Here's the letter my dad wanted me to write to Jack Welch of FARMS so
he could resolve my concerns.  I'm not putting it here to brag about
how good it is--I'm sure most of you out there could have written it
much more convincingly than I did and come up with more compelling
questions.  But I think most of these questions are quite fatal if not
answered.  I didn't include some of my main concerns because many of
them can't be "proven" right or wrong--they just seem very wrong to any
non-brainwashed thinker.  I'm not looking forward to any kind of
prolonged debate--but I am curious how he would answer some of these
questions without resorting to human ignorance before the face of God
(an explanation that only works if you're already a dogmatist and have
given up on thinking).

Dear Dr. Welch,

My father, *********, told me that you would be willing to look at ten
of my questions about Church History and the Book of Mormon.  I can
either come in and talk to you or you can email me your answers or
suggested readings (my email address is [removed].   I'm sure you
are very familiar with these questions, but I have not yet found
answers for them.  I'm sure some of my specific details are not exactly
accurate, since I'm speaking mostly off the top of my head, but
hopefully this will give you an idea of the kinds of information I have
encountered and the questions they have raised:

1. Joseph Smith said that he was translating ancient writings of
Abraham (written by Abraham's own hand) from the Egyptian, even going
so far as to make an Egyptian grammar and alphabet through inspiration
to help him with the task.  Subsequent Egyptologists have translated
the texts and found that they have nothing to do with Abraham, and that
the figures that Joseph Smith explained were common funerary figures
with an entirely different meaning and from a later time period.  His
alphabet and grammar have not shown significant similarities to today's
understanding of Egyptian.  How does the Church explain the Book of
Abraham?  Does it still believe Joseph Smith was telling the truth when
he said the manuscripts were written by Abraham?

2. How does the Church explain the mark of Cain, a doctrine of the
Church commonly taught into the 1960s?  Brigham Young described blacks
as "uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild and
seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that
is generally bestowed upon mankind."  He prophesied that the curse
would not be lifted (they would not receive the priesthood) until "all
the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed
the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof," clarifying in
other places that this meant after the resurrection of all white

These teachings did not start with Brigham Young:  even the Book of
Abraham teaches that even though Pharaoh was righteous, he became an
apostate because he desired to have the priesthood but was of the
cursed lineage that couldn't.  Enoch does not preach to his posterity
because of the blackness of their skin.  In the JST version of Genesis
9:26, Joseph Smith specifies that Canaan's curse includes "a veil of
darkness" that came over him.  In several places, the Book of Moses
says that dark skin was a cause of the seed of Cain and of Canaan being
despised and not preached to: "for the seed of Cain were black," and
the seed of Canaan was cursed with "blackness . . . that they were
despised among all people" (Moses 7:22, 8). 

At a talk at BYU in 1954, Mark E. Peterson taught that in spite of
their wickedness in the preexistence, blacks could be saved in the
kingdom of God, but could only be saved as servants.  Segregation, he
taught, was a divine principle used throughout the Bible, and Mormons
should not jump on the bandwagon of the civil rights movement, for God
himself was the founder of segregation.  This was only an echo of
Brigham Young's teaching that slavery was a "divine institution" and
that abolitionists could not succeed because they were going against
the decree of God.  I have heard these statements explained as leaders'
personal views, but Brigham Young, many other leaders, and canonized
scriptures insist that these are principles of God that cannot be
thwarted-it seems to be every bit as doctrinal as the temple ceremonies
or the three degrees of glory.  Is there any way of telling between
"doctrine" and "whim" besides simply deciding which teachings we still
agree with and which ones have been debunked?

3. Why are many of the mistakes of the KJV included in the Book of
Mormon?  Why does the JST not agree with the Book of Mormon on many
important changes?  The accounts of the translation all say that Joseph
Smith looked into his seer stone and literally saw the words.  Reynolds
says that it was like reading a computer screen, and that the process
"did not seem to offer Joseph Smith much freedom in word choice."
Thus, it seems that the translation would be a perfect time for God to
correct many of the mistakes that were made in the transmission of the
Bible.  The Church has often claimed that the Bible has not been
translated correctly, and that the Book of Mormon helps restore the
authentic teachings of the Bible.  But the Mormon Church is one of the
only Churches to my knowledge that still uses spurious parts of the
Lord's Prayer.  Many of the mistakes particular to the KJV are
unchanged, including incorrect spellings like "seraphims" and
"cherubims," suggesting to the non-Mormon reader that these passages
were read directly from the Bible and not from a divine source.  Not
only does the Book of Mormon disagree with modern scholarly
translations, but it also disagrees in many places with the JST and
other versions of Biblical passages seen as important by Joseph Smith.
For example, Joseph Smith justifies the doctrine of baptism for the
dead by appealing to Paul: "they without us cannot be made
perfect-neither can we without our dead be made perfect" (D&C 128:15).
Yet he later changed this same verse, which speaks of the martyrs, to
read, "God having provided some better things for them through their
sufferings, for without sufferings they could not be made perfect" (JST
Heb 11:40).  The changes in passages quoted in the Book of Mormon are
rarely consistent with changes made in the JST, and non-Mormon
translations rarely agree with the changes of either version.

4. Is there any explanation for why polygamy was necessary, and
especially for the fact that Joseph Smith had to marry many women who
were already married and others who were still in their teens?  Why did
Joseph Smith and others who were involved repeatedly say that polygamy
was a malicious lie?  Why did John Taylor publish a pamphlet for
missionaries to use that claimed that polygamy was an abomination not
practiced by the Church while he had several wives?  Why did polygamous
marriages continue to be practiced in the temple even after the
manifesto?  Why did Brigham Young teach that exaltation was only for
polygamists, while the Church today says this is not the case?  The
Book of Mormon says that David and Solomon engaged in "wicked
practices" of "desiring many wives" (Jacob 1:15), and that their having
"many wives and concubines" was "abominable before me, saith the Lord"
(Jacob 2:24).  Later, however, the Doctrine and Covenants says that
Solomon and David did not sin, except for David in the case of Uriah

5. How can you explain the lack of archaeological evidence of the
civilization described in the Book of Mormon?  How did a group of
perhaps two or three dozen people newly-arrived in America work in "all
manner" of wood, iron, copper, brass, steel, gold, silver, and precious
ores, "which were in great abundance" (2 Ne. 5:15) (especially since
"precious things . . . were not to be found in the land"-[5:16]), all
of which are extremely complicated and specialized processes that take
years to master?  Why did these many metals and their mining and
production processes leave no trace at all as far as we can tell?
(Archaeologists have found gold, silver, copper, and extremely rare
meteoric iron, but are in agreement that steel, smelted iron, brass,
and other metals did not exist.)  Even if the seer stone gave Joseph
Smith these familiar metal names instead of metals with which he was
unfamiliar (which have never been found either), what could these names
refer to?   The Smithsomian Institute says that archaeologists today
agree that there was "no wheat, old world barley, oats, millet, rice, cattle,
pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, or camels before 1492" in America.
Egyptian and Hebrew influences in the New World were common speculation
in Joseph Smith's time, but neither has any basis in archaeology.

6. Mitochondrial DNA tests have correlated Native American genetic
heritage exclusively to East Asia and post-Colombian colonists.
Mitochondrial DNA is transmitted unilineally and is therefore not
watered down by intermarriage-even the mitochondria of a single remote
ancestor of a group would likely show up at least occasionally in
tests.  No known group of modern Native American has shown even the
slightest bit of Semitic DNA.  DNA studies seem to preclude the idea
that Lamanites are ancestors of any group of Native Americans at all,
let alone the "principle ancestors" (Book of Mormon, Title Page).
Joseph Smith repeatedly taught that the Gospel needed to be preached to
the "Lamanites," or Indians, since it was promised in the Book of
Mormon that they would receive the teachings of their ancestors.
Brigham Young taught that Mormons needed to marry Indians so as to mix
their seed and take the Lamanite curse from their skin.  As far as I
know, all known Meso-American groups, including those in the
hypothetical Book of Mormon lands, are members of the same Asian family
or families.  These groups have been in America for tens of thousands
of years longer than the Book of Mormon peoples.  Why did Book of
Mormon peoples never once mention non-Semitic groups, even though these
groups would have been a vast majority at any time and would most
likely have been the most common enemies and possibly among the most
common subjects of proselytizing?

7. Why did Joseph Smith tell several different versions of the First
Vision story, none of which agree in some of the most important
details.  For example, in one vision, he says that only one personage
appeared, while in another he mentions thousands.  In one account he
sees two personages, never identifying either as God or Jesus Christ,
only mentioning that they told him to hearken to Jesus Christ.  In
another account, he describes praying to find out if God existed and
receiving the visitation of an angel in his room in response (in his
16th year, I believe).  If he was unsure if God existed, had he
forgotten his earlier vision?  If he can remember exact details like
what the personage said, why can he not remember who the personages
were, what year they appeared, or even how many there were?  These
visions occur at times as divergent as his 14th year and his 18th year.
Even his closest disciples and friends seem to have been unaware of
any such vision until years later, and none of their stories are
consistent, even in official Church publications.  Some historians
claim that there was no revival in 1820 and that the closest revival
occurred in 1824-were the conditions in Palmyra in 1820 as he described
them?  Why did Joseph Smith join the Methodist Church after his vision,
which told him not to join any Church?

8. Joseph Smith made many prophesies and pronouncements that never came
to pass and which could be explained by a secular historian as attempts
to get people to do what he wanted them to do.  Conspicuous examples
include his promises to people who invested in his failed bank and in
land in Kirtland that they would be the richest people on earth and
that the ventures would grow and overtake the country.  He prophesied
that Jesus Christ would come in (I believe-I don't have the source in
front of me) 56 years.  In one place it could be read as conditional
upon his own survival (although it seems to me that prophesies are
usually meant to be independent of contingent events, especially
important ones like Joseph Smith's martyrdom, which God would
presumably be able to anticipate), although in other places it appears
that he makes this prophesy independent of any contingent events,
saying that some of the coming generation would not die before the 2nd
coming.  He prophesied that they would sell the copyright of the Book
of Mormon in Canada, but when they failed, he concluded that he must
have been speaking as a man (raising the question-is the only way to
tell if a prophet is speaking as a prophet after all event?).  Can we
make anything of the stories of Joseph Smith translating the Kinderhook
plates or showing journalists the signature of Moses and the writings
of Abraham besides that these are apocryphal stories (even though the
Kinderhook plates are included in the History of the Church, and the
author seems to feel comfortable that Joseph Smith would have thus
spoken in the first person).  Joseph Smith prophesied that the saints
would soon be gathered in Jackson County , that their enemies would be
destroyed, that Zion's Camp would march back within three years, that
the cities who rejected the missionaries whom Joseph Smith sent would
be utterly destroyed, that the conflict that he saw stirring up in
South Carolina would ultimately lead to the end of all nations, that
several people would remain faithful in the Church and that the saints
would built and prosper in specific cities.  All these events failed to
happen.  The prophesy about the conflict in South Carolina is often
seen as a very exaggerated prophesy about the Civil War, although most
of the details never happened.

9. Is there any indication that the parts of the temple ceremony that
Joseph Smith added to the endowment ceremony after his induction to
Masonry, some of which are word-for-word and action-by-action replicas
of the Masonic rituals, existed in the days of Solomon's temple or have
been practiced outside of Masonry?  I have heard of ancient secret
ceremonies (almost every society know of has secret ceremonies), but as
far as I know there is no indication that the specific parts of the
Masonic ceremony used in the Mormon ceremony existed before masonry,
especially with the exact wording.  I believe that Masons generally
trace their rituals back to medieval artisanal guilds, which often used
the image of Solomon's temple as a heroic example of Masonry, although
they generally don't claim that Solomon's temple is their source.  In
addition, if Joseph Smith somehow recognized the parts of the Masonic
ritual that were divine and timeless, why were much of the Masonic
words and actions subsequently taken out of the temple ceremony?  Are
not temple ceremonies eternal, telling us the same signs and tokens any
other mortal needs to know?

10. Various doctrinal changes seem to contradict the claim that the
doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ never changes.  I often hear it
said that Mormon Doctrine is the only doctrine never to have changed,
but I have a hard time understanding what definition of doctrine this
assertion is based on.  McKonkie recognized that Brigham Young taught
the Adam-God doctrine and had gone on to his salvation, but warned that
anyone who taught this doctrine today faced eternal damnation.
Multiple baptisms for the same person were commonly practiced in the
early Church even when the authority and validity of the first baptism
were unquestioned.  Joseph Smith taught an elaborate cosmology,
including people living on the moon, the oblong shape of the earth, the
location of the ten lost tribes, and the dwelling-place of God.  This
last part of his cosmology is still a common subject of speculation
among members of the Church, since it has not and cannot be debunked
like the other parts of the cosmology.  How much, if any, of Joseph
Smith's ideas on the earth, moon, stars, etc., are still accepted as
doctrine, and how much is seen as "speaking as a man?"  The first
edition of the Book of Mormon appears to say that God and Jesus are the
same personage-where newer editions say "the Son of God," the first
edition generally just says "God."  Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon
both taught that Jesus was called "the Son" "because of the flesh" but
was the same as the father, although the early teachings of Joseph
Smith do not to my knowledge state that Jesus and God the Father are
distinct personages.  Similarly, there is no indication in Joseph
Smith's early 1st Vision accounts that God and Jesus Christ were
separate persons.  These are only a few of the examples of changes or
apparent changes in doctrine.

I look forward to hearing how you can answer these questions.  I'll
give you a call soon to see when we can talk.  Thanks for being willing
to answer my questions.


Joseph *******