030-033: An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins — An Interview with Grant Palmer

In this episode of Mormon Stories, we interview Grant Palmer–author of the book entitled “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins.”

Grant (M.A., American history, Brigham Young University) is a three-time director of LDS Institutes of Religion in California and Utah, a former instructor at the Church College of New Zealand, and an LDS seminary teacher at two Utah locations.

  • In episode 1, Grant talks about his childhood (growing up in Salt Lake City), his mission experience in Virginia, and his early years with the Church Education System.
  • In episode 2, Grant talks about his move with CES from California to Salt Lake City, how the Mark Hofman bombings affected him and his colleagues, and his subsequent deep dive into LDS History. Grant also discusses his arrival at the decision to write his book–An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins.
  • In episode 3, Grant takes us through a deep dive into his 1st book–An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins. During this episode we cover Joseph Smith’s treasure seeking and usage of peep stones, the actual mechanics of the Book of Mormon translation process, the recorded accounts of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, the multiple versions of Joseph Smith’s First Vision story, and the evolution of the LDS Priesthood accounts over time.
  • In episode 4, Grant discusses the early reactions to his book, his trial with the LDS Church for apostacy (which ultimately led to disfellowship), his thoughts about how the LDS Church might constructively deal with these tough historical issues, and his testimony of how focusing on Christ could benefit all sides of these issues.

160 comments for “030-033: An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins — An Interview with Grant Palmer

  1. chrisac80
    May 23, 2006 at 5:16 am

    Hi Doc,
    > Universalist thought that there are noble and good people in all faiths, therefore everyone will be saved

    Actually, as often as I read this quote from Joseph Smith, I cannot find that he held the concept that there is goodness in all religions, I don’t regard the LDS faith as universalistic:

    “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all ccorrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (JS H 1,19)

    If all churches are so good that their members get saved, why do 50000 missionaries go into the world each year, risk their lives, live under hardly bearable conditions, to talk people with social problems into their cult?

    I think that the “you are quite good, lets see if we can add a little to it” image is just a facade to hide the intolerant attitude the LDS church holds in reality.

    > He developed a radical and ground breaking idea of Baptism for the dead and proxy work.
    If you be a realist, you will see that the percentage of people which will be baptised by proxy work is ridiculously small. Many family records will not reach back many centuries. Especially researching the origins of american immigrants seems to be very difficult.
    But lets consider a simple example, the Lamanites, also known as Native Americans.
    Do they have genealogical records like we have books for baptisms?
    All in all, there are billions of people who will never be baptised, because their data is written down nowhere.
    If God depended on such a system, he would only reach a tiny percentage of all human beings.
    If on the other hand, God did not depend on such a system, why do such a fuzz about genealogy if He will give all people another chance anyway?
    Genealogy is just a means to keep people busy.
    Using the church database for scientific research is actually dangerous, as there are a lot of mistakes in the records. I have found several conflicting records in my family.

    But I think the real problem about Temple work is the temple recommend.
    This institution gives human beings the power to judge people according to a strange set of categories
    such as masturbation practice, contact to apostates, etc. While Jesus taught throughout all the Gospels that we should not judge each other, the Church has judgemental institutions like the temple recommend interviews, church courts, etc.
    One effect is that it actually promotes lying, for men masturbating, but being able to lie to their Bishops without getting red, get their recommend, while honest men will admit they masturbate occasionally.

    Well, so I basically don’t agree with your statements,
    greets, Chris.

  2. jordanandmeg
    May 23, 2006 at 9:58 am

    Very stage three to push ideas on one another. From both sides.
    I liked the stage four storytelling and support discussions better.

  3. doc
    May 23, 2006 at 10:27 am

    Chris, JordanandMeg,
    I actually was attempting to show that there just may be a stage 5 orthodox belief system in mormonism in contrast to the tone some of the posters were taking on. I realize I may be coming off insensitive and marginalizing others feelings. This is absolutely not my wish, nor do I wish to start arguing points of doctrine or history. People can take it as they will. I understand not everyone may agree and perhaps it is a somewhat radical idea. Joseph Smith’s Father was absolutely a Universalist as was his paternal grandfather before him. He, by his own history found himself drawn to the methodists(evangelicals) But refrained from joining them. Putting aside all the arguments, hurt feelings regarding fraud, proof, etc. I just have to wonder if He himself was not trying to reconcile these ideas. The quote about the other teachers of religion being an abomination, viewed in context, can easily be seen as a response to stage 3 contentions and belief pushing, to all the arguing, confusing and contending people exhibited at the revivals as he experienced them.
    In sharing these things I only was hoping to lighten the debate and tone. I hope that by sharing this people realize I’m not trying minimalize the pain or feelings of those who feel a betrayal of trust secondary to things they later learned about the church. I have dealt long and hard with these things myself. In talking about the stages, I think you realize we all do to some degree or another.

  4. Daniel W
    May 23, 2006 at 10:40 am

    I was actually raised with a knowledge of the LDS church but I was primarily raised protestant in base and baptist specifically though for my first 10 years I never attended any church.
    When my mother re-married we started going to a free-will baptist church and I was baptised there. I enjoyed it until I grew of age and started listening to the adult sermons which were filled as much with Scriptural lessons and the love of Jesus as they were with “Save your occult brothers and sisters” ie… convert mormons to baptist day. The night they held a special meeting just to teach us how mormons were evil and wrong, handing out pamphlets and showing videos, that was the last time I stepped foot in their door.
    I tried catholicism, buddhism, wicca, satanism, various non-denominational protestant type churches, and even some odd groups of holy rollers and other sects. None of them touched me like the LDS church did. Perhaps it was partly because my dad had rejoined the church and I saw him 6 weeks a year and so the seeds were sorta planted for me to be more accepting of them than anyone else but frankly in the other churches I just saw hatred for others, unfair judging, you know…human flaws.
    I see some of that judging in this church but for some reason I’m more able to shrug it off because it’s the people in the congregation that I see it from (and VERY discreet and VERY rarely) instead of the leaders of the congregation which is where I saw it coming from in the other churches.
    Perhaps I’m just in a really good ward and haven’t been exposed to a corrupt bishop or stake president or someone in church that I had to REALLY struggle to be civil around.
    Still, I think I’ll stick around but this episode definitely gave me a lot to think about. It shook my faith but didn’t destroy it. I think that’s a healthy thing.

  5. pjj
    May 23, 2006 at 10:52 am

    John, just curious, did anyone from FAIR or FARMS finally take you up on the offer to do a response? Paula

  6. May 23, 2006 at 11:23 am

    They’ve referred one possible candidate to me, and we’re in discussions. More soon……thanks for asking!

  7. May 23, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    Has anyone ever read the book/seen the mini series “Brideshead Revisited”? In the book a character who has left Catholocism talks about how she could never set up a rival good to God. She could rebel against him and break his commandments but the thing she could never let herself do was set up something else in her life that would rival God as a positive force. I’m not making a point here, I am recommending the book. It has a lot of really beautiful commentary on this situation we are all in. In fact there is a character in the book to represent each of us on this post board.

    Daniel: that was a very nice testimony. thanks for sharing it.

  8. jordanandmeg
    May 24, 2006 at 8:05 pm

    Daniel said: “It shook my faith but didn’t destroy it. I think that’s a healthy thing.”

    Yes. Wonderfully said. It’s very healthy, I think, to let your faith be shaken. When it is shaken it can be deepened, corrected, reoriented, broadened. A stagnant testimony is like an embalmed flower.
    And even when faith is destroyed, time finds ways to put it back together with more beauty and precision than we had before, even if it takes years. And not just faith that a particular religion is true or false, but in God, goodness, truth, happiness.

  9. Mike25
    May 24, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    Wow, well said jordanandmeg! Kinda describes what I’m going through. Many don’t understand my “new” testimony I have now but luckily my wife is very understanding and open-minded herself. I’ve been involved in Mormon studies since I got back from my mission in ’02. I now feel very content with my new way of thinking and have even prayed to God about my new “un-orthodox” way of thinking and felt extremely whole, happy and satisfied. I have a few questions for all you guys:

    1) I haven’t been married in the temple yet and I currently don’t feel the need to do it either. Should I just get married in the temple to satisfy the parental pressures from my family and my wife’s family? (We occasionally hear the “I hope you don’t die and end up seperated for eternity” line). What about getting married “just in case it’s all true”? I’ve thought about that, too. Any thoughts?

    2) How can I open up and be completely honest about how I feel spiritually to my parents? (I feel that a conversation between us cannot even start since they don’t have the “background” of information that I have).

    3) I’m twenty-five and can’t get my friends to be more involved in Mormon studies. I’ve sent free issues of Sunstone to my friends and they don’t read it. My wife doesn’t get involved either so I’m stuck reading all this interesting and listening to all of the Mormon Stories Podcasts on my iPod and I end up with noone to share it with or chat about it. Does anybody know of a community of young open-minded individuals that meet in Utah County or anything?

    4) Since I’ve become more open-minded about sources of information/ books/ philosophy (instead of just the church correlated), I have come across some cool books that I can now read and be inspired from. You guys come across any cool books that you wouldn’t have read beforehand but now you find thought-provoking? (A couple of my examples are “The Teachings of Don Juan”, and “The Singularity is Near”)

  10. May 24, 2006 at 10:23 pm

    I’m an exmormon but I hope that doesn’t detour you from listening to my perspective Mike25. In regards to #1 above I am so glad I no longer have to make those kinds of decisions. But I understand where you are coming from. If you are already willing to live in an orthodox environment with unorthodox beliefs then why not extending it to going through the motions of a temple marriage with the funny hat, secret handshakes, and modified penal oaths?
    In regards to #2, for any Progressive Sunstone Mormon, I highly recommend John Dehlin’s screencast at http://www.mormonstories.org/whytheyleave.
    If they do not have at least some basic common knowledge in regards to the problems with taking Mormonism literally they will likely not be receptive to what you have to say. Ask them if they want to understand your perspective? If they don’t then they won’t read any books or web pages you recommend. If they won’t read for themselves, it is like a PhD professor trying to explain algebra to a person who refuses to learn basic mathematics. In my experience I have received two distinct reactions from LDS family and friends when I tried to explain my perspective, first as a Sunstone Mormon and then as an exMormon.

    1. Some of my friends would listen intently. They knew that I was a man of good character. They trusted me enough to know that there was something to what I was saying. After I gave them the basic reasons why I feel that Mormonism is not what it claims to be, they then decided to do their own research on the Internet or in books. They chose to read for themselves in more detail. After which, whether they decided to remain a devout Mormon or not, they had read for themselves everything I was saying, and so they never chose to accuse me of being the problem or making stuff up, as they had read it for themselves.

    2. The second half of the people I opened up to would immediately attack my character before investigating what I told them. They’d just say they know it is true, and I must be the problem, not the church.

    I have since learned that, unfortunately, people in category 2 never prove to be very good friends. But I don’t necessarily blame them. Although it is ultimately their choice to refuse to hear your side of things, they are also under a lot of socio-cultural pressure to avoid apostate Mormons and Sunstone Mormons. Below are ten examples of how much conditioning the LDS member goes through, in order to keep them from being able to see their religion as anything but the only true church let by direct revelation. Consider the following:

    1. Just think about this: the LDS temple interview actually contains the following question that Latter day Saints must answer correctly to be considered a devout Mormon:
    Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual? See http://www.lds-mormon.com/veilworker/recommend.shtml.
    Therefore Mormons vow not to sympathize or affiliate with apostate Mormons like me.
    2. Mormons are strongly discouraged from reading literature about their religion that is not faith promoting and published by the church or deseret books.
    3. At least ten times a week they say or hear the phrase “I know the LDS church is true…” When the LDS member is surrounded by friends and family who reinforce this, I believe that over time it becomes a factual truth imbedded in their subconscious mind. Any emotions they get while thinking or talking about Mormonism becomes proof to the truth of the LDS church.
    4. Mormons are taught that the natural man is an enemy to God and science and rational thinking are seen as man’s ways. Therefore, when anyone writes a book that opposes the claims of the Mormon Church, the LDS member will often presumptively discount any evidence disproving LDS claims as natural man’s distortion of the truth before even examing the evidence, all because it is against what he or she believes and “feels” is true.
    5. Therefore, LDS tend to refuse to read anything that criticizes the Mormon Church. Anything that challenges the idea that Mormonism is the only true religion is deemed anti-Mormon. Mormons develop an aversion to anything that is critical of their religion. When they are constantly reinforced with faith promoting literature and refuse to read the opposing point of view, they inevitably develop a powerful bias and remain voluntary ignorant to all the problems in their religion.
    6. Mormon culture functions on the basis of conformity. Members don’t go to church to think but to have their beliefs reinforced. People who do not believe in Mormonism are not expected to show up, as that would challenge the faith of those in attendance. Therefore, since Mormons usually associate with only Mormons when discussing their religion, they slowly develop religious tunnel vision as their relationships are built around the emotion-based premise that Mormonism is true. Anyone who questions this premise is seen as someone causing trouble. Mormonism is a feel-good religion, based on emotional security and social conformity. If someone brings up something that doesn’t make the church member feel good they will not be welcomed.
    7. Since the Mormon’s identity is wrapped around Mormon dogma anyone who questions things like the historicity of the Book of Mormon will be seen as someone who is attacking the member’s very identity. Just like taking a toy away from a two-year-old, most LDS members are unable to look at their religion objectively, because their ego has become attached to the dogma.
    8. Then they are taught to believe that subjective feelings are the way to know objective truth. Talking with an exmormon usually will not make the true believing Mormon feel good, since they had no idea Smith put a seer stone in a hat or that he had sex with teenagers.
    9. If the Mormon really thinks an old white man in Utah is the only person on the planet who speaks for God they will begin to distrust any scientific expert that does not conform to the words of their leader. They believe obeying the words of their leader is what’s most important.
    10. The LDS member has been trained to handle the former LDS believer and Sunstone Mormon with disdain. They are told to bear testimony: appeal to emotions rather than have an open discussion based on logic and reason. They are told to refuse to read what the former Mormon offers as evidence because it’s all considered anti-Mormon lies. The Mormon has been taught to assume that anyone who leaves the church is an evil sinner that is spiritually sick, and must be either reconverted to the true fold or rejected lest they drag you down to the pit of hell with them. Dramatic language aside that is unfortunately what you’re dealing with.

    For some suggestions for having a friendly dialogue with an LDS member see: http://www.geocities.com/exmormon2000/friendlydialogue.htm

  11. Mike25
    May 25, 2006 at 12:32 am

    Thank you!! I sincerely thank you for your thoughts, experiences and links posted. I didn’t even know about the slideshow put together by John Dehlin! I’ve already started to bring up some sort of dialogue with my dad and already he told me he was worried I would become an “apostate”. I know that he is scared to look into the things I’ve been looking into for the last year.

    Everyone around me tends to say, “I don’t wanna hear about it”, or “why are you poking around in manure”. Well the reason why is because, like Mr. Dehlin, I was SOOOO into LDS apologetics and Church history. I studied everything on the FAIR website, SHIELDS, Jay Lindsay and ate it all up- I loved it, but I wanted more and delved deeper. Like John I went from LDS Church manuals to Arrington, to Bushman, to Quinn, Compton and other Signature books. Is it bad to to have come to the place we are?? No, we arrived here from our thirst for knowledge of our church and its fairy-tale-like history. People who have come to where we are arrived here because they value integrity, too. I think most of on this blog are studious, care about truth and integrity.

    I would probably consider myself a NOM for now and my path to where I am started with an LDS mission, then to apologetics, and then to fair and balanced Mormon literature. John Dehlin’s studies started when he wanted to be a better Seminary teacher. He cares very much about integrity and truth, I can tell. Grant Palmer sounds very much the same in his podcast. You sound like a great guy too, Bill, and I am sure none of us are going to be judged negatively for simply studying our church.

    Thanks again!

  12. jordanandmeg
    May 25, 2006 at 12:42 am

    Mi Mike25.

    I think the road to deeper faith is an inherently lonely one. It is essentially between oneself and God. You learn to judge things as they come and slowly become more patient with yourself, other people, your religion, and life’s ambiguities.

    I wouldn’t expect anyone to understand or join you. I wouldn’t expect family or church to take part in this. And rightly so. Deep faith is deeply personal. And I wouldn’t expect to change the world – that’s part of learning patience with reality.

    Deepening faith is like running the gauntlet: there’s nothing more lonely, painful, dire, urgent. But once it nears its end – what satisfaction, what accomplishment! And every once and a while, you come across someone who’s ran the same race, and you can enjoy a knowing exchange.

    Through it all, I have come to love the church. I think I’m beginning to see it for what it really is.

    It’ll be exciting to see what kind of conclusions you come to.

  13. May 25, 2006 at 7:23 pm

    Hey Mike,

    I’m afraid that the “I don’t want to hear about it” retort is quite common in Mormondom. I once presented an LDS friend with David Whitmer’s pamphlet An Address to All Believers in Christ where he states that God told him to leave the LDS church. My friend just said, “I don’t care what David Whitmer said!” Imagine that, he doesn’t care what a BoM witness said, LOL. Most of my family has seen the light but my father is still afraid to look into things and we agree to disagree about religion. I spent about two years trying to get him to read or listen to things and finally I decided that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, you can’t teach a dog new tricks, and I accept my father the way he is. You know the saying, “would you rather be right or be happy?” You are so right Mike when you wrote that “most of us on this blog are studious, care about truth and integrity.” Jordanandmeg is right too, the road to truth and integrity is often a lonely one, but once the smoke clears you’re true friends remain and no one can put a price on truth. In the long run the truth comes out. Be glad you found out now rather than later.

    – Bill

  14. FreeAtLast
    May 26, 2006 at 2:52 am

    I heard a great quote today from Patrick Henry, the 18th-century American Revolutionary leader and orator. It’s SO applicable to many Latter-Day Saints in respect to their fear of finding out faith-shaking facts about Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, early church history, and other aspects of Mormonism. Henry said, “We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth…Is this the part of wise men…Are we disposed to be of the number of those, who having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not…? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it might cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; [and] to know it – now.”

  15. labguy
    May 27, 2006 at 7:09 pm

    John, I have very much enjoyed all your podcasts and especially the past couple. When I visit Cache Valley this summer I’ll try and take you up on the free Ice Cream offer.

    I just now read most of the posts here as well as some of those on the FAIR board. One thing that I thought was unFAIR on the FAIR board was the fact that Grant P. had told his superiors of his concern regarding history, etc. Time and again the FAIR guys talked about how it was wrong for Grant to continue as a CES employee when he was no longer a believer. But, if it was clear to his ‘supervisor’ that he had these doubts and the fact that he wasn’t in a classroom, but down at the State Prison giving lessons to convicts about Jesus, why attack Grant?

    It reminds me of when I could no longer serve in the bishopric, I told the SP I needed to be released. He obliged. Due to family concerns, I did (do) not wish to terminate my membership. After I was released, the bishop called me to be Ward Chorister. I did that for a year or more and was then asked to be membership clerk. I was concerned because I wasn’t temple worthy (can’t answer some of the restoration questions with a clear conscious). Nevertheless, I served in that capacity for over 4 years.

    If they were going to be ‘nitpicky’ they could have probably disfellowshipped me for apostacy long ago. If they wanted to follow the letter of the law as far as callings go, I should never have served as membership clerk.

    Why do they make such a big deal about Grant’s solution? His boss knew of his beliefs and took what he believed was appropriate action.


  16. FreeAtLast
    May 27, 2006 at 10:25 pm

    The answer why you, labguy, weren’t disfellowshipped like Palmer is because you didn’t write a book that included facts and a perspective about Joseph Smith and early church history that did not support the church’s propaganda about the ‘Prophet of the Restoration’ and early 19th-century Mormonism. Grant Palmer did.

    Your lack of ‘faith’ was tolerated because you hadn’t done something of significance that would rock Mormons’ religious beliefs. Palmer had. In the great machinery of the church, you were a very, very small cog. On the other hand, Palmer had become pretty high-profile. Somebody’s name was needed for the ward chorister and membership clerk slot on the ward organizational chart. Why not you? You could select hymns and wave your arm on Sunday, and (later) process church membership forms, and what effect would your lack of belief have on Latter-Day Saints’ ‘faith’ in the church and its patriarchal leadership? None.

    Palmer, on the other hand, became a significant liability for the church. Excommunicating him would make the church look extremely foolish, considering that Deseret Book had sold “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins” for more than a year. But some type of church disciplinary action had to be taken against him. After all, his book had shaken the faith of many Mormons badly. So, he received the LDS equivalent of Galileo’s house arrest (rather than facing the more extreme measures of the Inquisition): being disfellowshipped.

    Remember – in authoritarian organizations like the LDS Church, believing and compliance by the rank-and-file are everything. The organization cannot survive without them. Anything that seriously threatens members’ ‘faith’ must be dealt with, and silenced if possible.

  17. jdub
    May 28, 2006 at 5:32 pm

    I haven’t read all of the comments so what I say here might be repetitive. Anyway, first I must say that I have loved the podcasts and hope they continue! Second, I realize that the purpose of the podcast is to allow the individual to tell their story, and I think it is great that Mormon Stories exists so that these stories may be presented.
    Now for the critic in me. I thought that it was very evident that the questions John made to Grant were leading, and obviously this was done for a purpose, to get Grant’s story. Yet, I thought the questions were used to further Grant’s story which assumes that the church has hid all the information. Further, I learned nothing new from this podcast. While I realize that the purpose of the podcast isn’t to educate, exactly, the overall tone of the podcast was to present ideas which would lead the listener to say “What?” or “I had no idea.” Personally, because I am a student of Mormon History, I have became acquainted with all of these issues, exepting perhaps the golden pot (?) topic. In fact, these issues have been addressed for decades by Mormon Historians. Some had even been addressed as earlier as the 1830s with Alexander Cambell. So, I wonder what the purpose of this book is. To me, it seems as thought its primary purpose is not to present new information, but to show that this information has been somehow hidden from members of the church. On this point, if people are expecting to learn the details of the history of the church in sunday school or seminary, perhaps they should realize that this is not the purpose of these programs. I do believe it is important to get information about the church’s history “out there” more so than in the past, but I believe this isn’t the church’s role.
    Lastly, compared with other podcasts I thought this one was done rather poorly. But I know that my work is flawed as well, and I only offer this as my opinion. Further, for the most part I love Mormon Stories podcasts, and hope they keep coming! Thanks for your efforts John, and thanks for your point of view Grant.

  18. Bonnie
    May 28, 2006 at 10:32 pm

    I just learned that Pope John Paul II was baptised for the dead and endowed in april 2006 at 4 temples. First, I am appalled that the Mormon Church would have the balls to do this. Do they not respect ANY religion?

    Good hell, keep their friggin hands off of the leaders of other churches. Not that this necro dunking does a damn thing, but it sure is disrespetful.

    This is just one more reason I hate the Mormon church.

  19. labguy
    May 28, 2006 at 11:00 pm


    Of course you are absolutely correct that my situation was insignificant compared to Palmers. I was naive to even make the comparison.

    But, it still bothers me that the FAIR guys make such a big deal about Palmer making a living off the church while having doubts regarding doctrine, etc. If he came ‘clean’ with his supervisors, why should he be given such a bad rap for doing what he did? Unfortunately the thread was closed on the FAIR board and I couldn’t complain about it.

  20. FreeAtLast
    May 29, 2006 at 1:02 am

    It wasn’t my intention to belittle your contribution to the church as chorister and membership clerk. My post could’ve easily been interpreted that way. My apologies if my words touched a ‘nerve’ in you.

    Re. Grant Palmer – being sent to teach in the prison (or did he request that assignment?) was probably a blessing-in-disguise for him because it gave him the opportunity to talk more about Jesus Christ to society’s ‘outcasts’, rather than doing lessons about Joseph Smith, early church history, etc. for Institute classes. In the interview, it’s clear that Palmer feels strongly that the LDS Church should focus more on Jesus and core Christian teachings. As he said, he’ll give the church a few years to change, then he’s moving on. As do so many people with experience in Mormonism.

  21. Kimball L. Hunt
    May 29, 2006 at 3:03 am

    It’s 3 in the morning and I’m tired but I’m gonna try ‘n’ contribute. What interested me was Grant’s longish pauses. These seemed — at least to me — to occur whenever Grant was asked a question requiring him to come up with some kind of, well, equivocatedly positive spin on the foundations of the Church. In contrast, Grant really got animated only when he was addressing his interest in the problems he’d been so earnestly researching.

    Many can’t handle the so called cognitive dissonance Grant willingly abides; those who’ve bailed wonder why he remains, while those who don’t recognize the Church as having as significant of philosophical problems as Grant sees, wonder why he’d consider staying . . . Yet I’m a bailer who still can appreciate Grant’s having taken the path he has. Yet, others no doubt inhabit a similar trajectory, more quietly?

    I’m rambing, but I’m tired. Sorry. Thanks a lot, Grant & John.
    – – –
    And John, your own three-parter was great too! I liked how true blue you were. It’s interesting how a true believer type(That is: one who’s so self-assuredly/ “directedly” orthodox and so motivated through such self-confidence to explore wherever things may lead). . . reshapes and rechannels this dynamic into your present endeavors? Blah blah — Lol! (Sorry — Still tired!)

  22. Clinton
    May 29, 2006 at 5:16 pm

    I wanted to thank John for the wonderful podcasts he has been providing. I also thoroughly enjoy the personal views and experiences that come across in each podcast. Thank you for providing this venue.

    I woudl like to bring up a question for general discussion. Do those that listened to the podcast think that Grant’s solution of focusing on Christ would work?

    Personally I just think it pushes the historical problems back to 1 A.D – 400 A.D. but this doesn’t work. There are equally difficult problems with the New Testament as there are with the Book of Mormon. There are also equally as difficult problems with the Old Testament as there are with the New Testament. Each of these religious documents have abundant problems.

  23. FreeAtLast
    May 30, 2006 at 2:05 am

    Clinton wondered if Grant Palmer’s recommendation that the LDS Church focus more on Christ would work. From my perspective, the answer is yes, and no. It’s no secret that the LDS Church has been striving to go ‘mainstream’ for a number of years. Several church doctrines and teachings that made Mormonism quite distinctive from other Christianity-rooted religions, even as recently as 25 years ago, are no longer taught or mentioned. In the past decade, Gordon Hinckley has stated on national TV that he’s not sure the church teaches certain doctrines that former ‘prophets and apostles’ boldly declared to the church’s membership and the world. Mini-crosses have been erected on the top of meetinghouse spires, which would have been inconceivable a generation ago.

    The church’s senior patriarchal leadership has been trying to make the LDS Church appear to be more Christian, and their strategy has worked – intermittently. When an aspect of Mormonism from a previous era suddenly re-surfaces, as happened earlier this month when the media reported on Warren Jeffs, his FLDS polygamous group, fundamentalist Mormons, and the ‘principle of plural wives’ practiced by Joseph Smith, the Mormon Church suddenly looked very un-Christian. News of the church’s proxy baptisms (four of them, for some strange reason), temple endowments, and sealings last month for Pope John Paul II is another reason why non-members think Mormonism is un-Christian. Most Latter-Day Saints don’t realize that doing baptisms and other religious rites for dead people seems very weird to the outside world. In the case of Jews who were killed in the Holocaust who have been post-humously baptized and ‘sealed’ in Mormon temples, it’s been quite offensive (ref. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/05/26/ap/national/mainD8HRN99O6.shtml).

    Another problem that disrupts the strategy to mainstream the LDS Church is that many people who joined the church in the last 10-15 years have been indoctrinated to believe that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and other 19-century church leaders were monogamists. To hear on Fox News or CNN that Joseph Smith had 33 wives, and like Warren Jeffs, married teenage girls as young as 14, has been a terrible shock to many newer members. They’ve gone on the Internet and discovered facts about Mormon polygamy which the ‘Christian’ Mormon church concealed from them. People have been leaving as a result. It’s hard to build a strong Christian church when 100,000 people are formally resigning each year (a stat. provided by Palmer in his podcast interview).

    Temple worship is something that will have to be radically changed or eliminated for the LDS Church to Christian-ize itself. Palmer missed this point because he’s too close to Mormonism to see it. The strange rites, secret handshakes and words, bizarre clothing, etc. strikes non-Mormons (and many Latter-Day Saints) as un-Christian. There is nothing in the words or life of Jesus, or the words and lives of early Christians (as per the New Testament) that provides a bridge between Christianity of the Bible and Mormon temple worship.

    Other than some Mormonism-rooted offshoots such as the Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS Church), no Christianity-based church recognizes the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price as scripture. In the minds of the great majority of people, the book of Christianity (the word of God) is the Bible, and no other book. To come across as more Christian for non-Mormons, the LDS Church will have to reduce its focus on the keystone of Mormonism, The Book of Mormon.

    The Catch-22 is that as the LDS Church becomes less and less distinctive from other Christianity-rooted churches as part of its strategy to go mainstream, it loses its zest. Many Latter-Day Saints who have been in the church for a few decades or longer have noted this trend. As Grant Palmer pointed out, the church’s senior priesthood leaders have very difficult choices facing them.

  24. May 30, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    I realize I’m taking this to more of a message board level and not even commenting on the podcast episode itself, which is sorta what these comments are for I guess but here I go:

    In response to the anger over baptism for the dead and moreso those baptisms performed for deceased leaders of other religions I think about this on a couple of levels.

    From the LDS perspective, baptism is essential for eternal life (John 3:5). As a church they believe that only priesthood holders have the authority to baptise and thus all other baptisms are not recognized. Therefore, they believe it essential to baptise all those who have died without being baptised in order to give them the opportunity at eternal life should they choose it in the spirit world.
    They also believe that if, for instance, Pope John Paul II refeuses the gospel when he is in the spiritual realm, then that baptism means nothing.
    From the non-LDS perspective, if the LDS church is a cult and it’s baptisms aren’t done with any spiritual authority what harm does it do to have everyone baptised when they pass on? It’s the LDS’s way of honoring the dead and if the LDS church is false it does no wrong to the person in who’s name the baptism is taking place since the baptism wasn’t done with their permission.

    So if the LDS church is true, then it has done a great service to the Pope.
    If the LDS church is false, the baptism is null and void and so no wrong has been done.

  25. May 30, 2006 at 7:52 pm

    I whole heartedly agree with the underlying ethos of this comment.

    I get how it is kind of a bummer to Jews when they hear that Mormons are baptizing Holacaust victims after they died in such a horrible way BUT

    Let’s say for sake of argument that Mormonism IS NOT TRUE. Let’s pretned for this argument that is a man made religion. Is it such a bad thing to have the members of your false religion (or we’ll just call it a religion causer if it’s false, they all are and it IS [probably] false and they all are) connecting with the memories of the people who have died in this world? Isn’t that advancing the collective spirit of the human race? is it really so bad? No it isn’t. it is good.

    I don’t know if anyone else ever finds them self siding with Pontious Pilate when he asked “What is truth?” Because I don’t know what is anymore. But I do know what connection is. I think it is the only truth I know. that we can connect with other human beings in a way that seems eternal and important. isn’t baptisms for the dead (in thi scenario where we are pretending they don’t really mean anything in a true eternal sense) just a way for humans on earth now to feel some connection with the humans that came before them? And can that kind of connection be negative?

    No it can’t.

  26. Clinton
    May 31, 2006 at 9:07 am


    I think that you have missed my point entirely. However looking at my own post, I realize I didn’t make my point well. Let my try to restate it more clearly. Grant Palmer views many intractable problems in Mormon History. In particular he believes that the historical facts do not match up with the story we tell in church. He then proposes that we focus on Jesus, because that history is reliable. My point was that the history of early Christianity is as much in question and just as unreliable as early Mormon history. In particular the actual facts do not fit with the story most Christian churches tell in Sunday School. Therefore I do not think that Grant Palmer’s “Fix” is viable.

  27. June 1, 2006 at 1:08 am

    Just listened, WOWSER! What a revelation. Made me depressed for a while. The content is fantastic and the evidence astounding.

    But afterward, I am not convinced that it is all for naught. (Not that the podcast was trying to say that, but almost.) I’m not as smart as a lot of you guys here and I don’t have all the answers but I still believe, without knowing, there is more to it than that. Maybe I can say that I have a better connection with the current day church than it’s origin. I didn’t know it then, I wasn’t there at that time.

    But, the current day church is a product of where that stemmed you say? Yes I know. I have witnessed too many things spiritually and significantly in this church today to write it off. You wouldn’t be interested in the details. So I guess I am judging the church and it’s origins on what I have seen and felt today in my lifetime, not it’s history or origins. I guess I am judging the root by the fruit.

    But, the church’s fruits are diminishing today you say? People dropping like flies from membership? Wasn’t there a prophesy of half the membership dropping away at some point? I remember learning that somewhere. Is that happening now? Already? DANG!

    It is what I have felt. I keep hearing that the spirit is the teacher of all truth. It seems the way things are going the only way to be LDS nowadays is on spiritual faith or ignorance. I’m sure some of you will call me ignorant. It is your right. I’ve just witnessed too much in the church that no one podcast or whole website for that matter can wipe it all out for me. It’s the spirit that brings me back each time. I don’t know why that is either. I wouldn’t consider myself close to the spirit at any other given time. But times like this, yes.


    PS, hey John! Can you get the spirit as a guest on the show? I’m sure He’d clear things up. That was a joke, but John, I think a good guest would be someone to explain spiritual feelings and what makes people believe and get motivated like I explained I am above. I hear so much of botched church history and anti-evidence, etc… Would it be worth it to talk about why (the remaining LDS members, be them few) would feel the spirit is telling them to stay put no matter what? Am I making any sense? If one could explain that away, then we’d be getting somewhere.

  28. SatanIsMyMotor
    June 1, 2006 at 8:01 am


    OH THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Without you, I never would have realized that all I had to do was listen to THE SPIRIT! Oh man! To think…I would have gone through life not believing in a Church that was founded by someone who married other men’s wives and convinced people he could find buried Spanish treasure in their backyards. But now that I know that all I have to do is be like you, i.e. to listen to THE SPIRIT, I believe! I believe! I believe! >

    Wally, think about all those poor lost souls out there that you have now saved! I mean, there is a whole website here full of people who struggle with these historical issues, but now they too realize (because of your insightful comments) that they just failed to listen to THE SPIRIT! Now they will realize that all of those nasty things that Palmer said about Joseph Smith are really just lies from SATAN! And that they shouldn’t really judge a prophet based on his “fruits,” all you need is a burning in the bosom. I mean, what crazy guy said, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” We don’t need to examine the fruits of a prophet, we just need THE SPIRIT!

    Silly, silly, John. You just need to to have the Spirit on your show. DUH.

    Much love,

  29. June 1, 2006 at 8:39 am

    I thought this might happen. Sorry to offend you. I guess I was trying to use humor to reconcile why I still feel the way I do but yet having serious issues with this data.(Meaning, serious issues with my own belief now) The fact is I believe what Grant says is great evidence. Like I said in the beginning, the evidence is astounding. And I am astounded. So, naturally, I’m trying to figure out why I am so conflicted. I’m REALY down about all this. Thanks for kicking me while down.

    I didn’t feel “Much love” in your post.

    So listen for a moment. What I am really trying to say about the spirit is, can we look at it maybe even scientifically or physiologically, what goes down in people’s minds when they “feel the spirit.” You might say, brainwashing, delusions… I’m really not joking now. I’m opened minded to this kind of discussion but this is the last grip the gospel has on me. Is it too much to ask for a podcast on it?

    Thanks SIMM, your a real pal.

  30. SatanIsMyMotor
    June 1, 2006 at 10:02 am


    “Thanks for kicking me while down.”

    The purpose of my previous post was not to kick you while you were down. My purpose was to kick you off your high horse. Comments like this one

    “PS, hey John! Can you get the spirit as a guest on the show? I’m sure He’d clear things up.”

    and others in your original post led me to believe you were making a mockery of those of us who doubt or disbelieve the Church because of the historical evidence. The main point of your original post seemed to be, “Hey, none of this stuff is really that hard. If you struggle with it, it’s because you haven’t listened to the spirit.”

    The comments at the beginning of your original post—where you claim to struggle with the historical evidence—seemed disingenuous in light of the comments that followed, which took on a more sarcastic tone—like this one:

    “But, the church’s fruits are diminishing today you say? People dropping like flies from membership? Wasn’t there a prophesy of half the membership dropping away at some point? I remember learning that somewhere. Is that happening now? Already? DANG!”

    Again, your original comments gave me the impression that you were prancing around on a high horse.

    “I didn’t feel “Much love” in your post.”
    None was intended—see my comments above.

    “The fact is I believe what Grant says is great evidence. Like I said in the beginning, the evidence is astounding. And I am astounded. So, naturally, I’m trying to figure out why I am so conflicted. I’m REALY down about all this.”

    If this is truly the way you feel, then I empathize with you. I’ve been there, and it wasn’t fun. Time heals all wounds, supposedly, but you can tell from my caustic response to your original remarks that I still have some sore spots.

    “So listen for a moment. What I am really trying to say about the spirit is, can we look at it maybe even scientifically or physiologically, what goes down in people’s minds when they “feel the spirit.””

    I think these are interesting questions, and I would love to hear them discussed in a future podcast (Whaddya think, John?) Michael White addresses some of these issues in an essay on the site Zarahemla City Limits. Apparently, psychologists have done studies where they have been able to create “spiritual” experiences in people by stimulating certain parts of the brain. White’s essay “Why I No Longer Believe” cites some of these studies, but I haven’t had the time to look them up myself. Also, some books on my reading list that address this topic (but which I haven’t had time to read) are

    Why God Won’t Go Away : Brain Science and the Biology of Belief
    by Andrew Md Newberg, Eugene G. D’Aquili, Vince Rause

    The “God” Part of the Brain
    by Matthew Alper

    The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience (Theology and the Sciences)
    by Eugene G. D’Aquili and Andrew B. Newberg

    And one last place you might want to look is on Bob McCue’s website. He has written several rough drafts of essays that deal with the topics of religious beleif and psychology/sociology.

    “Thanks SIMM, your a real pal.”
    I wasn’t trying to be one. However, if you truly are struggling with this stuff, I wish you the best.


  31. Doc
    June 1, 2006 at 10:16 am

    The spirit is what heals rifts and bitterness like that displayed by our friend in the previous post. The spirit is what I believe causes John to reach out and build bridges in spite of the fact that he has reasoned himself out of a testimony of the saviour. The spirit is what casts out fear and lets us learn the truth and yet not be shaken by it. The spirit is what convinces me that there is something noble and great in all men, that we may all be far from perfect, but have a great and noble side to us as well. The spirit enlarges the soul. Pride, anger, sense of betrayal shrink it. Mr. Palmer’s historical insight and his given solution for the church to abandon the BOM afterhe explains away the spirit, and yet to have more of the love of Jesus are truly incompatible. Because, more than anything, a testimony of the saviour comes by the spirit. Reason, historical study, Proof, will NEVER lead one to this conclusion. For an idea of how someone may process all this information and yet grow into a stronger person please refer to my earlier post on this thread. Look where the church is in spite of any historical shortcomings. The fact that the church survived its 1st 100 years at all in light of the history is frankly remarkable. You see, in ALL ages, the Lord has taken a group of very imperfect people and done his best to guide them and teach them as much as we are able. His guiding hand is clearly present in the major history of the Church and I am certain it will continue to be. Hang in there

  32. Doc
    June 1, 2006 at 10:21 am

    My apologies, I posted it in a different thread but here it is for reference
    May 22nd, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    Regarding these historical issues, Homosexuality, etc, I’m afraid I have to give an answer that you and others have struggled with. I don’t have the answers. Certainly not any I can give quickly or that will convince anyone who is not ready to hear them. Please understand, I don’t say this to dodge the questions. Here aris what I’ve found f=helpful in my life when faced with such a problem.
    1) Go back to basics and focus inward.
    Call me naive, but I believe hard doctrinal or historical issues sometimes I think need to be backed away somewhat to try and get perspective. Feeling lied to is hard, Its painful, feeling betrayed is frustrating. Re-examining the “milk” I believe is actually helpful and I’ll tell you why. We simply forget them far too often. Each of us is a child of God, We have ALL have a potential within each of us that is beyond any of our capacities to understand. Regardless of what mistakes we may have made, what temptations we suffer, what failures may occur in our lives, we do not have to give up. You see, The Savior came specifically into this life to understand our temptations and shortcomings so we aren’t alone, and when we make mistakes, we can pick ourselves up and keep going. “Not the spirit of despair , but of a sound mind and understanding.” Come unto me ye that are heavy laden, for my Yoke is easey and my burden light.” These are milk doctrines one could say but far too often we just do not get them. Sometimes we won’t get them until certain events bring us to rock bottom. For myself it was at this point that the Savior became real, 3-dimensional, in a way that I can’t do justice with words.
    2) Seek to understand the source towards which your bitterness is directed and forgive.
    Learning to forgive others, Being aware that by what measure you judge by this shalt thou be judged, before removing the mote from the eye of others cast first the beam out of thine own eye. Remembering that the Saviour spent most of his mortal life with those of low social status, the meek, the lowly, That we are warned over and over and over again about the dangers of pride throughout the scriptures, and then realizing that while these things may be so easy to see in others, We are really warned so that we can root them out of ourselves. No one is in more danger than those who feel self justified and lift their hearts into believing that they are better than someone else. At it’s heart, Isn’t this where the apostate road leads every bit as much as it is at the heart of where the I am the elect and chosen of God road leads. “I am better than all these members in the church because they do some horrible things, the leaders have done things I see has horrible, they are dishonest, they are untrue, the members of Israel, christianity, the Mormons believe they are better than everyone else so they themselves are nasty and horrible, God is horrible because he allows sufferring and pain into the world, religion is horrible because those who have believe they are better than those who don’t have it. Nonreligious are horrible because they are sinful, Blacks are less valiant in the preexistence and therefore less than us, Church members are awful and horrible bigots and therefore less than me, Homosexuals are horrible and cannot contribute to the church because the church emphasizes families and eternal marriage. Religion is horrible because it institutionalizes homophobia.” Every on of these statements have one thing in common. PRIDE.
    Bitterness, venom, bile, I think these feelings are absolutely destructive. They’re destructive when levelled against us and they’re destructive when we retaliate with them. Kudos and congratulations to you for seeking to create a forum then banishes these things as much as possible. I am sorry to hear that when you tried to discuss certain issues with others they felt threatened and fearful and were therefore less than helpful. So what can one do, try understanding why the other is doing what he’s doing then try and meet them halfway. Not an easy thing to do in the middle of a crisis, and maybe just suggesting it may raise anger in defensiveness in those who are misunderstood. But the thing is, when you can achieve this, your own soul becomes enlarged and some of the anger and pain dissipates.
    3) Continue personal study and prayer
    Look to understand your questions but also focus on the things that are redeeming about the gospel and your roots. The seed of faith is critically important. I relate to this. What resources have I found helpful. well forums like yours are helpful for trying to heal wounds through understanding and sharing. I found Institute in college to be one of the absolute best forums I ever found personally. There were some very gifted and inspired teachers there at the institute in Logan. I also have to say that My experience with priesthood leaders has been very good. I don’t know if I’ve just been lucky or what my difference is. Required reading in my mind for anyone struggling with depression is “Believing Christ” by Stephen Robinson.
    I really want to speak more specifically to the issue sof depression. part of the sickness with depression is that we have this internal voice that without maybe even our conscious understanding is persistently cherry picking things from our environment to tear ourselves down, telling us we are worthless. We are evil. We don’t measure up, we are alone and there is no one else that understands us. The more religious we are the seemingly more plentiful a resource we have for reasons for beating ourselves up. However, when the eyes of your understanding are opened by the spirit, we learn some truths that while obviously there the entire time become more apparent. Again Each of us is a child of Gad. All of us for that reason have a divine potential that is beyond our ability to comprehend. The Savior said” come unto me ye that are meek and lowly of heart for my yoke is easy and my burden light. Christ came to redeem all mankind, to understand what we feel in mortality, to show us a better way, To help us to become more united, Zion. Each of us is learning, Gad is working with all of us where we are at and to the extent we are able to build us line upon line and precept upon precept into something greater. It is using this framework that I have been able to make sense of the Lord taking Joseph Smith and some local superstition peepstones, and helping him progress beyond it to becoming a powerful and marvelous prophet. It is in this framework that I can start to understand the mortals who let their preconceptions about blacks lead to the ugly and long policy that it did in spite of feeling personally that they should have known better. As you yourself said John, look how far we have come, It is in this framework I can step back and take a look at my own perceptions of masons, Joseph Smith and rumor and suspend judgement until I can get a more informed dual perspective from someone such as John Kearney, It is with this framework that I can look at a tendency to judge Joseph harshly for the secrecy of how he initially began to practice polygamy and ask myself, what are my prejudices in this regard, Is polygamy always evil. Could there possibly be a plausible alternate explanation for these things. If I look at them with the assumption that the gospel is true and try to get their perspective on these things, suspending judgement, How does that change my picture of the situation. This is how I believe these crises are solved. Is this is simple minded? Is it whitewashed, apologetic? I don’t feel that way. I feel my mind and spirit have been greatly enlarged because of this approach, personally. I feel my understanding of the big picture continues to grow because it is in this framework I continue to study it. The Book of Mormon, the 121st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the New Testament, and so many other writings, when really applied and understood teach us something radical, mind openning, and profound if we are open enough to look for it. Unfortunately, this is not universally applied or understood by fellow members around us. We can therefore, try to exemplify and discuss with others what we a re able to on their terms and I guess all we can do is all we can do. I absolutely believe dialogue and contnual searching for truth is the answer. You are the ultimate keeper of those axioms. I apologize for rambling on and on but I hope this writing is helpful to someone out there. Thanks

  33. SatanIsMyMotor
    June 1, 2006 at 10:24 am


    Sounds like you need a kick off your high horse too.

    Much love,

  34. Doc
    June 1, 2006 at 10:45 am

    We all do from time to time, that’s why I continue to hang around here and try to sincerely participate in a civil dialogue. 😉

  35. Doc
    June 1, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    I apologize if my comments seem self righteous. They aren’t intended as such. I read your first post and I guess it set off an instinct to defend my point of view. Whether one calls it the spirit or not, I think even the TBMs like myself and the ex-mormons can at least agree that there is something to be gained in reserving judgement and understanding one another, something healing about learning to empathize with one another. I find I have difficulty sometimes with what I feel are overstatements of others caseand I want badly to defend my point of view. It is a point of view that maybe isn’t always articulated here. That said, these truly are tough, tough issues we are discussing. I don’t think we are ever all going to come to a consensus on everything. I do feel that a line is crossed when one reasons a way the spirit. The point has well been made that too often people use the spirit to marginalize the feelings of others. I think it is a very easy thing to do. I also think that it is just as easy to marginalize those who have a profoundly personal view of the savior and the gospel. I guess that is why I harp on the forgiveness issue. Seeing the fault in others arguments and behaviors is easy. Can we learn to see those same faults in ourselves?

  36. FreeAtLast
    June 2, 2006 at 1:09 am

    Some interesting posts here about ‘the spirit’ and ‘truth’. In the LDS Church, ‘the spirit’ is defined in the context of what is acceptable and approved of in Mormonism. Feelings, ‘promptings’, and experiences that, when interpreted through the Mormon psychological filter, seem to support church teachings, the LDS perspective, and Mormon values are judged as having come from God. Those that do not are typically regarded as having come from ‘the Devil’.

    For example, if a non-Mormon who has taken some of the discussions informs the missionaries that she’s prayed to God about Mormonism and ‘the spirit’ has told her to not continue with them, the missionaries interpret her personal reality (i.e., her feeling) as having come from ‘Satan’. Why? Because before going on a mission, they were indoctrinated to believe that ‘the Devil’ tries to keep people from joining the church. On the other hand, if she tells the missionaries that she’s felt that the LDS religion is ‘true’, then again, they interpret her feeling through the same spiritualistic ‘programming’ operating in their psyches (of which they’re unaware).

    People have spiritualistic feelings in accordance with psychological conditioning they’ve received. The problem is how people interpret facts/realities, and a lack of awareness of their psychological filters, ‘spiritual’ or otherwise. For example, if a caring, hard-working, 48-year old Mormon bishop is killed in a car accident, Latter-Day Saints interpret that reality as “It was his time to go” and “God has taken him home”. But the objective truth is that a middle-aged man died in a motor vehicle accident. No one can say with authority that the man’s ‘purpose on Earth’ had ‘come to an end’. Such a belief may give the bishop’s family members a measure of solace in their grief, but it’s still only an interpretation of a psychologically and emotionally traumatic reality.

    Many Latter-Day Saints claim to have had ‘spiritual’ feelings that they’ve interpreted as ‘confirmations’ from God that, for example, the Book of Mormon is ‘true’. I have a Mormon sister, brother-in-law, mother, and stepfather who say, with complete sincerity, that this has been their personal experience. Independent of how they feel, however, is the mountain of facts that the BoM is not true. When I confront them with the scientific, historical, and literary evidence that overwhelmingly does not support the BoM, all they are able to say to me is that they have felt strongly that it’s ‘true’. Clearly, feelings that people interpret as having come from ‘the spirit’ (as defined by a religion such as Mormonism) are not an effective way of determining truth.

    Truth stands up to rigorous scrutiny. Unfortunately, Mormonism has failed badly in this respect. In this information age, it’s become increasingly clear to non-Mormons, and to many Latter-Day Saints as well (to their dismay), that the LDS Church has not been truthful with people, and does not have the truth. It certainly has no historical foundation that can withstand scrutiny. As Grant Palmer pointed out, the church needs to re-define itself. The current senior patriarchal leadership has yet to demonstrate that they possess the courage and do “the honorable thing” (quoting Palmer). People are leaving the church in large numbers and discovering ‘the spirit’, if you will, of community and human connection outside of Mormonism. This trend will continue, and probably increase over time. I, for one, view it as a good thing. People with experience in Mormonism are moving forward in their psychological maturation and personal growth as a result.

  37. June 2, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    I just wanted to add to what FreeAtLAst posted.

    lds-mormon.com has two excellent articles on the problem with the LDS testimony at:


    If you perform the prayer and receive no “revelation” that Mormonism is true, the Mormon will just tell you that you weren’t sincere enough and you need more faith to make it work. If LDS leaders tell you that if you pay tithing you’ll receive blessings, and so you pay the church money and the next day you lose your job, they will say that the Lord works in mysterious ways, and he’s testing your faith. So no matter how you spin it the arrow lands on “Mormonism is true and infallible.” Like flipping an altered coin with two heads in order to con someone, religions are set up to never be wrong.

    In his interview over at http://www.thechurchisnottrue.com/ Bob McCue does an excellent job explaining the psychology of the Mormon testimony. He points out that your religion is either true or it isn’t. If it is true you should have a way to prove this: there should be good reasons to believe it’s true, and if it is true there should be a way to test if it’s false. This is known as falsifiability. There should be strong reasons to believe it’s true by testing if it’s false. So how can you prove your religion is wrong if all that is required of you to believe is blind-faith and subjective feelings? What would it take to show you it wasn’t true?

    McCue asks the question, what would it take to show you that Mormonism isn’t what it claimed to be? When McCue asked the question, he couldn’t think of an answer at first. He had been programmed to just believe it “a priori,” i.e. he formed an opinion that the church was true before real examination or analysis, presupposing presumptuously without cause that it was true based on blind-faith and emotion. Suddenly he realized that he had put the church on such a high pedestal that the error-correcting-machinery of science and reason were outside its reach. He realized that no matter how he spun it he came up with the “a priori” assumption that Mormonism is true. He thought to himself (paraphrasing), “what would I think if convert baptisms tripled in number this year, well I’d think God was shining his light, the righteous were winning the battle against the devil; then I pondered, what would I think if convert baptisms decreased in number by like 85% this year? Well I’d say the church is true because Satan is fighting so hard against the church. No matter what I asked I came up with the same answer, the church is true, the church is true, like a mantra, the church is true. And it finally dawned on me that my religion was non-falsifiable.” I experienced the same line of reasoning myself which began a real investigation into testing the claims of my religion leading to my resignation that I discuss on my webpage: http://www.geocities.com/exmormon2000.

    I know now that no matter how you spin it Mormon claims are exempt from verification. LDS leaders have a sort of “diplomatic immunity” from inspection and investigation. It’s even considered a sin to speak anything critical about them. The leaders are always excused, and praised as infallible when they speak “with the priesthood authority.” The Book of Mormon and Ensign, for example, are always perfect, holy, and right, without error and thus exempt from scrutiny. Faith and feelings bolster the non-falsifiable articles of faith, and saying one’s testimony like a mantra acts as a “place holder” for rational thought. Questions, doubts, and concerns are carefully discarded, ignored, or placed on a shelf while the believer chants the Mormon creed and sings the hymns louder and louder until reason is drowned out by emotion and the power of religious social peer pressure. Critics of Mormonism and former members are ostracized, attacked, and disregarded. So members of the church rarely hear their side of the story.

    I once heard a speaker at an LDS fireside declare that “this church stands or falls on your testimony.” Imagine if a scientist got up and said that this or that theory stands or falls solely on the bases of some individuals subjective feelings?

  38. Just for Quix
    June 2, 2006 at 3:01 pm

    (BTW…I loved this series of podcasts.)

    I was having fun playing with Google Trends today and noticed Palmer has his own news spike he’s credited with. It’s fun to see:


  39. June 4, 2006 at 11:53 pm

    I don’t know if anyone is still reading this thread but I’d like to thank those who chimed in at my request. I did want some discussion on the spirit and I got it.

    Doc, you really did have some good inspiring words to say on that and I take them to heart. Thanks.
    FreeAtLast, those really are some great points and ones that I have often thought of even in the church. It is reasonable to think that people say things just to comfort each other, social conversational traps we find ourselves saying when they really have no basis in reality. Or we have nothing to back it up. I know you said more than that but I’m just saying I think I know what you mean.
    SIMM, I know that my initial post was misleading. I did use a disclaimer though saying that it was a joke. I often try to use humor when I’m troubled. But, it’s not like you know me so you wouldn’t have known that. So, it’s cool man. No worries. And thanks for your input. (If in fact you are a man, which I have no idea so sorry if not.)

    I have to admit though, I had no idea about this. It’s been a hard week for me. My problem has been I have not been that interested in church history. I enjoy most of the current day doctrine but I never gave history that much thought. I’ve never had that much connection with it as a result. Then one sunny day I’m poking around a podcast and KABOOM! Here I am.

    When growing up I was a student of philosophy and critical thinking. Instead of reading church history (as I should) I was reading hard sci-fi for it’s big ideas. I love science and was ignorant of my own church history. I felt like I already knew it was true so I didn’t need to go there. (Foolish, I know) Also I did NOT grow up in Utah, just had to say that. :-) That is how I know it’s plausibility nearly instantly. I really could feel my brain unravel. If any of you could have seen me at that moment you’d be laughing your heads off. Seeing a guys mind explode is entertaining. I know because I saw it once in Easyriders (the movie).

    I liked what Grant had to say about “when a person reads the BoM it’s like a spiritual revival that they didn’t know they were at”. Not exactly what he said, but anyway… It’s the “other half” of the religion equation that I’d like to explore besides the “cracked history” and “corrupted doctrines”. It reminds me of when B. Young said something like, “Tell the saints to keep the spirit to guide them.” (don’t quote me on that, I didn’t look it up) How I interpret that is this: You better have the spirit because you are NEVER going to believe it! Exploring it with some PhD-ness would make a good podcast I think. Maybe a silly idea, but it is such a big part of the mormon story.

    For me, while in the church I have had certain experiences that I could look at critically just as well. Those are the things that hold me still at the moment. I wish I could tell my Mormon Story on it but I don’t have a PhD nor do I know crazy things about church history so I don’t think it would be that interesting. But it is something that holds me in my tracks from walking out the door. Something as palpable to me as the keyboard I am typing on.

    My experiences though did not come when reading the Book of Mormon. Sure, I felt ok when reading it, but I am not one of those “spiritual” people that feel it all the time. Maybe because I listen to too much rock. 😉 Anyway, I can really relate it to Serenity Valley’s experience in their lovely story here. If I remember, she was watching TV one day and something overcame her and she knew she needed to go in a different direction in life. Just knew it. That same exact thing has happened to me, one while driving, another while sleeping and jolting me awake, etc. (there are a couple more I think are really good) I can’t expect anyone here to believe them because they were my experiences, not yours. It’s just that none of these things ever lead me away from the church, but toward it. When I have rebelled, it was like two arms that wrapped around me and pulled me back in, and it felt like the right thing to do even though fighting it at the same time.

    So fellas (people), I can’t explain away the history shenanigans. This is just all I have. If any of you good people want to hear more I’ll be happy to let you judge what you think about my few (amazing to me) experiences. If no one’s interested, it’s cool too. I hope we can all be friends anyway.

    All the best,

    PS. And YES I am still thinking about the Grant P. data. I haven’t forgotten it “just because”. I just need to really process it for a while and read more things. tootles

  40. Mike25
    June 5, 2006 at 2:41 pm


    I’m going through the same thing, buddy. Yesterday was the first time I was completely honest about my feeliings and testimony to my mother and my aunt. It was a wierd day but it all ended on a positive note, I think. Anyways, just remember to keep in touch with these communities here for you for support (and thanks for sharing your feelings, by the way). I also have an amazing spiritual experience that I cannot explain away. The thing that is key is that I don’t believe the spirt to be exclusive to the LDS faith, anymore. I have a hard time believing that it is just us who has a conciounce or even the Spirit to guide us. We are such a small minority in the world and in world religions that I believe others from other faiths and places have similar experiences. It would be interesting to look into that.

    The funny thing is that we kind of default back to the “spirit issue”. Something funny is that when I was seven years old, and hearing everyone around me bear testimony and use the word “know” (it is true, etc.) I had a problem with that. I thought to myself as a kid, “how do they not know it is not just their body giving those feelings or even a spacecraft sending those feelings” (remember i was seven). but really, though, how do you know??? So I don’t know if feelings should trump data and logic. I’m kind of hung up like you.

    What I do know, though, since i’ve opened my mind to new ways of thinking is that my marriage has been better, I feel much more love and acceptance to others around me that I previously had prejudices before (if only even on the subconcious level) like gays, blacks, “sinners”, people of other faiths. It’s amazing how the world changes becomes colorful once you open your eyes and it is no longer just black and white. (John I had written that same thing in my journal before I saw it presented in “why they leave” and I was amazed when I saw your words “confirming” mine!!) Here’s my blog entry on it if anyone is interested: http://blog.myspace.com/5800021

    Wally and anyone else that would like to talk to me about this stuff send me a Myspace friend request here: http://collect.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=invite.addfriend_verify&friendID=5800021 love to here from ya!!


    ps. anyone check out the Baptist Version of the Book of Mormon? Kind of cool… http://www.centerplace.org/library/bofm/baptistversionofbofm.htm

  41. annegb
    June 6, 2006 at 9:08 pm

    Chris and Margaret, I liked what you had to say. I didn’t read all the posts, it got long, sorry.

  42. FreeAtLast
    June 7, 2006 at 7:15 am

    In my May 22 blog/post, I mentioned that in late Dec. and early Jan., I’d visited with my TBM sister, brother-in-law, and their five children. The eldest, my 15-year old niece, was blitzing to finish reading the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. She had the 1999 Family Edition of the BoM, and as she was reading Mormon Chapter 6 at the kitchen table, I sat beside her and noticed that it said that more than 230,000 Nephites had died in battle in the vicinity of the Hill Cumorah. I mentioned to her that if so many fair-skinned warriors had indeed been killed, as per the BoM, it’d be relatively easy to find skeletons, weapons, and other battle gear in the area since only about 1,620 years had passed. I then asked her why there is no archeological evidence from that area of 230,000 dead Nephite warriors. She said that she really didn’t know. I then encouraged her to contact the archeology dept. of a university in New York State to ask if any archeological evidence supporting the story in Mormon Chapter 6.

    After I returned to my home, I sent the following e-mail to Syracuse Univ. in New York State (ref. http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/):

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I’m hoping that your department can provide me with some information regarding archeological research, if any, done in the Palmyra, NY area that would have uncovered evidence of armed conflict in which tens of thousands of people would have died in 385 CE.

    I was recently visiting with relatives who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (i.e., the Mormon Church). I am not a Mormon. As you may know, the Mormon Church claims that there were two main groups of people who lived in the ancient Americas (including in the Palmyra area) known as Nephites (a fair-skinned group) and Lamanites (the ancestors of all indigenous peoples in the Americas, and of Polynesians, according to Mormonism). One of the main books of scripture of the Mormon Church, the Book of Mormon, states that these two groups lived in the Americas from about 600 BC to 421 AD (the Mormon Church does not use BCE and CE).

    Close to Palmyra, NY, there is a hill that Mormons call the Hill Cumorah (the name given to the hill by the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith in the late 1820’s). If you’re wondering exactly where the Hill Cumorah is located, according to Yahoo Maps, it’s 69.1 miles west of Syracuse University.

    During my visit, my 15-year old niece was reading from the Book of Mormon (BoM), and in the footnote, it stated that 230,000 people were killed as a result of battles between the Nephites and the Lamanites, not including women and children. According to the BoM, the Nephites were eventually hunted down by the Lamanites and destroyed. From Chapter 6 of Mormon, one of the main sections (books) in the Book of Mormon (ref. http://scriptures.lds.org/en/morm/6):

    Chapter 6 Preface:

    “The Nephites gather to the land of Cumorah for the final battles—Mormon hides the sacred records in the hill Cumorah—The Lamanites are victorious, and the Nephite nation is destroyed—Hundreds of thousands are slain with the sword. [A.D. 385]”

    Verses from Chapter 6:

    “1 And now I finish my record concerning the destruction of my people, the Nephites. And it came to pass that we did march forth before the Lamanites.

    2 And I, Mormon, wrote an epistle unto the king of the Lamanites, and desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people unto the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle.

    3 And it came to pass that the king of the Lamanites did grant unto me the thing which I desired.

    4 And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites.

    5 And *when three hundred and eighty and four years had passed away, we had gathered in all the remainder of our people unto the land of Cumorah.

    8 And it came to pass that they came to battle against us, and every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers.

    9 And it came to pass that they did fall upon my people with the sword, and with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the ax, and with all manner of weapons of war.

    10 And it came to pass that my men were hewn down, yea, even my ten thousand who were with me, and I fell wounded in the midst; and they passed by me that they did not put an end to my life.

    11 And when they had gone through and hewn down all my people save it were twenty and four of us, (among whom was my son Moroni) and we having survived the dead of our people, did behold on the morrow, when the Lamanites had returned unto their camps, from the top of the hill Cumorah, the ten thousand of my people who were hewn down, being led in the front by me.

    12 And we also beheld the ten thousand of my people who were led by my son Moroni.

    13 And behold, the ten thousand of Gidgiddonah had fallen, and he also in the midst.

    14 And Lamah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Gilgal had fallen with his ten thousand; and Limhah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Jeneum had fallen with his ten thousand; and Cumenihah, and Moronihah, and Antionum, and Shiblom, and Shem, and Josh, had fallen with their ten thousand each.

    15 And it came to pass that there were ten more who did fall by the sword, with their ten thousand each; yea, even all my people, save it were those twenty and four who were with me, and also a few who had escaped into the south countries, and a few who had deserted over unto the Lamanites, had fallen; and their flesh, and bones, and blood lay upon the face of the earth, being left by the hands of those who slew them to molder upon the land, and to crumble and to return to their mother earth.

    * verse 5 (A.D. 385).”

    Has any archeological work been done in the Palmyra area that has uncovered evidence of the armed fighting described in the Book of Mormon?

    What archeological research in the Palmyra area (if any) has been done covering this time period? What native group(s) lived in the area?

    I would greatly appreciate any information that your department can provide. If you have links to related research papers and/or other info. sources, please send them to me.

    Thank you.

    [my name]

    The following is the response from Syracuse University’s Anthropology Dept.:

    Dear Mr. [my surname],

    Your query concerning the prehistory (or history) of New York State was forwarded to me. I am familiar with both the archaeology of New York State and the passages from the Book of Mormon noted.

    Your questions are pointed and the answers complex. The quick response is that there is no archaeological evidence for the conflicts referred to in the Palmyra area, for the population densities referred to (while very difficult to assess the population of the northeastern US was likely substantially smaller than is suggested by the numbers noted), and there is no archaeological or physical anthropological data suggesting the presence of distinctly different populations (“fair-skinned” and “Native American”) in the Palmyra area circa 385 CE.

    The archaeological and physical anthropological data from Central New York are consistent with that from surrounding areas which provide evidence of ancestral Native American populations, beginning with Paleo Indian settlement, and continuing through Archaic, Woodland and Historic Period Occupations. While some data have suggested pre-Columbian European contact with the Americas, these data are not widely substantiated and not relevant to New York.

    There is a very large and specialized literature on North American archaeology. If you are interested in an overview of the archaeology of New York, you might look at Brian Fagan’s “Ancient North America,” Jesse Jennings “Prehistory of North America”, or Gordon Willeys “An Introduction to American Archaeology”. The first of these is the most up-to-date of the three and the most assessable in terms of writing style. While not of direct relevance and somewhat dated, you might also look at “Fantastic Archaeology” by Stephan Williams. You may also find the book “Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?” by Passantino, Gretchen, and Scales, Donald R., and Davis, Howard A. of interest.

    With regards,

    C. DeCorse

    FreeAtLast adds:

    For those interested in, “Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?”, the book info. is as follows:

    Publisher: Vision House Publishers, Santa Ana, CA
    Published: 1977
    ISBN: 0884490688

  43. June 7, 2006 at 9:47 am

    Free at Last, shouldn’t you at least acknowledge the mainstream view that the final battle wasn’t at the Cumorah in New York? This has been a dominant position for decades now. It seems like what you are doing is more than a little disingenuous. I’m not saying you have to agree with these readings. But I think your approach more than a little unfair.

  44. SatanIsMyMotor
    June 7, 2006 at 2:23 pm


    To bring balance to the discussion of Cumorah and the last battle…

    There must have been TWO Cumorahs! Joseph Smith and the other early brethren didn’t know what they were talking about when they acted like the BoM Cumorah and the New York Cumorah were one and the same. Of course there aren’t bodies of hundreds of thousands of Nephites around the New York Cumorah, because that’s the wrong Cumorah! In fact, the real Cumorah could be almost anywhere in North or South America!


  45. SatanIsMyMotor
    June 7, 2006 at 2:24 pm


    I wish you all the best. There are lots of people that continue to believe in spite of the evidence, and I am sure they have had significant spiritual experiences similar to your own. I personlly think most (all?) spiritual experiences can be explained best by psychology/biology (as I mentioned in my previous comment), but that is just my own personal take on things. Anyway, good luck on your “journey”.


    PS You’re correct, I am a male…

  46. June 7, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    I’m sorry, but this blog has left the borders of respect which John established. It has moved into sarcasm and dismissiveness. Some good comments, but there’s a lot of bashing going on here–and most of it in the more recent posts. Who does that help? I must say, the comments of “Free at Last” make me very sad. Whoever you are, you’re clearly an intelligent person, but you seem to have a very hard time allowing others to believe in the faith system you have chosen to leave. Even when visiting your TBM sister, you actually try to persuade her children–in her home, where you are a guest–that their upbringing is based on lies. That’s the sort of thing ancient Greeks would’ve killed you over. Your sister apparently treated you well; at least you don’t say she kicked you out of her home. Despite the fact that you showed great disrespect towards her and the things she has chosen to believe, she apparently treated you kindly. I think you owe her an apology, not a copy of the letter from Mr. Anthropologist. There are MANY paths to truth. There are many frameworks of faith. I genuinely believe in edifying, not destroying or denigrating any of them. I celebrate faith wherever I find it–and faith, at its core, is based not on a collection of historical facts but on LOVE. If you have not charity, it really doesn’t matter one whit how many facts you can recite which debunk another person’s belief system. Charity would even demand that you show long-suffering and humility out of respect for the humanity we all share. My own Mormon framework is not the same as my neighbors’, but I suspect we’re a hugely heterodox religion, not nearly so easily pegged and nailed as this blog would suggest. I hope John gets another guest on his program soon so the conversation can improve. I do think some serious questions must be posed: Why is it that Grant Palmer’s podcast brought such a huge response, and why did the conversation turn so negative? Since Palmer wants Mormons to become more Christ-centered, surely he would not have approved of the bend the blog took.

  47. jordanandmeg
    June 7, 2006 at 7:38 pm

    Yes, yes. Thank you, Margaret.

  48. McKay
    June 7, 2006 at 9:20 pm

    Ms. Young,

    First, I agree with you that it was inappropriate for FreeAtLast to discuss facts that might undermine the faith of his sister (or her children) while a guest in their home.

    However, this blog is the perfect place to discuss those same facts. If it weren’t for issues such as the lack of archaeological evidence for the BoM (among others) this blog and John’s podcasts probably wouldn’t exist (see Mormon Stories #27 #28 #29).

    There appears to be a whole community of people who have learned these “facts” and want to discuss these issues with others, and that seems to be the point of John’s blog…a place where people can be “Open.” and “Honest.” about tough issues in the Church.

    Finally, I hope that you can be more respectful of others’ approach to religion and faith. FreeAtLast takes an “evidence-based” approach to religion/faith. He judges the truth claims of a religion based on (what he feels are) testable hypotheses—and then he gathers evidence that can help test the veracity of those hypotheses.

    However, you wanted it known that your approach to religion is superior to his approach. You consider your approach to religion “edifying” and his approach “denigrating.” You imply that because his approach to religion is based on “historical facts,” that it is not based on LOVE.

    In summary, you claim to be tolerant of your neighbors’ Mormon framework, but you see no reason to be tolerant of FreeAtLast’s Mormon framework.

  49. doc
    June 8, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    Thank you, Thank you for saying what badly needed to be said. I thoroughly agree the comment sections seem to be where the ideas in this podcast really devolve.

    I think you may also notice that John was very, very hesitant to post his story because he did not want to be seen as directing the belief or the discussion in any way. He wanted dialogue, to help give everyone an understanding of where everyone else is coming from. To really understand one another requires love. It requires patience. It requires tolerance. To have anything less, to ridicule, to disrespect those to whom you are in dialogue with is simply a barrier to any kind of real communication. It is a barrier to understanding others AND to being understood. Open and honest dialogue requires refraining from barbs, quips, sarcasm and cynicism.
    Certainly, people who want to explain how their belief system is based on testable hypotheses need a forum. They should be respected, and feel free to express what they often feel they cannot at home. Just having opportunity to express these feelings without fear of reproach is healing. My apologies but it is also an act of love. This is what Ms. Young is speaking of(If am understanding ;))
    What on earth is productive about ridiculing faith?

    Is it okay to explain how you feel faith can be explained by psychology and what your hypothesis is, Yes, absolutely.

    Is it okay to say (or imply) anyone who believes otherwise is a fool, No. A thousand times NO.
    This will only destroy the very forum you were looking for, one with ideas that can be exchanged openly and honestly.
    There is a way to respectfully advocate for your views and there is a much more easy and less productive way to throw those views in everyone’s face.
    For example, when someone claims that the standard view of the hill Cumorah is that there are two Cumorahs, ask them to elaborate. If, once they give your evidence and reasons for feeling that way, you still disagree, perhaps you can ask further questions. If either party does not feel they are going to ever agree with the other in the near future, but understand eachother, just agree to disagree. Move on with your life. Ridiculing the idea without allowing anyone to explain their reasoning is the equivalent of burying your head in the sand. It is the exact same thing as the complaint I am certain they would voice that whenever they tried to discuss history in the church they find problematic they get shut down by people who just do not want to hear anything negative, leading to an arguably unhealthy whitewashed view of history. Personally, I think there is a necessisity and place for this stage 3 perspective, but that is an entire discussion in itself and I am getting way to wordy as it is (my apologies).
    The bottom line, listen, you just might learn something.

  50. FreeAtLast
    June 8, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    In reference to me, Margaret Young posted, “you actually try to persuade her children –in her home, where you are a guest–that their upbringing is based on lies”. First, only my niece was present when I encouraged her to contact a university in New York State for information about archeological evidence relative to the story in Mormon, Chapter 6 of an epic battle in the Hill Cumorah/Palmyra area. None of her younger brothers were in the room at the time. As they grow older, I will encourage them to do the same.

    Second, my niece has the right to know whether Mormonism is based on “lies” or not. Her religious beliefs are founded on information that the LDS Church has taught her during the past 15 years. If that information, including stories in the BoM, are true, they will withstand her scrutiny. If not, her belief in Mormonism will collapse under the weight of the facts she discovers.

    My niece pays the LDS Church ten percent of her allowance and babysitting monies. She does so because she’s been taught to believe that the church and LDS religion are ‘true’. From an early age, the church (and her parents, both of whom were raised in Mormonism) have indoctrinated her to believe that if she doesn’t pay tithing, she will be disobeying a ‘commandment of God’, ‘Heavenly Father’ will withhold blessings from her and probably punish her, ‘Satan’ will gain power over her, she will be burned at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (ref. D&C 64:23), and she will be ‘eternally damned’ after death, suffering eternal regret and torment of her soul because she was not ‘faithful’ during mortality. The message to my niece from the church has been very clear: “Obey, or you will suffer the consequences”.

    My niece’s belief in Mormonism is based on a ‘package’ of propaganda that the LDS Church has provided her (and her parents) with since she was a small child. For example, the church has never disclosed to her (or my sister and brother-in-law) that Joseph Smith married two teenage girls who were younger than my niece, or that he married Helen Mar Kimball and Nancy Winchester (at age 14) after marrying 24 women polygamously, including 10 who were already married! What would happen to my niece’s ‘faith’ in the ‘Prophet of the Restoration’ and Mormonism if she learned the full truth about Joseph Smith? It would evaporate, and the church’s cash flow would decrease a little.

    To use misinformation to bolster people’s trust and indoctrinate them to believe that they will suffer if they do not pay money is not only grossly unethical, it’s fraud and psychological extortion. Latter-Day Saints, including Margaret Young, have the right to know the full truth about Mormonism, and not have their trust abused by LDS patriarchy.

  51. June 8, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    Be at ease, Brother. (I’m tempted to call you “Son,” since I suspect you are young enough to be my son.) I know the truth about Mormonism; you don’t need to save me. I am well acquainted with anti-Mormon material. I just don’t believe that the “whole truth” can be discovered about anything or anyone by a list of their flaws or ambiguious actions–especially if you’re looking back several hundred years and searching for incriminating evidence. I can imagine the book someone would write about me if it were based sheerly on revealing my weaknesses. It would be long, tedious, and very embarrassing. Would it then depict the REAL me, so that all of my friends would feel obliged to depart from my presence and throw eggs at my house? Not hardly. I am far too complex to be boiled down to my sins. So are you. So are we all. What would happen to your niece’s faith in Joseph Smith if she learned the full truth about him? Maybe the same thing that happened to my daughter: She would take it as another dimension of the story and think about it. She might decide, as my daughter has (and as I have) that polygamy was a lousy idea, but is still a part of our history. What would happen if you showed her everything you know about the temple and masonic rites? Maybe the same thing that happened to my daughter when her father (my ex-husband) read her the ceremony complete with his own interpretations: She’d be troubled but open to a re-framing of her faith. Maybe she’d tell her seminary teacher that she didn’t know if she could believe in Mormonism, but then one day she would feel that she needed to bear her testimony, and when she stood, she would feel so enveloped in the love of Christ, so embraced by a patient and infintely unknowable God, so completely assured that her faith was a good thing, not a sign of weakness, that she would weep without restraint, knowing for herself that the love of God liberates her from doubts and from narrow interpretations (Mormon or anti-Mormon), and invites her to partake of the most exquisite joy possible. Does this love erase the historical problems all religions face? No; it just makes them seem very small, because it reveals what pure and undefiled religion actually is. Could such a spiritual experience be explained away by a psychologist? Well, none of mine could. My “spiritual” experiences transcend explanation, and I would never dishonor them by boxing them into somebody else’s categories. So what have we learned from this blog?
    1) The Church has a tainted history. Is anyone surprised? (Apparently, a few were. Take the journey. You would have needed to anyway. Decide what you will bring with you–bitterness or hope. Which will serve you best? Hope, frankly, is far more dangerous than bitterness because it will insist on an open heart and will continually present unresolved questions.
    2) When we try to talk about the historical problems of the Church, we seem to invite all sorts of negativity. Why is that? Of course, it happens when we study U.S. history as well. Surprise! Andrew Jackson was an Indian killer–do you still want to spend that twenty-dollar bill with his mug on it? Lincoln was a racist; should we still call him a liberator? Kennedy was a more frequent adulterer than Clinton–how can you possibly be a democrat? (That last question is mostly for people outside Utah, of course–and for my husband. I vote for Nader.) We stole this nation from Native Americans and Hispanics–and you want to talk about bigger walls to keep “illegal” aliens out? We LIVE with ambiguity. I sang “America the Beautiful” last Sunday with one of my heroes–Mariod D. Hanks–and I teared up on the last verse, remembering the service of my dear friend in WWII–a war where we firebombed cities in Germany and in Japan and where we introduced the Atomic Bomb.
    3) An invitation to be more Christ-like does not necessarily lead to a Christ-centered conversation. That’s the one I think we need to ponder. What are we doing that keeps us from the kind of at-one-ment we should have?
    As for my daughter’s story–which is far from finished–she was marrried in the Bountiful Temple five years ago. I had refused to talk to her about the temple rituals until she had been through them herself–not just through the Jerald and Sandra Tanner cartoons. There, in the temple, I told her how I felt about the symbols and the sacredness of the place. I believe everyone has a right to a sacred place–whether it’s a grove, a mountain, a Mormon temple, a Buddhist shrine, or a bed. I am grateful I was able to share a sacred place with my daughter. Our communion was not directed to an abusive patriarchy (a politically charged phrase which is hugely misunderstood), but to our interpretation of God. I suspect my daughter’s picture of God is different from mine. I don’t care. I believe we’re both in for some great and beautiful surprises when we leave this earth. I have great hope. I will never surrender it.

  52. June 8, 2006 at 3:55 pm

    I do want to 2nd the notion that we can express our own feelings/opinions….and ask people lots of questions to try to understand their positions….without having to mock or criticize their views/beliefs. I hope we can keep this as a guiding principle in these discussions.

    Always open. Always respectful–from any side.

  53. Clay
    July 10, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    So far in relation to Palmer’s book and interview, and mor importantly to the issues raised about Mormon origins, I have only seen commentary on:

    1. Palmer’s character and credibility
    2. Some declarations that some people simply “disagree with Palmer’s conclusions”
    3. General confusion at the choice to remain a member

    I have yet to see anyone address the veracity of the historical facts presented. Especially interesting is the claim that the 4 major vision/manifestation stories evolved over time, and at times of great internal pressure. I had heard only of the different First Vision versions previously. From a faith perspective, one could possibly take these facts about the history and interpret that Joseph was inspired but took an incredible amount of artistic license in how he conveyed the essential spiritual messages to the people. Of course, supposing that God would allow such license to accomplish His work (elevating the human race) would require a bit of a change in our understanding of God.

    If in the end the basic facts Palmer is interpretting are actually true (regardless of wether he is interpretting correctly or not), I’m not sure how one could reconcile Joseph’s method of exaggeration with the common view that the church and our scriptures are completely the product of God directing us through prophets. In order to maintain that God truly leads this church in every step as the only true church on the Earth, surely there must be an explanation from someone as to how Palmer’s core facts (not his conclusions) are false. I am speaking from a position of wanting to hold onto faith, not to justify losing it.

    p.s. Please don’t bother posting the customary “you won’t find it because the church is not true” response. I’m really only looking for references to links or books that are relative to Palmer’s underlying points.

  54. Kevin
    July 28, 2012 at 7:19 pm


    Forgive me if my question has been addressed above. If so, delete this post and I’ll catch up on my reading in time. I’m new to your excellent site.

    At the end of #3, you play devil’s advocate in channeling FAIR, by suggesting that Joseph’s frame of reference and personal experiences would be reflected in a true translation in an attempt to explain the 19th century feel of a lot of the BofM.

    If words appear from the stone in the hat, are read aloud by Joseph, then written and repeated by the scribe, how could this process even leave room for poor grammar or misspellings?

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