The Sky Is Falling (Part II)

The Sky is Falling (Part II)

Kevin Christensen & Jeremy Runnells (Part II)

CONTENTS

Introduction
Part II: The “Perfect” Strawman
Part III: Lowered Expectations

 Introduction

Kevin Christensen (FAIRMORMON Apologist) has written a long rambling folksy sounding diatribe about how Jeff Lindsay’s “investigative approach” is far superior to that of my friend Jeremy Runnells, because Lindsay did not come to a negative conclusion about Mormonism. He compares the two men to two “seeds” who have produced different “harvests”. Of course he implies that Lindsay is the good seed, and Jeremy is the bad.

Part II: The “Perfect” Strawman

In this part I will focus on two more sections of Christensen’s article. The first he names,

Starting Position and What It Tells

Christensen writes,

So what does Runnells’s Letter to a CES Director disclose about his conceptual framework and his method? Start with the very first issue that Runnells raises in his letter, regarding the Book of Mormon translation and ”1769 King James edition errors. An ancient text? Errors which are unique to the 1769 edition that Joseph Smith owned?” He returns to this point in his website response to FairMormon:

The presence of 17th century kjv italics and 1769 kjv errors—word for word—in the Book of Mormon is its own damning evidence. These errors totally undermine the claim that Joseph “translated” the Book of Mormon and the claim that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth.

According to Thomas Kuhn, ”Anomaly (Abnormality) appears only against the background provided by the paradigm (pattern). The more precise and far-reaching that paradigm (pattern) is, the more sensitive an indicator it provides of anomaly, and hence of an occasion for paradigm (pattern) change.”

According to Christensen this issue is just a small anomaly in his Book of Mormon “paradigm”, and therefore Jeremy should basically ignore it, because it is so trivial that it is just a silly anomaly. But what if it isn’t? As Edmund O. Acevedo writes, Kuhn also defines an anomaly as “nature’s failure to conform entirely to expectation”, which is what Christensen is trying to apply to Jeremy Runnells via the Book of Mormon. But Acevedo also writes,

Clearly not all anomalies result in progress. The vast majority are ignored. When an anomaly persists over an extended period of time, the most common effect is that scientists will attempt to alter their instrumentation in a way that makes the anomaly disappear or they will try to make the anomaly fit within the paradigm (i.e. modify the expectation and thus make the former anomaly seem expected).

This seems to be exactly what Christensen is doing and wants Jeremy to do. He is ignoring what he calls an anomaly and trying to make it fit into his Book of Mormon paradigm. But it doesn’t fit. This is when an anomaly becomes a “crisis”. As Acevedo writes,

The forces that can convert an anomaly to a crisis are many, and usually several of them must co-occur. For example, a persistent anomaly may call into question some of the most fundamental tenets of the paradigm. In other cases, the paradigm predicts that an application should be ineffective when long practice has clearly established its utility (or conversely, the paradigm predicts that an application should be effective when practice reliably demonstrates its failure). As a result of such discrepancies, the anomaly becomes more widely recognized (e.g., replicated and confirmed by a broader circle of scientists) and even catches the attention of prominent figures in the field. The anomaly then becomes “the new fixation point of scientific scrutiny” (Kuhn, 1962/1996, p. 83) and its resolution becomes a shared goal. One of the defining features of a field in crisis is the emergence of multiple divergent attempts to resolve the anomaly. As these attempts multiply, they also become more diversified. Although early attempts may follow the rules of the paradigm closely, the persistence of the anomaly begs “ad hoc adjustments” (p. 83) of the paradigm that are increasingly bold and unruly. Thus “the rules of normal science become increasingly blurred. Though there still is a paradigm, few practitioners prove to be entirely agreed about what it is. Even formerly standard solutions of solved problems are called into question.(p. 83). (Edmund O. Acevedo, The Oxford Handbook of Exercise Psychology, 297).

According to many, there are numerous anomalies in Christensen’s Book of Mormon paradigm. These anomalies are widely recognized, even by the faithful like B. H. Roberts, who Jeremy discusses in his work. Roberts called one of these anomalies “a menace to the Book of Mormon”. (Studies of the Book of Mormon, 240, CES Letter, 11).

David P. Wright, associate professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East, (Brandeis University) claims that Grant Palmer:

…is on absolutely firm ground for his conclusion that the Book of Mormon is not an ancient work and, with this, according to his last two main chapters, that Smith’s visionary experiences were more subjective than tradition claims. (Dialogue, Vol. 38, No. 1, 172-173).

As Jeremy himself wrote,

Here are the facts:

  1. There are 17th century KJV additions (denoted by italics in the KJV) in the Book of Mormon.
  2. There are 1769 KJV Bible edition errors unique to only that edition present in the Book of Mormon.
  3. FairMormon concedes below that while there are no reports from witnesses that Joseph used an open Bible, “it is entirely possible that Joseph had access to a Bible during the period of translation.”
  4. FairMormon awkwardly points to the Mormon god Himself as a possible source for putting unique 1769 KJV edition errors and 17th century italics in the “most correct book on earth” Book of Mormon: “…we do not claim to know why the Lord chose to reveal the Biblical passages in that manner.” (Debunking FAIRMORMON, Online here, Accessed April 1, 2015).

So this is just an “anomaly” to Christensen? It appears so. But there are many who think that this anomaly is one of many, a crisis point in the Book of Mormon. So, what does Christensen really focus on in this section?  Continue on, dear reader:

For Runnells the appearance of any imperfection in the Book of Mormon translation seems scandalous to the point of being overwhelming. Betty Edwards explains how our preconceptions inevitably influence our subjective perception of significance:

Most of us tend to see parts of a form hierarchically. The parts that are important (that is, provide a lot of information), or the parts that we decide are larger, [Page 180]or the parts we think should be larger, we see as larger than they actually are. Conversely, parts that are unimportant, or that we decide are smaller, or that we think should be smaller, we see as being smaller than they actually are.

If the question is the perfection of the Book of Mormon text, and if we can safely

Mormon Apologist Kevin Christensen

Mormon Apologist Kevin Christensen

assume that the beholder is infallibly capable of detecting it, imperfection is the only decisive information—indeed, it is the only information that answers the question. Therefore imperfection has crucial importance relative to the question and is actually perceived in our minds as being large and scandalously important. Even the appearance of imperfection will loom large in our consciousness. No matter how much information might exist to support the notion of a real translation by Joseph Smith, it does not and cannot answer the question of perfection, and therefore, relative to that question, it appears less important. That is why no favorable information regarding the Book of Mormon appears in the Letter to a CES Director. Evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith’s inspiration does not answer the question of perfection, so in setting the table with what counts most to Runnells, none of that kind of information appears.

This straw man (in bold above) is rather silly. The Book of Mormon text can’t be perfect so it doesn’t matter? Jeremy Runnells nowhere claims that the Book of Mormon text should be “perfect”. How does one who was a longstanding member of the Church and believed the truth claims about the Book of Mormon for many years have the “preconceptions” that Christensen speaks of?

It is not Jeremy Runnells but rather Mormon “authorities” that make the claim of perfection in relation to the Book of Mormon. Christensen just makes this up out of thin air about Jeremy. His expectations were created by their declarations about it. Of course, Mormon Apologists have been spinning those for years.

The current thing in Mormon Apologetics now is for them to claim that because critics don’t list and rebut every single Mormon Apologist argument (which they call “evidence”) then they are somehow at fault for not giving credibility to what they deem crucial evidence. And so, because they do not, they simply have preconceptions, are brittle and unyielding and are condemned for concerns about what these apologists call trivia. They want critics to waste their time listing and deconstructing all of their apologist spin or they claim that they are not balanced and only focus on the negative.  Christensen will employ a series of strawman arguments (including his accusation that Runnells is claiming that the BOM text should be “perfect”) throughout his long diatribe.  He then writes,

This also means that if we changed our question from the perfection of the Book of Mormon translation to the reality of the translation, then supposed imperfections would not be as crucially decisive, and would therefore have a smaller significance.

Whose question? Christensen’s? Why would he change his own question–because it certainly in no way, shape or form was Jeremy’s.  Jeremy does speak about the reality of the translation. That is what he addresses in the CES letter (see pages 13-14). The reality is that Joseph Smith “translated” the Book of Mormon by putting a rock in a hat and claiming that the text that he then dictated was given to him by the “gift and power of God”. The imperfections/anamolies  in the Book of Mormon are massive. Please see this article on MormonThink for a list of them.

Also, the reality of what translation? We have nothing to compare it to, so how do we know it is even a translation from an actual language? We don’t. This always has been the real issue. Christensen then claims:

The reality of Joseph Smith’s inspiration is a different question than the perfection of his inspiration and leads the inquirer to different information. That is why reading books by Hugh Nibley or John Sorenson or Richard L. Anderson or Richard Bushman, John Tvedtnes, John Welch, or Terryl Givens makes for a very different experience than does reading Runnells’s Letter. They ask different questions, work with different soil, nurture the seed in a different manner, and produce vastly different harvests.

Unfortunately one cannot separate the reality of Smith’s inspiration from it’s supposed perfection because of the claims that Smith himself made. Reading those claims (by Smith and other Mormon “Authorities”) is all the information one needs. And please excuse us if we don’t want to give credence to the spin of Mormon apologists like Nibley, Givens, Anderson, Tvedtnes, or Welch, when it was hard enough to read their claims. We would rather quote Joseph Smith who said,

I never told you I was perfect, but there are NO ERRORS in the REVELATIONS that I have taught.  (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 369).

Seems like it is Joseph Smith who is claiming perfection in revelation here, which Christensen strangely doesn’t address (and neither does FAIRMORMON).  But even Hugh Nibley said,

We can never prove absolutely that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be; but any serious proven fault in the work would at once condemn it. If I assume the Book of Mormon to be fraudulent, then whatever is correct in it is merely a lucky coincidence, devoid of any real significance. But if I assume that it is true, then any suspicious passage is highly significant and casts suspicion on the whole thing, no matter how much of it is right. (1953, 831; all but the first clause has been deleted in Nibley 1989, 56). (Stan Larson quoted in Brent Metcalfe, New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, 238, added emphasis. See also the Improvement Era, LVI [Nov. 1953]:831, Online here, Accessed April 1, 2015).

Nibley’s quote here destroys Christensen’s argument. He claims that any suspicious passage in the Book of Momron is highly significant and casts suspicion on the whole thing. So why fault Jeremy for feeling the same way? This is one of Christensen’s chosen apologists, folks. The 1828 dictionary defines perfection as,

PERFEC’TION, n. [L. perfectio.] The state of being perfect or complete, so that nothing requisite is wanting; as perfection in an art or science; perfection in a system of morals.

As Orson Pratt explains,

It is to be expected that when the angel restores the gospel it will be restored in fullness and in the most perfect simplicity and plainness so that every point of the doctrine of Christ shall be clearly revealed and expressed in such language that no two persons could understand it differently. Many things, connected with the doctrine of Christ, are not clearly revealed and dressed in the English translation of the Bible: this is owing, as we have already shown in number three to the loss of many of the inspired writings, and to the rejection of many sacred books by the third council of Carthage, together with those which have since been rejected by the Protestants: and also, as we have before proved, another great source of error is, that the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts from which the Bible was translated, had become so awfully corrupted in almost every text, that the translators were utterly at a loss to know which reading was correct. All these things, combined with the unavoidable errors of an uninspired translation have rendered the English Bible extremely uncertain and ambiguous. This uncertainty and ambiguity have been the principal cause of all the divisions of modern Christendom. The only way to remedy this great evil is to obtain another revelation of the gospel, free from all the corruptions and uncertainty which characterizes the English Bible. Nothing short of such a revelation can ever redeem mankind from their errors of doctrine; nothing else can be an infallible standard of the Christian religion; nothing else can reclaim them from divisions and strifes; nothing else will give certainty and stability so necessary to the happiness and salvation of man; and nothing else could be expected in the revelation of the gospel an angel. Such a revelation is the Book of Mormon; the most infallible certainty characterizes every ordinance and every doctrinal point revealed in that book. In it there is no ambiguity–no room for controversy–no doctrine so imperfectly expressed that two persons would draw two different conclusions there from. Such a revelation was greatly needed and such a revelation the angel has revealed.  (Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, 83, added emphasis).

Pratt defines the Book of Mormon as infallible, perfect in it’s doctrines. He claims that there is no doctrine “imperfectly expressed”. Jeremy quotes Joseph Smith in his CES letter, who said:

I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book. (History of the Church, 4:461, added emphasis.)

The 1828 definition of the word correct is:

CORRECT, adjective [Latin , to set right; right, straight. See Right.] Literally, set right, or made straight. Hence, right; conformable to truth, rectitude or propriety, or conformable to a just standard; not faulty; free from error

It seems that Christensen may want to rethink his approach to those anomalies he claims are of no concern and put the claim of perfection where it rightly belongs. 

Fortunately at the “official” lds.org, they do address the issue of “translation” in one of the new essays. They write,

According to these accounts, Joseph placed either the interpreters or the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument. The process as described brings to mind a passage from the Book of Mormon that speaks of God preparing “a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light.”Joseph Smith The Whitmer Farm Winter 1830small

The scribes who assisted with the translation unquestionably believed that Joseph translated by divine power. Joseph’s wife Emma explained that she “frequently wrote day after day” at a small table in their house in Harmony, Pennsylvania. She described Joseph “sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.” According to Emma, the plates “often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen table cloth.” When asked if Joseph had dictated from the Bible or from a manuscript he had prepared earlier, Emma flatly denied those possibilities: “He had neither manuscript nor book to read from.” Emma told her son Joseph Smith III, “The Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity—I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me for hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him.” (emphasis added)

As Russell M. Nelson stated in the July 1993 Ensign:

The details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known. Yet we do have a few precious insights. David Whitmer wrote:

“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12, added emphasis).

Joseph Knight wrote,

Now the way he translated was he put the Urim and Thummim into his hat and darkened his eyes, then he would take a sentence and it would appear in bright Roman letters, then he would tell the writer and he would write it. Then that would go away, the next sentence would come, and so on. But if it was not spelled right it would not go away till it was right, so we see it was marvelous. Thus was the whole translated. (added emphasis)

In January of 1833, W. W. Phelps wrote (per Joseph’s instructions) in The Evening and Morning Star:

The word of the Lord carries its own evidence with it. In vain have men attempted to counterfeit it. They may compass the earth with their knowledge, and look through the regions of space by their inventions, but death teaches them their frailty, and time covers their glory. The book of Mormon, as a revelation from God, possesses some advantage over the old scripture: it has not been tinctured by the wisdom of man, with here and there an Italic word to supply deficiencies.-It was translated by the gift and power of God, by an unlearned man, through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles-(known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim)… (The Evening and Morning Star, Vol. 1, No 8, January 1833, 58).

Here we see that the claim that Jeremy makes was addressed by Joseph Smith and that those italic words should not be in the Book of Mormon! If this is such a “minor issue”, then why did they feel it so important to address in 1833? Also, Joseph Smith himself was so confident in W. W. Phelps that he wrote to him in the same month and advised him that,

… we wish you to render the Star as interesting as possable by setting forth the rise progress and  faith of the church, as well as the doctrine for if you do not render  it more interesting than at present it will fall, and the church suffer  a great Loss thereby——(JS, Letter, Kirtland, OH to William W. Phelps, Jackson County, MO, 11 Jan. 1833; in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 18–20; handwriting of Frederick G. Williams; CHL).

Apparently God displayed on the stones all of the KJV errors that Smith then dictated to his scribes. He had no book or manuscript, and that would include the Bible. The English words simply “appeared on the instrument”.  Smith himself claimed that there were “no errors” in the revelations that he taught, and this would include the Book of Mormon as he also claimed that it was the “most correct book” and therefore free from errors. He had published in the Star, that the Book of Mormon was never “tinctured by the wisdom of man, with here and there an italic word to supply the deficiencies” but we know that Smith copied them right into the Book of Mormon text! The reality of their claims is far from what the truth of the matter is. And this claim (of the Book being error free or perfect) is made because it was claimed that it was translated by “the gift and power of God”.

This is not a claim by Jeremy Runnells, but one made by Joseph Smith himself and others associated with him. Not perfection in spelling, etc., but no errors in the “revelations”. Why then, are all the KJV errors found in the Book of Mormon? Why were they not corrected in subsequent editions like many other transcribing errors were? This folks, is not an “anomaly” or a minor issue because it was important enough for the early Mormons to address in an effort to establish Smith’s credibility as a prophet and seer.

God supposedly gave Smith lots of new text that wasn’t in the Bible. So why would he need to project on Smith’s stone the exact wording of the KJV with all the errors? This is an argument borne out of desperation, which no quaint anecdote can remedy.

Mormon “prophets” have always claimed to be doctrinally infallible. Conflating this with what they describe as character or personality flaws is where apologists like Christensen go off the deep end. He then waxes philosophical with another irrelevant anecdote:

Consider the difference between perfection and reality through one of the tales of Lancelot, Chrétien de Troyes’s The Knight and the Cart. The story involves Lancelot going on an elaborate adventure to rescue a captive Queen Guinevere. When, after overcoming many trials, dangers, and obstacles, he finally finds and frees her, she rejects him. Much later, after both the Queen and Lancelot endure more suffering and trauma due to that rejection, she finally refers to a moment, when, in order to obtain crucial information, he needed to travel via a prison cart, and thereby endure public shame. And he did so, after only a moment’s hesitation. The Queen’s only reaction was, “Why did you hesitate?” as though to her, only that imperfection mattered. And oddly enough, he agrees with her about the devastating significance of that single momentary lapse, based on the peculiar ideals he brings to the issue. A concern about the reality of Lancelot’s effort, or even just the success of his effort, rather than perfection relative to the unrealistic ideals of courtly love, would grant weight and significance to all of his actions during his adventure, including a recognition that he overcame his own hesitation in dealing with his pride versus the need to ride the cart. So questions regarding what is real, as opposed to what appears to be perfect and or ideal, raise different issues, and call for a different kind of processing, and consideration of a much wider set of information.

This is simply pseudo intellectual jargon that has nothing to do with the Mormon concept of revelation except in Christensen’s fertile imagination. These long-winded takeaways from the issues may appear to him to be charming, but they are simply tedious and ineffectual. This is what happens folks, when an author is trying to prop up their own red herring.

Still, what does this have to do with Jeremy Runnells’ criticisms of the Book of Mormon? Absolutely nothing. It is simply a diversion by Christensen to promote his own strawman argument, nothing more. He then writes,

In approaching the Book of Mormon, we could do what Runnells does; look for imperfection, and then display indignation and shock.

Again, this is a strawman of Christensen’s making. Jeremy never claimed that the Book of Mormon had to be perfect, so he’s not looking for imperfection, he is being critical of its historical authenticity and translation method (by the “gift and power of God”) based on what the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith actually say. It is Joseph Smith and his followers that have made the argument for perfection that Christensen puts on Jeremy. They sowed the seeds of that expectation which believing Mormons embrace and so is it any wonder that one might be indignant and shocked when this claim is proven false?

Christensen’s purpose here, is to try and make those criticisms trivial; and turn Jeremy into a villain for even bringing them up. Remember, Jeremy believed in the Book of Mormon for years before he began discovering the problems associated with the narrative that Joseph Smith authored. Indignation and shock are a natural reaction in someone who feels they have been duped for years. Christensen then asks a series of carefully worded questions that deal with Mormon apologetic claims:

Or we could ask, how does the Book of Mormon translation and treatment of internal scriptural quotation compare with scriptural quotation within the Bible [Page 182]and compared to the evidence of biblical transmission and translation? Does the Book of Mormon contain information consistent with eyewitness accounts of the times and settings that it claims for itself? Does it accurately describe conditions in Jerusalem, 600 bc? Does it accurately describe cultural and physical conditions in the Arabian desert? Does it accurately describe a Bountiful area at a coastal location east of Nahom? How does the Book of Mormon describe its New World setting? Are there indications of others? What cultures does it describe and what physical settings? Does the description of Cumorah in the Book of Mormon fit the New York hill “of considerable size,” or, traditional identifications notwithstanding, should we look elsewhere? What forms of government, politics, religion, and trade does it describe? What are the patterns of warfare, including seasonality, tactics, and weapons? Do the 28 verses describing the Sidon contain enough information to narrow the range of candidate rivers for an external correlation? Can we assume homogeneity and accuracy in all cultural descriptions, that is, can we assume that what Enos says about Lamanite culture from the outside also applies to what we see later when the sons of Mosiah actually travel and live among the Lamanites? What are the best sources of information against which to test its claims? If during the course of my investigation, I run across something that I did not expect, what happens if I then pause to reflect and ask, “What should I expect?” But just as Guinevere only asks about an imperfection in the Lancelot quest, Runnells looks only for imperfection in Mormonism. The eye of the beholder crucially influences the harvest.

This last claim by Christensen is simply not based in reality. Like me, Jeremy was a member of the Church for decades. His family are members. Does Christensen think that we are not familiar with such issues? That we haven’t asked such questions? Either he is extremely naive, or he is simply posturing for his audience. Did Christensen even listen to Jeremy’s podcast where he describes his life in the Church and his extended Missionary work? Does he even care what Jeremy knew before he began investigating deeper issues in the Book of Mormon?  Here is where Christensen fails, because he is basically saying that he knows what issues that Jeremy has studied and that in his eyes Jeremy doesn’t find impressive the apologist answers to the questions that Christensen raises all of which have been answered by them with only speculation.  I guess I’ll play the analogy game here.

You are a Doctor and a patient has died on your table from massive wounds that no one could have survived. The monitors have been flat-lined for many minutes and everyone in the E.R. tells you that your patient has died–but you can’t bring yourself to accept it. You had invested so much time and used all your skill to save the patient. In frustration at the announcement of your patient’s death you grab the defibrillator paddles and you use them on the patient. No response as the body jerks and twitches on the table. You do this over and over again, each time with absolute certainty that the patient’s heart will kick start and they will live. But this doesn’t revive them and still you can’t accept it. You check the vitals again, you perform CPR, you pound their chest and grab at the paddles again but someone pulls you away. You then are forced to realize that yes, the patient is really dead as they pull you back and take the defibrillators out of your hands. But deep down you still can’t believe it and look around with accusatory eyes for someone else to blame it on. You convince yourself that it wasn’t your fault, it was someone else’s. If only they would have believed things might have turned out different. They just didn’t look at things from the right perspective, from your perspective. Their preconceived notions (that when the heart has flat-lined for that long the patient is dead) led them down the wrong path and did not allow you to prove they were wrong and you could have saved the patient with more jolts of electricity.defib-dr.

What Christensen wants critics to do is keep defibrillating someone after they are long dead and can’t understand when someone is convinced by a reality they will not perceive.

Christensen wants critics to accept another Cumorah than the one Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery identified; to desperately cling to the notion that the Book of Mormon documents an historical reality; or that we can find some river or lake or portion of coastline that matches what is vaguely described there. One must also overturn every rock and hiding place and crazy theory that might somehow, someway verify that the Book of Mormon is something more than 19th century fiction before we can declare it to be a product of the 19th century and not a translation.

He acts like no critic has ever studied these issues before. He wants us to accept Nibley’s wacky parallelomania and false dichotomies, and take Warren Aston (the UFO “expert”) seriously. But when critics don’t, they are not as bending as Christensen is, they are brittle and shatter with the slightest breeze.  They didn’t study enough, they didn’t look at it with the right perspective. Christensen claims that Jeremy has not really studied the issues. But he has read and quoted FAIRMORMON and other Mormon apologists extensively and that still doesn’t seem to be enough for Christensen.   I too have studied all of these issues and find all of that “evidence” is simply made up apologist spin.

For example, let’s take Nahom and Warren P. Aston. Just google his name and you come up with articles like this one:  “UFO researcher hunting for truth,” which talks about how Aston believes the story of a man who claimed that aliens showed him the future which included the home computer and the rise of Nazi Germany.  This UFO “expert” also owns a travel agency called “Bountiful Tours”. We find on their webpage (from 2011),

“Bountiful Tours conducts unique tours of Lehi & Sariah’s path from Jerusalem to Bountiful. It also operates custom-made tours overland into the historical Hadramaut Valley and coast of Yemen, air-tours to the mystical island of Socotrain the Indian Ocean and tours of the ancient Frankincense Trail in Saudi Arabia.”

Here is the price info on the ‘tour’ from 2011:

The 2011 tour will be led throughout by Warren Aston. The tour itself commences on Sunday October 9th in Jerusalem and ends in Muscat, Oman on Friday October 21st.

Tour cost is $US 2835 per person, share-twin, Single Supplement is $560. The tour price includes all sightseeing, tours and entrances, all land and water transportation, first class hotels with breakfasts daily throughout, luggage handling, return domestic airfares within Oman, most dinners and a picnic lunch. All airport transfers are included for those traveling on the group flights.

Not included are visa fees and taxes, other meals, drinks and gratuities. Airfare – for those departing from the US, a special group airfare from New York City JFK – Saturday evening October 8th – and arriving back at JFK on the afternoon of Friday October 21st is available for $US 970, plus taxes and fuel surcharges (currently $352).

For 2015 it states that,

Price: tour cost is $3990 pp twin share. Single supplement is $755.

I find it disconcerting that the guy who is promoting evidence which “constitute[s] the first actual archaeological evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon,” is also trying to make a buck off of it. He is also selling a book and documentary to go along with it. Also, the man who claims to have found ‘proof’ for the Book of Mormon also believes there are extraterrestrials living among us. Here is a sample of Aston’s ‘proofs’ for their being “already among us”:

“Some of the physical differences between extraterrestrials and ourselves have been recorded by a noted medical doctor, Dr. Leopoldo Diaz, head of surgery at a major hospital in Guadalajara, who had occasion to examine a man in his office in 1976. Requesting a medical examination because he traveled much, the man was examined by Dr.  Diaz who quickly realized that he was not human. At this point his patient disclosed the real reason for his visit. He had seemingly chosen a well-respected and influential figure to pass on the information that “many” people from his planet were here living undetected among us, trying to help us avert catastrophe. In a long conversation he taught the doctor a great deal about religion, life after death and earth’s future before leaving and disappearing outside the building.” (See Photo for a picture of the Article, which can be read here.)Aston Mufon Article

Now I love the X-Files, it’s one of my favorite TV Shows. But if I want to be taken seriously, I do not go around telling folks that I actually believe in aliens living among us and that they are taking people for rides on spaceships and revealing the future to them. I also wouldn’t be trying to make a buck off of a discovery that I’m promoting as ‘proof’ for my religion. But that’s just me. This is all kinds of tacky, and questions the very motives for the whole thing. Ok, I think this is enough background on Aston. Now let’s take a look at his claims about NHM.

Here is Aston’s story as he describes it:

warren aston

Ashton promotes his UFO books along with his Book “In the Footsteps of Lehi”.

“In the Fall of 2000 I was one of three people leading a group of nearly 40 Latter-day Saints along the Lehi trail. We began in Jerusalem, then descended into the Arabah wilderness, traveling south until we reached the Red Sea. We next flew south to Yemen to pick up the trail. After visiting the Nahom tribal area we drove in convoy to the ancient ruins of Marib, the legendary city of the Queen of Sheba thousands of years ago. And there, in the midst of the desert, an unexpected and most extraordinary event took place.

Some time earlier, a series of museums in Europe began exhibiting a collection of treasures from Yemen’s past. One of the items in the catalog reported an inscription on an altar that had been excavated at the Barán temple in Marib. I had been to the site years earlier. There was little to be seen then other than five and a half very tall pillars standing above the sand on which local boys would pose for pictures. It was a desolate place. A German team had unearthed the entire temple complex including the altar, dated to around 600-700 BC. What was significant was that the altar inscription named a donor who was the grandson of a man from the Nihm tribe.

We already knew that the Semitic consonants NHM referred to a tribal area that seemed likely to be the place called Nahom, where Nephi’s father-in-law, Ishmael, was buried (1 Nephi 16:34). I had spent years documenting the name on old maps and writings back to within a few hundred years of Nephi’s day. Always the name was in the same location.

September 12, 2000.

Not long after arriving in Marib our group began visiting the spectacular remains of the past, beginning with the famous Great Dam. From there we went to the nearby temple of Barán where the altar had been recovered. For me, it was hard to reconcile the carefully excavated and restored complex with what I remembered. It was only a few minutes later that we realized that a stone altar stood a short distance away, one that looked the same as the altar in the catalog. Excitedly, several of us began to examine it. Around 26 inches high, a 3 inch high band of South Arabian script encircled it. To see an almost identical altar was something that exceeded our expectations, but the best was still to come.

We had hours of desert driving ahead of us to our overnight stop, so time was short. We hurriedly took some photographs and as we sent for a tape measure I asked our Yemeni guide if he could search the inscription for any mention of NiHM. Unbelievably, he quickly picked out the characters for the name, which I copied down. Stunned, we had our photographs taken with the altar and then it was time to leave. On board the bus we announced to the entire group what had happened and told them that they had probably just been a part of a significant event.

Such it proved to be. I returned to Yemen a few weeks later and secured permission to fully document the altar and the other structures. I found that around 20 altars had been recovered at the site and amazingly, amidst a cluster of damaged altars hidden behind a wall, sat a third identical altar. The donor of 3 altars with the same text was surely wealthy. Over following months one of the world’s leading authorities on early Arabia, Professor Kenneth Kitchen in England, provided us a more accurate translation of the inscription. Other scholars helped refine the dating and understand the context.”

His conclusion:

“For the first time, a unique Book of Mormon location had been plausibly located in the right location and period.”

 In an article called ‘Newly found Altars from Nahom’, Mr. Aston makes this comment:

“In a single verse, 1 Nephi 16:34, Nephi tells us all that he wished us to know about the place called Nahom: “And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom.”

Mr. Aston makes these assumptions about the verse:

“From this and one other terse statement in the Book of Mormon we learn several facts about the location:

  1. The wording makes it clear that Nahom was not named by Lehi’s party but was already known by that name to local people. Thus other people were already settled in proximity to the Lehite encampment.
  2. Nephi’s Bountiful lay “nearly eastward” from Nahom (1 Nephi 17:1).
  3. Nahom was, or at least included, a place of burial. Note that Nephi does not state that Ishmael died there, only that he was buried there, implying that it included an established burial place.”

To answer Aston’s claims, here is the late Ted Chandler, courtesy of MormonThink:

In “Lehi’s Arabian Journey Updated” (Reynolds 1997), Noel Reynolds asserts that Mormon scholars now know the location of sites corresponding to the account of Lehi’s journey through the wilderness, after leaving Jerusalem. This is based on the work of Warren and Michaela Aston. The Astons identify Book of Mormon Nahom, where Ishmael died, with Nehem, located northeast of Sana’a in Yemen, while Bountiful, located near the Irreantum Sea, corresponds with Khor Kharfot, situated east of Nehem near Oman’s Dhofar coast. Reynolds thinks that Nephi’s account of Nahom and Bountiful correspond so well with the sites located by the Astons that it “could only have been written by one who had personally traveled the area” (Reynolds 1997, 382). Reynolds asks:

How did he [Joseph Smith] know that a group traveling due east from NHM [Nehem] would meet the sea at a uniquely fertile and hospitable spot that was suitable for building and launching a ship? How did he know that Oman had ample resources for ship building and sailing, and that there were mountains and cliffs on the sea shore itself?

These important details run directly counter to all knowledge of Arabia in Joseph Smith’s day and to most popular belief about Arabia even today. The simplest and most reasonable explanation is that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries did not know these things . . . . (Reynolds 1997, 388)

Actually, people in Joseph Smith’s day knew more about Arabia than Reynolds supposes, as is attested by the following passages from Voltaire’s “The Philosoophy of History”:

. . . but Arabia Felix deserved that name, as being surrounded with thick woods and a tempestuous sea, it was sheltered from the rapacity of robbers . . . . This advantage is far above its aromatics, its incense, its cinnamon (which is of inferior quality) or even its coffee, which now creates its riches. . . .

As to that extensive part called Happy, half of it consists also in deserts; but upon advancing some miles into the interior parts, either to the east of Mocha, or to the east of Mecca, there is found the most pleasant country in the world. The air is continually perfumed, during a perpetual summer, by the odor of the aromatic plants which nature spontaneously produces. Thousands of streams flow from the mountains, and preserve an incessant coolness, which moderates the heat of the sun beneath the evergreen shades. It was particularly in this country, that the words garden and paradise implied celestial favor.

The gardens of Saana, towards Aden, were more famous among the Arabians, than were those of Alcinous among the Greeks. And this Aden or Eden was called the place of delights. . . .

This vast country of Yemen is so fine, its ports are so happily situated upon the Indian ocean, that it is said Alexander was desirous of conquering Yemen, in order to make it the seat of his empire, and the emporium of trade for the whole world. (Voltaire 1927, 400-401)

Edward Gibbon also gives this description of southern Arabia:

The high lands that border on the Indian Ocean are distinguished by their superior plenty of wood and water: the air is more temperate, the fruits are more delicious, the animals and the human race more numerous: the fertility of the soil invites and rewards the toil of the husbandman; and the peculiar gifts of frankincense and coffee have attracted in different ages the merchants of the world. If it be compared with the rest of the peninsula, this sequestered region may truly deserve the appellation of the happy . . . . (Gibbon n.d., 3:58)

As sources for his information on Arabia, Gibbon lists not only ancient writers like Pliny and Strabo, but also the works of Pocock, who published extracts and notes on Arabian antiquities in his Specimen Historiae Arabum. Gibbon also refers a number of times to books by Carsten Niebuhr and Jean Bourguignon D’Anville, who published maps of Arabia. Nephi’s account does not require any more knowledge of Arabia than was available in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The Astons claim that Lehi’s group travelled in the same direction as an ancient trade route along the east shore of the Red Sea. However, there was another main trade route, in use at least as early as 336 B.C., which ran across central Arabia to Gerrha on the Persian Gulf. Gibbon refers to these two routes:

The treasures of Africa were conveyed over the peninsula to Gerrha or Katif, in the province of Bahrein, a city built, as it is said, of rock-salt, by the Chaldaean exiles; and from thence, with the native pearls of the Persian Gulf, they were floated on rafts to the mouth of the Euphrates. Mecca is placed almost at an equal distance, a month’s journey, between Yemen on the right and Syria on the left hand. The former was the winter, the latter the summer, station of her caravans; and their seasonable arrival relieved the ships of India from the tedious and troublesome navigation of the Red Sea. In the markets of Saana and Merab, in the harbours of Oman and Aden, the camels of the Koreishites were laden with a precious cargo of aromatics; a supply of corn and manufactures was purchased in the fairs of Bostra and Damascus . . . . (Gibbon n.d., 3:62)

Concerning Nahom, the Astons present two kinds of evidence: (1) the meaning of “Nehem,” and (2) a place in South Arabia named Nehem. Let’s consider each of these.

(1) The Astons state that there are two Semitic roots for Nehem. One means “to comfort, console, to be sorry,” while the other means “to roar, complain, or be hungry.” The Astons think that “both these roots relate in significant and very specific ways to the experiences of Lehi’s group while at Nahom. . . . It is hard to imagine any place-name that would be more appropriate in view of what Nephi tells us happened there. Not only do the two roots of Nahom refer unquestionably to both mourning and consoling (and perhaps also to fasting) in connection with Ishmael’s death and burial, but they seem to go still further and echo the complaining and the rebellion that followed his burial” (Aston 1994, 12-13). However, this is all quite irrelevant. Why? Because the text states and the Astons acknowledge that Nahom was already named before Lehi’s group arrived there (1 Nephi 16:34; Aston 1994, 10). The fact that Ishmael died at Nahom is purely coincidental and is not connected in any way with the meaning of Nehem/Nahom. This does not constitute evidence verifying Nephi’s account. Furthermore, the name Nahom is not remarkable, considering that the Bible contains the names Naham, Nahum, and Nehum. In addition, NHM is not the same word in South Arabian as it is in Hebrew and is not pronounced the same. In Hebrew, NHM is a verb, but in South Arabian, it is a noun meaning “pecked masonry,” referring to a technique of roughening the finish of the stone using chisels. Why would Lehi’s group insult the Arab inhabitants of the area by giving the place a Hebrew name with a different meaning?

(2) The Book of Mormon refers to a place called Nahom, and there was actually a place named Nehem in South Arabia along an ancient incense trade route. Nothing could be simpler. But is it really that simple? Actually, according to the Astons, the trade route passed through the Jawf valley. Nehem was not the name of a city in the valley, but was a remote burial place in the mountains south of the Jawf valley. The Astons state that Lehi’s group “could only have known about Nahom from someone outside the group,” and “Likely the Lehite encampment was in the Jawf valley and Ishmael was carried up into the hills for burial” (Aston 1994, 10, 13). But this is not all. The Astons also say that there was another larger burial place east of the Jawf valley in the mountains near Ruwaik. They then conclude that either Nehem or Ruwaik “may well have been the place to which local people led Lehi’s mourning party to bury Ishmael” (Aston 1994, 20). It seems then that it would have been quite possible for Lehi’s group to travel through the Jawf valley without ever being aware of Nehem and that in any case Ishmael may not have even been buried there.

The Book of Mormon says that Lehi’s group journeyed “many days” from Shazer to Nahom, and then after turning east from Nahom, they reached Bountiful, after spending eight years in the wilderness. However, according to the Astons’ interpretation, the group would have already traveled a large part of their journey upon reaching Nahom. In fact Reynolds says that the Astons have “persuasively” argued that the course followed by Lehi’s group to Nahom took “years to traverse what could have been covered in months” (Reynolds 1997, 381).

Reynolds says that one of the criteria used by the Astons in searching for the site of Bountiful is that “there must be a dangerous cliff where Nephi’s brothers could attempt to kill him by throwing him into the sea” (Reynolds 1997, 383). However, the text does not in fact refer to any cliff or state that Nephi’s brothers made an actual attempt to kill him; it merely states that Nephi’s brothers “were desirous to throw me into the depths of the sea” (1 Nephi 17:48). But when this occurred, Nephi had already made tools out of ore and was preparing to start building their ship. Nephi’s brothers “were desirous that they might not labor” (1 Nephi 17:18). It is hardly possible that Nephi planned to build the ship on a cliff above the sea. If the Astons are permitted to speculate, we could conjecture as well that “depths of the sea” implies open ocean, and that Nephi’s brothers planned to use a canoe or raft to take Nephi out to sea and throw him overboard. There may very well have been a cliff, but speculation should not be raised to the level of necessary criterion.

Neither Reynolds nor the Astons suggest an explanation for the strange name which the Book of Mormon confers upon the sea. Nephi states that upon reaching Bountiful, they beheld the sea, “which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters” (1 Nephi 17:5). Irreantum appears to be a name invented in imitation of the fact that at one time the Indian Ocean was called the Erythraean Sea. Greek “erythros” means “red,” so the Indian Ocean was actually called the Red Sea. The Book of Mormon merely applies a different name to the sea, with a different meaning.

The Astons’ interpretation fails to deal with certain peculiarities of the Book of Mormon account. I have argued that the Book of Mormon uses “Red Sea” with a special meaning, referring to what is now called the Dead Sea. The Book of Deuteronomy provides further evidence for this interpretation:

These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab. (There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea.) . . . On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law . . . . (Deut. 1:1-2, 5)

The text here refers to the plain on the east side of the Jordan “over against” the Red sea, which suggests that it is referring to the Dead Sea, which was perhaps thought to be connected with the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aqaba. Two other passages in the Bible refer to the Red sea, when the Israelites were travelling through the northern Sinai and Edom: “And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way” (Numbers 21:4); “Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days” (Deut. 2:1). Nephi says that the river Laman “emptied into the Red Sea; and the valley was in the borders near the mouth thereof. And when my father saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, he spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!” (1 Nephi 2:8-9). Nephi also says that when they left the valley of Lemuel, “we did take seed of every kind that we might carry into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:11). Josephus describes a deep body of water in a cave beneath a large mountain: “Now the fountains of Jordan rise at the roots of this cavity outwardly; and, as some think, this is the utmost origin of Jordan . . . .” Later he also describes “a fountain by Jericho.” Originally, this fountain of water had “a sickly and corruptive nature,” causing harm to vegetation and new-born children. Elisha prayed over the fountain and made it “wholesome and fruitful.” Josephus says that the ground watered by the fountain grew “most excellent gardens that are thick set with trees,” and that the area produced honey and balsam. In another work, Josephus says that after Samson repented of his pride, God “raised him up a plentiful fountain of sweet water at a certain rock; whence it was that Samson called the place the Jaw-bone, and so it is called to this day.” As William Whiston, the translator, pointed out, the Hebrew word for “jaw-bone” is Lehi: “This fountain, called Lehi, or the jaw-bone, is still in being . . . .” (See Josephus 1984, 1:77, 329; 2:334-35) I have argued that the use of “down” and “up” in the Book of Mormon indicates that Lehi’s camp in the wilderness was north of Jerusalem, and that parallels with the stories of Moses and Joshua reveal that Lehi’s group traveled a course opposite to that of the Israelites, when they crossed the Jordan and entered Canaan. Lehi may have camped near the “fountain by Jericho,” and his river Laman, which emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, would have joined with the Jordan, which Lehi may have considered to be this fountain of the Red Sea. When the Book of Mormon says that Lehi’s group traveled in a south-southeast direction, “keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 16:14), it appears to be referring to areas east of the Dead Sea, not the long stretch of Arabia which borders the Red Sea. I have also suggested that Nahom, where Ishmael died, is a point east of Mount Hor, where Aaron died, and that after Lehi’s group turned eastward from Nahom, they reached a point near the mouth of the Euphrates River on the Persian Gulf. The name Bountiful may be connected with the meaning of “Euphrates,” which is “that which makes fruitful.”

And finally we can suggest a simple explanation for the name Nahom, which does not require a knowledge of Semitic roots or the geography and place-names of South Arabia. The author of Nephi’s record paralleled accounts of Moses, Joshua, and the Israelites, when they journeyed along the border of the Dead Sea and crossed the Jordan to Jericho (even the Astons acknowledge these parallels). But when he wanted Lehi’s group to turn eastward, he started thinking of the trek of Abraham and his family from Ur to Haran. Abraham’s brother was named Nahor, and it requires only the subsititution of one letter to change the name to Nahom. This I believe, is the real meaning and significance of Nahom, and it indicates that Lehi’s group did not travel to South Arabia.

Lacking any archeological evidence which definitely links Lehi’s group with specific sites, any suggested route of travel must remain speculative, and therefore it is difficult to take seriously Reynolds’ claim that Nephi’s account “must be seen as a powerful witness of the Book of Mormon’s divine origins and ancient authorship” (Reynolds 1997, 388).

As we see above, the Nahom claims are easy to dismantle, because they are all based on implausible speculation. As for names, this was posted by David Wright, Professor of Bible and Ancient Near East at Brandeis University, on ZLMB in 2002:

“A large number of BOM names and words have the suffixed element -om (Abinadom, Antiomno, Corom, Cumom, Curelom, Ezrom, Jacom, Jarom, Shiblom, Shilom [not necessarily Hebrew sh-l-m!; see the caution below], Sidom, Zeezrom). Those ending in -um may represent the same suffix: Antionum, Jeneum, Helorum, Mocum, which could include also the -antum and -ancum names: Antum, Coriantum, Irreantum, Moriancum, Moriantum, Ripliancum, Seantum, Teancum. (It is less clear that -em names/words Ethem, Gazelem, Sherem, Shelem, [+ ? Zara-HEM-la/nah?] and -am names/words Luram, Zeram, Seezoram, Zoram should be included.)

The large number of names or words with -om (-um) indicate that this element may not be part of the word stem or root in many cases, but a suffix separate or distinct from the root. Thus is it difficult to argue decisively, even from a traditionalist perspective, that Nahom derives from a Semitic root n-h-m (as in the Arabic place name Nehhem) or the root n-kh-m (connected with mourning). Just because there are Semitic roots with a final -m which can be correlated with Nahom does not mean that they are in fact to be correlated. The word stem or root may be Nah- with an -om suffix.”

“One could argue that -om names, which are found throughout the BOM (early Nephite, late Nephite, Jaredite), are an indication that a single mind conceived them all. Recall too that -e/antum (and related -ianton) type names appear in all three literary-cultural periods: Irreantum (early Nephite); Coriantum, Coriantumr, Coriantor (Jaredite); Corianton, Moriantum, Seantum (late Nephite). This is not what one expects from an ancient document which reflects discrete cultural-historical periods, but is explainable if Joseph Smith invented the names and wrote the BOM.”

1811 Map of Arabia Nehem

1811 Map of Arabia

Also, Nahom, (and it’s variation Nehem)  was on many maps that were circulating about since the mid-1700’s, right up to the time Smith wrote the Book of Mormon. Could one of those have fallen in the hands of Smith? Mormon apologists flatly deny it, but it cannot be ruled out completely. What we have here, is all speculation, with no basis of fact to tie anything to the Book of Mormon. What should concern Mormons is the fact that not one shred of evidence has been found in the New World to support the historicity of the Book of Mormon: that there was a massive population of Jewish-Christian peoples that inhabited the Americas, who left no evidence of their existence at all.

Here is Aston on You Tube, at a UFO Symposium

Christensen then informs us that,

A narrow test for perfection brings an ever-present danger that even the appearance of imperfection seems decisive. We risk coming to a false conclusion based on a misperception.

Is he still burning this strawman? Seems so. Who exactly is testing perfection? Not Jeremy Runnells. He is testing Joseph Smith’s claims to an error free Book of Mormon that doesn’t need italicized words. This (again) has all been invented in Christensen’s mind.  What misperception? Oh wait, here comes another–this time tragic–anecdote, this time dealing with William Shakespeare’s Othello…

This is the theme of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello. Because of the manipulations of Iago, the innocent Desdemona appears to be [Page 183]guilty of betraying Othello’s trust. Doubtless the mental pain, anguish, and feeling of betrayal that Othello suffers are real (at least within the world of the play). But while Othello is busy suffering angst and murdering his innocent wife, the last thing he needs is to be surrounded by understanding and sympathetic Iagos who only want to validate his pain, perhaps suggesting that if he suffocates her sooner and faster, he’ll suffer less in the long run. The tragedy of Othello is not that Iago is around to practice deception and manipulation, but that Othello’s faith in Desdemona’s fidelity is so fragile. He proclaims his love but makes far too little effort to come to her defense, shows no patience or tolerance or capacity for forgiveness or even simple faith, hope, and charity. He never thinks to say, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” and never stops to consider that the problem might be in his own misperception, at least, not until it is too late for Desdemona and for himself. It is also clear that after he has killed his wife, the last thing that he wants to discover is her innocence.

Wow, Christensen has read some Shakespeare. Too bad this is tragically irrelevant and diversionary, created only to feed Christensen’s own strawman. Moving on…

All of this calls for a careful examination of our own assumptions and background expectations, doing a little bit of checking our own eyes for beams before attempting mote removal on another person.

Christensen is assuming a lot here. If he has these problems, he should work on them. But don’t put them on others when you don’t know them at all. This is simply arrogance folks. Insinuating that Jeremy is a hypocrite because he doesn’t believe Mormon Apologist arguments with no proof?

Remember that Runnells’s very first point depends on the un-argued and unexamined assumption that any human error in the Book of Mormon translation is “damning,” and by itself sufficient to “totally undermine” Joseph’s claim to be a translator.

How could we forget when Christensen keep repeating this over and over again?  Here is what Jeremy actually wrote:

The presence of 17th century KJV italics and 1769 KJV errors – word for word – in the Book of Mormon is its own damning evidence. These errors totally undermine the claim that Joseph “translated” the Book of Mormon and the claim that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth.

Remember, lds.org claims that Joseph got the words on the stone directly from God, so how could there be human error involved? As we have seen from the evidence above, that is exactly what Smith taught. In the Book of Mormon preface written by Joseph Smith he claims that,

Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile—Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation—Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed—To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof—Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.

He then claims,

And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.

What is this directed at? We have no idea. He claims that the Book was written “by the spirit of prophecy and revelation”, and later claimed that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book on earth (no errors) and that there were “no errors in the revelations I have taught.” So what errors does he speak of? Most likely printing errors. As John S. Dinger writes,

In 1837, LDS Church members Parley P. Pratt (1807-57) and John Goodson (1814?-74?) republished the Book of Mormon in Kirtland, Ohio. Though it took seven years for a second printing, Church leaders had discussed republication as early as 1833. On June 25, 1833, the First Presidency (composed of Smith and two counselors) wrote a letter to Church printer W. W. Phelps in Missouri regarding the reprinting of the Book of Mormon, and stated: “As soon as we can get time, we will review the manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, after which they will be forwarded to you.”9 Other printing-related projects and the subsequent destruction of the LDS Church-owned printing press in Independence, Missouri, by angry non-Mormons delayed the printing of a second edition of the Book of Mormon.

The second edition was financed by Pratt and Goodson, who were given permission to publish up to 5,000 copies; however, it is likely that only 3,000 were actually printed.10 Though published in the United States, many copies of the 1837 edition were taken to England, where they were distributed or sold by LDS proselyzting missionaries. This printing filled a need on both continents.

With this second edition, like virtually every edition that followed, changes were made to the text of the volume. As indicated by the letter to Phelps, Smith, and others–mostly Cowdery–worked to make the second edition of the Book of Mormon more closely follow the original manuscripts.11 Smith and Cowdery checked the 1830 edition against the Printer’s Manuscript in the winter of 1836 and into early 1837, marking up the Printer’s Manuscript in the process. As a result, Smith authorized more than 2,000 changes, mostly grammatical, to the text. The preface to the 1837 edition states: “Individuals  acquainted with book printings, are aware of the numerous typographical errors which always occur in manuscript editions. It is only necessary to say, that the whole has been carefully re-examined and compared with the original manuscript” (p. v).

These are the errors that Smith speaks of, not the revelatory part of the Book of Mormon, which Smith claimed was given by God and contained no errors. Significantly, he did not change the Isaiah plagiarisms found in the first edition.

Christensen continues:

Notice too that the closest Runnells comes to actually defining translate is when he complains that according to unnamed “unofficial apologists” the word “translate doesn’t really mean translate.”

Who is complaining? Again, Runnells is making observations. The only one whining here is Christensen, about the fact that Jeremy is not impressed with apologetic spin and pseudo intellectual word games. Are any Mormon apologists “official’? Not according to them. So what is Christensen objecting to here? We can’t figure that out. Perhaps this quote by FAIRMORMON might help”

Modern readers are accustomed to thinking of a ‘translation’ as only the conversion of text in one language to another. But, Joseph used the term in a broader and more inclusive sense, which included explanation, commentary, and harmonization. The JST is probably best understood in this light.

So here we see that translate doesn’t always mean translate in the dictionary sense of the word, exactly what Jeremy was getting at. Christensen then states:

This would be a good place to explain what the word means in the context of what Joseph Smith actually did.

We have done that above. Let’s see what Christensen’s take is:

We need to do a bit of eye checking here. What does it mean to translate? Runnells implies a circular definition in which translate should mean “translate,” which, if you actually stop to think about it, does not help much. Nor does it demonstrate any degree of introspection, self-reflection, or even inquiry.

What point is Christensen trying to make here? He wants to give the parameters of what he thinks translation meant to Joseph Smith.  To do this, he quotes Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:

TRANSLATE, verb transitive [Latin translatus, from transfero; trans, over, and fero, to bear.]

  1. To bear, carry or remove from one place to another. It is applied to the removal of a bishop from one see to another.

The bishop of Rochester, when the king would have translated him to a better bishoprick, refused.

  1. To remove or convey to heaven, as a human being, without death.

By faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death. Hebrews 11:15.

  1. To transfer; to convey from one to another. 2 Samuel 3:10.
  2. To cause to remove from one part of the body to another; as, to translate a disease.
  3. To change.

Happy is your grace,

That can translate the stubbornness of fortune

Into so quiet and so sweet a style.

[Page 185]6. To interpret; to render into another language; to express the sense of one language in the words of another.

The Old Testament was translated into the Greek language more than two hundred years before Christ. The Scriptures are now translated into most of the languages of Europe and Asia.

  1. To explain.

Here, a single word—translate—has several definitions. I notice that the word perfect does not appear anywhere in this definition of translate.

Once again Christensen applies his “perfect” strawman to Jeremy without any citation or proof whatsoever that Jeremy even thinks this. Christensen folks, is basically arguing with himself here. Now this exercise (in giving definitions for the word translate) shows us that this is simply grandstanding. In the case of Joseph Smith does translate mean to carry? To remove to heaven? To convey from one to another? To transmit a disease? To change? Finally, we get to it at number 6. Of course it is pretty basic knowledge that words can mean different things. Still, Christensen presses his strawman:

Nor does even the sixth definition of translate say that expressing “the sense of one language in the words of another” requires that existing successful translations, with or without italicized explanatory words, should or must be completely ignored. To succeed in its purpose, a translation need not be completely original or unique or flawless.

Ok, that’s common sense. So? This is not the point that Jeremy was making.That definition nowhere includes the translation being done “by the gift and power of God”, now, does it? This is why Christensen’s whole argument is fallacious. Here is what Jeremy said,

When King James translators were translating the KJV bible between 1604 and1611, they would occasionally put in their own words into the text to make the English more readable. We know exactly what these words are because they’re italicized in the KJV bible. What are these 17th century italicized words doing in the Book of Mormon? Word for word? What does this say about the Book of Mormon being an ancient record?

The issue is that Joseph Smith carried over all the King James additions to the text that was given to him by God. This has nothing to do with claiming perfection of Smith, but why God would include the KJV errors with the text he placed on Joseph’s stone. What purpose did that serve when it was claimed by witnesses that Smith never used any manuscript or book in his “translation”?

Let’s try and use some common sense to answer this translation issue in relation to the Book of Mormon. What did Joseph claim to do? He claimed to translate the “Reformed Egyptian” characters from the gold plates into English. How did he do this? By putting a stone in a hat and having God make the translation of each character appear on his stone. Therefore Smith could then claim that he “translated” the Book of Mormon “by the gift and power of God.” So in reality who really made the translation? God, not Joseph Smith.

In Kirtland, Joseph “translated” some of the Book of Abraham for Michael Chandler:

The morning Mr. Chandler first presented his papyrus to bro.—Smith, he was shown, by the latter, a number of characters like those upon the writings of Mr. C. which were previously copied from the plates, containing the history of the Nephites, or book of Mormon. Being solicited by Mr. Chandler to give an opinion concerning his antiquities, or translation of some of the characters, bro. S. gave him the interpretation of some few for his satisfaction.

Here Joseph claimed that some of the characters on the papyrus were like those which were copied from the plates and so Smith was able to translate them and give the interpretation. Thus, Smith translated characters from another language into English. There isn’t any broader meaning here. This is what Smith claimed to do with the Book of Mormon characters, except in that case he claimed that God gave him the translation on his stone.  On August 10, 1832 Samuel H. Smith and Orson Hyde answered some questions to the people of Boston:

           Q.-By what means did he discover the golden plates and who was with him when he made the discovery.
A.-The golden plates were discovered through the ministration of an angel of the Lord, by Joseph Smith-no one else was with him at the time of the discovery.
Q.-By whom was a fac simile of some part of the language and characters taken, and on what material.
A.-It was taken by Joseph Smith on paper from the original plates themselves.
Q.-By whom was this presented to Dr. Mitchell, and at what period?
A.-By Martin Harris, one of the witnesses who had seen the plates-do not exactly know at what time.
Q.-Is that fac simile, now in being, and if so where is it?
A.-It is, or it was in being-I have seen it.
Q.-In what manner was the interpretation, or translation made known, and by whom was it written?
A.-It was made known by the spirit of the Lord through the medium of the Urim and Thummim; and was written partly by Oliver Cowdery, and partly by Martin Harris.
Q.-What do you mean by Urim and Thummim?
A.-The same as were used by the prophets of old, which were two crystal stones, placed in bows something in the form of spectacles, which were found with the plates.

Here we see that Joseph translated “by the spirit of the Lord” through the stones. The same story that Smith told to everyone else.

The problem is with real documents that are translated from one real language to another, we have the documents that are/were translated. Do we have the Book of Mormon plates? No. So any argument that Christensen makes along these lines is pointless.  But here is his rant:

Does Runnells provide any real-world examples or evidence of inspired translations, or transmitted scripture that demonstrates the validity of his opening complaint about what I see as a minor, cosmetic aspect of the Book of Mormon translation? Are any of his complaints about Joseph Smith accompanied by any demonstration of how actual prophets have behaved or should behave? Does he have evidence that translation from ancient languages to a modern high language is more successful when it completely ignores existing translations of the same or related material? Does the New Testament demonstrate utter perfection in quoting the Old Testament or does it contain Septuagint errors? Does the King James Translation utterly ignore the earlier Tyndale translation? Would there be any advantage in ignoring existing translations of the same material? Would a use of a well-known, existing translation impede readers in the task of coming to recognize [Page 186]and comprehend what they encounter? Do the practical issues in the translation and transmission of writing from one culture to another through any human-involved means suggest that perfect translation is even possible? Does the Bible display this theoretical perfection either in its internal quotations, different accounts of the same events, or in the manuscript history or in the different translations? And, if Joseph was perpetuating a fraud, does it make sense that he would plagiarize the one source his readers were sure to recognize and regard with some heightened value?

We don’t know where Joseph got his translation from. We don’t know anything about it other than it was called “reformed Egyptian”.  With the Bible, we can see the Septuagint, compare it and know that it had errors because we can compare it to other translations. We know nothing about the Book of Mormon. These kinds of speculations are non productive and rather silly. All of the Bible translations are based on older documents or documents from other languages. Real documents that can be checked. This is not the case with the Book of Mormon so Christensen’s rant above is totally irrelevant to any discussion about translation. Christensen then asks:

For all these questions, the answer is no. But Runnells neither asks nor answers them. Does this save trouble, or cause it?

How can Christensen know what Joseph would or would not do? Why did he make John C. Bennett his Counselor in the First Presidency when he supposedly knew he was a scoundrel? That was pretty stupid. Why did he translate the Book of Mormon with the same peepstone he used to hunt buried treasure when he knew what people would think about that? Why do you think they renamed it the “urim and thummim” and Joseph invented the “interpreters”? Why did he give Martin Harris the 116 pages when God supposedly told him no three times?

Joseph Smith claimed that the Book of Mormon was translated by the “gift and power of God”. Here is how the Joseph Smith Papers define the word “translate” in relation to what Joseph Smith supposedly did:

To produce a new text through a revelatory, rather than scholarly, process, by the “gift and power of God.” In the Book of Mormon, the ancient prophet Mosiah translated records into his own language using “interpreters,” or “two stones which was fastened into the two rims of a bow.” According to the account, the possessor of the instrument was called a seer. On 6 April 1830, a revelation stated that JS would be known not only as a revelator, but also as a seer and a translator. JS stated that he was directed to translate the Book of Mormon from gold plates buried in a hill near his home. Buried with the plates were “two stones in silver bows,” which fastened to a breastplate and were later referred to by the biblical term Urim and Thummim. JS was instructed to use these stones “for the purpose of translating the book.” As he translated, JS dictated to scribes.Emma Smith recalled that JS used the Urim and Thummim for the first part of the translation and another seer stone for the remaining portion. Other accounts reported that JS translated by looking at the stone or stones, which he placed in a hat to reduce exterior light. JS worked on the translation of the gold plates until summer 1829. From June 1830 to July 1833, he worked on a revision or translation of the Bible, using the King James Bible rather than ancient writings as his original text. His work included both revisions and, especially within the book of Genesis, lengthy expansions. There are no reports that JS used a stone in his translation of the Bible. In July 1835, after members of the church purchased several ancient Egyptian papyrus scrolls, JS commenced translating some of the characters and stated that one of the scrolls contained the writings of the biblical prophet Abraham. JS worked intermittently on translating some of the papyri for the remainder of the year, though his exact process of translating is unclear.Portions of this translation were first published in March 1842. JS and other church members, as encouraged by an 1833 revelation, also sought to gain more conventional translation skills through the academic study of other languages, including Greek, Hebrew, and German.

Nothing about how ancient prophets behaved. This only claims that Mosiah translated records into his own language using stone spectacles. Of course we don’t have any of the original documents to compare Smith’s translation to. Notice that they say that Smith translated through a “revelatory, rather than scholarly process”.  So why is what Christensen claiming relevant at all? It isn’t. He is describing a scholarly process and trying to apply that to a “revelatory process”. This is disingenuous and simply a diversion from the real issue. That is why he wanted to separate the two at the beginning of his essay.

Smith “translates” the King James Bible into what? Based on what? The JSP claim that “his work included both revisions” and “lengthy expansions. So how is this translating  in any sense of the word? Again, the 1828 definition states that translate means,

To interpret; to render into another language; to express the sense of one language in the words of another.

How does one “translate” an English Bible into English? This is not translation, it is simply Smith adding his own words to the Bible, or in some cases subtracting what he didn’t like. He even wrote a whole chapter in Genesis about himself. This is not any kind of translation.

Part III: Lowered Expectations

On Prophets and Translations

Christensen starts off this section with,

Runnells complains about Joseph Smith as a prophet, but he never bothers to define what a prophet In should be, and therefore, he does not inquire into what we should expect from one. Based on the arguments he offers his implicit definition is that prophets ought to be perfect, God’s sock-puppets, and never ought to do or say or permit anything that violate Runnell’s own unexamined expectations from what he learned by attending Sacrament Meetings.

Wow. Where is he getting this stuff from? This is simply another one of Christensen’s many strawman arguments. In Debunking Fair, the word perfect isn’t used by Jeremy about the Book of Mormon translation, it is used by FAIRMORMON! Jeremy wrote,

FairMormon says…

If Joseph copied Biblical passages during the Book of Mormon translation to represent ideas expresses by Isaiah (as suggested in the September 1977 Ensign), then it is understandable that he changed or corrected some of these instances during his work on the “Joseph Smith Translation” of the Bible. Joseph did not claim to be mechanically preserving some hypothetically ‘perfect’ Biblical text. Rather, Joseph used the extant King James text as a basis for commentary, expansion, and clarification based upon revelation, with particular attention to issues of doctrinal importance for the modern reader. Modern readers are accustomed to thinking of a ‘translation’ as only the conversion of text in one language to another. But, Joseph used the term in a broader and more inclusive sense, which included explanation, commentary, and harmonization. The JST is probably best understood in this light.

Jeremy has never claimed that Smith restored a “perfect” Biblical text when he corrected the KJV of the Bible. Jeremy’s reply was,

Contrary to FairMormon’s assertion above that God himself revealed the 1769 KJV errors to Joseph, FairMormon is conceding here that Joseph copied KJV text over to the Book of Mormon.

According to the above-referenced September 1977 Ensign, Joseph Smith was sitting there translating the Book of Nephi when he recognized the text as Isaiah, stopped the translation, put down his hat and magical rock, picked up his 1769 KJV Bible, and copied over the Isaiah verses including its unique 1769 KJV errors and italics into the “most correct book” Book of Mormon.

Am I really supposed to take this seriously?

Why would Joseph need to do this? How does it make any sense that Joseph stops translation coming direct from God to grab errors and italics from a book that has been corrupted over the centuries through numerous translations? A Bible that Joseph later pointed to as needing correction and which he “corrected” in his “inspired” translation of the Bible?

In any event, this scenario is contradicted by eyewitness accounts of the translation process, as well as the process described by the Church’s December 2013 Gospel Topics article.

“Modern readers are accustomed to thinking of a ‘translation’ as only the conversion of text in one language to another.”

This make sense, given the multitude of sources (including the Church-sanctioned Gospel Topics article) supporting a “tight” translation method, including the following account from David Whitmer:

“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear.”

– Quoted in Elder Russell M. Nelson’s “A Treasured Testament”

If the Bible verses were good enough for the “most correct book,” there is no reason to change them in the JST of the Bible (other than to obfuscate the plagiarism). If Joseph was trying to make the Bible more correct, he would not change something that was correct according to Isaiah.

As I have stated in the CES Letter:

Joseph Smith corrected the Bible. In doing so, he also corrected the same identical passage in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is “the most correct book” and was translated a mere decade before the JST. The Book of Mormon was not corrupted over time and did not need correcting. How is it that the Book of Mormon still has the incorrect passage and does not match the JST in the first place?

Does Christensen deal with these issues? No. He goes off on a tangent of trying to define what he thinks a prophet should be. He then expounds on his own expectations:

For my part, I did spend considerable time figuring out what I should expect, and in the process I discovered twenty-eight Biblical tests for discerning true and false prophets. I find that they set my expectations in a very different way. For example:

We are men of like passions with you. (Acts 14:15)

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)

Here is still another of Christensen’s straw men. It seems he doesn’t know the difference between personal infallibility and doctrinal infallibility when men speak by the “power of the Holy Ghost”, which is what Jeremy was getting at.

What does having sin have to do with translating something? What does having passions have to do with translating something? Remember, Smith said I never told you I was perfect (a man of passions, etc) but there are NO ERRORS in the revelations I have taught. Mormon apologists can’t seem to grasp that this is broken up into two parts: personal faults, and what they teach. Smith claims faults but does not extend that to his “revelations”.

At lds.org we read,

It is the making known of divine truth by communication with the heavens and consists not only of revelation of the plan of salvation to the Lord’s prophets but also a confirmation in the hearts of the believers that the revelation to the prophets is true. It also consists of individual guidance for every person who seeks for it and follows the prescribed course of faith, repentance, and obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. “The Holy Ghost is a revelator,” said Joseph Smith, and “no man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations” (HC 6:58). Without revelation, all would be guesswork, darkness, and confusion. 

Here we see that the Mormon Church proclaims that what their “prophets” reveal is the opposite of any guesswork, darkness or confusion, and that “the revelation to the prophets is true.” It does not mention anything about men’s “passions” interfering with that revelation. In the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants we read,

Because of the weakness and imperfections of human nature, and the great frailties of man; for such is the weakness of man, and such his frailties, that he is liable to sin continually, and if God were not long suffering, and full of compassion, gracious and merciful and of a forgiving disposition, man would be cut off from before him in consequence of which, he would be in continual doubt and could not exercise faith: for where doubt is, there faith has no power, but by man’s believing that God is full of compassion and forgiveness, long suffering and slow to anger, he can exercise faith in him and overcome doubt, so as to be exceedingly strong. (1835 Doctrine and Covenants, page 43)

Christensen then asks,

How does Joseph Smith himself set our expectations both for himself and for his translation?

I told them I was but a man, and they must not expect me to be perfect; if they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them; but if they would bear with my infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren, I would likewise bear with their infirmities.

But Joseph Smith also said, “I never told you I was perfect but there are NO ERRORS in the revelations that I have taught.” (I will keep repeating this until it sinks in). It is obvious that Smith separated his personal weaknesses from his “revelations”, something that Christensen is unwilling or unable to comprehend. He then tries to shift this to Smith’s ability to translate:

In discussing a passage in Malachi, Joseph Smith comments that ”I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purposes as it stands.” (D&C 128:18).

So? What was Smith “translating”? He writes,

And again, in connection with this quotation I will give you a quotation from one of the prophets, who had his eye fixed on the restoration of the priesthood, the glories to be revealed in the last days, and in an especial manner this most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel, namely, the baptism for the dead; for Malachi says, last chapter, verses 5th and 6th: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

The place  to make this change would have been Smith’s Inspired Version of the Bible, but it reads:

1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.

4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.

5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord;

6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

If there was a “plainer translation”, why didn’t Smith include it there? Because he hadn’t thought of Baptism for the dead at that time. Smith’s “plainer translation” didn’t come until 1838 when he began rewriting his history.  He has Moroni quoting this passage of scripture:

“And he shall plant in the hearts of the Children the promises made to the fathers, and the  hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers, if it were not so the whole earth would be  utterly wasted at his coming.”

Christensen throws things out there, but it is obvious that he is not familiar with the very argument he is trying to make here. (Which isn’t Jeremy’s argument, but I am responding to it anyway).

This is Smith’s “plainer translation” that he didn’t quote in 1842. But as you can see, it wasn’t in Smith’s “inspired version”. Christensen continues,

In D&C 1 as part of a formal statement of “the authority of my servants” (v. 6) God declares that the revelations “were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred, it might be made known.” (D&C 1:24–25). Notice that this formal statement of the “authority of my servants” describes the Church as in process, not as a stasis.

These passages introduce a different expectation, one that actually gives evidence of Joseph’s robust, tolerant, and open-ended attitude about himself and his own translations and revelations, which he felt free to edit. If a prophet can accomplish what is “expedient,” a word that appears many times in the Doctrine and Covenants, he can serve God’s purposes, which according to Isaiah 55:8–11, are concerned with long-term processes. If a translation is good enough, sufficient, it does not have to be perfect. If a translation is imperfect, then there is nothing wrong with improving it later.

Who is Christensen trying to kid here? All one has to do is read until the end of the “revelation” to see that Christensen is simply wrong. It states in Verse 37:

37 Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.

 38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

39 For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen.

So is Christensen saying that God (who gave the translation to Smith) is not perfect and that the record is kinda true? Smith here states that “the record is true,” and that what the Lord has spoken through his servants is the same as Him speaking. Of course God is going to speak “in the manner of their language”. Is he going to speak to them in Arabic? Chineese? French? The “revelation” states that the commandments were given to His servants “in their weakness”. Compared to God, men are weak. So? Does that mean they were transcribed wrongly? Verses 37-39 dispel that notion. Christensen simply wants to have it both ways:

If we consider Joseph Smith’s productions against the real-world examples of purportedly scriptural texts, we have the advantage of building our expectations upon a solid foundation, rather than airy supposition. John Welch in Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount discusses several related translation issues.

Interesting that Christensen would relegate statements by Mormon “authorities” to “airy supposition”, because that it what he is ultimately doing. But what was Smith “translating” from? God did not give Smith his “revelations” in Hebrew and then have him translate them (actual translating) into English. Christensen’s whole argument here is ridiculous. We don’t have the Book of Mormon plates, nor do we have any discoveries of the language they were supposedly translated into, to make any kind of comparison as we do with the Biblical texts. He continues:

Hugh Nibley has suggested several other reasons that made the use of King James style important, if not necessary. One reason was Joseph’s audience: “When Jesus and the Apostles and, for that matter, the Angel Gabriel quote the [Hebrew] scriptures in the New Testament, do they recite from some mysterious Urtext? Do they quote the prophets of old in the ultimate original? … No, they do not. They quote the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Old Testament prepared in the third century B.C. Why so? Because that happened to be the received standard version of the Bible accepted by the readers of the Greek New Testament.”

So? It is what it is. Joseph claimed to have the actual record, but never produces it. God supposedly preserved it, but only for him alone to see? Why then, isn’t this a precedent for all of God’s scriptures? This was Joseph’s argument for the Book of Abraham, that God had preserved (miraculously) the very papyri that Abraham wrote on. We now know that Joseph simply made that up. When we have records of Smith’s “translations”, he fails miserably as a translator. They only reason why Christensen and other apologists can even make an argument with the Book of Mormon is that we do not have the original record, and there is no discovery anywhere that can confirm the “caractors” that Smith claimed came from the plates. Also, the argument isn’t about the style of the KJV. It is about why the errors were included in the Book of Mormon translation which Christensen still has not answered with any compelling argument. He then speculates:

Another reason for the use of the style of the King James Version was the nature of the record: “The scriptures were probably in old-fashioned language the day they were written down.”

How can he even postulate this when he has no way of knowing? This is simply speculation and his whole argument is based on it.

Furthermore, “by frankly using that idiom, the Book of Mormon avoids the necessity of having to be redone into ’modern English’ every thirty or forty years.”

This is simply irrelevant. The Book of Mormon has to be translated into dozens of other languages, doesn’t it? This is a very weak argument.

To such points, other explanations may be added, but the foregoing seem sufficient.

Hardly. But this seems to be all he’s got. We then have Christensen trying to prop up Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible or the “Inspired Version”. He begins by stating:

The King James idiom yields a good translation of both the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at the Temple. In fact, a study of the Greek vocabulary used in Matthew 5–7 will show that in most cases, the traditional English translation is rather straightforward. The syntax of most of the sentences is relatively simple, the expressions are direct, and most of the words and phrases have obvious and adequate primary choices in English as their translation [Page 189](although their meaning and implications still remain profound).

Again, irrelevant. If Christensen can show that this is why Joseph chose that style, then fine but there is no evidence that he wrote that way for those reasons. It is far more convincing that he simply copied passages out of the KJV and used that style to make the BOM appear more “scriptural”. We know this because Joseph Smith at that time was not familiar with Greek or Hebrew, so how could he make that determination? As Kevin L. Barney wrote,

Holding to the more traditional Mormon view that the JST provides a restoration of ancient text presents important difficulties. First, the restorationist view assumes that ancient texts can be restored by inspiration. Considering this claim is beyond the scope of this essay. A second problem is not so easily set aside. The restorationist view assumes that at some point the original text was substantially corrupted. Some LDS exegetes have hypothesized deliberate and widespread textual corruptions early enough to be incorporated into the earliest biblical manuscripts that have survived.5 Since the original autographs are irrecoverable, this assertion cannot be completely disproved, but it has been weakened by the discovery of Hebrew texts dating from the second century B.C., which support the basic integrity of the later Old Testament manuscripts. Some New Testament manuscripts date to the fourth, third, and even second centuries A.D. This means the window of time in which the textual corruptions could have occurred is increasingly narrow and the likelihood that the JST represents restorations of the original text extremely slim. (The Word of God, p. 145).

Still, Christensen claims:

If I approach Joseph’s translations with a view to finding evidence of real inspiration, rather than perfection, my attention will move in different directions. I might end up noticing and valuing this discussion by Welch in his next chapter.

Again, the “perfection” strawman.

In one important passage, manuscript evidence favors the Sermon at the Temple, and it deserves recognition. The kjv of Matthew 5:22 reads, “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause [eikei] shall be in danger of the judgment” (italics added). The Sermon at the Temple drops the phrase without a cause (3 Nephi 12:22). So do many of the better early manuscripts.

This favorable evidence for the Sermon at the Temple has the support of reliable sources.

Should we start listing from the Inspired Version all of the instances where Smith got it wrong? I can think of a dozen of them off hand. This shows that there was no consistency here with Smith and so this is simply an instance of where Joseph dropped a phrase that was not in the original manuscripts. He went over the whole Bible. There were bound to be some of these. Remember what Hugh Nibley said above?

While lacking unanimous consensus in the early manuscripts of the Sermon on the Mount (which is not unusual), the [Page 190]absence of the phrase “without a cause” is evidenced by the following manuscripts: p64, p67, Sinaiticus (original hand), Vaticanus, some minuscules, the Latin Vulgate (Jerome mentions that it was not found in the oldest manuscripts known to him), the Ethiopic texts, the Gospel of the Nazarenes, Justin, Tertullian, Origen, and others. One may count as compelling all readings that are supported by “the best Greek MSS—by the 200 ce p64 (where it is extant) and by at least the two oldest uncials, as well as some minuscules, [especially if] it also has some Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and early patristic support.” A survey of the list of manuscripts supporting the Sermon at the Temple and the original absence of the phrase without a cause in Matthew 5:22 shows that this shorter reading meets these criteria.

Moreover, this textual difference in the Greek manuscripts of the Sermon on the Mount is the only variant that has a significant impact on meaning. It is much more severe to say, “Whoever is angry is in danger of the judgment,” than to say, “Whoever is angry without a cause is in danger of the judgment.” The first discourages all anger against a brother; the second permits brotherly anger as long as it is justifiable. The former is more like the demanding sayings of Jesus regarding committing adultery in one’s heart (see Matthew 5:28) and loving one’s enemies (see Matthew 5:44), neither of which offers the disciple a convenient loophole of self-justification or rationalization. Indeed, as Wernberg-Møller points out, the word eikei in Matthew 5:22 may reflect a Semitic idiom that does not invite allowance for “’just’ anger in certain circumstances” at all, but “is original and echoes some Aramaic phrase, condemning anger as sinful in any case” and “as alluding to … the harboring of angry feelings for any length of time.” In light of Wernberg-Møller’s interpretation of the underlying idiom, the original sense of Matthew 5:22 is accurately reflected in the Sermon at the Temple whether eikei is included in the Greek saying or not.

Stan Larsen has adequately rebutted these claims by Welch in his article, from New Approaches to the Book of Mormon:

Welch argues that this passage fulfills my criteria and should be included with the eight examples: “While lacking unanimous consensus in the early manuscripts (which is not unusual), the absence of the phrase ‘without a cause’ from the Sermon on the Mount is evidenced by manuscripts p64, p67, Sinaiticus (original hand), Vaticanus, some minuscules, the Latin Vulgate (Jerome mentions that it was not found in the oldest manuscripts known to him), Justin, Tertullian, Origen, and others.… A check of the list of manuscripts supporting the Sermon at the Temple [Book of Mormon] and the original absence of the phrase ‘without a cause’ in Matthew 5:22 shows that this shorter reading meets Larson’s criteria” (1990, 162).

On the contrary, this passage does not meet the criteria which were used to select my eight examples: Augustinus Merk prints eike ‘without a cause’ with brackets in his text, and there is absolutely no support from family 1, the Syriac, and the Coptic. Welch is mistaken in citing [p.128] both p64 and p67 as different documents, since the “two” papyri are simply two numbers for different parts of the same papyrus (Roca-Puig 1962, 63-64). Thus Matthew 5:22 was eliminated from consideration with the eight secure examples. However, since it is the one Book of Mormon example which has been used as strong evidence for the Book of Mormon’s antiquity, it will perhaps be useful to examine it in detail (Welch 1977, 47; cf. Matthews 1975, 251).

The absence or presence of eike at Matthew 5:22 is a genuinely ambiguous case, with significant evidence on both sides of the question. Welch has already given the evidence for its omission. Its presence is supported by the remainder of the uncials and minuscules, most of the Old Latin manuscripts (including the important Codex Bobiensis), three manuscripts of the Vulgate, all the Syriac versions (including the important Sinaitic Syriac), both the Sahidic and the Bohairic versions, Irenaeus, part of Origen, and Cyprian (Black 1988, 5-6). Also, the presence of homoeoarchton, which is an accidental error caused by the eye skipping from the beginning of one word to the same beginning in another word, favors the original presence of eike. The skip would have been from the epsilon at the beginning of eike to the epsilon at the beginning of the next word, that is, from eike to enochos.

Due to this uncertainty, a decision concerning the reading remains tentative. Accordingly, Merk shows due caution in bracketing eike because there is not a clear-cut case concerning “without a cause” at Matthew 5:22. In view of the equivocal nature of the textual evidence the editors of the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament in their four-level system of grading the relative degree of certainty concerning the originality of a reading ranked the absence of eike as a C-rating. Consequently, though the case is not clear-cut and there is evidence that it may be an accidental omission in the Greek, on balance I would lean to the opinion that eike “without a cause” was not originally at Matthew 5:22.

The absence of eike was known before 1830 when the Book of Mormon appeared, since it was discussed by Desiderius Erasmus, John Mill, Johann Wettstein, Johann Gilesbach, and Andreas Birch in reference to the Greek text, not translated in William Tyndale’s New Testament from 1526 to 1535, and popularized by various English writers. For example, the Methodist writer, Adam Clarke, whose multi-volume biblical commentary was first published in London in 1810 with at least ten American printings and editions in New York from 1811 to 1829, suggested that it was a marginal gloss which later entered into the text (Clarke 1825). It is interesting that Clarke favors the omission of eike at Matthew 5:22 and the retention of the doxology at Matthew 6:13 and that the Book of Mormon follows Clarke’s decision in these two passages. However, not too much significance [p.129] should be attached to this agreement since Clarke appears to favor the omission of tois archaiois at Matthew 5:27 and the omission of en to phanero at Matthew 6:18, and the Book of Mormon does not have these omissions. However, the Book of Mormon omission of “without a cause” need not depend on any of these sources, since the phrase could have been deleted simply because it detracted from the strength of Jesus’ command against anger. It has been suggested that the ancient support which this Book of Mormon deletion received could be due to “a coincidence caused by a problem with the wording of the KJV” (Barney 1986, 89). Since there could be coincidental agreement, the same omission in two separate texts is not significant in establishing a connection between them. What is important in textual criticism is the same distinctive addition, peculiar error, or the same alternate reading.

It is significant to note that among the thirty-eight known variants and sub-variants of these eight secure examples, the Book of Mormon always aligns itself with the derivative text found in the Textus Receptus which was printed by Stephanus in 1550 and never agrees with either the original text or any of the other known variant readings. If the Book of Mormon were a genuinely ancient text, it would not always be expected to side with what modern scholarship concludes is the original text, but certainly there ought to be some agreement. Just as a careful comparison of Gabriel Sionita’s 1633 Harclean Syriac Apocalypse discloses his conjectural emendations, which were based on late Erasmian Greek and Clementine Vulgate texts, so an exhaustive examination reveals that this Book of Mormon sermon depends on the 1550 Textus Receptus, as relied on by the English text of the KJV. (Brent Metcalfe, New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, p. 127-129)

Another example of Smith’s changes to the New Testament is Luke 10:22:

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, Joseph Smith Translation, emphasis mine)

Not one ancient manuscript agrees with this change. It radically changes the verse into something that it was never intended to say.  See Joel Groat’s analysis of the JST and the many errors that Joseph Smith made here.

In my estimation, this textual variant in favor of the Sermon at the Temple is very meaningful. The removal of without a cause has important moral, behavioral, psychological, and religious ramifications, as it is the [Page 191]main place where a significant textual change from the kjv was in fact needed and delivered.

Again, how many were not as Larsen states above? This is simply hit and miss with Joseph Smith and so cannot be taken seriously. As Stan Larson wrote in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon,

The comparison is complicated by the Book of Mormon’s connection to the King James Version of the Bible (KJV). Since about the turn of the twentieth century, Mormon writers have suggested that Smith quoted directly from the KJV of Matthew when dictating the Book of Mormon account of Jesus’ sermon. B. H. Roberts of the First Council of Seventy said that Smith “adopted our English translation” (B. Roberts 1904, 184; cf. Ostler 1987, 78). Sidney B. Sperry, Brigham Young University professor of religion, suggested that Smith used the KJV word for word “as long as the Sermon in the familiar rendering of Matthew 5-7 agreed substantially with the Nephite version” (1947, 190; 1967, 112). Hugh Nibley concurred that as long as the KJV “is correct there is every reason why it should be followed” (1961, 10; 1989, 215).

Such views imply that where the KJV has an incorrect text, it should not have been followed in the Book of Mormon. Thus Sperry maintained that in such cases Smith would have corrected the wording of the KJV “to conform with the text before him on the metal plates” (Sperry 1947, 190; 1967, 112). Roberts similarly affirmed that Smith first compared the KJV to the Book of Mormon records, and “when he found the sense of the passage on the Nephite plates superior to that in the English version he made such changes as would give the superior sense and clearness” (B. Roberts 1904, 191).

Sperry went on to argue that if the Book of Mormon should fail to make such corrections and instead copy corruptions or errors which accumulated over the centuries, then it “should be thrown out of court” because this “would be plain evidence that Joseph Smith did not translate from a really ancient text.” In this context Sperry asserted that textual criticism could cast considerable light on “the asserted antiquity” of the Book of Mormon, since “critical tests can be most subtle and powerful in probing for slips on the part of unlearned impostors who offer amended biblical texts for the examination of the public” (1947, 171; 1967, 91). Nibley concurred that “one of the best established disciplines in the world is the critical examination of written texts to detect what in them is spurious and what is genuine” (1953, 830; 1989, 55). This is [p.117] because the most significant indication used by textual critics in tracing relationships between documents is errors, since coincidental agreement is ruled out when two documents have the same telltale mistakes.

It is possible to identify places where errors, revisions, and additions have crept into the KJV. Published in 1611, the KJV relies on the Greek text of the New Testament available in the late sixteenth century. In the 381 years since then, hundreds of better and more ancient Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Coptic manuscripts have been discovered and brought us closer to the original Matthean text. This means that it is possible—given the opportunity of comparing the versions of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and 3 Nephi—to make tentative judgments about whether the Book of Mormon stands up to the tests of historicity Roberts, Sperry, and Nibley proposed. If the Book of Mormon varies from both the KJV and the earliest texts, one cannot pronounce judgment on the Book of Mormon version, since the Book of Mormon variation could be specific to its audience and setting in the New World. However, if the Book of Mormon text departs from the errors of the KJV and agrees with the most original Matthean texts, it supports the claim that the Book of Mormon is a genuine translation of an ancient document. On the other hand, if the Book of Mormon text sides with the later Greek text as seen in the KJV, this dependence would be strong evidence against its historicity. The reason for this is that the Book of Mormon on the American continent should know nothing of changes and additions to the Sermon on the Mount made in the Old World centuries after the original sermon, but should be a direct link to the real words of Jesus. (Brent Metcalfe, New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, p.116)

Stan Larsen concludes,

We need not agree that Book of Mormon dependence on errors in the KJV Sermon on the Mount “casts suspicion on the whole” text of the Book of Mormon. My conclusions are confined to 3 Nephi 12-14. On purely text-critical grounds, the historicity of 3 Nephi 12-14 is suspect. Nowhere in the Book of Mormon version of Jesus’ sermon is there any indisputable evidence of its being a translation from an ancient document (Ashment 1980). One can never prove that something did not happen. All that can be said is that there is no evidence to substantiate the view that the Book of Mormon records a real visit by the resurrected Jesus to the place called Bountiful in the Book of Mormon. 56). (Brent Metcalfe, New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, p.133),

Here is one scholar that has read Nibley and other Mormon apologists and comes to the same conclusion as Jeremy Runnells about 3 Nephi. Is Larsen also to be considered a “brittle Anti-Mormon”? Christensen writes,

Welch discusses some King James errors repeated in 3 Nephi but does so without scandal because, quite frankly, none of them change the meaning significantly. And the larger context of 3 Nephi 8-29 demonstrates remarkable inspiration in disclosing the temple background of the Sermon on the Mount. Welch’s approach was impressive enough that a non-LDS press published his work as applied to the Sermon in Matthew.17 Welch does not ignore the errors, but he doesn’t grant them the decisive status or sole focus that Runnells does. Plus Welch makes several observations that support the Joseph Smith claims of having provided an inspired translation, which need not be a perfect translation, nor oblige the reader to bring infallible perception and comprehension to their reading.

Several LDS writers have closely examined Joseph Smith’s translations, including John Tvedtnes, Royal Skousen, John Welch, Ben McGuire, and Brant Gardner. They have highlighted important information worth careful consideration. Runnells does not so much as mention the existence of their findings. It is not ad hominem to observe that Runnells treats a few King James errors as “damning” and “totally undermining” Joseph’s claims regarding a translation. He has decided that such apparent imperfections as he presents are, by themselves, decisively important. He completely ignores all LDS scholarship that gives any evidence suggesting authentic translation.

We have seen that Welch’s argument is not significant. How can one know if a text is “authentic” without the original document or no other writings to confirm that there was a language called “reformed Egyptian”?. We have the example of Larsen above. The best one can do is speculate. Apologists can speculate as to why Joseph copied whole sections of the Bible into the Book of Mormon, but that is all they can do. Though the “evidence” spoken of by Christensen produced by other Apologists may be interesting to some, it is ultimately just exercises in futility and a prop for the faithful. For example, there were many Bible critics that claimed that Isaiah was a conflated document even at the time of Christ. But with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls  we know that this isn’t the case. But that only advances our knowledge back to the time of Christ. But other historical events are verified in Isaiah, while there are none at all for the Book of Mormon, except where Smith copied or took information from the Bible. Again, Christensen:

Think about why. Where is there any manuscript evidence that demonstrates in practice, and not just in theory, that when God is involved to some degree in the transmission and translation of a sacred text, we can know this because all [Page 192]known manuscripts and transmissions are completely perfect, error free, never dependent on any previous translations, and are always mutually consistent without any variation or editing whatsoever? Does Runnells provide any hard evidence to back up the theory?

This is still Christensen’s strawman. Jeremy does not make this assertion. It is ridiculous at its core and is simply a caricature of what Jeremy states in his works. The Book of Mormon can’t be classed with those translations because it was claimed to have been given to Joseph Smith by “the gift and power of God” word for word.

But Christensen can’t shut up about it. He continues to hammer this point, this deceptive point throughout his long diatribe:

For that matter, is there any such evidence that he could have offered if he tried? Anywhere? It also turns out that had he paused long enough to clearly state that his argument depends entirely on these unstated conditions that he would also open them to critical examination. And that would not do. Who wants to publish a web document declaring that “Joseph Smith and various unofficial apologists have failed to live up to my completely unrealistic expectations.”

Let’s be clear here, these are actually Christensen’s and Joseph Smith’s unrealistic expectations that he puts on Jeremy. This may be his opinion of what Jeremy published, but that is not what he actually published. What Jeremy “expects” is really irrelevant. It is the substance of his concerns that warrants answers. Notice how Christensen keeps weaving in the stawmen arguments as he goes along.

The New Testament itself provides examples of how Jesus and his apostles and the occasional angel all quote the commonly used Septuagint, variants, errors, and all. As Nibley and Welch and others have pointed out, Joseph Smith’s modes and means of translation have ample biblical precedent.

Not really. Smith is actually quoting himself, a work that he produced, and for which there is no proof that it is genuine. Jesus was primarily a teacher, and expounded on the existing scripture of the day. Smith introduced new scripture that he wrote himself using a peepstone. Did Jesus and his apostles do this? No, they wrote letters and preached and quoted the Law and the prophets.

The Greek Septuagint was a translation from the Hebrew texts (Masoretic), and the Dead Sea Scrolls and fragments are closer to the MT than to any other texts that have survived. We have something to compare the Septuagint against. Joseph Smith’s was a translation from what? Mysterious gold plates that he claimed to discover by way of a peepstone that no one else ever saw (as is still being debated). What do we have to compare Smith’s translation with? Nothing.

As Thomas Kuhn says, ”In short, consciously or not, the decision to employ a particular piece of apparatus and to use it in a particular way carries an assumption that only certain sorts of circumstances will arise.” What if the circumstances you are testing for are completely unfounded? What if, as Jesus says, the problem is the beam in your own eye? What if the experiment is poorly designed, due to unrealistic expectations? What if the focus on flaws-as-decisive has the effect of distracting a person from far more fruitful investigations and evidence?

Kuhn’s observation is one way to look at it but can be turned on Christensen and Mormon apologists as well. . But that was not Jeremys purpose. His purpose was to get answers to troubling questions about issues that concerned him. He was a believing Mormon that understood the “faithful” evidence”, because he had been a member for years and kept mostly to the correlated/approved material he was given. He was a returned missionary who served in New York during the 911 attacks, and 6th generation Mormon. He went to B.Y.U. Since he could get no answers to his questions from Mormon “authorities”, he went elsewhere to find them.  He sent a letter to a CES Director who promised to get back to him with answers, but never did.  Perhaps if Christensen wants to better understand Jeremy he should listen to his Mormon Stories interview with John Dehlin, where Jeremy explains how great his experience was in the Church and how he stayed faithful and believing even after being blessed by a Mormon General Authority that his hearing would be restored and it was not. This is not a person who is brittle and their faith shatters easily. Christensen would have you believe this, but it is not true.

Christensen’s invented narrative, that Jeremy is a brittle person who never really bothered to investigate the issues is patently false.

FARENHEIT LDS: Book Burning, Racism & the KKK?


Mormon_Doctrine-Burning

CONTENTS:

Part I. Bigotry in Ignorance?
Part II. The “Sensible” Klu Klux Klan
Part III. Nameless Oracles

Introduction

pingbackIn the diverse world of the Blog-o-sphere we are sometimes linked in ways that might be new to some. One of these links is called a “pingback”. This occurs when someone links to a Blog Article. Most of the time I don’t bother investigating them, I just approve them and go about my business. But I recently got a pingback on one of my articles and the title of the piece that it linked to was,

Blacks and the Priesthood: Burn McConkie Now!

With that title burned into my mind, I set about reading the article that had linked to one of mine, and it was so inaccurate and full of bigotry that I decided to take the time to respond to it. The Author, who goes by the moniker  “IrWhitney” or the “Phantom Saint”, starts off by telling everyone to burn any copies of Bruce R. McConkie’s book, Mormon Doctrine, and then asks his audience to throw another on the pile:  Answers to Gospel Questions, by  Joseph Fielding Smith.

The Phantom claims that the reason that people should burn these books is because they are “officially shameful and embarrassing”.  This line of reasoning advocates that anything written by Mormon “Authorities” that is deemed shameful and embarrassing to the Mormon Church should be burned.  Now that’ll solve any problems, won’t it? It worked for Nazi Germany, didn’t it? Well… maybe not.nazi_book_burning

What I do find shameful and embarrassing is that the Phantom would actually post a defense of Mormon racism on the day we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday; as if that would somehow assuage his conscience or bolster his fantastical claim that “’the Brethren’ in their more subdued fashion essentially agree with all my various arguments, officially, and in public.”

Since he speaks of Mormon “authorities” pulling doctrine out of their backsides… well, if the shoe fits…

Seriously though, far from setting the record straight about Mormon racism, the Phantom only makes it worse, because the arguments that he claims “the brethren” are down with, don’t really explain anything; and the Phantom’s are (for the most part) simply speculations he has gathered from the four corners of the internet, into which he mixes a strong dose of his own bigotry towards Christians.

I. Bigotry In Ignorance?

And those arguments? To put Mormon “authorities” institutional racism and bigotry “in perspective”.  This is nothing new of course. Isn’t that what the skinheads try to do with Adolf Hitler’s bigotry? Put it in perspective? After all, they still admire the guy, just like Mormons still admire Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and every other racist “prophet” that inherited the mantle of Smith. But Mormon “authorities” did one better than Adolf Hitler, they made God himself into a bigot:

The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord… (First Presidency Declaration, 1949)

Poor Phantom, don’t you know that “the Brethren” aren’t agreeing with anything that you say? If one goes to the link provided by the Phantom that accesses the article he referenced above one reads,

The Church acknowledges the contribution of scholars to the historical content presented in this article; their work is used with permission.

Their work. Nameless “scholars”. Have the very oracles of God been turned over to nameless scholars? It appears so, if one is to believe Phantom, since he thinks that these are “the brethren” (or Mormon General Authorities).

And when all else fails, put the blame on those horrible Christians as Phantom does with this rant:

For the anti-Mormons out there, and certainly the non-Mormons in general: I’m not defending the bigotry in early LDS leadership at all. Just putting it into perspective. Neither am I defending the racism apparent in the writings and sermonizing of many LDS leaders over the generations. I can only offer that it was always ever based upon ignorance rather than malice, and that it never even slightly attained the level of contempt and hatred, the outright damnation of the “Negro” race as openly practiced and professed by most of “historic” Christianity over the last 2014 years. Not even slightly. It wasn’t the Mormons who brought slavery to America. That was “historic” Christianity. It’s hard to take criticism from Christian sects who were the religious arm of the KKK for generations, or tolerate the tongue clucking of other Christian denominations like the now often very liberal Lutherans, who’s founder Martin Luther (the original)  clearly and openly denounced the Jews as a filthy, contemptable race that needed extermination. Or for that matter, compared to some pretty inane reasoning relative to the Curse of Cain over the years from various Mormon leaders, I feel no moral equivalence between that and a Holy Roman Empire that slaughtered “barbarians” and “savages” all over the globe, tortured generations of mankind through ruthless rule and Inquisition, and attempted to exterminate the Jews to “liberate” the Holy Land over the course of hundreds of years and a score of centuries. Brigham Young wasn’t invented in the hills of Utah. He came from respectable Quaker stock. He and his brethren brought the Curse of Cain and all its attendant racism and bigotry from “historic” Christianity–it was never an invention of Joseph Smith or his newly “restored” One True Church. (the Phantom)

slaveryGee, if the criticism is valid, (as Phantom seems to agree with, sorta) then why not take criticism from Christians? He can’t, because he is too bigoted to do so. What he needs to do is a little more research about the affects of the Great Awakening on the problem of slavery in the United States.

But this really isn’t about taking criticism from Christians because he’s really not “defending the bigotry in early LDS writings at all”, he’s just telling us all that it was bigotry in ignorance, (an oxymoron if there ever was one) bigotry without malice, (ditto) and that it was just all those crazy Christians who are really to blame for Mormon racism (which he can’t seem to make up his mind about), not the Mormons themselves who picked up that evil doctrine and ran with it, and then had the audacity to tell everyone that it all came from God himself. Funny, how doctrines like this are classed as “carry overs”, and statements like this one from Joseph Smith are subsequently ignored,

As Paul said, “The world by wisdom know not God;” so the world by speculation are destitute of revelation; and as God in His superior wisdom has always given His Saints, wherever he had any on the earth, the same spirit, and that spirit, as John says, is the true spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus. I may safely say that the word “Mormon” stands independent of the wisdom and learning of this generation. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.400)

Or this,

Joseph Smith, Kirtland Ohio, 1836 by grindael

Joseph Smith circa 1836

It is in the order of heavenly things that God should always send a new dispensation into the world when men have apostatized from the truth and lost the priesthood; but when men come out and build upon other men’s foundations, they do it on their own responsibility, without: authority from God; and when the floods come and the winds blow, their foundations will be found to be sand, and their whole fabric will crumble to dust.

Did I build on any other man’s foundation? I have got all the truth which the Christian world possessed, and an independent revelation in the bargain, and God will bear me off triumphant.  (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.479)

I don’t think anyone would consider the Curse of Cain doctrine one of those “truths” by any stretch of the imagination. So Joseph got it from God. So he says. Brigham Young echoed this in 1855:

Brigham-Young

Brigham Young, circa 1860

The American Government is second to none in the world in influence and power, and far before all others in liberal and free institutions. Under its benign influence the poor, down trodden masses of the old world can find an asylum where they can enjoy the blessings of peace and freedom, no matter to what caste or religious sect they belong, or are disposed to favor, or whether they are disposed to favor any or none at all. It was in this government, formed by men inspired of God, although at the time they knew it not, after it was firmly established in the seat of power and influence, where liberty of conscience, and the free exercise of religious worship were a fundamental principle guaranteed in the Constitution, and interwoven with all the feelings, traditions, and sympathies of the people, that the Lord sent forth His angel to reveal the truths of heaven as in times past, even as in ancient days. This should have been hailed as the greatest blessing which could have been bestowed upon any nation, kindred, tongue, or people. It should have been received with hearts of gratitude and gladness, praise and thanksgiving.

But as it was in the days of our Savior, so was it in the advent of this new dispensation. It was not in accordance with the notions, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas of the American people. The messenger did not come to an eminent divine of any of the so-called orthodoxy, he did not adopt their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowlege of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him.

No sooner was this made known, and published abroad, and people began to listen and obey the heavenly summons, than opposition began to rage, and the people, even in this favored land, began to persecute their neighbors and friends for entertaining religious opinions differing from their own. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, p.171, Feb. 8, 1855)

So much for “folklore” being carried into the Mormon Church from the Christians, Mormon “prophets” deny it. As for malice, one striking example is that of John Taylor, who left us with this rant about Horace Greely:

The majority of the people think you [The Mormons] are a most corrupt people, following a doctrine something like those Free Love societies in the East. Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, was associated with one of those societies, and was its principal supporter.

John-Taylor

“Apostle” John Taylor

That is what is called a virtuous kind of an abomination, used under a cloak of philosophy, a species of philosophy imported from France. Hence they call Greeley a philosopher; and, in writing about him, I have called him the same. I believe him to be as dishonest a man as is in existence.

These are my sentiments and feelings. I have examined his articles, watched his course, read his paper daily, and have formerly conversed with him a little; but lately I would not be seen in his company. I was thrown in his society in traveling from Boston, and occasionally met him afterwards; but I would not talk to him. I felt myself superior to such a mean, contemptible cur. I knew he was not after truth, but falsehood.

This Greeley is one of their popular characters in the East, and one that supports the stealing of niggers and the underground railroad. I do not know that the editor of the Herald is any more honest; but, as a journalist, he tells more truth. He publishes many things as they are, because it is creditable to do so. But Greeley will not; he will tell what suits his clandestine plans, and leave the rest untold. I speak of him, because he is one of the prominent newspaper editors in the Eastern country, and he is a poor, miserable curse. (Journal of Discourses, Volume 5, pp. 118-119)

Not only does Taylor’s malice show in this rant towards the blacks as well as Greely, Taylor has to be dishonest to make his point. Instead of speaking to the man, he claims superiority over such a “contemptable cur”. If he had spoken to him, he might have realized that Greely didn’t advocate “free love”. Or maybe Taylor did speak to him. He lied about polygamy, didn’t he? This arrogance on the part of Taylor spilled over into his religious beliefs, too. Abraham H. Cannon recorded that,

Father [George Q. Cannon] holds that we who live on the earth now and are faithful, will stand at the head of our lineage and will thus become Saviors as has been promised us. Pres. John Taylor was not sealed to his parents though they died in the Church, as he felt that it was rather lowering himself to be thus sealed when he was an apostle and his father was a high priest… (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, Thursday, Dec. 18th, 1890)

Horace_Greely

Horace Greely

Greely didn’t support the “Free Love” movement at all, he in fact destested it as this letter to M.A. Townsend in 1860 shows:

When we were publishing Judge Edmond’s series of articles commending and extolling Spiritualism, I never heard complaints from you or other Spiritualists that we did not comment on and dissent from their inculcations. I do not see why we should do so when it proves to be your bull that is gored and not t’other fellow’s ox. Your letter is arrogant in its tone and sheds no light on the subject; so I have thrown it aside. I do not take ground for or against what is called Spiritualism, but it is my definite judgment that the abominable sophistry and lechery termed “Free Love” has received decided aid and comfort from Spiritualism. That I don’t like; and it is my sorrowful conviction that there are more adulterers and libertines, harlots and false wives in the country today than there was before or would have been but for the advent of Spiritualism. If there be any truth in Spiritualism, I am afraid the spirits who visit us mainly tenanted bad bodies while on earth and have not improved since. (Horace Greely to M. A. Townsend, March 1, 1860)

Even Brigham Young had more tact when speaking of the blacks, he knew that the word “nigger” was a slur:

Ham will continue to be the servant of servants, as the Lord has decreed, until the curse is removed. Will the present struggle free the slave? No; but they are now wasting away the black race by thousands. Many of the blacks are treated worse than we treat our dumb brutes; and men will be called to judgment for the way they have treated the negro, and they will receive the condemnation of a guilty conscience, by the just Judge whose attributes are justice and truth.

Treat the slaves kindly and let them live, for Ham must be the servant of servants until the curse is removed. Can you destroy the decrees of the Almighty? You cannot. Yet our Christian brethren think that they are going to overthrow the sentence of the Almighty upon the seed of Ham. They cannot do that, though they may kill them by thousands and tens of thousands. (Journal of Discourses Vol. 10, p.250)

And,

Brother Taylor says that language cannot express the conduct, the feelings, and the spirit that are upon the people in the States. Well, suppose you take up a labour and swear about them, what are the worst words that can be spoken? ‘Nigger stealing,’ Mobs or Vigilance Committees, and Rotten-hearted Administrators of a Government are three of the meanest and wickedest words that can be spoken. I expect that somebody will write that back to the States, as being treasonable, because spoken by a Latter-day Saint. (Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p.127, August 9, 1857)

They knew. In spite of all that Brigham and his apostles said, overthrowing the sentence of the Almighty upon the supposed seed of Ham is exactly what the Federal Government did. And yes, thousands upon thousands died to make that happen. Even Wilford Woodruff showed that he was not not above demeaning the blacks:

We had a Great Celebration of the 4 to day as the 4 Came on Sunday. We had a great display of all the Mechanics Artizens tradesmen & Farmers school Children &c & A Long windy speech from Judge [Cyrus M.] Hawley on the Nigger Question & severall Edifying speeches from others.(Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.485, July 5, 1869)

Cyrus Hawley was a Federal Judge appointed by President Grant. Of course what he advocated about the blacks would stick in the craw of the racist Mormons. Still, Mormons (according to the Phantom) are bigots only in ignorance, simply because they didn’t invent what they chose to believe (written into scripture by their founding “prophet”); and because the Christians are definitely the ones to blame for every racist and evil act since the time of Christ.

Case in point:

While many LDS detractors try to claim that anti-Negro racism is an essential doctrine of LDS theology, and that the basis for this prejudice is found in the uniquely Mormon, Book of Abraham, in the canonical “Pearl of Great Price,” the truth is that Christianity had been condemning Negroes to hell as the irredeemable, inherently damned seed of Cain for some 1820 years before Joseph Smith was ever in a position to give it a thought. Likewise, in Smith’s time, many of the most fundamentalist and adamant progenitors of today’s Christian critics of Mormonism’s “racism,” were eagerly buying and selling Cain’s children, forcing them into a lifetime of starvation and crippling hard labor, raping slave women for sport and breeding them for profit. Even more ironically, while the parents of the German commentator who accused Gordon B[.] Hinckley of “racism” were learning how to spot non-Aryans in the Hitler Youth, and his grandparents were burning Jews in ovens and excusing the Third Reich’s humiliating defeat in 1932 to black Olympic champion Jesse Owens by claiming it was an unfair match between God-created man and a half-evolved ape, Mormonism had by way of comparison, merely interpreted its own available canonical evidence to mean that blacks were to barred from the priesthood, at least in this lifetime. (The Phantom)Scenes in Memhis, Tennessee, April 30, 1866-001

How could it be “their own” canonical evidence if it came from the Christians? The bigotry in this paragraph is simply stunning. So all Germans were burning Jews in ovens? All Christians before the time of Joseph Smith were condemning Negroes to hell, and advocated the Curse of Cain doctrine? The hatred here of Christians by Phantom is palpable. But you can’t blame this only on the Christians. According to Historian David M. Goldenberg,

“The notion that all humanity is color coded is expressed in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim biblical interpretations that see Noah’s sons as representing the three human skin colors of the world’s population. “ (David M. Goldenberg, The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, pp. 184-185)

He quotes Jewish and Islamic writings that show this, and then says

“in the third century story it was Ham who was darkened and became the ancestor of all dark-skinned people, by the eight to ninth century in Islamic sources and the ninth to eleventh century in Jewish sources it was understood that it was really Kush, one of Ham’s four sons, who was darkened and became the ancestor of dark-skinned people. In the Islamic version we can actually see how the Kush interpretation is grafted onto the earlier story mentioning only Ham: “When Noah awoke … he said to God, “Allah, blacken his face and the face of his descendants of the one who disobeyed. [i.e., Ham] and had intercourse with his wife.” So Ham’s wife had a black son and he named him Kusha (Ibn Hisham). Noah curses Ham and his descendants but the result is a blackening of Kush alone.  (pp. 186-7)

And,

This new Arabic-Islamic way of looking at the world’s population was then incorporated into the thinking and literature of others in the Near East, whether they be Jewish, such as the authors of Tanhuma and Pirqei R. Eliezer, or Christian, such as Bar Hebraeus. (p. 193)

Seems like just about everybody picked on the poor dark skinned Africans. Although the issue of slavery through the ages was complicated, (especially in the Catholic Church) there were Papal decrees against it, and in 1839 Pope Gregory XVI issued In Supremo, which cited earlier Bulls against slavery and added,

gregory xvi

Pope Gregory XVI

“The slave trade, although it has been somewhat diminished, is still carried on by numerous Christians. Therefore, desiring to remove such a great shame from all Christian peoples … and walking in the footsteps of Our Predecessors, We, by apostolic authority, warn and strongly exhort in the Lord faithful Christians of every condition that no one in the future dare to bother unjustly, despoil of their possessions, or reduce to slavery (<in servitutem redigere>) Indians, Blacks or other such peoples. Nor are they to lend aid and favor to those who give themselves up to these practices, or exercise that inhuman traffic by which the Blacks, as if they were not humans but rather mere animals, having been brought into slavery in no matter what way, are, without any distinction and contrary to the rights of justice and humanity, bought, sold and sometimes given over to the hardest labor.”

But the Mormons are ok, they only had racist attitudes towards the blacks in this life, and unlike those he mentions like Johanna Southcott, their “interpretations” aren’t done in malice, but hers certainly must be, because she was a Christian. Funny that.

It’s obvious that the Phantom didn’t really comprehend the article that he linked to his article that explains all about this. Hint: yes some Christians had problems with accepting the Curse of Cain doctrine and used it to justify slavery, but many did not and worked hard to change it. Funny how the Mormons would defy the Federal Government’s laws when it came to polygamy, but would not when it came to slavery. (see quote from the 1835 D&C below).

And… actually, it was not just in this life that the blacks were to be second class citizens. Brigham Young taught,

Adam had two sons Kane & Abel. Cain was more given to evil than Abel. Adam was called to offer sacrifice also his sons. The sacrifice of Abel was more acceptable than Canes & Cane took it into his heart to put Abel out of the way so he killed Abel.

The Lord said I will not kill Cane But I will put a mark upon him and it is seen in the face of every Negro on the Earth And it is the decree of God that that mark shall remain upon the seed of Cane & the Curse untill all the seed of Abel should be re[deem]ed and Cane will not receive the priesthood untill or salvation untill all the seed of Abel are Redeemed. Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane in him Cannot hold the priesthood & if no other Prophet ever spake it Before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ. I know it is true & they know it. The Negro cannot hold one particle of Government But the day will Come when all the seed of Cane will be Redeemed & have all the Blessings we have now & a great deal more. But the seed of Abel will be ahead of the seed of Cane to all Eternity.

Let me consent to day to mingle my seed with the seed of Cane. It would Bring the same curse upon me And it would upon any man. And if any man mingles his seed with the seed of Cane the ownly way he Could get rid of it or have salvation would be to Come forward & have his head Cut off & spill his Blood upon the ground. It would also take the life of his Children.

It is said if a man kills another that he takes that that He cannot give. If a mans head is cut off [p.98] his life is not destroyed or his spirit that lives. His tabernacle is destroyed But I can make as good tabernacles as I can destroy. If you do not believe it look at my Children. Much blood was shed in ancient days both of man & Beast. The firstlings & best of the flock was sacrafized on the Altar & in some instances many men & almost whole Nations were sacraficed or put to death because of their sins & wickedness. This was the ownly way they could be saved at all. If Jesus Christ had not had his Blood shed the Blood that He received from his Mother Mary the world would not have been saved.

There is not one of the seed of old Cane that is permitted to rule & reign over the seed of Abel And you nor I cannot Help it.

Brigham Young 1851

Brigham Young Circa 1850

Those that do bear rule should do it in righteousness. I am opposed to the present system of slavery. The Negro Should serve the seed of Abram but it should be done right. Don’t abuse the Negro & treat him Cruel.

It has been argued here that many of the Jews were Black. Whenever the seed of Judah mingled with the seed of Cane they lost their priesthood & all Blessings.

As an Ensample let the Presidency, Twelve Seventies High Priest Bishops & all the Authorities say now we will all go & mingle with the seed of Cane and they may have all the privileges they want. We lift our hands to heaven in support of this. That moment we loose the priesthood & all Blessings & we would not be redeemed until Cane was. I will never admit of it for a moment.

Some may think I I know as much as they do But I know that I know more than they do. The Lord will watch us all the time. The Devil would like to rule part of the time But I am determin He shall not rule at all and Negros shall not rule us. I will not admit of the Devil ruling at all. I will not Consent for the seed of Cane to vote for me or my Brethren. If you want to know why we did not speak of it in the Constitution it was because it was none of their Business. Any man is a Citizens Black white or red and if the Jews Come here with a part of the [p.99] Canaanite Blood in them they are Citizens & shall have their rights but not to rule for me or my Brother. Those persons from the Islands & foreign Countries know nothing about Governing the people. The Canaanite cannot have wisdom to do things as the white man has. We must guard against all Evil. I am not going to let this people damn themselves as long as I can help it. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 4, p.97-99, February 4, 1852)

The Negroes could not hold the Priesthood because according to Young they would never rule over the seed of Abel (the whites), and that would be for “all eternity”. The whites would always “be ahead” of the Negroes “for all eternity”. But according to those like the Phantom, Brigham only spoke in ignorance, there was no malice at all to what he said above. Tell that to Jane Manning and Elijah Abel and thousands of others who were denied the blessings reserved only for white people. Imagine going through this interview with then “prophet” Wilford Woodruff:

We had Meeting with several individuals among the rest Black Jane wanted to know if I would not let her have her Endowments in the Temple. This I Could not do as it was against the Law of God. As Cain killed Abel All the seed of Cain would have to wait for Redemption untill all the seed that Abel would have had that may Come through other men Can be redeemed.(Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 9, p. 322, October 16, 1894).

Not policy, but the law of God. What was stopping Woodruff from getting his own revelation? He had no problem doing it with polygamy. I guess the plight of the black man wasn’t very high up on his “to-do”list. Even with Jane Manning knocking on his door.

For a great read about how racism is justified by ignorance and stupidity, enjoy the exploits of one Petroleum V. Nasby in “Swingin Round the Crinkle”. President Lincoln loved his exploits, and used to quote him often.

"...in their enthoosiasm five nigger families were cleaned out"

“…in their enthoosiasm five nigger families were cleaned out”

I guess the Phantom must think that getting your head cut off for “mingling seed” is an act of love. At least that’s how Brigham Young described it once. Really. (See, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p.220)Go to the Top

II.  The “Sensible” Ku Klux Klan

The Phantom then tries to enlighten us with another rant, this time against the “lefty’s” or all who advocate Civil Rights and dare to call racism what it truly is:

It’s easy for the ignorant and self-interested to paint Mormonism with the Lefty’s favorite tar brush of common racism. In fact, since the Civil Rights Movement set upon the mission of bringing down the LDS church, it is even held that Mormons are close friends with the KKK, the favorite bugaboo of the “enlightened” Left. These slanders, when repeated widely, naturally become the assumptions of rational, fair-minded people as well. Frankly, Mormonism has given even the most forgiving investigator cause for suspicion. But Mormonism and its attitude toward the Negro, isn’t really a Right-Left, racist/colorblind debate in the usual Christian American sense. (The Phantom Saint)

Ku Klux Klan circa 1870

Ku Klux Klan circa 1870

So, what kind of racism did the Mormons practice, uncommon racism? To Phantom, racism just isn’t really racism if Mormon leaders are involved. Why? Because those damn Christians did it first. (It’s all Joanna Southcott’s fault) He then gives us this whopper:

Many of the members of the anti-Mormon mob that murder the first President of the Church, Joseph Smith, are members of a secret racist society called the “Knights of the Golden Circle.” After the Civil War the organization is outlawed. A few members of the Knights of the Golden Circle found a new organization called the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.—1844 (See BlackMormon)

I’ll get to the Ku Klux Klan below. But the Knights of the Golden Circle didn’t even come into existence until 1854, ten years after Joseph Smith’s death. I don’t know where BlackMormon got their information from, but they are wrong about this, and many other things. For more information on the Golden Circle, see this article by the Texas State Historical Association.

I just have to sigh when I read this next bit of information that Phantom unloads on the unsuspecting public, that the Church outright rejected the KKK, from the beginning (1868). They later actually lauded what they called “Another Ku Klux Klan”, which was what they deemed the original Ku-Klux Klan, said by them to be full of “sincere men” who “saw no other way of remedying the existing evils that threatened moral and financial ruin.” This sounds just like Joseph Smith’s Danites, who he wrote about in his diary, which said:

We have a company of Danites in these times, to put to right physically that which is not right, and to cleanse the Church of very great evils which hath hitherto existed among us inasmuch as they cannot be put to right by teachings & persuasions. (Scott Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, p. 198).

This describes the KKK to a tee. But before I go into that, let’s see some of the Phantom’s quotes that are supposed to enlighten us about how Mormon racism “isn’t really a Right-Left, racist/colorblind debate”:

Soon after its formation, an LDS apostle writes that the KKK will prove a “curse” upon America.—1868  (See BlackMormon)

There is absolutely no documentation to back up this quote.  In fact, in 1868 Mormon “Apostle” George Q. Cannon claimed that the Klan was less dangerous than other secret societies. (see below)

The KKK holds anti-Mormon meetings and, in the south, kills and in some cases tortures Mormon missionaries.—1870s-1890s (See Blazing Crosses, pp.11ff)

From the Silent Film, "Birth of A Nation"

From the Silent Film, “Birth of A Nation”

This is just ill-informed. And if you pick up the book Blazing Crosses in Zion: The Ku Klux Clan in Utah,  by Larry R. Gerlach,  you might want to keep in mind that he was denied access to the Church archives, which makes it a very flawed work, according to this review by John R. Sillito, who writes,

Not only does Gerlach’s study suffer because he was denied access to these important documents, but as long as key materials are denied to scholars, efforts to chronicle Utah history and the history of the LDS church will be seriously hindered. A final irony is that if these documents were unavailable for fear they might be used to discredit the church, Gerlach’s study, and the efforts of most scholars, suggest the opposite result. (Dialogue, Vol.17, No.1, p.166, Spring 1984)

As Historian Patrick Mason writes,

“Strictly speaking, it is anachronistic to speak of Mormons being attacked by the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1870’s or 1880’s, as federal legislation and military enforcement had outlawed and effectively disbanded the paramilitary organization in the early 1870’s. Vigilante violence persisted throughout the South, or course, often led by former Klan members, and the Klan became something of a generic brand for all southern vigilantism.” (The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South, page 147).

As Mason also points out, the Klan did leave a legacy of violence that many in the South perpetuated against blacks, Mormons and other minority groups. But there was no official Ku Klux Klan during this period.  Though two Mormon Missionaries were murdered in 1884 at Cane Creek—by men wearing “masks and colorful disguises, this was a vigilante killing that had nothing to do with an official Klan, even though the Mormons later blamed it on them. Still, there is nothing here to show that the Mormons were in the least bit concerned about the Klan’s racism.

The Phantom then gives a series of quotes from the Deseret News about the resurgent Klan of the early 20th Century and how it was “rejected” by them (remember, this is all about racism now):

When a nation-wide tour of the stage version of “The Clansman,” a story that insults blacks and glorifies the KKK as white heroes, arrives in Utah, the anti-Mormon “Salt Lake Tribune” praises the production. The Church-owned “Deseret News,” however, while recognizing that the play is well done in technical terms, states that the Klan is not to be praised, for it “rode about the country at night killing or torturing negroes and their sympathizers…[and] became a band of idle, dissolute and vicious individuals who entered upon a career of brutality and violence that appalled the country.”—1908  (See Deseret News, Nov. 2, 1908)

This is a very interesting quote, mostly because it is excised out of a larger article to make it appear that the Church (or the Deseret News which is the Church according to BlackMormon) had always come out against the Klan. Perhaps a full reproduction of the article is in order:

Deseret News Another Klan

Deseret News, Nov. 1908

ANOTHER KU KLUX KLAN.

“The Ku Klux Klan movement which has been so forcibly represented to the public at the Salt Lake Theater in the excellent performance of “The Clansman,” began in 1868, for the purpose of breaking up negro suffrage in the South. In many states negroes were members of the legislatures, and in some they were in the majority. Most of the negroes were ignorant and they were controlled by “scalawags,” and “carpet baggers,” that is to say, by white politicians who used the negro vote for the furtherance of their own personal ends. The result was that taxes were increased, public debts ran up, and the extravagance and corruption of legislatures were almost beyond belief. The state debt of Alabama increased from $8,000,000 to $25,000,000, in six years, and the legislature of South Carolina spent $350,000 in one session, for “supplies, sundries and incidentals,” alone. Such fearful exactions came after the exhaustive war and the taxpayers became exasperated.

Then the Ku Klux Klan was formed. The people undertook to break up negro suffrage. Young men, masked and disguised, rode about the country at night, killing, or torturing negroes, and their sympathizers. The “carpet baggers”—Northern adventurers who had gone to the South in order to make a living out of politics—were often caught and driven out by violent means.

There is no doubt that the Klan was at first formed by sincere men who saw no other way of remedying the existing evils that threatened moral and financial ruin. It was founded by men who believed they had a patriotic purpose in view. But when the reign of terror was over, honest men with-drew from the Klan, content with the development of society under a regime of law and order. The Klan minus its respectable, peace-loving members became a band of idle, dissolute and vicious individuals who entered upon a career of brutality and violence that appalled the country.

The so-called night riders that now infest some of the Southern states may be considered as the successors of the terrorists of thirty years ago. In fact the ghastly procession of night riders in Georgia a short time ago exceeded in malignant wickedness the most lurid orgies of reconstruction. And laxity in dealing with these outlaws who claim to act under the authority of a “higher law” is having its dire effects.

Quentin_Rankin&R_Z_TaylorThe atrocious murdering of Capt. Rankin at Walnut Log, Tenn., and the narrow escape from a similar fate of Col. Taylor, both noted attorneys in the section, may be traced directly to the indifference which the authorities manifest toward this latest form of terrorism.

The night riders began by burning the warehouses of tobacco growers who persisted in selling their product at a price below that dictated by them. When the firebugs first showed their hands some effort was made by state officials to the end of running them down. But soon the interest of the law waned and the spirit of wantonness blazed up more fiercely than before. Murders were committed with impunity and the campaign of fright by gun and firebrand resulted in dozens of growers abandoning their properties or obeying the commands of the night riders in fear of their lives.

The decent citizens of the south will have to put down this lawlessness, by the application of law. If they do not do so without delay, the evil will grow beyond their control. (Deseret News, 11-2-1908, page 6)

La Clansman Play asked to be supressed

LA Herald, October 16, 1908.

Notice that the News states that the play is an “excellent performance”, and goes on to laud the Klan that was set up to destroy Negro Suffrage.  An article from the Los Angeles Herald reported that some in the country had a different take on the play:

The fact that “The Clansman” is to be produced at one of the local theaters has aroused the indignation of a large number of the best negro citizens, and they yesterday sent a petition to the mayor to have the play suppressed. . . . they say “The Clansman” . . . deals with features of the negro national life in such a way as to reopen wounds that have cost the life blood of the nation in their healing. They claim it excites race prejudice by portraying one of the most brutal of crimes [rape] and the triumph of mob law. The petitioners feel race prejudice should not be excited, in view of the friendly relations which exist between the races in Los Angeles. Other cities have suppressed the play, they declare, and they ask that the mayor do likewise. Mayor Harper will investigate before acting on the petition. (Los Angeles Herald, October 16, 1908)

The Deseret News was hardly denouncing the play, or what they deem as the original Ku Klux Klan, which they praise, saying that “There is no doubt that the Klan was at first formed by sincere men who saw no other way of remedying the existing evils that threatened moral and financial ruin.”

What they are denouncing in the article are the “successors of the terrorists of thirty years ago,” who they say have become “a band of idle, dissolute and vicious individuals who entered upon a career of brutality and violence that appalled the country.”The Clansman 1905 Title Page

Why? Because it was a movement that stank of vigilantism, which soon turned on the Mormons and anyone else the vigilantes didn’t like. But it was ok when it was used to stop the Negroes from gaining political power in the South or to better themselves through equal rights.  The Phantom then once again shows off his bigotry against Christians with this gem:

The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News are fascinatingly blatant records of Mormon-v-anti-Mormon, meaning Christian populations of the State of Utah:

1908: The stage version of Thomas Dixon’s bestselling novel The Clansman, which portrayed blacks as ignorant and ravenous brutes, and glorified the KKK as white heroes, had toured all over the United States. Finally, the tour came to Salt Lake City. The Gentile (non-mormon) newspaper in the city, The Salt Lake Tribune, praised both the play and its message. The Mormon paper, the Deseret News, said that while the play itself was “an excellent production” in technical terms, the Klan was not a heroic organization as the play portrayed, but “rode about the country at night killing or torturing negroes and their sympathizers” in a “reign of terror” and “became a band of idle, dissolute and vicious individuals who entered upon a career of brutality and violence that appalled the country.”(Deseret News, Nov. 2, 1908).Clansman Troupe

1916: The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah’s Gentile (non-mormon) and Anti-Mormon newspaper (which almost daily contained anti-Mormon articles) wrote a critique of the silent movie Birth of a Nation; which was a film version of the play The Clansmen. The Tribune wrote that “Mob violence and outlawry [by blacks] are depicted, followed by spectacular vies of the Ku Klux Klansmen who organized secretly to control the negroes through their superstitious fears. The Klansmen were fearless night-riders and they wore white shrouds. Acts of vengeance were perpetrated [upon blacks] under the cover of darkness, and the pictures show clearly why such extreme measures were necessary for the continuance of law and order.” (Salt Lake Tribune, April 2, 1916)

SL Tribune Apr 2, 1916 Header

Salt Lake Tribune Section Banner

Actually, the Tribune Review appeared in the News and Gossip of the Stage section of the Newspaper, and was simply a review of the movie. Not exactly front page news. It describes the movie exactly, and how the Klan was depicted in the movie and states that the movie “shows clearly why such extreme measures were necessary…”

But Phantom has to bigotize the whole of this, not realizing that the Deseret News also published a favorable review about The Birth of a Nation:

“The Birth of a Nation” is a thrilling and awe-inspiring revisitation of war—war in all its cruelties; we behold not only the tragedy on the field of battle, where fall the dead and dying, but in the home where wait the aged parents and little brother and sister, or daughter or son, for the message that too often comes telling that the dear one has died for the flag—the Stars and Stripes, or the banner of the blue with the single star. There is a great 30 piece orchestra to aid in the interpreting this photo-drama. Suffice to say, about this organization that it is one of the best musical organizations that has ever visited Salt Lake City. There are only three more performances, tonight and two on Saturday. Those who miss it will always have something to regret.  (Deseret News, April 17, 1916).

Deseret News, April 7, 1916 with favorable review of "Birth of a Nation"

Deseret News, April 7, 1916 with favorable review of “Birth of a Nation”

Don’t miss Birth of a Nation! It’s thrilling and awe-inspiring! If there were any objections to the Ku Klux Klan by the Deseret News, they are not in this article, which says that anyone who doesn’t get to see the film would regret it.  It was a favorable review of the picture, just like the Tribune’s. Funny that. The Birth of a Nation was spectacular and groundbreaking, and many people bought into it’s message, including (say it ain’t so!) many Mormons, just like (yup) many Christians.

The whole point of the movie was to promote the Klan, which it did very effectively. As for The Clansman,  we have already debunked that part of the Phantom’s argument. So much for Mormon vs. Critics in this instance, eh Phantom?

Perhaps The Phantom (or BlackMormon) are also unaware of an interesting article from the Deseret News written by George Q. Cannon from 1868 about the Ku-Klux Klan. It seems that there is more to the story than just the rejection of the Klan by Mormon “Authorities”.

DN, Apr 23, 1868 George Cannon, KKKCannon mentions the murder of George. W. Ashburn, who was assassinated by the Klan on March 30, 1868, who was the first murder victim of the Klan in Georgia.

At the end of the Civil War, Ashburn was appointed a judge by the military Governor of the state, George G. Meade, and was instrumental in authoring provisions in the new Constitution that assured civil rights for blacks. He even lived among the blacks, which infuriated the Klan. After his murder, he was vilified by his enemies, who even accused him of living with a black woman in a house of prostitution.  As Historian David Rose writes,

Historical events do not become flashpoints of contested memory without good reasons. One of the explanations for the posthumous vilification of G. W. Ashburn is the political struggle of which his murder formed a significant part: the largely successful terrorist campaign to limit or remove the rights of Georgia’s African-Americans. This “required” their most important white Columbus advocate to be demonized, and at the same time to be seen as having acted over many years against their real interests. In Telfair’s phrase, the purpose of Ashburn’s assassination was “merely to remove a public menace.” Generations after his death, the guardians of white Southern memory found that the bleakest assessments of his life and character still fitted with their overall view of Reconstruction as a time of Northern cruelty and injustice. (The Big Eddy Club: The Stocking Stranglings and Southern Justice, by David Rose, pages 69-70)

George Q. Cannon (then Managing Editor of the Deseret News) writes that,

The conclusion in many quarters seems to be that the action in the case of Ashburn [against the Klan] has been deliberate and concerted, and it is thought that it may and will be repeated, more or less generally, throughout the Southern States. Those who thus think say the motive of the act is not confined to that locality, nor to the individuals who perpetuated this particular crime. It extends, they say, throughout the Southern States, and influences to a greater or less extent the mass of the white population. Of course there are many who differ from this view, and who assert that there are other organizations in the South, which are more dangerous than the Ku-Klux Klan. There are “Loyal Leagues” and other secret organizations among both whites and blacks—organizations armed and oath-bound all over the country, which have for their object, they state, the elevation of the negro and the subjugation and abasement of the whites.Murder_Of_George_W._Ashburn-001

The condition of the affairs in the South is deplorable. Nearly all concur with this opinion. Thinking men in the North fear that the murder of Ashburn, and the other acts of the Ku-Klux Klan, are but precursors of the “war of races” in the Southern States, of which so much had been said during the last two or three years. Many of the opponents of the reconstruction measures of Congress appear to be of the opinion also that a war of races is inevitable. They expect to see internecine conflicts, and a harvest of blood and rapine follow the policy pursued at present in the South. The organizations of these secret associations are very suggestive at the present time.  (Deseret News, April 23, 1868)

According to Cannon, the Loyal Leagues, (also known as the Union League) were more dangerous than the KKK. And what was the Union League? According to wiki,

Freedman's_bureau

Anti-Black Propaganda 1869

The Union Leagues were a group of mens clubs established during the American Civil War to promote loyalty to the Union, the Republican Party, and the policies of Abraham Lincoln. They were also known as Loyal Leagues. They were composed of upper middle class members who provided financial support for organizations such as the United States Sanitary Commission, which provided medical supplies to treat wounded soldiers after battle. The Clubs supported the Republican Party, with funding, organizational support, and political activism.

During Reconstruction, Union Leagues were formed across the South after 1867 as working auxiliaries of the Republican Party. They mobilized freedmen to register to vote and to vote Republican. They discussed political issues, promoted civic projects, and mobilized workers opposed to certain employers. Most branches were segregated but there were a few that were racially integrated. The leaders of the all-black units were mostly urban blacks from the North, who had never been slaves. Foner (p 283) says “virtually every Black voter in the South had enrolled.”

The Union or Loyal League

The Union or Loyal League had a dual agenda that caused problems

The activities of the Union League in the defeated South during the early Reconstruction years did not meet with much favor among local whites. There, the Union League was dominated by Radical Republicans intent on controlling the black vote and disenfranchising white Democrats, in particular former Confederate soldiers whom they characterized as traitors. Historian Walter Lynwood Fleming asserts that the Union/Loyal League was successful in driving a wedge between blacks and Southern whites where little animus had existed, and used methods of political and violent intimidation—similar to those later used by the first Ku Klux Klan—to destroy the influence of Southern whites in politics and with blacks.

Interesting that Cannon would say that the organization that supported “the elevation of the negro” or civil rights for blacks, (and was not accused of being behind any murders) was more dangerous than the one that did not.

Also interesting, is that the Church thought it important enough to publish a “manifesto” devoted to rationalizing the Ku-Klux Klan in The Millennial Star a month after Cannon’s article appeared in the Deseret News.  This article claims that,

Millennial Star, May 15, 1868

Millennial Star, May 15, 1868

While citizens of the United States can only become members of the Ku Klux Klan, radicals, infidels, and negroes cannot become members of the Ku Klux Klan; for the meaning of the term is a Circle of Friends, the sole object of which is the perpetuity of constitutional liberty. The organization of the Ku Klux Klan originated from a necessity—the result of radical legislation and the formation of the secret political orders of the “Loyal League” and the “Grand Army of the Republic;” consequently the Ku Klux Klan is the effect of radical despotism and injustice. … The Ku Klux Klan is, therefore, a secret political organization, the result of necessity, the sole object of which is to thwart radicalism, arrest negro domination in the South, negro equality in the North, perpetuate the Federal Union, and preserve the constitution as the fathers made it. And whoever asserts to the contrary utters falsehood. That the Ku Klux Klan have secrets unknown to the uninitiated is not denied; so have the ancient orders of Free Masonry, Odd-Fellowship, and other secret orders and societies; but like Free Masonry and Odd-Fellowship the objects of the Ku Klux Klan have thus far been for the first time promulgated. The incredulous and guilty may carp and misrepresent; but the wicked, the ungodly, and perjured, will soon feel the keen edge of the sickle and the invisible boring of the white ant. (Millennial Star, Vol. 30, No. pp. 342-343, May 15, 1868).

Harper's Weekly, November, 1869

Harper’s Weekly, November, 1869

On May 30th, the Star published another article on Secret Societies in which they mention the Ku Klux Klan, along with the proclaimed enemies of the Klan, The Grand Army of the Republic and the Loyal League.  The Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization that was composed of Civil War Veterans, (hardly a secret society) and was never linked to any violence, though it did back the Republican Party.

Though the intentions of the Union League were good, the movement in the South was mostly dominated by radical Republicans, who used some of the same tactics as the Klan (such as violent intimidation), but it died out as a political organization by 1870. It is simply illogical to say though, that this organization was involved in “subjugation and abasement of the whites, since that would go against their own interests. In fact, the term “scalawag” or “carpetbagger” meant someone who was only out for their own interests (mostly northerners) and they were for the most part, white men. Obviously, to Cannon, racial equality meant that the whites would be subjugated and abased.

Chapters of the Union League in the United States continue to exist, and have been instrumental in promoting charity work and projects like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, funding the Statue of Liberty pedestal, and Grant’s Tomb.Freedman's_Bureau_Rations

The existence of these organizations according to the Star article was a “sure sign, among others, of the speedy downfall of that once prosperous and mighty Republic “(the United States). “The Ku Klux Klan, the Loyal League and the Grand Army of the Republic” the article claims, “all secret, oath-bound orders, are spreading fear and dismay through the North and South” and “the overthrow of any nation where they are allowed to exist is only a matter of time.”

The article then mentions the murder of Mr. Ashburn, who was killed by armed and masked men “supposed to be members of the Ku Klux Klan.” It then states that “The Grand Army of the Republic and the Loyal League appear to be in the interest of the Radical party [Republicans], and we shall doubtless soon hear of dark deeds and bloody reprisals on their part.” The article tells “the Saints of God to keep free from all secret combinations and political associations” and that if the United States only repents the Lord will “give them power to search out and destroy those secret combinations.”

This article also states that God “permitted” Satan to work among the Nephites and Jaredites with his “secret and wicked suggestions and deceptions by which such bands as Gadiantons were organized, and the same measure which a guilty people had meted out to God’s Prophets, was measured to them again pressed down and running over.”

Freedmen's Bureau_whites&blacks

A Race War seemed inevitable, but never happened in spite of Mormon prophecy

The article also states that “the United States is guilty of shedding the innocent blood of the Prophet Joseph Smith and many of the Latter-day Saints, and of striving to accomplish the destruction of the people of God,” and that “the Lord is now bestowing upon them the reward of their wickedness.” They predict that if the United States continues “in their present course, their present troubles will increase, secret combinations will multiply among them, their leaders will fall by the hand of treachery, party feuds and a war of races will waste them away.”

The article also links these secret societies to Cain, claiming that “the oaths and covenants of the secret order which was established among the Jaredites, and afterwards among the Nephites and Lamanites, were the same that were had in the days of Cain, who received them from the Father of Evil.”

“It is interesting”, claims this article “to watch the progress of events in the United States, the great nation of the Gentiles, so frequently referred to in the Book [of Mormon] and to see in the gradual fulfilment of its predictions, a repetition of the same incidents and occurrences which it describes. The old secret combinations of the Gadiantons are revived, and an era of bloodshed and terror is re-inaugurated. The Chief Magistrate of the nation was smitten down in the midst of his friends in the very hour of his triumph, like Pahoran upon the judgement seat, and secret, oath-bound orders, like that which planned his death, are now bringing about similar destruction to that which overtook the Jaredite and Nephite nations upon the same land.”

Assassination of Lincoln, Currier & Ives

Assassination of Lincoln, Currier & Ives

So what is this article decrying then? So called secret societies that “lead to the shedding of blood”; certainly not racism. Joseph Smith had himself predicted that “slaves shall rise up against their masters” which would be part of a war that would be “poured out upon all nations” (D&C 76). It seems that they would help sweep the “wicked Gentiles” off the American Continent, until there were non left but the Mormons and the Indians. Parley P. Pratt was so certain that this would happen by the date Joseph Smith gave for the return of Jesus Christ that he gave a prophecy about it, declaring that if it did not come true, the Book of Mormon was false:

Concerning prophecy, he [LaRoy Sunderland – Zion’s Watchman] remarks that “it cannot be proved, that one prediction in that book, which is not taken from the bible, was written before the event, said to be described.” Again he says, “there are no predictions, peculiar to this book, yet to be fulfilled, no names of persons or places, or periods of time, are referred to, by which anything definite can be known, as to what is meant by the jargon of Mormon Prophets.” Now, Mr. La Roy Sunderland, we will prove to the world that this in one of the most barefaced falsehoods ever uttered by man. The Book of Mormon contains many prophecies, yet future, with names, places, and dates, so definite, that a child may understand; indeed, it is one of the peculiar characteristics of the Book of Mormon, that its predictions are plain, simple, definite, literal, positive and very express, as to the time of their fulfilment. Notice a prediction of Nephi, page 125, second edition. “For after the book of which I have spoken, shall come forth, and be written unto the Gentiles, and sealed up again unto the Lord, there shall be many, which shall believe the words which are written, and they shall carry them forth, unto the remnant of our seed, (the Indians) and then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us; how that we came on from Jerusalem; and that they are the descendants of the Jews; and the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be declared among them; wherefore they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers; and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers; and then shall they rejoice for they shall know, that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God. And their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delightsome people. And it shall come to pass that the Jews which are scattered also shall begin to believe in Christ; and they shall begin to gather in upon the face of the land; and as many as shall believe in Christ, shall also be a delightsome people; and it shall come to pass, that the Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth. * * * For the time speedily cometh, that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy, and he will spare his people.”

Also page 121, 2d edition. “Behold that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof: for the kingdom of the devil must shake; and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance. or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger and perish; for behold at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.”

Also, page 122 2nd edition. “Woe unto all those who tremble and are angry, because of the truth of God; for behold he that is built upon the rock, receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth, lest he shall fall.” Also. page 123 2nd edition. “Woe be unto the Gentiles, says the Lord God of Hosts; for notwithstanding I shall lengthen out my arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me.” See also, page 514, and read the fate of our nation, and the fate of the Indians of America; in the day that the Gentiles should reject the fullness of the gospel.–(The Book of Mormon.) See also, page 526, where a sign is given, and the time clearly set for the restoration and gathering of Israel from their long dispersion, namely, the coming forth the Book of Mormon, should be the sign; and in the day this work should come forth, SHOULD THIS GREAT EVENT COMMENCE among all nations. Also, p. 527, where all who will not hearken to the Book of Mormon, shall be cut off from among the people; and that too, in the day it comes forth to the Gentiles and is rejected by them. And not only does this page set the time for the overthrow of our government and all other Gentile governments on the American continent, but the way and means of this utter destruction are clearly foretold; namely, the remnant of Jacob will go through among the Gentiles and tear them in pieces. like a lion among the flocks of sheep. Their hand shall be lifted up upon their adversaries, and all their enemies shall be cut off. This destruction includes an utter overthrow, and desolation of all our Cities, Forts, and Strong Folds–an entire annihilation of our race, except such as embrace the Covenant, and are numbered with Israel.Parley_P_Pratt_Predicts_End_Of_The_World

Now, Mr. Sunderland, you have something definite and tangible, the time, the manner, the means, the names, the dates; and I will state as a prophecy, that there will not be an unbelieving Gentile upon this continent 50 years hence; and if they are not greatly scourged, and in a great measure overthrown, within five or ten years from this date, then the Book of Mormon will have proved itself false. And furthermore, as Mr. LaRoy Sunderland has lied concerning the truth of Heaven, the fulness of the Gospel; and has blasphemed against the word of God, except he speedily repent, and acknowledge his lying and wickedness, and obey the message of eternal truth, which God has sent for the salvation of his people. God will smite him dumb, that he can no longer speak great swelling words against the Lord; and a trembling shall seize his nerves, that he shall not be able to write; and Zion’s Watchman shall cease to be published abroad, and its lies shall no longer deceive the public; and he will wander a vagabond on the earth, until sudden destruction shall overtake him; and if Mr. La Roy Sunderland enquires, when shall these things be? I reply, it is nigh thee–even at thy doors; and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I hope Mr. Sunderland, will no more complain of the jargon of the Mormon Prophets being unintelligible or indefinite. (Parley P. Pratt, Mormonism Unveiled, 1838, p.14 – p.16)

There never was any interest in rebutting the admitted aim of the Ku Klux Klan, which their manifesto stated was to oppose “negro equality and negro domination”, and to promote “white men, and white men alone [who] are the comprehensive exponents of constitutional liberty, and must and will exclusively rule and govern the American republic.” This is exactly in line with what Brigham Young stated when he said that,

There is not one of the seed of old Cane that is permitted to rule & reign over the seed of Abel And you nor I cannot Help it. … The Devil would like to rule part of the time But I am determin He shall not rule at all and Negros shall not rule us. I will not admit of the Devil ruling at all. I will not Consent for the seed of Cane to vote for me or my Brethren. If you want to know why we did not speak of it in the Constitution it was because it was none of their Business. Any man is a Citizens Black white or red and if the Jews Come here with a part of the [p.99] Canaanite Blood in them they are Citizens & shall have their rights but not to rule for me or my Brother.  … The Canaanite cannot have wisdom to do things as the white man has. We must guard against all Evil. I am not going to let this people damn themselves as long as I can help it.

This was the reason for the Priesthood ban, which went hand in hand with the doctrine that Joseph Smith was teaching from the Bible since 1836:

“DEAR SIR: —This place (Kirtland) having recently been visited by a gentleman who advocated the principles or doctrines of those who are called ABOLITIONISTS, and his presence having created an interest in that subject, if you deem the following reflections of any service, or think they will have a tendency to correct the opinions of

"let loose upon the world"

“let loose upon the world a community of people who might… overrun our country and violate…chastity and virtue…”

the Southern public,…you are at liberty to give them publicity… I FEAR that the sound might go out, that ‘an Abolitionist’ had held forth several times to this community,…all, except a very few, attended to their own vocations, and left the gentleman to hold forth his own arguments to nearly naked walls. I am aware that many, who PROFESS to preach the Gospelcomplain against their brethren of the same faith, who reside in the South, and are ready to withdraw the hand of fellowship, because they will not renounce the principle of slavery, and raise their voice against every thing of the kind. This must be a tender point, and one which should call forth the candid reflections of all men, and more especially before they advance in an opposition calculated to lay waste the fair states of the South, and let loose upon the world a community of people, who might, peradventure, OVERRUN OUR COUNTRY, AND VIOLATE THE MOST SACRED PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN SOCIETY, CHASTITY AND VIRTUE…. I do not believe that the people of the North have any more right to say that the South shall not hold slaves, than the South have to say the North shall. “How any community can ever be excited with the CHATTER of such persons, boys and others, who are too indolent to obtain their living by honest industry, and are incapable of pursuing any occupation of a professional nature, is unaccountable to me; and when I see persons in the free states, signing documents against slavery, it is no less, in my mind, than an army of influence, and a DECLARATION OF HOSTILITIES, against the people of the South. What course can sooner divide our union? “After having expressed myself so freely upon this subject, I do not doubt, but those who have been forward in raising their voices against the South, will cry out against me as being uncharitable, unfeeling, unkind, and wholly unacquainted with the Gospel of Christ….the first mention we have of SLAVERY is found in the Holy Bible,… And so far from that prediction being averse to the mind of God, it remains as a lasting monument of the DECREE OF JEHOVAH, to the shame and confusion of all who HAVE CRIED OUT against the South, in consequence of their holding the sons of Ham in SERVITUDE…. I can say, the CURSE IS NOT YET TAKEN OFF FROM THE SONS OF CANAAN, neither will be until it is affected by as great a power as caused it to come; and the people who INTERFERE THE LEAST WITH THE PURPOSES OF GOD in this matter, will come under the LEAST CONDEMNATION BEFORE HIM; and those who are determined to pursue a course, which shows an opposition, and a feverish restlessness against the DECREES OF THE LORD, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do his own work, without the aid of those who are not dictated by His counsel.” (Letter from Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery, April 9, 1836, for the Messenger and Advocate, Vol. 2, No. 7, pp. 289-291. See also, History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Vol. 2, pages 436-438)

The Phantom blames the whole Priesthood Ban on events that involved William McCary, but if that is so, then how did this article appear in the Times and Seasons only 8 months after Joseph Smith’s death:

After the flood and after Ham had dishonored the holy priesthood, Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his younger son Ham, had done unto him. And, as the priesthood descended from father to son, he delivered the following curse and blessing, as translated by King James’ wise men and recorded in Genesis:

“And he said, cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.”

“And he said, blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.”

“God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.”

History and common observation show that these predictions have been fulfilled to the letter. The descendants of Ham, besides a BLACK SKIN which has ever been a curse that has followed an apostate of the holy priesthood, as well as A BLACK HEART, have been servants to both Shem and Japheth, and the abolitionists are trying to make void the curse of God, but it will require more power than man possesses to counteract the decrees of eternal wisdom.

Again Shem or his descendants were blessed with receiving the revelations, prophets, and Savior:-A blessing truly which even the most sagacious infidel has not been able to explain away.

Again, Japheth has dwelt in Shem’s tent, both in the land of Canaan and in America; for “tents” is a figurative expression which in Hebrew, would signify the residence or abode.

noahs-sonsNow our short chapter will soon end, for the Savior said Jerusalem should be trodden down till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, and the very movement of every nation shows the eternal truth of the above quoted passage of scripture. It frustrates the designs of sectarians; it chokes the deists; astonishes the world, and delights the saints-Amen. (Times and Seasons, April 1, 1845, Vol. 6 No. 6, pg. 857)

At that time John Taylor was the editor of the Times and Seasons. The Phantom then tries to enlighten us with a little history lesson:

Well, that was then and this is now. Except the LDS church has never authoritatively justified, apologized for, or retracted the many boldly racist theories and observations its leadership at least in singular cases has made over the generations. Was it racism in the dictionary sense? Yes, in many cases it was, but not because of the priesthood restriction itself so much, as Mormon leadership’s clearly human and bigoted attempts to rationalize this vaguely canonical restriction by inventing supplemental folk-doctrine and applying faulty and biased “scientific” or “empirical” evidence to prove the Negro race deserving of the ban. They did this, because otherwise, the[y] knew either they or God would look petty and unfair.

The curse of Cain is however, still stuck solid in the Christian canon. Christians interpreted the curse to be a black skin and being a perpetual slave. It’s clarified to mean only a restriction from the priesthood in Mormon canon. But you’re stuck with a scriptural curse on Cain and his descendants either way. If none of the Mormon canon existed you’d still have an accursed Cain. God’s curse was indeed Biblically argued as justification for institutionalizing American slavery–but not by Joseph Smith or the Mormons. That was Christian America who did that. Until they killed him for it, Ol’ Joe Smith was in fact running for US president on an Abolitionist platform.

DetailPortRoyalSouthCarolinaSlaveQuartersLOCLC-DIG-cwpb-00806sliderpanelActually, I just proved that Joseph Smith taught the Curse of Cain from the scriptures in 1836, and was against Abolitionism. And isn’t the curse of the black skin still in the Book of Mormon, and the curse of Cain doctrine still in the Book of Abraham? In fact, Smith would repeat his views against Abolitionism in 1838:

“Are the Mormons abolitionists?” No, unless delivering the people from priestcraft, and the priests from the power of Satan, should be considered abolition. But we do not believe in setting the negroes free (History of the Church, vol. 3, p. 29).

And this view was even canonized in 1835:

12. We believe it just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world; but we do not believe it right to interfere with bond-servants, neither preach the gospel to, nor baptize them, contrary to the will and wish of their masters, nor to meddle with, or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men: interference we believe to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every Government allowing human beings to be held in servitude. (1835 Doctrine and Covenants, Section CII. Of Governments and Laws in General.)

sustain the prophetAs for his presidential platform, that too is a myth. Smith actually opposed Abolitionism, even then:

“On the annexation of Texas, some object. The anti-Mormons are good fellows. I say it in anticipation they will repent. {page 23} Object to Texas on account of slavery. Tis the very reason why she should be received.

“Houston says, ‘Gentleman, if you refuse to receive us we must go to the British’ 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 — more honorable for us to receive them [Texas]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 {page 24} in the teeth. If these things are not so God never spoke by any prophet since the world began. I have been [several lines left blank] ] south held the balance of power &c. by annexing Texas, I can do away this evil liberate 2 or 3 states and if that was not sufficient, call in Canada.

Send the negroes to Texas [and] 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” (Joseph Smith Diary, Feb. 8, 1844, Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, p.456-7)

negro-soldiers-fort-wagner“Use the negro and indians against our foes”. Make them equal, but separate. Of course this would not really be equal if they were forced from American Society and restricted to a country of their own, would it? He even disses the Hispanics. This is ample proof that Joseph’s views about equalization were simply politics.

Texas came into the Union as a Slave State. Smith was all for it. Smith claimed that some “objected” to Texas being admitted to the union on account of slavery, but said that “THIS WAS THE VERY REASON WHY SHE SHOULD BE RECEIVED”, and was for freeing the slaves ONLY to use against a British Invasion. And how would Smith use the negroes and Indians against our foes if they did not want to fight? Make it a condition of freedom? How is that not slavery? But he was still against intermarriage, so he was still a racist:

Thursday, Feb[ruary] 8[th] 1844 [several lines left blank] Court trial on 2 negroes trying to marry white women. Fined 1, $25.00 and 1, $5.00. Evening had a political Meeting in the assembly room and Br[other] Phelps publicly read my views of the Gen[eral] Government for the first time. Elders Hyde and Taylor made a speech and myself also.(An American Prophet’s Record)

A 19th Century interracial familyHad anything changed by 1920? No, the Church was still against any political organizations that used violence to promote their agendas, not because of racism, but because they were linked to the political secret societies mentioned in the Book of Mormon, which were supposedly all “of the devil”.  We then have the Phantom giving us a few snips from a Deseret News article from 1920. Will it condemn racism? Or will it only condemn methods? Here is what Phantom writes,

The Church owned “Deseret News” calls the KKK “an insult and a menace to orderly government” that would lead “to riot and bloodshed.”—1920s  (See Deseret News, 23 Dec., 1920)

The article states that,

“The organization is being worked out along somewhat different lines than was its predecessor of the same name years ago, but its object is avowedly the same—to maintain white supremacy. What means may be taken to attain this object will depend upon circumstances.”

The article then goes on to describe the methods of the “new” Klan, which they say “keep the superstitious negroes trembling with fear.”

The article then states that “In Virginia, for example it is pointed out that the negroes are for the most part well behaved and peaceable. Revival of the Ku Klux Klan will stir up far more trouble than it will cure—trouble that may speedily develop into riot and bloodshed.”Killing Blacks Antebellum South-001

Nowhere does the article state that the Deseret News condemns the racism of the Klan or their white supremacy views, only their methods, and even adds that the Klansmen “should realize they are proceeding in a wrong way to attain these ideals and that the method they seem to have adopted, following the same lines as the organization of years ago, is an insult and a menace to orderly government.” Again, method was at the heart of the objections to the Klan.

By 1921, the Klan had made inroads into Utah, and so Church “Authorities” spoke up. The Klan was not rejected by the Mormon people outright. As Kerry William Bate writes,

The Ku Klux Klan first organized in Utah in 1921, and after some initial struggles, false starts, and internal feuding, chapters sprung up statewide. There were fiery evidences of its success; crosses were burned in Ogden and on Salt Lake’s Ensign Peak, as well as in little hamlets and burgs throughout the state: Eureka, Tooele, Dividend, Centerville, Magna, Brigham City, Bingham, West, Jordan, Helper, Spring Glen, Richfield. The movie Birth of a Nation perpetuated the Klan’s mystique: the “problems” facing native Utahns in the 1920s gave it an immediate and practical impetus.

One of the first causes of Klan activity was hatred of southern European immigrants who were seen as Catholic, heavy drinking, whoring unionists who, if allowed to run lose, would bring Bolshevism or worse upon the state. Consequently, the KKK was most successful in areas where mining had attracted immigrants. Working closely with Masonic orders, the Klan had such a high profile that Cedar City’s college debated it as a timely issue of the day.

Once organized, the Ku Klux Klan began a campaign to gain political power in the state. On the surface, it might have seemed an easy thing, for besides the xenophobia of the local culture, racism was so acceptable that social clubs held “Nigger Night” in LDS wardhouses, and it was commonly believed that Anglo-Saxons were morally, mentally, and socially superior. The emergence of a successful immigrant entrepreneurial class further fueled resentment and seemed to guarantee Klan success in the Beehive state.

In some ways it was successful. Plenty of cross burnings indicated to immigrants that life in Utah meant they should be quiet, submissive, and fearful. Blacks were terrorized. Catholics intimidated, and in Price it was demanded that only “American” be spoken. (Perhaps English was too difficult for Utah natives.)kkk-cross-burning

Politically, the Klan made some impressive inroads. They helped defeat an Ogden mayor and were credited with a sweep of their candidates in Salt Lake City. They controlled Helper’s government, infiltrated the Salt Lake County Republican Party (pro-Klan editorials appeared in one Republican newspaper), and there were Klan sympathizers or members in several different law enforcement agencies.

These frightening successes mobilized anti-Klan sentiment. The objects of Klan hatred responded with outrage. A rally in Ogden was disrupted: despite secrecy and masks, many Klan members were identified and their businesses boycotted; the Klan’s concrete platform in Carbon County was dynamited; and Catholics burned circles in contempt for the blazing crosses.

Newspapers joined in the castigation of KKK activities. The unrelenting hostility of the Ogden Standard-Examiner practically destroyed it in that community. The Logan Journal classified the Klan with “anarchists and Bolshevists. Other papers ran letters from missionaries serving in the South, who pointed out that the Klan in that region was still harassing Mormons.

Ogden, Salt Lake City, and Logan passed anti-mask ordinances which were more successful in interrupting Halloween and de-bearding Santa Claus than they were in unmasking the KKK. but which resulted in giving the Klan the unenviable reputation as the organization that banned Santa.

One is tempted to believe the Klan was laughed out of existence, but it was not that simple. Another, stronger power structure took on the Utah Klan and overpowered it. That power structure was Mormonism. (Sunstone, Volume 7, September-October 1982, p. 66)birth-of-nation-movie-poster-big

But what exactly did they object to? The Klan’s racist ideology? Here is Charles Nibley at the October General Conference of 1921:

There are great problems also before our nation, which demand solution; they are burning, pressing questions which must be solved, and which can only be solved on the principles of righteousness. These principles will help to adjust the jarring, warring, contentious problems which selfishness very largely produces, and which can only be solved through the principles that the Lord has revealed. It is not in man that walks, to guide his steps aright. It is not in man of his own power to solve these problems, nor can any man do it of himself alone. It is only by the help of the Spirit of the Almighty that will bring us to the point where justice and righteousness can at least approximately be approached. We have had contentions in our own nation during the recent months of railroad strikes, coal strikes, and other contentions that have threatened the very existence of our government; and also there have grown up in our nation, secret organizations, combinations of men, no doubt desiring to protect their own selfish interests, even though those interests should conflict with the strict principles of justice. Some of these organizations like the Ku Klux Klan have undertaken to administer what they call justice, independent of Constitutional law, and the rights of men, and they have taken the law into their own hands and have dealt with certain people in a way which can only result in disorder, turmoil, strife, and in the breaking down of Constitutional law. For these Secret organizations undertake to administer punishment upon men and women, irrespective of the laws of the land.negroes-discussing-political-rights

It has been the counsel of the leaders of this Church from the beginning, to observe the Constitutional law of the land, and it is stated in the revelations that whatsoever is more than this or less than this, cometh of evil. We do not need anything outside of this strict letter of the law, for if we do go beyond it, or come tardy of it, we are liable to make a mistake. The agency that the Lord has given to his sons and daughters was given to all — the free agency to choose between right and wrong, and that agency makes us free, for the Lord has said, “If ye abide in my truth, then are ye free indeed.” Now, whenever any man enters any organization, secret or otherwise, that takes from him a certain degree of that free agency to choose between right and wrong, and makes of him a servant, to do as he is told in certain matters, quite irrespective of the righteousness or justice of the case, or of the right or wrong of the case, then that man surrenders that much of his free agency which he ought not under any circumstances to surrender. (Charles W. Nibley, Conference Report, October 1922, p.37)

Nibley does not mention anything about the Klan’s racist agenda. He only mentions that they take the law into their own hands, and therefore this is what results in “disorder, turmoil, strife and the breaking down of Constitutional Law. The Phantom then give us this quote by the Deseret News from 1921:

“So far as its operations are known–its secrecy, its mummery, its terrorism, its lawlessness–it is condemned…These mountain communities of ours have no place whatever for it in their social scheme of things…[he who tries to establish it among us] should be made emphatically to understand that his local endeavors will be worse than wasted, and his objects [goals] are detested, and his [absence] is preferred to his company. The people of Utah have no taste or patience for such criminal nonsense…”—1921 (See Deseret News, July 23, 1921)

Lots of ellipses in this quote. Seems to be a trend with the Phantom. The relevant section of the article without the ellipsis reads,

So far as its operations are known—its secrecy, its mummery, its terrorism, its lawlessness- it is to be condemned as inimical to the peace, order and dignity of the commonwealth.

Nothing here about racism. Again, this addresses the Klan’s methods, (as Charles Nibley did in Conference) not their racism. We are then told, according to the Phantom:

Because of the Church’s condemnation of the KKK, the KKK “Grand Wizard” of Wyoming considers the Church it’s “greatest enemy.” “In the Realm of Utah and scattered over the West in general, we have another enemy, which is more subtle and far more cunning [than other anti-KKK groups] in carrying its efforts against this organization…the Latter-day Saint Religion!”—1923 (See Papers Read at the Meetings of Grand Dragons, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, 1923, pp.112-3)Papers Read at the Meeting of Grand Dragons Knights of the Ku Klux Klan at Their First Annual Meeting Held at Asheville, North Carolina, July 1923, pages 112-113.

Here we have another case of misquoting. If one reads what is actually written in the Book cited, there is no way that the Klan considered the Mormon Church to be its “greatest enemy”, and the Grand Wizard says nothing at all about the Church’s “condemnation” of the Klan:

In addition to the Roman Catholicism, in the Realm of Utah and scattered over the west in general, we have another enemy, which is more subtile and far more cunning in carrying out his efforts against this organization.

They have excellent schools, well conducted but build their church in the same yard with the school and where this is not possible use the schoolhouse itself for religious purpose, teaching the Latter Day Saints religion constantly in the class room, ever keeping in mind the power that is exerted on American youths, yet avoiding all external appearance of being un-American.

The Mormons are unlike the Catholics in marriage, seeking rather than avoiding, the inter-marriage of their women with Protestant men, thereby hoping for conversions and the concentration of capital into their strongholds. Let us study this situation and make a decision just what is the best method to pursue.

The history of Mormon political activity has always been along the line of showing favors where something was to be obtained for their personal benefit. The first marked recorded instance of this action occurred at Nauvoo, Ill., back in 1841 when the Prophet Joseph Smith and Dr. Bennett a smooth politician, secured the Charter for the city of Nauvoo and the Nauvoo Legion, giving them military control greater than in any part of the state as though they were a separate part of the state of Illinois.

They set at naught the laws of the land when the same conflict with their teachings even going so far as to practice polygamy and other things that are equally distasteful to the majority of American citizens. Claiming they have a right to do so because the head of their church, according to their belief, is in direct communication with God.

A case is now on trial in the state of Utah to test the law with regard to whether a candidate who has been elected to office through ecclesiastical influence can hold the office to which he has been elected. Through intrigue it now looks as though the law has a good chance to be set aside in order to carry out the wishes of the heads of the Mormon church.

Instead of including the entire paragraph, Phantom (and whoever originally put this quote together) just uses ellipses to make the KKK say what he wants them to say. Some would call this dishonest.Go to the TopBirth_of_a_Nation_poster_2

III. Nameless Oracles?

In 1870, Brigham Young preached a sermon to the assembled Latter-day Saints in the newly constructed Salt Lake Tabernacle, and said:

“I will make a statement here that has been brought against me as a crime, perhaps, or as a fault in my life. Not here, I do not allude to anything of the kind in this place, but in the councils of the nations—that Brigham Young has said “when he sends forth his discourses to the world they may call them Scripture.” I say now, when they are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible, and if you want to read revelation read the sayings of him who knows the mind of God…” (Brigham Young, October 6, 1870. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 264)

As far as the Tabernacle (this place) is concerned, in 1952 Stephen L. Richard, then First Councilor to David O. Mckay, stated:

“In the providence of the Lord, this pulpit has never been any one man’s forum. Rather it has been the oracle of a divine dispensation where the cause has overshadowed the man, where humility has higher rating than self-assurance, where worship is measured in deeds rather than protestations.

Ponder for a moment, my brethren and sisters, and all who listen, the glorious and vital truths which have been proclaimed in this building — the nature and composition of the Godhead, the organization of the universe, the history and placement of man in the earth, his purpose in living, and the divine destiny set for him, the laws governing his conduct and his eligibility for exaltation in the celestial presence the true concept of family life in the eternal progression of the race, the truth about liberty and the place of governments in the earth, the correct concept of property, its acquisition and distribution, the sure foundations for peace, brotherhood, and universal justice. All these elemental things, and many others incident thereto, have been the burden of the message of truth which has come from this building through the generations.

…What confidence and assurance it brings to us to know that our men and women of today, surrounded by an environment radically different from that of our forebears who brought this great building into existence, proclaim the same doctrine as did they. How upsetting it would be if we had to choose between the principles and doctrines of their time and ours. We in this Tabernacle hear the same message as did the people in Kirtland and Nauvoo.Salt Lake Tabernacle

It is true that methods and practices change. They have done in the past, and they may be expected to in the future. It is within the province of a receptive priesthood, obedient to the inspiration of our Father, to adopt and adjust methods, looking toward the advancement of his kingdom. It is also within the province of his chosen servants to interpret and apply the law, but they will never change it, for the law of God is eternal.

… In all humility I bear witness that here is the seat of the government of the kingdom of God, here is the place where the authorized servants of our Lord are sustained and confirmed by the voice of the people. Here in this venerated Tabernacle has every President of the Church, save only one been upheld as prophet, seer, and revelator, and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From here has gone forth the law out of Zion, and the blessings, the love and compassion of the servants of the Lord for his children.

Every portion of the building was dedicated that it might fulfill its sacred purpose. Listen to the words regarding this historic rostrum, where my associates of the General Authorities of the Church now sit in your presence: “And we dedicate and consecrate that portion of this house where our president and thy servants now are, to be a holy and sacred place wherein thy servants may stand forth to declare thy words and minister unto thy people in the name of thy Son forever….

“May thy holy angels and ministering spirits be in and round about this habitation, that when thy servants are called upon to stand in these sacred places, to minister unto thy people, the visions of eternity may be open to their view, and they may be filled with the spirit and inspiration of the Holy Ghost and the gift and power of God; and let all thy people who hearken to the words of thy servants drink freely at the fountain of the waters of life that they may become wise unto salvation, and thereby overcome the world and be prepared for an everlasting inheritance in the celestial kingdom of our God….

“We pray thee to bless the Twelve Apostles; fill them with the spirit of their office and calling, clothe them with the intelligence of heaven, the light of revelation, and the gift and power of God.”  (President Stephen L. Richard, Conference Report, April 1952, p.43-49).

As for the changing nature of Mormon Doctrine mentioned by Richard, see Salt Lake City Messenger, Joseph Smith’s Changing Scriptures, no. 116 (May 2011).

This claim to know the mind of God and that his discourses were “good as scripture”, was not an idle boast by Brigham Young, who made this claim on more than one occasion.

In an earlier address, Young said:

Well, brethren and sisters, try and be Saints. I will try; I have tried many years to live according to the law which the Lord reveals unto me. I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them into the celestial kingdom, as I know the road to my office. It is just as plain and easy. The Lord is in our midst. He teaches the people continually. I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. The people have the oracles of God continually. In the days of Joseph, revelation was given and written, and the people were driven from city to city and place to place, until we were led into these mountains. Let this go to the people with “Thus saith the Lord,” and if they do not obey it, you will see the chastening hand of the Lord upon them. But if they are plead with, and led along like children, we may come to understand the will of the Lord and He may preserve us as we desire. (Journal of Discourses Vol. 13,  p.139, January 2, 1870).

But do the collected sermons of Brigham Young and other Mormon ‘General Authorities’, compiled in the Journal of Discourses and other publications qualify as Mormon doctrine? As with many other aspects of the Mormon Church, this view has changed over time. In recent years, the Mormon Church has made official declarations concerning the Journal of Discourses, (one of the greatest collection of early sermons in print) the most recent of which can be found on the Church’s official website:

“The Journal of Discourses is not an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a compilation of sermons and other materials from the early years of the Church, which were transcribed and then published. It included some doctrinal instruction but also practical teaching, some of which is speculative in nature and some of which is only of historical interest.” ( This quote can be found here).

But this has not always been the case, as we shall see below. Most Mormons today have a view of the Journal of Discourses as untrustworthy, error-filled, second-hand speeches that are of little consequence except perhaps for their historical value. In comparing them to recent General Conference Addresses, a poster on an LDS Social Network Forum put it this way:

The JOD are not necessarily the same as conference talks. They were written by second hand witnesses, and not by the speaker. Nor were they approved or edited by the apostles, and they were never sustained or approved by the body of the church. So, they are useful from a historic standpoint, but are in no way considered declarations of truth, as the Ensign transcripts are.(This quote can be found here).

Mormons seem to have convinced themselves that the Journal of Discourses are no longer a “vehicle of doctrine”, as Brigham Young Jr. attested they were in 1867. He said,

Brigham Young, Jr.

Brigham Young, Jr.

Each successive year the power of God is manifestly increasing upon his people, and more especially upon His ministers in the Holy Priesthood, whose duty it is to build up and instruct the Church in His most holy will. The “Journal of Discourses” is a vehicle of doctrine, counsel, and instruction to all people, but especially to the Saints. It follows, then, that each successive volume is more and more valuable as the Church increases in numbers and importance in the earth, and its doctrines become more abundantly developed and are brought into practical exercise by His peculiar people. Every step of its advancement is fraught with the greatest possible importance to the human family. No Saint can afford to do without these precious precepts until they are able to exemplify them in their daily lives and conversation.(Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, p. iii (1867)

But a thorough study of their historical background, and the statements of Mormon Authorities will show that this (that they are not doctrine) is not the case.

On January 2, 1870 Brigham Young said that “the Lord is in our midst”, and that ‘the people have the oracles of God continually.”

Just what are the “oracles of God,” and what is the significance of this expression? The Apostle Paul, in the Book of Romans explains:

“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” (Romans 3:1-3 (KJV)

The New International Version of the Bible translates verse 2 as “the words of God”. So Brigham Young is telling the Saints that they have the words of God continually. Paul’s words in verse three become very important, because it goes to the heart of how the early Mormons viewed their prophets and apostles. Paul tells us, “for what if some did not believe, shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?”

In the above quote about the Journal of Discourses by our Mormon friend, we read:

“Nor were they approved or edited by the apostles, and they were never sustained or approved by the body of the church. So, they are useful from a historic standpoint, but are in no way considered declarations of truth, as the Ensign transcripts are.”

We shall find that the first part of this statement is untrue (they were approved and edited as attested to by George D. Watt, See Chapter 6 of The Mormon Passage of George D. Watt), but it is the second part of the statement I wish to focus on.

Does the fact that they were “never sustained or approved by the body of the church” make them any less “declarations of truth”? Are the Conference addresses printed in the Ensign any different in this regard? Paul answers this question with his declaration that “shall their unbelief” (or lack of a church vote) “make the faith of God” (or the statements of His ‘oracles’) “without effect”? Not according to the early Mormon Authorities.

On March 8, 1833 Joseph Smith recorded a “revelation” that has become Section 90 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Here, Smith writes that he has the ‘keys to the kingdom’ and the ‘oracles’:

“Thus saith the Lord, verily, verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee, according to thy petition, for thy prayers and the prayers of thy brethren have come up into my ears. Therefore, thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom given unto you; which kingdom is coming forth for the last time. Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come; Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church. And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house.”  (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 90:1-5.  See also, D&C 21:1, 2, 4-6, 5:10, 1:4-5).

Daniel H. Well, Apostle and Second Counselor to Brigham Young explains that Church Authorities are ‘living oracles’:

Daniel Hamner Wells

Daniel Hamner Wells

“We are blessed in having the living oracles in our midst, and in having a standard erected around which we can rally. The Bible is good, and we believe in it more than any other people. The Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants are the word of God, and they contain many precious gems; every line is full of knowledge, intelligence, and truth, and is calculated to be a benefit to us; but yet, above and far beyond all, we have the living oracles in our midst to tell us what to do to-day. A great portion of the Scripture we have was the living oracles to the people in the day in which it was given, and it has become Scripture because it was given by the inspiration of the Almighty. It was applicable to the day in which it was given. We have the living oracles in our midst to give us that which is applicable to our day. Let us make our ways correspond to the Lord’s, for we read that “as high as the heavens are above the earth so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts.” We are blessed in having His ways made known to us, because He knows best. He has more knowledge and understanding and greater ability, and can perform and accomplish more than any other power that exists; and that people only may be said to be blessed who walk in His ways and do His bidding.” (Daniel H. Wells, Journal of Discourses Vol. 13, pages 28-29).

This is not a light claim. The “living” words of God. Marion G. Romney would make perfectly clear what this meant:

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

Apostle John Taylor gives the criteria for all who would “teach the things of God”:

“Well, who were the ancient Apostles? They were men chosen and selected by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Who were these Prophets? Men who were in possession of the spirit of prophecy; and you show me a man who is called and inspired of God to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I will show you a Prophet, for we are told that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy;” and if a man has not the spirit of prophecy and revelation he is not the man to teach the things of God, for that is the principle by which all God’s chosen and authorized ministers in every age have been inspired, and by which they have taught the things of eternal life to the children of men.” ( Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16, page 372).

Taylor would also expound on the other ‘General Authorities’ of the Church, and their responsibility:

“And then come the general authorities, who preside over and minister in the affairs of the Church in all the earth. These general quorums are not local, are not limited to any particular Stake or quorum. Their business is to see that the Gospel is preached to the whole world; to impart counsel by the spirit of revelation according to the spirit of their apostleship and calling, as special witnesses and messengers to the world of mankind. These are the First Presidency, and the Twelve Apostles and the Seventies, whose calling and duty is to labor under the direction of the Twelve and bear the gospel to all nations and to regulate the affairs of the Church in all the world. These general authorities are therefore brought before the general conference assembled, for their approval and for them to uphold and sustain by their faith and prayers; and in like manner are they presented at the several Stake conferences so as to reach the masses of the people, to insure the confidence and prayers of the whole people, for whom they minister, and whose eyes are upon them, who are criticising their teachings, their walk and conversation before God and man.

For God proposes to deal with His Church as a whole, and as a whole to hold them responsible to work the works of righteousness and to defend the faith of the everlasting gospel committed to them, and to purify and sanctify the whole Church and see that evil is put away from our midst, whether it be in the family circle or private walks of life, or in its high officials and those who minister in public capacites; in like manner he requires of them to see that all our organizations and municipalities are in a wholesome condition, and are administered with integrity and uprightness before God and the people.

And as mouthpieces of the Almighty and as watchmen upon the walls of Zion, God requires of us his servants, the Apostles, the Elders, the Presidents of Stakes, and the Bishops everywhere, not only to minister in their several callings in a church capacity, but also to instruct officers of every kind intrusted with the municipal affairs of life, that they may be found faithful in magnifying the law and discharging the trust reposed in them in secular affairs as well as ecclesiastical; for civil organizations and powers of civil government are also appointed and ordained of heaven for the welfare of mankind, for the protection of all flesh. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, p. 183-4, Apr. 7, 1879).

Wilford Woodruff circa 1880

Wilford Woodruff circa 1880

Wilford Woodruff, would take this thought to the entire Church in 1880:

The Lord, in a revelation given to Orson Hyde and William McClellan in the early days of the Church, in sending them out to preach the Gospel, told them that when they preached they should speak as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and that if they did not have the Holy Spirit to direct them, they were told not to teach. “And,” said the Lord, “when you do speak as you are moved upon by the Holy Ghost, your words are the words of God, they are scripture, and they are the mind of the Lord to the people.” (Sec. 68.) Many have an idea that it is something very strange for men now-a-days to have revelation, and that nobody should have revelation excepting Brother Taylor.

Here, my brethren and sisters, you are upholding the quorum of the Twelve twice a year in General Conference, besides doing so at your quarterly conference, as prophets, seers and revelators, and you pray for them twice a day, and perhaps oftener, and should it be anything very strange if they should receive a revelation? How strange, indeed! There are in this Church some six thousand seventies, and four thousand high priests, and for thousand elders, who hold the Melchisedec priesthood, which is after the order of the Son of God, besides many thousands of priests holding the Aaronic priesthood, and I would like to ask, if it was wrong to desire revelation? What business have we with this priesthood, if we have not power to receive revelation? What is the priesthood given for? If we do not have revelation, it is because we do not live as we should live, because we do not magnify our priesthood as we ought to; if we did we would not be without revelation, none would be barren or unfruitful.

We have one man who holds the keys of the kingdom of God upon the earth, and it is his business to give the word of the Lord for the guidance of the Church. But here we have apostles and men of God, holding the holy priesthood, acting in behalf of the Church in different parts of this Territory, and also in different parts of the earth; and we have men, say, acting as Church agents in Europe, part of whose business it is to charter ships for the transit across the ocean of tens of thousands of the people of God; is it the right of such men to have revelation from the Lord to guide them in their operations? Yes, it is; and no man should undertake to act in positions affecting the interests of Zion, unless he lives so as to be guided and directed by revelations of God.

And every man who presides over a temple should live day by day in the revelations of Jesus Christ. And every seventy, and every high priest, and every man bearing the holy priesthood should live in that way to get revelation to guide and direct him in his labors. This idea that no man has any right to call upon God and receive revelation is wrong, and it has been wrong wherever it has existed in any age of the world. As was said of old, when a complaint was made concerning certain of the elders prophesying in the Camp of Israel, so say I: “I would to God that all were prophets;” because the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.” (Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 21, p. 297-98, August 1, 1880).

There is no room in this equation for “folklore”. None. Unless these men are not what they claim to be. Doctrine & Covenants, Section 68, verses 1-5 read:

My servant, Orson Hyde, was called by his ordination to proclaim the everlasting gospel, by the Spirit of the living God, from people to people, and from land to land, in the congregations of the wicked, in their synagogues, reasoning with and expounding all scriptures unto them. And, behold, and lo, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth—And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants.

Orson F. Whitney

Orson F. Whitney

In 1916 Apostle Orson F. Whitney would explain “the great distinguishing feature that differentiates God’s Church [Mormonism] from all other churches under the sun”, and that, he says, is “that while they are founded upon books and traditions and the precepts of men, this Church is built upon the rock of Christ, upon the principle of immediate and continuous revelation.” He then concludes:

“The Latter-day Saints do not do things because they happen to be printed in a book. They do not do things because God told the Jews to do them; nor do they do or leave undone anything because of instructions that Christ gave to the Nephites. Whatever is done by this Church is because God, speaking from heaven in our day, has commanded this Church to do it. No book presides over this Church and no book lies at its foundation. You cannot pile up books enough to take the place of God’s priesthood, inspired by the power of the Holy Ghost. That is the constitution of the Church of Christ.” (Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, October 1916, p.56)

Whitney would go on to say,

In saying this, I speak with all due reverence of the written word of God, that which is printed in the books part of which may be obsolete, having fulfilled its purpose and been laid upon the shelf, while the other part is virile, full of life, and applicable to our present state–our present degree of development. But even this part must be interpreted aright. No man ought to contend for what is in the books, in the face of God’s mouthpiece, who speaks for him and interprets his word. To so contend is to defer to the dead letter in preference to the living oracle, which is always a false position. What the Lord said to the Jews and Nephites, two thousand years ago, or what he said to the Latter-day Saints fifty or sixty years ago, has no force whatever at this time, unless it agrees with present-day revelation, with the Lord’s most recent instructions to his people through his chosen or appointed servants or servant; and they who ignore this fact are liable to get into trouble. It is the latest word from God that must be heeded, in preference to any former revelation, however true. The same God who says do thus and so today, can repeal that commandment tomorrow, without being changeable or inconsistent. The legislature, meeting every two years, repeals old laws, or such of its former enactments as have served their purpose; but no one thinks of charging the law makers with inconsistency or self-contradiction. How then can God be considered inconsistent if he says one thing today, and changes it tomorrow, or next month, or next year, in order to suit altered circumstances? He commanded Abraham to slay his son, and Abraham was about to do so, when the same God said: “Lay not thy hand upon the lad.” Abraham was under obligation to carry out the first command, until the second one was given, and then he was under obligation to obey the second command instead of the first; and he would have been a transgressor had he failed.” (ibid, p.57).

This of course is a false dichotomy, because how can you repeal “truth”? This idea of “folklore” simply dismisses the whole reason the church was supposedly set up with “prophets” and “apostles”, and that living “prophets” can repeal truths given by dead “prophets”. This idea has been denied by those very “apostles” and “prophets”. Take this example, given by George Q. Cannon:

When I think of the mighty men that have stood in our midst, filled with the power of God—Prophets and Apostles, whom God chose and whom He honored, and upon whom He bestowed His gifts and graces; and how many of them have worn themselves out preaching to this people, entreating them in the most eloquent

George Q. Cannon

George Q. Cannon

manner, adducing the greatest and strongest reasons that could appeal to our human natures, and revealing to us the mind and will of God, it does seem to me that a terrible responsibility rests upon us if we depart from the path which God has marked out. We can never say we have not been taught, that we have not had opportunities. We can never blame our Father for not imparting to us, in the utmost plainness, and through the demonstration of His Holy Spirit, His word and His counsel. President Young, while he lived, labored indefatigably to the utmost of his ability; never sparing himself, but constantly teaching the people, teaching them with his counsels, and giving them suggestions that are unequalled. I do not know such a record anywhere to be found as even the record of his discourses to this people; and then, think of President Taylor, and the others associated with President Young, and the effect their labors have had in teaching this people.

Now we are brought face to face with this question, shall we take these counsels to heart, shall we listen to the voice of God through his servants which we have heard now these 42 years in these valleys, and follow the direction which they have given concerning the people of Zion, or shall we make a new departure? Shall we throw aside all that we have heretofore been taught as the correct course and policy to be adopted in building up the kingdom of God, shall we throw it aside, cast it behind us and adopt some new principles, some new policy and practice concerning the Zion of our God in the earth? This is a question that is forcing itself upon us. I have seen things already which I never believed I would see; I have witnessed conduct I never believed I would witness. I had hoped better things. I have observed a disposition to disregard the counsels of the servants of God, to turn aside from the path that God has marked out, to spurn that authority which He has said shall reign. I have seen a disposition to bend and bow to the wishes of the world, to take to heart and to partly believe as true the accusations and the misrepresentations and the charges that have been made by the enemies of the Kingdom of God against the [p.349] Kingdom of God and its policy, and against the men whom God has chosen. And today in our midst there is a great amount of falsehood in circulation concerning the truth, concerning the work of God, and concerning the servants of God; and a disposition to believe evil and to misconstrue conduct and counsel and various things of this character.

If this spirit should prevail among the Latter-day Saints it will certainly prove disastrous to those who receive it and afford it a lodgment in their hearts.

I do not think that those who are present today are the ones who are susceptible to this influence—at least very few, if any. Many of those that are absent I am afraid are the ones who ought to be talked to and reasoned with upon this point. The men and women who attend meetings regularly, and who think it important to come here to receive instructions are not the ones, as a rule, who require censuring or reproof; as a general thing they are found in the path of duty and are walking in the ways of the Lord.

One of the speakers at our meeting last evening called your attention to and spoke upon the subject of union. Whenever the Latter-day Saints become divided; whenever you see one Latter-day Saint arrayed against another, you may know that one or both are in the wrong. When they become divided in their interest, when they seek their own aggrandizement, careless about the rights of their fellowmen; whenever you see this spirit prevail, then it betokens trouble among ourselves and we shall lose power. Let me ask you what is it that gives us strength? Are we numerous? Why, we are but a small handful of people; our opponents outnumber us by millions. Are we wealthy? Our wealth is not to be mentioned in comparison with the wealth that is opposed to us. Are we learned? We do not compare in worldly learning with those who are arrayed against us. In what then does our strength consist? It consists in the union of the people, and their faithfulness in keeping the commandments of God; it consists in our obedience to the counsels of God’s servants. Whenever this people shall fellowship a spirit to disregard the counsels of the Priesthood, seeking to accomplish ends by methods that are popular in the world, then they become like other people, and their strength leaves them. Samson, after he disregarded certain commandments to him personally by shaving his head and divulging the secret of his wonderful strength, easily fell a prey to the Philistines. This will be the case with us if we take the course advocated by many so-called Latter-day Saints, and which they think it right to take. I will tell you, and risk my reputation as a prophet upon it, although I don’t often talk about being a prophet; I say, I am willing to risk my reputation as a prophet upon this, that the man who takes this course, the family or the community that takes it will become as weak as water, and eventually become part of the world for departing from the way that God, through his servants, has pointed out. Our strength consists not of being part of Babylon, but the very opposite of that. Our strength consists in God; and the fact that this is so has made us a peculiar people. Divest ourselves of this peculiarity and we then become like the rest of the world, no better, no stronger than they are; and we will be overcome by them, for their forces are stronger and greater than ours. Can you not see this? To me, it is as clear as the light that shines. If we are strong at [p.350] all, we are strong because we are Latter-day Saints. That is the cause of our strength—the strength which God has given unto us through His Gospel. Whenever we depart from that policy we become weak like other men. It is time we understood this; it is time we looked at it in its true light. We are going arm and arm with the world, are we? We are going to be like them? Whoever has that spirit will apostatize as sure as God lives, unless he repents. I do not mean by this to say there is any antagonism between us and the world. We have no warfare to wage, none whatever. All we have to do is to be true to our principles. If our enemies conspire against us, let us be true to our God, true to Zion, true to the methods that God has revealed unto us for the building up of His Kingdom, and take the course that will be right and pleasing in the sight of God. I do not mean by this that I wish to put myself in opposition to the laws, or to that which is now the counsel concerning matters. I want to define my position so you will understand it, that no advantage be taken of it.

God has established His Zion, and He is building it up in the way He has revealed and that He communicates to His servants from time to time. (Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 1, p. 348-50, Salt Lake City, Monday Afternoon, September 2nd, 1889).

What Cannon describes above is what we see now with the Curse of Cain and Priesthood Ban doctrine, Mormons pitted against Mormons. So according to Cannon both are wrong. This presents quite the dilemma, as it does with other issues.

Brigham Young taught that the father was Adam, and said it was true by revelation. How does one repeal a revelation on the nature of God and then supplant it with another (that renders the previous false) that is also the truth? Of course this statement came at a time when the church was re-inventing the Godhead, claiming that Jesus was now Jehovah, and backpedaling from Brigham Young’s “revelations” about Adam. This quote is very instructive though, because it gives us the modern Mormon stance on why they no longer accept some of the doctrinal statements of previous “prophets”.

Apostle Alonzo A. Hinckley (uncle of Gordon B. Hinckley) would speak of the ‘oracles of God’ in a 1935 General Conference Address. He states that “my brethren live in the love and favor of God and that they carry their responsibilities with fidelity.” He recognized the “unswerving integrity under every condition of life,” of President Heber J. Grant, and that his counselor J. Reuben Clark, was “a born straight thinker, a righteous defender of the truth, is a man of undeviating and unfaltering devotion to the Church” and that David O. McKay with his “manly physique, a perfect physical specimen,” was “presided over by a trained and a keen mind,” and that “he enjoys a spirituality that has made him, not of his own volition but by common consent, the idol of youth.” He then concludes that,

Alonzo Hinckley

Alonzo Hinckley

“These men constitute the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the oracles of God chosen to receive the mind and the will and the word of the Lord and to impart it unto the people. I bear testimony that the avenues of revelation are open. The brethren are worthy. Jesus is at the helm. This is his work and he leads his servants.”

“God bless the leaders of Zion and bring into our hearts a renewed felling of reverence, that henceforth their voices, as they speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost, shall be unto us as the voice of God.” (Alonzo A. Hinckley, Conference Report, October 1935, p. 24).

These are the very men who made the First Presidency Statement about the Negro Doctrine that banned them from the Priesthood, and agreed with Young that they would not be able to have it until all the seed of Abel did first. Apostle George F. Richard made it clear that,

If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God. When a man speaks by the power and authority of the Priesthood of the Son of God and under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, what he speaks will be scripture; it will be the mind of the Lord, the will of the Lord, the word of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. (George F. Richard, Conference Report, October 1939, p.107).

Milton R. Hunter

Milton R. Hunter

In 1948, Milton R. Hunter of the First Council of Seventy declared,

“I wish to emphasize the fact that this revelation [D&C 68] is not limited to Joseph Smith and the other great prophets who preceded him. We have standing at the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today living oracles through whom God reveals his will. Certainly the words of this revelation apply to President George Albert Smith, to his Counselors, to the Twelve Apostles, and to me Patriarch to the Church just as much as they did to Joseph Smith, or to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, Nephi, Alma, Peter, Paul, or to all of the other ancient prophets of God.” (Milton R. Hunter, Conference Report, April 1948, p.31).

He would add,

The greatest job that a prophet has to accomplish is to be teacher of the divine truths revealed to him from on high. He is God’s mouthpiece here on earth–God’s spokesman, the revelator of the plan of salvation. Through the keys and power of the priesthood which he holds, the kingdom of God is established upon earth and all the ordinances requisite for the salvation and exaltation of the human family are performed. It is in their capacity of teacher and dispenser of the mind and will of God  that the holy prophets in all ages have made their greatest contributions.” (ibid, page 32).

On January 27, 1860, Orson Pratt met with the First Presidency and most of the Authorities of the Church to discuss certain of Pratt’s teachings, especially some found in his periodical, The Seer. The meeting did not go well, because Pratt could not agree with two of Brigham Young’s doctrines, that God was Adam, and was still progressing in knowledge. But a few days later, Pratt had come around, and made this statement to the assembled Church:

“This I consider is a very important item—Behold, “I say unto you, Be one; and if ye are not one, ye are not mine.” This is very pointed, plain, and definite language, that no man can misunderstand. Upon what principle are we to he one? It is by hearkening in all things to that eternal and everlasting Priesthood which has been conferred upon mortal man upon the earth. When I say that Priesthood, I mean the individual who holds the keys thereof. He is the standard—the living oracle to the Church.

“But,” says one, “suppose that we hearken to the word of God in the Old and New Testament—suppose that we hearken to the word of God in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants—suppose we hearken to the word of God in the Book of Mormon, and at the same time we feel disposed in our hearts to lay aside the living oracles, what then? I would answer, in the first place, that the premises are false. Why? The very moment that we set aside the living oracles we set aside the revelations of God. Why? Because the revelations of God command us plainly that we shall hearken to the living oracles. Hence, if we undertake to follow the written word and at the same time do not give heed to the living oracles of God, the written word will condemn us: it shows that we do not follow it according to our profession. This is what I wish to bring home to myself as an individual; and if the same thing will suit any other person in the congregation, I hope that he will take it home to himself.

Orson Pratt

Orson Pratt

“But,” inquires one, “how is it that you are going to apply this to yourself?” I will tell you. But first let me quote from another revelation contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. [Section 21:1-5] Perhaps I had better read the passage which I wish now to bring to your understanding:—”Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou shalt be called a Seer, a Translator, a Prophet, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, an Elder of the church, through the will of God the Father and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, being inspired of the Holy Ghost to lay the foundation thereof, and to build it up unto the most holy faith; which Church was organized and established in the year of our Lord, eighteen hundred and thirty, in the fourth month, and in the sixth day of the month which is called April. Wherefore (meaning the Church,) thou shalt give heed unto his words and commandments, which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; for his word shall ye receive as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.”

Here, then, we perceive what is binding upon the Church of the living God, what was binding upon them thirty years ago, and what has been binding upon them ever since, from the day that it was given, until the day the Prophet was martyred, down until the year 1860, and until the present moment of time. All this time there have been a kingdom and Church of the living God on the earth, and a man placed at the head of that Church to govern, direct, counsel, preach, exhort, testify, and speak the truth to the people, and counsel them in the things pertaining to their duties and pertaining to the kingdom of God.”  (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, p.372-73 January 29, 1860).

How did an apostle of Jesus Christ, directed by his prophet Brigham Young to teach doctrine in a publication go so wrong? Funny that it was Pratt’s views about Adam and God not progressing, that were later taken up by the Church, not “the living prophet” Brigham Young. A few months later, Apostle Heber C. Kimball would declare,

Heber C. Kimball

Heber C. Kimball

“This is the religion of Jesus Christ as taught in these books—the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and it is in accordance with that which is in my breast and which is a better book, for it is life in Christ; and that living being that receives light and intelligence from the heavens through the revelations of the Holy Ghost is a living oracle. It is the living Oracle that is within us that will guide us in the way of life.

Now, you require brother Brigham to live in that manner that he can hold the oracles of God and be to you a living oracle—the mouthpiece of the Almighty, to communicate line upon line, and precept upon precept and have the word of truth constantly on hand. Now, why should you require more of the head than of the other members? The Lord has said that upon those members that you consider the least honourable he has conferred the most honour; and he will confer upon every man and woman that honours the Priesthood, the Presidency, the Bishops, and all the members of the body. We cannot honour God except we honour his authority: there is no possible way of honouring the kingdom of God only by honouring its authorities. (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8,  p. 86, June 3, 1860).

As early as 1843 Brigham Young emphasized that the Quorum of the Twelve should follow their superiors without asking questions:

In the evening I met with the Quorum; Bro. Joseph was not present. B. Young was called to the chair who addressed the meeting in a very feeling manner and interesting to our minds. He reasoned clearly that we should follow our file leaders and our Savior in all His laws and commandments without asking any questions why they were so. (Wilford Woodruff Journals, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.331, December 10, 1843)

With this in mind, now read the Phantom’s take on how this all works:

What Joseph Smith actually restored was the “Church,” a system of mortal government, through which allows man to regulate man’s own participation in God’s Kingdom. God doesn’t need the Church. Man needs the Church. The Church is a mortal institution run by and for mortals. The difference between Mormonism and any other “Christian” church, is authority. Mormonism, if you care to buy it, claims to have direct authority from Jesus Christ to administer to His believers in His name. That’s authority mind you. Along with authority comes power and inspiration, and there’s where it gets a bit sticky. The Mormon hierarchy holds the “keys,” which means the token authority to talk directly to God, to commune with angels, the Holy Spirit, or see visions, heal the sick, raise the dead, any of all that miraculous stuff. I fully believe that the current LDS president for example, could talk to Jesus personally. I take that on faith. But I don’t have to believe that he doesn’t do that however, because he has said he doesn’t. I therefore know he doesn’t talk to God and Angels. That is not faith based. So what I know for a fact is, that Jesus doesn’t sit in the Salt Lake Temple and directly administer HIs church. And more to the point, Jesus isn’t up in the Church Office Building passing on daily lessons to the Brethren about bigger and bigger doctrinal concepts just for entertainment purposes. The Church is about salvation. It’s about serving Christ and feeding His sheep. You just don’t need to know that much to accomplish this mission. Jesus doesn’t need to come down and micromanage the operation. And sure, by the time you read this some LDS “Prophet” may say he’s had a face-to-face with Jesus, and I’ll gladly accept this as the truth if and when it happens. It simply hasn’t happened since Joseph Smith to date. (The Phantom)

It is so easy to rationalize anything, isn’t it? So easy. What the Phantom does here is say that God gave the “keys” to His kingdom on earth and “authority” to act in his name to a bunch of liars who don’t really talk to Him at all. They just kind of make up things as they go along, and that is all right, because they have supposedly been given the “authority” to save people by a guy who doesn’t have a track record any better than his successors.

They could talk to Jesus if they really want to, but yet “it simply hasn’t happened since Joseph Smith”. This is the kind of convoluted thinking that one has to go through to try and give “perspective” to the men that claim that Jesus gave them authority to act in his name. Kind of boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

And then it comes back to those hateful “Christians”:

The problem we have with Mormonism in the area of ongoing prophecy, is that starting with Joseph Smith, you do now in fact have a highly structured bureaucracy leading a permanently constituted organizational “Church” structure. Its president takes upon himself the title of “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” and then uncomfortably waits for the next church-related job God feels a need to personally take an interest in. It’s like the Book of Mormon system only it happens in real-time. You end up with caretakers making perfunctory notes for posterity just to say they did something, as did Omni and Jarom and Enos, just handing down the book generation after generation, sometimes adding a note about how nothing much was happening so they’re just passing down the records like they were told to do. This, honestly speaking, is exactly what the “Restored” Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) has become since the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. This is not necessarily a reflection upon LDS leadership. Joseph Smith was shot all to hell by Christian mobs to shut him up and kill the movement, and perhaps that was part of God’s plan, but it is mostly a good indication that God generally calls any given “major” prophet to do a specific job and then whatever happens to him afterward just happens, because the job is done. In Smith’s case the claimed job was “Restoration,” and having “Restored” the structure and key doctrines necessary, we can assume that not only was Joseph Smith done with the assignment, but God was fairly happy with the wisdom and knowledge He’d revealed in the process, and therefore Smith’s successors could expect not a whole lot of additional conversation with Deity until conditions according to God’s timetable and desires warranted it. (The Phantom)

Just throw everybody after Joseph Smith under the bus. They don’t matter. A bunch of monkeys could run the church (and probably do it better) because they don’t talk. They wouldn’t be able to embarrass the church with what comes out of their mouths. And they don’t know much, either. A perfect solution to the Phantom’s problem.

Christians killed Joseph Smith. Great job at broad brushing that incident. But I’m not surprised that the Phantom thinks so; they’re so obviously to blame for every thing else, aren’t they? Well folks, I’m about done here. I think you have enough to go on, to realize that the Phantom is the one who is really pulling things “out of his backside”.

Perhaps the Phantom can benefit from the words of James E. Faust,

I do not believe members of this church can be in full harmony with the Savior without sustaining his living prophet on the earth, the President of the Church. If we do not sustain the living prophet, whoever he may be, we die spiritually. Ironically, some have died spiritually by exclusively following prophets who have long been dead. Others equivocate in their support of living prophets, trying to lift themselves up by putting down the living prophets, however subtly. In our lifetime we have been favored with ongoing communication from the heavens, which have been open to the prophets of our time. (James E. Faust, Continuous Revelation, Conference Report, October 2013)

As Phantom says folks, don’t expect a lot. As James E. Faust says, Phantom is dead spiritually. This is the dilemma of Mormonism. Thankfully, I leave that to those who are still members of the Church to try and figure out. And whether to start burning books. I’ll be keeping mine, and encouraging every one I know to read them.

Joseph Fielding Smith & Bruce R. McConkie

Joseph Fielding Smith & Bruce R. McConkie

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