The LDS (Mormon) Church, Part 1: Joseph Smith

Well, I've decided to start this *enormous* conversation at the very beginning...with Joseph Smith. Why start here? Because the validity of the entire LDS faith hinges on whether or not Joseph Smith was who he claimed to be...a prophet of God.

I think that any time someone claims to be a prophet of God, we had better pay attention! We have to listen to what they're saying, and decide if they are truly a prophet or not. If it seems that they are of God, then we'd better start listen carefully and obey where necessary. So let's take a look at Joseph Smith. Was he a prophet or not?

Before I forget, are you new to these posts about the LDS faith? If so I strongly encourage you to start by reading about my intent in doing these posts, and then read about the format of these posts. Go on, go read and get all caught up. We'll wait...

Okay, now that we're all up to speed, I'll get started :)

Section 1: What the LDS (Mormon) Church teaches about Joseph Smith

- There is an abundance of material out there about who Joseph Smith was from the LDS perspective. If you want to read it all, I encourage you to start with this, this, or this. Or you could just Google "Joseph Smith" (but keep in mind all results will not be from the LDS perspective). For my purposes here, I'll try to just list some main points.
- Joseph Smith was the founder of the LDS church

- As a 14 year old boy, Joseph Smith Jr. was trying to figure out which church he should attend. He went into the woods to pray about it, and two beings appeared to him, which Joseph identified as Jesus and God. One of the beings instructed Joseph to attend none of the churches, because they were all wrong. This experience is known as "The First Vision".

- When he was 17 years old, an angel named Moroni appeared to Joseph. It was this angel who eventually lead Joseph to buried gold plates...a book with gold plates. It was buried in the state of New York.

- Along with the plates, there were "seer stones" buried. These stones were used by Joseph to translate the gold plates. The resulting document was The Book Of Mormon.

- The Book Of Mormon is referred to as "another testament of Jesus Christ" by the LDS faith.

- Joseph Smith said, "The Book of Mormon [is] the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion." (History of the Church 4:461)

- People of LDS faith believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. In other words, they believe that God spoke/otherwise communicated directly with Joseph (revelation).

- Joseph Smith wrote Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. The LDS church believe that these documents are divinely inspired, and they refer to them as "Modern Scripture".

- It is the LDS belief that God's church died with the death of the original apostles. Joseph Smith reported that he was visited by John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John (all of the New Testament). It was during these visits, that the LDS church believes that God's true church was "restored" to the earth.

- Joseph Smith was persecuted for his unique faith nearly everywhere he went.

- The modern LDS church condemns the practice of polygamy. However, they believe that God instructed Joseph Smith (among others) to practice polygamy for a season. Joseph reportedly was "challenged by the command, but obeyed it."

- For a time, Joseph Smith led the church in "communal living", where members consecrated their property to the church and everyone lived together and divided things up as needed for everyone to be cared for.

- Joseph Smith was murdered at age 38.

Section 2: What other, non LDS sources, say about Joseph Smith

-The first source I'd like to refer to is the Bible. Let's see what it says about prophets:

- Number 12:5-6 says that the Lord will, indeed, speak to prophets through visions and dreams.
- Deuteronomy 13:1-3 tells us that it is possible for someone to appear to be a prophet of God and to have visions. We are not to do as these people say because they are not actually of God.
- Deuteronomy 18:21-22, Jeremiah 28:9 , & Ezekiel 33:33 gives us some guidelines for determining if a prophet is a true prophet of God. Namely, if what he prophesies does not come true, then he is not speaking as a prophet of God.
- Kings 18:18-19 speaks of prophets that do not serve Almighty God, but serve other gods.
- Jeremiah 14:14, Jeremiah 23:9-40, Jeremiah 27:14-16, Jeremiah 29:8-9, & Lamentations 2:14, are all verses which describe false prophets in Old Testament times.
- Matthew 17:15, 1 John 4:1 warns us to be on the lookout for false prophets.
- Matthew 23:34 & Matthew 24:11 talks about how some prophets will be persecuted and killed.
- There is also an abundance of examples in the Bible where people deny and do not obey the teachings of God's true prophets.

Frankly, there are too many verses to list! When I did a Bible Gateway search for the keyword "prophet", I got 470 results!

Okay, on to a different source. Next, I did a Wikipedia search on Joseph Smith. They have a very detailed article about him. Most of the facts listed by the LDS sources about Smith correlate with what the non-LDS encyclopedia says (regarding the timeline of Smith's life and life events).

- Smith had a revelation in 1831 that Independence, Missouri would be Zion for the LDS people. But then after conflict in that area, Smith referred to their new settlement in Far West, Missouri as "the church in Zion" .'

-There is contradiction on the issue of "plural marriage" (polygamy). On the one hand, Smith preached that it was sinful and not to be a part of the LDS person's life:

"Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again." (Doctrine & Covenants 1835 edition 101:4)

On the other hand, historians agree that Smith claimed to have had a revelation which commanded plural marriage. Smith also practiced polygamy, and had as many as 30 wives (clearly documented by "sealing" records, marriage licenses, etc.)

- There seem to have been many prophecies made by Smith that did not come to fruition.

Section 3: My thoughts and comments regarding Joseph Smith

Alright. Are you all sitting there waiting for me to say "See?! Joseph Smith was a lunatic, and couldn't possibly have been from God!" No, I'm not going to say that.

Before I give you my thoughts on Joseph Smith, please remember that anyone who claims to be a prophet of God opens themselves and their life to scrutiny. The Bible tells us to examine what a prophet says to determine if they are truly of God or not. I'm not looking critically at Joseph Smith because I'm being mean or unfair. I'm looking at him to see if he's someone I need to be paying more attention to.

First, I'd like to say that anyone...regardless of age, race, gender, occupation, hobbies, or past or present sins...anyone can be used by God. It's totally God's call. Sometimes (think Saul turned Paul in the New Testament), it seems God uses the least likely candidate just to make it clear that he/she is of God instead of being of their own abilities.

So do I automatically dismiss the possibility that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God because of his young age? No. Because of his history of being a "seer" (staring at stones in the bottom of his hat to try and find buried treasure). No. Because of the way he was persecuted? Nope. Especially not for that...men and women of God are persecuted more often than not.

But I can say this: after much research and after even more prayer (my brain and body and soul are just exhausted right now!)...I do, with 100% certainty dismiss Joseph Smith as being a prophet of God.

So who do I believe Joseph Smith was, if not a prophet? He was one or both of the following:
1. Deceived
2. Deceiver

Why do I think this? Because, he simply does not meet the criteria that a prophet of God must fulfill. His prophesies did not come true. His revelations contradicted the Word of God (he had to re-write ("re-translate") the Bible to make it fit with his new set of beliefs!). And he lived a contradictory lifestyle to what he taught.

Based on all the ways the Bible gives us to test prophets, Joseph Smith just can not be a prophet of God.

Oh my. Do I have to turn my comment moderation on, or can we still be nice to each other? I'm a bit nervous as I sit here an type because I just know I'm ruffling feathers with these bold statements.

But please...please...remember where I'm coming from.

Why would I say such hurtful and insulting things to people I claim to care about? I say them because I'm praying that some light will be shed on Joseph Smith, and that eyes and hearts will be opened to a God that is very different than the god taught by Smith. I'm talking about a God of grace and mercy. An Everlasting God.

We still have lots and lots to discuss. I'm not sure what my next LDS post will be about...documents? The nature of God? Jesus? Doctrine? I don't know. But I hope you'll hang in here with me and come back.

Section 4: Questions for us all to think and pray about

1. Who do you think Joseph Smith was? Prophet? Deceiver? Deceived?
2. The Bible teaches that we are to test prophets who claim to be of God. How have you tested Joseph Smith? How do your tests of Smith compare to the way the Bible instructs us to test?
3. Historians, Archaeologists, Scientists...they all agree that the Book of Mormon is false. How does this affect your faith in Joseph Smith as a prophet of God?
4. If you are LDS...why do you trust Joseph Smith for your eternal salvation?
5. The Bible tells us that Satan "masquerades as an angel of light" to deceive and harm. How do you know that Joseph Smith's visions were of God instead of someone masquerading as an angel of God?

A note on commenting:
Please remember, you do not have to answer these questions for my benefit. If you'd like for me or other readers to know how you'd answer these questions, please write a post at your blog and drop me a comment directing us there.

David  – (9/01/2008 10:43:00 AM)  

I read your blog with interest after stumbling upon it, in that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – a Mormon.

I’m personally not offended at your post at all. In fact, though I disagree with some of your facts and conclusions, I feel that you tried to be very fair in your treatment of the subject. Obviously you disagree that Joseph Smith was a prophet. If not, you’d be a Mormon yourself.

I’d like to make a suggestion and it is that rather than start with a debate on Joseph Smith as a prophet, to start a discussion on the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture. The Book of Mormon exists. It came from somewhere. If it didn’t come to be in exactly the manner that Joseph Smith and others said that it did, where did it come from? It doesn’t seem that the book or the eleven men who signed a statement concerning its origin deserve to be summarily dismissed. There’s too much to the content of the book and the circumstances of its coming forth to be simply shrugged off.

If the Book of Mormon is indeed scripture from God and came into existence as is said, there will be no need to further debate Joseph Smith’s history. If the book was created in some other way, there is also no need to debate that, or any other aspect of the LDS Church.

Anna  – (9/01/2008 11:28:00 AM)  

"His revelations contradicted the Word of God (he had to re-write ("re-translate") the Bible to make it fit with his new set of beliefs!). And he lived a contradictory lifestyle to what he taught."

Can you explain how you came to this conclusion, or the sources for this information? I've never thought that the JS translation made any difference in adding support to his beliefs.

Anyway, it seems to me you may as well stop here, because you said yourself the entire church rests on this point. But it seems that maybe your point is to destroy the faith of those LDS reading, and to give fodder to the Christians reading that they may also condemn their LDS friends.
The LDS church believes in Christ as their Savior, NOT Joseph Smith.
http://jesuschrist.lds.org/SonOfGod/eng/latter-day-prophets/president-joseph-fielding-smith
Why isn't that enough??!!

Anna  – (9/01/2008 11:44:00 AM)  

I wanted to come back and say a bit more, hopefully calm enough to say it well.
The largest burden I have encountered with regard to my faith is when someone wants me to be 'saved' or accept Christ.
I KNOW Christ. I am forever met with people who want to introduce me to him, when he is an old, old Friend.
It would be like going to Julia Child and asking her to learn how to roast a turkey, because you believe she's never been in a kitchen.
The experience is an odd one. What would you do if you were invited to someone's house and they thought you didn't want to be included in the prayer over the meal? When they try not to offend you by reading the Bible in your presence? My heart wants to cry out for love and acceptance from my Christian brothers and sisters, and it has been no better here.

Daiquiri  – (9/01/2008 12:47:00 PM)  

Dear Anna,
First, please let me say that I am sorry your feel hurt by what I said. I can tell that your faith is dear to you, and I appreciate that.

Second, I should say that I do not presume to know your personal heart or relationship with Jesus. Just as I can't assume that someone I sit next to in my own church knows Him, I do not assume that you do not know him because you're LDS.

I can't look at individuals' relatioships with Him, because I can't see a man's heart. I can, however, look at what a particular religion teaches and compare it to the Bible to see if what it teaches is true or not. That's what I'm trying to do here....not attack, but examine.

As for the JS translation of the Bible...this is going to be one of my next one or two posts. From what I've read of the JST, Smith's translation is more of a re-write than a translation. I say this because he changes the heart of the message in his translation. I'll do more homework and elaborate much more when I do a post.

Next, I'd like to comment on the link you provided. The man quoted said (in part):

“Through his goodness and grace all men will come forth from the grave, to be judged according to the deeds done in the flesh. …"

Yes, all men will rise from the grave. But it is not only coming forth from the grave that Jesus provides. He provides 100% attonement for all sin for those people who accept his sacrifice. We are not only saved from the grave, we are saved from the results of sin...being separated from God for eternity. The Bible teaches that Jesus came to save our eternal souls, not just to lift us from the grave.

And finally...I wish I knew what to say to make you believe that I am doing this from a heart of love and not condemnation. I care for you and for the people of your faith.

At the same time, I believe that your church teaches deceptive and misleading doctrine. It is that harmful deception that I'm trying to shed light on. I'm doing it because I care for you, not becuase I want to start a fight just for the sake of arguing.

Peace,
Daiquiri

Untypically Jia  – (9/01/2008 01:01:00 PM)  

I feel for you Daiquiri, I do. In your words I can tell you're slightly concerned about what some of us will comment with, but as you are being kind and loving, I will too (I probably would anyways though LOL!)

Keep in mind that I'm not a religious schollar (and I think I spelled it wrong too LOL) but I will try and talk about what I've read/remembered and studied myself.

In regards to Zion, we believe it can be a physical place, a people or a state of being. Whether the Church was in New York, Missouri or Utah, it was more about the people, not their physical location.

We do comdemn polygamy, however we believe that only under God's command would we take up this practice. We believe it was commanded of God. But, the Prophet Wilford Woodruff (I beieve) said he recieved a vision from Heavenly Father saying that the practice was no longer needed, and that the Church of God would be destroyed if the men continued to practice it.

I checked the article you read about the prophesies that claim did not come true, however there are citations to Church documents talking about the interpretation and what we believe about these statements.

And now I'm ranting, I'll step aside. Ah heck Daiquiri, you know what I think about all of this LOL! *hugs* Don't beat yourself up over this either okay? Someone might get offended, but others know where you are coming from.

Recyling man –   – (9/01/2008 04:20:00 PM)  

Thanks for making it clear to read and follow. Thanks for showing us the true Jospeh Smith.

It really should be enough to stop here. BUT

To answer a point made.. why would 11 men commit to a false teaching? I think some research will show anyone that the orginal 11 were not first hand observers just later leaders to this verson of this book. Both the people in the room with Joseph left the church and called it a figment of his imagination.

To go past all of that and the 250,000 changes made to that book is really hard.

Can't wait for the next installment. I am sure you are going to cover the "Jesus" Christians believe in vs the LDS. This always suprises many in both religions.

bristowmom  – (9/01/2008 09:31:00 PM)  

I am not at all well-versed in Mormon doctrine so I am not equipped to debate any points. So... the ONLY thing I want to say is this: THIS caught my attention: “Through his goodness and grace all men will come forth from the grave, to be judged according to the deeds done in the flesh. …" I was instantly reminded of another verse in the Bible: "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake; some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." Daniel 12:2 I find these verses to be very similar. From my admittedly limited knowledge of Mormon doctrine, I think that their belief is that they will be judged worthy or unworthy to enter heaven based on what they do during their life. I think this tracks with the above verse ("to be judged according to the deeds done in the flesh.") As a Christian I do not believe that I can ever do enough good deeds to earn my way into heaven. I believe that the only way I can receive everlasting life is by acknowledging that I am a sinner, that the price that must be paid for my sin is eternal seperation from God, that when Jesus died on the cross he chose to take on the guilt of my sin, and in so doing he paid the price for me and was seperated for a time from God the Father. I believe that after 3 days Jesus rose from the dead and is now alive in heaven. So I believe it is by Jesus death alone that I will go to heaven.

Sorry if this is too long...

David  – (9/01/2008 10:01:00 PM)  

It's writings like that of "Recyling man" that create false ideas about the LDS Church.

There were 11 witnesses to the golden plates that Joseph Smith said that he translated into the Book of Mormon. They were indeed first hand observers and respected citizens of their communities. Three of these witnesses to the actual plates stated that they were also visited by an angel. Their statements can be found here and here.

Though many of the witnesses left the Church and never returned, none of them ever recounted their statement.

Also, even those most opposed to the church only identify 3,193 changes to the Book of Mormon – not sure where anyone would come up with 250,000.

beBOLDjen  – (9/01/2008 10:08:00 PM)  

Fascinating conversation. Great presentation. BOLD as heck!

Thanks for doing this!

Anonymous –   – (9/02/2008 02:11:00 AM)  

Anna (and everyone),

First, great topic & discussion!

Second, I know a Jewish man named Jesus. He is the son of a carpenter. He heals the blind and causes the lame to walk. He once fed 5,000 people and he saved me from certain death.

Without further reflection, most would say I’m describing the Jesus of the Bible. But what if I told you that the Jesus that I know (above) is a gifted Neurologist and philanthropist? And as I was about to step out in front of a bus, Jesus grabbed me and saved me from being killed!

Now you can see that this is NOT the Jesus of the Bible. The problem arose because I used the same name and similar words to describe him and his actions. Therefore, the Jesus you know may not be the same one I know. For example, the God professed by the LDS church may not be the same as the God (Allah) spoken of by Muslims.

So when one tries to persuade you to believe in Jesus, it’s because the Jesus they know is not the Jesus you profess. Another quick example: I believe that Jesus is God. Not “a” god among many. Not the god of this planet. Not “one with God” in purpose. Not an exalted man. But rather: God, the I Am, the Alpha & Omega, the One and only, three in one. If you don’t agree with me, then aren’t we talking about 2 different Jesus’? And therefore, if the Jesus I believe in is not the same person, would you pray to him?? (Would you pray to my doctor friend above??) It’s o.k. that you have your beliefs, but if your beliefs are contrary to my own, then I cannot treat you as a sister in Christ. I cannot agree with you in prayer if I don’t know who you’re praying to. And conversely, you shouldn’t join with me in prayer if I pray to someone other than your God!

BTW, this all is not to say that you are not a sister in Christ – you might be! As Daiquiri pointed out, without sitting down and talking with you, I have no idea what you as an individual believe. Nor would I be so arrogant as to think I know your heart based on the name written on the church you attend. (Again, as Daiquiri pointed out, just because you sit next to me in church, doesn’t mean you’re my brother or sister in the Lord) But, I do know LDS theology. And I do know that it is not congruent with my own beliefs. So, I can say without a doubt, that the Jesus of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a different Jesus than the one I know. Maybe that could be one your topics Daiquiri! “The differences in the nature and character of the two called Jesus”.

Daiquiri  – (9/02/2008 06:44:00 AM)  

It's looking like a conversation about Jesus might be in order. I'll get there soon, folks, I assure you. I couldn't do everything first :)

Hey David, I have a question for you. 25,00 vs 3,100. What's the difference, really? If the Book of Mormon is the inspired word of God, then why was there even one change? Does knowing that it's been changed over time affect your belief that it's inspired text?

Paul W  – (9/02/2008 07:24:00 AM)  

"Yes, all men will rise from the grave. But it is not only coming forth from the grave that Jesus provides. He provides 100% atonement for all sin for those people who accept his sacrifice. We are not only saved from the grave, we are saved from the results of sin...being separated from God for eternity. The Bible teaches that Jesus came to save our eternal souls, not just to lift us from the grave."

This is also what Latter-day Saints believe. This is what the Bible and Book of Mormon teach.

Anonymous –   – (9/02/2008 08:02:00 AM)  

I just came across this discussion and i think it really interesting from both sides of the discussion. I don't have "a dog in the fight" so it is just kind of interesting to see both sides. I do wonder though ... you say that the book of mormon has changed so that leads you to believe that it is not the word of God. If you go by that theory then you can't believe the Bible either. The bible you are reading today is not the bible that was written in Christ's time. There is no pure bible, all have been translated and retranslated and changed for MANY different reasons many of which were political.

Anna  – (9/02/2008 01:31:00 PM)  

Anon at 2:11:
You said:
Another quick example: I believe that Jesus is God. Not “a” god among many. Not the god of this planet. Not “one with God” in purpose. Not an exalted man. But rather: God, the I Am, the Alpha & Omega, the One and only, three in one.

I actually agree with all of that. It's what makes me a cousin and not the same church.

Anon and 8:02
Thanks, I was going to make that point, too.

Patrick  – (9/02/2008 04:22:00 PM)  

Anna,
If you share my (anon 2:11) beliefs about the deity of Christ and the Trinity relationship, then your beliefs are WAY outside of what is official LDS theology. I'm somewhat shocked to see your comment, truth be told! I guess this begs the question: Why do you maintain fellowship with a church when your core belief about the nature of Jesus is different from what is taught at that church?

Shelle  – (9/02/2008 06:00:00 PM)  

Wow...Daquiri...I have caught up with your posts and have to say as others have said...Brave girl!

I am Mormon, LDS, or whatever others deem to call us.

The whole Book of Mormon/Bible changes argument is dumb...you read a Bible that has been changed numerous times...and there are tons of different versions of it...so is it inspired or not? I believe the Book of Mormon is and was inspired by God...why condemn me for it?

If you are truly doing this out of love for you LDS friends then why not read into the DOCTRINE...what we study daily or weekly...why not quote me from the BOOK OF MORMON where all my faith lies?

You would then grasp that as Mormons we are happy, we have hope, we believe there is a GOD, Heavenly Father...who guides us to be better people...who speaks to a man, we call our prophet, today to help us through this earthly life...what is so wrong with that? I am definitely a better person personally because I'm a Mormon. Believing what I believe has helped me tremendously through life. How can that be something you need to save me from?

Are their exceptions? Sure...we are ultimately human...not perfect...therefore we make mistakes...Do leaders of our church make mistakes? Sure. So of course you are going to run into people that are LDS who don't seem to be happy...who are not content...really who is? What I mean by we are happy...is that we have a lot to look forward to...we are taught a lot of things that give me hope...others may see it different. I am only speaking for me!

I have many friends of other faiths...I love that there is common ground in all religions that believe there is a God and he sent his son down to this Earth to give us an example of how to live, how to be, and what we need to become...I love Jesus Christ because he died for me. I understand to a small, minute, degree the sacrifice Heavenly Father must have had to face because I have children of my own and I don't think I could watch one of them die...even to save many! But Jesus did die for me...so that I might return to my Father in Heaven one day...

Again tell me...is that a bad thing? To try and live a good life, to believe that there is something beyond this life to look forward to? To read a book that helps me to learn from prophets of old...to guide me through and help me to make it back to Heaven one day? The Bible does that yes...but I believe that the Book of Mormon also testifies of Christ and also leads me to the ultimate destination I am seeking...Heaven. How is believing that when I die I can live with my family FOREVER... bad?...it's exciting to me! My religion focuses A LOT on just that...family!

So it confuses me why you have to single out the LDS church? So after you delve into the LDS church...are you going to do other religions? Or is it just the Mormons you are worried about? I don't know...have you truly read the Book of Mormon? Have you truly read our Gospel Doctrine endorsed by the leaders of our church? Have you been to one of our meetings?

With your Section 4: Aren't there Historians, Archaeologists, and Scientists who believe Jesus Christ was just another human being and nothing else? Aren't they usually the ones the refute any religion that is based of Faith? If they could solve every question I have would there be any reason for religion for that matter? So NO...I could care less that they agree that the Book of Mormon is False...I probably could find a handful of Historians, Archaeologists and Scientists who AGREE that it is true...so that all seems a little blah, blah, blah...if you know what I mean.

I DO believe Joseph Smith saw two personages in that grove of trees...one being Heavenly Father and the other being Jesus Christ. I believe he translated the Book of Mormon. I believe the Book of Mormon to be true. I believe it came from God. I believe that when I die I will return to my Father in Heaven and he will judge me for the life I lived on Earth. So I try to be the best possible person I can because I believe that I will see my family who has passed on again, and I want to have lived good enough to live with them as well as with my Father in Heaven...

What I can appreciate about you and about your concern is that I can see you truly LOVE what you believe also. And so there we have common ground...but I bet if I threw out all the facts and maybe not facts to you about what you believe that I probably wouldn't change your mind either...

David  – (9/02/2008 06:46:00 PM)  

Others have already responded to the question that you asked me, but I'll also echo what has mostly been said.

I believe that The Book of Mormon, like the Bible wasn't dictated directly by God. It is the words of ancient prophets, translated into English by common men, through the power of God.

The vast majority of the changes between the first edition and current edition of the Book of Mormon as noted by critics of the church are just small typos that don't affect the meaning. The 10 or so that do have doctrinal significance, were made to clarify the passage or to restore the original meaning.

Joseph Smith dictated the entire text of the Book of Mormon to various individuals who served as scribes. The written dictation was taken to a publisher and hand typeset and printed. That process is where errors were introduced.

Most arguments against the LDS Church are similar to this one, in that a "straw man" argument is set up and then torn down. Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book - not that it was the only correct book or that it was somehow perfect. The title page of the Book of Mormon itself contains these words, "And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ."

And to really answer your question, charges like these don't alter my belief because it is not based on things like the number of changes (or not) in any book, but rather something more akin to Matt 16:17.

Hot Air  – (9/02/2008 07:39:00 PM)  

Whow- we've got a lot going on here! My first question is about the quote “Through his goodness and grace all men will come forth from the grave, to be judged according to the deeds done in the flesh. …" I don't understand how that's different from hundreds of verses in the Bible. Like, all of James 2, and anything about commandments... so obviously, we all believe good works are important, and that if we want to show our acceptance of Christ's atonement, we will not only repent, but do good works. So where is the disparity? The only difference I see is that you seem to already know you are saved, and we Mormons believe that decision is up to the Lord. I'm so not trying to argue. I just seriously need it explain to me- what is it about that belief that is so disturbing?

Another couple of things I have noticed about religions in general. In an LDS church we are taught to embrace the good in all religions. Contention, nitpicking, trying to find and argue differences is something we are taught not do do, simpley becaue it drives away the spirit. While we welcome open honest and even opposing discussions about our faith, all we are asked to do is bear our testimony about our feelings and the things we have come to know about our faith. I have sat in lessons in other churches that actively disparage other religions... which didn't give me a peaceful, calm feeling- even when they were talking about things that were true. What is up with that?

And second- why the LDS faith? Isn't it interesting that these days the media's favorite religion to joke about is ours? Why are you so worried about us, and not worried about religions with people who believe in killing millions of innocent people in the name of righteousness? It's a serious question I've been kind of curious about for years, not just because of this post.

Anyway. Even though I think your motives for this discussion are not entirely constructive, (I agree with Shelle) I'm enjoying the coments! You are bold, I also agree with that ;)

I do enjoy many of your beautiful thoughts on Sundays. Good luck with the rest of this!!

the singer family  – (9/02/2008 07:40:00 PM)  

I appreciate your opinion. I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know the gospel is true because I received personal testimony that it it true. In the Book of Mormon Moroni 10:4 it says if you ask God with a "sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ he will manifest the truth of it unto you". No arguments or well intended discussion will change that.

J.M.W.  – (9/02/2008 08:02:00 PM)  

You correctly pointed to the passages in Deuteronomy and elsewhere that point out that a prophet must be accurate and not prophesy falsely. Joseph Smith falsely prophesied in Doctrine and Covenants 114 that David Patten would serve a mission "next spring." He was shot in October of 1838 and did not serve the mission. Did God not see that coming?

Note also that D & C 42.18 teaches that "he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come." That would seem to leave Moses and David out of the Kingdom!

Does it sound like Christ like humility to say:
"I combat the errors of ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the guardian knot of powers and I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth--diamond truth; and God is my 'right hand man.'" - History of the Church, Vol.6, p.78 ???

These are the tip of the iceberg. I have a couple recent posts on differences at my blog here:

http://livingtext.wordpress.com/2008/05/25/lds-doctrine/

http://livingtext.wordpress.com/2008/05/14/lds-theology-summarized/

http://livingtext.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/mormons-are-magisterial-annabaptists/

Joel

Anna  – (9/02/2008 08:16:00 PM)  

Patrick (nice to 'meet' you),
I've said it twice already, I am not LDS, but I am Mormon. Joseph Smith is my history, too.

Hopefully, the final thing to say in this post is that you missed the point of my link. You cannot deny the rest of the quote is Christian theology.

Patrick  – (9/02/2008 09:42:00 PM)  

Anna,
Nice to "meet" you as well. I re-read your posts & I'm still missing where you twice (or once) stated you were not LDS...

Anyway, regarding your link, I would agree that at face value, these statements all seem consistent with fundamental Christianity. However, I've delved deeper into LDS theology so I no longer stop at "face value". First and foremost, as I pointed out in my earlier post, words can be the same, but the meaning vastly different. Just because someone uses terms like: grace, salvation, atonement, savior, "Jesus" etc, that does not automatically mean they're talking about the same thing. I think if we stick with Daiquiri on her journey, this will bear itself out.

On a side note, I've seen a couple of responses above asking "Why just pick on Mormons?" I suspect if I were in Saudi Arabia, I would tend to reach out to Muslims if I thought they were being deceived. Since Daiquiri lives in a place that is predominantly LDS, it makes sense that she has a heart for her (literal) neighbors. As I know Daiquiri personally, I can attest that this series of posts was not done lightly or for any other reason than a deep love she has for people.

Daiquiri  – (9/02/2008 10:58:00 PM)  

Okay, everyone. Let's take a collective deep breath, shall we?

This conversation has certainly touched some nerves...as it should for people who take their relationship with God seriously. It's not a bad thing.

I'd like to keep us on track though. This conversation (what the LDS church teaches) is *HUGE*. I had to start somewhere, and the topic of Joseph Smith seemed a logical place. But don't worry, I fully intend to talk more specifically about the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and about other Mormon/LDS documents and doctrine. Hang in there with me.

Some of you have asked "Why the LDS church? Why not some other?"

It's a fair question.

I live in an LDS community. I found myself looking around and wondering what makes my beliefs different from LDS beliefs...and I learned that the ways are many. Some differences are subtle, some are glaring. So here I am, writing about what I've learned (and learning more every day).

I believe in God's absolute Truth. In this age of "do what works for you and leave me alone to do what works for me", it seems that God's Truth is being lost along the way. Few are asking, "What works for God?"

From what I've learned so far about the LDS faith, it simply doesn't work. I care about my LDS friends and neighbors, so how can I just sit by and say, "Hey, if it works for you then go for it!" Although, on the surface, that might be the socially accptable thing to say...in reality, it would be the most un-loving thing I could do.

Some have already questioned my motives...I don't know what to say to fully express what's in my heart. I guess you can choose to stay and participate...or not. I hope you choose to stay.

Daiquiri

Anonymous –   – (9/02/2008 11:47:00 PM)  

Hi Daquiri~

I'll be interested in your next installment. This is a topic I've always been very fearfull of discussing. I also live in a Mormon territory and have seen the divide in my community which is split regarding this religion. Schools and offices are divided into cliques. Mormons and non-Mormons rarely speak. Children are told that they are not allowed to play with one another despite being neighbors. High School elections and nominations split along religious lines... Baffling for one such as myself who grew up outside of Mormon territory where race, religion and orientaion did not make so much difference as to whom kids could ride bikes with or adults could eat meals with or whom teens could date.

I did read the Book of Mormon cover to cover some 20 years ago and was shocked enough by it's contents to wonder how this bird ever got off of the ground. I still have that copy.

My appreciation of the Mormon religion is extended to their teaching of the value of family. There are so many incredibly loving family people who are part of that faith that you cannot help but admire that aspect. On the flip side, the Book of Mormon contains scripture of hatred and exclusion and racial prejudice that I'm not sure how this is overlooked by such compassionate people. I've always been afraid to ask to have someone clarify. Perhaps I've misunderstood the passages. Perhaps church doctrine has another book that has an addendum to correct those totally anti-Christian teachings. I really hope your blog and this discussion survive long enough to get there.

I'll be quietly reading from all of you.

Good luck!

Anonymous –   – (9/03/2008 12:02:00 AM)  

"Why do I think this? Because, he simply does not meet the criteria that a prophet of God must fulfill. His prophesies did not come true...And he lived a contradictory lifestyle to what he taught. Why would I say such hurtful and insulting things to people I claim to care about? I say them because I'm praying that some light will be shed on Joseph Smith, and that eyes and hearts will be opened to a God that is very different than the god taught by Smith. I'm talking about a God of grace and mercy. An Everlasting God."

Huh, Huh, and huh? You can't truly understand what we believe then...or what Joseph Smith taught...because The Father in Heaven I believe in IS merciful and full of grace...and everlasting! Lots of Joseph Smiths prophecies came true...and he lived according to what he taught, whether or not he was persecuted by it...but I'm sure you can also allow for human mistake right...one's own agency? Even ones that talk with God...no mistakes from prophets of OLD in the BIBLE? I believe so...

I'm glad you link to the LDS website for the first part of your posts...but when you throw out extreme comments like the one I quoted from you above shouldn't you back up those comment also? With something backed up by the Mormon Church?

Just saying. It's hard to stick with something and not be defensive when it seems you are trying to be offensive...trying to only take what you want to from what you read...

Can't you see...being openly scornful about someone we hold very dear...is like talking bad about one of my family or friends...I don't want to hang with you...I just want to wish you away!

How does the LDS faith NOT work? What exactly do you mean by that...I think your statements in your post...and then you "love" comments are confusing me...I'm sorry but I just don't get your point!

If you want me to look at something a different way...then show my how you feel and tell me what you believe in YOUR eyes about your religion or your faith...Tell me what YOU believe...maybe I'll be interested...I just don't see how going about it this way...will actually get you anywhere?

That's only my opinion though...

You will do what you feel is right...I guess I can respect that :)

Ann

mom2riandkayl –   – (9/03/2008 04:47:00 AM)  

Woah... you are a brave woman.

And though I have nothing to add to this discussion, I'll be following it and praying behind the scenes for you (Daiquiri) and those reading your words. I pray that God uses this discussion for His glory.

Anonymous –   – (9/03/2008 11:19:00 PM)  

Nothing much to add.. just to reiterate that you are a brave woman.
I have been always been curious about the differences between what I believe and what Mormons believe. The whole thing makes my brain hurt. Even now, the oppression and secrecy of growing up among the LDS leaves a nauseous feeling in my stomach. Avoidance of the subject is easier.. again you are braver than I. Anyway... I will keep reading, it is interesting!

Marisa

Anna  – (9/04/2008 01:29:00 PM)  

Patrick,
For clarification,
"I actually agree with all of that. It's what makes me a cousin and not the same church."

At least one of my other comments is missing, I'm not sure where.

Anna  – (9/04/2008 02:20:00 PM)  

I found the other one, at the first post in the series. It's not important, except for saying that I hadn't found it.
"I'll be watching and commenting, too. I'm a member of the Community of Christ, which shares roots in the Latter Day Saints tradition.
Bless you for opening up this discussion."

Hot Air  – (9/04/2008 03:37:00 PM)  

Ditto, Anonymous Ann. Dittissimo.

I just wanted to clarify something. My asking "why the LDS faith" was kind rhetorical. I know why you chose us. I just thought it worth discussing, and wanted to hear your response. I'm wasn't whining about your post idea. ;) I was just trying to illustrate- your post is pretty inevitable, and follows a pattern that is becoming, and will become, more familiar.

This to me, explains a lot. Kind of dramatic, so I'm leaving it as a reference. It's not something I think toward individuals, but it definitely makes sense in the grand scheme of things.

It's the reason none of the LDS people (that I know anyway) are writing anything close to this about another religion.

*sigh* I hope you know, Daiquiri- that even though I'm on the Mormon "side" of the discussion- I'm not intersted in who is right and who is wrong. It's not even up for discussion with me. I'm actually enjoying reading the good points you do have, and hearing the testimony it is instigating. Thanks for putting up with all of this- I know it can be an emotionally taxing discussion, and I admire the time and effort you have dedicated.

Anna  – (9/04/2008 05:10:00 PM)  

My apologies for posting- AGAIN!
I've opened a new blog, where I've responded to the questions, and a few points of my own.
http://inchristibelieve.blogspot.com/

ldsneighbor  – (9/07/2008 10:11:00 PM)  

Science does not prove the Bible nor The Book of Mormon, neither does it disprove them. The scriptures warn of false prophets, but it also speaks of true prophets. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e. a Mormon). Although I don't agree with some of your conclusions, I appreciate the kind and friendly spirit in which you initially framed this discussion. There is often an inexplicable hate from some who make a career of bashing Mormons. So it is refreshing to find people who disagree without being disagreeable. I thank you for that, friend. I agree with what David said earlier in this thread that the question of Joseph Smith being a prophet may be better addressed by first considering The Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is readily available today. It is real. It exists. You can hold it and heft it in your hand. You can open its pages. You can read what is there. You can feel the Spirit when you begin a serious study of the book. You can ask yourself after reading each page if the spirit you are feeling here could have been fabricated. After reading it, you can ask your Father if this book is true and of God. I have done that. God has personally revealed the truth of The Book of Mormon to me in a way that is unmistakable. It is through The Book of Mormon that I came to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I invite you to read The Book of Mormon with an open heart and a sincere desire to know from God your Father whether or not it is true.

Seth R.  – (9/08/2008 01:22:00 PM)  

You have to be careful using Wikipedia when researching Mormonism.

Controversial subjects on Wikipedia are constantly vandalized in an attempt to push one ideology or another. Mormonism gets this problem so bad the administrators have had to lock-down most subjects related to Mormonism and police it quite heavily.

The entry on "Prophesies of Joseph Smith" was obviously written by an Evangelical countercultists and then edited a bit by Mormon supporters. But the original entry shows the Evangelical bias.

And it really doesn't do a good job of presenting the LDS argument.

Take David Patten for instance. I'll quote D&C 114:1:

"Verily thus saith the Lord: It is wisdom in my servant David W. Patten, that he settle up all his business as soon as he possibly can, and make a disposition of his merchandise, that he may perform a mission unto me next spring, in company with others, even twelve including himself, to testify of my name and bear glad tidings unto all the world."

Before we go any further, let's stop and ask the obvious - is this a revelation that David will definitely be going anywhere? Read carefully.

The answer is, it is not.

Nowhere in this scripture is there a declaration that he is going to so much as leave his doorstep. All it says is:

Prepare for a mission so that you MAY go.

This isn't a prophesy. It's an INSTRUCTION.

As for the failure of the temple in Missouri, the Lord Himself explains the failure of Zion in Missouri by telling Joseph that if God's followers strive to obey a command given by the Lord, and their enemies rise up and prevent it, God will not require that thing from them anymore. It's right there in Mormon scripture.

Finally, if you require everything a prophet says in God's name to be absolutely correct, what do you do about Jonah?

He prophesied Ninevah would be destroyed in 40 days.

Didn't happen. If you'll recall, Jonah was rather put-out that God didn't back him up.

And the errors in the Book of Mormon argument is just incredibly silly considering how many changes have been made to the Holy Bible.

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