Any student reasonably familiar with early Mormon history has recognized by now a pattern of Joseph Smith beginning some endeavor, and then failing at that endeavor which seems completely contradictory if God was indeed at the helm of this ship. Excuses are made and revelations received to justify the failure and place blame elsewhere. It’s a theme that can’t be overlooked by honest researchers, but the church has made a business out of downplaying this obvious flaw of its founder. If Smith was talking to God after the Book of Mormon (BOM) translation was complete, and after he tossed the seer stone aside, there is no evidence to indicate such, because his revelations in the D&C are contradictory to the rest of the scriptural canon. In the spreadsheet below we’ve compiled some of the primary historical events of the restoration and the associated problems. Study this at your own leisure and come to your own conclusions. Perhaps it can be a springboard for your own investigation into these issues!
|1820||The First Vision is claimed. Multiple versions of this event are recorded with different conflicting details. It’s unlikely the event ever occurred based on its absence from the earliest records including Lucy Mack Smith’s history.|
|1823-1827||Moroni visits Joseph annually and he secures the ancient record in September of 1827.|
|1827-1829||The Book of Mormon is translated. D&C Sections 3-18 are received. Convert baptisms occur in late 1829.|
|5/15/29||John the Baptist? Historical evidence is contradictory. D&C 13 missing from the B of C and 1835 D&C. Cowdery did write a passionate testimony so its possible a false visitor came to them?|
|Mar 1830||The Book of Mormon is published by E.B. Grandin in Palymra. D&C 19 is received. The seer stone was not used to receive D&C 19 or any subsequent revelations. Joseph said he didn’t need the stone anymore. The revelations Smith received on his own contradict The Word of God.|
|Apr 1830||The Church is organized. Cowdery’s D&C 20 has many revised changes from the Book of Commandments.|
|June 1830||The “translation” of the Bible begins. Missionaries use the BOM as “evidence” of a restoration.|
|July 1830||D&C 24-26 are received. Missionaries are preaching from the Bible and not the BOM.|
|Aug 1830||Parley P. Pratt investigates the BOM. D&C 27 is received. Peter, James, and John are not in the original text. Evidence for”Melchizedek priesthood” is all revisionist in nature.|
|Sept 1830||Pratt is Baptized. D&C 28-31 are received. Pratt was a Campbellite associated with Sidney Rigdon.|
|Oct 1830||D&C 32-33. Section 32 calls Pratt, Cowdery, Whitmer, and Peterson to preach to the “Lamanites.”|
|Nov 1830||Sidney Rigdon is baptized. D&C 34 is received. The mission to convert the Lamanites was a failure.|
|Rigdon had been a very close associate with Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott.|
|Dec 1830||D&C 35 calls Sidney to be Joseph’s scribe as they translate the Bible.|
|Feb 1831||Joseph visits Kirtland, comprised of former Campbellites which doubled the church membership.|
|June 1831||The Morley farm Priesthood event occurred (D&C 52). First High Priests ordained. Why wait till June 1831 if they had actual priesthood in 1830? Why was Joseph ordained, if Peter, James, and John had ordained him before?|
|July 1831||Joseph designates Jackson County as “Zion.” D&C 57-60. Mormons are living there by autumn. These were all failed revelations about Zion. The church continues to perpetuate this myth.|
|Feb 1832||Joseph and Sidney receive D&C 76. The “Plan of Salvation” reflects many Campbellite teachings. It contradicts the Biblical and BOM doctrine.|
|Mar 1832||The 1st Pres. is organized with Jesse Gause 1st and Sidney Rigdon as 2nd Counselor. See the Kirtland Revelation Book. This failed presidency only lasted a few months.|
|July 1832||The translation of the Bible is completed. Rigdon is disfellowshipped for an attempted church takeover.|
|Sidney claimed a revelation giving him control of the church. Joseph reordained him later in July.|
|Sept 1832||D&C 84:54-59. The church is already under condemnation regarding the Book of Mormon.|
|1832-1833||The Book of Commandments is compiled and printed. Its heavily revised later for the D&C.|
|Jan 1833||The school of the prophets is begun under various names and in various locations.|
|Winter 1833||Joseph’s first polygamous marriage to Fanny Alger as claimed by the Church now. Actually it was an extra marital affair which drove a wedge between Smith and Oliver Cowdery.|
|Mar 1833||Rigdon supplants Gause as 1st Counselor in the 1st Presidency. F.G. Williams 2nd Counselor. D&C 90.|
|May 1834||Conference in Kirtland votes to change name from “Church of Christ” to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints.” Additional church name changes would be forthcoming. Odd indeed.|
|May 1834||Zion’s Camp begins its march from Kirtland to Missouri. Zion’s camp was an utter failure. Many men died.|
|June 1834||D&C 105 is received. The dream of Zion has failed. The church has never again attempted to establish Zion.|
|Dec 1834||Oliver Cowdery ordained as Assistant President to Joseph to mollify feelings between the two men.|
|1834-1835||Lectures on Faith are delivered and compiled. The doctrines are very different from the BOM.|
|Rigdon has a major influence over the Lectures on Faith which are Campbellite in flavor.|
|1835||The D&C is published. Many of the revelations from the B of C are edited for revisionist history.|
|1835||The quorum of the 12 apostles is organized. Half of the original 12 will turn against Joseph. None of those men ever leave a record of meeting Jesus Christ.|
|1836||The Kirtland Temple is dedicated. This marks the beginning of Joseph’s entry into temple worship. FYI D&C Section 110 was never heard of until Nov 6, 1852 when it was published in Salt Lake City. No one in the Kirtland era ever heard such claims. Revisionist history again!|
|1837||The second Edition of the B of M is published in Kirtland with numerous changes to text and doctrine.|
|1837||The Kirtland Safety Society (Bank) fails, control of the temple is lost to angry members.|
|Jan 1838||Joseph and Sidney flee Kirtland under the cover of dark. Kirtland has been a total failure.|
|Mar 1838||John Whitmer and W. W. Phelps are excommunicated. The purging of prominent member who see in Smith a questionable prophet has begun.|
|Apr 1838||Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer are excommunicated. The quorum of 12 has been fracturing. Even the witnesses of the BOM see in Smith a failed prophet.|
|June 1838||Rigdon gives the infamous “Salt Sermon.” Many early Mormons quit the church in 1837-1838.|
|1838||The Mormon War in Missouri occurs. Apostle David W. Patten is killed. Did God authorize waging this war?|
|1838||The name of the church is changed again to, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Interesting it took 8-years to get the name settled.|
|1839||Joseph and others incarcerated in Liberty jail. D&C 121:34-40. Five of the 12 have been excommunicated. The leadership of the Church has lost confidence in Smith.|
|1839-1846||The Mormons are in Nauvoo where doctrines again span far away from the Book of Mormon. Polygamy spreads under Joseph’s administration. Sermons such as “King Follett” dramatically change doctrine.|
|1840||3rd Edition of the Book of Mormon printed in Nauvoo.|
|Jan 1841||D&C 124:26-53. Rejected as a church unless deadlines are met. The deadlines were never met.|
|1841||1st European Edition of the Book of Mormon.|
|May 1842||Smith gives the first Masonic endowment to members at his red brick store just weeks after becoming a 33rd degree Mason himself. Smith hired the Masonic Lodge Grand Master to help him organize the endowment.|
|April 1844||Smith is ordained as king of the earth by the secret council of fifty. Another failed event.|
|1844||Joseph is murdered. Sidney’s claim of leadership is rejected by the Church. Brigham Young takes over leadership and rules with an iron fist during his 30-year tenure as president perpetuating the strong delusion.|
|1846||Mormons flee Nauvoo. The Nauvoo Temple is never completed. Many Mormons do not go west. The church Smith established is fracturing over various claims to the throne.|
|1847||Mormons reach Utah. The “strong delusion” is tradition as they settle Utah’s Dead Sea and Jordan River. Being driven into a desolate wasteland is hardly considered a great blessing.|
The brief notes above should provide enough of a framework to recognize that things were not well from the beginning of Joseph Smith’s Mormonism. This information was gathered from the following sources over numerous years of study. I chose not to go into Smith’s treasure hunting activities or his frequent appearances in court for charges of fraud and other issues as those topics were outside the scope of this collection of data. These are selected volumes from which the data was composed.
An Informal Selected Bibliography
- Allen, James and Leonard, Glen; The Story of the Latter-day Saints
- Anderson, Devery and Bergera, Gary James; Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Anointed 1842-1845
- Backman Jr, Milton; The Heavens Resound, A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio 1830-1838
- Brodie, Fawn; No Man Knows my History, The Life of Joseph Smith
- Bushman, Richard Lyman; Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism
- Bushman, Richard Lyman; Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling
- Cannon, Donald and Cook, Lyndon; Far West Record, Minutes of the Church… 1830-1844
- Collier, Fred and Harwell, William; Kirtland Council Minute Book
- Collier, Fred; The Nauvoo High Council Minute Books
- Cook, Lyndon; David Whitmer Interviews, A Restoration Witness
- Flanders, Bruce Robert; Nauvoo, Kingdom on the Mississippi
- Homer, Michael; Joseph’s Temples, The Dynamic Relationship Between Freemasonry and Mormonism
- Quinn, Michael; The Mormon Hierarchy, Origins of Power
- Quinn, Michael; The Mormon Hierarchy, Extensions of Power
- Shipps, Jan; Mormonism The Story of a New Religious Tradition
- Smith, Joseph; The Book of Mormon
- Smith, Joseph; The Book of Commandments
- Smith, Joseph; The Doctrine and Covenants
- Staker, Mark Lyman; Hearken, O Ye People, The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations
- The Church Historian’s Press; The Joseph Smith Papers in 11 Volumes
- Van Wagoner, Richard; Sidney Rigdon, A Portrait of Religious Excess
- Vogel, Dan; Early Mormon Documents, 5 Volumes
- Vogel, Dan; Joseph Smith, The Making of a Prophet
- Westergren, Bruce; From Historian to Dissident, The Book of John Whitmer
- Whitmer, David; An Address to All Believers in Christ
We’ve also included some highlights about the BOM above, because in the next part of this paper we want to investigate how the early church used the BOM and how the book was used for the next 150 years. Joseph Smith appears to have known nothing about the content of the doctrine in the Book of Mormon, because he never preached from its pages.
The Book of Mormon
We’ve drawn from the research and writing of Terryl L. Givins, Ph.D and Professor at the University of Richmond, Virginia at the time he wrote “By The Hand of Mormon; The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion” which was published by Oxford University Press in 2002. The following quotes are from his book.
This is stirring imagery designating the Book of Mormon a herald, or portent of other magnificent events to come. The spectacle of its “springing up,” “coming forth,” and “branching” out, and its consequent role as a locus of heavenly manifestations and angelic activity, seem to suggest that what it signifies as event may be more important than what it actually says. (p. 63)
However, looking at the Book of Mormon in terms of its early use and reception, it becomes clear that this American scripture has exerted influence within the church and reaction outside the church not primarily by virtue of its substance, but rather its manner of appearing, not on the merits of what it says, but what it enacts. Put slightly differently, the history of the Book of Mormon’s place in Mormonism and American religion generally has always been more connected to its status as signifier than signified, or its role as a sacred sign rather than its function as persuasive theology. The Book of Mormon is preeminently a concrete manifestation of sacred utterance, and thus an evidence of divine presence, before it is a repository of theological claims. (p. 63-64)
At least as pertains to the way the scripture was cited and invoked, it seems that Underwood is correct that the Book of Mormon’s “earliest uses were primarily eschatological and reflected as well as reinforced a millenarian world view.” It is important to recognize, however, that the book was more important, even in this regard, as a sign than as a theological document. (p. 70)
… to violently polarize the Book of Mormon’s reception around the issue of authenticity rather than theological merit. (p. 83)
Joseph apparently also believed the message was the manner of its coming forth or he would have spent some time writing or preaching about the Book of Mormon’s content, instead of repeatedly talking about how he produced it. In an 1834 conference of elders, for example, he “gave a relation of obtaining and translating the Book of Mormon”— but if he said anything of its content, we have no record. During the seven years of the church’s Nauvoo period, when Joseph was preaching in public on a regular basis, the hundreds of recorded pages of his sermons contain only a handful of brief allusions to the Book of Mormon— and none of them involve sustained discussion of doctrine or any other content. (p. 85)
Critics were just as intent as the Saints on focusing on the book’s existence and circumstances rather than its teachings. (p. 85)
The Book of Mormon … may not have added enough doctrinal novelty to the Christian tradition to have made Mormonism more than a Protestant sect. (p. 185 quoting Rodney Stark.)
As we saw, earlier converts used the Bible as the standard against which they measured the Book of Mormon’s teachings. Grant Underwood has shown that in early LDS publications the Bible was quoted anywhere from 19 to 40 times as often as the Book of Mormon. (p. 191)
Still when Joseph Smith outlined the church’s “doctrine” and undertook to “expound the fact of [his own] religious principles” in a “letter to the Elders of the Church” to guide them in their missionary labors in 1835, he quoted at length from Luke, Acts, Revelation, Matthew, Isaiah, and Hebrews to teach the fundamentals of repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Book of Mormon received not even a mention. (p. 193)
In 1916, Orson F. Whitney reiterated: “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 the Church to do it. No book presides over this Church and no books lie 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.” And his words were in turn quoted by another elder at a 1976 general conference of the church. (p. 195)
It should be clear by this point that Joseph Smith’s claims about the Book of Mormon’s foundational role in the Latter-day Saint religion and Rodney Stark’s assessment of its theological irrelevance are not as wholly incompatible as they at first seem. The Book of Mormon has had a tremendous role to play in the establishment of the Latter-day Saint church, a role grounded largely in its obtrusiveness as miraculous artifact, portent of the last days, and sign of prophetic power. This role appears to have little or nothing to do with particular doctrines that are explicitly taught in the revealed record. (p. 196)
54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— 55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. 56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. 57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written— (D&C 84:54-57. p. 240-241)
Historically there seems little doubt the censure was deserved. Doctrinally as we have seen, the Book of Mormon exerted little influence. At the level of general church use, two studies that review church speeches and publications in the nineteenth and early twentieth century reveal the unmistakable fact that “a very low percentage of early LDS speeches and writings overtly encourage the study or distribution of the book.” As recently as pre-World War II years, even Brigham Young University and LDS Institutes (religious instruction targeted at college-age Mormons worldwide) did not feature the Book of Mormon prominently or regularly. Brigham Young University would not require that students study the Book of Mormon until 1961, and only in 1972 did churchwide study of that scripture become institutionalized in the Sunday school curriculum. In the latter half of the century (until 1986), church authorities cited the Book of Mormon a paltry 12 percent of the time when drawing upon scriptural support for their general conference addresses. . . . This situation began to change dramatically with the inaugural sermon of president Ezra Taft Benson to the church in April of 1986. On that occasion he warned that the 1832 condemnation was still in force, sounding a theme that would become the hallmark of his ministry. In a subsequent address he spoke with even greater emphasis about the scripture, urging members to make its study “a lifelong pursuit,” and reaffirming its role as “keystone of the church.” He had long championed a greater role for the Mormon scripture, emphasizing its relevance to a contemporary audience. “The Nephites never had the book; neither did the Lamanites of ancient times,” he reminded members. “Each of the major writers of the Book of Mormon testified that he wrote for future generations.” By 1988 it was clear that Benson had launched the church into a new era in which the Book of Mormon received unprecedented attention and respect. (p. 241)
Finally we want to introduce the reader to Some Examples of Revisionist Scriptures which we described in Part 1 of The Strong Delusion
|Book of Commandments Chapter IV March 1829||D&C 5: March 1829 (1835 Revisionist Version)|
|4:2 And now, behold this shall you say unto him:–I the Lord am God, and I have given these things unto my servant Joseph, and I have commanded him that he should stand as a witness of these things, nevertheless I have caused him that he should enter into a covenant with me, that he should not show them except I command him and he has no power over them except I grant it unto him; and he has a gift to translate the book and I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift, for I will grant him no other gift.||5:2 And now, behold, this shall you say unto him–he who spake unto you, said unto you: I, the Lord, am God, and I have given these things unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and have commanded you that you should stand as a witness of these things; 5:3 And I have caused you that you should enter into a covenant with me, that you should not show them except to those persons to whom I commanded you; and you have no power over them except I grant it unto you. 5:4 And you have a gift to translate the plates; and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you; and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished.|
|4:5 And thus, if the people of this generation harden not their hearts, I will work a reformation among them, and I will put down all lyings, and deceivings, and priestcrafts, and envyings, and strifes, and idolatries, and sorceries, and all manner of iniquities, and I will establish my church, like unto the church which was taught by my disciples in the days of old.4:6 And now if this generation do harden their hearts against my word, behold I will deliver them up unto Satan, for he reigneth and hath power at this time, for he hath got great hold upon the hearts of the people of this generation: and not far from the iniquities of Sodom and Gomorrah, do they come at this time: and behold the sword of justice hangeth over their heads, and if they persist in the hardness of their hearts, the time cometh that it must fall upon them. Behold I tell you these things even as I also told the people of the destruction of Jerusalem, and my word shall be verified at this time as it hath hitherto been verified..||5:19 For a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to be poured out from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming. 5:20 Behold, I tell you these things, even as I also told the people of the destruction of Jerusalem; and my word shall be verified at this time as it hath hitherto been verified.|
|Book of Commandments Chapter XXVIII Sept 1830||D&C 27: Aug 1830 (1835 Revisionist Version)|
|28:6 Behold this is wisdom in me, wherefore marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you, on the earth, and with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world:||27:5 Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim; 27:6 And also with Elias, to whom I have committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days; 27:7 And also John the son of Zacharias, which Zacharias he (Elias) visited and gave promise that he should have a son, and his name should be John, and he should be filled with the spirit of Elias; 27:8 Which John I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto the first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron; 27:9 And also Elijah, unto whom I have committed the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a curse; 27:10 And also with Joseph and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, your fathers, by whom the promises remain; 27:11 And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days; 27:12 And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them; 27:13 Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; 27:14 And also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world.|
|B of M Original/Printer Manuscript and 1830 Version||B of M Changed in 1837 and all Subsequent Versions|
|And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin which thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.
And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal God! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? (The First Book Of Nephi Chapter III)
Note: The Printer’s Manuscript of 1Nep 11:21 has the word “God” written originally, and the word God has been stricken through and changed to “Father” in the 1837 edition and all subsequent editions.
|14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? (1Nep 11).
|And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record. (The First Book Of Nephi Chapter III)||32 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record. (1Nep 11:32)|
|And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved… (The First Book Of Nephi Chapter III)||40 And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved. (1Nep 13:40)|
None of what we have discussed in these papers on the “strong delusion” has been disclosed to members of the church before they were baptized. Most active Mormons are completely unaware of these historical issues, but things are changing and information is the key to understanding. The story of the GMW spells the end for Smith’s fraud which will be the initial primary emphasis of the Lord’s “Servant” when he stands up among us.