I am working to create a list of the “Top 10 Toughest Issues in Mormon History“. My first document on “Joseph Smith, Peep Stones, and Treasure Digging” can be found here.

My goals in this project are very simple:

  • Lay out the basic facts behind the top 10 history-related issues that Mormons struggle with.
  • Do my best to make sure that the facts are just that. Facts.
  • Use Church-sponsored or published materials whenever possible, and little to no anti-Mormon sources.
  • Ultimately, my intent is to explain to those who have loved ones who are struggling with, or who have left the church, what the basic facts are that get someone to that point of frustration/confustion/sadness/anger.

What I’m NOT trying to do in this exercise is:

  • Tell the “whole story”. I’m trying to keep it simple. At the same time, I’m trying very hard to not be antagonistic. Editorial judgement is obviously huge here, which is partly why I’m seeking feedback.
  • Apologetics. I would love to link to sources FAIR provides for each of these issues as I develop things, but I’m trying to keep this very short, and focused, for people with very low attention spans.
  • Cause people to leave the church. My goal is actually to help people stay in the Church if they feel good about staying, though I expect people to doubt me on this motive. I believe that sunshine/openness/honesty is the best cleanser for the soul.
  • Anyway, please send me lots of feedback on this article, and future ones I publish. I want to make sure I’m fair, accurate, etc.

    What I need to know most are:

    1. Are any of the items I listed not factual?
    2. Are there any important items I missed?
    3. Are there any web links that I could have used that would better illustrate my points?


    John Dehlin


  1. Hellmut December 7, 2005 at 11:19 pm

    I care less about historic issues. I care about power abuses today. Why would LDS leaders reenact Galileo Galilei in 1994 and 2004?

    I guess related issues are Joseph Smith’s nepotism and self-promoting use of revelation. Then there is Brigham Young’s failure to get to the bottom of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which suggests at least a cover up. The abusive reality of polygamy is a bottomless pit.

  2. […] Please read what I’m trying to do here before you comment. […]

  3. NFlanders December 8, 2005 at 7:36 am

    I loved the pictures of the peepstones. I’ve always wondered what they might look like and I’ve never seen any represenations of them before. Thank you for that.

    I honestly don’t know how these pages will be received. I think you’ve hit on all the salient points, but I’m afraid that members will find it too “anti-” regardless of all the Ensign sources.

  4. Jared December 8, 2005 at 8:53 am

    Why should this be a separate project from the Mormon Studies wiki? Just because it is only Church sources?

  5. John Dehlin December 8, 2005 at 9:50 am

    These will definitely go in the Wiki. I’ve just built them offline in a hurry (using my laptop and Dreamweaver) and wanted to get a first pass of feedback before I submit…but I’ll try to get them up after this 1st round of feedback.

    Thanks for asking, Jared.

  6. bryan December 8, 2005 at 11:56 am

    As far as tough issuses goes, here’s a couple:

    – The lack of any archeological, linguistic, or DNA evidence to support the BoM. Millions of Nephites, Lamanites, and Jaredites are said to have died at hill Cumorah yet NOTHING is left at all.

    – Why the Nephites didn’t observe Jewish laws and practices while in America?

    – The Book of Abraham text not matching the papyrus. If not, why not?

    – Polyandry and JS’s proposals to young women.

    – The BoM translated with a rock placed in a hat, according to the actual eyewitnesses that were there. This was a troubling issuse for me, as this was the same method Joseph Smith used to find buried treasures.

    – The changes in the temple to include the remove of the death oaths.

    – The absolute lack of any prophecies from the LDS prophet. He’s been a prophet 10 years, can anyone name his top 5 prophecies? The new conferance center and 200 temples don’t count as any CEO of any corperation could predict that.

    Just a few off the top of my head.

  7. John Dehlin December 8, 2005 at 12:28 pm


    I’m creating this content for the LDS friends and family of people like yourself.

    From that perspective, do you think any of this will help them understand where you are coming from (given that the sources are all LDS friendly)?


  8. bryan December 8, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    I think your idea is a great one. The difficult issuses should be adressed so members and potential converts know exactly what they are getting into. I spent nearly 28 years in the LDS church before seeing these issuses, and when that happens, people tend to go into shock followed by a sense of betrayal on the part of the church. Getting the information out is a great thing.

  9. SpeakTheTruth December 13, 2005 at 1:23 am

    John Dehlin,

    You said in your 4 step process of what you are trying to do:

    Ultimately, my intent is to explain to those who have loved ones who are struggling with, or who have left the church, what the basic facts are that get someone to that point of frustration/confustion/sadness/anger.

    Is it your intention to explain the basic facts and provide answers so these people will still believe the gospel, or are you wanting to lay out all the facts so people can decide for themselves?


  10. John Dehlin December 13, 2005 at 2:06 pm


    I definitely want to help people stay in the church if that is their desire or even their inclination. I’m trying to keep people from leaving if it would ultimately cause them net-unhappiness to do so. I believe strongly that there are a lot of miserable ex-Mormons out there, and want to let people know that there are other paths that are possible, that don’t necessarily mean leaving.

    Also, I do believe that truth is truth, and should be known and confronted regardless of consequences. To me, that’s sort of what the War in Heaven was all about. So if people get all the information, and decide the church isn’t right for them, I believe that’s an individual choice, and I support it.

    Does that make sense? Thoughts?


  11. SpeakTheTruth December 13, 2005 at 5:34 pm

    John Dehllin,

    Yes I am in agreement with you on examining the truth, and challenging what each of us believe. I feel like I’ve always been willing to face whatever the truth truly is.

    I do however believe in the milk/meat issue. Christ spoke in parables so the simple people heard good stories, learned people can get a life-lesson, and hopefully his Apostles were learning at yet a higher level. Paul spoke of giving people milk, because they weren’t ready for the meat. Shoving meat down their throats would only chase them away. When our children ask us delicate questions, notice how we give them answers based on their level of understanding. Notice, we don’t shove an adult answer down a 5 year olds throat. Notice our answer isn’t the same to a 5 year old as it would be 15 year old. If we hang on the same logic of giving everyone all information all at once, then each of us should sit down with our 3-4 year old and go into great details about sex, ovulations, penis’s, vagina’s, with pictures when they ask “Where do babies come from?”.

    I am very open to having real discussions about real issues. I’d love it for FARMS or FAIR to put on an honest teaching presentation in a hotel conference room for a day. (I already suggested that to them last month).

    I struggle with plastering everything on the internet for people who aren’t ready for certain levels to just stumble across things and choke on meat when they are just getting to a level of handling milk.

    I in no means want to hide anything, nor wait until after someone is baptized to share more about our church. I don’t believe we have anything to hide. That is why 99% of all Anti topics are taken from our own finding, our own history. There is nothing to dig up, the LDS threw it out there.

    People are ready for what they are ready for. Having Albert Einstein speak to 3rd graders won’t do much good.

    Do I wish the church had a Gospel Doctrine 2 class? You bet. I’m on board with you on that.

    Here is my belief on that topic:

    We (as people) should be creating those things. The church will always stay within the guidelines of the basic principles of the gospel and keep the teachings to principles of salvation, living Christ-like lives, etc. I for years have wanted to hear the General Conferences to be like they were in the 60’s & 70’s. I long for those days again. But those days are gone. With all the Anti’s twisting things and taking speeches out of context only makes the leaders choose to be conservative in their conference talks.

    Some things should/could be talked about here, and other topics deserve more respect.

    I feel it’s one thing to lay out the facts, it’s another to do it in an attacking position. Usually people that throw out a concern about a belief that they feel concerned about, they usually offer possible answers, or they ask it in the form of a question. They don’t just throw the facts out there, claiming them as facts, and then say “you decide”. It sends messages of doubt of your come-from when people read all these facts, but no beliefs in support from you, or asking those who support it to provide some additional verbal support.

    Am I making sense?

    The polygamy issue is a good point. You are stating all the facts, which is great, but I’d think either you’d offer an explanation at the end, or ask for explanations. From most of the posts I’ve read, most of the posters are people who have left the church already who want to go into beat-up mode about that topic, or add additional evidences that they feel would prove the church false. I think that is why many people question your come-from. I really appreciated your last post and stating the stand you are taking. That says a ton.

    If you start a thread about any topic but let the heading be an invitation for those that can offer any assistance in explaining the concept so those who question it can understand it and be OK with it. Am I making sense? I for one would be happy to post replies/answers to tough gospel questions. And I’m sure I’m not alone. I think most people that would want to offer answers, don’t want to find us attacked by a ton of anti’s visiting your site.

    Again, I am not afraid of the truth. I am always open to whatever the truth is. I base my beliefs on truth. Truth makes common sense. I’ve entered into many conversations with people not of our faith with a total open mind to any points they have to share. Most times I find they are not open, but are only here to shove an opinion down my throat. They are not open to whatever the truth is, they just want to believe what they want to believe and be right.

    I’d be very open to a great thread on ‘the only true church’, ‘polygamy’, the “fallibility of prophets” or any of your top 10 topics. Let’s have some good posts for those that suffer from concepts of the church that they struggle with.


  12. John Dehlin December 13, 2005 at 7:20 pm

    Hey Mark,

    I’m totally willing, and even planning on having good responses (apologetic, and otherwise) to the facts. That’s why I sent the links to the guys at FAIR and asked for their input.

    Once I am comfortable that I have the right facts, stage 2 is to provide links and answers to explain/support. I may do a liberal and a conservative view…..but I totally plan on taking it to the next level.

    I look forward to doing this with you.


  13. SpeakTheTruth December 13, 2005 at 9:13 pm

    John Dehlin,

    Now I’m excited. This I can get behind. Thanks so much for that.

    I will say this:

    Your site can be such a welcome breath of fresh air, and in contrast from FARMS & FAIR. I say that because even though we may love those sites and the depth to where they go, there is no site that deals with people have gospel questions/concerns, but need it explained in english, and doesn’t require a Doctorate in Archeology, DNA research, or be a Professor in Greek Mythology with an emphasis on the 1st Century Jewish Stone-Masonry. You mentioned that in your original statement of wanting to give people ‘answers’, and not a doctrate thesis.

    For that, I’d love to be a part.


  14. Kelly December 14, 2005 at 3:12 am

    I have listened to a few podcasts. I struggle with some of the teachings. I appreciate this forum where we learn that you don’t need to blindly follow to believe.

  15. Left Field December 14, 2005 at 7:29 am

    You’re using the terms “peepstone” and “seerstone” interchangably without explanation. As far as I remember, seerstone was the term Joseph used. I think at least to Mormons, the terms have different connotations, with the implication being that “peepstone” refers to a counterfeit version of a seerstone. You seem to prefer the term peepstone. Given the connotations, wouldn’t it be better to use seerstone in the title of the article?

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