , plants (e.g., wheat, barley), and animals (e.g., horses, cattle, sheep, pigs) that we now know did not exist in the Americas during the time of the Book of Mormon (600 B.C. to 400 A.D.). *In addition, DNA evidence very clearly demonstrates that Native Americans descend from Asia (via the Bering Strait), and not the Middle East (as the Book of Mormon claims, and as LDS church leaders have claimed for virtually the entire history of the church). It also makes no sense to me that Native Americans were Christians before Christ was even born, and that they openly taught 19th century Christian doctrine and theology, again…before Christ was even born. Finally, it made no sense to me that the church claimed that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book on the face of the earth — given how many changes had been made to it, and given that it failed to include anything about some of the most central LDS teachings (e.g., temple marriage, temple endowments, baptism for the dead, theosis, polygamy).
  • Joseph Smith borrowed heavily from the Masonic ritual when he created the LDS temple endowment ceremony. Many of these Masonic rituals....were later removed from the temple ceremony — begging the question as to whether the LDS temple ceremony was inspired of God to begin with.
  • Our LDS scripture entitled The Book of Abraham, which Joseph Smith claimed to have translated from some Egyptian papyrus that he purchased in the early 1830s, has been demonstrated to be a fraud by modern Egyptologists. This behavior pattern of claiming fraudulent translations is buttressed (in my view) by Joseph Smith also incorrectly identifying fraudulent plates (the Kinderhook Plates) as ancient and authentic, and Joseph is reported to have divinely translated at least of a portion of these plates (without realizing that they were complete fakes).
  • I learned that Joseph Smith ordained black men to the LDS priesthood while he was alive, and that it was actually Brigham Young who implemented his restriction of LDS priesthood to black people. I also discovered that Brigham Young held and taught incredibly horrific racist views during his life — and that he also was guilty of covering up one of the most horrific massacres in the history of the Western United States (i.e., The Mountain Meadows Massacre).
  • I began to feel deeply troubled by the racist narrative of the Book of Mormon, which to this day claims that God cursed the Native Americans with dark skin, as a result of their wickedness. [1]

Detailed responses by section are found in linked subarticles below

Response to questions regarding the First Vision

Summary: The author states, "I learned that Joseph Smith provided multiple and varying accounts of his first vision story, and that some of these accounts (e.g., his descriptions of the Godhead) seemed to evolve over time to correspond with his own changing beliefs." [2]

Jump to Subtopic:

Response to questions regarding Joseph Smith's practice of polygamy

Summary: The author states, "Joseph Smith married over 30 women, some as young as 14 years old, many of whom were married to other men at the time he married them (i.e., polyandry)." [2]

Jump to Subtopic:

Response to questions regarding Joseph Smith's practice of treasure digging

Summary: The author states, "As a youth and young adult Joseph Smith engaged in folk magic and treasure digging, promoting himself as one who could help others find buried treasure by placing a magic stone in a hat. I am unaware of Joseph ever finding any treasure, though it appears as though Joseph was still able to convince many people that he had special powers." [2]

Jump to Subtopic:

Response to questions regarding Joseph Smith's translation of the Book of Mormon

Summary: The author states, "Joseph Smith used this same stone in the hat (from his folk magic days) to produce the Book of Mormon. It is also well-documented that this “translation” process did not involve the golden plates (as we have been taught as Mormons) — which begs the question as to why the plates were needed at all? This, of course, has led me to question whether or not the Book of Mormon is a translation of an ancient record, as the church continues to teach." [2]

Jump to Subtopic:

Response to questions regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon

Summary: The author states, "A mountain of scientific evidence strongly suggests that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century work of fiction, and not an ancient history of the Native Americans." [2]

Jump to Subtopic:

Response to questions regarding the relationship of Masonry to the temple

Summary: The author states, "Joseph Smith borrowed heavily from the Masonic ritual when he created the LDS temple endowment ceremony." [2]

Jump to Subtopic:

Response to questions regarding the Book of Abraham

Summary: The author states, "The Book of Abraham, which Joseph Smith claimed to have translated from some Egyptian papyrus that he purchased in the early 1830s, has been demonstrated to be a fraud by modern Egyptologists." [2]

Jump to Subtopic:

Response to questions regarding Brigham Young, the priesthood ban and Mountain Meadows

Summary: The author states, "Joseph Smith ordained black men to the LDS priesthood while he was alive, and that it was actually Brigham Young who implemented his restriction of LDS priesthood to black people." [2]

Jump to Subtopic:

Response to questions regarding racism and the Book of Mormon

Summary: The author states, "I began to feel deeply troubled by the racist narrative of the Book of Mormon, which to this day claims that God cursed the Native Americans with dark skin, as a result of their wickedness." [2]

Jump to Subtopic:

Notes


  1. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers" (version posted on 25 June 2014).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).