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.” http://richkelsey.org/1826_trial_testimonies.htm

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.”

Phoney Maroney & FairMormon’s New Scapegoat

Stephen Smoot 2

Phoney maroney,
Pony before the cart. …

Gentlemen mark your opponents
Fire into your own ranks.
Pick the weakest as strategic
Move. Square off. To
Meet your enemy.
For each and every gathering
A scapegoat falls to climb. ~R.E.M.

This guy:

Stephen O. Smoot is an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Ancient Near Eastern Studies and German Studies. He is a writer for the Student Review, an independent BYU student newspaper, a volunteer with FairMormon, and an Editorial Consultant for Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture. He blogs at the FairMormon Blog and Ploni Almoni: Mr. So-and-So’s Mormon Blog.

Is one of many from FAIRMORMON’s ranks who are obsessed with attacking and scapegoating Jeremy Runnells. They have even devoted a whole website to doing so. (Yes Mormons, that is what your donations to FAIRMORMON are being used for). Even Daniel C. Peterson and Michael Ash have jumped on this bandwagon. This has troubled other Mormons, like David Bokovoy who wrote:

But what about attacking people directly like Jeremy Runnells and John Dehlin? Does this strengthen faith? It may, but I’m not convinced. I don’t like it, and it feels wrong to me. More importantly, that type of apologetic seems inappropriate from my perspective for a serious academic venue, especially one sponsored by the LDS Church.

I’m not going to cite the emails because they’re personal exchanges, and to do so would be highly inappropriate. But I will give a personal example. In the not-too-distant past, my name was attached to an apologetic email list that was discussing how the group should respond to an article that appeared in the news. Several of the emails discussed openly the type of “digging” that could be done into this person’s past in an effort to provide an effective apologetic response. It made me feel very, very uncomfortable.

I responded, asking the group to please reconsider their approach, stating, “placing the blame on [name omitted] for his struggles is not an effective apologetic and I personally don’t think it will help [your] cause.”

And this is what this entire unfortunate public confrontation comes down to: What is the most effective type of apologetics, and what style of academics should an LDS sponsored institution engage in? I don’t believe in aggressive attack style apologetics. Some people do. I believe in critical thinking, listening to alternative views, and open friendly exchanges.

Smoot has had Jeremy in his sights ever since the wildly popular CES Letter was made public by Jeremy in 2013. In one of his blog articles written in June of this year, Smoot advised his fellow Mormons about the dangers of the Internet:

…Church leaders … have urged the importance of using the Internet to both stem the tide of misinformation and deception about the Church found online as well as preach the gospel. But they are not alone. Elder Quinten L. Cook lamented in the October 2012 General Conference, “Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony.” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf likewise reminded us of the following in 2013:

For those who already embrace the truth, [Satan’s] primary strategy is to spread the seeds of doubt. For example, he has caused many members of the Church to stumble when they discover information about the Church that seems to contradict what they had learned previously.

If you experience such a moment, remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything, at any time and every place.

You will find even those who still claim that they have evidence that the earth is flat, that the moon is a hologram, and that certain movie stars are really aliens from another planet. And it is always good to keep in mind, just because something is printed on paper, appears on the Internet, is frequently repeated, or has a powerful group of followers doesn’t make it true.

Elder Steven E. Snow, Church Historian and Recorder, gave this counsel in the June 2013 issue of the New Era (which was subsequently reposted on the Church’s website for youth).

Certainly, the world has changed in the last generation or two. The Internet has put all kinds of information at our fingertips—good, bad, truthful, untruthful—including information on Church history. You can read a great deal about our history, but it’s important to read about it and understand it in context. The difficulty with some information online is that it’s out of context and you don’t really see the whole picture.

Information that tries to embarrass the Church is generally very subjective and unfair. We should seek sources that more objectively describe our beliefs and our history. Some websites are very mean-spirited and can be sensational in how they present the information. Look for sources by recognized and respected historians, whether they’re members of the Church or not.

Instead of leaving it at that, Smoot adds:

The tantrums of Jeremy Runnells notwithstanding, what these brethren have taught is absolutely true. It’s college-level critical thinking 101. Don’t default to Wikipedia or reddit for your information. Don’t default to meme-think. Don’t default to snarky YouTube videos. Steven C. Harper said it best, “Googling is not a synonym for seeking.” Take the time and make the honest effort to acquaint yourself with “the best books” (D&C 88:118) you can find on Mormon history, scripture, and doctrine. (For our purposes here, “the best books” include academic journal articles, academic and popular press publications, Internet websites, multimedia, etc.) It will ultimately be much better for you intellectually and spiritually.

The only one that seems to be throwing tantrums is Stephen Smoot. In this piece Smoot sets up a strawman by turning Jeremy’s comment about Hales being an amateur Historian into his claiming that he triumphantly announced “that one cannot possibly maintain faith in Joseph Smith after learning the “real” history of plural marriage.”

Of course Jeremy said no such thing and you can search in vain for that quote.  Smoot goes on and on about Hales how is not an amateur historian, but Hales himself claimed that he was:

“Runnells is correct that I am an amateur historian…” (Brian Hales,  Facebook, Mormon Historians, July 17, 2014, 3:38pm).

I actually took part in that conversation, and can verify that it is an accurate quote and that Brian was not being sarcastic. So if Hales is calling himself an amateur; then why is Stephen Smoot even bringing this up? To scapegoat Jeremy Runnells, of course.

So what is wrong with Wikipedia or reddit? Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia using wiki software. The entries are compiled by anonymous editors who have to footnote their entries.  Anyone can edit entries and it is basically self policed.  One Mormon apologist, Roger Nicholson lamented about Wikipedia in The Mormon Interpreter:

According to Wikipedia,

The Wikipedia model allows anyone to edit, and relies on a large number of well-intentioned editors to overcome issues raised by a smaller number of problematic editors. It is inherent in Wikipedia’s editing model that misleading information can be added, but over time quality is anticipated to improve in a form of group learning as editors reach consensus, so that substandard edits will very rapidly be removed.

In general, this philosophy tends to be effective as regards many Wikipedia articles. Errors that bring an article out of balance tend to be corrected given sufficient time, and the article progresses toward a stable and “neutral” state. However, articles dealing with highly controversial subjects, such as Joseph Smith’s first vision or polygamy, do not tend to stabilize themselves over time. These types of articles become magnets for editors who have an agenda to push. Wikipedia becomes an attractive way for such editors to “publish” their opinions with immediate worldwide visibility and considerable credibility.

He then writes,

Wikipedia articles are required to rely “mainly on reliable, published secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources. All interpretive claims, analyses, or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary source, rather than original analysis of the primary source material by Wikipedia editors.”  Wikipedia is intended to summarize the work of others rather than act as a forum for creating original work. In the case of contentious articles such as “First Vision” or “Golden Plates,” it is extremely tempting to take advantage of the “immediate publication” of material in order to create new interpretive material. The “no original research” rule is often ignored. This can lead to situations in which the wiki editor’s own thinking is reflected in the article. Consider this example, which appears in the wiki article “First Vision” as of 18 October 2011: “However, when in October 1830 the author Peter Bauder interviewed Smith for a religious book he was writing, he said Smith was unable to recount a ‘Christian experience.’ ”

There are several issues with the above statement. It does correctly represent the source, which was an interview between Peter Bauder and Joseph Smith. Bauder was attempting to expose false religions, and he notes that “among these imposters there has one arisen by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr.”  The wiki editor introduces the quotation with the word however, thus implying that this statement is a possible disqualifier for the validity of the first vision. Nowhere in the wiki article is it noted that Bauder was a strong critic of Joseph Smith and that Joseph may not have desired to share the experience of his vision with such an interviewer. The earliest known extant attempt by Joseph to put the vision in writing occurred two years later. In 2009, however, the LDS wiki editor added his own interpretation of this interview by drawing the conclusion that “either Smith did not view this early remission of sins or vision as a ‘Christian experience,’ he forgot about the experience when asked by Bauder, or Smith and Bauder somehow miscommunicated.”?

Not only did this blatantly violate Wikipedia’s “no original research” rule, it was also an absurd interpretation. How would Joseph not view a remission of his sins as a “Christian experience”? Would he truly have “forgotten” about his theophany? The simplest and most obvious explanation was completely ignored: Joseph may have simply chosen not to share the experience of his vision with an obvious enemy of the church. The wiki editor eventually recognized that the original research could not remain and removed the paragraph. The unqualified statement about Joseph not recounting a “Christian experience,” however, remains in the wiki article as of September 2011.

There are several things wrong with this analysis. First, the Peter Bauder interview with Joseph Smith was published in 1834, not 1830, so we do not know the exact circumstances that led Bauder to Joseph Smith, other than what Bauder wrote later. Bauder wrote,

However … we find him [anti-Christ] in various other places. For instance, view him in the Mahometan system, and a variety of other imposters, who have drawn disciples after them, who had no Theological Seminaries among them; but if you will observe their manner of increasing their numbers, you will find it is done without a reformation wrought in the hearts of their members, by a godly sorrow for sin, and a compunction of soul, and pungent conviction, which precedes a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, 1 Peter, 1, 8—because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them according to Romans, 5, 5.

Among these imposters there has one arisen by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr. who commenced his system of church government in this state, (New York) in the year 1830. His followers are commonly called Mormonites, sometimes New Jerusalemites, or Golden Bible society; they call themselves the true followers of Christ. I conceive it my duty to expose this diabolical system for two special reasons—first, because I have had an opportunity with Smith, in his first setting out, to discover his plan; secondly, because I learn since they were broke up in New York State, they have gone to the western States, and are deceiving themselves and the people, and are increasing very fast.

The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834.

The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834, 36-37.

I will name some of the particular discoveries which through Divine Providence I was favored with in an interview with Joseph Smith, Jr. at the house of Peter Whitmer, in the town of Fayette, Seneca County, state of New York, in October, 1830. I called at P[eter]. Whitmer’s house, for the purpose of seeing Smith, and searching into the mystery of his system of religion, and had the privilege of conversing with him alone, several hours, and of investigating his writings, church records, &c. I improved near four and twenty hours in close application with Smith and his followers: he could give me no christian experience, but told me that an angel told him he must go to a certain place in the town of Manchester, Ontario County, where was a secret treasure concealed, which he must reveal to the human family. He went, and after the third or fourth time, which was repeated once a year, he obtained a parcel of plate resembling gold, on which were engraved what he did not understand, only by the aid of a glass which he also obtained with the plate, by which means he was enabled to translate the characters on the plate into English. He says he was not allowed to let the plate be seen only by a few individuals named by the angel, and after he had a part translated, the angel conmanded him to carry the plate into a certain piece of woods, which he did:—the angel took them and carried them to parts unknown to him. The part translated he had published, and it is before the public, entitled the Book of Mormon: a horrid blasphemy, but not so wicked as another manuscript which he was then preparing for publication, which I also saw. He told me no man had ever seen it except a few of his apostles: the publication intended was to be the Bible!!! The manner in which it was written is as follows:—he commenced at the first chapter of Genesis, he wrote a few verses of scripture, then added delusion, which he added every [p.18] few verses of scripture, and so making a compound of scripture and delusion. On my interrogating him on the subject, he professed to be inspired by the Holy Ghost to write it. I will now give the public my fears on this subject, (unless God prevents) when he gets his work ready for the press. He will pretend that the angel has brought the plate, and his new Bible will be a translation of the remaining plate, which were not put into the Book of Mormon, and the public will have this diabolical invention imposed on them. (See also, Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 16-18).

It is obvious that this is written from an 1834 perspective. We do not know how Bauder felt in 1830 when he visited Smith. He may not have been antagonistic at all. Nicholson assumes this of Bauder, and then concludes that “Joseph may have simply chosen not to share the experience of his vision with an obvious enemy of the church.” Yet, Joseph shared his claimed 1820 vision with Robert Matthews in 1835, who Smith speculated was a murderer and claimed his “God was the devil”.  In the light of Smith sharing his supposed vision with one such as Matthews, Nicolson’s argument doesn’t make much sense.

What is interesting is that Bauder got all of the details right about Smith’s claimed visit with Moroni. He also got the details right about Smith’s “translation” of the Bible, although his later speculation that Smith might claim it came from the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon never came to pass. If Bauder was simply making it up about Smith’s lack of Christian experience in 1830, why did he correctly claim that Smith told him he was later translating the Bible with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost? This is not about Joseph joining any church; Bauder describes what “Christian experience” is, in an earlier paragraph:

“…a reformation wrought in the hearts of their members, by a godly sorrow for sin, and a compunction of soul, and pungent conviction, which precedes a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory…because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them…”

That is not about joining a church. The fact that Bauder claims that Joseph did not speak of any Christian experience before his supposed encounter with the angel Moroni in 1830, is borne out by what Mormon Missionaries were teaching in 1832; and what Smith and Cowdery wrote themselves in 1834. Smith made an attempt to rewrite his history in 1832, but left it unfinished and abandoned it in the back of a letterbook and did not include his supposed vision of Christ in the 1834 history. In that version of his history they claim that Joseph prayed in 1823 to see “if a Supreme Being did exist” and was answered by an angel who told him about some gold plates.

The wiki article today (2015) reads:

In June 1830, Smith provided the first clear record of a significant personal religious experience prior to the visit of the angel Moroni.[73] At that time, Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery were establishing the Church of Christ, the first Latter Day Saint church. In the “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ,” Smith recounted his early history, noting

“For, after that it truly was manifested unto [Smith] that he had received remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world, but after truly repenting, God visited him by an holy angel … and gave unto him power, by the means which was before prepared that he should translate a book.”[74]

No further explanation of this “manifestation” is provided. Although the reference was later linked to the First Vision,[75] its original hearers could have understood the manifestation as simply another of many revival experiences in which the subject testified that his sins had been forgiven.[76] On the other hand, when in October 1830, non-Mormon critic and author Peter Bauder interviewed Smith for a book, Bauder was writing about false religions, Smith apparently declined to share his experience. Bauder thus stated that Smith was unable to recount a “Christian experience.”[77]

So it appears that Nicholson’s objections of a few years ago are groundless, since Bauder is described as a “non-Mormon Critic” in the current wiki article.  Now, these changes may have come about with the persistence of Mormon editors, but that is the way it is supposed to work, right?. It appears that this wiki article has “stabilized itself over time,” at least in this instance.

So why the current objections to wiki? Because FAIRMORMON can’t totally control the flow of information there as they can at their own site. But what is almost comical is that FAIRMORMON has its own version of wiki. And what do they have on their own wiki page? This:

In October 1830 Peter Bauder (a non-Mormon minister) spoke directly to the Prophet. Bauder commented: “he could give me no Christian experience,” meaning that he did not belong to any church before his experience with the angel and plates in September 1823.

Notice there is little difference from the current “First Vision” Wikipedia page. FAIRMORMON uses this quote to try and prove that Joseph Smith didn’t join any Churches. On another page, they write the same thing:

In October 1830 Peter Bauder (a non-Mormon minister) spoke directly to the Prophet. Bauder commented: “he could give me no Christian experience,” meaning that he did not belong to any church before his experience with the angel and plates in September 1823.

Bauder absolutely did not mean that, as he himself explains above. The Wikipedia article is still wrong though, because Bauder did not say that Smith declined to share his experience, Smith could not give him one, as defined by Bauder. And Bauder did not just spend an hour or two with Smith, he claimed that he spent “near four and twenty hours in close application with Smith and his followers,” and spoke to Smith alone for “several hours”, so neither Smith nor any who followed him could give Bauder a “Christian experience” for Joseph Smith in his youth.


Reddit is simply a discussion forum. So why doesn’t Smoot want Mormons to visit these places on the internet? Does Smoot think Mormons will go to reddit specifically to find out about Mormon History? I’ll leave that up to you, readers, to figure out.

Smoot also talks about memes. Yet, FAIRMORMON takes the memes from Jeremy’s CES Letter and employs them to foist their own agenda on the public! Here is a screenshot of one of the pages on their new website devoted to demonizing Jeremy and his work:

Hales CES 36

Notice their own “selected details” and the claim that Hales makes about Ruth Vose Sayers which I’ve shown to be riddled with problems here. Jeremy is simply boiled down to a thrower of tantrums by Smoot.  And of course, “Satan” is behind it all! Now here we are four months later and Smoot is at it again here.

So why is Smoot bringing this up again and again ad nauseum? It seems that Brian Hales has a few pages of contribution included in a new book published by the John Whitmer Historical Association in addition to his other many books and articles on the subject. Well, we all know that Hales has published a lot on polygamy. We know that he considers himself an amateur historian. So what is Smoot’s point here? Simply to use any excuse to scapegoat Jeremy:

Readers of my blog will recall that some time ago Jeremy Runnells amusingly accused Brian C. Hales (undoubtedly one of the finest living authorities on the topic of the history of Mormon plural marriage) of being a “Mormon amateur apologist.” At the time I responded by mentioning the number of respected academic peer reviewed venues Brian’s work had appeared in… I’m sure that if Jeremy ever decides to take a sabbatical from teaching at the prestigious University of Reddit (I hear UoR is almost as high as the University of Phoenix in Princeton’s ranking) and venture forth into academia he can be invited by Brian to present his work at next year’s JWHA conference. ~Stephen Smoot

Again, all of the publications listed by Smoot don’t change that fact that Brian Hales himself admitted to being an amateur historian.  What is interesting is Smoot’s defense of Hales in the comments to this article:

Finally, is Brian an apologist as well? Sure he is, in that he is defending a specific interpretation of the historical data. Scholars do this all the time, and the rhetorical tricks of Runnells and his followers notwithstanding, there’s nothing inherently shameful in being an “apologist” for a position or idea if you’re being such in good faith.

Now we are getting to it.  I think Jeremy could have chosen his words more wisely in giving Hales amateur status, (even though Hales calls himself one) but Jeremy has a point about Hales being an “expert”, because some of the claims that Hales does make are amateurish. He jumps to conclusions, makes outlandish assumptions, and presents the evidence in a one sided way. This is not good apologia, nor good scholarship.  Here are some of the many problems that Mike Quinn detailed about Hales’ methods:

Quinn accuses Hales of “citing an easily refutable claim” (pg. 6), quotes secondary sources over primary sources (page 6), Quinn also writes that “The best evidence is the original record of sealing, not someone’s century later commentary about it” which Hales quoted instead of the original record. He states that Hales “brushes off the significance of some of the evidence he has cited,” (page 11), makes contradictory assertions (page 11), conveniently shifts his standards of evidentiary analysis in his own direction (page 18), that Hales “apologetical observations contradict evidence (page 23), uses a red herring, (page 25), makes claims that have no basis whatever (page 27), strains credulity (page 27), uses “presentist bias” (page 33), of “misrepresentation” (page 64), of not consulting original sources (page 66), that Hales had an “academic obligation” to reveal certain information which he did not (page 66), of using a “vacuous red-herring when Hales does not quote a single exception from the “original records” about which he writes” (page 69), that Hales would not acknowledge crucial evidence that undermined his narrative (page 70 n. 46), which was that Joseph Smith forbid the practice of polygamy in Oct. 1843, (ibid), citing a source critical to his argument without a page number (page 72), uses flawed methodology and closed system of logic (page 73), worse (Quinn’s word) he has failed to acknowledge several of the contrary evidences in publications he has cited, (ibid), he makes “perplexing gaffes” in his use of evidence (page 73-74), he repeatedly questions the memory/accuracy of faithful Mormon witnesses that Hales disagrees with (page 74), does not use equal standards for evidence (page 74), of making “apologetical claims” knowing they were “improbable” (page 75), that he did not acknowledge critical evidence until forced to by Quinn (page 78), gave “anachronistic assessment”, and “a fallacy of irrelevant proof”, and “chronologically false” assessments (page 80), he overstates problem in proving a negative, (Hales – “You can’t prove a negative”) to which Quinn writes, “for example it is possible to prove that someone didn’t die on a particular date” (page 82), falsely accusing Quinn of stealing documents (84), another red herring (87), absurdity (87), claimed that Quinn said something he did not say (90), of another fallacy of irrelevant proof (page 90), that Hales wrongly corrected an accurate page citation by Quinn (page 91), of knowing of evidence but ignoring it to support his conclusions (page 94), claimed no documentation existed when it did (page 95), of not acknowledging evidence (page 98)making claims that were wrong (page 98), raising an apologetical smoke-screen by questioning well known facts (page 101), making ridiculous assertions about conspiracies (page 101), of fallacy of irrelevant proof (page 102), that Hales is an unreasonable researcher (page 102), of using “multiple fallacies” (page 104), the purposeful absence of references (page 105), purposeful non-inclusion of first-person sources that contradict his argument (page 108), using “imprecise and less detailed” evidence to support his argument (page 108), exclusion of evidence (page 108), claims there is no “specific documentation” when Quinn provided it (page 110), wrongly stated something Quinn did not say (page 113) which was a “Stunning gaffe”, again a red herring (page 113), another red herring (page 115), irrelevant statements (page 115) “frequent use of polemical red-herrings to undermine historical evidence he dislikes” (page 115), On page 118 Quinn writes, “NOTHING (Caps in original) can satisfy Brian Hales’ calculatedly stringent requirements that are impossible to achieve, unless he finds a Victorian American woman who said, wrote, or testified that she (as a devout Mormon) alternated sexual intercourse with two husbands during a period of time” [This speaks for itself], Also includes Hales in using the “double standard of LDS apologists who narrowly define acceptable evidence for unpleasant realities” (page 118), of denying and ignoring evidence (pg. 123), using a closed system of logic (God knew Smith would be obedient so he was), On page 124, Quinn compares Hales to Joseph Smith III, who refused to believe evidence he did not like, (page 124), accuses Hales of playing “a skillful shell game in which premises for judgment are conveniently shifted so that the conclusion is always the same” (page 125), ignores contradictions and other problems in evidence (page 126), omits significant facts (page 127), another wrong claim (page 127), does not cite sources he knows of (page 128), makes unqualified conclusions (page 128). (“Evidence for the Sexual Side of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy”, D. Michael Quinn, (expanded-finalized, 31 December 2012; circulated in mid-2013), pages cited in text).

Hales responded to those who would quote Mike Quinn in the comments of his hit piece on Jeremy by stating,

I appreciate the references to Mike Quinn’s work. Most historians at some time have benefited from his research and footnotes. However, I would feel much better about your criticism if you instead were not quoting Quinn, but quoting some Nauvoo polygamist or other historical figure who was there. Quoting secondary sources may create the illusion that some scholarly opinion is documented history. (This applies to me as well as Mike.) (Comment made on July 15, 2014).

The person that made the comment to Hales (UtahHiker801) simply stated that others (like Mike Quinn and Richard Bushman) disagreed with Hales’ conclusions. He did not “quote” anyone. Quinn’s (and Richard Bushman’s) conclusions are based on the evidence that they quote in their various books and articles. This seems lost on Hales who doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a quotation and a general statement. Hales also does not keep his own advice about “secondary sources” as Mike Quinn documents above.

I would say that I’m pretty much as familiar with all of the documents that Hales is, and I’m an amateur historian at this point, because I’m still learning the trade of being a historian even though I’ve been at it non stop for about 8 years and have been on research trips with Historians like Mike Marquardt.

One Mormon  (an Oxford grad) called me a “Hobbyist” historian in an effort to denigrate me, and I don’t take exception to him doing so. You have to learn, don’t you? Why be embarrassed about that? I’m not and neither is Jeremy Runnells. A better question might be why do those who call others these names do so, and can they back up their claims with evidence? Is this just a diversion from the real issues? Why are all the “experts” and “scholars” at FAIRMORMON so concerned about the hobbyist Jeremy Runnells? Why would Brian Hales claim that Jeremy indicated in some way that he was an “expert” on Mormon Polyamy, when he knew that Jeremy made no such claim?

We all learn and make mistakes. I know, Jeremy and I spent a year together on Joseph Smith’s polygamy and traded literally thousands of emails discussing it and we have an Essay finished about it. In Jeremy’s case his claim was in response to Hales’ false assertion that Jeremy claimed he was an expert. Funny thing is, it was Hales that started all this, not Jeremy. How would you react to being called a sock puppet of Satan and a liar who claims expertise when you absolutely didn’t do so? Jeremy is none of these things and didn’t claim to be an expert, but Stephen Smoot doesn’t address those issues, only Jeremy’s angry retort at Hales which was factually correct. Even Hales admitted it was and that:

I am an apologist at heart, but had hoped to be more of an “objective researcher” in my writings. While I’m not big on labels, “believer” could be applied so perhaps “apologist” is unavoidable.

As we have seen from Mike Quinn’s critique of Hales work above, he has failed miserably at being an “objective researcher”.

I don’t mind being called a “Hobbyist”, but you had better be prepared to back up your assertions (if you think that it matters) with evidence when it comes to the topics at hand or you could look pretty stupid being debunked by those you are calling amateurs or hobbyists. Jeremy presented evidence, good evidence that he can now back up with Hales’ own research, as can I.  Notice that Stephen Smoot doesn’t address any of that, he simply plays his one string banjo over and over again. Banjo_Cartoon

Does it take a degree to make one a professional Historian? Perhaps, (to be factually correct) but there are those like Mike Marquardt and Dan Vogel who I would call professionals who don’t have degrees in Historical studies. Mike and Dan (same as Hales) have been writing books about Mormon History for decades. But that is about all they do. Brian doesn’t do this full time, he is a dentist. Therefore, the moniker hobbyist could apply to him as well. In the case of Dan and Mike, would the validation of a degree make a bit of difference? No. They are masters at their trade here. A piece of paper isn’t going to add much to that. They have done the research, put in the time, and have a body of work to rival any thesis that would give them a doctorate. So why all the fuss and bother about Hales? Because Mormon apologists don’t like the fact that Jeremy deigned to criticize Hales with his own words. Get over it.

The difference between Mike M., Dan Vogel and Hales though, is that Mike and Dan don’t have an agenda either way concerning Joseph Smith while Hales does, and Hales lets that agenda dictate his conclusions. Their conclusions challenge the “faithful Mormon” historical narrative that Hales embraces and often invents. Mike M. is on the editorial board of the Journal of Mormon History where Hales has published and even helped Hales with his Fanny Alger article. Even Mike Quinn said that Hales used questionable methods though he strangely called Hales an “honest” historian. I can show that he is not when it comes to the way he uses polygamy sources.

What really matters, is what you produce and can it stand up to scrutiny. I recently wrote an article on Sylvia Lyon and the 1869 Utah Affidavits where I go through many of Hales’ foundational claims in relation to sexual polyandry and some of his methods in arriving at the conclusions he does.

See for example the problem that Hales had with the evidence that Hales claims is about Ruth Vose Sayers that Don Bradley gave him, that Hales never presented to the public in his books, his articles, or on his website (He only presented small out of context snippets from the document, never displayed the document, and never fully explained it even when Don (he told me so) gave him a copy of the document and Mike Quinn (in 2012) gave him the info about it): (Note 14)

I even do a handwriting analysis that shows that Mike’s initial conclusion that it is not “sayers” but “sagers” was correct. Hales also manipulates evidence in the case of Eliza Snow and her letter to Daniel Munns which I discuss here.

Hales manipulation of the evidence here is astounding. He also looks quite foolish when he questions Alex Beam’s use of a “cast of characters” in the beginning of his book. Hales claimed that ,

The book begins with a “Cast of Characters” similar to what you would find in a play, which is a departure from what you would typically find in a scholarly work of historical nonfiction. In fact, listing a “Cast of Characters” may intuitively call the nonfiction element of the book into question simply because nonfiction is about real people and real events not characters.

Yet I show that one of the most famous historical non fiction books of all time, “All The President’s Men” used the same literary device at the beginning of that book and Woodward and Bernstein were lauded for doing so. Did it call any of the nonfiction element of their book into question? I think history has answered that. Is that an amateurish claim? Would a professional make that claim? And why could a mere “hobbyist” quickly find a case where other authors did so successfully and Hales could not? So what the hell is an “expert”? This is a silly argument started by Hales himself when he sarcastically called Jeremy the “new expert on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy”.

Remember too, that Stephen Smoot is a FAIRMORMON employee/volunteer? and they have a vested interest in propping up Hales and his point of view. The recent website they created to attack Jeremy and try to rebut the CES Letter is just another example of the shoddy scholarship they employ. See my thread here for examples.

Addendum: Smoot explains his modus operandi:

Stephen Smoot Comments Oct. 2015

Show each other respect and courtesy? Who attacked who first, Jeremy or Smoot? Did Jeremy ever attack Smoot, or simply defend himself against FAIRMORMON attacks?

He shows us his true colors with this line,

“It’s a troll or be trolled world out there…”

Very Christlike, indeed. Justification of his trolling people. Nice. And for all his disparagement of Reddit, seems like Smoot can’t get enough of it. This stuff is just hilarious. If he wasn’t so vindictive, I might just feel sorry for him.

Does being called an “expert” or having familiarity with documents or published material about polygamy make one a good historian or one of the “finest living authorities on the topic of the history of Mormon plural marriage” when presenting on the subject? Time will tell in relation to Brian Hales, and the clock is ticking.