“Smith was so full of charm, enthusiasm and imagination that ‘he could sell a muzzle to a dog'”

Maureen Dowd rips into Joseph Smith in the New York Times:

The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, who ran for president the year before he died, was a lusty, charismatic Prospero. In “Under the Banner of Heaven,” a best seller about the Mormon faith, Jon Krakauer wrote that Smith was so full of charm, enthusiasm and imagination that “he could sell a muzzle to a dog.”

Not wanting to be a debt-ridden farmer like his dad, young Joseph came of age in Palmyra, in western New York. He was, Mr. Krakauer wrote, “attempting to divine the location of buried treasure by means of black magic and crystal gazing.”

When he was 17, Joseph said, an angel named Moroni came to his bedroom to tell him about some gold tablets that had been buried 1,400 years earlier under a nearby rock. Joseph said he translated hieroglyphics on the tablets using special glasses provided by Moroni, and this became the Book of Mormon.

After marrying a passel of women, some as young as 14, he had a divine revelation about polygamy that steamed his original wife, Emma.

“Emma harangued Joseph so relentlessly about his philandering,” Mr. Krakauer wrote, “that the original intent of the revelation canonized as Section 132 seems to have been simply to persuade Emma to shut up and accept his plural wives — while at the same time compelling her to refrain from indulging in any extracurricular sex herself.”

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38 Responses to “Smith was so full of charm, enthusiasm and imagination that ‘he could sell a muzzle to a dog'”

  1. falcon says:

    This, I’m afraid, will send our Mormon visitors into outer space, somewhere near Kolob. We have a guy who used a seer stone to look for buried treasure who later on discovers buried plates which he interprets by putting a magic rock into his hat. Stuffing his face into his hat he gets this interpretation of the plates. Mormons have never been able to accept the truth about Joseph Smith. They like the church provided sanitized version of reality. Restored gospel? I don’t think so. Just plain goofiness. Don’t get me started! So spiritual tragic when you think of all the people lost beliving this nonsense.

  2. dj1989 says:

    Falcon & Aaron… your cynical comments are interesting to me. First of all, I will be the FIRST to admit that there are many things about how the church came about that raises eyebrows. Golden plates? Seer stones? Multiple wives?

    It feels that you put so little consideration into the fact that your beliefs are just as crazy sounding. The Red Sea parting? Prophets being carried to heaven in a chariot of fire? Manna from heaven? Being cast into an oven and not being harmed? etc. etc. “But those are Old Testament teachings!” you say. Let’s finish off with believing that a man was nailed to a cross, and stabbed in the side with a spear, where crowds of people saw him die. Then a few days later was “out and about” with some of his old friends. What’s more, they said that he then floated into the sky later on. Not only that, but believing that after you die your body that has been rotting with worms in the ground will come back to life.

    It’s curious… what you are using as a basis of comparison to disqualify what Joseph Smith said happened to him. You say you believe the Bible, but if you have a hard time believing that it happened to Joseph, then I have a hard time reading that you believe in the Bible.

    Joseph’s story is more consistent with the Bible then any pastor, theologian, or blogger that I have ever heard in my life.

  3. dj, you’re attacking a straw man. Please don’t hijack the thread with a red herring.

    I don’t think that what Smith did is crazy simply because it was supposedly supernatural. I think it’s crazy because it was immoral and deceitful and wicked. Even the LDS Church itself feels it must polish and sanitize the story. Ever seen the “Prophet of the Restoration” movie recently put out by the SLC hierarchy? Or been on a tour at Carthage Jail? What shameful whitewashing.

    Instead of getting on our case for being cynical towards the authentic Joseph Smith story, perhaps you should be writing some letters of concern to Salt Lake City headquarters? They seem to be particularly embarrassed over Mormon history.

  4. falcon says:

    I won a bet with myself. I bet myself that the first Mormon response would be to go after the Bible. It’s always attack the Bible. Talk to me about Joseph Smith please, not the Bible. That’s the point of the topic here. The man was beyond a heretic. He was a masogynist and a deceiver of the worst kind. It’s so simple to see. Examine his life and his teachings. He took people away from the Christ of the Bible and led them down a path of spiritual distruction. Why can’t you see it?

  5. GRCluff says:

    I am 6th generation Mormon whose ancestors practiced polygamy. As you might expect, I have a couple problems with some comments above.

    My family lived in Kirtland and Nauvoo, and kept some pretty good journals. Why do they never mention JS in the context of obvious philandering?

    Some statements of fact above are not proven points, but constitute revisionist history writing activity in my view.

    I don’t doubt that JS participated in sealings to other women (on their request), but where are all the children resulting from his “frequent sexual activity”?

    I will propose that the sealings were identical to the “sealings” that catholic nuns experience when they marry Christ. Is Christ considered a polygamist as a result?

    As the “real” evidence suggests, the women to which JS was sealed were just as chaste as catholic nuns as well. Face it, it is a good comparison.

  6. GRCluff, firstly, that Smith didn’t have children is still up for discussion, even among Mormons.

    But even if you can’t find his descendants, you still have some big problems. Not even Mormon Todd Compton, who wrote “In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith“, agrees with the faith-promoting-rumor that Smith’s polygamous marriages were merely dynastic sealings.

    He writes:

    “In conclusion, though it is possible that Joseph had some marriages in which there were no sexual relations, there is no explicit or convincing evidence for this (except, perhaps, in the cases of the older wives, judging from later Mormon polygamy). And in a significant number of marriages, there is evidence for sexual relations.” – Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 15

    Smith, writing to Sarah Ann Whitney (who he “married” when she was 17), gives an example of his attitude toward her:

    “…my feelings are so strong for you since what has passed lately between us…it seems, as if I could not live long in this way; and if you three would come and see me…it would afford me great relief…I know it is the will of God that you should comfort me now in this time of affliction…the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty…burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts…You will pardon me for my earnestness on this subject when you consider how lonesome I must be…I think emma wont come tonight if she dont, dont fail to come tonight…”

    I would also consult Mormon Polygamy: A History, by Richard Van Wagoner. William E. McLellin, Mormon apostle, said that Emma Smith “looked through a crack and saw the transaction” in the barn between Joseph and 16-year-old Fanny Alger (p. 4-11). Oliver Cowdery referred to Smith’s relationship with Fanny Alger as “a dirty, nasty, filthy affair.”

    Heck, when William Clayton wrote his famous journal entry on the Kinderhook Plates, he was house-sitting for Smith who was on a date with 16-year-old Flora Woodworth, the girl Smith had apparently married in the morning (as officiated by Clayton himself).

    The evidence isn’t looking so hot for Joseph Smith’s character.

    Here’s a little trivia for you: Did you know that Orson Pratt was once depressed almost to the point of suicide? Want to guess why? His beloved prophet propositioned his wife, Sarah Pratt, when he was away. Behind his back. When Sarah outed Smith’s proposition, he publicly blackened and smeared her character to protect himself.

    Joseph Smith had a habit of causing people to weep over his behavior. This was nothing new for Smith. When Emma went back with Joseph to get her furniture sometime after having eloped with him, her father bitterly cried to Joseph:

    “You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather followed her to her grave. You spend your time in digging for money—pretending to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people.” (Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, p. 9)

    You would think that Smith would have been faithful to his wife Emma, but he made her bitterly weep too over the issue of marital infidelity. When I read of Smith causing Emma to profusely weep over this issue, my heart is filled with both pity for Emma and moral repugnance over the adulterous Joseph Smith.

    As Jesus said,

    Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

  7. pallathu says:

    Dear dj1989, I heard a news about UFO last week. The former Governor Fife Symington of AZ admitted he saw a UFO few years back flying over AZ sky. Isn’t Governor’s story consistent with Joseph Smith story?

  8. GRCluff says:

    Revisionist history depends upon people who are willing to search until they find any small detail to exploit, then others who are willing to fill in the gaps with expansions of fertile imagination. No group qualifies better at both than Joseph Smith’s detractors, including the “Mormon” writers.

    For example, DNA tests can prove that Thomas Jefferson had a child by one of his slaves. That story is told publicly and most of us believe it. The problem is, his brother was more likely the father involved, but that is not an interesting story so many will skip that part. What difference does that make, anyway?

    When a falsehood is published, it persists perpetually even after conflicting evidence is proposed. Both for and against, we have our mind made up already so the evidence is secondary.

    The real evidence is lost in the void of trust. How much of the text you quote was the result of forgery new or old from Joseph’s many enemies?

    The DNA link you provided stopped short of exploiting DNA proof. Why?

    I see 3 possibilities:
    1. No one has pursued the DNA evidence to conclusion.
    2. We have a conclusion, but it failed satisfy the “believers” so it remains unpublished.
    3. We have a conclusion, but it failed to satisfy the detractors, so it is being actively ignored.

    I give 3 probabilities:
    1. 10 percent
    2. We love to shoot ourselves in the foot, so—30 percent.
    3. Yes, 60 percent probable—based on my observations about these kind of things to date.

    Yep, I am a skeptic on the “blog evidence” side. That is just too easy to accomplish.

    If you don’t mind, I will believe my own families evidence, in the form of written publications of 1830’s journals. If my great grandma fudged the truth, then so be it. It would be the only thing she lied about in her life, to my knowledge.

    I have actually met these people, so I can judge their intentions as genuine. I’m sorry if it is not as colorful peoples imagination can be.

  9. GRCluff, until you deal with the evidence I specifically provided, particularly from LDS authors like Todd Compton, then I can’t take you seriously. I have a hard time believing that responsible historians are going to take the word of one woman alone—a person you haven’t even described as being in Smith’s inner circle of intimate relationships—over the mountain of corraborative evidence concerning Smith’s vast array of relationships. By all means, feel free to publicize this silver bullet private journal you speak of.

    Until then, I’d encourage you to look more into the history of early Mormon polygamy. Smith wasn’t public about his polygamy, and even denied it all the way till death. One reason Smith wanted the Nauvoo Expositor (and its press) destroyed was that it exposed his polygamy. The Mormon canon even denied the practice of polygamy (D&C 132 later replaced a section you can no longer find in the standard works). If you expect contemporary, common Mormon women to describe Smith’s polygamous relationships in their journals then you’re ignoring some important context.

  10. GRCluff, would you like to tell us how old your great grandma was during 1841-1844, and then tell us how old she was when you met her? How close was she to Smith during 1841-1844? Was she one of the women Smith was merely “sealed” to during this time? If not, why do you think she is more credible on this issue than the women who were actually married to Smith?

  11. GRCluff says:

    The journal I speak of was published in 1901, with histories dated in the late 1800’s. The Nauvoo stories were the published recollections of family members who where in their 20’s in Nauvoo in 1841-1844. It is hard bound with the title “Cluff Family Journal”. It includes my families church activities in Kirkland– my ancestor joined in 1831.

    Republishing it would be a good idea.

    My grandma spoke to us about her parents and grand parents in her 90’s when I was a child in the 1970’s, but neither parents nor grand parents were in Nauvoo– that was her great-grandparents generation.

    It would have been my 4 great grandmother’s integrity in question– but my grandma who recommended this journal seemed pretty credible. I guess in my 10 year old mind they were all the same.

    Look into the history of early Mormon polygamy? That IS my family history.

    All 4 of my grandparents were children in polygamist families. That is my point. My Mom has 44 aunts and uncles as proof. Where is Joseph Smiths proof? Even 8 is pretty tenuous.

    Come to think of it, my family would have accepted his many wives, just like they accepted Brigham Young’s. Multiple wives would be nothing unusual to them. If they knew about it they would have mentioned it. After all, they were straight forward and matter of fact about their own involvement.

    Joseph Smith taught polgamy to insiders in Nauvoo. He knew that more women joined the Church than men. When he realized that isolation in the west was likely it was the only viable solution to a generation of single, childless women. In a society that teaches the extreme value of eternal families? Come on now.

  12. OK, so you didn’t meet the relatives who were in Nauvoo during 1841-1844. And you make no mention of any of your relatives being in Smith’s inner circle. So why am I supposed to take the word of these folks you mention over the testimony of those who were actually married to Smith?

    He knew that more women joined the Church than men. When he realized that isolation in the west was likely it was the only viable solution to a generation of single, childless women.

    This is more unsubstantiated, mythical, faith-promoting rumor. Even apostle and popular LDS church educator John A. Widstoe wrote:

    “The implied assumption in this theory, that there have been more female than male members in the Church, is not supported by existing evidence. On the contrary, there seems always to have been more males than females in the Church… The United States census records from 1850 to 1940, and all available Church records, uniformly show a preponderance of males in Utah, and in the Church. Indeed, the excess in Utah has usually been larger than for the whole United States… there was no surplus of women.” – Evidences and Reconciliations, pp. 390-392

    I’ve shown you quotes / citations from credible sources. It’s about time you offered up some of your own. Naked, unsubstantiated claims get awfully cold in this snowy Utah weather, my friend! Clothe them!

  13. Drenx says:

    No one has mentioned that JS practiced polygamy for almost 2 years before he had the so called revelation (familysearch.org confirms at 11 wifes before). If it wasn’t sexual then why was he marrying woman who where already married. He had even sent some of their husband on missions personally. What about Helen Mar Kimball who states in her dairy that JS promised that if she would marry him that he would personally guarantee her families salvation.

  14. pallathu says:

    I’m praying for you guys. Let the Holy Spirit be with you to reason against “false” doctrines of Mormonism. Read Revelations 12: 7 – 12. The argument is both apologetic as well as spiritual. I believe you can win by spiritually only (through prayers, fasting and using the authority in the Christ).

    “7. And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

    10. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
    “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
    11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
    12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

  15. dj1989 says:

    Aaron, I’ve noticed that you accuse me of Red Herrings quite often. Maybe you can make your original arguments more clearly, because I feel that I am directly responding to the topic at hand. In fact, you did not at all allude to Joseph Smith being immoral, deceitful, or wicked in the original post. But, if that was what you wanted us to see, then the Bible would suggest otherwise, and my argument still stands that if the Bible can support it, then you are at odds with the Bible…not just with Mormons.

    Falcon, I am not attacking the Bible. Not even. I am calling attention to an apparent hypocrisy that I feel EVs must answer when they go on the attack and dispute Joseph Smith’s story. The Bible is the strongest defense for Joseph Smith’s history. My argument is that I BELIEVE the Bible…so much so, that I actually accept that God does some unconventional (even strange) things sometimes.

    God says “My ways are not your ways”. I’m convinced that you guys only believe that scripture as long as it fits within the bounds set by tradition. But the second that God’s mysteries actually become something out of sync with your [traditional] ways, then it’s heresy in your book. I would say that, practically speaking, for you God has become #2 to your tradition (that DEFINITELY is a red herring)

    Man, it sounds just like the people that criticized Jesus. People accused Jesus of being immoral, wicked, and deceitful… but it was according to their scriptural tradition. The comparison is uncanny (that too is a red herring)

    Come on you two. You’re deluding yourselves if you say I have either tried to divert the conversation, or tried to attack the Bible.

    I’m more ranting right now. But I’m sure somebody will feel that I’m trying to get a response to my red herrings. I’m not. I want EVs to respond to why it is not hypocritical to deride Joseph Smith for acting in line with Biblical prophets.

  16. Jeff B says:

    Modern day Warren Jeff’s, I tell ya..

    Its amazing, Aaron, that even the General Authorities can be quoted and not accepted by lay members. I wonder if Hinckley himself would say “The LDS church isn’t the true church.” and all the lay members would say “Oh, thats just his opinion.”

  17. Megan says:

    DJ, I don’t understand you. You seem thoughtful, you give good answers to various subjects, and even if I don’t agree with your conclusions I can at least see (sometimes) how you’ve arrived at them. Joseph Smith acting like Biblical prophets? How on earth can you even make that comparison? I’m not trying to attack you, I’m just so flabbergasted. Did the Biblical prophets sleep with married women and take them for wives? Did the Biblical prophets dig for treasure and lie to people about it?
    When I’ve brought up Smith’s checkered past to LDS missionaries, they’ve said, “Well, David, etc, wasn’t perfect.” True, but the difference is that David always repented of his sinful actions, and the other difference is that while he had prophetic gifts (Messianic psalms come to mind) he wasn’t technically a prophet. OT prophets were held to the highest moral standard. If they ever gave false prophecy they were supposed to be killed. Also,one of the purposes of the OT prophets was to turn sinful, adulterous Israel back to God. Can you see the prophets telling Israel to repent when they’ve engaged in adultery?
    This is one of the main reasons why I can’t accept Mormonism. Smith enjoyed his sin and made absolutely no effort to repent.
    Help me out here.

  18. dj1989 says:


    I too think that you and others on here on thoughtful in the your conclusions and the things you say. Also, I think that I understand how you and other EVs arrive at most of your conclusions (though, like you, I don’t agree with them). I think that many of us would get along quite nicely off-line.

    I have to admit, without considering other factors, I would say that your conclusion about Joseph Smith is a more than fair one, and so I don’t blame you for arriving at that conclusion. Also, I don’t blame you for being “flabberghasted” at my comments. I am obviously apologetic in my approach and I give Joseph Smith the benefit of the doubt. But it is for 3 reasons:
    1) This addresses your original “shock”. There are SOOO MANY historical sources that testify that Joseph Smith possessed nobile and Christlike qualities in his character, which seem to create a different picture than what the creators of this blog are creating. So, I can’t help but get the feeling that we’re not getting all of our facts straight 177 years later. But, EVs argument is still a pretty strong one, if not for the fact that…
    2) There are SOOO MANY things that Joseph Smith did as a prophet that are prophetic. Things that no crafty or slick man could EVER do of his own accord. He also possessed SOOO MANY prophetic gifts. All of which were documented by others.
    3) Finally, and this is more personal and something that I cannot show to anybody, but the things that he taught sing to, and enlarge, my soul in a way that cannot be denied. I can’t communicate it to you, but that’s not important. It’s for me to experience.

  19. falcon says:

    Many people followed, believed in, and died following false prophets. The “prophets” had “something” that held the crowd and individuals in their hand. Many of the things that you report could be said of David Koresh and Jim Jones. One of Koresh’s followers gave him (Koresh) his wife to impregnate. Eight hundred or so true believers drank the kool-aid for Jones. People don’t follow these false prophets unless the prophets have something to offer. You could have found glowing reports, I’m sure, relative to the character of Jones and Koresh among their followers right up to the time they died following them. The fact that Smith produced another gospel should be enough to make you turn and run. The valid evidence of him being a religious snake oil salesman is well documented. The psychological and emotional entrapment which people like Smith produce is very difficult to escape. The people who have left Mormonism look back and wonder how they could have been so deceived. It’s tough to see it when you are on the inside and want so desperately for it to be true.

  20. Megan says:

    DJ, thanks for your honesty regarding Joseph Smith. From my perspective it seems that his image has been so sanitized by Mormons today that if he were around now he would probably give them a huuuuge shock! I think one thing to ask ourselves is, what were the prophets in the Bible really like? What were the characteristics of a true prophet and the signs of a false one? More importantly, what did GOD expect his prophets to be like?
    Maybe tomorrow or the next day I’ll try to give some biblical examples of this stuff. Or anyone else on here might have some ideas. Too tired at the moment now.

  21. amanda says:

    Aaron Shafovaloff,

    Am I to assume by your referencing Maureen Dowd that you consider her a non-biased historian on Joseph Smith and the LDS religion? This woman writes an editorial for the NEW YORK TIMES for heavens sakes. I can’t even take this post seriously.

    If you go looking for negative on ANYONE, you’ll find it…Maureen Dowd is a sour character, incapable of seeing good in a teddy bear. BY THE WAY, here are some other things Maureen Dowd (the apparent leading expert on Joseph Smith) has written:

    Are Men Necessary, where she wrote something like this,
    “she claims that men are put off by women in power, that they prefer the women who serve them—maids, masseuses, and secretaries—to their equals” -http://www.slate.com/id/2129290/

    Rapture And Rupture — http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0DE3D9143BF935A35753C1A9649C8B63

    Well, I could list more of her liberal-feminist, self-absorbed tripe but I think you get my point. She isn’t very kind to ev’s either 🙂


  22. pallathu says:

    In 2005, a wonderful old man and his wife came to my home to repair my house. My family loved them though they were LDS. They knew we were Christians. I have a picture of Christ in my home which was given to me my mother. That arised a conversation about our faith, and she did not tell anything. But she left a 3 page letter with a 10 questions that I should be sure to get answers (one of them is the salvation for my grand parents). I did not respond to their reply, instead I prayed for them. Today I received the news that his whole family, son, relatives all left the Mormon Church and worshiping Christ. I asked one of them what did you find different? He told me he found the real Christ and true Christianity. The Christian Church they go to now welcomed them, and they feel like came out of deceptions.

  23. Today I received the news that his whole family, son, relatives all left the Mormon Church and worshiping Christ

    Pallathu, that is wonderful news!

    dj, the straw man is the idea that we’re cynical toward Smith simply because of the supernaturalism involved in his claims. That’s an incredibly inadequate view of our cynicism toward Smith.

    We of course don’t think Joseph Smith was “acting in line with Biblical prophets” when he married women who were already married to living husbands (polyandry, or more to the point: adultery), when he started a preliminary “translation” on the Kinderhook Plates and told William Clayton what they contained, when he lied about his abilities to find treasure underground and accepted payment for his scrying efforts, when he “translated” the Book of Abraham, when he denied the unique eternality of God’s full divine nature/status (i.e. denying that God had always been fully God), when he taught that God the Father had himself a divine father (in the Sermon in the Grove)…

    The list goes on and on. Perhaps the most heinous was his perverted teachings on the nature of God and man. Jesus warned about such false prophets to come. Instead of trusting a man based upon an emotional epiphany endorsed by the Mormon hierarchy as divine confirmation, I’d rather be a good Berean (Acts 17:10-11) and “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), especially with God’s very word, the Bible, which teaches, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” (Isaiah 43:10)

  24. Amanda, I never quoted Maureen Dowd claiming she was a historian or an unbiased source. For one thing, I don’t believe unbiased sources exist. But in any case, I think the section I quoted from her is essentially correct, and you’d do better to attack her specific claims instead of attacking her.

  25. amanda says:


    She isn’t just biased Aaron, she’s cruel and sour, rendering your post ineffective. If you quoted someone a little more respected, I would take the time to refute what was said. Like I said, I can’t take your post seriously if you use any of her writings.

    I was attacking the kind of person she is and things she has written in the past, because that goes right to the heart of her priorities as an OPINION columnist- its’ entirely relevant. I call that righteous judgment. Many ev’s dislike of mormons cloud their judgment of other characters, selling their souls just to get one more notch on their anti-mormon belt. They’ll quote ANYONE if they are saying something negative about mormons. Honestly, you know Maureen Dowd is more threatening to our Christian culture in this country than Mitt Romney, OR Joseph Smith combined…but you are blinded by your agenda. I can take your dispute with mormon theology seriously because that is a reasonable position to take- it is a matter of faith. But when you start quoting characters like Maureen Dowd to score cheep anti-Joseph Smith points, you lose your reasonable position.

    So if you believe there aren’t any unbiased sources, why don’t you quote sources from both perspectives–? The truth will be somewhere in the middle, fair enough? Then you might gain some respectable ground in the subject of Joseph Smith.

  26. Amanda, this was never about scoring points. It’s about truth. And since Smith claimed to be the prophet of the restoration, this is no small matter. If what Maureen Dowd said was true, then you’re in some deep trouble, no matter her character.

    “We know that Joseph didn’t translate the way that a scholar would translate. He didn’t know Egyptian. There were a couple of means that were prepared for this. One was he used an instrument that was found with the plates that was called the Urim and Thummim. This is a kind of a divinatory device that goes back into Old Testament times. Actually most of the translation was done using something called a seer stone. He would put the stone in the bottom of a hat, presumably to exclude surrounding light. And then he would put his face into the hat. It’s a kind of a strange image for us.” – Daniel Peterson, foremost LDS apologist

  27. amanda says:


    That’s my whole issue with your post, Aaron, I don’t believe it is about truth.

    If you were truly concerned with truth you would read the Book of Mormon and pray about it (perhaps you have)in a personal setting–and the answer you have would be good enough. If you think you will persuade people by citing the writing of a NYT op-ed writer, you’re sorely mistaken. If what other historians say about Joseph Smith (the more positive perspectives) is true, then YOU’RE in some deep trouble. I mean, come on…all Maureen Dowd was doing was basically making fun of Joseph Smith and the translating methods—how does that then translate into ME being in trouble. By evangelical standards, I’m saved, I have faith in Christ. What you should be doing is preaching the gospel to Maureen Dowd.

    So Joseph Smith put a stone in the bottom of a hat and then his face. This image isn’t anymore strange than Moses’ stick turning into a snake- or him parting the red sea! I can see how someone like Maureen Dowd would find this image and those who believe, worth mocking, but a bible believing Christian–throwing stones in a glass house…?

    This is a great example of evangelicals grasping at straws. To find truth, you must follow the admonition of Christ, judge the restored gospel by its’ fruits. Time and time again, the fruits of the gospel are ignored by evangelicals and dismissed as nothing. Yet obscure facts (many which are easily disputed) from history make the surface of their discussion more than the fruit of the gospel. I challenge you to contradict or criticize ANY message of the Book of Mormon. You’ll discuss its’ translation, its’ translators– but never the message itself. Please, if you wish to respond to my challenge, use ONLY passages from the Book of Mormon.

  28. GRCluff says:

    Hey check this out. In my families journals on JS– they use the plural “wives” when speaking about Joseph and his family. They apparently knew about and completly accepted his polygamy. Maybe I should start checking the birth dates to see if I could be descended from JS–

    I still think that more women than men join the church. My Dad’s English grandmother was the only one who joined in her family. My wife is the only member in her family. Jim McMahon never joined, but his Mother? His sister?

    As mission leader in Nebraska, we baptized 125 new members in 3 years. The ratio was 4 to 1 women.

    As a missionary in Puerto Rico 79-81, we were not allowed to teach single women. We had to have a man in the room before we could teach. Why? The women always joined the church, but the men would not. We needed church leadership. We taught the men. All we did was invite women to church.

    The Church’s growth, at least the female converts stalled after 1845, and the birth rate remained pretty even. Early growth was more similar to today. More women than men survived the trip west. Polygamy saved their generation from empty childless lives. Six lonely, childless women for every family. What do you think would have happened?

  29. dj1989 says:


    If you’ve read my comments in the past, you know that even though I don’t agree with EVs, I’ve been fair in acknowledging their incredulous position regarding Mormon beliefs.

    In fairness, I believe that Amanda’s challenge (criticizing the message of the Book of Mormon) should be considered on this blog. There may be individual details in the book that are yet to be studied completely (horses in America, the DNA stuff, exact archaeological sites, etc). That’s not what I’m talking about. Those things are peripheral to the story that delivers the message. Not to mention that they are also just “obscure facts”, as Amanda says. To talk about them at all is really more of an intentional distraction… I believe the term you like is a “red herring” 😉

    Anyway… the message of the Book of Mormon should be considered. The fruit of the Book of Mormon has certainly had a chance to manifest itself over the last 177 years. And I would have to say that the fruit of the Book of Mormon is discipleship to Jesus Christ in the lives of millions of people around the world. How can you argue with that? Why would you want to argue with that?

    Here’s why Mormon’s don’t go crusading against EVs the way that EVs do to us; even though we disagree in regards to points of doctrine, with all of the evil that is running rampant in the world, we encourage anyone that is God-fearing and making an effort to live a Christ-like life to continue to do so, as it is beneficial to the overall fight against good and evil. We spread our message as best we can, believing it to be true, and if you believe your message to be true, then we hope you do the same. We believe that God will lead the true in heart to His truth. But to focus your time, money, and effort, into doing what you do seems kind of like a perverted form of Christ’s teachings. I use the word “perverted” in a sense of being “warped”. It just seems out of alignment with the WHOLE of Christ’s teachings.

  30. DJ,

    If someone brought a supposedly divinely inspired book to my door and I read it, only to find that it spoke of George Washington using a cell phone, I would dismiss it as a fraud. Yes, even if the reference to the cell phone was a passing remark in a larger narrative replete with good moral principles and doctrines. So no, I don’t think wildly obvious anachronisms are red herrings.

    Jesus said that his own people would follow his voice and not the voice of a stranger (John 10:1-6). I know that some Mormons think the Book of Mormon is an ahistorical myth with religious value, but I denounce that way of thinking. A fraud is a fraud. Jesus said the truth would set us free, not myth.

    The worst evils and most destructive bondages that Satan abuses and enslaves people with are deceit and lies. And no, I’m not speaking in hyperbole. I really mean it. I don’t share others’ apathetic, atheological attitude toward the truth. Lying is serious and is of Satan. I’m not going to value a 19th century piece of fiction like most parents value Santa Claus for their children. Love demands that Christians help Mormons be freed from bondage to fiction and be set free by the truth.

    Regarding the Book of Mormon’s doctrinal content, well I’d be happy to start a post on that sometime too. It certainly doesn’t help the fundamentalist or mainstream Mormon cause, because the book’s theology is foreign to just about everyone but traditional Community of Christ doctrine.

    As Kurt Widmer wrote:

    “If belief in the Book of Mormon was a prerequisite to joining the Church, it was a belief in the book’s divine origin rather than the doctrinal content of the book. The Book of Mormon taught nothing different from what early 19th-century religious seekers would have already been familiar with. The theology of the Book of Mormon was monotheistic. Early Mormon theology then would not have been unique in comparison to other beliefs of the day.” (Mormonism and the Nature of God: A Theological Evolution, 1830-1915)

    Or as Sandra Tanner wrote:

    “Many people assume that if they read the Book of Mormon they will get a good idea of LDS beliefs. However, the Book of Mormon teaches one God, not plural gods as in Mormonism. It mentions heaven and hell, not three degrees of glory, no temple marriage or secret temple ceremonies. It does not teach baptism for the dead, pre-existence of man, eternal progression or polygamy…” (>>)

    I heartily recommend Thomas G. Alexander’s The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology.

    Grace and peace in Christ, who justifies the ungodly by faith apart from works (Romans 4:4-8),


  31. dj1989 says:

    That’s a crock, in my opinion. You’re trying to tell me that a devout Mormon, who is self-sacrificing for the benefit of others (in a list of ways that are too extensive for the post), regularly prays to the Almighty God, searches and ponders the scriptures on a regular basis (including the book that you read), his extremely high family values, etc, etc, etc, is worse to you than a greedy stock broker, corrupt politician, or I might even add a Christian pastor that lives in multi-million dollar homes, and uses his religion for extreme financial gain? I have to say that if your answer is “yes”, then I would have to say that you’re about as close to the truth as you are to Mars.

    Sandra Tanner’s statement is almost 100% incorrect, by the way… ie – polygamy, pre-existence of man, temple ceremonies, degrees of glory, more than one god…well, everything but baptism for the dead is found in the Book of Mormon. And with the last one, the absence of it in the Book of Mormon does not mean that it’s absent from the gospel. (I know that you’ve done some due diligence into this, and I know you think that you’re right and I’m just ignorant…. trust me…she’s wrong. Alma 13 is about the pre-existence for example)

  32. Megan says:

    Pointing to evidence of “good fruit” is one of the favorite ways for Mormons to legitimize their faith in comparison to others’ faith. I know “legitimize” is a loaded word…what I mean is, Mormons continually say, see, we must have the truth, look at all the marvelous things we do and the way we live! You’re right, DJ, this can be a sign of one’s faith in Christ. But wait….I live a life marked by good fruit too!
    (I hope so at least). My Christian parents, grandparents, friends, church family, etc….they all have good fruit! So see, we have the same thing. Let’s get into the spiritual experiences we’ve had with our faith. You go to church and it means a lot to you. Your faith means a lot to you. Well, I go to church too and my faith means a whole lot to me too! I feel close to God, I see answers to prayer, I could go on and on. You probably have simliar examples.
    While these two aspects (fruit and life-changing faith) are important as signs of one’s right relationship with God, we need something even more objective as an additional sign. Does the person with faith and good fruit follow the God of the Bible? The thing is, DJ, we have completely different views of who God is. See, that’s the problem between the two sides that will never go away. Who is God?

  33. DJ, I’m not going to respond to strawman comparisons made of the personal character of Mormonism. You’re putting words in my mouth.

    And you’re right, polygamy is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. It is condemned. It doesn’t help the Mormon cause, especially when Smith not only practiced polygyny, but also polyandry—he married women who had living husbands, which is an odd thing if polygamy is somehow permitted to “raise up seed”. Where I come from we call that adultery.

    If you can find the masonry-influenced sure sign of the nail or washings and anointings, the three kingdoms of glory, polygamy favorably spoken of, endorsed polytheism, etc. in the Book of Mormon, feel free to show us. Until then, happy holidays.

  34. Rick B says:

    As far as good fruit goes, their are people dying and going to hell that have done good things. Jesus said, many will say on the last day, Lord, Lord, did we not cast out demons in your name, did we not do miracles in your name? Casting out demons and doing miracles are great things, yet Jesus said, depart from me, I never knew you. Then again, Gal 1:8-9 Paul never said, if anyone preaches a different gospel that has good fruit, he simply sated a different Gospel or god will lead you to hell.

    Then as the issues with the Book of Mormon. Read the account of the barge with holes in it, the Bible talks about Noahs ark, God gave the blueprints for the ark, is the same God so stupid he almost kills the people in the barge? Read the story in Ether 2:16-25

    Then read the Story of Jared and the tower of Babel Ether 1:33-43

    This does not agree with the story found in the Bible, so which story do I trust/believe? Rick b

  35. amanda says:


    I completely agree with you. The difference is that LDS do not think that evangelicals are a cult or non-Christian, but the leaders of our church are often characterized by evangelicals to have evil intentions (Joseph Smith was a liar–and the list goes on and on and on) So I answer with the fruits comment because the fruits of this church prove those many accusations null and void- not evangelical beliefs to be such. To say we are going to hell because of what we believe is to simultaneously suggest the church is evil. LDS do not say or believe evangelicals are evil. The only difference, and it’s an important one, is that we believe the FULLNESS of HIS gospel has been restored, and it is for EVERYONE. LDS are no better than evangelicals, it is HIS gospel, we are all His children and he loves us all, and wants all of us to return to Him- and through His gospel, He has prepared a way for ALL of us to do just that- even those who did not know Him in this life. Therefore it is HIS mantle to decide who is going to hell and who truly believes on His name- evangelical or LDS.

    LDS actually agree that you have truth, and because you do have a relationship with Christ, there are fruits of that in your life. I do not believe it is a matter of I’m right and you’re wrong (or vice versa). I know it is not that simple. I DO know His restored gospel can be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And I am learning on a daily basis (or should be)…as are you, I’m sure.

  36. amanda says:


    I take that your lack of response to my challenge means you are incapable of finding even ONE passage in the Book of Mormon that is offensive to your Christian sensibilities…

    The question of polygamy in the early days of the church has been answered time and time again, BIBLICAL REFERENCES- might I add–it is just as DJ put it, a red herring to avoid discussing the content of this testament of Jesus Christ.

    But to bible-worshipers, I can see how ANOTHER testament of Him might be offensive.

  37. Amanda,

    I’d invite you to read my article on the traditional Mormon usage of 2 Nephi 25:23.

    I think that, doctrinally, I believe in the Book of Mormon more than Mormons do. This is especially true when it comes to its strict monotheism (although I reject its modalism). I also share the Book of Mormon’s general heaven-or-hell view of the afterlife, contra Mormonism’s now-developed three-kingdom view.

    I’d like to ask you: Can you find any references in the Bible (or in the LDS standard works at all) that condone Joseph Smith’s polyandry with already-married women who weren’t “virgins” (cf. D&C 132)?

  38. Rick B says:

    Amanda said


    I take that your lack of response to my challenge means you are incapable of finding even ONE passage in the Book of Mormon that is offensive to your Christian sensibilities…

    Amanda, I posted 2 I find Offensive, the Barge with holes and the problem of the tower of Babel being 2 different stories, the Bible’s version and the BoM version do not line up. I provide chapter and verse to Your challange, can you provide an answer? Rick b

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