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To Those Who are Investigating Mormonism

Article Index
To Those Who are Investigating Mormonism
What the missionaries will not tell you
Your life as a Mormon

WHAT THE MISSIONARIES WILL NOT TELL YOU

Here is a summary of important facts about the Mormon church and its history that the missionaries will probably not tell you. We are not suggesting that they are intentionally deceiving you -- most of the young Mormons serving missions for the church are not well educated in the history of the church or in modern critical studies of the church. They probably do not know the all the facts themselves. They have been trained, however, to give investigators "milk before meat," that is, to postpone revealing anything at all that might make an investigator hesitant, even if it is true. But you should be aware of these facts before you commit yourself.

Each of the following facts has been substantiated by thorough historical scholarship. And this list is by no means exhaustive!

Although we cannot possible include the evidence in this summary without making it overly long, we will be happy to provide you with the details of the evidence on any point, at your request.

  • The "First Vision" story in the form presented to you was unknown until 1838, eighteen years after its alleged occurrence and almost ten years after Smith had begun his missionary efforts. The oldest version of the vision is in Smith's own handwriting, dating from about 1832 (still at least eleven years afterwards), and says that only one personage, Jesus Christ, appeared to him. It also mentions nothing about a revival. It also contradicts the later account as to whether Smith had already decided that no church was true. Still a third version of this event is recorded as a recollection in Smith's diary, fifteen years after the alleged vision, where only one "personage" appeared, specifically said to be neither the Father or the Son, accompanied by many "angels," which are not mentioned in the official version you have been told about. Which version is correct, if any? Why was this event, now said by the church to be so important, unknown for so long?
  • Careful study of the religious history of the locale where Smith lived in 1820 shows that there was no trace of a religious revival there at that time. There were revivals in 1817 and 1824, but none in 1820.
  • In 1828, eight years after he says he had been told by God himself to join no church, Smith applied for membership in a local Methodist church. Other members of his family had joined the Presbyterians.
  • Contemporaries of Smith consistently described him as something of a confidence man, whose chief source of income was hiring out to local farmers to help them find buried treasure by the use of folk magic and "seer stones." Smith was actually tried in 1826 on a charge of moneydigging.
  • The only persons who claimed to have actually seen the gold plates were eleven close friends of Smith (many of them related to each other). Their testimonies are printed in the front of every copy of the Book of Mormon. No disinterested third party was ever allowed to examine them. They were retrieved by the angel at some unrecorded point. Most of the witnesses later abandoned Smith and left his movement. Smith then called them "liars."
  • Smith produced most of the "translation" not by reading the plates through the Urim and Thummim (apparently a pair of sacred spectacles), but by gazing at the same "seer stone" he had used for treasure hunting. He would place the stone into his hat, and then cover his face with it. For much of the time he was dictating, the gold plates were not even present, but in a hiding place.
  • The detailed history and civilization described in the Book of Mormon does not correspond to anything found by archaeologists anywhere in the Americas. The Book of Mormon describes a civilization lasting for a thousand years, covering both North and South America, which was familiar with horses, elephants, cattle, sheep, wheat, barley, steel, wheeled vehicles, shipbuilding, sails, coins, and other elements of Old World culture. But no trace of any of these supposedly very common things has ever been found in the Americas of that period. Nor does the Book of Mormon mention any of the features of the civilizations which really did exist at that time in the Americas. The LDS church has spent millions of dollars over many years trying to prove through archaeological research that the Book of Mormon is an accurate historical record, but they have failed to produce even a shred of pre-columbian archeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon story. In addition, whereas the Book of Mormon presents the picture of a relatively homogeneous people, with a single language and communication between distant parts of the Americas, the pre- columbian history of the Americas shows the opposite: widely disparate racial types (almost entirely east Asian - definitely not Semitic), and many unrelated native languages, none of which are even remotely related to Hebrew or Egyptian.
  • The people of the Book of Mormon were supposedly devout Jews observing the Law of Moses, but in the Book of Mormon there is almost no trace of their observance of Mosaic law or even an accurate knowledge of it.
  • Although Joseph Smith said that God had pronounced the completed translation of the plates as published in 1830 "correct," many changes have been made in later editions. Besides thousands of corrections of poor grammar and awkward wording in the 1830 edition, other changes have been made to reflect subsequent changes in some of the fundamental doctrine of the church. For example, an early change in wording modified the 1830 edition's acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity, thus allowing Smith to introduce his later doctrine of multiple gods. A more recent change (1981) replaced "white" with "pure," apparently to reflect the change in the church's stance on the "curse" of the black race.
  • Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon contained the "fulness of the gospel." However, its teaching on many doctrinal subjects has been ignored or contradicted by the present LDS church, and many doctrines now said by the church to be essential are not even mentioned there. Examples are the church's position on the nature of God, the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, polygamy, Hell, priesthood, secret organizations, the nature of Heaven and salvation, temples, proxy ordinances for the dead, and many other matters.
  • Many of the basic historical notions found in the Book of Mormon had appeared in print already in 1825, just two years before Smith began producing the Book of Mormon, in a book called View of the Hebrews, by Ethan Smith (no relation) and published just a few miles from where Joseph Smith lived. A careful study of this obscure book led one LDS church official (the historian B. H. Roberts, 1857-1933) to confess that the evidence tended to show that the Book of Mormon was not an ancient record, but concocted by Joseph Smith himself, based on ideas he had read in the earlier book.
  • Although Mormons claim that God is guiding the LDS church through its president (who has the title "prophet, seer and revelator"), the successive "prophets" have repeatedly either led the church into undertakings that were dismal failures or failed to see approaching disaster. To mention only a few: the Kirtland Bank, the United Order, the gathering of Zion to Missouri, the Zion's Camp expedition, polygamy, the Deseret Alphabet. The most recent example is the successful hoax perpetrated on the church by manuscript dealer Mark Hofmann in the 1980s. He succeeded in selling the church thousands of dollars worth of manuscripts which he had forged. The church accepted them as genuine historical documents. The church leaders learned the truth not from God, through revelation, but from non-Mormon experts and the police, after Hofmann was arrested for two murders he committed to cover up his hoax. This scandal was reported nationwide.
  • The secret temple ritual (the "endowment") was introduced by Smith in May, 1842, just two months after he had been initiated into Freemasonry. The LDS temple ritual closely resembles the Masonic ritual of that day. Smith explained that the Masons had corrupted the ancient (God-given) ritual by changing it and removing parts of it, and that he was restoring it to its "pure" and "original" (and complete) form, as revealed to him by God. In the 150 years since, the LDS church has made many fundamental changes in the "pure and original" ritual as "restored" by Smith, mostly by removing major parts of it.
  • Many doctrines which were once taught by the LDS church, and held to be fundamental, essential and "eternal", have been abandoned. Whether we feel that the church was correct in abandoning them is not the point; rather, the point is that a church claiming to be the church of God takes one "everlasting" position at one time and the opposite position at another, all the time claiming to be proclaiming the word of God. Some examples are:

    - The Adam-God doctrine (Adam is God the Father);

    - the United Order (all property of church members is to be held in common, with title in the church);

    - Plural Marriage (polygamy; a man must have more than one wife to attain the highest degree of heaven);

    - the Curse of Cain (the black race is not entitled to hold God's priesthood because it is cursed; this doctrine was not abandoned until 1978);

    - Blood Atonement (some sins - apostasy, adultery, murder, interracial marriage - must be atoned for by the shedding of the sinner's blood, preferably by someone appointed to do so by church authorities);

    All of these doctrines were proclaimed by the reigning prophet to be the Word of God, "eternal," "everlasting," to govern the church "forevermore." All have been abandoned by the present church.

  • Joseph Smith claimed to be a "translator" by the power of God. In addition to the Book of Mormon, he made several other "translations":

    - The Book of Abraham, from Egyptian papyrus scrolls which came into his possession in 1838. He stated that the scrolls were written by the biblical Abraham "by his own hand." Smith's translation is now accepted as scripture by the LDS church, as part of its Pearl of Great Price. Smith also produced an "Egyptian Grammar" based on his translation. Modern scholars of ancient Egyptian agree that the scrolls are common Egyptian funeral scrolls, entirely pagan in nature, having nothing to do with Abraham, and from a period 2000 years later than Abraham. The Grammar has been said by Egyptologists to prove that Smith had no notion of the Egyptian language. It is pure fantasy: he made it up.

    - The "Inspired Revision" of the King James Bible. Smith was commanded by God to retranslate the Bible because the existing translations contained errors. He completed his translation in 1833, but the church still uses the King James Version.

    - The "Kinderhook Plates," a group of eight metal plates with strange engraved characters, unearthed in 1843 near Kinderhook, Illinois, and examined by Smith, who began a "translation" of them. He never completed the translation, but he identified them as an ancient record, and translated enough to identify the author as a descendant of Pharaoh. Local farmers later confessed that they had manufactured, engraved and buried the plates themselves as a hoax. They had copied the characters from a Chinese tea box.

  • Joseph Smith claimed to be a "prophet." He frequently prophesied future events "by the power of God." Many of these prophecies are recorded in the LDS scripture Doctrine and Covenants. Almost none have been fulfilled, and many cannot now be fulfilled because the deeds to be done by the persons named were never done and those persons are now dead. Many prophecies included dates for their fulfillment, and those dates are now long past, the events never having occurred.
  • Joseph Smith died not as a martyr, but in a gun battle in which he fired a number of shots. He was in jail at the time, under arrest for having ordered the destruction of a Nauvoo newspaper which dared to print an exposure (which was true) of his secret sexual liaisons. At that time he had announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States, set up a secret government and secretly had himself crowned "King of the Kingdom of God."
  • Since the founding of the church down to the present day the church leaders have not hesitated to lie, to falsify documents, to rewrite or suppress history, or to do whatever is necessary to protect the image of the church. Many Mormon historians have been excommunicated from the church for publishing their findings on the truth of Mormon history.