Documentation in a format for Mormons
This is a listing of what is in this post:
When I studied my way out of Mormonism it occurred in distinct layers or stages. The first stage was the Book of Abraham. This has the only physical evidence (the papyri) that can be studied of the unique LDS scriptures. I read everything I could find both pro and con. The LDS position was clearly unsustainable and absurd. Next was studying LDS history. I even used the official LDS materials and then acquired the pre-edited source materials the official LDS history has been based on. I got the Journal of Discourses on CD-ROM. What is amazing is the wealth of documents. There perhaps is no other religion that can have its official history be refuted so thoroughly. Next was the Book of Mormon. I kept wanting to cling to that for some reason. The archaeological evidence, materials readily available in Joseph Smith's time (which I had not known before) and on and on had the BofM crashing to the floor too. The last and most puzzling stage was the general authorities. Are these men liars or dupes? It appears they are a mixture of both.
President Kimball and his wife toured Finland in 1975 when I was a missionary and spoke to small groups of us. What really struck me were two observations that I never acted on until I began seriously questioning the church. The first was of Pres. Kimball. He was clearly a humble man, but of very limited intelligence, at least when he was 80 some years old. I was a little disturbed, but trusted everything was in the Lord's hands. He spoke on how we will become gods and the normal missionary motivational stuff. What was really striking was when Sister Kimball spoke to us. In part of her talk she digressed from an apparently memorized (from being given so many times) speech and talked about an experience at the University of Utah. She took an institute class there while her husband was an apostle and was troubled by what the instructor (an LDS liberal evidently) was presenting to the class. She expressed her troubles with her husband who lightly dismissed them. The casual dismissal was a problem for her. What is fascinating now is that she would have expressed any doubt at all to us and it was clearly out of context with the talk she was giving. This digression occurred in mid-thought on another subject. When we got our transcripts of the talk, I noticed that this was not included. Here was history being rewritten right before my eyes. I did not act on it nor express to anyone my concern. I let it go.
Another disturbing item was the Hofmann forgeries in the 1980s. In the Ensign there was a picture showing the Prophet President Kimball with, if I remember right, President Hinkley and other General Authorities looking at the Anton manuscript, which was a forgery. They believed it to be legitimate. The lack of revelation was clearly shown by these same men who are trying to tell us they have a testimony of the Book of Mormon or of Joseph Smith. They could not detect a bogus document of great importance. Again, I let it go.
The fact that the general authorities go to great pains to cover embarrassing historical events shows to me they know what is going on. There are perhaps a few sincere ones who dismiss the evidence of its origins by not looking at or thinking about it. This appears to have been the case with President Kimball.
We officially left the church in March of 1994 through a letter requesting our names be removed from the church records. Since that time, in all too typical mind control like fashion, members of the church have avoided us. The Regional Representative even came up from Alabama and spoke out against us in a Sacrament meeting three weeks after we left and told the members that if they ever talk to us or if we give them materials, they are to contact their Bishop. Only an organization that had something to hide would be paranoid about the truth being revealed about itself. It is interesting that we would be considered such a threat. We had done nothing except request our names be removed from the records of the church. That was all. We learned that we really had few friends within Mormonism.
The official Mormon history has been heavily rewritten. This is one of the most disturbing things I discovered in our research of the church. Even the official History of the Church is only 40% Joseph Smith's writings when it is still claimed to be 100%. The 40% has been rewritten so as to be "faith promoting" and the 60%, which was not his writing at all, was selectively chosen from other people's writings and rewritten to make him out to be something he was not.
Here is a simple example of how Joseph Smith was a fraud. You can read this in the official Mormon History, but few Mormons ever bother to read it. Some farmers in Kinderhook devised a hoax in 1843 and made up some copper plates which they claimed contained ancient writings. They planted them in an Indian burial mound and later dug them up again. When Smith saw the plates, he immediately "translated" part of them, which (he claimed in his diary) identified the writings as from "a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh...". Here is the exact quote from the Documentary History of the Church:
"I insert fac-similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook, in Pike county, Illinois, on April 23, by Mr. Robert Wiley and others, while excavating a large mound. They found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of the earth, which must have stood nine feet high. The plates were found on the breast of the skeleton and were covered on both sides with ancient characters."
"I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth. "
For many years, the church claimed that these plates were authentic ancient writings, in spite of the fact that the farmers later admitted the hoax - evidently the fact that Smith had translated part of them made it too embarrassing to accept the hoax. After resorting to more and more implausible and desperate arguments, the church flip-flopped about 10 years ago, and now admits that the plates are phony. The 1981 August Ensign has the statement where the church admits that the plates were a hoax. Of course, this leaves them with the embarrassing quote from Smith's diary.... In spite of the fact that this quote is confirmed by contemporary newspaper reports, they conclude that THIS has to be a false report (indeed, many supposed entries in Smith's diary are generally regarded as fraudulent -- something that church historians don't like to emphasize).
The essential problem here is not the Kinderhook plates themselves, of course. The problem is that since Smith is revealed as credulous or deceitful in cases where he CAN be checked, the Book of Mormon translation, where he cannot be checked, is rendered highly suspicious.
The church has been deceitful in its creating the image of Joseph Smith as an unlearned country boy. He was very intelligent and capable of reading at a high level and memorizing enormous materials. The primary source for the Book of Mormon was a book written by a man named Ethan Smith (no relation) who lived a short distance from Joseph and was a minister to a family none other than Oliver Cowdery's. This book is called the View of the Hebrews and was written in 1823 and republished in 1825. This book contained everything Joseph Smith needed to create the Book of Mormon.
The most compelling evidence of the fictional nature of the Book of Mormon, from an archaeological view, is the things which have not been found. This part of my post is liberally copied from some documents on Mormon archeology.
A curious note is that when the Nephites landed in the Americas there were already millions of inhabitants in the land with large cities and infrastructure. Why are these peoples not mentioned?
Archeological findings for the time period of the Book of Mormon:
This negative score on the plant-life test should not be treated too lightly. An abundance of evidence supporting the existence of these plants has been found in other parts of the world of antiquity. The existence of numerous non-Book-of-Mormon plants (maize, lima beans, tomatoes, squash, etc.) has been supported by abundant archeological findings. Quoting from Tom Ferguson: "I (Tom Ferguson) participated in excavating a trench a the edge of the Grijalva river in which we found a ceramic vessel is a stratum dating to about 200 BC. The vessel contained lima beans that had been burned anciently and discarded--pot and beans--as too badly burned to be edible. And yet they were still in their pristine and perfect form. The beans were carbon-14 dated helping to place the whole stratum on a true time scale. Art portrayals in ceramics, murals, and sculptured works--of ancient plant life--are fairly commonplace. Thousands of archeological holes in the area proposed have given us not a fragment of evidence of the presence of the plants mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The holes include the great one dug by Edwin Shook at Tehuacan, Puebla, Mexico. He excavated a cave -- going back to 5000 BC., finding most of the major plants of the area. But no wheat, barley, figs or grapes."
I would like to note that wheat is very durable. Wheat in near perfect condition has been frequently found in the Egyptian pyramids dating back thousands of years. There is absolutely no evidence from any source that wheat was ever used in the ancient Americas. This alone brings the Book of Mormon into serious doubt.
There are many animals mentioned in the Nephite records. These
Archeological findings for the time period of the Book of Mormon:
Again from Tom Ferguson: "Evidence of the foregoing animals has not appeared in any form -- ceramic representations, bones or skeletal remains, mural art, sculptured art or any other form. However... evidence has been found in several forms of the presence in the Book-of-Mormon times of other animals--deer, jaguars, dogs, turkeys etc. The zero score presents a problem that will not go away with the ignoring of it. Non-LDS scholars of first magnitude, some who want to be our friends, think we have real trouble here. That evidence of the ancient existence of these animals is not elusive is found in the fact that proof of their existence in the ancient old-world is abundant. The absence of such evidence...is distressing and significant, in my view."
Evidence supporting the existence of these metals, skills and
products...at this time as follows:
Again from Tom Ferguson: "Metallurgy does not appear in the region until about the 9th century A.D. ...I regard this as a major weakness in the armor of our proponents and friends". ...Art does not portray the existence of metallurgical products or metallurgical activity. Again, the score is zero.
There are so many items archeologically, historically and using textual criticism to show the Book of Mormon to be fictional, that anyone willing to do a little study will reach the same conclusion.
There is a lot of Mormon mythology that states that the Book of Mormon has been "proven" by such and such a find or the uncovering of a city. When investigated ALL of these claims have been shown to be false. The myths are circulated in the Mormon culture by Sacrament meeting talks, Priesthood meeting discussions and in LDS social circles so much, that Mormons who do not investigate the source of the information, believe the stories to be true. They use these false stories to "strengthen their testimonies". Please see section on Problems with believing in Mormonism / Mormon Apologetics on this site for a letter from the Smithsonian which verifies these statements.
The papyrus disappeared and was believed to be lost, but it turned up again in the Metropolitan Museum in NY, in 1967. Alas, the papyrus, which can be easily read by Egyptologists, is an ordinary Egyptian funerary papyrus from the 1st century A.D. and the text has absolutely nothing to do with the Book of Abraham! The attempts by the church to rescue this book are not much more plausible than the arguments used to support the Kinderhook Plates. Some Mormon scholars claim, for example, that the text of the Book of Abraham was somehow secretly encoded into this Egyptian papyrus or that the text somehow "inspired" Smith, in spite of the fact that there is no resemblance in content. Again, in a case where Smith can be checked, he comes up wanting.
The three bloody oaths that Mormons used to make in the temple and changed in 1990 (the two oaths that go with the two tokens of the Aaronic priesthood and the oath that goes with the first token of the Melchizedek priesthood) appeared in the temple ceremony in the same order as in Masonry. In both cases (temple and Masonry) the first oath mentioned the slitting of the throat. The second spoke of the cutting open of the breast so that the heart and vitals could be removed and the third mentioned disembowelment. In all three cases the same penalties were demonstrated. This all appears to be too similar to be a coincidence.
I met Reed Durham, who was president of the Mormon History Association, when I was at the University of Utah in 1973-1974 working on my masters degree in engineering. He wrote the following. "...I am convinced that in the study of Masonry lies a pivotal key to further understanding Joseph Smith and the Church... The many parallels found between early Mormonism and the Masonry of that day..." Joseph Smith was adept at copying and using other materials to create what he needed. The temple ceremony is just Masonry modified. It is copied from the book "Freemasonry Exposed" by William Morgan who published it in 1827. The wording in the Mormon temple ceremony, in many cases, is exactly the same as from this book. I will quote from Morgan's book page 84. "He (the candidate) is raised on what is called the five points of fellowship.... This is done by putting the inside of your right foot to the inside of the right foot of the person to whom you are going to give the word, the inside of your knee to his, your left hands on the back of each other..." Mormons who went to the temple before 1990 will find this quite striking. There are many more examples, but this one will do to make the point. The 1990 version of the temple ceremony removed this section since it was an obvious copy from Morgan's book and women objected to being held so closely by a stranger while at the veil.
References for all these comments are found in the books and links listed on this web site