Criticism of Mormonism/Websites/MormonThink/Moroni's Visitation
Response to MormonThink page "Moroni's Visitation"
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- Response to claim: "why didn't this wake up Joseph's brothers who were sleeping in the same room with him?"
Response to claim: "why didn't this wake up Joseph's brothers who were sleeping in the same room with him?"
Spin: The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a tendentious way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader
This is one of MormonThink's most famous absurd claims.
Question: Why didn't Joseph's siblings wake up during Moroni's visit?
God had the power to prevent Joseph's siblings from waking up during Moroni's visit
It is claimed that when Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith in his room on September 21, 1823, his siblings who were sleeping in the same room should have woken up. One critical website states,
"Now the big question is when Moroni came and spoke with Joseph in the night of September 21, 1823, why didn't this wake up Joseph's brothers who were sleeping in the very same room with him?"
Genesis tells us that God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam
Let's start with the basics. Genesis 2:21 tells us,
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
What if we were to state,
"Now the big question is that when the Lord God removed one of Adam's ribs, why didn't he wake up?"
It is perfectly reasonable to assume that God simply kept them asleep
For anyone who believes that for God nothing is impossible, the question is simple to answer. Why, then, must we insist that Joseph's brother's should have been awakened? Why is it unreasonable to assume that God simply kept them asleep? Recall that Joseph was useless the next day on the farm. He was exhausted and totally drained from the experience. The family was very very poor, and they could not afford to take a day off of work. Had the other boys woken up with Joseph every time, they too would have been useless, and the farm would have suffered as a result. The animals wouldn't be fed, the cows wouldn't be milked, the crops wouldn't have been tended too. That would have created some severe problems for an already poverty stricken family.
Van Wagoner and Walker argue that it is possible Joseph saw Moroni in vision through his seer stone. In response, Mark Ashurst-McGee noted:
"This argument falls short theoretically. For those who do not believe in Joseph's visions, there was nothing to wake anyone anyway. For those who do believe in Joseph's visions, the argument sounds theologically naive. Could not Moroni manifest himself to Joseph only? None of Paul's companions on the road to Damascus saw the resurrected Christ. A vision needs only to hold the attention of the visionary. Joseph's brothers can sleep in peace." 
The entire argument that Joseph's siblings should have awoken seems to strain to find fault, and it is clearly refuted by the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and artwork presented by the Church itself.
Mark Ashurst-McGee: "This argument falls short theoretically. For those who do not believe in Joseph's visions, there was nothing to wake anyone anyway"
This argument falls short theoretically. For those who do not believe in Joseph's visions, there was nothing to wake anyone anyway. For those who do believe in Joseph's visions, the argument sounds theologically naive. Could not Moroni manifest himself to Joseph only? None of Paul's companions on the road to Damascus saw the resurrected Christ. A vision needs only to hold the attention of the visionary. Joseph's brothers can sleep in peace.
—Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 293.
Question: Why didn't Joseph say that his family didn't wake up during Moroni's visit?
The fact that Joseph's siblings did not wake up wasn't important to Joseph's narrative.
One critical web site responds to the idea that God could keep Joseph's siblings from waking up by stating that "[t]here has never been anything recorded by Joseph Smith that the all-powerful creator used his powers to keep ten people from waking up during the night of September 21, 1823."
Why should Joseph Smith have recorded this mundane fact? Even the writer of the paragraph acknowledges that most people don't even think about it. Why should Joseph Smith have thought to mention it? Joseph didn't mention if he had short or long hair in his account, but we do not assume his head was shaved bald.
Question: Has God used his power to enforce sleep on other occasions?
The scriptures record a number of instances in which God caused others not to perceive what was happening around them
One critical website claims that there "no precedent for our Heavenly Father using his divine powers to keep people from waking up during spectacular events."
This is simply incorrect. Just a few examples from the Bible:
- Jesus sleeping in the boat during a storm
- Paul's companions not hearing or seeing Jesus appear to Paul
- Stephen's vision while being stoned
- The hosts of angels that Elijah couldn't see before him
- The angel that freed the apostles in prison
- Adam sleeping through his rib being removed
- The Lord calling to Samuel and Eli sleeping through it
We also have this from the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 24:19),
And in the morning the Lord caused a deep sleep to come upon the Lamanites, yea, and all their task-masters were in a profound sleep.
The assertion that there is "no precedent" for using "divine power" to keep people from waking up is simply a bad argument.
God altering people's consciousness?
Now the critical website gets to the real point of this entire argument. The claim is presented that, "If God would actually use his powers to alter people's consciousness then how could anyone really ever trust their senses?" In other words, the entire argument is simply a setup to prove that you can't trust visions. Joseph's experience with Moroni is then characterized as "dream or a hallucination," or even a "inspired fantasy."
This entire hypothesis is based on their premature conclusion that there is no way Joseph's brothers could have slept through the experience.
Question: Why does Church artwork portray Joseph as being alone during Moroni's visit?
Some Church artwork does indeed portray Joseph as being alone, and some shows his siblings
Some Church artwork does indeed portray Joseph as being alone—this is simply an artistic interpretation. The August 2009 Ensign, page 54, however, shows a painting of Joseph sitting up in his bed looking at Moroni. Next to Joseph one can clearly see three of his siblings in the same bed...sound asleep. (May be viewed here: "He Called Me By Name," Artwork by Liz Lemon Swindle)
However, for those who criticize the Church for not showing Joseph's siblings in the room in every single painting of the event, we offer this: The television show South Park episode "All About Mormons" demonstrated Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon using a stone in a hat, yet even they didn't portray the detail of Joseph's siblings being in the room during Moroni's visit:
- Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 293.