Brian Hales Polygamy: His Continued Misuse of Sources

I am continually amazed when I read anything written by Brian Hales about Joseph Smith’s Polygamy. And that is not a good thing, for he continues to be completely dishonest in his use of sources in an effort to convince others of his invented polygamy narrative, in this instance, the interpretation of Doctrine & Covenants, Section 132.

I admit, I’m just getting sick and tired of reading his articles and in this case “review”, because he continues to knowingly omit crucial details when he quotes sources, leaving out information that radically changes the meaning of what he is quoting. I will give a few examples below.

Brian’s latest foray into Smith’s polygamy is a “review” of the bookThe Plural Marriage Revelation, part of a series on “Textual Studies of the Doctrine and Covenants” published by Greg Kofford Books and written by William Victor Smith.

Now, I don’t know William Victor Smith, nor have I read his book, I have only read Hales’ “review”, which is not really a review of the book at all. Hales writes a few general comments about the book, (mostly negative), and then takes a few examples of what he claims are “several significant topics mentioned in the revelation which TPMR seems to ignore or discuss incompletely.”

Being intimately familiar with Hales irrational views about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, I understand completely his M.O. when he writes anything about it and therefore wasn’t surprised to find him sticking to that M.O. in this “review”. The first thing that Hales does is try to vilify any “critics” of Joseph Smith. Here is what he wrote concerning them:

Critics too will enjoy an interpretation that alleges that all Church members today are going to be damned because they are monogamists.

So Brian thinks that all critics will enjoy the thought that post Manifesto Mormons are all going to be damned? Where does he get such irrational thinking from I wonder?

I know there are many critics who have Mormon friends and family, and the thought of them suffering with such a burden would not be enjoyable to say the least. And is a serious book review the place to even make such derogatory comments? What should it matter what critics think about certain aspects of Joseph’s polygamy in this context? But it does matter to Mormon Apologists, which Hales claims that he is.

In his section titled “Nauvoo Teachings of Eternal Marriage Without Plural Marriage”, Hales writes,

While available accounts of Joseph Smith’s discourses contain few references to eternal marriage, a January 5, 1844, letter from Nauvoo Church member Jacob Scott to his daughter Mary Warnock indicates that such doctrines were known by rank-and-file members in late 1843. Scott wrote, “Several Revelations of great utility, & uncommon interest have been lately communicated to Joseph & the Church; but where you are you cannot obey them; one Tis that all Marriage contracts or Covenants are to be ‘Everlasting[‘], that is: The parties (if the[y] belong to the Church) and will obey the will of God in this relationship to each other; are to be married for both Time and Eternity.” He then discusses proxy marital sealing ordinances:

And as respects those whose partners were dead, before this Revelation was given to the Church; they have the privilege to be married to their deceased husbands, or wives (as the case may be) for eternity, and if it is a man who desires to be married to his deceased wife; a Sister in the Church stands as Proxy, or as a representative of the deceased in attending to the marriage ceremony; and so in the case of a widow who desires to be joined in a everlasting covenant to her dead husband.

Next, paraphrasing the information found in verses 16‒17, Scott explained to his daughter, “if they are not thus married for Eternity, they must remain in a state of Celebacy [sic], & be as the angels, ministering spirits, r [are] servants to the married to all eternity, and can never rise to any greater degree of Glory.”

Remarkably, Scott then described how the teaching and practice were expanding and how he anticipated his “second nuptials”: “Many members of the Church have already availed themselves of this privilege, & have been married to their deceased partners … & I intend to be married to the wife of my youth before I go to Ireland, I would be unspeakably glad to have you all here to witness our Second Nuptials. The work of Generation is not to cease for ever with the Saints in this present life.”

Jacob Scott lived outside of Nauvoo’s polygamy insider circle, but according to this letter, he possessed a working understanding of eternal marriage ceremonies while making no mention of a connection to plural marriage or a need to engage in polygamy in order to be eternally sealed.

TPMR, quoting briefly from Scott’s letter (citing it from a secondary source), concludes: “Scott’s remarks reflect public explanations in the face of the rumored revelation” (60fn56). A full examination of the letter indicates that the “public explanations” were rather detailed concerning eternal marriage and proxy sealings without tying them to plural marriage.

Hales is trying to claim that Scott did not comprehend that this was polygamy. And reading what Hales quoted, one may even come to that conclusion. Except that Hales didn’t fully quote Scott’s letter. He left something out. Notice Hales’ ellipses? Scott explains to his daughter,

“Many members of the Church have already availed themselves of this privilege, & have been married to their deceased partners …

He then writes (which Hales conveniently leaves out):

& in some cases where a Man has been married to 2 or three wives, and they are dead he has been married to them all; in the Order in which he was married to them while living & also widows have been married to their dead husbands [several words crossed out and the following inserted at the same writing, and in the same hand] but only to ONE husband. & I intend to be married to the wife of my youth… (emphasis mine)

If that isn’t polygamy, then I don’t know what is. Why would Hales just leave this out of his quote? Because it would destroy his irrational interpretation of D&C 132. A few months later, Hyrum Smith taught at Conference that this kind of Spiritual Wifeism [polygamy] was what converted him to the principle:

The idea of marrying for eternity is the seal of the covenant, and is easily understood; and as to speaking of it, I could make all the world believe it, for it is noble and grand; it is necessary in consequence of the broken covenants in the world. I never saw any scripture but what was written by Prophet to instruct and prepare mankind for eternity. I read that what God joins together, let no man put asunder. I see magistrates and Priests in the world, but not one who is empowered to join together by the authority of God. Nor yet have I seen any priest that dare say that he has the authority of God; there is not a sectarian Priest in Christendom that dare say he has the authority by direct revelation from God. When I look at the seal of the new Covenant and reflect that all the covenants made by the authority of man are only made to be in force during the natural life and end there, I rejoice that what is the consideration of the Almighty God, everything rightfully and lawfully belongs to man if he fulfills the stipulated conditions; and if a thing belongs to me legally, it cannot belong to any one else.

I married me a wife, and I am the only one who had any right to her. We had five children, the covenant was made four our lives. She fell into the grave before God showed us his order. God has shown me that the covenant is dead, and had no force, neither could I have her in the resurrection, but we should be as the angels–it troubled me. President Joseph said you can have her sealed to you upon the same principles as you can be baptized for the dead. I enquired what can I do for any second wife? You can also make a covenant with her for eternity and have her sealed to you by the authority of the priesthood.

I named the subject to my present wife, and she said, “I will act as proxy for your wife that is dead, and I will be sealed to you for eternity myself for I never had any other husband. I love you and I do not want to be separate from you nor be forever alone in the world to come.” If there is any man that has no more sense, and will make a base story of such a fact, his name shall be published. What honest man or woman can find fault with such a doctrine as this? None. It is a doctrine not to be preached to the world; but to the Saints who have obeyed the gospel and gathered to Zion. It is glad tiding of great joy.

The Lord has given Joseph the power to seal on earth and in heaven [for] those who are found worthy; having the Spirit of Elijah and Elias, he has power to seal with a seal that shall never be broken, and it shall be in force in the morn of the resurrection. Talk about spiritual wives! One that is dead and gone is spiritual. We will come up in the morn of the resurrection; and every soul that is saved will receive an eternal increase of glory. Will you believe this, (loud shouts of aye).

Every great and good principle should be taught to the Saints, but some must not be taught to the world; until they are prepared to receive them; it would be like casting pearls before swine. No man must attempt to preach them.

I believe every good man should have one wife in this life, and I know if I had two I should not know what to do with them; they might quarrel about me, and I might get a whipping. One is enough, and I warn all of you not to attempt it; if a man should begin to find out, you would get into some cell in Alton. (Hyrum Smith, Conference Address, April 8. 1844).

What they were teaching was that polygamy wasn’t to be practiced on earth, but that it was practiced in the afterlife, exactly what Scott writes months earlier. Hyrum, of course was lying, he had more than one wife on earth when he gave this address. What is interesting about what Scott wrote, is that he included this that Hales also forgot to mention:

there are many things connected with this subject which I am not at liberty to communicate to you, where you are living which would make the matter plainer to your minds & more satisfactory therefore, beware how you treat this subject for no doubt it is of God.

So Jacob told his daughter that there were “many things” he could not tell her that were “connected to this subject,”. Could one be that they were indeed practicing polygamy in this life also? We don’t know, but Hales simply leaves out this possibility, instead claiming that Scott makes “no mention of a connection to plural marriage or a need to engage in polygamy in order to be eternally sealed.”

Jacob further explains,

Other revelations intimately connected with this momentous dispensation and which are almost ready to unfold themselves to us, I cannot communicate to you at present, altho’ I know them in part for you could not bear them now. If you were living with the Church, your Spiritual advantages would be much greater than they now are: but to inform you of all that is made known to the Church, here, yet would go abroad from you and likely cause you much persecution, at any rate much more than you have.

So Scott was purposefully not telling his daughter all that he knew. What could his daughter “not bear”? This gives us a more complete picture of what Scott wrote, but you don’t learn this from Hales, and he dishonestly leaves out that Scott knew that men could be sealed to more than one wife, which was polygamy!

In another section titled “TPMR’s Polygamy Tunnel Vision”, Hales writes,

Another discussion that seems to be missing from TPMR is the exploration of the different views regarding the importance of plural marriage in Joseph Smith’s overall cosmology. Instead, it consistently manifests a type of polygamy tunnel vision of a “seeming inseparability of polygamy and eternal sealing” (2). “So much of Mormon theology [is] centrally tied to plurality” (4). “The ability to retain or remit sins in the context of the revelation highlights the importance of plural marriage in Joseph Smith’s broader narrative of salvation and exaltation” (132).

Consistent with this view, TPMR refers to Section 132 as the “plural marriage revelation” 159 times and as the “polygamy revelation” three times. In contrast, it is referenced as the “celestial marriage revelation” or “eternal marriage revelation” zero times. These latter two labels could also be appropriately used, depending on context, but that context is generally absent in TPMR (see below).

This view is important, especially when interpreting the word “law” in verse 6: “And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.” What is this “law” that must be obeyed to avoid damnation?

TPMR offers an opinion: “The meaning of the word ‘law’ in this particular revelation was historically interpreted as referring to authorized polygamy” (37) and further explains: “The revelation [makes] clear that after receiving knowledge of the law of plural marriage, a failure to participate resulted in damnation (v. 4)” (86; emphasis added). This narrow interpretation is reflected elsewhere: “In order to be exalted in God’s presence one must fulfill all of the sacraments including, in this case, participation in polygamy” (35).

While LDS leaders and members in the past have used words like law, covenant, practice, principle, and commandment interchangeably, plural marriage was more commonly referred to as a doctrine, principle, or practice. A review of references to the practice in early general conference discourses shows that polygamy and plural marriage were seldom referred as a law.(See the summary in the table on the opposite page.)

In addition, it doesn’t appear that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor ever taught that polygamy was God’s law commanded of all peoples in all places and times.In 1883, President Taylor recognized a distinction between the “law of celestial marriage” and the “principle of plural marriage”: “He [God] has told us about our wives and our children being sealed to us, that we might have a claim on them in eternity. He has revealed unto us the law of celestial marriage, associated with which is the principle of plural marriage.”

Hales simply cherry picks what he wants from Taylor’s 1883 sermon. Doesn’t he realize that it is very easy to simply read the sermon to get the context of what Taylor meant? Hales simply quotes Taylor’s opening line, which is totally disingenuous. Taylor says this immediately after what Hales quoted:

I will speak a little upon this subject.

He then does so, at length. And what Taylor says is exactly the opposite of how Hales interprets his remarks:

It is very seldom that I refer to it, but there is need for it occasionally. I speak of it as that law given to us of God. I do not know, but I have been informed that there are those who seem to be opposed to this law in one or two places where we have been traveling. Now, I dare not oppose anything of the kind. I dare not violate any law of God.

Taylor here, refers to it as a LAW OF GOD. But is he talking about polygamy? Of course he is:

And I will tell you what Joseph Smith said upon the subject. He presented this principle to the Twelve, and called upon them to obey it, and said if they did not, the kingdom of God could not go one step further. Why could it not go one step further? Because we had a religion to live by, but none that placed our associations upon eternal principles or gave us a claim upon each other in the family relations in the eternal worlds. But through this principle we could be sealed to one another through time and eternity; we could prepare ourselves for an exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom of God. It is one of the greatest blessings that ever was conferred upon the human family. It is an eternal law which has always existed in other worlds as well as in this world. I will here call your attention to the revelation itself which reads:

“Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—“

“Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.

“Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.”

This you will see is strictly in accordance with what I have told you Joseph Smith told the Twelve—that if this law was not practiced, if they would not enter into this covenant, then the kingdom of God could not go one step further.

Taylor then explains that he and the Twelve did not want to prevent the kingdom of God from going forward, so they embraced the LAW:

The revelation, as you have heard, says that, “all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.” Now, that is not my word. I did not make it. It was the Prophet of God who revealed that to us in Nauvoo, and I bear witness of this solemn fact before God, that He did reveal this sacred principle to me and others of the Twelve, and in this revelation it is stated that it is the will and law of God that “all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.” And the revelation further says:

“For behold, I reveal unto you a new and everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned.” Think of that, will you. For it is further said: “no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.”

There are many people who try to excuse themselves in this matter and who essay to do as they please, but as the Lord God liveth, He will not excuse them. He expects those who profess to be his people to carry out that law. The revelation continues to say:

“For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.”

“And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fullness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fullness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.”

I thought I would have a little of this revelation read. The whole revelation is quite lengthy. But it goes to say that all covenants heretofore entered into amount to nothing, and that they will be of no benefit to people beyond the grave.

Now, as I have already said, the reason was very obvious why a law of this kind should be had. As a people we professed to be Latter-day Saints. We professed to be governed by the word, and will, and law of God. We had a religion that might do to live by, but we had none to die by. But this was a principle that God had revealed unto us, and it must be obeyed. I had always entertained strict ideas of virtue, and I felt as a married man that this was to me, outside of this principle, an appalling thing to do.

The idea of my going and asking a young lady to be married to me, when I had already a wife! It was a thing calculated to stir up feelings from the innermost depth of the human soul. I had always entertained the strictest regard for chastity. I had never in my life seen the time when I have known man deceiving a woman—and it is often done in the world, where notwithstanding the crime, the man is received into society, and the poor woman is looked upon as a pariah and an outcast—I have always looked upon such a thing as infamous, and upon such a man as a villain, and I hold today the same ideas. Hence, with the feelings I had entertained, nothing but a knowledge of God, and the revelations of God, and the truth of them, could have induced me to embrace such a principle as this. We seemed to put off, as far as we could, what might be termed the evil day. Some time after these things were made known to us, I was riding out of Nauvoo on horseback, and met Joseph Smith coming in, he, too, being on horseback. Some of you who were acquainted with Nauvoo, know where the graveyard was. We met upon the road going on to the hill there. I bowed to Brother Joseph, and having done the same to me he said; “Stop;” and he looked at me very intently. “Look here,” said he, “those things that have been spoken of must be fulfilled, and if they are not entered into right away, the keys will be turned.” Well, what did I do? Did I feel to stand in the way of this great, eternal principle, and treat lightly the things of God? No. I replied: “Brother Joseph, I will try and carry these things out,” and I afterwards did, and I have done it more times than once…

It is obvious that Taylor is calling polygamy the law that they had to obey, not simply eternal marriage. Why would they object to simply practicing eternal marriage? It was polygamy Taylor was speaking of, that they had to practice, not just eternal marriage. And the definition of the word “principle”: is “a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine or assumption”.

Three years later, Taylor wrote this revelation, which absolutely calls polygamy (the new and everlasting covenant) God’s LAW:

My son John, you have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant how far it is binding upon my people.
Thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant, for I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with, but they stand forever.
Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject? Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my law and the keeping of my commandments, and yet have I borne with them these many years; and this because of their weakness—because of the perilous times, and furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters. Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not, and as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph: All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law. And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham. I have not revoked this law, nor will I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof; even so, Amen. (Given to President John Taylor September 27, 1886).

Here Taylor calls polygamy the “New and Everlasting Covenant”. He wasn’t speaking of revoking eternal marriage, but POLYGAMY which he calls a new and everlasting covenant. Hales also makes this ridiculous assertion:

God states that he is revealing a new and everlasting covenant (vv. 4, 6); polygamy would not have been new to Joseph, who had been reading the Bible for many years.

And yet Joseph calls baptism a “new and everlasting covenant” in D&C 22:

Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.

Was baptism new to Joseph in 1830? Hales argument is simply irrational. Hales “review” of Smith’s commentary on D&C 132 is full of erroneous conclusions based on faulty interpretations which in turn are based on manipulating sources to suit his own end: to promote his invented polygamy narrative. This is Hales M.O., used in all of his commentary about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, and I advise anyone reading anything written by Hales on this subject to beware, and to certainly check every source that he quotes.

The Irrational World of Brian Hales’ Polygamy (Part I)

By Johnny Stephenson & Jeremy Runnells


It appears that plural marriage is gospel meat that can only be understood by those who have sufficiently prepared themselves in faith and knowledge. ~Brian Hales

Ok. There you have it. If you don’t have sufficient “faith and knowledge” it appears that you are doomed to misunderstand everything about Joseph Smith and his practice of polygamy according to Brian Hales. So for all of you that are not members of the Mormon Church—it appears that you’re just out of luck. No matter what you read or no matter what your comprehension skills; it won’t do you any good because this is “gospel meat” and not meant to be understood by the unworthy. You know, the whole ”pearls before swine” thing.

The desperation of such an argument speaks for itself. So, is there some kind of faith and knowledge meter that can tell a person if they have finally arrived at a place where they can understand Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy—because according to many faithful Mormons, they don’t understand it either.  (Even those who have been in the Church for many, many years). Perhaps they might, if the faithful could only look at the evidence without all the apologetic interpretation of those like Brian Hales, who seem to be the only ones proclaiming that this is hard to understand without some kind of special spiritual “preparation”.

In our estimation anyone who claims that a person cannot understand something without some kind of “preparation” and special “knowledge” has already shown that their conclusions cannot be reached by any reasonable method used by the public at large (like simply reading and evaluating the evidence with common sense).  We understand that there is a difference between faith and understanding, and that one does not necessarily hinge on the other. When it comes to the supernatural, of course some people believe in those things, but that doesn’t preclude anyone from understanding the claims made by those who do. At least we think so and are pretty sure we can show you why.

For example, must a psychiartrist experience schitzophrenia to understand what it is and treat it? Criminal profilers are often very accurate in their assessment and character of who committed crimes, but do they have to be criminals themselves to understand them and give an accurate profile?

What this really means (in our humble estimation) is that apologists like Brian Hales are trying to control the narrative.  (Which it appears he certainly has tried very hard to do, even going so far as to question the friendship of those that do not use the research he pushes on them). But what price must one pay to do so? Embrace hypocrisy and folk tales, folk tales that aren’t even contemporary with the period of time they were supposed to originate in?

For example, we think that one can easily understand (without any special preparation and knowledge) why stories began circulating a decade after Joseph Smith died that he was so repulsed by polygamy and only began to practice it because he was threatened by an angel with a sword who commanded him to do so or die—and this in direct contradiction of all that Smith ever taught about free agency.  We think people get that. It makes Smith look more reluctant to embrace his spiritual wifeism (the correct term used by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and others for what later became plural or celestial marriage) and therefore appear more “prophet-like” in the eyes of his apologists and ardent followers who are understandably uncomfortable with the thought of a Warren Jeffs-like “prophet” as the founder of their religion.

Unfortunately, for those who put their faith in such folktales, there is no evidence that this story was ever related by anyone in the lifetime of Joseph Smith; there are only some late accounts that begin about a decade after he died. This folktale also turns the Mormon God into the Mormon Satan—who wanted to force everyone to do what they were told so they could become “gods”.  This may “prepare” the Mormon base of believers to accept Smith’s teachings and actions about his spiritul wifeism; but it doesn’t do much (in our estimation) for the credibility of those propagating such folk tales.

It doesn’t take special “preparation and knowledge” to understand when there isn’t any evidence and that something is in all likelihood a folk tale. Yet that doesn’t stop some from repeating folklore as if it were reality and denigrating those that don’t agree with the apologetic conclusions they come up with because they think this will take some of the heat off of Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy.

It sure didn’t stop the Church from including this particular folk tale (the angel of death) in one of their Essays recently added to the Gospel Topics page at  Of course, the story of the angel and the sword that appears in the new Essay titled “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo” was mysteriously transformed into an angel of “encouragement”, and the Essay doesn’t give the reader any references or sources as to why they transform the angel, except a hyperlink to an article by Brian Hales—who is referenced half a dozen times in the Essay and who we suspect wrote or contributed to it.

In the above mentioned Essay it states that this tale is what Joseph Smith “told” some “associates”. It also states that “fragmentary evidence” declares that Smith was first commanded by God to practice polygamy with Fanny Alger, but this would be before Smith (according to his own teachings) had authority to do so.

Welcome folks, to the irrational world of Brian Hales’ polygamy.

This Essay was begun in the summer of 2014 and completed by the Spring of 2015, with further editing and additions made from April, 2015 to January, 2018. Jeremy made a promise to give a response to Brian Hales’ many accusations against him about the information in the CES Letter and elsewhere, and enlisted the aid of Johnny Stephenson in crafting a reply. This reply is filled with media and notes, some of them individual essays in and of themselves and so it took us many years to finish. Here is Part I, and subsequent parts (II-IV) will be published in two week intervals. ~Jeremy Runnells & Johnny Stephenson, August, 2018.

Nauvoo, by David Hyrum Smith

Part I: Sticks and Stones

Remember the old adage, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me’.  True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions. ~The Christian Recorder, March 1862.

In the ongoing debate over how Joseph Smith’s polygamy is being interpreted by Mormon apologists, historians and critics, we have Brian Hales ( contributing an article on July 15, 2014 sarcastically titled,  “Jeremy Runnells—the New Expert on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy?”[1]


Jeremy Runnells is the author of the CES LETTER, which was published on the internet in April, 2013 after he wrote the original.[2] It included many of his concerns about the Mormon Church, and subsequently went “viral” on the internet.  The letter by Runnells has many Mormon apologists very concerned about its contents and soon after Jeremy published it FAIRMORMON (an organized group of Mormon apologists) wrote a response to Runnells’ concerns in the letter,[3] to which Runnells’ has responded.[4]

It is a section on Polygamy in Jeremy’s response titled Debunking FAIR’s Debunking that Brian Hales addresses in the above mentioned article posted on the Rational Faith’s Blog.[5] Unfortunately, Hales sarcastic attempt to cast doubt on Jeremy’s effort does not really address many of his concerns about Joseph Smith’s polygamy; instead Hales uses this article to attack and try to defame Jeremy Runnells—and promote his website.

Among other things, what is really troubling to us is this reply by Brian Hales in response to a comment about the article he posted at Rational Faiths on July 17, 2014:

Frankly, I’ve never been a fan of labels like “apologist” and “anti-Mormon.” I think people resort to labels when they run out of evidence to support their positions. I have invited Jeremy to defend his interpretation of Joseph Smith’s involvement with plural marriage. I don’t expect to change his current convictions (but I wish he would for his sake). I do believe that he and many other writers have used assumptions, misrepresentations, and half-truths to support their claims. The way for everyone to win (even though we will undoubtedly not agree) is for Jeremy and me to use documentation and less rhetoric in explaining and defending out interpretations. That is the challenge.[6]

After publishing the sarcastic response to Runnells on July 15, 2014; and some other comments on July 17, where he states that the way to “win” is to use more documentation and less rhetoric; Mr. Hales took it one step further and published an interesting bit of fiction on his website Blog  (which is sandwiched among all of the apologetics that attempt to defend and prop up the practice of polygamy by Joseph Smith) on July 30, 2014, which is titled:

“’There Began to be Lyings Sent Forth among the People’: The Message of Jeremy Runnells”[7]

Hales also made sure to publish it again (himself) on FAIRMORMON’s Blog,[8] and this he did on August 4, 2014.

So much for more documentation and less rhetoric.  Hales also said he was waiting for a response from Jeremy, but I guess he couldn’t really resist slinging more rhetoric while he waited.

Right off the bat, Hales pumps up the derogatory rhetoric by calling Jeremy names and claiming that his “message” is simply “lyings” send forth from Satan; who Brian Hales seems to think is the puppet master of almost every critic of the Mormon Church. This coming from someone who claims to be a defender of Joseph Smith and is critical of any who conclude the same thing about the Mormon “prophet” (that he is a liar or con-man—though not necessarily a tool of Satan).[9]  All we could think of when we read this was “Did he really just say that?” But Hales did, and he appears to be serious. Hales begins by quoting the Book of Mormon:

And it came to pass that from this time forth [when the star appeared at the birth of Christ] there began to be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those signs and wonders which they had seen… [10]

Automatically, we have Jeremy’s intent: “to harden hearts” so that “they might not believe.”  But Jeremy was initially asking for answers. It seems that in Hales’ irrational world that this is an agenda inspired by Satan to turn people away from Mormonism.  Hales adds, “The sending forth of “lyings” is not a new phenomenon.” Hales then goes back to Genesis—to Satan and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden—as if this is somehow relevant to Jeremy Runnells’ concerns about Smith’s polygamy and other issues.

Of course Hales believes that anyone who is not a good Mormon like he obviously must be, (since he is “qualified” to teach about Joseph Smith by having the Priesthood and a “testimony” of Smith) disqualifies them from writing about Mormonism.[11]  So Hales basic problem with Runnells seems to be that he tells lies from Satan and he isn’t “authorized” to teach.  Hales’ focus here isn’t on the evidence, but seems to be trying to make it appear that Jeremy is some kind of sock puppet of Satan.

Right away, Hales tries to poison the well for any Mormon that might want to read what Runnells is so concerned about by claiming that Jeremy is a liar.

This is the same tactic that Hales and Gregory L. Smith used at the Mormon Interpreter on Grant Palmer, which is documented in Note #1 below, although with a little more subtlety.

Setting down the groundwork for the attack to come, Hales then states:

Recently Jeremy Runnells wrote two articles, “Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony” and “Debunking FAIR’s Debunking,” where he outlines his reasons for his current disbelief. I analyzed his statements regarding plural marriage in a short essay entitled “Jeremy Runnells—the New Expert on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy?” There I examine his primary claims and methodology, of which I am quite critical.[12]

Quite critical? Hales went much farther than being “quite critical”. First, the Letter to a CES Director was not originally an article, though it was eventually expanded and updated from the original.  (Because it was a list of concerns about material Jeremy had gleaned from many different sources). What Hales claims here though, (that he has examined Runnells’ primary claims in “Debunking FAIR”) is not true. Hales simply takes a couple of cheap shots at Runnells by using an example or two from Jeremy’s lengthy treatment of Smith’s polygamy, which he (Hales) then completely bungles with his “frequent use of polemical red-herrings to undermine historical evidence he dislikes”.[13]

We will address those treatments by Hales below.  In the comments attached to that Blog Article at Rational Faiths, Hales writes,

In 3 Nephi 1:22 we read: “And it came to pass that from this time forth there began to be lyings sent forth among the people” and so it seems to be today. That is how I would classify Runnells treatment of Joseph Smith’s polygamy. How can we identify a lie? Perhaps reading the original documents would help.[14]

It was this comment that Hales subsequently turned into a primarily ad hominem attack on his website.

For someone who has claimed to have read “the latest research”, I (Johnny) can say with assurance that in his case, it doesn’t help Hales at all. Why? Because I and others who have also thoroughly studied Smith’s practice of polygamy (like Jeremy Runnells) can show that Hales analysis of the documents is flawed by his determination to misconstrue that evidence in an effort to protect Hales idealistic representation of Joseph Smith.  D. Michael Quinn called what Hales does a “closed system of logic”.[15]

But before I get into that, let’s get back to the lying thing.  How does Hales show/prove that Jeremy is a liar? (Which would be the point, wouldn’t it?) Hales states on his website:

Jeremy Runnells reflects confidence in his interpretations and satisfaction in his aggressive antagonism of the Church and its teachings. He is obviously entitled to his own opinions and to believe whatever voices he chooses to believe. However, it may be possible to see in him and in his actions, a process as old as Adam and as predictable as the sunset turning into the blackness of night.[16]

As we see above, Hales doesn’t show Jeremy to be a liar—he does something worse, he slanders his name with no proof at all. He then likens Jeremy and his concerns about Mormonism “to a process as old as Adam” which he describes with cheap dime store novel rhetoric.  Hales then quotes a Mormon “Authority” to try and give his pulp fiction weight (at least in his mind):

Apostle Neal Maxwell

Church members will live in this wheat-and-tares situation until the Millennium. Some real tares even masquerade as wheat, including the few eager individuals who lecture the rest of us about Church doctrines in which they no longer believe. They criticize the use of Church resources to which they no longer contribute. They condescendingly seek to counsel the Brethren whom they no longer sustain. Confrontive, [sic] except of themselves, of course, they leave the Church, but they cannot leave the Church alone. Like the throng on the ramparts of the “great and spacious building,” they are intensely and busily preoccupied, pointing fingers of scorn at the steadfast iron-rodders (1 Ne. 8:26–28, 33). Considering their ceaseless preoccupation, one wonders, “Is there no diversionary activity available to them, especially in such a large building—like a bowling alley?” Perhaps in their mockings and beneath the stir are repressed doubts of their doubts. In any case, given the perils of popularity, Brigham Young advised that this “people must be kept where the finger of scorn can be pointed at them.”[17]

It’s all so simple to Hales via Maxwell isn’t it? If you ask for questions and seek answers but do not get them and you are not satisfied and make this known, you are a “tare” who by even questioning the leadership of the Church are now “pointing the finger of scorn”?

Here we have Hales (through Neal Maxwell) claiming that Jeremy Runnells is masquerading as something he is not. First, what is Maxwell getting at here? His whole speech was about what he calls “the harvest from permissiveness”.  About “living ethically without God” and replacing a “just and moral order” with “disorder and confusion”.

Maxwell acts like the Mormon people are the only ones who have ever had the finger of scorn pointed at them.[18] Maxwell’s solution is for members to shut up and play follow the leader (become “like a child”) because no matter what, the “brethren” are right and you are wrong because you dared to ask questions or question their teachings. You are all children and we (the “Lord’s Anointed”) are the adults.[19]

Did Jeremy Runnells proclaim such things? Not at all. What Jeremy did was to write down all of the concerns that he had about the Church from a variety of sources, and then ask for help from a church “authority” to answer them.  What help did Jeremy get from the church? He got none at all, even though he was promised answers.

Maxwell talks about those who criticize the church who no longer believe in it, but if you criticize the history or doctrine of the Church as a believer, you can be disciplined or excommunicated for doing so; something that Jeremy also had questions about in his Letter, but which the Mormon Hierarchy didn’t bother to answer.  Maxwell also says that such people are,

Confrontive, [sic] except of themselves, of course, they leave the Church, but they cannot leave the Church alone.[20]

This is one of the most hackneyed apologist lines ever invented and that never seems to get old with them.  And now that Mormon “authorities” have picked it up and are spewing it out to the public in General Conferences, it is one we may never hear the end of. Who can’t leave who alone? When Jeremy’s letter (to his great surprise) went viral, who was it that came after him? FAIRMORMON, and apologists like Daniel C. Peterson and Brian Hales. Hales even says in his ad hominem on Jeremy:

“When lyings gain traction in the media, sometimes due to the efforts of individuals like Jeremy…”[21]

So is this what Brian Hales is concerned about: “Traction in the media”? It seems like it is, because this is the focus of his article. Didn’t Hales say that this was all about the evidence? Instead, he mockingly claims that Jeremy has propped himself up as the new “expert” on polygamy—when Jeremy did nothing of the kind .

Could Brian Hales simply be jealous? He certainly attacks a lot of people that never mention him at all, but do write or speak about polygamy. Does Hales think that he is the expert on polygamy because he printed up some documents that he had a research assistant gather together—to which he added some inane apologetic commentary? Or perhaps Brian and Laura Hales consider themselves the Internet Police when it comes to Joseph Smith’s polygamy?[22]

We don’t make this claim (that their commentary is inanely apologetic) lightly. Many of Hales’ arguments are illogical and incomprehensible, as will be shown below. One of the more ridiculous arguments is self evident in its ridiculousness: that Jeremy Runnells is some kind of Sock Puppet of Satan, and that in response (apparently), God is using Brian C. Hales to expose him to the world.

It seems that Hales only wants to denigrate Jeremy, because all he does is make a few baseless and trivial objections to what Jeremy has written about polygamy in his rebuttal to FAIRMORMON—who he then calls a liar. Hales then leaves it at that, with no credible evidence at all to back up his cowardly attack.  He then directs his audience to go to his website, which promotes his books.

The Hales pattern of behavior is self evident: 1) Set themselves up as the Internet Police regarding Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 2) Insert themselves into Polygamy discussions or respond to Blogs and Articles, 3) Shamelessly promote their website and books.

As for those who leave the church but can’t leave it alone, this comment was brought to our attention recently:

“You can leave the church, but you can’t leave it alone.”

What about a kidnapping survivor that wants to devote their time and efforts to educate and bring awareness to others?

What about a former gang member that wants to devote their time and efforts to educate and bring awareness to others?

What about a mentally and physically abused wife that wants to devote her time and efforts to educate and bring awareness to others?

What about a rape victim that wants to devote her time and efforts to educate and bring awareness to others?

What about a recovering drug addict that wants to devote their time and efforts to educate and bring awareness to others?

What about a cancer survivor or family of someone that has lost their life to cancer and they want to devote their time and efforts to educate and bring awareness to others?[23]

It is obvious that this is exactly what the Mormon Hierarchy and their apologists want: for their critics to simply leave them alone so they can be in control of as much information about the Church as possible. If not, then why would Hales include that quote by Maxwell in a follow up hit piece on Jeremy when it doesn’t apply to his situation at all?

And since many of the critics of Mormonism are Ex-Mormons (including the authors of this article) who understand the Church very well; of course Mormon apologists have to twist their (the Ex-Mormons) experience into something it is not and never was as they accuse them of being obsessed with the Church after they leave it. There is no love here for the “lost sheep” in our opinion; neither is there any real concern over the pain that it must cause to those who do leave the church. All that is swept aside as they are transformed into lying “Anti-Mormon” Agents of Satan. Hales sporadic platitudes of sympathy mean little in the light of these kinds of attacks.

What Maxwell does not do, what these men (Mormon General Authorities) never seem to do, is give a real sympathetic ear to those who continue to have (after getting unsatisfactory or no answers from Mormon leaders at the Ward and Stake level) legitimate problems with the Church’s History and Doctrine. They don’t seem to understand the concept of the “lost sheep”. Instead they produce anonymous Essays (in an effort to do damage control) and spout platitudes like “your questions will all be answered in the next life,” which is really no answer at all.

Jeremy Runnells

This is what happened to Jeremy Runnells, a faithful member of the Church who originally wrote up a 60 page document about all of the doctrinal and historical concerns he had, which he then sent off to an “authority” to answer, pleading for help. Yet, his concerns were ignored.

If after this you leave the Church and talk about your experience, and it becomes viral you may finally get a response, but not from any “authorities”—who seemingly couldn’t care less about you until they have their lackeys drag you into a church court for “apostasy”.

But because the Church dropped the ball and you made it public, you are condemned by the Church’s apologists (because no one in authority will address your concerns) as an “apostate” who can’t leave the Church alone because you felt that you must defend yourself from their attacks! You are then labeled as a liar, because you dared to try and rebut all of the accusations against you and your concerns about the Church by those same pontificating Mormon apologists, chief among them Brian Hales, Kevin Christensen, Stephen O. Smoot and Daniel C. Peterson. They have even devoted a website to attack Jeremy, and are now producing YouTube Videos.

All the while the Church itself washes its hands of the whole affair but then begins posting anonymous essays on their official website dealing with some of the very issues that went viral because of your letter—that they still won’t “officially” answer themselves.

Jeremy Runnells did get a response, but not one made in love and understanding. It was an ugly response that makes one question the very ethics of the Hierarchy of the Mormon Church and those who claim to defend it. At Rational Faiths faithful Brian Hales writes:

Of course Runnells is entitled to his own views, but when individuals attempt to expound and defend a specific historical interpretation before the public, it seems it would be wise to familiarize themselves with the latest research on the topic. Otherwise, they may perpetuate incomplete or deceptive arguments. Such persons should probably expect that their historical reconstruction will be critiqued by scholars who have also studied the same subject. It appears that Runnells’ accounts and criticisms of Joseph Smith’s polygamy reflect important weaknesses. But even more unfortunate is the apparent fact that Runnells is himself unaware of those weaknesses.[24]

Hales makes sure to get this in before he ever starts critiquing any of Runnells’ section on polygamy in their FAIRMORMON rebuttal.  An honest person writing about another person’s work would perhaps have said something like, “Otherwise they may perpetuate incomplete or incorrect arguments.”

Only someone with an agenda to slander someone else would have used the word deceptive, which implies dishonesty.  This would be acceptable if it was true, but we can show that it is not, therefore it is simply slander.

Disbelieving the claims of Joseph Smith (in part because the Church has no answers to very troubling questions) and disapproval of the practice of polygamy (among other things) in Brian Hales irrational world makes one a Sockpuppet of Satan.  But almost everyone has questions and seeks answers. If Brian Hales is so concerned about Jeremy (as he claims), then why go to these lengths to vilify him before he even gets Runnells’ response to his accusations?

Hales is also trying to claim that Jeremy Runnells isn’t using the “correct” method to obtain his answers.  Let’s go back to that quote by Hales again:

Frankly, I’ve never been a fan of labels like “apologist” and “anti-Mormon.” I think people resort to labels when they run out of evidence to support their positions. I have invited Jeremy to defend his interpretation of Joseph Smith’s involvement with plural marriage. I don’t expect to change his current convictions (but I wish he would for his sake). I do believe that he and many other writers have used assumptions, misrepresentations, and half-truths to support their claims. The way for everyone to win (even though we will undoubtedly not agree) is for Jeremy and me to use documentation and less rhetoric in explaining and defending out interpretations. That is the challenge.

Is this what Hales did with Jeremy (use documentation to rebut his concerns)? Not really. He personally attacked him and called him a liar and an Agent of Satan.  (And he did so AFTER he made the comment above). So is Brian Hales sincere in his effort to explain and defend his position? We must say given the evidence above he is not, but has already made up his mind about Jeremy and has closed his mind to anything but his own invented narrative.  Notice also the words that Hales uses to describe the “many other writers” that don’t agree with Hales conclusions. They “misrepresent”, which is “the action or offense of giving a false or misleading account of the nature of something.” It’s all about malice with Hales because they don’t agree with him.

That still leaves us with those token rebuttals of Hales, to which we can add information from his website and other published works.  That is where I (Johnny) came in. Not having had much interaction with Jeremy before this, I was troubled when I first heard about and read Hales initial attack on Jeremy and offered my help in crafting a response. It has taken years of intensive research by the both of us to do so.

Hales loves to claim (about others) that they come to their conclusions based on assumptions, misrepresentations and half-truths.  That is quite a claim to try and support—let’s see if he can make that stick to Jeremy and if the evidence supports Hales’ own irrational conclusions.  We’ll let you—the interested readers—decide if Hales has been successful in making his case.

Notes to Part I: Sticks and Stones

[1] Hales’ article may be found here online, accessed October 10, 2014, hereafter cited as Hales, Rational Faiths.

During the first part of October, 2014, Brian Hales along with Gregory L. Smith (another Mormon Apologist) recently co-authored another hit piece—on Grant Palmer, in which they use the same deplorable tactics there as Brian Hales does with Jeremy Runnells.

Hales & Smith claim in this new character assassination article that Palmer has “represented the historical data” both “poorly” and that by advancing factual inaccuracies, quoting sources without establishing their credibility, and that by ignoring contradictory evidences he has manifested superficial research techniques that fail to account for the “latest scholarship” [which would be Hales own of course]. This will sound very familiar after reading what Hales wrote about Jeremy Runnells, Alex Beam and John Dehlin.

To show the ridiculousness of Hales and Smith’s assertions against Palmer, one need only read this quotation below where they describe what they deem a very “problematic issue”:

  1. Factual inaccuracies. For example, on page 8 he speaks of a man, “Benjamin F. Winchester,” but there is no such person. Church history participants included “Benjamin F. Johnson” and “Benjamin Winchester” but no “Benjamin F. Winchester.” This might seem a nitpicky criticism, but it is an example of how poorly Palmer’s essay has been constructed and edited. It also suggests a reliance on secondary sources rather than a consultation of the original documents.

However, at FAIRMORMON Gregory L. Smith makes the same mistake, (online here, but changed by Smith after he was called on it – see my screenshot) and so because of what Brian Hales nitpicks, should we assume that they too have all of the same problems that Hales attributes to Grant Palmer? Hales wants his audience to believe that because Palmer included the middle initial that Van Wagoner used in Mormon Polygamy, he also is simply not reading the primary sources.  I guess Hales isn’t either.

This is simply another one of Hales’ (and Smith’s) many silly strawman arguments which all of his articles and essays are full of. This of course does not negate Winchester’s contributions to Mormon History; but is simply a ploy of Hales and Smith to discredit Palmer before they even assess his article.

We will find Hales using this same tactic with Jeremy Runnells. What is even more ironic, Gregory L. Smith identifies Winchester with the middle initial “F” in a big bold header in this FAIRMORMON Article (not a citation) he posted on their wiki page.  He also uses Benjamin F. Winchester in a footnote that was lifted from Van Wagoner’s work, and since the original source does not have the middle initial, how could Van Wagoner “cite” a person that (according to Hales and Smith) doesn’t exist? (This has since been corrected by Smith).

Hales and Smith also actually tried to accuse Richard Van Wagoner of plagiarism, but when I brought these mistakes up (which they must consider as plagiarism also, right?) in my comments at the Mormon Interpreter, they deleted my comments.  Smith also used the middle initial “F” for Benjamin Winchester on the “Other Accounts” section of “Mormonism and Temples”, (see screenshot above) which has also since been changed.

In fact, Hales himself also uses the middle initial “F” in one of his polygamy articles for The Journal of Mormon History, (Fall 2009) issue. On page 167 he uses the same citation that Grant Palmer does in his article, “Benjamin F. Winchester, “Primitive Mormonism—Personal Narrative of It,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 22, 1889, 2.” 

Hales doesn’t mention any discrepancies there at all, and uses this as a legitimate source quotation. He doesn’t cite Van Wagoner at all, which is where he must have gotten it from, since the original source does not have the middle initial. Must we therefore conclude that Hales also produces poorly constructed essays and relies on secondary sources for his information? Did he then plagiarize this from Van Wagoner? This is silly stuff folks, but part of their irrational world.

For more information see the Discussion, “Grant Palmer is Attacked by Brian Hales and Gregory L. Smith”, at Mormon Discussions,  posted on October 13, 2014, Online here, by grindael/Johnny Stephenson, accessed October 17, 2014.

At the Mormon Interpreter, only one comment by me was approved, but then the response by Gregory L. Smith and my comment were mysteriously deleted the next day. They did not bother to respond to any of my subsequent comments. This is their modus operandi, to smear those who don’t agree with them, and never let their fan base or “believing” audience see them get embarrassed by the evidence that knowledgeable Historians can and do present. My comments and reply by Smith are included in the Mormon Discussions Post from October 13, 2014 mentioned above.

Addendum: Hales also had a Facebook Conversation with Dan Vogel that rose (slightly) above these tactics which to his credit he posted on his website, but Hales still employs ad homenim towards Dan, and continues to use hypocritical tactics with the evidence. We have included and addressed some of these comments in this Essay, and have answered Hales’ last comment to Dan Vogel in Note #30.

[2]  Jeremy Runnells, “CES Letter,” PDF, online here, accessed September 1, 2014, hereafter “Runnells, CES”.

[3] FAIRMORMON, “Criticism of Mormonism,” online  here, accessed September 1, 2014.

[4] Jeremy Runnells, Debunking FAIRMORMON, PDF online here, accessed October 20, 2014, hereafter “Runnells, Deunking.”

[5] Runnells, Debunking, “Polygamy-Polyandry”, online here, accessed October 20, 2014.

[6] Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited.

[7]  Brian Hales, “There Began to be Lyings Sent Forth Among the People—The Message of Jeremy Runnells”, online here, August 14, 2014, hereafter cited as “Hales, Lyings”.

[8] Hales, Lyings, online here, accessed August 14, 2014.

[9] The difference here is that while Hales doesn’t show in any way that Jeremy is a liar; there is definite proof that Joseph Smith was. Also, see Episodes 402-404 at Mormon Stories Podcast, “Brian Hales”, Pt. 1 found here, accessed, October 20, 2014.

[10] 3 Nephi 1:22.

[11]  On July 4, 2014 Cheryl L. Bruno published a response to a letter that Hales wrote to the Editor of the John Whitmer Historical Association on the Worlds Without End Blog. Hales immediately began attacking Cheryl Bruno (another believing Mormon who disagreed with him). One of his comments about her was,

Are we to classify Cheryl Bruno as another webmaster who teaches that Joseph Smith was a fraud? Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing number of such voices on the Internet these days. (Cheryl Bruno, “Emma’s Awareness: A Response to Brian Hales’ JMH Letter to the Editor, Worlds Without End, Online here, Accessed, October 20, 2014).

Instead of sticking to the historical issues, which Hales called “pseudo-evidence”, he continued his personal attack on Cheryl Bruno:

Cheryl chastises me saying: “For shame, Brian.” Perhaps I should apologize, but when a person like Cheryl or me places themselves in front of others as teachers of Joseph Smith’s life and doctrines, our personal beliefs become an issue. Why? Because he taught, “If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). I think many in our audiences would like to know what spirit we seek as we teach. It seems to me that when you label Joseph Smith’s plural marriages as “indiscretions,” you portray him as a false prophet because he plainly disagreed with your assessment (see D&C 132:19-20). You affirm your belief in him but I seem to detect an inconsistency – (ibid., added emphpasis).

This is simply a ploy by Hales to try and jade the audience against those who disagree with him or his views about Joseph Smith. No one was asking this (by the way) if you read the comments. If you don’t uphold Smith and declare him totally innocent in everything he did, then you are a liar and Agent of Satan as Hales claims that Jeremy Runnells is; or that you have no right to teach anything about Smith as Hales directed at Cheryl Bruno.

With all of the erroneous conclusions that Brian Hales makes concerning polygamy, maybe he should evaluate himself as a teacher, but of course that will never happen, he will just produce more and more hit pieces on those who do not agree with him to promote his books and website. I advise Hales to carefully reread Doctrine and Covenants Section 107 and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. But if he is taking his cue from the Mormon Hierarchy in Salt Lake City, it will make little difference.

[12] Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited. There is a difference between being “quite critical” and blatant ad hominem which seems lost on those like Brian Hales.

[13] In the comments to this article Hales writes,

You are right that in this response I’ve not be able to really talk evidence. That is why I refer people to JosephSmithsPolygamy.ORG. There I have not avoided any topic. They are all there. Maybe give it a look?

It seems that everything that Hales produces is simply a promotion for his books or website. In his response to me about the attacks on Grant Palmer even Gregory L. Smith made a book pitch for Hales:

This is one reason that I recommend Brian’s 3 volumes so highly (and he didn’t pay me to say this!) He presents all the data available, or strives to. He explains how and why he reads it as he does, but even if you completely disagree, you can see how he got there. (Gregory L. Smith, response to grindael, October 14, 2014, since deleted by The Mormon Interpreter, but may be read here, Accessed, October 20, 2014).

Actually, you really can’t see how Hales gets to his conclusions because his speculations are, “ridiculous assertions”, (“The Sexual Side of Joseph Smith’s Polyandry,” 2012, 101) in which one finds “absurdity” (87) and many “fallacies of irrelevant proof”,  among other things, (80, 102, 104) according to Historian D. Michael Quinn.

Michael Quinn produced a massive analysis of Brian Hales’ questionable methodology in 2012 with his rebuttal to Hales’ flawed system of logic and perplexing gaffes in his use of the evidence in his presentations and written work dealing with Smith’s polyandry. He even went so far as to say that Hales consistently used a “double standard of LDS apologists who narrowly define acceptable evidence for unpleasant realities,” which for Hales, Smith’s life is full of.

The fact that Hales admits that his article targeting Jeremy Runnells really wasn’t about the evidence tells us that he was either too lazy to even try, or that it was so important to smear Jeremy Runnells that he just didn’t care about presenting any evidence to go along with his false accusations—or that he just didn’t have any.  We will let the readers decide.

What is interesting is that in a (now deleted) comment at the Mormon Interpreter, Gregory L. Smith derided me for saying that Grant Palmer was not obligated to include every apologist speculation that disagreed with his conclusions. He claimed that Palmer was then obligated to write a longer article.  He wrote,

If, however, Palmer is going to cite evidence regarding specific episodes that suggest Joseph had sexual dalliances outside of marriage relationships, then he must mention all the evidence which bears on those episodes. If this requires a larger article, so be it–he must either expand the article, or narrow his focus so that he can treat the evidence fairly in the allotted space. The same applies to you. One can’t simply allude to evidence that exists “out there” and consider the job done. I am a bit surprised that this is a point that must be explained. (Gregory L. Smith, comment to grindael, op. cited above in Note #1, added emphasis).

Does Hales do this with Jeremy Runnells? No. Even in his comments he admits that he doesn’t address the evidence but refers them to what is “out there” on his website.  We find this blatant hypocrisy troubling.

[14] Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited.

[15] Using closed systems of logic is one of the tactics of cultists. See for example, Captive Hearts Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Abusive Relationships,  Alameda, CA: Hunter House, Inc, Madeleine Landau Tobias, & Janja Lalich, (1994).

[16] Hales, Blog, op. cited.

[17] Neal A. Maxwell, “Becometh As a Child,” Conference Address, April 1996. Online here, accessed October 20, 2014.

[18] This kind of approach reminds us of something that Brigham Young once said, in regard to Mormon persecution,

The accusation brought against the Latter-day Saints was that they tampered with the slaves in Missouri, with the design of setting them free, and because of this the people were driven, and the Lord suffered it. But I ask did the Latter-day Saints ever suffer in Missouri as the Missourians did in the late struggle? No, not a drop in a bucket compared with it. The Missourians have been driven from their houses and hung up, their property confiscated, their women and children murdered, and every conceivable evil has been heaped upon them. Did we ever suffer like that? In very few instances; and it is a shame for the Latter-day Saints ever to talk about suffering. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, 148, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed October 20, 2014).

In other words according to Brigham Young Mormons have never really suffered compared to others and have a tendency to blow things out of proportion. That has not changed.

[19]  In this speech Maxwell cleverly interweaves the stories of Children’s faith in God and then likens that to the membership placing the same faith and trust in Mormon leaders.  He claims that “Because they trusted God as to what was really going on, like Job, they did not charge God foolishly”, and then states that members (like the people in the Book of Mormon) should be “willing to submit to what had been inflicted upon them.” He concludes that “Such submissive stillness is necessary, because the process of consecration is not one of explanation.” (added emphasis)

The concept of the lay membership being no more than “children” that need to be submissive and obey their leaders is nothing new in Mormonism.  In speaking of the Endowment, Catherine Lewis wrote in 1848:

This is called “the Sealing;” the Order of the Celestial Kingdom. In this part, the Twelve are commanded to take a plurality of wives; but lay members are only allowed to take to themselves wives with the consent of the Twelve. Here they seal up men, women and children to eternal life, as they term it. Men with their wives and families are sealed up to the Twelve as children, and are bound by solemn Oaths to obey their Parents (the Twelve) in all things, forever. They never become of age, but are subject to the Apostles, as Christ is to the Father.  At Nauvoo, I repeatedly heard it said, “When we arrive in the wilderness, where the law of the Lord can be executed, then the children who will not obey their parents, will be taken out of the Camp, and stoned to death. Did the people know under what bonds and penalties they brought themselves, by this sealing, very few, if any, but the most vicious and depraved, would consent to be sealed.  But it is wrapt so much in mystery, that many submit to its obligations from motives of curiosity, who afterward view them with abhorrence. I saw the sealing ceremony performed on Kimball’s lawful family, but should not be allowed to see the sealing of his adopted wives or children. (Catherine Lewis, Narrative, pg. 19, added emphasis).

Catherine Lewis is describing the Law of Adoption, which was practiced in the Church from the time of Joseph Smith until Wilford Woodruff discontinued the practice in 1894. A few years earlier in his Temple Lot Testimony, Lorenzo Snow lied that it was ever practiced in the Church. (See Note #176 & #177).

There is also plenty of evidence for the practice of Blood Atonement that was instigated by Young “in the wilderness” which we will discuss later in this Note.

For Hales to use this speech by Maxwell in relation to Jeremy Runnells is puzzling. Maxwell opens his speech with what he terms are the dangers of “Secularism” in America, and that “permissiveness” is opening the door to “awful consequences.” This is a debate that has been going on in America for many decades.  Maxwell quotes a line from one of journalist Peter Marin’s articles which speaks of “Secularism’s Blind Faith.”  But Maxwell completely misses Marin’s conclusion:

“We know now, or ought to know, that men are as ready to kill in God’s absence as they are in his name: that reason, like faith, can lead to murder, that the fanaticism long associated with religion was not born there, but has its roots deeper down in human nature.” (ibid, added emphasis)

One only has to look at the tyrannical reign of Brigham Young in Utah to see the flip side of Secularism’s problems in our day.  What is ironic is that Maxwell quotes Brigham Young in an effort to denounce what Young deemed “popularism” after he (Maxwell) denounces those who he claims “cannot leave the church alone”:

Like the throng on the ramparts of the “great and spacious building,” they are intensely and busily preoccupied, pointing fingers of scorn at the steadfast iron-rodders (1 Ne. 8:26–28, 33). Considering their ceaseless preoccupation, one wonders, Is there no diversionary activity available to them, especially in such a large building—like a bowling alley? Perhaps in their mockings and beneath the stir are repressed doubts of their doubts. In any case, given the perils of popularity, Brigham Young advised that this “people must be kept where the finger of scorn can be pointed at them” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 434). (Maxwell, op. cited).

But if one reads the quote by Young in context it becomes clear what he is really speaking of:

I look at this, and I am satisfied that it will not do for the Lord to make this people popular. Why? Because all hell would want to be in the church. The people must be kept where the finger of scorn can be pointed at them.

Although it is admitted that we are honest, industrious, truthful, virtuous, self-denying, and, as a community, possess every moral excellence, yet we must be looked upon as ignorant and unworthy, and as the offscouring of society, and be hated by the world. What is the reason of this? Christ and Baal can not become friends. When I see this people grow and spread and prosper, I feel that there is more danger than when they are in poverty. Being driven from city to city or into the mountains is nothing compared to the danger of our becoming rich and being hailed by outsiders as a first-class community. I am afraid of only one thing. What is that? That we will not live our religion, and that we will partially slide a little from the path of rectitude, and go part of the way to meet our friends. They say now that if we will only give up the doctrine of plurality of wives, they will admit us as a state, and hail us as “a pet state,” give us the preference to all the states, for our industry and prudence. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 12, pg. 272, August 16, 1868, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed October 20, 2014).

Yet Brigham Young was one of the richest men in Utah Territory, and collected a $10,000 a year salary from the Church for 30 years. (See, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, 409, April 10, 1878, online here, at the CHL). The Church did renounce polygamy for statehood.

Jeremy Runnells is asking questions about Mormonism, not advocating permissiveness in society. But of course it has always been a penchant for Mormon “authorities” to accuse those who question their leaders as having some kind of spiritual problem.  For example, Marion G. Romney taught that,

“What we get out of general conference is a build-up of our spirits as we listen to those particular principles and practices of the gospel which the Lord inspires the present leadership of the Church to bring to our attention at the time. He knows why he inspired Brother Joseph F. Merrill to give the talk he just gave. He knows why he inspired the other brethren who have talked in this conference to say what they have said. It is our high privilege to hear, through these men, what the Lord would say if he were here. If we do not agree with what they say, it is because we are out of harmony with the Spirit of the Lord.” (Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, October 1950, 126-127, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed October 20, 2014).

This is the Mormon doctrine of infallibility in a nutshell. Though there are many citations by apologists that Mormon “prophets” always encourage members to think for themselves, yet, if they do not agree with their “file leaders”, they are the ones with the problem, not the leaders.  Of course there is more leeway with the lower Priesthood leadership, but there is none with the upper hierarchy and thus they are infallible when it comes to doctrine as Joseph Smith claimed when he said “I never told you I was perfect but there is no error in the revelations I have taught,” regardless if he was “righteous” or not, which he claimed he was not.

Although this Ward Teacher’s Message from 1945 was later criticized because of its extreme phrasing, it stands as a testament to the same sentiment echoed above by Marion G. Romney in General Conference:

Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the prophets, seers, revelators’ of the church, is cultivating the spirit of apostacy. One cannot speak evil of the lord’s annointed… and retain the holy spirit in his heart. This sort of game is Satan’s favorite pastime, and he has practiced it to believing souls since Adam. He wins a great victory when he can get members of the church to speak against their leaders and to do their own thinking.”

Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes, whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the “prophets, seers, and revelators” of the Church is cultivating the spirit of apostasy. One cannot speak evil of the Lord’s anointed and retain the Holy Spirit in his heart.

It should be remembered that Lucifer has a very cunning way of convincing unsuspecting souls that the General Authorities of the Church are as likely to be wrong as they are to be right. This sort of game is Satan’s favorite pastime, and he has practiced it on believing souls since Adam. He wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to “do their own thinking.” He specializes in suggesting that our leaders are in error while he plays the blinding rays of apostasy in the eyes of those whom he thus beguiles. What cunning! And to think that some of our members are deceived by this trickery.

The following words of the Prophet Joseph Smith should be memorized by every Latter-day Saint and repeated often enough to insure their never being forgotten:

I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 156-157.)

When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God. (Ward Teachers Message, Deseret News, Church Section, 5, May 26, 1945. See also, Improvement Era, June 1945, 345).

This “Message” encapsulates what was proclaimed by every Mormon “authority” up to that time. Yet, what Joseph Smith claimed above, is exactly what he did himself (condemn others and claim that he was a prophet). Do all those that criticize Mormon leaders claim to be “righteous”? Not even Smith claimed that, he said that he was “not very righteous.” But he did claim there were no errors in his “revelations”. When the Ward Teachers Message from 1945 began to be circulated, it embarrassed the leadership of the church and George Albert Smith tried to retract it six months later:

The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not “prepared” by “one of our leaders.” However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.

George Albert Smith

I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts. The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow. (Letter from President George Albert Smith to Dr. J. Raymond Cope, Dec. 7, 1945).

If this was not the “true position” of the Church, then why did Marion G. Romney proclaim in General Conference five years later the very same thing? If you do not agree with what they (the leadership) say, it is you who are “out of harmony”.  Notice that Smith only focused on members not doing their own thinking, not that the leaders are infallible. He never rebuts that part of the message.

Actually, Joseph Smith supposedly claimed, and it is included in the new Essays on polygamy published by the church, that an angel appeared to Joseph Smith himself and threatened him with death (this is coercion is it not?) unless Smith began practicing polygamy.  This is hardly the ideal that George Albert Smith speaks of.

How is this allowing someone to be “free to choose or reject that teaching?” Smith also called John Snider on a mission and told him that if he did not go, he would be cut off from the church and damned. (See Note #33) This is definitely coercion, which Joseph also used on many of the women he tried to gain as spiritual “wives” by claiming that he could save them if they “married” him and if they did not they would be damned with their families. (See Note #73 & #44) If they chose to marry someone else and not Smith, they would be “damned”? How is this not coercion?

The bottom line here is that Church “authorities” are always right and if the members do not do what they say, they are wrong.  Though they supposedly teach people to think for themselves, in practice this is not the case, for if you do not agree with the church hierarchy it is because you (not them) are “out of harmony with the Spirit of the Lord” and an “apostate” who will be excommunicated as Rock Waterman and John Dehlin recently were.

You can think for yourself, as long as you agree. If you do not, and voice your disagreement, that is “speaking evil of the Lord’s Anointed,” and you are “out of harmony” once again. What is interesting is that when Spencer Kimball overturned the racist Priesthood Ban on blacks, Bruce R. McConkie wrote,

There are individuals who are out of harmony on this and on plural marriage and on other doctrines, but for all general purposes there has been universal acceptance; and everyone who has been in tune with the Spirit has known that the Lord spoke, and that his mind and his purposes are being manifest to the course the Church is pursuing. (Bruce R. McConkie, Speech delivered to CES Religious Educators Symposium, 18 August 1978, added emphasis).

“Out of harmony with the Spirit” simply means not agreeing with church “authorities” who Marion G. Romney claims all speak by its power and say “what the Lord would say if he were here.” Though cached in stronger language (the thinking has been done) the Ward Teachers Message from 1945 was exactly what Marion G. Romney was teaching five years later in 1950.

All of the people that were “in harmony” with Brigham Young who claimed that the blacks would never be able to be ordained to the Priesthood until all the sons of Abel were ordained were now “out of harmony” (in 1978) if they continued to believe that Young spoke by the “Holy Ghost” and was a bona fide prophet.

This makes no logical sense of course, unless one goes on an apologetic tangent and redefines what constitutes a prophet (in contradiction of what they themselves teach) or make the claim that they are only men and get “revelations” wrong sometimes. (They taught folklore that we don’t know the origin of, is a typical response). Of course, you won’t find the “authorities” admitting to any of this, it is all done anonymously and put up on their website with disclaimers that it is not “official”.

Notice that everyone who agreed with the leadership had “the Spirit”, while those who did not were “out of harmony”. McConkie was still using the same playbook that they used for the Ward Teacher’s Message from 1945 and that Marion Romney used five years later.  Brigham Young summed it up when he claimed:

I have told you what causes apostacy. It arises from neglect of prayers and duties, and the Spirit of the Lord leaves those who are thus negligent and they begin to think that the authorities of the church are wrong. In the days of Joseph the first thing manifested in the case of apostacy was the idea that Joseph was liable to be mistaken, and when a man admits that in his feelings and sets it down as a fact, it is a step towards apostacy, and he only needs to make one step more and he is cut off from the church. That is the case in any man. When several of the Twelve were cut off, the first step was that Joseph was a prophet, but he had fallen from his office and the Lord would suffer him to lead the people wrong. When persons get that idea in their minds, they are taking the first step to apostacy. If the Lord has designed that I should lead you wrong, then let us all go to hell together and, as Joseph used to say, we will take hell by force, turn the devils out and make a heaven of it. (Brigham Young, sermon given on 21 March 1858, Salt Lake Tabernacle, transcribed by George D. Watt, Richard Van Wagoner, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 3, 1420, added emphasis).

Young claims that as “prophets” they are never wrong. And if the Lord designs Young to lead them astray, well, just follow him to hell! Notice that he claims that it is “the Lord” that would direct Young to lead them astray. The Lord would direct Young to lead them astray from the Lord? This is senseless, but Young simply could not admit that he could ever lead anyone astray.

As for those who would not obey their covenants, there are many statements made by Brigham Young and other “authorities” in his day about the consequences and the blood atonement necessary as payment for doing so.  Here is one example:

 I could refer you to plenty of instances where men, have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins. I have seen scores and hundreds of people for whom there would have been a chance (in the last resurrection there will be) if their lives had been taken and their blood spilled on the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty, but who are now angels to the devil, until our elder brother Jesus Christ raises them up—conquers death, hell, and the grave. I have known a great many men who have left this Church for whom there is no chance whatever for exaltation, but if their blood had been spilled, it would have been better for them. The wickedness and ignorance of the nations forbid this principle’s being in full force, but the time will come when the law of God will be in full force.

This is loving our neighbour as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it. Any of you who understand the principles of eternity, if you have sinned a sin requiring the shedding of blood, except the sin unto death, would not be satisfied nor rest until your blood should be spilled, that you might gain that salvation you desire. That is the way to love mankind. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. Vol. 4, 215-221, February 8, 1857, Online here, Accessed October 20, 2014).

This was also called by Young “cleansing the platter”, and part of this was the making of some men into eunuchs.  This punishment (carried out on Mormon Thomas Lewis) was performed by a Mormon Bishop (Warren Snow) in the same year as the speech above by Brigham Young which culminated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre (1857).

FAIRMORMON of course, instead of using the original source material (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal and the Diary of Samuel Pitchforth ) in the case of Bishop Warren Snow castrating Thomas Lewis, uses an apologetic synopsis  taken from the Master’s Thesis of John A. Peterson.  They don’t even quote the original sources found in Peterson’s thesis. With all the talk about using “original sources”, we think that Brian Hales and Gregory L. Smith would better serve the Mormon community by cleaning up the FAIRMORMON websites before criticizing others about using “secondary sources”.

The actual account of the matter recorded by Wilford Woodruff reads,

2d I spent the day in the office. President Young Called in in the afternoon also George A. Smith. We Conversed upon various subjects. Herd one of G. A. Smith Sermons read. We Conversed upon the subject of the present excitement in the states Concerning mormonism. We then went into the Temple Block to see the form of the first w[ater?] table made of white sandstone.

I then went into the president office & spent the evening. Bishop Blackburn was present. The subject Came up of some persons leaving Provo who had Apostitized. Some thought that Bishop Blackburn & [p.55] President Snow was to blame. Brother Joseph Young presented the thing to presidet Young. But When the Circumstances were told Presidet Brigham Young sustained the Brethren who presided at Provo. He said they had done [      ].

The subjects of Eunuchs came up & Joseph said that He would rather die than to be made a Eunuch. Brigham Said the day would Come when thousands would be made Eunochs in order for them to be saved in the kingdom of God.

The subject of women & Adulterry Came up. Joseph Asked if a woman & man who were married Could Commit Adultery. Brigham said that Joseph said they Could not yet He was satisfied they Could do wrong.

President Young said we Cannot Clens the Platter because the people will not bear it. Joseph. I am willing to have the people Clens the platter if they Can do it in righteousness & Judge righteous Judgment. Brigham. This people never was half as well prepared to execute righteousness as Now.

.I wish there was some people on Earth who Could tell us Just how much Sin we must sustain before we Can chastize the people & correct their errors. The wicked may go to the states & call for troops. I dont think the people will get rich. To come after us they have got a long road to travel. We have either got to Join hands with sin & sinners or we have got to fight them.

The subject of Adultery again Came up. Joseph said a man Cannot Commit Adultery with his wife. So says the revelation on the Patriar[chal?] Marriage. Yet a man Can do rong in having Connexion with his wife at times. Joseph Young said the Ancient Apostle said this. A man should not put away his wife save for the Cause of fornication. If He did they would both Commit Adultery.

L to R: Lorenzo Dow Young, Brigham, Phineas H., Joseph & John Young [13 Sept. 1866]

Brigham Young Said Joseph taught that when a womans affections was entirly weaned from her husband that was Adultery in spirit. Her Affections were [p.56] Adulterated from his. He also said that there was No law in Heaven or on Earth that would Compel a woman to stay with a man either in time or Eternity. This I think is true (but I do not know) that if a man that is a High priest takes a woman & she leaves him & goes to one of a lesser office say the Lesser priesthood or member I think in the resurrection that that High Priest Can Claim her. “Joseph. What if she should not want to go with him? I should not want a woman under those Circumstances.

Brigham. I will tell you what you will find. That all those evil traditions & affections or passions that Haunt the mind in this life will all be done away in the resurrection. You will find then that any man who gets a glory & exaltation will be so beautiful that any woman will be willing to have him if it was right & wharever it is right for the woman to go there she will be willing to go for all those evils will vanish to which we are subject in this life.

I have told the people the truth Just as it is but others will at times get up & tell the people that they will get no heaven ownly what they make in this life and that it will be in the next world as it is in this. Now they do not mean what they say. They do not explain themselves. Hence the people will not understand what is said to them.

Joseph said I wish I knew what my limits were Brigham Your limits are endless & you have not got half way to the [end?] of it yet. Now when I was an Elder I was as willing to Correct an Error in the Brethren as I am now. But the people do not see it so. Now if you should be with the 12 or any body you would have a right to correct an Error as well as with a member but you could not Correct them by cutting them off from the Church because they are over you in the priesthood. Many other remarks were made at the time. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 5, 54-56, June 1, 1857. The Woodruff Journals are now online here, at the CHL).

Michael Quinn (citing Peterson) writes (The Mormon Hierarchy, Extensions of Power, 251) that in the account above, Joseph Young “disapproved” of castration, yet, Joseph Young only states that “He would rather die than to be made a Eunuch.” This is not approval or disapproval of doing so to others, it is simply a statement that he himself would not like to be made into one.

If one reads the actual quote from the Samuel Pitchforth diary one comes away with an entirely different view of what Joseph Young was talking about as John A. Peterson writes in his Master’s Thesis,

Late in the spring, Joseph Young (Brigham’s brother,) and a few other members of the Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy, learned of the incident while visiting the central Utah area. Joseph was incensed and “entirely disaproved” of the action. He mentioned it in Nephi as he returned to Salt Lake City. He furiously declared that he “did not want” that man as a leader that “would shed blood before he was duly commanded.” “Oh how careful men ought to be- in not steping to[o] far” he cautioned the Nephi leadership, “for they might do something that would give them sorrow forever.”  (John A. Peterson, “Warren Stone Snow, A Man In Between : The Biography of a Mormon Defender,” Master’s Thesis, BYU (1985) 114, citing The Diary of Samuel Pitchforth, May 31, 1857).

Peterson then claims that when Joseph Young was in Salt Lake and at the meeting described by Woodruff above, that he was “In a near rage” when he claimed that he would rather die than be made a Eunuch. (ibid.).

First, there is nothing to convey that Joseph Young was in a “near rage” at all at either meeting. And most importantly, Young isn’t saying that he disapproved of the castration, (though he didn’t want to be castrated himself –who would?) he “entirely disapproved” of any man that “would shed blood before he was duly commanded.” To show that this was the thrust of what Joseph Young meant, one simply has to read the minutes recorded in Wilford Woodruff’s Journal.

Peterson very selectively quotes from the Woodruff Journal as he does with the Pitchforth Diary, (which has restricted access at the CHL) so I am relying on his edited transcription.

It is from Pitchforth that we are told that Thomas Lewis was “under arrest and on the way to the City (Salt Lake) to be taken to the penitentiary”. (ibid., 203-204) This still does not stop FAIRMORMON from claiming that “Lewis was being transported to the penitentiary for a sexual crime. He was not attacked simply for desiring a marriage.”  They also make a lot of other points based on Peterson’s apologetic work.

Quinn (per Peterson) writes that Lewis’ transport to the penitentiary was for an “undisclosed sex crime”. (D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy, Origins of Power, Signature Books, 251). This is also used by FAIRMORMON and others to try and shift the blame for the attack—not on Warren Snow’s jealously of Lewis, but on some “sex crime” committed by Lewis even though Peterson states that there are no records of any kind of crime being committed by Lewis at Nephi, or of any excommunication for such.  (See Peterson, pp. 203-204 where he states that “No minutes of any civil or church trial for Thomas Lewis’ crime have been found.”)

Now, there may have been no records found in Nephi, but there are records of a Church trial in Manti— but not for a sex crime. As John Turner writes:

“Even if Young primarily considered the doctrine [of blood atonement] a prod to repentance, several brutal acts of violence indicated the dangerous nature of his rhetoric. On October 29, 1856, at the height of the reformation in Manti, Thomas Lewis was castrated. Lewis was a Welsh immigrant in his early twenties; a few weeks earlier, he had been excommunicated from the church because he had nearly killed Manti resident John Price with a [p. 259] shovel. More recently, he had threatened to kill his brother-in-law Isaac Vorhees and had been sentenced to five years in prison. While being transported to the penitentiary, according to his mother, Elizabeth Jones, Lewis ‘was taken out of the wagon and a blanket put round his head & . . . like a pig by taking his Testicles clean out & he laid at this place in a dangerous state he was out two nights & part of two days before he was found.’ Manti bishop Warren Snow had ordered her son’s castration. Two later anti-Mormon exposes alleged that Lewis had courted a woman also desired by Bishop Snow, but the incident may also have simply stemmed from Lewis’s violent behavior.[n76]

Elizabeth Jones wrote to Young for an explanation. Young was aware of Lewis’s crimes and punishments, for local leaders had discussed the Price incident with him. According to Jones, Young had authorized her son’s transportation in handcuffs to the Salt Lake penitentiary. Now she asked the church president if her son’s punishment was ‘right and righteous.’ Young responded with a letter that, while expressing sympathy, offered theological justification for the castration by alluding to the concept of blood atonement. ‘I would prefer that any child of mine should lose his life in atonement for his sins than lose eternal salvation,’ he counseled. The following spring, when other church leaders questioned Snow’s judgment, Young defended the bishop. ‘I will tell you,’ Young insisted, ‘that when a man is trying to do right & do[es] some thing that is not exactly in order I feel to sustain him.’ Snow kept his bishopric.

Though he condoned it afterward, it is uncertain whether Young had authorized Thomas Lewis’s castration in advance.[n77]” (John Turner, Brigham Young, 258–259).

Notes 76 and 77 on page 463 read as follows:

  1. Excommunication in Manti Ward Record, 5 Oct. 1856, LR 5253 11, CHL; Minutes of Sanpete County Court, 20 Oct. 1856, microfilm at HBLL Family History Library; Jones to BY, 8 Nov. 1856, Box 69, Folder 7, BYP; Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, or the Story of a Life in Bondage (Hartford, CT: Dustin, Gilman, 1875), 280; MU, 285–286.
  2. BY to Elizabeth Jones, 15 Nov. 1856, Letterpress Copybook 3, page 186a, BYP; WWJ, 2 June 1857, 5:54–55.

It becomes clear why Peterson states that there were no records to be found for any sex crime committed by Lewis, because he was excommunicated for almost killing a man and threatening to kill another.  Lewis’ mother, Elizabeth Jones wrote two letters to Brigham Young in early November about her son’s castration, which are at the Church History Library but are currently restricted.

Young’s response to Elizabeth Jones is troubling because it is about “losing your life in atonement” for sin, which sentence was usually carried out on murderers and those who broke their temple covenants. Castration does not seem to fit this crime. (The one Lewis was actually excommunicated for).

The fact that Lewis did not actually murder anyone may be why Joseph Young told those at Nephi that not waiting to be duly commanded to carry out punishments of this nature might “give them sorrow forever”. Still, Joseph Young was speaking many months after the incident took place, and it is not certain that he knew Brigham Young was already aware of the incident from the letters of Elizabeth Jones. During the meeting held in June, they mention two persons that had left Provo who had “apostatized”, and then Bishop Snow.  This is important because it corroborates an 1859 account by a U. S. soldier. (mentioned below)

Ann Eliza Young wrote about Lewis in her book, Wife No. 19 and claimed that,

Contrary to his [Thomas Lewis] usual habit, he attended a dancing-party one evening at the urgent and repeated entreaties of his friends, and during the evening he was quite attentive to a young lady-friend or his who was present, and with whom he was on terms of greater intimacy than with any other in the company. …It happened that Snow, the Bishop of the ward in which the Lewis family lived, had cast his patriarchal eye on this young girl, and designed her for himself; and he did not relish the idea of seeing another person pay any attention to his future wife. He had a large family already, but he wished to add to it, and he did not choose to be interfered with.

Lewis’s doom was sealed at once; the bewitched Bishop was mad with jealous rage, and he had only to give a hint of his feelings to some of his chosen followers, who were always about, and the sequel was sure. He denounced Lewis in the most emphatic manner, and really succeeded in arousing quite a strong feeling of indignation against him for his presumption in daring to pay even the slightest attention to a lady who was destined to grace a Bishop’s harem.

The closest espinoage was kept upon him by the Bishop’s band of ruffians, and one evening a favorable opportunity presented itself; he was waylaid, and the Bishop’s sentence was carried out, which was to inflict on the boy an injury so brutal and barbarous that no woman’s pen may write the words that describe it.

He lay concealed spot for twenty-four hours, weak and ill, and unable to move. Here his brother found him in an apparently dying state, and took him home to his poor, distracted mother, who nursed him with a breaking heart, until after a long time, when he partially recovered. (Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, 280-81, Online here, accessed November 1, 2014).

Ann Eliza Young does try to paint Lewis as a “quiet, inoffensive fellow”, which he obviously was not, but she gets some other details correct in her account. (See below)

There is other corroborating evidence for this being a case of a Bishop getting revenge.  There is an 1859 diary entry by John Wolcott Phelps, a U. S. Calvary Soldier who later became a Brigadier General, but who was a First Lieutenant during the Mormon War. According to D. Michael Quinn, Phelps wrote that,

…“two youths” fled to the U.S. army camp after being “castrated by Mormons.” One “handsome young Dane” had been courting a girl whom an LDS bishop wanted. To dispose of his rival, the bishop claimed the young man “had committed bestiality and had him castrated.” (John W. Phelps diary, March 28, 1859, cited by Quinn, Extensions of Power, 1997, 255 & 538 n. 195).

Quinn believes that this is a later incident, but in Peterson’s thesis he claims that in the spring of 1859, District Judge John Cradlebaugh began a crusade against any Mormons accused of various crimes and “sought any information that would incriminate any Mormon leader in any way and the Lewis affair… put Warren near the top of the judge’s wanted list.” (ibid., 116).

At the end of March we have John Phelps writing about a Mormon Bishop who had orchestrated the castration of a young man who they claimed had committed bestiality. This same young man had been courting a girl that the Bishop wanted for himself.  It was only a few weeks after this that men showed up at Warren Snow’s door to arrest him and he fled.

It is entirely plausible that First Lieutenant John Phelps was told the story about the Bishop and the castration (since he was near the top of their wanted list at that time) before the men were dispatched to arrest Snow. Also, the meeting recorded by Woodruff in June of 1857 speaks of two persons who had apostatized and left Provo and mentions them in connection with Bishop Snow.

Even FAIRMORMON claims that,

One other event from journals in 1859 reports an unnamed bishop supposedly castrating someone because they wanted to marry their girlfriend. Snow is named by one source in the 1859 account; given Brigham’s reaction to the first event, it seems unlikely that Snow would do the same thing again. His inclusion in an account of the second event may well be due to conflation, which may demonstrate how unusual such events were. It may be that rumor and frontier “urban legend” confused the Snow story with the passage of time.

Judge John Cradlebaugh

This is unlikely because at that time (1859)  Judge John Cradlebaugh was investigating Snow for castrating John Lewis and these appear to be the details of that investigation which were written about at that time.

Again, what sense does it make that Snow would want to castrate Lewis for bestiality or some other crime, when he was already going to the penitentiary for attempted murder?  It makes much more sense that Snow would do so out of revenge to perhaps teach him a lesson or carry out his idea of Mormon justice.

Peterson claims that Warren Snow “railed” that “There is some of our sisters … that will ask those cussed Gentiles to go home & sleep with them.” (Peterson, op. cited, 111). But Lewis was not a “Gentile”, he was a member of the church.  Snow also claimed “that a dagger should be put through both of their hearts,” not that the man should be castrated. (ibid.).

Peterson blames this on violent rhetoric by Mormon “authorities”, and that may be so in this case because Joseph Young claimed that they carried out this punishment without being duly commanded.

Peterson also claims that, “To Warren, who trusted his leaders implicitly, such preaching was more than simple hyperbole”. He also claims that Brigham “tempored” [sic] his teaching” by claiming that such things were for a time “not yet here”. (ibid., 112-113)

When discussing the meeting recorded by Woodruff, Peterson writes:

“Obviously referring to Lewis’ crime, they then discussed sexual sin. Brigham again emphasized his feeling that the time for such severe punishment was still in the future by saying that church leaders could not “Clens the Platter because the people will not bear it.” He expressed his fear that if such penalties were carried out, “the wicked [would]go to the states & call for troops.” But then, making obvious reference to Warren, he said, “I will tell you that when a man is trying to do right & do[es] something that is not exactly in order I feel to sustain him.” and perhaps looking at Joseph [Young], he authoritatively added “& we all should.” (ibid.).

Actually, they were not referring to any crime committed by Lewis, they spoke of two people leaving Provo who had “apostatized.” They then discussed the castration (Joseph Young presenting it to Brigham Young) and Young sustained Bishop Snow in his action. They then spoke about Eunuchs. It was only after this that the “subject of adultery came up.”

Peterson then relates that later, Brigham Young wrote a letter to Warren Snow and “affirmed his friendship” and in answer to a letter from Snow to Young about complaints from Ward members stated that Young’s writing an Epistle to the Ward members affirming Snow’s action “would be like pouring water on “a hot Iron,” making only “the more smoke.” “Just let the matter drop,” he told Warren, “and say no more about it, and it will soon die away amongst the people.” (ibid., 114-115) It obviously did not die down, for Joseph Young was told about it, mentioned it in Nephi and then reported the incident to his brother. This was eight months later.

This obvious whitewash of the whole affair by Brigham Young is astounding if (as Young claimed) this was all something that was not any kind of policy in the Church, but was for a future time. And Peterson’s edited version of the minutes of the meeting recorded by Woodruff on June 2, 1857, do not do it justice. Joseph Young also claimed that,

 I am willing to have the people Clens the platter if they Can do it in righteousness & Judge righteous Judgment.  (Woodruff, op. cited)

This is hardly disapproval of castrating people or killing them if they “sin”.

Brigham Young replied,

This people never was half as well prepared to execute righteousness as Now. I will tell you that when a man is trying to do right & do[es] some thing that is not exactly in order I feel to sustain him & we all should. I wish there was some people on Earth who Could tell us Just how much Sin we must sustain before we Can chastize the people & correct their errors. (ibid., added emphasis).

Peterson claims that they were speaking of Lewis’ “crime” when they spoke of cleansing the platter, but this was prefaced by a question about adultery between those already married by Joseph Young. To therefore ascribe the remarks to some nameless sex crime committed by Lewis is going beyond the evidence.

Why also, (if this were only hyperbole on Brigham Young’s part) does he ask how much sin they have to sustain before they could chastize the people and correct their errors? Wasn’t this what was being done with the so called hyperbole as Peterson claims? What then does he mean here by chastize?

One also wonders why Brigham Young would only be concerned about someone doing “something  that is not exactly in order” and that attempted murder and castration is “trying to do something right” if blood atonement was not a practice in the church.

What Woodruff’s Minutes convey is that Young felt that the practice was not ready to go to the Church as a whole. It does not mean that it was not being carried out in private and sanctioned by the “authorities”, as polygamy was before it was given to the church. It also makes sense out of Joseph Young’s initial concern that Snow carried out the order without being duly commanded.

It is also interesting that less than a year after the Lewis castration; Hosea Stout recorded another incident that took place,

“Saturday 27 Feb 1858. This evening several persons disguised as Indians entered Henry Jones’ house and dragged him out of bed with a whore and castrated him by a square & close amputation.” (On the Mormon Frontier; The Diary of Hosea Stout, Vol. 2, 653).

This was the same M.O. that was used during the Mountain Meadows Massacre. A year later Henry Jones and his mother were murdered.  (Vally Tan, April 19, 1859).

Still, Blood Atonement has been denied as a doctrine of the Church and in the 1990’s the Temple Endowment was changed and the blood Oaths which filled Catherine Lewis with so much loathing and fear (which obviously led her to feel some paranoia) were removed from the ceremony.

In a strange turn of events we find that the mother of Thomas Lewis eventually became one of Brigham Young’s wives:

“For two decades, Elizabeth Jones had endured a tumultuous family life. A woman of some means, she left Wales as the wife of David Thomas Lewis, married Captain Dan Jones shortly after her arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, and then divorced Jones in October 1856. One day after her divorce, her son Thomas Lewis was castrated by an extralegal posse, and Young conveyed to her his approval of the punishment. Elizabeth then married a third husband, whom she also divorced. In the late 1850s, she asked Young to marry her. ‘I belong to you,’ she wrote the church president, adding that he had previously caused her to marry against her wishes. ‘Had you Have acted the right part toward me I should [p. 376] have Been another woman,’ she stated. Young admired the woman many Mormons called the ‘Welsh Queen’; he publicly praised her generosity toward poor emigrants from Wales. He was unwilling to marry her, however, and she eventually returned to Captain Jones. Seven years after Dan Jones’s 1862 death, Young and Elizabeth finally kneeled  together at the Endowment House altar. . .” (Turner, op. cited, 375–376).

Ann Eliza Young in her expose writes that,

But a still greater marvel is, that the mother of Biship Snow’s poor victim still retains her faith in Mormonism, and since the cruel and disgraceful tragedy which deprived her of her son, has been sealed to Brigham Young as one of his wives. It was not pity that moved him to marry her, nor a desire to comfort her and lighten her burdens; but it was because he saw by so doing he could advance his own interests. Mrs. Lewis is never mentioned among his wives, yet he was sealed to her about two years after his marriage to me. Brigham’s matrimonial experiences hardly find a place here, but as Mrs. Lewis’s alliance with the Prophet came about in a way through this tragedy, it may not be out of place even in this chapter on “Blood-Atonement.” (Ann Eliza Young, op. cited, 281-282).

[20] Maxwell, op. cited.

[21] Maxwell, op. cited.

[22] Hales, “Lyings”, op. cited

[23] Attributed to Ryan Robinson.

[24] Hales, “Rational Faiths”, op. cited.


Origin of the Baptism for the Dead Doctrine

This is an expanded version (with media) of an article which originally appeared in the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal by Johnny Stephenson and H. Michael Marquardt. (Spring, 2017 Issue)


In 1990 Guy Bishop wrote about baptism for the dead in Nauvoo and made this observation based on his research:

We have been left with scant evidence of how Joseph Smith formulated the Mormon plan of baptism for the dead. But, by the time the beleaguered Saints had crossed the Mississippi River in 1839 and had begun to reestablish themselves in western Illinois, the Prophet apparently knew how the worthy dead were to meet the mandate for baptism.[1]

What was the origin of the baptism for the dead doctrine that Joseph preached in Nauvoo in the late summer of 1840? New evidence and a re-examination of existing evidence may help us to answer this question.


In the summer of 1837, Apostles Heber C. Kimball[2] and Orson Hyde[3] left America for a mission to preach the newly restored Gospel in England. After arriving in Liverpool, they made their way north to Preston where they met with the relatives of some Canadian converts such as Joseph Fielding and John Taylor, who had joined the Church due to the efforts of Parley P. Pratt in 1836.[4]

William Clayton & Wife Diantha Farr

The relatives of these Canadian converts readily accepted the Gospel in England, and helped Kimball and Hyde to convert many others including William Clayton[5] who was appointed second counselor to the British Mission President, Willard Richards.[6] By the end of 1837, almost a hundred and fifty souls had been baptized due to the efforts of these Apostles.

A year later, another of the original Quorum of the Twelve, David W. Patten was called on a mission,[7] but before he could fulfill it, he was wounded in the Battle of Crooked River[8] in Ray County, Missouri and died from his injuries on October 25, 1838.

In July, 1838, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, John E. Page and Willard Richards were called to fill vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve.[9]  In that same July revelation Joseph Smith instructed that the Twelve Apostles were to leave Far West on April 26, 1839 and journey “over the great waters” to “promulgate my gospel.”[10]

In January, 1839 George Albert Smith, Joseph’s cousin was also called to fill a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve.[11]

By April of 1840 eight Apostles had assembled together in the British Isles at Preston, England where they ordained Willard Richards to their quorum. [12] At a general conference held on April 15, 1840 the Apostles announced that there were 1,671 members, 34 elders, 52 priests, 38 teachers, and 8 deacons in England and Scotland.[13]


One of those English Saints converted by the efforts of William Clayton was Ann Eastwood Booth, the wife of Robert Booth of the town of Manchester.[14] A month before the general conference was held in Preston, Ann claimed to have had a vision about the Spirit World which subsequently came to the attention of Brigham Young.

Mary Ann Angell Young, circa 1850

On May 26, 1840 Brigham wrote to his wife, Mary Ann,[15] about the vision and included a copy of it in his letter.  Young wrote:

I am desposed to wright you a vision in this or som other letter <that> I shall send, it is concerning David W. Patten’s minestry in the world whare he has gon,  it gives my hart joy inexspesable; …

I will now give you the vision * [insert from top of letter] Sister Booth sayes she heard a voice saying she must goe to Paridice then she was cared away in in the vision*

I Ann Booth, Wife of Robert Booth of the Town of Manchster, England, had the following vision of the 12 day of march in the year of our Lord one thousand and forty <1840>.

Being caried away in a vision to the Place of departed spirits I saw 12 Prisons, one abov another, verry large, and builded of soled stone. on ariveing at the <dore of the> upermost Prision I behed one of the 12 apostles of the Lamb who had been martered in America, standing at the dore of the Prison holding a key in his hand with which he opned unlocked the dore and went in and I fol[low]ed him.

he appeard to be of a large sise. thick set, darke hare darke eyes and eyebrows of a smiling countnane, and on <his> head was a crown of gold or somthing brighter, he was dresed in a long white robe, with the sleves plated from the sholder down to the hand.  upon his brest ware fore stares apparently like gold <or briter>. and a golden girdle about his Loins.  his feet was bare from above the Ancles down<w>ard and his hands were also bare.  as he entred the prison he seemed to stand about 3 feet from the floor (which was of Marble) as if the place was not worthy for him to stand upon. a verry brilient and glorie<u>s light surounded him, while the res of the prison was dark. but his light was peculiar to him self, and did not reflect upon others who was in the prison, who ware surounded with a gloom of darkness.

Brigham Young letter to Mary Ann Young, May 26, 1840

on the right hand of the dore stood Jhon Wesley, who on seing the glories personage, rased his hands and shouted >glory, honer, praise, and Power, be ascribed unto God and the Lamb forever and ever— Deliverance has Com-.  the Apostle then commecd to preached the Baptism of repentence for the remision of sins, and the gift of the Holy Gost by the laing of hands when the hundreds of prisners gave a shout with aloud voice saying >Glory be to God for ever and ever.

the marble floor was then remo=ved and a River of watter clere as Cristall seemed to fow in it place.  the Apostle then called to John Wesley by name who came fawrd quickley and both went down in to t[he -damaged] water and the Apostle Baptized him and coming up out of the water he lade his hands upon him for the gift of the Holy Gost, at the same time ordainedng him to the Preasthood of Aaron;

the Apostle then retired to the place ware he first stod and John Wesley then proseded to Baptize a man by the of Kilbham and next John Madison and Wm Scott. and John Tongue <who> ware Methodest Prachers with whome I had ben a quanted personly.  the next he Baptized was my grand father Edmond Whitehead the next was my unkel Johon Whitehead and the next was my sister Elizabath Oland, the <next> was Joseph Lancashere next Samuel Robinson Robinson and the next was my own Mother, all these had lived and died Methodest and I And had ben personly aquanted with them all, and after this he Baptized all the Prisoners amoun=ting to menny hundreds.

after they ware all Baptized, the Apostle Lade his hands on them all and confermed them, then instantly the Darkeness dispersed and they ware all surrounded and envellopd in a Brilint light, such as surounded the Apostle at the first. and they all lifted up theyer voices with one accord giving glory to God for deliverence.

My gra<n>d father then came to me and Blest me saying  the Lord bless forever and ever, art thou com to see us deliverd.  my mother then came to me and clasped me in hir arms and kissed me three times and said the Lord Almightly Bless the for ever and evere.

I then awoke out of my vision and felt so happy and rejoiced that I could not lay in bed.  I awaked my husben we got up.  I then tooke the Bible opened it to 3 different places, first to Isah 24, Chap. 22 v. the next was John C- 1- v-5—  the third time I opned bible was <first> Peater 3-C-18-19-20—ver— not being aquanted with these texts of Cripture and opening to each of them provedencily I was asstonished beyond measure.

I would futher state that at the time I had the vission I had never hered of the deth of David Patten whome I have sence lerned was one of the twelve Apostles of the Later day saynts in America, and was martered in the late percution in the fall of 1838. but in <the> vision I knew that it was an Apostle who had ben slane in America,

I here by sollemly testfy that I actually saw and hered in the vision what I have related, and I give my name and set my seal in witness to same; well know that I must stand before the Judment seet of Christ and ancer to this testmony, amen & amen.[16]

Wilford Woodruff, Nauvoo Era

A few months later, on July 2, 1840 Wilford Woodruff wrote in his journal that he,

…spent the day at 149 Oldham road in writing. I was informed of a remarkable vision of Sister Ann Booth which I have written on the following page. I spent the night at Br John Walkers Cookson Strt No 10.[17]

Woodruff then writes “A Remarkable Vision” in his journal and copies the entire vision of Ann Booth below this header. There are some slight differences between the two copies, so Woodruff may not have gotten his copy of the vision from Brigham Young.[18]


Back in America, David W. Patten was being hailed as a martyr of the faith.  In the Times and Seasons, an account of his death was printed in November, 1839:

The Battle of Crooked River by C.A.A. Christensen

On the retreat of the mob from Daviess, I [Joseph Smith] returned to Caldwell, [County] hoping to have some respite from our enemies, at least for a short time; but upon my arrival there, I was informed that a mob had commenced hostilities on the borders of that county, adjoining to Ray co. and that they had taken some of our brethren prisoners, burned some houses and had committed depredations on the peaceable inhabitants. A company under the command of Capt. Patten, was ordered out by Lieutenant Col. Hinckle to go against them, and stop their depredations, and drive them out of the county. Upon the approach of our people, the mob fired upon them, and after discharging their pieces, fled with great precipitation, with the loss of one killed and several wounded. In the engagement Capt. Patten, (a man beloved by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance,) was wounded and died shortly after.[19]

Seven months earlier, Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal that

Elder David W. Patten… was martered in Missouri in 1838 for the word of God & the testimony of Jesus Christ. He was the first marter of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints chosen to build up the kingdom of GOD & prepare for the coming of Christ.[20]

After his arrival in England, Woodruff wrote in November, 1839:

I had a dream during the night & had an interview with Mrs Woodruff, But did not see [daughter] Sarah Emma. I travelled a distance with Judge [Elias] Higby in a hard storm in my dream. I also saw Br David Patten who was Martered in Missouri.[21]

Though Ann Booth claims that she never heard of the death of David W. Patten previous to having her vision in March, 1840, he was an important figure that was both written about and spoken of, and had been designated as a martyr soon after his death.


Brigham Young, Circa 1840’s

Mary Ann Young most likely received the copy of Ann Booth’s vision from her husband Brigham Young in mid-summer 1840 and then shared it with many of the saints in Nauvoo. This vision excited and inspired many, as it did with the Apostles who had read it.

The vision spoke of David W. Patten as performing an important mission in the Spirit World, a place where many of the Saints felt they too would be called to serve after death.

When Joseph was translating the Bible in 1830, he wrote about the wicked who had died in the days of Noah:

But behold, these which thine eyes are upon shall perish in the floods; and behold, I will shut them up; a prison have I prepared for them. And that which I have chosen [Jesus Christ] hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me, and until that day they shall be in torment.”[22]

A few years later Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had a vision of the afterlife[23] and in that vision they claimed that, “…concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—they are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial… that by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power; and who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise… these are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God.”[24]

Those who were locked up in the Spirit Prison, would inherit a lesser glory:

And again, we saw the terrestrial world, and behold and lo, these are they who are of the terrestrial, whose glory differs from that of the church of the Firstborn who have received the fulness of the Father, even as that of the moon differs from the sun in the firmament. Behold, these are they who died without law; And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh; Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it. These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.[25]

In 1836, Joseph Smith claimed to have had another vision of the afterlife,[26] during which he saw “Father Adam and Abraham and Michael and my father and mother, my brother, Alvin, that has long since slept” in the Celestial Kingdom. Joseph “marvled how it was that he [Alvin] had obtained this an inheritance <in> this <that> kingdom, [of glory] seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord <had> set His hand to gather Israel <the second time>, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins—”[27]

The answer claimed Joseph, was given to him in the same vision by “the voice of the Lord”:

All who have died with[out] a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God—also all that shall die henseforth with<out> a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom; For I, the Lord, <will> judge all men according to their works according to the desire of their hearts—and again I also beheld the Terrestial kingdom also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven—[28]

In 1838, Joseph Smith was asked a question about “those who have died since the days of the apostles.” Joseph’s answer was that,

All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the gospel, and being administered to by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter before they can be finally judged.[29]

It is clear that Joseph is claiming that all those who have died and have not heard the gospel must have it administered or preached to them by “an inspired man” in this life, must have it preached to them hereafter. This was evident from the Bible, where it speaks of Jesus preaching the gospel to the spirits in prison:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.[30]

Sidney Rigdon spoke of this authority to administer the gospel in February, 1836:

For take the priesthood away by which the gospel was administered, and of what avail is the gospel? the answer is, it is of none; for the gospel is only of use to man, when there is somebody to administer it to them.[31]

As far as the Church and Joseph were concerned, this settled the matter. The question of baptism was left unanswered. Ann Booth’s vision was innovative in that it spoke of these prisoners being both baptized and confirmed in the Spirit World, after they had the gospel preached to them by one who had the authority to do so. This answered the apparent conundrum about baptism and confirmation of the Holy Spirit for those who had not received these ordinances while they were in mortality.


In August of 1840, a few months after the vision of Ann Booth had made its way to Nauvoo, Seymour Brunson,[32] a forty year old High Councilman, friend and bodyguard of Joseph Smith was taken with a severe sickness. His son later wrote,

In the month of July 1840, my father having occasion to get up in the night to drive some cattle out of his lot, caught cold which brought on a severe sickness, which ultimately resulted in death. . . . Joseph Smith had previously had him removed to his house thinking the change might prove beneficial to my father’s health, but he still continued to decline, and when Joseph understood that my father would rather go than stay, he and others visited him and bidding him goodby, remaked “Brother Brunson, since it is your desire to go, we shall not hold you by faith any longer.” My father then called his family together, and after asking my mother if all the children were present, he bid us a last farewell, and shortly after his spirit winged its flight from its earthly tenement to take its place amongst the spirits of the just.[33]

In early September (after the Brunson funeral), Vilate Kimball wrote to her husband, Heber, in England:

Semor Brunson is dead. everything was done to save him that could be done, but the Lord had kneed of him a short time before he died he told Joseph not to hold him any longer, for sed he, I have seen David Patten and he wants me and the Lord wants me, and I want to go. they then gave him up. at one time as Joseph entered the room, he told him there was a light incircled him above the brightness of the sun, he exclaimed the room is full of angels, they have come to waft my spirit home, he then bid his family farewell, and sweetly fell asleep in jesus. he requested President Smith to preach his funeral sermon which he did.[34]

John Smith, circa 1850’s

John Smith wrote to his son George Albert in England about the death of Elder Brunson on August 21, 1840:

There has been considerable sickness in Nauvoo and Commerce and many some deaths though I think not so many as last by any means, according to the number of inhabitants, only mention Elder Brunson he Died very happy, David Patton came after him he said with a convoy of Angels David wanted him and Davids God wa=nted him and Joseph held him back but he must go. …Joseph has commen=ced Delivering a course of Lectures to us on this side of the River on the first Princlpals of the gospel particularly the Resur=rection of the Dead and Eternal Judgement has spent two Sabbaths has an appointment tomorrow at Nashville is to ap<p>oint a place o this side to build up a Town as the Saints in Iowa are scattered over a large tract of land[35]

From what Vilate and others wrote later, when Seymour Brunson was on his deathbed he expressed a strong desire to go to the Spirit World, claiming to have “seen David Patten”, who wanted him to help with the work he was performing there on behalf of the dead. By this time, the vision of Ann Booth had probably influenced many about David Patten including Seymour Brunson.

Neither of these letters (written after the funeral) mention the doctrine of Baptism for the Dead. Brunson’s obituary, written by Joseph Smith read,

Colonel Seymour Brunson, aged forty years, ten months and twenty-three days, died at Nauvoo. Colonel Brunson was among the first settlers of this place. He has always been a lively stone in the building of God and was much respected by his friends and acquaintances. He died in the triumph of faith, and in his dying moments bore testimony to the Gospel that he had embraced.[36]


Vilate Kimball in the same September letter to her husband wrote that Seymour Brunson’s funeral,

…was attended by thousands of people, he was buried under arms. the prosession that marched to the grave was judged to be a mile long. a more solm sight I never witnessed, and yet the day was joyful because of the light and glory which Joseph set forth; I can truly say my soul was lifted up.[37]

On November 9th, Heber Kimball conveyed to John Taylor the news of Brunson’s death and funeral that Vilate had written to him about in September:

Semer Bronson is gon. David Paten came after him. the Rom was full of Angels that came after him to waft him home, he was burred under arms, the Procession, that went to the grave was judged to be one mile long, and a more joyfull Season She Ses She never Saw be fore on the account of the glory that Jospeh set forth”[38]

The comments made about David W. Patten by Seymour Brunson to Joseph Smith apparently did not go unnoticed by him. In addition to Patten’s preaching in the Spirit Prison he was also described as performing baptisms and confirmations upon the spirits of the dead. Many, including Brunson, probably had questions about what exactly was happening in the Spirit World.

When Joseph had questions about doctrine he would often refer to the scriptures to find answers. Considering the fact that neither Vilate Kimball or John Smith wrote about this startling new doctrine in their August and September letters, it is doubtful that Joseph did more than mention baptism for the dead in passing at the funeral of Seymour Brunson.[39]

On December 15, 1840 Joseph wrote a letter to the Twelve Apostles in England. In that letter he states that he “first mentioned the doctrine in public while preaching the funeral sermon of Bro Brunson, and have since given general instructions to the Church on the subject.”[40]


Vienna Jacques, circa 1860’s

In 1854, Jane Harper Neyman[41] and Vienna Jacques[42] stopped by the Church Historian’s Office in Salt Lake City and gave brief statements about their experiences concerning Baptism for the Dead in Nauvoo. Curiously, there are two versions of their testimony in the Church History Library. The first document reads,


Sept 13th 1840

*Jane Neymon States that at the funeral of Col Seymour Brunson that Joseph Preached Seymour Brunsons funeral sermon & then first introduced the subject of Baptism of the Dead & said to the people I have laid the subject of Baptism for the Dead before you you may Receive or Reject it as you choose. Sept 13th (Aug 15th 1840 written in pencil)

The them [They then] went & was baptized for her son Cyrus Livingston Neymon by Harvey Olmstead. Joseph ^on hearing of it at Table in the evening^ asked what he said o his telling what the Ceremony was it prooved that father Olmstead had it Right

Vaenna Jaques witnessed the same by Riding Into the River on horseback to get close so as to hear what the ceremony would be

These statements given by Jane Neymon & Vienna Jaques in history office GSL City Nov 29th 1854 1/2 past 10 oclock AM


Smith, Joseph

Statement in

Regard to Baptism for

the Dead Nauvoo

Sept 13th 1840[43]

This document states that according to Jane Neyman, Joseph first introduced the subject of Baptism for the Dead at Seymour Brunson’s funeral, claiming that he laid the subject before them and that it was up to them to receive it or reject it. Then under the date of September 13th, she claims that she was baptized for her son Cyrus Livingston[44] and that Harvey Olmstead performed the ceremony of which Joseph later approved. Vienna Jacques testifies that she witnessed the ceremony on the 13th of September and rode her horse into the water so she could hear what was said.

What is interesting is the second document that is in the same folder. It reads,


Mrs Jane Neymon States that her husband Wm [William] Neymon died at nauvoo on the 10th day of Sept – they had frequently conversed together concerning their son who had died before they heard the gospel on hearing Joseph sermon which was delivered the Sabath after her husbands Death she immediately applied to the Elders for baptism they hesitated, but finaly Elder Harvey Olmstead consented

Vienna Jaques Rode into the water on horseback from curiosity to hear the ceremony & she asserts that it was precisely the same as was afterwards used by the Elders while Joseph was at supper that evening he was told that his doctrine was already taken effect, he ^says^ what are they baptizing for the dead on being told what had been done he inquired what form or words they


used in the performance of  Ceremony.  on being[45]

This document claims that Jane Neyman had frequently conversed with her husband William before his death in early September[46] concerning their son Cyrus who had died before they heard the gospel, and that on hearing Joseph’s sermon which he delivered the Sunday after her husband’s death (September 13th) she was baptized for her son by Harvey Olmstead. It is difficult to determine which of these statements was made first, but other accounts of these events may help to clarify the apparent contradictions here.


In the Journal History of the Church[47] under the date of 15 AUG 1840, Andrew Jenson wrote:

Joseph the Prophet according to the document hereunto attached preached the funeral sermon in memory of Elder Seymour Brunson who had died Aug 10, 1840.

The following document was found by Andrew Jenson at the Historian’s Office, April 9, 1908, while undertaking a careful perusal of original documents. [Then follows the first Neyman Document transcribed above].[48]

The Journal History then continues:

Following is a statement made by Simon Baker in a speech which he delivered:

I was present at a discourse that the prophet Joseph delivered on baptism for the dead 15 August 1840.[49]

After this follows a summary of the speech that Baker claimed to hear, which will be quoted below. The speech by Baker has some problems. First, someone added a date (when the discourse supposedly took place) to the document: August 15, 1840. The original document did not include any date.

In this discourse that Baker speaks of, the widow that Joseph Smith refers to is Jane Neyman, but she didn’t become a widow until after September 2, 1840 when her husband William died. So this discourse that Baker speaks of could not have been given on August 15th, 1840.

The reason why Jenson probably added the dates to these documents was because of Joseph Smith’s December 15, 1840 letter to the Twelve in England. Joseph wrote:

I presume the doctrine of “baptizm for the dead” has ere this reached your ears, and may have raised some inquiries in your mind respecting the same. I cannot in this letter give you all the information you may desire on the subject, but aside from my knowledge independant of the Bible, I would say that this was certainly practized by the antient Churches And. St Paul endeavors to prove the doctrine of the resurrection from the same, and says “else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead” &c &c. I first mentioned the doctrine in public while preaching the funeral sermon of Bro Seymour Brunson, and have since then given general instructions to the Church on the subject. The Saints have the priviledge of being baptized for those of their relatives who are dead, who they feel to believe would have embraced the gospel if they had been priviledged with hearing it, and who have received the gospel in the spirit through the instrumentality of those who may have been commissioned to preach to them while in the prison. Without enlarging on the subject you will undoubtedly see its consistancy, and reasonableness, and presents the the gospel of Christ in probably a more enlarged scale than some have received it. But as the performance of this right is more particularly confined to this place it will not be necessary to enter into particulars, at the same time I always feel glad to give all the information in my power, but my space will not allow me to do it.[50]

Joseph writes that he first mentioned the doctrine of Baptism for the Dead at the funeral of Seymour Brunson, but then states he had “since then given general instructions to the Church on the subject.” Jenson probably thought that these recollections all took place on only one date: August 15th.

According to Joseph, he did mention baptism for the dead on August 15th, but he also said that since then, he gave general instructions to the Church. This would be the sermon that Joseph gave on September 13, 1840 that both Jane Neyman and Simon Baker attended, (which fits the evidence) and further instructions on October 4, 1840 at the General Conference of the Church.

What appears to have transpired is that the vision of Ann Booth had been circulated among the Saints at Nauvoo after being sent from overseas by Brigham Young to his wife, Mary Ann. This excited and inspired those like Seymour Brunson who took ill about the time the vision was first being noised about Nauvoo. Through Seymour Brunson or perhaps Mary Ann Young, Joseph learns about the vision of Ann Booth and addresses some of the questions about the vision at the funeral of the High Councilman, correcting the notion that spirits can be baptized. Joseph does not reveal much at this time, because those that attended the funeral do not mention anything about baptism for the dead. Joseph continues to study and ponder the scriptures and focuses on the verses in 1st Corinthians that speak of Baptism for the Dead. He now has his answer for how those who have died without the Gospel (such as his brother Alvin) can be saved in the Celestial Kingdom.

A few weeks after the funeral of Seymour Brunson, Joseph’s father (Joseph Smith, Sr.) took ill and Lucy Mack Smith later wrote that she concluded that her husband “was appointed unto death,” so she “sent for Joseph and Hyrum.”[51]

Joseph and Hyrum arrived home on Saturday, September 7th, 1840 and gave their father a blessing. The next day Joseph had a conversation with his father and informed him that it was now “the privilege of the Saints to be baptized for the dead,” and Joseph Smith, Sr. requested that his son Joseph “should be baptized for Alvin immediately.”[52]

Six days later Joseph Smith Sr. died, and the next day Joseph Smith preached his first real sermon on baptism for the dead. As Simon Baker recalled:

He read the greater part of the 15th chapter of Corinthians and remarked that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brought glad tidings of great joy, and then remarked that he saw a widow in that congregation that had a son who died without being baptized, and this widow in reading the sayings of Jesus ‘except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven,’ and that not one jot nor tittle of the Savior’s words should pass away, but all should be fulfilled. He then said that this widow [Jane Neyman] should have glad tidings in that thing. He also said the apostle [Paul] was talking to a people who understood baptism for the dead, for it was practiced among them. He went on to say that people could now act for their friends who had departed this life, and that the plan of salvation was calculated to save all who were willing to obey the requirements of the law of God. He went on and made a very beautiful discourse”[53]

After Joseph spoke to the assembled group of Saints on that mild day in mid-September, 1840, the new widow Jane Neyman applied to the Elders to baptize her as a proxy for her son Cyrus, and Harvey Olmstead stepped up and performed the ceremony, which Joseph Smith later that night approved of.[54]

On Sunday, October 4, the Prophet again addressed the Saints on Baptism for the Dead, this time at some length. The Minutes of the General Conference taken by Robert B. Thompson record that,

Pres Smith then arose and spoke on the subject of being baptized for the dead at considerable length.”[55]

According to Vilate Kimball, who wrote to her husband Heber in England a few days after the October Conference:

President Smith has open[e]d a new and glorious subject of late which has caused quite a revival in the church. that is, being baptised for the dead. Paul speaks of it, in first Corinthians 15th chapter 29th vers[e].

Joseph has received a more full explaination of it by Revelation. He says it is the privilege of this church to be baptised for all their kinsfolks that have died before this Gospel came forth; even back to their great Gran[d]father and Mother if they have be[e]n personally acquainted with them. by so doing we act as agents for them, and give them the privilege of comeing forth in the first resurection.[56]

Vilate added that Joseph urged them “to be up and a doing and liberate their friends from bondage as quick as posable.” Vilate then spoke of her own need to redeem her dead, writing that “I want to be baptized for my mother.” She adds that “Since this order has been preached here, the waters have been continually troubled. During the conference there were some times from eight to ten elders in the river at a time baptizing.” She also informed Heber that “there is a number of the neighbors going forward,” and “[s]ome have already been baptized a number of times over. They have to be baptized and confirmed for one person before they can be baptized for another. Those that have no friends on the earth to be baptized for them can become ministering spirits to whom so ever they will and make known their request.”[57]

“There is a chance for all,” she happily writes, “[i]s not this a glorious doctrine? Surely the gentiles will mock, but we rejoice in it.”[58]


In her October letter to Heber C. Kimball, Vilate also wrote that Joseph Smith “says they [the dead] will have the Gospel preached [to] them in Prison, but there is no such thing as spirits being baptized.” As for Ann Booth’s glimpse of the afterlife, Vilate wrote that Joseph “doesn’t wholly discard sister Booth’s vision,” and “says it was to show her the necessity of being baptized.”[59]

Vilate Kimball, circa 1860’s

It is clear that the vision of Ann Booth was the impetus for Joseph’s instigation of proxy baptisms for the dead. Joseph claimed that all who would have accepted the gospel would become heirs to the Celestial Kingdom, including his brother Alvin who he claimed to have seen there in a vision in 1836. Instead of the baptisms and confirmations taking place in the Spirit World, Joseph proclaimed that they were to be performed on earth, using the verse in 1st Corinthians as a proof text. As Wilford Woodruff journalized in 1842:

Joseph the seer …made some edifying remarks concerning Baptism for the dead. He said the Bible supported the doctrin. “Why are ye Baptized for the dead if the dead rise not &c.” If their is one word of the Lord that supports the doctrin it is enough to make it a true doctrin. Again if we can baptize a man in the Name of the Father of the Son & of the Holy Ghost for the remission of sins it is just as much our privilege to act as an agent & be baptized for the remission of sins for & in behalf of our dead kindred who have not herd the gospel or fulness of it.[60]

In 1845 Brigham Young preached a sermon and mentioned how he first learned about the Baptism for the Dead doctrine:

The doctrine of baptism for the dead you have been taught for some time, and the first account that I heard of it was while I was in England; it was there I got the glad tidings that the living could go forth and be baptized for those who had fallen asleep. This doctrine I believed before anything was said or done about it in this church; it made me glad when I heard it was revealed through his servant Joseph, and that I could go forth, and officiate for my fathers, for my mothers, and for my ancestors, to the latest generation who have not had the privilege of helping themselves; that they can yet arise to the state of glory and exaltation as we that live, have a privilege of rising to ourselves. The next year I came home and requested Brother Joseph to preach upon the subject, which he did, I also heard many of the elders preach upon the same subject. [61]

Here Young admits that he first learned about Baptism for the Dead in England, and that would have been from the vision of Ann Booth.


On November 5, 1840, Robert B. Thompson penned a letter to Heber C. Kimball about what he termed as “the old doctrine of Baptism for the Dead”:

You will have heard ere this of the death of our beloved Bishop Partridg Bro Seymour Brunson and the patriarch of the Church Joseph Smith Senr. You will likewise probably have heard of the old doctrine of Baptism for the Dead which has been introduced by President Joseph Smith Jr. So that the Saints have the priviledge of being baptised for their relatives and friends who have not had the priviledge of hearing the gospel while in the flesh but who probably receive while in the spirit in prison. so they can claim them at the ressurrection of the just. this is certainly a glorious doctrine and shews forth the gracious purposes of our God, and the grandeour of that scheme which is to raise mankind from the ruins of the fall. Hundreds have allready Gone forth and been baptized for their friends who are deceased. There has been many things said, and notions imbibed concerning this doctrine. Allow me to advance an idea, and it is this; except we attend to this ordinance according to the law of heaven in all things it will not be valid or be of any benefit either to the living or the dead; when it was first revealed all the order of it was not made known, afterwards it was made known…[62]

When Joseph first explained the doctrine of baptism for the dead in the fall of 1840, he had no idea what the ramifications of it would be. He simply claimed that men and women could act “as agents” for their dead, by being baptized for them. Anyone could be baptized for any deceased relative or friend. According to her 1854 statement, Jane Neyman was baptized for her dead son Cyrus on September 13, 1840,[63] and Joseph approved of her doing so and the ceremony that was used. After this, thousands of baptisms were performed in the Mississippi River and in the basement of the Temple in the next few years.[64]

Joseph would not produce any formal revelation on baptism for the Dead until January 19, 1841 when he called upon the Saints to erect a new Temple. Joseph proclaimed that the word of the Lord to him was:

I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me. But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God.[65]

In the same revelation Joseph (like Ann Booth) also mentions David W. Patten who he claims “is with me at this time, and of who the Lord had “taken unto myself; behold, his priesthood no man taketh from him.”[66]

These willy-nilly baptisms went on for almost two years before Joseph set more stringent parameters of how the Saints were to perform them.[67]  Even with these further instructions, which Joseph outlined in two letters written in September, 1842, Joseph still did not forbid men being baptized for women or women for men. Brigham Young would change this, and explained why in a later discourse from 1873:

Do you recollect that in about the year 1840-41, Joseph had a revelation concerning the dead? He had been asked the question a good many times; “What is the condition of the dead, those that lived and died without the Gospel?” It was a matter of inquiry with him. He considered this question not only for himself, but for the brethren and the Church. “What is the condition of the dead? What will be their fate? Is there no way today by which they can receive their blessings as there was in the days of the Apostles, and when the Gospel was preached upon the earth in ancient days?” When Joseph received the revelation that we have in our possession concerning the dead, the subject was opened to him, not in full but in part, and he kept on receiving. When he had first received the knowledge by the spirit of revelation how the dead could be officiated for, there are brethren and sisters here, I can see quite a number here who were in Nauvoo, and you recollect that when this doctrine was first revealed, and in hurrying in the administration of baptism for the dead, that sisters were baptized for their male friends, were baptized for their fathers, their grandfathers, their mothers and their grandmothers, &c. I just mention this so that you will come to understanding, that as we knew nothing about this matter at first, the old Saints recollect, there was little by little given, and the subject was made plain, but little was given at once. Consequently, in the first place people were baptized for their friends and no record was kept. Joseph afterwards kept a record, &c. Then women were baptized for men and men for women, &c. It would be very strange, you know, to the eyes of the wise and they that understood the things pertaining to eternity, if we were called upon to commence a work that we could not finish. This, therefore, was regulated and all set in order; for it was revealed that if a woman was baptized for a man, she could not be ordained for him, neither could she be made an Apostle or a Patriarch for the man, consequently the sisters are to be baptized for their own sex only.[68]

The origin of the baptism for the dead doctrine had its genesis in wake of the claimed vision of an early English convert, a woman who has fallen into relative obscurity. The vision of Ann Booth inspired many to feel concern and joy for their dead friends and relatives, and to look forward in carrying on the work of the gospel in the world to come. The questions raised from the promulgation of her vision both intrigued and inspired Joseph Smith to further explore and solve the conundrum of how those like his brother Alvin could be heirs to the celestial kingdom.


[1] Guy Bishop, “’What Has Become of Our Fathers?’ Baptism for the Dead at Nauvoo,” Dialogue 23 (Summer 1990): 86.

[2] Heber C. Kimball, [1801-1868] was ordained an Apostle on February 14, 1835.

[3] Orson Hyde, [1805-1878] was ordained an Apostle on February 15, 1835.

[4] Parley P. Pratt, [1807-1857] was ordained an Apostle on February 21st 1835, and like the rest of the Twelve was urged to begin preaching the gospel, and subsequently went on a mission to New York, New England, and eastern Canada.  In the spring of 1836 Pratt started out on another mission, this time to Toronto, Canada. There he met and converted John and Lenora Taylor, and with the help of John Taylor he baptized Joseph Fielding, John Snider, Isaac Russell, Robert B. Thompson and others into the church. It was the relatives of these converts that Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde visited in England a few years later.

[5]  William Clayton, [1814-1879] was baptized on October 21, 1837 and ordained a High Priest on April 1, 1838. He quit his job as a factory worker to help start a branch of the Church in Manchester, England where he was called as a counselor to Mission President Willard Richards. Clayton and his wife Ruth Moon [1817-1894] immigrated to the United States in 1840, arriving on November 24 in Nauvoo where he became a clerk and scribe for Joseph Smith. James B. Allen writes,

“It was a formidable challenge for the twenty-four-year-old Clayton to try to establish a branch of Mormonism in this industrial center. He proselytized, however, mainly among the working classes, and within six months he had converted about seventy people. Among them was the Hardman family, who ran a boardinghouse at No. 2 Maria Street. Clayton himself eventually took up residence there, staying until he was released from his church assignment. Other early converts included James Bewshaw, a coachman, and his wife, Ellen, who were particularly kind in providing meals and other help for Clayton while he was in Manchester; and Robert Booth, whose wife, Ann, later received a remarkable vision foreshadowing the introduction of the doctrine of baptism for the dead.”(James B. Allen, William Clayton, Trials of Discipleship, p.21)

[6] Willard Richards [1804-1854], was baptized on December 31, 1836 by his cousin Brigham Young and ordained an elder in February, 1837. He was called on a mission to England where he met his wife Jenetta, [1817-1845] daughter of the Reverend John Richards, who he married on September 24, 1839. Brigham Young [1801-1877] was ordained an Apostle on February 14, 1835.

[7] David W. Patten, [1799-1838] was ordained an Apostle on February 15, 1835. He was called on a mission on April 11, 1838. See, Doctrine and Covenants 114:1.

[8] The Battle of Crooked River was a skirmish that took place on October 24, 1838 between Mormon settlers under the command of David W. Patten (codenamed “Captain Fearnought”) and a Missouri State Militia unit under the command of Samuel Bogart. See, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, by Stephen C. LeSueur, University of Missouri Press, 1987, 286 pages.

[9] John Taylor, [1808-1887] was ordained an Apostle on December 19, 1838; Wilford Woodruff, [1807-1898] was ordained on April 26, 1839; John E. Page, [1799-1867] was ordained on December 19, 1838; Willard Richards was ordained on April 14, 1840.

[10] Doctrine and Covenants 118:4-6.

[11] George Albert Smith, [1817-1875] was ordained an Apostle on April 26, 1839.

[12]  The ordination of Willard Richards brought the number of Apostles to 11. Two of the remaining Apostles, William Smith, [1811-1893] who was ordained on February 15, 1835 and John E. Page, [1799-1867] who was ordained on December 19, 1838, never went to England. Lyman Wight, [1796-1858] would bring the number to 12 with his ordination on April 14, 1841.

[13] Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 1, 1833–1840, (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983,), 438.

[14] Ann Eastwood Booth [1794-1874] and Robert Booth [1785-1846] were married in Manchester, England in 1817. They had a son Thomas who was born in 1836. They immigrated to the United States in 1840 with William Clayton’s company.  Not much is known about Robert Booth, but he is mentioned in Clayton’s diary in 1844:

“Sister [Ann] Booth tells me that Sara Ann [Whitney] is very unhappy and wants to see me she says Jane Charnock is perfectly unhappy and if there is any way she can be loosed she wants me to take her. Mary Aspen is ready to unite to me as her savior and Sister Booth says she shall not risk her salvation in Roberts [Booth] hands and wants me to interfere. We had considerable conversation on many subjects and felt pretty well.” (George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991), 151, October 21, 1844.) Ann Booth immigrated west with the Saints and died in Utah.

[15] Mary Ann Angell Young [1803-1882] was Brigham Young’s second wife. They were married on March 31, 1834.

[16] Brigham Young, letter, Manchester and Lancashire [England] to Mary A. Young, Commerce, IL, 1840, May 26. MS 15616, Box 1, Folder 7, CHL, 1-2.  Original spelling and punctuation retained. Paragraph breaks are taken from Woodruff’s Journal copy.

[17] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 1, 1833–1840, p.475, July 2, 1840.

[18] For example, in the first paragraph Young writes out then inserts the date, “one thousand and forty <1840>”; while Woodruff simply writes the date; in paragraph two Young  writes: “departed spirits”; Woodruff writes: “departed souls”; Young writes: “in his hand”; Woodruff omits this; in the third paragraph Young writes: “down to”; Woodruff omits this; Young writes: “or briter”; Woodruff omits this; in the fourth paragraph Young writes: “right hand of the dore”; Woodruff writes: “right hand near the door”; in the fifth paragraph Young writes: “the Apostle Baptized him”; Woodruff writes: “he Baptized him”; in the sixth paragraph Young writes: “Kilbham and next”; Woodruff writes: “Killham the leader of the New Connection of Methodist and next”; Young writes: “Wm Scott; Woodruff omits “Wm”;  Young writes: “who ware Methodest Prachers with whome I had ben a quanted personly”; Woodruff writes: “The three latter were Methodist Preachers with whom I had formerly been acquainted”; in the seventh paragraph Young writes: “confermed them”; Woodruff writes: “oncfermed them evry one”; in the eighth paragraph Young writes,: “Lord bless forever”; Woodruff writes: “Lord bless thee forever”; in the ninth paragraph Young writes: “happy and rejoiced that I could not lay in bed”; Woodruff writes: “happy & overjoyed that I knew not how to remain in bed”; Young writes: “awaked my husben we got up”; Woodruff writes: “waking my husband we arose”; Young writes: “Bible opened it to 3 different places first to”; Woodruff writes: “the Bible I opened Providentially to the text”; Young writes: “Chap. 22v.”; Woodruff writes, “they shall be gathered together &c. More and more astonished”; Young writes: “the next was John C- 1- v-5— “; Woodruff writes: “I again opened the Bible to the 1st of St John The light shineth in darkness &c.”; Young writes: “the third time I opned bible was first Peater 3-C-18-19-20—ver— not being aquanted with these texts of Cripture”; Woodruff writes: “And again the third time I opened it & immediately cast my eyes upon the 3d chapter of Peter 18, 19, 20 speaking of the spirits in Prison. Being before ignorant of these texts”; in the tenth paragraph Young writes, “was martered”; Woodruff writes, “was slain”; in the last paragraph Woodruff writes, “Perhaps many will think lightly of this vision”; Young omits this; Young writes, “I have related”; Woodruff writes, “I have here related”; Young writes, “amen & amen”; Woodruff omits this. There are other minor differences in spelling and punctuation. Woodruff also does not mention that Ann Booth “heard a voice” that she “must go to Paradise” and was then “carried away in the vision.”

[19] Times and Seasons, Vol.1, No.1, p.5, November 1839.

[20] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 1, 1833–1840, p.328, April 26, 1839.

[21] ibid., 368, November 11, 1839.

[22] Moses 7:38-39.

[23] “The Vision,” Hiram Township, OH, 16 February 1832; signed by Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, Revelation Book 2, 1-10; handwriting of Frederick G. Williams and Joseph Smith; CHL. See also, Doctrine and Covenants of The Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God, And Compiled by Joseph Smith Junior, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, [Presiding Elders of said Church.] Proprietors, Kirtland, Ohio, Printed by F. G. Williams & Co., For the Proprietors, 1835,  Section XCI, “A Vision”, 225-231.

[24]  1835 Doctrine & Covenants, Section XCI:5, (page 228); Doctrine and Covenants (modern edition), Section 76: 50-51, 52, 70.

[25] ibid., Section XCI:6, (page 229); D&C 76:71-75.

[26] Visions, Kirtland, OH, 21 January 1836, in Joseph Smith’s Journal, September 1835-April 1836, handwriting of Warren Parrish, CHL; Doctrine and Covenants (modern edition) Section 137. Original spelling and punctuation retained.

[27] ibid., 136; D&C 137:5-6. Original spelling and punctuation retained.

[28] ibid., 137; D&C 137:7-10. Original spelling and punctuation retained.

[29] Elders’ Journal of The Church of the Latter Day Saints, 1 (July 1838): 43. Whether or not Joseph meant ordinances here is ambiguous. He does not mention the need for ordinances in his January vision of 1836, but couples those who would have received the gospel “with all their hearts” and attain the Celestial Kingdom with children who die under the age of eight, who are not required to be baptized.

[30] 1 Peter 3:18-20, NIV.

[31] The Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Vol. II, No. 5, Feb. 1836, 262. In early 1840 an titled “The Gospel” appeared in the Times and Seasons which explained the authority to administer the Gospel:

“Being thus endowed with the spirit and power from on high, they [the Apostles] were capable of teaching that system which Christ delivered to them, without alteration; for the comforter brought to their minds what they had forgotten, and lead them into all truth and prevented the introduction of error. The Lord never called a man to that office, unless he qualified him in that manner, for that qualification is absolutely necessary for the salvation of the world; for without it the gospel never was and never will be preached in purity, and administered in righteousness, consequently will not make those pure to whom it is administered. Therefore, as Paul said, so say I, how can a man preach, except he be sent. Answer he can teach for doctrine, the commandments of men, and make void the law of God through the traditions of the fathers, as did the Scribes and Pharisees of old. The lack of that calling and qualification in the multitude of modern divines, is evidently the cause of contentions, differences, and divisions in the christian world, and of the dublety that rest upon the minds of the religious world, relative to the true points of Christ’s doctrine.”  (“The Gospel”, Times & Seasons, Vol. I, No. 5, March, 1840, p.76)

[32] Seymour Brunson was born December 1, 1798 in Orwell, Vermont to Reuben Brunson and Sally Clark. He married Harriet Matilda Gould from New York about 1823. They became the parents of seven children between the years of 1825 and 1839, namely: Reuben, Lewis, Lucretia, Joseph ,Jerusha, Seymour, and William Morgan. He died on August 10, 1840 in Nauvoo, Illinois. He was a Lieutenant Colonel of the Illinois Militia and was buried with military honors in Nauvoo.

[33] Short Sketch of Seymour Brunson, Sr., by his son Lewis Brunson, submitted by Darlinda Gorley, Hyrum, Ut, Nauvoo Journal 4 (spring 1992): 4. Online here, accessed July 20, 2016.

[34] Vilate Kimball, Nauvoo, to Heber C. Kimball, Liverpool, England, September 6, 1840, MS 3276, Folder 2, CHL.

[35] John Smith, Lee County, Iowa to George Albert Smith, London, England, August 21, 1840, MS 1322, Box 9, Folder 2, CHL.

[36] History of the Church, 4:179.

[37] Vilate Kimball, Commerce, Illinois, to Heber C. Kimball, September 6, 1840, CHL.

[38] Heber C. Kimball, Clitheroe, England to John Taylor, Liverpool, England, November 9, 1840, MS 24689, CHL. This would be the information from Vilate’s September 6, letter to Heber which does not mention baptism for the dead.

[39] John Smith mentions the death of Seymour Brunson but nothing about his funeral, it is possible that he was in Montrose and did not attend it. It is strange that even after almost a week after the funeral he still does not mention baptism for the dead, though he does mention David Patten. Vilate Kimball writing almost a month after Brunson’s funeral, also does not mention anything about baptism for the dead, even though she obviously attended the funeral. She also mentions David Patten. This leads us to believe that even though Smith claims to have first mentioned it at the funeral, (in December, 1840) it was probably only briefly and many did not understand the ramifications of what he spoke about.

[40] Joseph Smith, Letter, Nauvoo, IL, to the Council of the Twelve, England, 15 Dec. 1840; handwriting of Robert B. Thompson; eight pages; JS Collection, CHL, 6, added emphasis.

[41] Jane Harper Neyman was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania on September 22, 1792. She was baptized in 1838  with her husband William and moved to Nauvoo in 1840.  William died shortly after on September 2, 1840. She remarried a brother Fisher, and moved west with the Saints with her daughters Rachel Neyman Fullmer [1832-1912] and Mary Ann Neyman Nickerson [1823-1916] in 1850.  She died in Beaver, Utah on May 3, 1880 from a stroke.  She had eight other children,  Margaret Jane, [1813-1899] Cyrus Livingston, [b. June 14, 1815] Annis, [1818-1845] Hiram [1819-1904], Ebenezer [abt. 1820] Matilda [abt. 1821] Frederick [abt. 1824] and Shilo [abt. 1834] See, Obituary, The Woman’s Exponent, Vol. 9, No. 1, June 1, 1880, 4, Online here, Accessed July 20, 2016; Genealogy records retrieved from Family Central, Online here, Accessed July 20, 2016.

[42] Vienna Jacques was born on June 10, 1787 and died on February 7, 1884. She was baptized by E. Harris on July 12, 1831. She married Daniel Shearer in 1839 in Missouri. She moved to Nauvoo by 1840. She left Nauvoo on June 21, 1847 and arrived in Salt Lake City on October 2, 1847. She died in Salt Lake City, Utah.

[43] Jane Neyman Statements, November 29, 1854, CR 100 396, Box 1, Folder 45, document 1, CHL.

[44] Cyrus Livingston Neyman was born on June 14, 1815, we could find no information on his death.

[45] Jane Neyman Statements, November 29, 1854, CR 100 396, Box 1, Folder 45, document 2, CHL.

[46] Thursday, the 10th of September was the date that William was buried, according to genealogical records. He died on the 2nd of September. The Sunday following this would be September 13, 1840.

[47] The Journal History of the Church was a daily history taken from newspapers, minutes, letters and other documents and kept in a series of scrapbooks compiled by Andrew Jenson in 1906. By 1913, Jenson had completed the years 1830-1852. By his death in 1941 he had reached the year 1930. After his death the History was continued by staff working in the Church Historians Office. In 2008 work on the project ceased.

[48] Journal History of the Church, 15 August 1840, CR 100 137, Reel 4, Volume 12, CHL.

[49] ibid

[50] Joseph Smith, Letter, Nauvoo, IL, to the Council of the Twelve, England, 15 Dec. 1840; handwriting of Robert B. Thompson; eight pages; JS Collection, CHL, 6.

[51] Lucy Mack Smith, Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir, ed. Lavina Fielding Anderson (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001), 713-714.

[52] ibid., 714.

[53] Joseph Smith Addresses, 1839-1842, MS 155, Box 4, Folder 4, CHL.

[54]  Jane Neyman Statements, November 29, 1854.

[55] Minutes of General Conference, October, 1840, CR 100 318, Box 1, Folder 6, CHL.

[56] Vilate Kimball, Nauvoo, Illinois to Heber C. Kimball, London, England, October 11-13, 1840, photocopy, MS 18732, Folder 1, CHL.

[57] ibid.

[58] ibid.

[59] ibid.

[60] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal,  Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.165, March 27, 1842.

[61] “Speech”, Delivered by President Brigham Young, in the City of Joseph, April 6. 1845, Times &Seasons, Volume VI, No. 12, July 1, 1845, 954.

[62] Letter, Robert B. Thompson to Heber C. Kimball, November 5, 1840, CHL.

[63] In the Nauvoo Baptisms for the Dead, Book A, attached note, film no. 183, 376, LDS Family History Library, Salt Lake City, it states that “Jane Neyman was baptized for her son Cyrus Livingston Neyman, Sund. Sept 12 1840”. This date is mistaken, for that Sunday would have been the 13th, and her 1854 statement gives the date as Sunday, the 13th.

[64] See Guy Bishop, “’What Has Become of Our Fathers?’ Baptism for the Dead at Nauvoo,” Dialogue 23 (Summer 1990): 85–97.

[65] Doctrine and Covenants 124:31-32.

[66] ibid., 19, 130.

[67] See Alexander L. Baugh, “For This Ordinance Belongeth to My House”: The Practice of Baptism for the Dead Outside the Nauvoo Temple, Mormon Historical Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, (Spring 2002), 47-58.

[68] Journal of Discourses, Volume 16, 165-66, Aug. 31, 1873. See also, ed. Richard S. Van Wagoner,  The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, The Smith-Pettit Foundation, Salt Lake City, 2009, 76-80. Conference Address given at Nauvoo, Illinois, 6 April, 1845.  In that address Young declared:

I do not say that you have not been taught and learned the principle; you have heard it taught from this stand from time to time, by many of the elders, and from the mouth of your beloved and martyred prophet Joseph; therefore my course will not be to prove the doctrine, but refer to those things against which your minds are revolting. Consequently I would say to this vast congregation of Saints, when we enter into the Temple of God to receive our washings, our anointings, our endowments and baptisms for the saving of ourselves, and for the saving of our dead: that you never will see a man go forth to be baptized for a woman, nor a woman for a man. If your minds should be in any dubiety with regard to this, call to mind a principle already advanced, that when an infinite being gives a law to his finite creatures, he has to descend to the capacity of those who receive his law, when the doctrine of baptism for the dead was first given, this church was in its infancy, and was not capable of receiving all the knowledge of God in its highest degree; this you all believe. I would keep this one thing in your minds, and that is, that there is none, no not one of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, that ever received the fullness of the celestial law at the first of the Lord’s commencing to reveal it unto them….

Joseph in his life time did not receive every thing connected with the doctrine of redemption, but he has left the key with those who understand how to obtain and teach to this great people all that is necessary for their salvation and exaltation in the celestial kingdom of our God. We have got to learn how to be faithful with the few things, you know the promise is, if we are faithful in a few things we shall be made rulers over many things. If we improve upon the small things, greater will be given unto us.

I have said that a man cannot be baptized for a woman, nor a woman for a man, and it be valid. I have not used any argument as yet; I want now to use an argument upon this subject, it is a very short one; and I will do it by asking this congregation, if God would call a person to commence a thing that would not have power and ability to carry it out? Would he do it? (no.) Well then, what has been our course on former occasions? Why, here goes our beloved sisters, and they are baptised [baptized] in the river or in the fount for their uncles, for their fathers, for their grandfathers and great grandfathers.

Well, now I will take you and confirm you for your uncles, for your fathers, for your grandfathers, and let you go; after a while here comes our beloved sisters, saying. I want to be ordained for my uncle, and for my grandfather, and great grand-father; I want my father ordained to the high priesthood, and my grandfather, I want to be patriarch, and you may ordain me a prophet for my uncle! What would you think about all that, sisters, come now you have been baptised [baptized] and confirmed for your father, wont you be ordained for him? You could cast on a stocking and finish it.-You could take wool and card and spin it and make it into cloth, and then make it into garments. A person that commences a work and has not ability and power to finish it, only leaves the unfinished remains as a monument of folly. We will not commence a work we cannot finish: but let us hearken to the voice of the spirit and give heed to his teachings and we will make ourselves perfect in all things.

The John Whitmer Conference (2017)

 I was privileged to be a presenter at this year’s John Whitmer Historical Association Conference, which just wrapped in Nauvoo, Illinois. I drove in from New York, and it was an exhausting drive, but when I arrived on Wednesday night, I was treated to a BBQ at the home of Joseph Johnstun in Fort Madison, Iowa, just across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo. There, I was in good company, as the Historical Luminaries Mike Marquardt, Bill & Diane Shepherd, Brent & Erin Metcalfe and Joe Geisner had already arrived. (The pulled pork was out of this world)!

Joseph Johnstun (on right)

Mulholland Street, Entering Nauvoo

84 Degrees! (And this was in the morning)

View from West End of Mulholland Street (The Temple is to the right)

Nauvoo Temple

The Conference opened for Registration on Thursday afternoon, and I got to meet some more great people. I had never been to Nauvoo, and having my own vehicle I got to drive around and see the sights. It was like going back in time.

Joseph Smith Mansion House

It was very hot! As I drove into town on Thursday , it was 84 degrees and it got much hotter as the day progressed. Storm clouds gathered in Thursday night, and there was a little rain, but it cleared up by Friday Morning which was another scorcher! On Saturday it was close to 100 degrees outside. I was sure glad I drove and when I got too hot could go sit in my SUV and blast the air and cool off! And the Visitor’s Center was air conditioned of course.

Community of Christ Visitors Center

The Outside “Tabernacle” (The Joseph Smith Homestead is in the background)

There I met the two women who were instrumental in making this Conference a success, Rachel Killebrew and Cheryle Grinter. Cheryle was very kind to me, but had a no nonsense way about her that I knew I would not want to get on the wrong side of. The Staff and volunteers there were pleasant and informative, and eager to help if you had any difficulties. And the Red Brick Store Rootbeer was tasty.

Rachel Killebrew (Awards Committee Chair) & Cheryle Grinter (Executive Director JWHA)

Shuttle to the COC Camp Nauvoo Lodge

Dr. Michael Van Wagenen gave the Richard P. Howard Lecture on Divergent Memories of the Restoration Movement at the COC Camp Nauvoo Lodge.

Bill Morain (Editor JWHAJ) & his wife Sherry Mesle-Morain (President-Elect) They are leaning forward.

Joe Geisner, jack of all knowledge

H. Michael Marquardt, Historian, Author, Researcher and friend

As I was leaving Nauvoo on Thursday night, four deer pranced across the road and I almost hit them, but since it was in town and I wasn’t going very fast, I stopped in time.

I was struck with how eerie and quiet Nauvoo is at night, (probably why it attracts the deer) and even though it’s lit up, it feels almost like a ghost town. So many of the residences are empty and silent, no Saints making these beautiful buildings their homes now.

Joseph Smith Gravesite & Homestead

Driving back to the condos where I was staying, I was struck by how dark it was on the highway and took a picture. I guess I was just in a somber mood, contemplating the historical significance of the place I had spent the day at.

The Condo where I stayed (Courtesy of Bill Shepherd, Mike Marquardt & Joe Geisner)

I was pretty beat up from my drive in on Wednesday, and so I missed the Friday morning presentations, but made it in time for the Awards Luncheon.

The Lunch Line

Friday Awards Luncheon

Presenter Meg Stout

There I finally got to meet Don Bradley who was presenting in a few hours, which I was looking forward to hearing.

Researcher, Author & Historian Don Bradley just before his presentation

I met lots of people, and had many conversations about Church History. There was a lot of time in between presentations and that was great one on one time, to have discussions with various attendees and presenters. During one break, I got to hear Brent Metcalfe’s “Caractors” Presentation he gave to a past Conference. He was nice enough to put the Power Point on his computer and take me through it. There were lots of fascinating and informative moments such as this.

Mike Riggs & Mark Staker

Mr. & Mrs. Bruce Van Orden  (The only place in town to get food, drinks & gas)

Ron & Anne Romig

I had fun tramping around with my friend Mike Marquardt, and we took some snacks and ate them by the Temple and then went to the Grove where Joseph used to preach. Mike took this picture of me hamming it up on the Stand.


Johnny at the Stand

So many presentations to see and you had to choose one out of many in each block, so it was kind of hard to decide. I chose Meg Stout and Don Bradley’s, and so missed Mark Staker’s presentation which I also really wanted to see. But that’s how it is.

As I was leaving Nauvoo on Friday night, four deer pranced across the road and I almost hit them, but since it was in town and I wasn’t going very fast, I stopped in time.

I was struck with how eerie and quiet Nauvoo is at night, (probably why it attracts the deer) and even though it’s lit up, it feels almost like a ghost town. So many of the residences are empty and silent, no Saints making these beautiful buildings their homes now.

Leaving Nauvoo at Night

Driving back to the condos where I was staying, I was struck by how dark it was on the highway and took a picture. I guess I was just in a somber mood, contemplating the historical significance of the place I had spent the day at.

President Peter Judd (Presidents Banquet)

Awards Luncheon

Awards Luncheon

The Richard P. Howard Lecture at Camp Nauvoo Lodge

I stayed up late Friday night to fine tune my presentation, and I followed Taunalyn Rutherford, who also presented on Emma Smith. I could not have asked for a better set up for my own presentation on Emma and the 1869 Utah Affidavits. Of course, the Auditorium was packed and I was nervous, but my Power Point saved me.

The Mansion at Night

As I walked back to my car on Saturday Night after the President’s Bauquet, Bryce Blankenagel interviewed me for a podcast about my presentation which he will be posting on his “Naked Mormonism” site.

Visiting Nauvoo is a great experience. The John Whitmer Conference was kind of a love fest, everyone was kind, smiling, and having fun. On my drive back to New York I stopped for Gas near Cleveland, Ohio and a man was in line in front of me whose car had gotten a flat on the Turnpike and he had to spend all his money to get it towed to the gas station and the tire repaired. He was just trying to get home, but had $5 and a ways to go. I was at first impatient to get waited on to be on my way, but listened as the attendant told him he had over $10 to pay in tolls. The man was distraught and didn’t know what to do. So I ponied up the money for his tolls, and he, with genuine surprise (and some feeling) thanked me and said, “God is good”. I told him that people were also good and to just pay it forward as I was doing. I guess I was still feeling the spirit of John Whitmer and that beautiful place, Nauvoo.

Dustin Phelps & The House of Lies He Built For Jeremy Runnells

ANTI-MORMONISM (ad nauseam)

This article was written before Dustin Phelps changed his title and edited out some material. The original article may be found here.

There is an old adage that I’m sure all of you have heard at one time or another that goes, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. “ No one wants to be fooled but really, it happens all the time especially when it comes to religious matters.  The historical record is replete with false prophets and teachers who have duped people into believing their claims of a special connection to God, who then gives them special “authority” that puts them in positions of power over others.  When men make religious claims though, they should have evidence to back up those claims. Let’s not fool ourselves that it isn’t all about the evidence. It is.

When it comes to Joseph Smith and his creation of Mormonism, there is an abundance of evidence that one can actually analyze to see if the claims that Joseph Smith made bear up under close examination. As Fawn Brodie astutely observed over 70 years ago,

In official Mormon biographies he [Joseph Smith] has been made a prophet of greater stature than Moses. Nineteenth-century preachers made him a lecherous rogue; and twentieth-century chroniclers have been bemused with what they diagnosed as paranoiac delusions. The reason for these disparate opinions is by no means lack of biographical data, for Joseph Smith dared to found a new religion in the age of printing. When he said “Thus saith the Lord!” the words were copied down by secretaries and congealed forever into print. (Brodie, Fawn M.. No Man Knows My History (Illustrated): The Life of Joseph Smith , )

The continuing scrutiny of the Mormon “prophet” and his Latter-day Kingdom of God is nothing new. It has been going on for almost two hundred years now.  The word “anti-Mormon” is nothing new either; it has been wielded like a cudgel against anyone critical of Joseph Smith from the time that Eber D. Howe published Mormonism Unvailed in 1834 to the present. Even Joseph Smith made the term his own.  For example, he used it when speaking of his plans for Texas if he were to win the 1844 Presidential nomination. His diary entry for March 7th reads:

On the annexation of Texas, some object. The anti-Mormons are good fellows. I say it in anticipation they will repent. Object to Texas [being admitted into the Union] on account of slavery. [Texas was pro slavery] Tis the very reason why she should be received.

“[Sam] Houston says, ‘Gentleman, if you refuse to receive us we must go to the British’ [who objected to slavery] and the first thing they will do will be to set the negroes and indians [against us] and they will use us up. British officers running all over Texas to pick a quarrel with us[. It would be] more honorable for us [as a nation] to receive them and set the negroes free and use the negro and indians against our foes.

“Don’t let Texas go lest our Mother and the daughters of the land will laugh us in the teeth. If these things are not so God never spoke by any prophet since the world began. I have been [two blank lines] south hold the balance of power &c. by annexing Texas –  I can do away [with] this evil [and] liberate 2 or 3 states and if that was not sufficient, call in Canida – –

Send the negroes to Texas from Texas to Mexico where all colors are alike. Notice was given for the Relief Society to meet Saturday 2 P.M. to adopt “the voice of Innocence from Nauvoo” (Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, p.456-7).

Even then, if others (even politically) didn’t agree with Joseph’s views, they were “anti-Mormons”.  Smith thought that Houston would run to the British and that they would create problems for the United States (as he did in his Civil War “prophecy”), but it was the Mexicans who went to war with the U. S. over the annexation of Texas. Joseph simply wanted to free the slaves to use as cannon fodder for the U.S. in his imagined war with the British, and then instead of accepting them as citizens, send them to Mexico where he claimed “all colors are alike”.  At least Joseph could joke about anti-Mormons being “good fellows” and call them that in the hope that they would repent; but he also said that about his enemies— that he was reluctant to ask God to kill them (because God told him he could have anything he asked for) perchance they did repent.

A month after calling his perceived political enemies anti-Mormons; William Law and other church members were unlawfully excommunicated for objecting to Joseph’s practice of polygamy and other doctrines that they would later publish in the Nauvoo Expositor. Joseph spoke about their activities and his scribe Willard Richards recorded that,

There was a meeting at Gen[eral] W[illia]m and Wilson Law’s near the saw mill of those who had been cut off from the Church and their dupes. Several affidavits were taken and read against Joseph and others. W[illia]m Law, Wilson Law, Austin D. Cowles, John Scott Sen[ior]., Francis M. Higbee, R[obert] D. Foster, and Robert Pierce were appointed a committee to visit the different families of the city and see who would join the new Church (IE) it was decided that Joseph was [a] fallen prophet &c. and W[illia]m Law was appointed in his place. Austin Cowles and Wilson Law Councillors. R[obert] D. Foster and F[rancis] M. Higbee to the 12 Apostles &c. as report says. El[der] James Blakely preached up Joseph in the A.M. and [in the] P.M. joined the anties . (Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, p.475, April 28, 1844).

Of course believing Smith to be a “fallen prophet” is being “anti-Mormon” according to Smith, even though they were endeavoring to start a church based on Joseph’s early teachings.

And of course, my good friend Jeremy Runnells is characterized the same way in a huge banner by the fledgling Mormon Apologist Dustin Phelps who appears to be terrified of using Jeremy’s name:


Dustin and his sidekick Brittney claim they are only helping people by making such provocative claims. In their “About” section found on their website, (inexplicably called “Happiness Seekers”???) they claim they are providing “resources” to help Mormons “navigate the unique challenges of our times.” They then claim that, “Those challenges include: anxiety and depression, defining equality, pornography, same-sex attraction, faith and doubt, and religious liberty.”

This begs the question: In the long run, is being such meretricious apologists really helping anyone but themselves? Apparently they think so, and take their cue from the FAIRMORMON playbook (something Jeremy calls FAIRMORMON Repackaged, as they blatantly mischaracterize and lie about Jeremy.

George Bush doing his own “Repackaging”…

I really have to hand it to them. They certainly have a flair for the dramatic. Oh my God, Jeremy Runnells the “influential anti-Mormon” has been “caught” spreading lies about the Mormon Church! Stop the presses! Don’t they know (since they regurgitate their material constantly) that FAIRMORMON has been screaming this for years? In their blog article attacking Jeremy, the word “anti-Mormon” appears 19 times, and the word is prominently displayed in the Banner. They definitely get the knee-jerk award for predictability.

In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism they explain anti-Mormonism as,

 …any hostile or polemic opposition to Mormonism or to the Latter-day Saints, such as maligning the founding prophet, his successors, or the doctrines or practices of the Church. Though sometimes well intended, anti-Mormon publications have often taken the form of invective, falsehood, demeaning caricature, prejudice, and legal harassment, leading to both verbal and physical assault. From its beginnings, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members have been targets of anti-Mormon publications. Apart from collecting them for historical purposes and in response to divine direction, the Church has largely ignored these materials, for they strike most members as irresponsible misrepresentations.

Few other religious groups in the United States have been subjected to such sustained, vitriolic criticism and hostility. From the organization of the Church in 1830 to 1989, at least 1,931 anti-Mormon books, novels, pamphlets, tracts, and flyers have been published in English. Numerous other newsletters, articles, and letters have been circulated. Since 1960 these publications have increased dramatically.

Wow. Few other religious groups in the U.S. have been subjected to such sustained, vitriolic criticism and hostility? How about the Catholics, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventists, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism? And let’s not forget Scientology.  All religions get attacked and criticized.  There have been so many anti-Catholic books written that they are virtually uncountable. Recently, the anti-Catholic book (as many Catholics claim) “The Da Vinci Code” and its two sequels, “Angels and Demons” and “Inferno”, were made into  blockbuster movies.  And two elections cycles back, there was a Mormon candidate for President, and his faith wasn’t really a major issue in his campaign. Would that be the case if there was a Muslim candidate for President? With the advent of the internet, all kinds of media have “increased dramatically”.

But even books with legitimate criticisms have been labeled as anti-Mormon.  This characterization of making anti-Mormons out of anyone who asks any questions or disbelieves claims made by Joseph Smith and others is best showcased by Jeff Lindsay and his “My Turn: Questions for Anti-Mormons”.  Among them are,

What other church better follows the Biblical model of emphasizing the bilateral covenant nature of the Gospel?

If there was no apostasy in the Church of Jesus Christ, then what happened to prophets?

What other Church better follows the Biblical organization given for the Church?

If Joseph Smith just made up the idea of vicarious baptism for the dead, why do numerous ancient documents validate the LDS claim that this was an authentic early Christian practice?

At a time when all Christian churches taught that temples were no longer needed, how did Joseph so effectively restore the ancient temple concept on his own?

What other church better corresponds with early Christianity in terms of teaching the true relationship between faith, grace, and works?

Why do the earliest Christian writings sound much closer to LDS theology than they to modern “mainstream” Christianity?

If the modern concept of the Trinity is true, then why does the different LDS view on the oneness of God find such strong support in the writings of the earliest Christians?

If it’s unchristian, unbiblical, and evil to believe that humans have divine potential, why do many Biblical and early Christian sources speak of the humans becoming “gods”?

If the Bible is infallible, by whose authority were the various books of the Bible selected in an infallible manner? By whose authority were the infallible translations made and approved?

Who authorized the changes in the ritual of baptism that occurred since the New Testament Church? And who in your church has true authority from God to perform baptisms?

If the Book of Abraham is a fraud, then how do you account for the details in the text that would later be given extensive support by numerous ancient documents that were not available to Joseph Smith?

These are all claims that Mormon apologists have been griping about for the last two centuries, because when critics bring them up, they are waved off as having been addressed already. But here is Lindsay taking his turn. Yawn. But what is Lindsay’s underlying purpose here? Lindsay writes under the title of “My Turn: Questions for Anti-Mormons”:

In my suite of “Frequently Asked Questions about Latter-day Saint Beliefs,” I’ve attempted to answer some of the endless questions that our critics throw out. Now it’s my turn to ask a few. I do this not to argue with them, but to point out to others that we don’t need to be on the defensive all the time. There are some meaningful issues that need to be considered beyond just the attacks of critics.

Again,  these are all questions that critics themselves have brought up. See how he adroitly connects the word “critics” with “anti-Mormons? And yet Lindsay attacks the belief in the Trinity, when he and other apologists claim they never attack other’s beliefs. He characterizes the Catholic Priesthood as “a committee of philosophers” and “contentious committees steeped in Hellenistic thought”.  This is how he describes the Bishops of the Catholic Church that met in Nicaea in that first ecumenical council that drafted the Nicene Creed.  At least that is what I think he is doing, because he quotes the Athanasian Creed, and there was no “heated debate” over its use that I am aware of.  The Catholics themselves admit that they are unsure of the origin of the creed, but that is of “secondary consideration” because it has been “approved by the Church as expressing its mind on the fundamental truths with which it deals.” There is nothing wrong with being a critic of any religion. Being a critic of anything is baked into our American culture. But there is definitely something wrong with villainizing critics when you are doing the same thing.

What I find interesting about Lindsay’s gaffe with the Athanasian Creed is that the Catholics claim that they don’t really know it’s origin yet it was approved and used by the Church as one of their creeds. Reminds me of the Mormon racist Priesthood Ban, which they claim they don’t know where it really came from, but it was Church doctrine for over a hundred years. They didn’t have any kind of “committee” debating the Priesthood Ban before they implemented it and they sure won’t acknowledge today that it came from God as Brigham Young did.

What is even more baffling is that because there are objections to the use of the term anti-Mormon as an epithet, FAIRMORMON claims that it is all the critics fault because some in the 19th century called themselves anti-Mormons!

They also claim that because the Tanners use the term in “The Changing World of Mormonism”, that makes it ok to call anyone who criticizes the church an anti-Mormon and characterized their arguments as attacks on the faith.  You might hear a black person use the N-word, but go ahead and justify using it yourself on that basis and see where it gets you. This is not about using the word, but the repeated vitriolic use of the word by Mormon apologists, and Dustin and Brittney are prime examples. FAIRMORMON makes this claim:

FairMormon does not believe or argue that everyone who disagrees with the LDS Church is “anti-Mormon.” As one prominent scholar of anti-Mormonism put it:

The hallmark of anti-Mormonism is an agenda, whether covert or openly expressed, of combating the faith of the Latter-day Saints and opposing their church.

Yet that is what is being done. Here is Daniel C. Peterson (a FAIRMORMON Board Member and the “prominent scholar of anti-Mormonism” they quote above) speaking of George D. Smith, Dan Vogel and Signature books,

We have seen that George D. Smith and Signature Books reject the title ‘anti-Mormons’ … Are ‘anti-Mormons’ mere mythical beasts, the stuff of persecution-fixated Latter-day Saint imaginations? If not, how would we recognize an ‘anti-Mormon’ if we saw one?

Nobody would suggest for a moment that George D. Smith and Dan Vogel fit the traditional ‘anti-Mormon’ mold in all respects. There are a number of differences between them and the late ‘Dr.’ Walter Martin, and between them and the Tanners.

In the past, anti-Mormon attacks almost invariably came from outside the Church; for the most part, they still do. For the first time since the Godbeite movement, however, we may today be dealing with a more-or-less organized ‘anti-Mormon’ movement within the Church. With ‘anti-Mormon Mormons,’ as Robert McKay puts it.

Should we be concerned about the possibility of unwholesome opinions, even enemies, within the Church? Jesus certainly seemed to think that internal enemies were a possibility. ‘Beware of false prophets,’ he said, ‘which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves’ (Matthew 7:15)…. So the possibility of enemies among the membership of the Church seems established. (FARMS, Review of Books, vol. 4, pp. liv-lv, see Veneer Magazine’s article “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing” found here).

Peterson is calling members who have different views anti-Mormons and “enemies”! And since when are historians “false prophets”? This is simply silly bullshit. No one can be a legitimate critic to these bigots. Louis Midgley called Brent Metcalfe and the authors contributing to “New Approaches to the Book of Mormon”, anti-Mormons:

The most imposing attack on the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon has been assembled by Brent Lee Metcalfe… the publication of New Approaches is an important event. It marks the most sophisticated attack on the truth of the Book of Mormon currently available either from standard sectarian or more secularized anti-Mormon sources, or from the fringes of Mormon culture and intellectual life. (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1994, pages 211- 214).

Stephen E. Robinson, chairman of the Department of Ancient Scripture at BYU was livid over Dan Vogel’s “Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture” and called him “Korihor”, a villain from the Book of Mormon:

Korihor’s back, and this time he’s got a printing press. Korihor, the infamous “alternate voice” in the Book of Mormon, insisted that “no man can know of anything which is to come”…In its continuing assault upon traditional Mormonism, Signature Books promotes with its recent and dubiously titled work The Word of God precisely these same naturalistic assumptions of the Korihor agenda in dealing with current Latter-day Saint beliefs….this is a propaganda piece.

For years anti-Mormons have hammered the Church from the outside, insisting that Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints’ scriptures he produced were not what they claimed to be. Whether Signature Books and its authors will convince the Saints of the same hostile propositions by attacking from the inside remains to be seen….What the anti-Mormons couldn’t do with a frontal assault of contradiction, Signature and Vogel would now accomplish with a flanking maneuver of redefinition.

I suppose by now it is clear that I did not like this book….Give me a Walter Martin anytime, a good stout wolf with his own fur on, instead of those more timid or sly parading around in their ridiculous fleeces with their teeth and tails hanging out. Give me ‘Ex-Mormons for Jesus’ or the Moody Bible Tract Society, who are at least honest about their anti-Mormon agenda, instead of Signature Books camouflaged as a ‘Latter-day Saint’ press. I prefer my anti-Mormons straight up. (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, pp. 312).

Brian Hales, another FAIRMORMON contributor, called John Dehlin an anti-Mormon and a “wolf” for allowing a historian to express his views on Joseph Smith’s polygamy and not rebutting him with material that Hales had provided to him. He’s been at the forefront of the attacks on Jeremy Runnells and works hand in hand with FAIRMORMON.  Dustin and Brittney’s go to destination for propaganda to rebut critics is FAIRMORMON.

What Dustin and Brittney have concocted is nothing new. There is a long history of Mormon apologists vilifying any critic (even members of the church) as anti-Mormons. This is the fruit of FAIRMORMON. A whole new generation of bigots.  If one goes to Happiness Seekers, they have (as of this writing) seventeen articles posted and three of them have the word “anti-Mormon” in the title.

The message here is clear, any critic of the church is an anti-Mormon and a villain, complete with an “agenda” to rip people from their faith, and their publications should be avoided at all costs. Jeremy himself has likened it to being identified as Voldemort, (the villain whose name was not to be mentioned in the Harry Potter novels) because Dustin never uses Jeremy’s name, but makes it obvious who he is talking about.

At least Jeremy is in good company considering that Signature Books and all of its authors (whether members of the church or not) are considered by members and contributors to FAIRMORMON as being anti-Mormon “false prophets”.  Will they now raise Jeremy’s status to a false prophet? Nothing would surprise me at this point.

One observation about making it your mission to flush out and “expose” those horrible Anti-Mormons. Ever hear of S.P.A.M.? The Society for the Prevention of Anti Mormonism? Probably not. But they were a thing about ten years ago. Here is what the founder said when he closed shop:

This is the end of the line. I have decided to shut down the FRAM Report. I’ve been running it since 2009 with a few breaks in between. Two or three times, I’ve set it aside and moved on to other things, only to have some new development pull me back in. Thus, I’ve learned never to say never, but it’s time to give it a rest.

We started out just tracking numbers of anti-Mormon posts and we embarrassed Jim Robinson. We watched as he banned the Mormon Caucus and purged Mormons from the site. We identified the haters and published their pseudonyms. We made our point numerically: Free Republic was being used as a platform by anti-Mormons to bash the Church and its members with the support of its owner, Jim Robinson. The last few months have seen our posts degenerate into a tit-for-tat response to the seemingly endless attacks of their one primary, one-topic poster: Colofornian. We have demonstrated how obsessive, hateful, dishonest, and uninformed she actually is. There is no more doubt and there is nothing more to say on the matter.

The number one attribute of anti-Mormons is obsessiveness. They can’t not be anti=Mormon. They’re so full of hate that they can’t let it go. That’s not the case here. As my Internet pal Timothy Berman used the phrase in a different context recently, it’s time to stop “feeding the weeds.” Life is full of too many wonderful blessings to continually focus on anti-Mormonism.

Wow, what a list of accomplishments. This is what obsessing about “Anti-Mormons” under every rock and hiding behind every bush gets you. Nowhere.


I would like to start with their conclusion, where the word anti-Mormon appears three times in four paragraphs,

The critics ask why we call it “anti-Mormon information”. They say it’s just the plain facts. They argue that Latter-day Saints are afraid of the truth and that we are just brainwashed.

Who is “they”? Not Jeremy Runnells. But by all means carry on:

We call it anti-Mormon information because it consists of twisting “the facts”, fabricating “the facts”, and decontextualizing “the facts”.

We’re not afraid of the truth, but we are cautious about the way that anti-Mormons have shamelessly misrepresented the truth since day 1 of the Restoration.

What we know is that “…calumny may defame, mobs may assemble, and persecutions may rage. But the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

Where has Jeremy ever claimed that Mormons are “brainwashed”? You will search in vain for any such statement. Though some critics might make that claim, he’s not one of them and really, this is just the transparent tactic of broad brushing anything they don’t like into one convenient phrase, “Anti-Mormon information” that the mysterious “they” are in charge of distributing to the world.

And of course we have these typical derogatory words used to describe the “information”, like “twisting”, “fabricating” and “decontextualizing”, or taking “the facts” (what’s with the quotes anyway) out of context.  And speaking of brainwashing, one of the techniques used is repeating things over and over again. Perhaps if they don’t want people to think they have been subjected to such a technique, they should tone down the misguided and vitriolic rhetoric.

And if we are talking FACTS or ACCURACY here, the quote that Dustin uses isn’t what Joseph Smith actually wrote. The quote by Joseph Smith to John Wentworth reads,

Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, the East Indies, and other places, the standard of truth has been erected: no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing, persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

I’m not sure where Dustin Phelps got his garbled quote from, but it isn’t from any original source. If you are going to put something in quotes, perhaps you should make sure that what you are quoting is accurate. Do you really have confidence that these fledgling apologists are qualified to judge what is accurate, or twisted, fabricated or decontextualized if they can’t even quote Joseph Smith correctly or blindly repeat and repackage everything they read from FAIRMORMON?

And though Joseph took credit for writing this letter to John Wentworth (also known as “Church History”), he actually plagiarized material from Orson Pratt and others. (At least that is what the Joseph Smith Papers indicates though they characterize it as a group effort that Joseph simply took credit for).  But using someone else’s work and claiming it as your own is still plagiarism. For example, here are the two accounts of Joseph’s claimed “first vision”, one by Orson Pratt in 1840 and the one that Smith claimed to write in 1842 in the Wentworth letter:

Pratt (Remarkable Visions 1840)

When somewhere about fourteen or fifteen years old, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence

Wentworth Letter  (Joseph Smith? 1842)

When about fourteen years of age I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state


If he went to the religious denominations to seek information, each one pointed to its particular tenets, saying—“This is the way, walk ye in it;”  while, at the same time, the doctrines of each were, in many respects, in direct opposition to one another.

Wentworth Letter

if I went to one society they referred me to one plan, and another to another; each one pointing to his own particular creed as the summum bonum of perfection: considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church it would not be split up into factions, and that if he taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, he would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed.


he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness.


I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness


He was also informed upon the subjects, which had for some time previously agitated his mind, viz.—that all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines; and, consequently, that none of them was acknowledged of God, as his church and kingdom


They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom.


And he was expressly commanded, to go not after them; and he received a promise that the true doctrine—the fulness of the gospel, should, at some future time, be made known to him


And I was expressly commanded to “go not after them,”  at the same time receiving a promise that the fulness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.

Joseph writes a letter about his own claimed “vision” and has to plagiarize material from someone else to describe it? But perhaps I’m only taking things out of context?  Joseph also plagiarizes material for his claimed 1823 visit of the angel “Moroni” from Pratt’s published work:


And it pleased God, on the evening of the 21st of September, a.d. 1823, to again hear his prayers. For he had retired to rest, as usual, only that his mind was drawn out, in fervent prayer, and his soul was filled with the most earnest desire, “to commune with some kind messenger, who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God,” and also unfold the principles of the doctrine of Christ, according to the promise which he had received in the former vision. While he thus continued to pour out his desires before the Father of all good; endeavouring to exercise faith in his precious promises


On the evening of the 21st of September, A. D. 1823, while I was praying unto God, and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of scripture


“on a sudden, a light like that of day, only of a purer and far more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room. Indeed, the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire. This sudden appearance of a light so bright, as must naturally be expected, occasioned a shock or sensation visible to the extremities of the body.  It was, however, followed with a calmness and serenity of mind, and an overwhelming rapture of joy, that surpassed understanding, and, in a moment, a personage stood before him.” Notwithstanding the brightness of the light which previously illuminated the room, “yet there seemed to be an additional glory surrounding or accompanying this personage, which shone with an increased degree of brilliancy, of which he was in the midst


in a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded


This glorious being declared himself to be an Angel of God,  sent forth, by commandment, to communicate to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard; and also, to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel, concerning their [p. 6] posterity, was at hand to be fulfilled; that the great preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah, was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in its fulness, to be preached in power unto all nations; that a people might be prepared with faith and righteousness, for the Millennial reign of universal peace and joy.

He was informed, that he was called and chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God, to bring about some of his marvellous purposes in this glorious dispensation.


This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God sent to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in all its fulness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the millennial reign.

I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of his purposes in this glorious dispensation.

And at the end of the Wentworth letter appears what were later called “The Articles of Faith” which were later canonized by the Church and Joseph plagiarized much of those too, from Orson Pratt and others.

So why mention all this about the Wentworth letter? Well, I was curious about it after I saw that Dustin Phelps had garbled up what Joseph wrote. And being curious, I took a little time to research it. Of course, this is known to many historians, and they have their point of view about it. At the Joseph Smith papers, they write,

No manuscript copy [of the Wentworth letter] has been located, and it is not known how much of the history was originally written or dictated by JS. “Church History” echoes some wording from Orson Pratt’s A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records. Pratt’s summary of church beliefs, upon which JS drew for the list of thirteen church beliefs in “Church History,” was in turn based on a theological summary written by Parley P. Pratt. Other individuals may have been involved in compiling the essay, including Willard Richards, who wrote extensively as JS’s scribe during this period. Because William W. Phelps revised and expanded the text of “Church History” a year later in answer to a request from editor Israel Daniel Rupp, it is possible that Phelps helped compose the original essay. However, Phelps’s active role as scribe and composer for JS apparently did not commence until late 1842.

And so the reader will have to make up their own mind. Was this plagiarism? Joseph Smith took a published work, copied from it, and published it under his own name without giving any credit to the original author. The “Articles of Faith”, from the Wentworth letter have been canonized, Joseph Smith’s name at the end of them as sole author, and that is how they appear today in Mormon scripture. This “Church History” that Smith claimed to write, doesn’t just “echo” some wording from Orson Pratt’s published work, it lifts whole passages from it. What that is, is plagiarism.

What are the ethical ramifications of this? Again, you readers must decide for yourself.


And what brought all this on concerning Jeremy? It took four years to finally catch Jeremy Runnells “lying” about the Mormon Church? They claim their involvement was spurred on from “a heart-felt letter from a mother”.  They write,

She [the anonymous mother] helped me realize that by taking the most popular piece of anti-Mormon literature (which summarizes just about all the claims against the Church) and exposing several blatant lies, I could prove an important point:

“If there’s far more to the story in regards to these major claims, how do you know that the same isn’t true of other criticisms made against the Church?”

What “major” claims is Phelps speaking of here? He gives five examples, 1) “there were major [changes to the Book of Mormon that] reflect Joseph’s evolved view of the Godhead.” 2) “Many Book of Mormon names and places are strikingly similar to local names and places of the region [where] Joseph Smith lived.” 3) Joseph Smith’s Polygamy is “Warren Jeffs territory” 4) Joseph wrote four contradicting versions of the First Vision 5) There are striking parallels between the Book of Mormon and several other books

I have to ask… why is his “point” (If there’s far more to the story…) in quotes? Is he quoting himself? And he is going to PROVE this point by using five examples? Tell us the “far more to the story” in a short blog article? Well, I can’t wait.  But before I get into that, let’s go over the introduction. They claim,

For many generations, Latter-day Saints have insisted that anti-Mormon literature isn’t worth reading. This attitude appears to be validated by on-going discoveries that the most influential anti-Mormon of recent years has been caught spreading blatant falsehoods and misinformation about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

If you know someone who has struggled with doubt, chances are that they happened upon this man’s work. His infamous 80-page document has been downloaded nearly 1 million times—primarily, it would appear, by Latter-day Saints and former members.

Many ex-Mormons use this document, as a “missionary tool” in the hopes that it will lead their friends and family members away from the LDS Church.

The author’s success has a lot to do with the way he constructed the document.

He frames himself as a well-intentioned Latter-day Saint who merely has a few innocent questions about the Church—questions that he genuinely wants answers to. He puts LDS readers at ease by beginning with a quote from President J. Reuben Clark who said, “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

By using this seemingly innocent narrative the author has successfully persuaded countless members to trust the information he provides. As a result, many unsuspecting Latter-day Saints have found his claims to be so damaging that they either find themselves stuck in a crisis of faith or they abandon their faith altogether.

But it’s time for this house of cards to come tumbling down.

There’s a lot to unpack here.  First they claim that Mormons “for generations” have insisted that anti-Mormon literature isn’t worth reading.  True, some have. But other Mormons have told us things like this,

“The truth will cut its own way.” (Joseph Smith Jr.)

“To Latter-day Saints there can be no objection to the careful and critical study of the scriptures, ancient or modern, provided only that it be an honest study – a search for truth.” (John A. Widtsoe)

“This book [“The Book of Mormon”] is entitled to the most thorough and impartial examination. Not only does [“The Book of Mormon”] merit such consideration, it claims, even demands the same.” (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith)

“The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position…” – James E. Talmage

“If we have the truth, [it] cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” (J. Reuben Clark, counselor in the First Presidency)

“If a faith will not bear to be investigated: if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” (George Albert Smith, Journal Of Discourses, v 14, page 216, thanks to MormonThink for these quotes)

But of course, any critic is labeled an “anti-Mormon” and their honesty is then questioned. See the circle jerk they perform here? Instead of just presenting Jeremy’s claims, they go to lengths to defame him and call him a liar before they present any of their so called evidence.  This is a dishonest tactic and a favorite of Mormon Apologists. The CES letter is “infamous”.  Dustin then gives us this confusing mess:

This attitude appears to be validated by on-going discoveries that the most influential anti-Mormon of recent years has been caught spreading blatant falsehoods and misinformation about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The attitude (of ignoring what they deem as “anti-Mormon literature’) appears to be validated by not ignoring what “the most influential anti-Mormon of recent years” wrote? How do you validate not reading something by reading it? So I guess those that ignore it actually aren’t ignoring it? Dustin claims,

I normally don’t bother responding to individual claims by anti-Mormons—because for every claim you debunk, another will be invented or repackaged.

Of course he doesn’t, because if what he wrote about Jeremy Runnells is any indication, he is too ignorant to make a coherent response. He would rather point the finger at those dreadful “anti-Mormons” and make false claims, and provide links to FAIRMORMON. And of course since this is all (as Dustin puts it) just “invented” or “repackaged” claims, why bother? And then there’s the irony of Dustin’s own repackaging of FAIRMORMON’s apologetic bullshit.

Dustin also gripes about how many times the CES Letter has been downloaded and that it is some kind of “tool” of ex-Mormons, and claim that its success is simply how the letter is constructed. Gee, If only everyone could construct a letter like that. We’d all get millions of views! Perhaps Jeremy should be out giving lectures on how to construct letters since this one has been so successful. Of course it has nothing to do with the content. It was just ingeniously constructed.

And Jeremy just appears to be trustworthy.  So of course Dustin has to attack Jeremy’s honesty, and his real story, that he had a legitimate crisis about his faith (being a returned missionary, etc), and make it into a plot by Jeremy to dupe unsuspecting Mormons.

Dustin also totally mischaracterized what Jeremy claimed about the CES Letter. Jeremy never said they were “a few innocent questions” about the Church. Jeremy was totally upfront in the CES Letter and said he already had a crisis of faith BEFORE he wrote it. So all of this by Dustin is a blatant falsehood. Jeremy never duped anyone.  In his INTRODUCTION, Jeremy wrote,

I’m just going to be straightforward and blunt in sharing my concerns. Obviously I’m a disaffected member who lost his testimony so it’s no secret which side I’m on at the moment. All this information is a result of over a year of intense research and an absolute rabid obsession with Joseph Smith and Church history. With this said, I’d be pretty arrogant and ignorant to say that I have all the information and that you don’t have answers. Like you, I put my pants on one leg at a time and I see through a glass darkly. You may have new information and/or a new perspective that I may not have heard or considered before. This is why I’m genuinely interested in what your answers and thoughts are to these troubling problems.

So who is being dishonest here? Dustin Phelps. He just can’t seem to admit to himself that people are reading the letter knowing that Jeremy wrote it when he was already disaffected and was honest and upfront about it. I mean, it must be troubling to Dustin’s apologetic mind that people are still reading the actual evidence for its own sake and not because of Jeremy Runnell’s ingeniously constructed letter.  I doubt Dustin ever even read the CES letter. What he appears to have done is regurgitated material from FAIRMORMON. Took a few claims and made up his whopper about Jeremy being dishonest and a liar.


I’ve been friends with Jeremy for about five years now, and I can tell you he’s a passionate guy. That much is obvious if one reads his rebuttal to Dustin Phelps. I really can’t blame him for being pissed off. He’s been attacked by Mormon Apologists over and over again and it must get rather old after a while. I just turned sixty, and I was a lot like Jeremy when I was younger and if you follow this blog, you know that I can be sarcastic and sharp in my responses to Mormon Apologists. So bear in mind all that Jeremy has been through as you read his response to Phelps.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s explore Dustin’s claims about what Jeremy wrote in the CES Letter and see if it is all “lies about the church”.  And remember, Dustin claims that these are “major claims” against the church. Now, I am not going to do any kind of in-depth rebuttal here, Jeremy has done a great job with his response. I just want to make a few observations and analyze some of Dustin Phelps’ claims against Jeremy. And if these are not in order… you guessed it, Phelps changed the order when he repackaged his own blog entry.

Dustin Phelps original text (18 July 2017):

False Claim #3) Joseph Smith’s Polygamy is “Warren Jeffs territory”

Let’s cut right to the chase on this one. Polygamy is not what really bothers anyone. What bothers people is the possibility that Joseph introduced polygamy—not because of revelation but out of a desire to satisfy lustful feelings. They worry that maybe Joseph practiced polygamy in the same way that Warren Jeffs did: with unrestrained lust and insatiable sexual appetite.

This insinuation is common in anti-Mormon literature. And the particular document that we are discussing explicitly claims that Joseph Smith’s history is “Warren Jeffs territory.”

But is that claim at all true?

Dustin Phelps changed text:

False Claim #1) Joseph Smith’s Polygamy is “Warren Jeffs territory”

Look. Polygamy is a difficult subject for many of us—even if the Prophets of old practiced it too.

But what makes it difficult to move forward with faith is the possibility that Joseph introduced polygamy—not because of revelation but out of a desire to satisfy lustful feelings. Some people worry that maybe Joseph practiced polygamy in the same way that Warren Jeffs did: with unrestrained lust and insatiable sexual appetite.

This insinuation is common in anti-Mormon literature. And the particular document that we are discussing openly claims that Joseph Smith’s history is “Warren Jeffs territory.”

But is that claim at all true?

But what did Jeremy actually write? On page 31 of the CES Letter, we find,

One of the things that really disturbed me in my research was discovering the real origins of polygamy and how Joseph Smith really practiced it.

 Joseph Smith was married to at least 34 women.

 Polyandry: Of those 34 women, 11 of them were married women of other living men. Among them being Apostle Orson Hyde who was sent on his mission to dedicate Israel when Joseph secretly married his wife, Marinda Hyde. Church historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen and unofficial apologists like FairMormon do not dispute the polyandry. The Church now admits the polyandry in its October 2014 Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo essay.

 Out of the 34 women, 7 of them were teenage girls as young as 14-years-old. Joseph was 37-years-old when he married 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball, twenty-three years his junior. Even by 19th century standards, this was shocking. The Church now admits that Joseph Smith married Helen Mar Kimball “several months before her 15th birthday” in its October 2014 Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo essay.

 Among the women was a mother-daughter set and three sister sets. Several of these women included Joseph’s own foster daughters. Some of the marriages to these women included promises by Joseph of eternal life to the girls and their families, threats of loss of salvation, and threats that he (Joseph) was going to be slain by an angel with a drawn sword if the girls didn’t marry him.

Every bit of this is true. So really, what Dustin Phelps has a problem with is Jeremy characterizing what Joseph Smith did as “Warren Jeffs territory”.  This is something the individual must decide. But is this a false claim? No. It’s an opinion.  The Rolling Stone wrote this about Jeffs:

The ambitious, twisted son of the previous FLDS prophet, Jeffs took control and became obsessed with the idea of “perfect obedience.” He started kicking people out of Short Creek that he deemed sinners: young men who came to be known as Lost Boys, teenage girls he considered too rebellious and men no longer “worthy of priesthood,” reassigning their wives and children to loyalists he felt he could trust.

Beginning in 2002, he came under investigation for child rape in Utah. He then began evading authorities while marrying off teenage girls to the sect’s leadership. He also ordered the construction of a new FLDS compound, the Yearning for Zion ranch, in the West Texas desert. In May 2006, he landed on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted list for multiple counts of sexually assaulting minors, and went on the run with his favorite wife, Naomi (code name: 91). With the help of Jessop, who ran the church’s security force – called the God Squad by detractors – Jeffs communicated through coded letters and burner phones and shuttled between the church’s “houses of hiding” scattered throughout the West (in particular, he often visited his favored brides at the compound in Texas). In August 2006, he was arrested during a routine traffic stop on the outskirts of Las Vegas, carrying 16 cellphones, three wigs and $56,000 in cash in the lining of a suitcase.

Joseph Smith declared and had himself ordained a king in Nauvoo. He “married” multiple teenaged girls, some as young as fourteen. He discarded women when being “married” to them was no longer in his best interest after having sex with them. As for “perfect obedience”, this is what Joseph Smith was reported to have said in Kirtland in 1836, that,

After that dedication [of the Kirtland Temple] the Mormons organized what they termed “the school of prophets.” A revelation prior to that time had given Oliver Cowdery the privilege of nominating the twelve apostles of the Church. About the time of this organization there was a good deal of scandal prevalent among a number of the Saints concerning Joseph’s licentious conduct, this more especially among the women. Joseph’s name was then connected with scandalous relations with two or three families.  Apparently to counteract this he came out and made a statement in the Temple, before a general congregation that he was authorized by God Almighty to establish His Kingdom — that he was God’s prophet and God’s agent, and that he could do whatever he should choose to do, therefore the Church had NO  RIGHT  TO  CALL  INTO  QUESTION Anything he did, or to censure him, for the reason that he was responsible to God Almighty only. This promulgation created a great sensation — a schism occurred and a large portion of the first membership, including the best talent of the Church, at once withdrew from it. This was during the summer of 1836. (Benjamin Winchester, Primitive Mormonism, The Salt Lake City Daily Tribune, September 22, 1889).

What Phelps does here can be characterized as the classic “bait and switch”.  He claims that this is all about Joseph having “unrestrained lust and insatiable sexual appetite”. Yet, this is not what Jeremy claims at all. The fact is, we do not know how often Joseph had sex with his plural wives. If the testimony of Emily Partridge and Malissa Lott count for anything to Phelps, they claimed that they had sex with Smith on multiple occasions. Malissa Lott testified,

Q. I asked you how many times you had roomed there in that house with Joseph Smith? I do not expect you to answer positively the exact number of times, but I would like to have you tell us the number of times as nearly as you can remember it?

A. Well I can’t tell you. I think I have acted the part of a lady in answering your questions as well as I have, and I don’t think you are acting the part of a gentleman in asking me these questions.

Q. Well I will ask you the questions over again in this form,—was it more than twice?

A. Yes sir.

R. C. Evans, who was in the Presidency of the Reorganized Church interviewed the brother of Joseph F. Smith, (Patriarch John Smith) a nephew of Joseph Smith and while there his wife Helen told him that “Malissa Lott … said Joseph … desired her to have a child by him.”

Lott herself, when questioned about her lack of a pregnancy by Joseph answered it was,

Through no fault of either of us, lack of proper conditions on my part probably, or it might be in the wisdom of the Almighty that we should have none. The Prophet was martyred nine months after our marriage.

Emily Partridge testified,

Q. Did you ever have carnal intercourse with Joseph Smith? A. Yes sir.

Q. How many nights? A. I could not tell you.

Q. Do you make the declaration that you ever slept with him but one night? A. Yes sir.

Q.  And that was the only time and place that you ever were in bed with him? A. No sir.

This is only two of Joseph Smith’s wives.  Even they were baffled as to why they never got pregnant. To claim that Joseph just never had sex with his wives, or that he chose to “limit such relations” is ridiculous and ignores the actual evidence.  According to Emily Partridge, she did not know why she got pregnant by Brigham Young and not by Joseph Smith: 

Q. You were married to Brigham Young by the law of proxy?     A. Yes sir.

Q.  And while married to Brigham Young by the law of proxy you had children?  A.  Yes sir.

Q. You had children by Brigham Young?  A. Yes sir.

Q. Then the law of proxy, -marriage by the law of proxy will raise children, while marriage by the law of the church will not?  Is that it?  A.  I don’t understand your question?

Q.  My question is this, -that when you were married by the law of proxy you had children?  A. Yes sir.

Q. And when married under the law of the church you did not raise children?  A. I did not have any, but I don’t know that that had any thing to do with it, for I might have had children married that way as well as under any other marriage relation.

Q. But you did not have any when you were married to Joseph Smith A. No sir.

Q. You did by Brigham Young though when you were married to him by proxy?  A. Yes sir, but that did not have any thing to do with it. (395-402)’

Phelps makes the claim that “whatever intimate relations may have occurred—they were pretty close to non-existent,” but has absolutely no evidence to back up that assertion.  He links to an article by Brian Hales that is full of his own speculations and apologetic mumbo jumbo.  But one thing that is certain and Brian Hales admits this himself in the very article that Phelps links to:

It is impossible to accurately determine how often Joseph Smith spent time with his plural wives, either in conjugal visits or otherwise.

I can go one step further and with absolute confidence say that it is impossible to determine AT ALL, how often Smith spent time with his spiritual wives or had sex with them.  Speculating about it is simply ridiculous, but this is what Hales, FAIRMORMON and Dustin Phelps do, because they will not admit that there was no teaching or evidence that anyone who was in a polygamous relationship could not have sex with the woman he was married to. So calling them “non-sexual eternity only sealings” is simply Brian Hales wishful thinking, extremely irresponsible and has no evidentary basis at all, except from late anonymous recollections and notes by Andrew Jenson who lied in his publication The Historical Record when it suited him.

What really surprised me though, was Phelps original statement:

Polygamy is not what really bothers anyone.

Huh? Polygamy doesn’t bother anyone? I beg to differ and most likely, Phelps got some blowback on this because he then changed his blog entry to read:

Look. Polygamy is a difficult subject for many of us—even if the Prophets of old practiced it too.

So which is it? It doesn’t bother anyone including Dustin Phelps? Or it is a difficult subject for many of us (including Phelps). Do you get the feeling that Phelps will just say anything to defend the church? Why then would he flip flop on this? Or is he mentally challenged and can’t make up his mind what he believes? Is this anyone you want helping you in times of crisis? Does he really have any answers and is he qualified to give you the historical truth? He doesn’t seem to know what it is. Do we really need more FAIRMORMON Repackaged? If you are having a crisis of faith, do you really need FAIRMORMON Repackaged? Wouldn’t you rather speak to qualified historians, or your Bishop, or research things for yourself and then make up your mind what to do? This was in fact what Jeremy Runnells was originally trying to do.

Another example that Phelps gives of Jeremy’s “lying” is the following:

3) “there were major [changes to the Book of Mormon that] reflect Joseph’s evolved view of the Godhead.”

Jeremy actually wrote,

The Book of Mormon taught and still teaches a Trinitarian view of the Godhead. Joseph Smith’s early theology also held this view. As part of the over 100,000 changes to the Book of Mormon, there were major changes made to reflect Joseph’s evolved view of the Godhead.  (CES, 17)

Talk about context. He doesn’t once cite where he is getting his quotes from in the CES Letter.  I find that odd.  So how is Jeremy Runnells lying here? This is Dustin Phelps tortured logic:

As part of these changes, Joseph prepared an 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon that fixed some typos and included a few clarifications.

Ok, but they are still CHANGES. So all his blathering about punctuation is just a red herring. But here is what he says about what Jeremy calls “major changes”:

One of those minor adjustments has really excited anti-Mormons over the years. Why? Because if you remove the relevant context and place it in just the right light, it appears much more controversial than it really is.

So, here’s the change: There are four places where Joseph Smith added “Son of” to the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon. These are places where Jesus Christ was initially referred to as “God” or “the Eternal Father” but were adjusted to read “Son of God” and “Son of the Eternal Father.”

Dustin blathers on about verses that do nothing to prove his point and this has been addressed in Jeremy Runnells response to Dustin, found here.

As far as the Trinity in Mormonism, there is some simple evidence to prove that this was taught in the early church.  In the same year that Joseph penned his first account of his claimed First Vision (1832), we find this amazing commentary written in the Evening And Morning Star, under the title of ‘The Excellence of Scripture’:

“Through Christ we understand the terms on which God will show favour and grace to the world, and by him we have ground of a PARRESIA access with freedom and boldness unto God. On his account we may hope not only for grace to subdue our sins, resist temptations, conquer the devil and the world; but having ’fought this good fight, and finished our course by patient continuance in well doing, we may justly look for glory, honor, and immortality,’ and that ‘crown of righteousness which is laid up for those who wait in faith,’ holiness, and humility, for the appearance of Christ from heaven. Now what things can there be of greater moment and importance for men to know, or God to reveal, than the nature of God and ourselves the state and condition of our souls, the only way to avoid eternal misery and enjoy everlasting bliss!

“The Scriptures discover not only matters of importance, but of the greatest depth and mysteriousness. There are many wonderful things in the law of God, things we may admire, but are never able to comprehend. Such are the eternal purposes and decrees of God, THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY, the incarnation of the Son of God, and the manner of the operation of the Spirit of God upon the souls of men, which are all things of great weight and moment for us to understand and believe that they are, and yet may be unsearchable to our reason, as to the particular manner of them.” (The Evening And Morning Star, Vol. I, INDEPENDENCE, MO. JULY, 1832. No. 2. page 12, emphasis mine)

When one considers the Book of Mormon teaching, and looks at the Lectures on Faith, which were published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants and voted on as binding doctrine by the Church, one can see the striking similarities and his change from Monotheism to Modalism. Take this verse from 1st Nephi:

“And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.”

Now compare this to Lecture Fifth, from the Lectures on Faith:

“There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power overall things…They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image;–he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father: possessing all the fulness of the Father, or, the same fulness with the Father; being begotten of him, and was ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh.” (Lectures on Faith, 5:2, emphasis mine)

In the questions and answers, at the end of each lecture, we find clarification:

What is the Father?
He is a personage of glory and of power. (5:2.)
What is the Son?
First, he is a personage of tabernacle. (5:2.)…
Why was he called the Son?
Because of the flesh.
Do the Father and the Son possess the same mind?
They do.
What is this mind?
The Holy Spirit.

Thomas G. Alexander, writing for Sunstone in July of 1980 explained that,

“The Lectures on Faith differentiated between the Father and Son somewhat more explicitly, but even they did not define a materialistic, tritheistic Godhead.  In announcing the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants which included the Lectures on Faith, the Messenger and Advocate commented editorially that it trusted the volume would give ‘the churches abroad…a perfect understanding of the doctrine believed by this society.’ The Lectures declared that ‘there are two personages who constitute the great matchless, governing and supreme power over all things–by whom all things were created and made.’ They are ‘the Father being a personage of spirit,’ and ‘the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image.’ The ‘Articles and Covenants’ called the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ‘one God’ rather than the Godhead, a term which Mormons generally use today to separate themselves from trinitarians.” (Sunstone 5:4/26 (Jul 80), emphasis mine)

In his “translation” of the Bible, sometimes called The Inspired Version (completed in 1833), Joseph Smith changed some verses in the New Testament to reflect his early Monotheistic teachings:

KJV: All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.(Luke 10:22)

JST: All things are delivered to me of my Father; and no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.(Luke 10:22

For a time, it seems, Joseph Smith was a Monotheist, and Mormons agreed with the Christian Trinity doctrine.  Monotheism, (identified as the doctrine of the Trinity in light of New Testament revelation) is what is taught in the Bible, the most clearly in Isaiah 44:6-8:

“Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer, the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”

For more on Smith’s early teachings on the Godhead, See Ronald V. Huggins article, Joseph Smith’s Modalism: Sabellian Sequentialism or Swedenborgian Expansionism?

Dustin Phelps also claims that Jeremy is “lying” about this:

2) “Many Book of Mormon names and places are strikingly similar to local names and places of the region [where] Joseph Smith lived.”

Dustin claims:

The author of this infamous anti-Mormon document provides a map of the cities and towns where Joseph grew up and then compares them to a proposed map of Book of Mormon geography.

He also compares these place names in a table.

He argues that the similarities are too powerful to ascribe to mere coincidence. And it’s not just that he’s telling people to think that. The way he constructs the comparisons makes it seem as though that is the natural conclusion.

But here’s what countless misled readers do not know:

Several of the towns on this author’s list were not even in existence at the printing of the Book of Mormon. Other locations were remote villages hundreds of miles away in places like Canada—hardly the land of Joseph’s youth.[9]

Plus, almost half of the names or locations are also found in the Bible—including Biblical names that few are aware of such as Lehi, Boaz, Ramah, and Sidon.

But you know what? As ridiculous as this claim may seem, it is also one of the most emotionally impactful parts of the whole document. Why? Because it starts to paint a picture in your mind of how Joseph Smith might have invented the Book of Mormon.

The author is trying to achieve the impossible: make a Book of Mormon fraud seem believable.

All of Dustin’s links go to FAIRMORMON. This section is no different. He offers the link as proof for his statement that “several of the towns … were not even in existence at the printing of the Book of Mormon.

At FAIRMORMON, they quibble about where these locations are in the Book of Mormon. Was one north of the other or south of the other, etc. This is irrelevant. What about the names? Let’s take just one example. They write,

Holley points out that the present day city of Angola, New York is a possible match for a Book of Mormon location. He notes the location of the city on “modern maps”. Holley states,

The present day city of Angola, New York, is located west of the Genesee (Sidon?) River and south [“in the borders”] of the proposed land of Zarahemla. This is another example of the many actual locations in the Great Lakes area that can be located on modern maps by following geographical information in the Book of Mormon. [4]

However, when one looks up the Wikipedia entry for Angola, New York, it becomes evident that the name “Angola” was not established until approximately 1854, twenty-four years after the Book of Mormon was published. Wikipedia notes,

The community was previously called “Evans Station.” In 1854 or 1855, a post office was established there, bearing the name Angola. [5]

Actually, FAIRMORMON is wrong. I happen to live in Upstate New York, and I know a little bit more about the history of this area. The Post Office in Angola was there before 1830:

The first town meeting for the town of Collins was held on June 9, 1821, a few weeks after the formation of the county. There was then no post-office in the town, but in 1822 one was established at Taylor’s Hollow, and a mail route opened through Eden to that point. THE OFFICE WAS NAMED ANGOLA and Jacob Taylor was appointed postmaster, a position which he held as late as 1840. This office was subsequently abandoned and the name given to one in the town of Evans.  (Our County and It’s People: A Descriptive Wo.rk on Erie County, New York, Volume 1, 348, emphasis mine).

I’ve been to Taylor’s Hollow and Eden many times. Unless one knows the local history, they would not be aware that the Angola Post Office was there in 1822.

What is the Etymology for the word “Angola”?

The name Angola comes from the Portuguese colonial name Reino de Angola (Kingdom of Angola), appearing as early as Dias de Novais’s 1571 charter. The toponym was derived by the Portuguese from the title ngola held by the kings of Ndongo.

How in the world did this word get on to the gold plates in 400 A.D.? It didn’t. It was a Post Office a hundred miles from Smith’s house. And according to the 1826 examination minutes, Joseph Smith claimed to have gone to that area of New York:

Mr. [Joseph] Smith [Jr.] was fully examined by the Court. It elicited little but a history of his life from early boyhood, but this is so unique in character, and so much of a key-note to his subsequent career in the world, I am tempted to give it somewhat in extenso. He said when he was a lad, he heard of a neighboring girl some three miles from him, who could look into a glass and see anything however hidden from others; that he was seized with a strong desire to see her and her glass; that after much effort he induced his parents to let him visit her. He did so, and was permitted to look in the glass, which was placed in a hat to exclude the light. He was greatly surprised to see but one thing, which was a small stone, a great way off. It soon became luminous, and dazzled his eyes, and after a short time it became as intense as the mid-day sun. He said that the stone was under the roots of a tree or shrub as large as his arm, situated about a mile up a small stream that puts in on the South side of Lake Erie, not far from the Now York and Pennsylvania line. He often had an opportunity to look in the glass, and with the same result. The luminous stone alone attracted his attention. This singular circumstance occupied his mind for some years, when he left his father’s house, and with his youthful zeal traveled west in search of this luminous stone.

He took a few shillings in money and some provisions with him. He stopped on the road with a farmer, and worked three days, and replenished his means of support. After traveling some one hundred and fifty miles he found himself at the mouth of the creek. He did not have the glass with him, but he knew its exact location. He borrowed an old ax and a hoe, and repaired to the tree. With some labor and exertion he found the stone, carried it to the creek, washed and wiped it dry, sat down on the bank, placed it in his hat, and discovered that time, place and distance were annihilated; that all intervening obstacles were removed, and that he possessed one of the attributes of Deity, an All-Seeing-Eye. He arose with a thankful heart, carried his tools to their owner, turned his feet towards the rising sun, and sought with weary limbs his long deserted home.

On the request of the Court, he exhibited the stone. It was about the size of a small hen’s egg, in the shape of a high-instepped shoe. It was composed of layers of different colors passing diagonally through it. It was very hard and smooth, perhaps by being carried in the pocket.”

So, what are we to make of this? Did Vernal Holley have a point to make about the Book of Mormon names? Absolutely. But since he is dead, we cannot know where he got his research from, so it is up to others to dig into this and find out, as I did with Angola. Knowing this, is it really so impossible that the Book of Mormon is a fraud? I’ll let you decide, readers.

Dustin then tries to tackle the claimed “First Vision” problems and writes,

False Claim #4: Joseph wrote four contradicting versions of the First Vision

This claim is very misleading.

Here are the facts:

First, as we would expect, Joseph told the story of the 1st vision on multiple occasions. Second, because each account is conveyed to a different audience and for a different purpose, Joseph focuses on different details of the experience in each account.

What would really be weird is if he robotically gave the exact same, seemingly rehearsed account, every time he was asked. Instead, every time he tells of the First Vision experience, it is from a new angle, revealing an experience that is panoramic and authentic.

Contrary to the author’s assertion, the accounts do not contradict each other—they enrich one another. And they are on display in the Church’s history museum and were published by the Church over 50 years ago (shortly after the History Department discovered them). Click here to study each account for yourself on the Church’s website.

And consider the following:

Paul and Alma the Younger also retell their transformative spiritual experiences on multiple occasions—to different audiences and with different purposes. Each of their accounts differ on what they emphasize and include new details, but ultimately they in no way contradict each other. Just like with Joseph’s First Vision accounts, each perspective adds rich depth and power to their experiences.

And let’s not forget that overtime we all tend to reinterpret and recontextualize our past experiences which may lead us to focus on different themes of the same experience at different times.

This is simply apologetic mumbo-jumbo and does not address the real problems that Jeremy brings up in the CES Letter. I have addressed many of these myself here, in answer to Kevin Christensen’s (another FAIRMORMON apologist) rants against Jeremy.

The other claims that I haven’t addressed here Jeremy has answered well, and I doubt there will be any kind of reasoned, logical response from “Happiness Seekers”.


I’ll simply quote what Jeremy wrote to Dustin which seems an apt conclusion to his bizarre rant against “he who must not be named”:

In case you haven’t noticed by now, Dustin skips a lot of things. Dustin ignores a lot of details. Dustin ignores a lot of contradictions.

Dustin wants you to look at this tree over there while keeping your eyes and attention away from the forest of problems. Mormon apologists do not want you to see the forest. This is why they hate the CES Letter and me so much. This is why I am now the Mormon “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” with a “You-Know-What-Letter”. I show you the entire forest with just 2-hours of reading (what used to take people in the past, weeks and months to accomplish the same thing on their own). Instead of 1-5 problems that they can contain for a member awakening to the LDS Church’s truth crisis, they have to address 80-pages worth of problems they wish you didn’t know about. They want you to stay lost in the trees focusing on one tree at a time within the unreliable and unsupportable lens of “faith.”

Origin Of The Baptism for the Dead Doctrine

I know I haven’t posted here in over a year, but I’ve been busy researching and writing. One of the projects I worked on was with my friend H. Michael Marquardt, who co-wrote an article with me on the Origin of the Baptism for the Dead Doctrine, which has been published in the latest issue of the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal! Here is a teaser page, and I would urge you to purchase this issue as it is chock full of many great articles on Mormon History.

Stay tuned, I have some really good articles lined up for this year, and will also be posting an extended version of the above article at a future time…