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.

Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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Part 4

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  1. Katherine Vaden May 16, 2006 at 2:24 am - Reply

    In all my efforts to be a faithful Latter Day Saint, I nearly lost my life at my own hand. I trusted that what I was told was true and somehow I just came up short as a less righteous spirit. The Church of Joseph Smith of Latter Day Saints has many good teachings worthy of following but for those who find themselves with temptations and trials beyond that which a “more righteous” follower can comprehend, it is deadly…….

  2. Hyrum Moriancumer May 16, 2006 at 3:19 am - Reply


    Thank you! Your efforts continue to amaze me. A true “savior on Mount Zion”.

  3. Chad Spjut May 16, 2006 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Thank you for offering such a wonderful insight into the truth behind the origins of Mormonism. I have left the church over these issues as I could no longer reconcile my faith with the half truths told me. I mourn this loss, however I know it was the right choice. Unfortunately, I don’t share Mr. Palmer’s opptimism for a change in the church. As was mentioned, the RLDS church crumbled, and that I feel will ultimately be the fate the of the LDS church if they come clean on their history as well. I wish with all my heart that the church had been what it claimed, but in the end I still have Christ and for that I am grateful to the church and a good mother.

  4. RJ May 17, 2006 at 10:19 am - Reply

    Free speech is something that makes a democracy great. Grant was treated poorly because he said what he felt. In my relationship with my family, I always wish that I could be as honest as Grant. But that’s something that is unlikely to happen. It would hurt our relationship due to their orthodox views.

    Isn’t it ironic that for a church that likes to throw around the words truth and true like they are going out of style, the people that they choose to battle against the most are those who speak truth. What fools the LDS was for holding a galeleo trial.

    I enjoy my membership in the church and being a mormon. But it is hard to deal with the hypocracy and hatred. That’s why I can’t attend often anymore.

    I think Grant is right, if the leadership and membership decide to change and become more honest about their history they should do so slowly and quietly so that it is not too hard on the members.

    You are doing a great service John by providing a forum for people to discuss this openly. I wish there could be an open forum for discussion at church, but I can certainly understand why that won’t happen.

  5. John Dehlin May 17, 2006 at 10:24 am - Reply

    There’s a really good thread dealing with this issue….over on By Common Consent.

    Check it out if you feel like it….

  6. John Dehlin May 17, 2006 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Hey…for those of you who are interested, I’d love to see you join a thread over at FAIR on Palmer and this podcast.

    I feel like, as usual, they’re attacking Palmer, and not dealing with the origins, and the disparity between the facts/history, and the church’s correlated version.

  7. jordanandmeg May 17, 2006 at 11:42 am - Reply

    “Isn’t it ironic that for a church that likes to throw around the words truth and true like they are going out of style, the people that they choose to battle against the most are those who speak truth. What fools the LDS was for holding a galeleo trial.”

    You’re right. Members and leaders do that all the time.
    But the gospel doesn’t teach that.
    I’m not surprised that most members don’t really grasp the gospel. If they did, there wouldn’t need to be a church in the first place.

  8. pjj May 17, 2006 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    John, I just got a message at the fair board saying that the reply feature had been disabled for that topic. Is that just a glitch? I have to say that I’m not sure it’s really worth spending much energy on that group. One poster has “You’re a jerk” in red letters for a signature line? Good grief. I just don’t see that posting anything there will change anyone’s mind, or the level of discourse there.

  9. Me May 17, 2006 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    I’m curious whether he mentioned what the Frontline piece he was interviewed for will focus on. Is it a story on the foundations of Mormonism, LDS Church history as a whole, or some other broader religious topic. If not, could you ask him?

  10. RoastedTomatoes May 17, 2006 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    I am once again reminded that I can’t look at the FAIR boards; the bile I see flowing from both sides on most issues — the couple of comments I read relating to this interview included — tarnishes the soul.

    I want to quickly thank John and Grant Palmer for this excellent interview. The life history is outstanding, the overview of “An Insider’s View…” is concise and very helpful, and the discussion of how our worship could become more Christ-centered seems dead on target in my opinion.

    I’d pray, with Bro. Palmer, that the church is indeed big enough to have a place for people like him. The thing that will stick with me longest from this interview is Bro. Palmer’s palpable, continuing love for a church and a community that has really treated him quite poorly.

  11. ebb May 17, 2006 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    Is it enough to say that when I study and ponder the Book of Mormon and then pray about what I have learned, the truth of those things are manifested to me and I “know” that it is from our Father.

  12. Square Peg May 17, 2006 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    Hey…for those of you who are interested, I’d love to see you join a thread over at FAIR on Palmer and this podcast.

    Wow. Tough room. Have you heard back from anyone at FAIR regarding a rebuttal podcast? It would be fascinating to hear a response from Daniel Peterson or some other respected FARMS apologist.

    If Grant Palmer’s book is really as sloppy and inaccurate as the folks at FARMS and FAIR seem to think it is, you would think they would be jumping at the opportunity to respond on Mormon Stories.

    BTW: I’ve read FARMS’ apologetic responses to Grant Palmer’s book, and frankly, I just didn’t find them nearly as convincing as Dr. Peterson seems to think they are. It’s probably because I don’t hold a PhD and lack the academic training and intellectual horsepower to understand and analyze the issues properly… :)

  13. pjj May 17, 2006 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    I don’t want to get into the same kind of person bashing over here as goes on at FAIR, but for those of you who haven’t run into these guys before, it is probably instructive to google some of the names there, such as Bill Hamblin, which is his real name. Add Metcalfe and Butthead to the search, if you don’t already know that story. I think it’s good background to know about him, when he discusses ad hominem attacks.

  14. John Dehlin May 17, 2006 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    Daniel Peterson declined today. Bummer.

    So far no FAIR volunteers. I can’t understand it. They’re so willing to comment/respond on the forum…just no takers via audio/interview.

    I hope they don’t leave me/us hanging.

  15. Kempton May 17, 2006 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this awesome podcast. I loved Palmer’s book. It was a revelation to me! It puts you right in Joseph’s day and you experience the era firsthand, it’s an amazing book. The book is my number one choice book for sharing with Latter day Saint loved ones. It gives you the facts without polemics and it is honest, sincere, and concisely well written. After reading the book I started reading the FARMS reviews and was utterly appalled. I wrote my own rebuttal to a few of the FARMS reviews

    Regarding the last bit of episode 3, yes it’s true that apologists can say that Joseph simply used the language and sources of his environment to translate real gold plates, but this overlooks the fact that Palmer demonstrates in his book that entire Evangelical sermons are repackaged nearly verbatim in the Book of Mormon. Joseph quotes Protestant ministers and adds Masonic plotlines (“secret combinations” etc) in the Book of Mormon.

    If you’re interested in learning more about how Joseph’s retelling of the First Vision versions reflected his belief in God at the time see my essay I own an 1891 Doctrine and Covenants that binds the Lectures on Faith as official LDS doctrine in scripture. The Fifth Lecture, as you probably already know, declares that only Jesus has a body of tabernacle, the Father is only a spirit, and there is no personal Holy Ghost! In my short essay I also demonstrate how Joseph’s concept of deity evolved step by step over time into the tri-theistic Godhead of today, and how Joseph originally believed in one monotheistic deity.

    I am very interested in Palmer’s Jesus book. From the interview I’m happy to hear he has not fallen into a Jerry Farwell approach to Christ and the literalist underpinnings of Evangelical Fundamentalist Christianity. Instead, he seems to hold a position similar to, though not completely the same as, the excellent Marcus Borg and John Spong.

  16. japanguy May 18, 2006 at 12:15 am - Reply

    Thanks for the great podcast. The last two podcast have been fantastic. Grant wrote a great book that addresses most of the big problems in mormon history. I had read many of the problems before but Grants book just puts them all together and makes it so clear that the church is not being honest in its history. John thanks for all the hard work. Keep it up. Grant, thanks for your time too.

  17. chrisac80 May 18, 2006 at 3:47 am - Reply

    Hi John, hi Grant,
    thanks for the great podcast.
    However I cannot follow both of your intentions to stay in the church and to support it as you do.

    When Joseph Smith founded the LDS church, he did so for a certain reason:
    All other churches are an abomination, wherefore God has removed the keys of authority from the world.
    These sacred ordinances were then reintroduced by the RESTORED church.
    Whereas Luther was a reformator, Smith was a RESTORATOR.
    Therefore, Mormonism is not “yet another christian denomination” but a very distinct group with a claim of absolute and solitary truth.

    This has to be kept in mind when the truth claims of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are analyzed.

    In your book, you come to the conclusion that the historicity of the BoM as well as the credibility of the stories surrounding the creation of the BoM are highly questionable and that the better explanation is to consider the BoM as a fictional book written by Smith himself, whose imagination was influenced by his environment, and maybe by books like “The golden pot” or “Views of the hebrews”.

    If the LDS church was “yet another christian denomination”, it would without a doubt be possible to reduce the stress on Smith and increase the stress on Jesus.
    Many statements Martin Luther made are nowadays ridiculous, and are not believed by current Lutherans.
    E.g. Luther believed in witches like everyone did at his time. But as he was just a theologician, those statements can be discarded.

    But this cannot be done in Mormonism. Either Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon is historically true, or he was a fraud. The LDS church is built on the foundation of the person Joseph Smith as well as the book of Mormon and the sacred ordinances.
    Removing everything you question, Grant, you strip the LDS church in its very foundation.
    The bible teaches to build a house on a rock. The LDS church is not built upon a rock, but upon
    the sandy ground of Joseph Smith, the fictional novel called “The book of Mormon” and keys of authorities
    invented by Smith. If you remove all those things, you get “yet another christian denomination”.

    But “yet another christian denomination” has no need for missionaries proselyting people from other denominations like today’s missionaries do. If Joseph Smith was a fraud, there is no need to
    – abstain from drinking a cup of black tea.
    – wear old fashioned church underwear
    – pay loads of money to a multibillion enterprise
    – store one year amount of food till it expires
    – baptize dead people

    As the christian song goes “Don’t build your house on a sandy land… oh it might look kind of nice, but you have to build it twice. Yes you have to build your house once more.”,
    the problem cannot be resolved by reforming the church from within. As it was not created by a reform,
    it can also not be changed to a christian mainstream church by a reform.
    Instead, it has to be ripped down and built again on a solid foundation.

    Why even mention the fraud Joseph Smith during sacrament meeting?
    Why teaching children a bunch of stories which never happened?
    Why indoctrinating people to be “the one and only church” when besides a fraud and a fictional book,
    they are just another christian denomination?

    In any way, it makes no sense to try to keep the LDS church alive.
    It will inevitable stumble to the ground, because the truth always prevails,
    and the invention of the internet has made the truth accessible to many people around the globe.
    You may slow down the process by watering down the doctrine, but in the end, the credibility of the
    book of mormon will sink to 0 until noone believes in it anymore.

    You complained that the RLDS / community of christ has lost members, but actually that is not a problem:
    The CoC has become “yet another christian denomination”, so it does not matter whether a person attends this church or another church around the block.

    Anyway, this is my prophesy:
    The LDS growth rate will be devastating decreasing in the following years because of the availability of information in the internet. As a consequence, the church will try to water down some aspects as well as
    admit some aspects of their twisted image of church history, but eventually the number of people leaving will increase, while the number of converts and of new missionaries will decrease.
    In the near future, the LDS church will lose its importance and will be replaced by other more successful churches.

    Of course, it might be nice to live near the shore, but one day, the wave will be coming, and that day may be soon…

    Just my two cents on the topic.
    Grant : good luck for the future,
    John : Keep up your podcast,
    I think that the podcast about yourself was one of the best podcasts ever made,
    and I believe that your podcast will increase in importance and number of listeners, because
    you do high quality interviews on highly relevant issues.
    Your effort is really appreciated by the internet/podcast community. Thanks in the name of all listeners.


  18. Aaron May 18, 2006 at 10:33 am - Reply

    I have been teaching Old Testament this year, we could just as easily attack the historicity of the Bible. The doctrines of the bible appear to have been in a state of constant flux. Appear to be changing. What is really in the stories of scripture is a pattern. That pattern is that when God’s chosen people are righteous to the things they are given through the prophets they are saved. They were commanded to wipe lamb’s blood on their door posts, they were told to look at a golden serpent, they were told to have specific feasts at specific times, we are not told to do these things, but both they were and we are commanded to follow the living prophet.

    I read the scriptures and I see a pattern that when God has something to tell us He does it through the prophet, so that is whom I listen to for new revelation. It might be additional knowledge or clarification on misunderstood doctrine. The pattern has always been that when you follow the prophet he will lead you to God. The lesson of the scriptures has never been that the prophet knows everything about everything. Let us not expect the prophets to be more than they were chosen to be.

    We know more today about God and his ways than people before us. Does that mean that they were wrong? NO! It means that we have more to learn.

    God’s church has never been perfect. God has always been perfect. One of the things that you and your guests point out in your podcasts is that the prophets and leaders of the church are imperfect men. This is true. It always has been and always will be. If you believe this then you should not hold them to perfection. You must allow them to be imperfect and make mistakes. You must also allow them time to correct your understanding of what they said. The doctrine of prophets is that they are the conduit for the Lord’s revelations. It is not that the prophets know everything. They just know what they have been revealed for that time. Jacob didn’t prevent his children from going into apostasy and slavery in Egypt, does that make him a false prophet? No. He did with the help of Joseph, save them from the famine.

    It would be nice if when we follow the prophet everything turns out nice and neatly packaged. I followed the prophet, I was obedient to God and now I have a perfect family, the perfect job, I am rich and I have a perfect life. That has never been true. Remember Job? Remember how Israel followed Moses into the desert. The DESERT! That must have been terribly awful and a difficult pill to swallow. Many of the Israelites wanted to return to Egypt and the false dead gods. They were not willing to withstand the trial of the desert and failed to remember the evidence of God they had already received. I think that for many at the time, Moses appeared to be a false prophet, but we know today that he eventually lead them to a land of milk and honey. Most importantly he lead them to the true and living God.

    Brother(I still consider him one of us, as does he) Palmer has had a long time to research his book. I think it is unfair to expect anyone to be able to adequately explain everything he talks about in a quick knee jerk response.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has brought me closer to God and Jesus Christ. So has The Bible, The Book of Mormon, and the rest of LDS scripture. My understanding of doctrine is corrected all the time. I have found that it wasn’t the doctrine that was wrong, it was my comprehension. I have received my own witness that I am in God’s church. That is enough for me. I will remain with the prophet even if I am asked to wander in the desert, literally or figuratively. I have learned that when you follow the prophet he leads you to a land of milk and honey, a type and shadow of God’s glory.

    We will eventually know the answers to all questions. Today we can only hold to the knowledge that has been revealed. The unbeliever considers faith to be weakness. The believer knows faith to be strength.

  19. Lyman Wight May 18, 2006 at 10:44 am - Reply

    Excellent Podcast, as per usual. Thanks so much for the time and effort.

    That part of the podcast that Chris refers to bothers me to. Both John and Grant seem to be able to forgive the leaders of the church for not moving quickly to be forthright with the history because of the potential damage it could do to the church. What is more important, the church or the truth? I’ll stand on the side of truth. If the church falls because it’s not true to what it claims to be then I view that as a good thing. People are dedicating their lives to the church.

    If the history and doctine have flaws, and the leadership knows – which I believe they do– they have a duty to the membership to tell the truth, in plain terms. Hinkley suggests we all “Stand for Something”, well if we as a church don’t stand for truth and honesty, what does the rest of it matter?

    In the end, the internet is here to stay, members who are curious about issues but feel uncomfortable bringing them up in Sunday School or PH meeting will increasingly turn to the internet. Grant was correct in saying that this is only the beginning. Whether the church is ready to move quickly or not, the truth about the historical problems of the church is coming to the membership at large, and its coming fast.

    As Joseph Smith himself said “the truth will cut its own way”

  20. jordanandmeg May 18, 2006 at 11:15 am - Reply

    If my wife and I were discussing divorce, we wouldn’t include our child in the discussion. We would keep our child from that truth.
    I understand why the church is being careful in how it handles its explanation of church history.

    And besides truth’s only purpose is to help people become good. Truth, on its own, is useless if it does not further goodness.
    Nobody’s life changes because the church is true. People lives change because Christ teaches them to be good.

  21. Hellmut May 18, 2006 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    I am not sure that Church leaders ought to treat us like children, especially not when they are asking us to sacrifice everything for the Church.

    It has long been an axiom in strategy that decision makers who want to defend everything under assault will end up with nothing.

    It seems to me that this applies in this case. The Community of Christ made a tough choice, got its house in order, suffered inevitable losses, and is a thriving organization today.

    The LDS missionary program has already atrophied in Europe, Anglo and Latin America. I have heard that there is still strong growth in parts of Southern Africa but that doesn’t appear to be real growth in many other parts of the world.

    By comparison, look at the Seven Day Adventists. They too had to confront faith promoting history. They did so courageously, lost almost a third of their followers but have become one of the most vibrant proselyting movements in the world.

  22. jordanandmeg May 18, 2006 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    Yes, you’re right. It becomes a case where we wonder how church leaders view us.
    But essentially, we’re all lost children. God is a concerned father and who knows how and when he will give us more truth.

    And good point with the Seventh Day Adventists. I believe the church will eventually do the same (may not have the choice) and may suffer the same losses.

  23. RoastedTomatoes May 18, 2006 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    Jordanandmeg, the Adventists did initially suffer heavy losses. But they’re now growing much faster than the LDS church, and with higher retention rates. They’re an excellent counter to the example of RLDS decline on making similar changes.

  24. jordanandmeg May 18, 2006 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    I wonder how Adventist apologists explain their previous misshaps with the Second Coming predicions.
    I get an Adventist television channel by accident. Nice people.

    I also think that one of the reasons that they recovered from their past is that they still hold fast to some very demanding doctrines. You cannot be Adventist and consider Sunday to be the Sabbath. You cannot be an Adventist and disagree with their scriptural interpretation of of future events.
    Good for them. They are holding fast to their identity. I don’t think they’d be as successful if they’d become as watered down as the RLDS faith.
    Who knows?

  25. Lyman Wight May 18, 2006 at 12:46 pm - Reply


    Your suggesting that it is desireable for church leadership to shield the church members from the truth so that we remain their definition of ‘good’? That we should be treated like children? That’s absurd. We are adults, and theoretically, our salvation is at stake here, so we deserve to know the whole truth, and to know it now. Perpetuating a series of lies to protect an organization that was built on them is cowardly and reprehensible. I believe there is a “not on my watch” attitude among the bretheren who would rather cling to the status quo than do the right thing.

    Peoples lives do change based on whether the church is true or not.. .in fact their eternities change. Mormonism isn’t a Sunday religion, its an all encompassing way of life, where once you’ve accepted it, if you live up to your callings and commitments, you have very little time for anything else. My life has definitly changed for the better now that I don’t take it all so seriously.

    If a public company treated its shareholders the way the church treats its members, management would rightfully end up in prison. And I think we can all agree that the one true church on the face of the earth should be held to a higher standard than your average Fortune 500 conglomerate.

    I also will not accept that believing lies brings anyone closer to Jesus.

    I believe truth is inherintly good in the long run– even if it is painful to accept in the short run. Learning that the church was not what I had been taught was one of the most painful truths I’ve ever had to face. It was gut-wrenchingly painful. That said, I wouldn’t trade that knowledge for anything. I think all church members have a right to walk through the abyss and see the sunshine on the other side.

  26. jordanandmeg May 18, 2006 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    If the point of life was to enjoy truth then the Lord would have given us all much much more. But the point of life is not to gather truth (for even the wisest of us would come up way short). It is, as Hugh Nibley says, to learn repentence and forgiveness.

    When it comes to truth, we are ALL flyng blind. But we all have a strong sense for what is good.

    I am not a member because this church is true. It could be true and be bad. I am a member because the fruits of its truth are christianity. Its ‘truthfullness’ is an added bonus.

    Now do I think that the church should better handle the dispensing of its history? Of course. I too had that painful experience. It, dare I say, sucked. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything either.

    If the church was more perfect, I bet my transition would’ve been smoother. But my new found knowledge allows me to see the church for what it really is and FORGIVE it. Yes it should be better. Yes, I still wish it was perfect. It’s history, it’s imperfections, some doctrines are all so unknowable.

    I deal with this by focusing on the point of life. Knowing truth? No. Learning and enjoying goodness. I receive this and more from the LDS church.

  27. Lyman Wight May 18, 2006 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    If you’re not interested in truth, then by all means, stay in the LDS church… or perhaps join the Moonies, those people seem particularly happy in their delusions.

    If you want to draw close to Jesus, I would suggest that there are other churches that would serve your purpose much better than the LDS church and they don’t come with all of the secret handshakes and historical baggage.

    I believe truth is the pathway to righteousness and happiness. We only arrive at the truth by being honest with one another and the church has not been, and is not currently, honest with the members. These members have put so much faith in the bretheren that they KNOW they don’t even need to look at anything that contradicts official church teachings, because if it does, it has to be false.

    The church expects me to be honest in my dealings with my fellow man, and I expect the same from them.

  28. jordanandmeg May 18, 2006 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Interesting. What you say makes much sense and is very logical. The question for me comes down to what we can know.

    I consider myself a scientist. What can one know for certain? What is knowledge? Synapses? Spirit? It is very arrogant to say that one knows something for certain to be true. It just as arrogant to declare something false. I envy such arrogance and would love a dose.

    In a world without the luxury of absolute knowledge, one has to find one’s way with a different nose. THIS was my disillusioning process. Suddenly I didn’t know if the church was true or false. Instead of grasping for whatever seemed more true, I asked myself what is truth.

    Very stage four, eh, John?

    This letting go process was very painful, for I had relied on my perception of truth for so long. But . . . here it comes . . . I don’t think God wants us to rely on our sense of what is true, but of what is right. This is what, I think, Alma 32 is all about. Our only SURE knowledge comes from a testament of the fruits of goodness that come from righteous action. I don’t think truth leads to righteousness. I think righteousness lead to truth. Laman and Lemuel knew truth, but they still sucked.

    Why not join the moonies. Perfect question. The book of Mormon teaches such wonderful righteousness. The prophets teach such goodness. The temple represents the Lord’s forgiveness and patience. I’m chasing this goodness.
    (I think God will judge the Moonies, Laman, Lemuel, and even me with kindness, by the way).

    Now I can use my logic (which I believe to be fininte) and ask if I think Joseph Smith actually was a prophet or if there should be archeology for the book or Mormon. I must admit that logic could take me either way. If I was a betting me, I’d say yes, for the fruits of their works are beautiful to me. These fruits I trust. Other religions with other truths that are beautiful, I will grasp as well.

    Now, do I think the church should be honest and own up to past mistakes? Yes.

  29. RoastedTomatoes May 18, 2006 at 2:21 pm - Reply


    You say about the Adventists, “Good for them. They are holding fast to their identity. I don’t think they’d be as successful if they’d become as watered down as the RLDS faith.”

    In actual fact, the Adventists have abandoned as much of their traditional heritage, with respect to the prophetic role of early church leaders, as the RLDS faith. What’s left behind is rigorous, certainly, but it’s the equivalent of an LDS church that is rigorous about chastity and tithing but never talks about Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon.

  30. jordanandmeg May 18, 2006 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    Really? You would know more than I. Would you say there success comes from that rigorous emphasis on chastity etc?

  31. Aaron May 18, 2006 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    I used to work at the church office building in SLC. I was frustrated with some of the policy decisions that were presented to ‘the brethren.’ I didn’t get why they weren’t as wise as I was. Then later after seeing the fruits of their decisions I realized that I was not as fully informed as I thought I was. They were right, I was wrong.

    I got to see a lot of statistical data about growth, retention, abuse, divorce, all of the issues and their causes. The church knows their problems much better than you, it is their job to deal with it everyday. All of the problems, not just history, but the present. To think that you know more about the church’s issues than they do is ignorant.

    Don’t forget that the greatest source of the history on the church is the church archives which they allow people to research. If they are hiding the history, then why are they letting people research it?

    There are historical projects under way that many of you know nothing about. Before you tell the church what they should do, you might consider that they are already doing it.

    History is written with the bias of the author. There are many different points of view. All of us have opinions as to what it all means but none of us have the full story. Maybe there isn’t action on this issue because the whole story is not known.

    We have been told by Grant Palmer and others in this blog to focus on Jesus, but I have met plenty of people who will use the same arguments against all of Christianity that is being used against LDS. Not the details of history, LDS obviously has their own unique history, but we share the same biblical history that an atheist would dispute. I don’t know about the ward Brother Palmer attends, my wards have always focused on Jesus. We do put some attention on Joseph Smith because we believe in a restoration of Christ’s church. We are different in some ways to other Christians. Those differences are important enough to emphasize them. Every principle I have learned at church and at home was presented as being part of Jesus’ teachings. He has always been central. My earliest primary memories are singing “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam” “Love One Another” and “I am a Child of God”

    Religion has never been about empirical evidence. That is for science. I don’t believe in Jesus because I have proof. The Bible and other scriptures are bad at proof. They are good at faith. Faith is many things, one of which is confirmed belief. I have faith in Jesus and His church because my belief has been confirmed.

  32. jordanandmeg May 18, 2006 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Hear hear

  33. RoastedTomatoes May 18, 2006 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Aaron, your statement strikes me as a little bit inadvertently self-contradictory.

    You say: “I got to see a lot of statistical data about growth, retention, abuse, divorce, all of the issues and their causes. The church knows their problems much better than you…” “There are historical projects under way that many of you know nothing about.”

    Okay, fair enough. So the church has information that isn’t published. But to then claim that the church is telling us everything doesn’t quite work.

    In fact, the church archives are partly open to researchers, and I think that’s wonderful. There are also documents of high historical value, such as the minutes of the Council of Fifty in Nauvoo, that have never been shared with researchers. Furthermore, statements from church leaders have discouraged rank-and-file members from learning about much of the history that has been produced using materials from the church archives and other relevant sources.

    If you’re trying to say that the church isn’t conspiratorially covering anything up, I agree with you. I think what’s happening instead is inaction due to indecisiveness. But it remains the case that many members of the church don’t really know much about the church’s history and would be profoundly upset if they were to learn. The same is true, by the way, with respect to conversion and retention statistics. As such, this information remains a kind of ticking time bomb.

    You’re right to point out that there are historical and textual problems with respect to the Bible. But they aren’t even comparable in magnitude with the challenges that advocates of Book of Mormon historicity, for example, face. Consider this: it’s actually possible to point on a globe to the part of the world where Jesus lived, but nobody can even do that with Nephites and Lamanites. Some people do lose all faith when they are faced with Mormon historical and textual difficulties; others find a more balanced path. I wonder if we could possibly be doing more to help people find those balanced paths?

  34. ebb May 18, 2006 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    When all is said and done about all that is said and not said about these things — The truth remains that we don’t know what happen and until we talk with Joseph we won’t. We have to look at the tapestry and not individual treads to measure the value of something. When you look at the life of Joseph did he do well for mankind? When we get on our knees and pray about the things that Christ taught or the things that Joseph taught do we feel peace and light or is it unrest and darkness. This is how we learn about spiritual things. I think someone can it Faith.

  35. Sapollonia May 18, 2006 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    This is my first ever response on this message board. First of all a big thanks to John- I love Mormon Stories! I also enjoy reading through these posts. A smile came to my face as I envisioned these black typed words on white digital background, like pioneer footprints wading through deep winter snow. No matter the direction of the journey, in or out, it’s unclear for many of us. Thanks to the courageous souls who blaze the trail!

    I have a couple of questions for John: where did you find the theme song for the Grant Palmer interview and what’s its’ title? I thought it was perfect, especially the “sinking treasure” motif (on many levels).

    Keep up the great work!

  36. Bonnie May 18, 2006 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed the podcast. Grant Palmer did a ton of research for this book, and I admire him very much for writing it. Well done. The podcast was well done, too.

    I imagine that it is hard for John and Grant to walk that line between belief in the church and their knowledge of the truth about Joseph Smith’s life. I think everybody has to live their life the way they feel best. I admire those who live in almost any church, as long as they are good people. These both seem like very good men.

    I left the Mormon church many years ago because I think the Joseph Smith story is a straight up lie. It does not follow that he was a horrible man. i happen to think he did more harm than good, that he spent much time looking out for himself, but that is only one person’s opinion.

    I used to get into raging arguments with Mormons about things, but in the end, nobody felt different about Joseph Smith, but we did about each other. no sense in losing friendships over the Joseph Smith story. It is not worth it. Life is too short to worry about that.

    I used to be a flaming anti Mormon after I left, but now after 25 years, I think I am doing good just to get up daily. Live and let live.

    i was interested to hear Grant’s beliefs. Even though I do not share them, I think he is an articulate, brilliant man who deserves a great deal of praise for his book and podcast.

    Thanks again for great work, John.

  37. FreeAtLast May 18, 2006 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    Someone on the Recovery from Mormonism website ( provided a link to this blog. Thanks for your comments about Grant Palmer, another Mormon-esque Galileo (like D. Michael Quinn). Both tried to help Latter-Day Saints gain a deeper and broader understanding of church history through their research and writings, and what happened to them? They got hit with the big stick of church disciplinary action for communicating the truth. Such is the enlightenment of Mormon patriarchy. Some things never change in the church, apparently.

    Since my departure from the LDS Church in the early-1990’s, Mormonism has changed greatly. I was raised in the church, served a mission in 1984/5, continued to participate as a young adult, and left the church at age 28. There were SO many church teachings that didn’t make sense, and the environment in the church was one in which only ‘faith-supporting’ facts and personal experiences were permitted. Is this still the case? Mormons were always ‘nice’, but rarely real. Once I started working in my career, I found non-Mormons to be much more open and relaxed with themselves and their humanity than Latter-Day Saints. During my years in the church, its emphasis was always on performance, obedience, and perfection. We were frequently reminded by our leaders, including the General Authorities, that we weren’t obedient enough, sacrificing enough, doing enough to build up the church, etc. Members were stressed out big-time. Hopefully, that self-esteem-undermining aspect of Mormonism has changed.

    Church doctrines and teachings have changed greatly over the years, and in my lifetime no less (I’m 41). As Mormon youth in Seminary and Sunday School, we were taught the ‘eternal’ doctrine of polygamy. I still have my Seminary work booklet on the doctrine, which remains a part of LDS theology, as per D&C 132. We were told that the Lord no longer required church members to practice polygamy because of the ‘wickedness of men’, but during the Millenium, ‘the principle of plural wives’ would be restored, even as God had ‘restored’ it through Joseph Smith. Members were also taught that ‘worthy’ priesthood holders would become Gods after death, with each resurrected man creating countless planets in his own universe. LDS women and teenage girls were taught that they would become the polygamous wives of a Mormon priesthood holder-God, and spend eternity bearing ‘spirit children’, who would incarnate on planets created by their omnipotent hubby. It’s my understanding that the LDS Church no longer teaches this ‘true’ doctrine.

    Post-mortality polygamy was one of several doctrines that Latter-Day Saints were taught in my day by the church that Mormons in this century are astonished to learn about. Other church teachings included the idea that blacks had been ‘less valiant’ in the Pre-Existence and were the ‘cursed seed of Cain’, interracial marriage was disapproved of by God, and all indigenous peoples of the Americas and Polynesia descended from The Book of Mormon Lamanites. These ‘eternal truths’ are no longer a part of LDS theology.

    Mormonism has become duller, frankly. The church should’ve hung on to its wacky ‘spiritual’ ideas, which made the LDS religion sexier in an eclectic sort of way. However, the main objective of the church’s leadership has always been to expand the ‘Kingdom of God on Earth’ (and the LDS corporate empire), so as society became more enlightened, changes in the church were inevitable. Does the LDS Church still teach people that it’s the ‘one, true’ church of God, or has that doctrine been dropped as well?

    It’s interesting how many shades of Mormons there are these days, ranging from those who believe all church doctrines and teachings to those who believe very few, but continue to participate in the LDS Church for family or other reasons. I’ve read posts from Latter-Day Saints about bishops and even stake presidents who have acknowledged to them in private that they don’t believe in The Book of Mormon and other fundamental aspects of Mormonism, but continue to participate because the church is ‘good’. This is a HUGE change from my years in the church. The day of the true-believing Mormon appears to be over.

    As BYU professors on the Make Good Foundation website acknowledge, the Internet has had an enormous impact (mostly negative) on the LDS Church. In my day, church leaders controlled the information about Mormonism that members and potential converts received (through church manuals, magazines, and books, investigator pamphlets, General Conference talks, etc.). We were taught the ‘faith-promoting’ version (i.e, the propaganda). Prior to the Internet, few Latter-Day Saints had easy access to the full truth about Mormonism. In the past 10 years, the situation has changed completely. One manifestation of the quiet revolution that’s been taking place in the LDS Church is the number of hits on the Recovery from Mormonism website: 140,000 PER DAY! Last October at the Ex-Mormon Conference in SLC, I was surprised at the number of people in attendance who had recently left the church (

  38. FreeAtLast May 18, 2006 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    Last October at the Ex-Mormon Conference in SLC, I was surprised at the number of people in attendance who had recently left the church (

  39. Kempton May 18, 2006 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    I just had a thought. There is nothing different in Palmer’s research from say the Tanners. Both point out the facts, both see the origins of Mormonism in naturalistic terms, and wish the LDS church would focus more on Christ. The biggest difference I see is that Palmer wants to remain a Mormon for traditional/cultural reasons. My point is this, if the Tanners have been around for decades and the Mormon leadership have not addressed or acknowledged the historical research they provide, why would we think they’d all of a sudden change for Palmer, or T. Murphy?

    Palmer is right that the Internet is booming and today we have you John, and Palmer, which is a new phenomenon. Maybe if enough progressive Sunstone Mormons start speaking up then the Church will become less Josephcentric and more Christ-centered as Palmer envisions.

  40. Hellmut May 18, 2006 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    The Church leaders should acknowledge the problems that Palmer is identifying not to humor him but to strengthen the Church. The challenge is, of course, that problems with Joseph Smith reflect on the current leadership who would compromise its own status.

    If people were to find out about the nature of Joseph’s prophesies then many members would be more discerning when it comes to the advice of contemporary prophets, seers, and revelators.

    That may well be the real problem. The interests of the organization and the interests of the decision makers are not identical.

  41. FreeAtLast May 18, 2006 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    How exactly would acknowledging faith-disturbing/shaking historical facts presented by Palmer, Quinn, and others “strengthen the Church”? Mormons’ faith is based on the propaganda that the church has taught them for years about Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, early church history, etc. Deception has been an integral part of Mormonism since Joseph Smith first lied to people about his ‘First Vision’ experience and the ‘Golden Plates’.

    The only way out of the mess that generations of Mormon patriarchal leaders have created is through the mountain of faith-destroying facts, such as those presented by Palmer. However, there is currently no senior General Authority who has demonstrated the requisite courage to promulgate the full truth to the general membership. The deception, denials, and obfuscating continues. We saw of such just last week in the church’s press release to the news media that there is no connection between Warren Jeffs and his FLDS movement and the LDS Church/Mormonism. As well, the church’s PR Dept. indicated that there is no such thing as a fundamentalist Mormon or Mormon sect.

    So while the suits in the COB (Church Office Building) were putting out ‘spin’, people were finding out about Mormon polygamy on the Internet. They learned that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor and other Mormon prophets and apostles preached to Mormons that polygamy was essential to their salvation, that no president or First Presidency of the LDS Church has ever rescinded the doctrine of polygamy, and that the ‘revelation’ on polygamy ‘received’ by Smith is still a part of LDS scripture (D&C 132). As well, they learned that FLDS members and other Mormonism-rooted polygamists are only being obedient to a doctrine that is still a part of LDS theology. The church came out of last week looking like it really had something to hide. The GA’s continue to go in the wrong direction. When will they wake up?

  42. jordanandmeg May 18, 2006 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    Conspiracy theories.

    The GA’s aren’t out to get anyone or trick anyone. They may not be handling church history as effectively as they could, but no one is out to hurt anybody.

  43. Aaron May 18, 2006 at 9:55 pm - Reply

    I guess the only way to be enlightened is to be contrary.

    Sapollonia- the song is REM’s “Losing my Religion” Very appropriate. Good choice John. Google for the lyrics.

    Roasted- You said “Okay, fair enough. So the church has information that isn’t published. But to then claim that the church is telling us everything doesn’t quite work.
    Those are your words not mine. I never said they are telling us everything. What I was trying to say is that they don’t know everything, so they can’t tell us everything. They present what is understood. They have the archives and they have people researching the history trying to make sense of things. We can’t assume to know the reasons why some of the minutes are sealed. I might say the minutes have sacred things in them, someone else will cry cover up.

    When we talk of history it is very inacurate to speak of the true story. It is more accurate to say more of the story. Historians have been changing the view of history as long as they have been looking. Tomorrow someone might find another account of the same event.

    The most important task the church has is to bring souls unto Christ. Not teach history. The church has changed their focus over the years as they have seen the effectiveness of their efforts. When something is not bring people to Christ they cut it. Many programs have been cut when they find a better way. Many ideas taught as doctrine have been corrected. I have heard all of the weird ideas that some members teach as doctrine. John likes to denegrate correlation, but I think he would admit that they have done a lot of good in bringing people away from the weird ideas and back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was always taught to stay in the scriptures and listen to the modern prophet. It is easy to attack the teachings of a dead prophet, he can’t correct you when you misinterpret what he said, nor correct himself with newly revealed information.

    When I read the scriptures I find a common thread among all of the prophets. None of them were perfect. Every one of them were mortal and made mistakes. I guess that is all God has to work with. I find it comforting to read how forgiving God has been and it gives me hope that through Christ I can become better. I don’t know why other people need the modern prophets to be perfect, I don’t.

    I don’t think Palmer’s problem is that he presented his research. He did tell the leaders of the chruch how the church should be run. That is not the way things are done. -here come the control issue complaints. There has to be some sort of order to the church or there would be kaos. It is hard to see a problem in the church and not be able to fix it because it is not your position to fix it. I have seen things too. I have had to keep my distance and let the person who was called to the position take care of things. There is a proper way of things. Palmer went outside when he dictated how the church should run, not when he presented research. My opinion, I could be wrong.

    It is easy for a non-believer to to make light of religious things. I must be ignorant , since I believe.

  44. Kirk Faulkner May 18, 2006 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    Man, you guys are playing tug of war with like two feet between you. Each person has a different way they relate to this Church. It’s no more right to leave the church than it is to be a TBM. If you believe it’s true that’s great. If you have doubts and still wanna say your Mormon, that is cool too. Don’t wanna go? It’s all good.

    The church will go on fussing over the liberal and less active Mormons, and you will always get some looks at church. But on the bright side if you are in my ward we can go get stoned after church. And people like us are growing in numbers. TBMs are starting to feel the way white people feel when more black people move into the neighborhood. I think there is a real possibility that there will be more of a place for us in the near future. Solidarity!

    The worst thing we can be is bitter. Can’t go blaming the church for ruining your life (even if it did, life’s not over yet). We can’t be bitter at the stuck ups and we can’t be bitter at the lefties. We gotta get along, have a potluck. That’s what being Mormon is all about.

    Some people just wanna leave and have nothing to do with it ever again. That’s cool too. I wish I could make a clean break. But no one on this board is one of those people. If you were, you wouldn’t be here.

  45. FreeAtLast May 18, 2006 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    jordanandmeg posted, “Conspiracy theories. The GA’s aren’t out to get anyone or trick anyone.” If that is true, why did they approve the church’s new website about Joseph Smith that went online last year (ref., which contains not one word about Smith’s ‘revelation’ about polygamy, his plural wives (including marriages to women who were already married and teenage girls as young as 14), his teachings and writings about polygamy, and his first wife’s (Emma’s) strong opposition to the ‘principle’? Why does the website contain no info. about Smith’s conflicting versions of the ‘First Vision’, his face-in-the-hat Book of Mormon translation method (which Elder Nelson briefly acknowledged in the July 1993 Ensign), and his ordering the destruction of the press of the Nauvoo Expositor, which was a violation of the First Amendment and set in motion events that led to Smith’s death? Why is there no mention of the fact that Smith had himself crowned ‘King of the Earth’ and established the secret ‘Council of Fifty’, or that he was a Mason and adapted Masonic ceremonies to create ‘sacred’ temple ceremonies?

    If there has been no strategy by the GA’s to keep church members and potential converts in the dark about early church history, why then does the 1997 edition of the church’s lesson manual on Brigham Young state that he was married to one woman, instead of mentioning the truth – that he had 55 wives, one of whom divorced him? Why does the manual, which has been translated into various languages and used by Mormons in non-English-speaking countries for some years now, indicate nothing about Young’s sermons and writings concerning polygamy, blacks being the ‘cursed seed of Cain’, Adam being God incarnate, ‘Blood Atonement’, and ‘Heavenly Father’ having sex with Mary to create Jesus? Why is there no mention of Young’s 1871 trial under U.S. territory law for practicing polygamy? Why does the manual, which naïve, historically-ignorant Mormons around the world read and believe contains the truth, contain not one word about Young’s use of tobacco and alcohol long after Mormons arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, or his tavern in Salt Lake City? Why aren’t these faith-shaking facts about the ‘Lion of God’ included in the 1997 manual? The same is true about other church manuals, magazine articles, pamphlets, and other materials produced by the LDS Church. Bear in mind that General Authorities review and approve church materials. They are aware of what goes into such materials, and what’s left out. The question that Latter-Day Saints need to ask themselves is, “Why is the highest level of priesthood leadership concealing the truth from me?”

  46. FreeAtLast May 19, 2006 at 12:08 am - Reply

    Interesting perspective, Kirk Faulkner. More and more Mormons getting stoned…hmmm. You sound kind of young (

  47. jordanandmeg May 19, 2006 at 12:36 am - Reply

    I must be real tired because I couldn’t help laughing.

    The men behind the curtain are nice old men, some are rad, others misguided. Not one of them has a degree in “Running a Church.”

    My dad was stake president for awhile (no big deal, I know, but hold on) and we had apostles come stay at our house a couple times a year. Some were cool and some weren’t.

    Point is they are just people. You don’t listen to everything they say but you respect their calling and their efforts.

    Thank goodness they are just people or else I never would’ve learned to rely on the spirit instead of them.

  48. FreeAtLast May 19, 2006 at 2:30 am - Reply

    The ‘men behind the curtain’ are ‘just people’? Really? What church did you grow up in? During my 20 years in Mormonism, I was taught that the ‘nice, old men’ are ‘prophets, seers, and revelators’, ‘special witnesses of Jesus Christ’, and the most spiritually-enlightened individuals on the planet. Hardly ‘just people’.

    You posted, ‘You don’t listen to everything they say’. Why listen to any of it? After all, the GA’s are only expressing their beliefs and perspectives. Yours, or those of any other Latter-Day Saint, are equally valid, and not infrequently, more enlightened. Much of what Hinckley, Monson, Faust, and the rest of the GA’s say is no more ‘true’ than Joseph Smith’s preaching about polygamy or Brigham Young about men and women living on the moon.

    Regarding respecting their efforts, the GA’s certainly spend a lot of time doing church work. The crucial question is though, to what end? It’s already been well-established that Mormonism is based on a fraud. Science and historical research has thoroughly discredited the ‘keystone’ of the LDS religion, The Book of Mormon. The GA’s and other Latter-Day Saints can toil their whole lives to support the LDS Church, but their efforts and religious faith will never make the mountain of facts that do not support the LDS religion disappear. Personally, I do not respect people who ignore, trivialize, or condemn facts that disagree with their beliefs, even their cherished beliefs. Yet I understand the psychological and emotional reasons why they do it.

    Concerning respecting the positions of the men in senior leadership positions in the LDS Church, respect for a position is the product of psychological conditioning. For example, Catholics revere the position of Bishop, Cardinal, or Pope far more than Latter-Day Saints. Why? Because Mormons aren’t indoctrinated to feel the same type of respect for the position of Pope as they do for the position of President of the LDS Church. Are you aware of how you’ve been indoctrinated and psychologically conditioned by Mormonism?

    What has any of the 15 men at the top of Mormonism’s patriarchal leadership said of ‘spiritual’ consequence/import in the past, say, 10 years? Have they publicly acknowledged the fact that many LDS women feel depressed because in the church, they’re second-class members who are shut out of positions of authority? Have the GA’s encouraged members to study the true, full history of the church, and announced their plan to make the church’s historical records available to all members? Have they explained to Latter-Day Saints how they’re going to make the church transparent so that members can find out exactly how their tithing is spent?

    Have the GA’s told members that the church will sell the SLC shopping malls that it acquired last year and shelve its multi-million dollar commercial real estate development plan, and use the money instead on humanitarian relief? That would be an enlightened announcement! For 1/20th of the $1 billion that the church is spending on those malls, 250,000 children around the world who lose their eyesight prematurely each year due to a lack of vitamins could have their sight saved. Think about it – 5 million children over 20 years saved from a lifetime of blindness. But the ‘old men’ who run the LDS Church aren’t interested in reducing human suffering to THAT extent. Increasing the church’s real estate portfolio and corporate income is clearly where the GA’s values lie. Actions speak louder than words. Mormons need to ask themselves, “How would Jesus spend $1 billion?”

  49. Sapollonia May 19, 2006 at 5:49 am - Reply

    Aaron replied: Sapollonia- the song is REM’s “Losing my Religion” Very appropriate. Good choice John. Google for the lyrics.

    Thanks… but I already knew the title of the song John used for his own story. I’m asking about the theme song he used for the Grant Palmer Interview. Appreciate your reply though.

  50. Hellmut May 19, 2006 at 7:23 am - Reply

    Jordan and Free are at the core of the issue. Do we perceive the General Authorities as ordinary human beings or do we treat them as the messengers of God?

    If they are just people then we need to determine what’s best for ourselves. If the General Authorities are prophets, seers, and revelators then we better do everything they tell us to do.

    There are many Mormons that believe that Mormon leaders have a direct pipeline to God. Some of them do get hurt by bad advice.

    I know a lot of folks that dropped out of college, for example, because they had too many children too early as they had put their faith into the advice of Mormon leaders such as Elder Maxwell. I have seen others that did not know how to pay their bills because their families were bigger than they could afford. I have seen countless people who are depressed by feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

    I have seen children who have had the fear of the devil put into them by their primary teachers. I know about two who could not properly sleep for years while they were teenagers. One of them had to undergo institutionalized therapy for over a year and remains on anti-depressants.

    I know a number of women who have never gotten married because they bought into the advice to only marry in the temple. There are so many gays and lesbians that suffer from ignorance proclaimed as doctrine so much that they attempt to commit suicide.

    People do get hurt when they listen to bad advice and bad theology. Whether that’s the intention of the General Authorities does not really matter. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Therefore I am with Jordan. The General Authorities are human beings that are just as flawed as anyone else. LDS members cannot rely on them but have to take responsibility for their own lives.

    The problem is that this is not what’s taught in primary, sunday school, and the missionary discussions. The doctrine idolizes Mormon leaders and people continue to get hurt.

  51. John Dehlin May 19, 2006 at 7:25 am - Reply

    The song in the GP interview is called “Let it go”. Singer is David Wilcox, Album is Vista.

  52. Gone but not Forgotten May 19, 2006 at 7:52 am - Reply

    Amen and amen, Hellmut.

    When I hear people say that Mormonism is not harmful and a great religion for raising families, I ask them if that would still hold if their children later grew up to be gay, or interracially/interculturally married, or in any way divergent from the “norm” that the Church holds as integral to life here and in the hereafter.

    People make choices based on doctrine put forth by prophets, seers and revelators. When they say things such as “the use of birth control is contrary to temple covenants” (as recently as the mid-’90s) or “don’t put off having children…don’t have one or two “trophy children” but have many–God will provide” or “don’t marry this race or that culture” you are indoctrinating children to make poor choices and even become bigots.

  53. Gone but not Forgotten May 19, 2006 at 8:06 am - Reply

    Other religions teach directly from the Bible and don’t coerce their members into heaven. It’s amazing how much guilt a Mormon might feel over drinking a cup of coffee (sometimes a Coke!) or not dating the “right” person (a good person, just not temple-worthy) or any number of trivial things.

    This is why I like Palmer’s emphasis on teaching what Christ taught, and not the esoterica devised by mere men who claim to hold the secret to the world’s salvation/exaltation in their hands.

    Lastly, it is extremely troubling to know that as long as one professes to believe, one can be in the good graces of the Church. Is the Church more concerned with orthodoxy than honesty? If so, I can see why people continue in the the dishonesty of attending church and professing to believe without actually believing.

    I had a bishop once who confided in me that he thought the temple was a good motivator, but that it was all a fable and there was no Celestial Kingdom, no angels who would stand as sentinels, no actual “sealing power”, etc. I admire him for doing so and while I don’t know why he remains in the church, I feel that people like him and John Dehlin are helping to make it more comfortable for non-TBMs to become more honest with themselves and others.

  54. pjj May 19, 2006 at 8:19 am - Reply

    John, I’m curious– how many downloads of the Grant Palmer interviews so far?

  55. Administrator May 19, 2006 at 9:05 am - Reply

    Looks like around 400 per episode

  56. RoastedTomatoes May 19, 2006 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Aaron, you say: “It is easy for a non-believer to to make light of religious things. I must be ignorant , since I believe.”

    I don’t really know who you’re talking to here. I’m a believer, as well, and I am in no position to comment on whether or not you are ignorant of church history. After all, I don’t know you. If you feel that I’ve called you ignorant, please accept my apologies; I don’t want this discussion to get personal.

    You also say, “The most important task the church has is to bring souls unto Christ. Not teach history.” I feel tempted to agree with that. This is why it always drives me a bit batty when, for example, the church devotes an entire year to making historical representations about Joseph Smith, rather than to teaching the gospel message of Christ. The problem is, the church as it currently stands puts a lot of effort into making historical claims. Many of those claims are inconsistent with the best currently available evidence. As such, they wouldn’t pass peer review and hence don’t count as competent or credible history.

    Does history change over time? Of course. Part of the change involves the discovery of new documents–a process that has rather consistently trended toward creating new difficulties for traditional Mormon faith claims over the last 50-100 years. A much bigger part of the change, however, involves shifting interests on the part of the audience and the profession. On this front, Mormon history is somewhat on the tailing edge. History in general has shifted substantially in the direction of depicting the lives and worldviews of non-elites; rather than presidents and kings, farmers, doctors, and midwives. Mormon history, for the most part and with important exceptions that are nonetheless mostly disregarded by non-academic readers, remains fixated on notable men. Nowhere is this more true than in the church’s representations of Mormon history. Look at the church institute manual about church history’s coverage of the 20th century, for example. The entire century seems to be one in which the church consists almost solely of general authorities.

    So the church has put itself in the business of telling history. But it does so in a way that neglects emerging primary sources and clings to reactionary modes of historiography. In effect, the church is perhaps somewhat overcommited to telling bad history. Does that bring souls to Christ? I don’t know; something we’re doing isn’t working, given the roughly zero net conversion rate over the last 15 years.

    One last point. You said, “Palmer went outside when he dictated how the church should run, not when he presented research.” When did Palmer actually get to dictate church policy? As far as I can tell, he’s never held the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve hostage and demanded that professional history be listened to. In fact, his suggestions about emphasizing Christ more than history haven’t even been implemented. So he seems to have failed as a dictator.

    Did you perhaps mean instead that Palmer went wrong when he made suggestions about how the church could best bring souls to Christ? If so, I think you’re probably wrong. As I’ve written elsewhere, I think that the church would benefit substantially in its ability to fulfill its mission if it had more open institutions of communication. Bad suggestions are the price of getting good suggestions; punishing bad suggestions deters the good ones that the institution probably needs.

  57. pjj May 19, 2006 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Thanks for the figures John. It seems to me that there are more than 400 people attacking Palmer over at the FAIR boards. :)

  58. jordanandmeg May 19, 2006 at 11:30 am - Reply

    It’s hard to put ‘ordinary man’ and ‘messager of God’ in the same person. But that’s what God has done.
    That has caused plenty of problems (Joseph Smith spoke about power corrupting men), but I think it is beautiful to watch to the divine and mundane collide in these men, the church, and all of us.

  59. FreeAtLast May 19, 2006 at 12:55 pm - Reply

    I’ve heard a number of Latter-Day Saints say they wish the church would become more Christ-centered. I’ve read posts from Mormons on other websites who have started to attend other churches because they got tired of the Joseph Smith-worship in the LDS Church. Will the church’s highest levels of priesthood leadership pay attention to what members want and make the necessary changes? If the past is a good predictor of the future, the answer is yes – after the church has experienced crises.

    Examples are polygamy (officially ended in 1890), the church’s racist doctrine and policy concerning blacks (reversed in 1978), the simulated violence and other disturbing aspects of the temple endowment ceremony (removed in 1990), LDS spousal and child abuse (finally acknowledged in General Conference and partly addressed in the 1990’s), the naked touching of the washing and annointing temple rite (gone in Jan./05), and more. All of these aspects of Mormonism were finally dealt with by the church’s senior leadership only after the church experienced problems such as very public criticisms of its doctrines, lawsuits, and even strong government action (in the case of polygamy). The question that Latter-Day Saints need to ask themselves is, “Why has it often taken crises to bring about positive change in the church?”

    Enlightened leaders are the ‘locomotive’ on the ‘train’ of a group, not the ‘caboose’. They lead, not play catch-up to the level of enlightenment attained by a significant portion of the group’s members and/or society-at-large. For example, if 19th-century Mormon leaders were actually ‘men of God’, why weren’t they speaking out against slavery, instead of teaching Mormons that blacks were spiritually inferior and cursed by God with a dark skin? The same racist teachings endured in the LDS Church until the latter 1970’s! By 1978 when the church finally reversed its doctrine/policy concerning blacks and the priesthood, non-Mormons had been struggling for more than 200 years in support of the basic Christian teaching that all people are created equal before God. Where was the ‘spiritual’ leadership in the Mormon Church regarding blacks for nearly a century and a half? Countless Latter-Day Saints mindlessly believed the church’s teachings regarding blacks because they’d been indoctrinated to believe that the church was ‘true’ and what it taught was ‘God’s truth’.

    Hellmut posted, “LDS members cannot rely on them [Mormon priesthood leaders] but have to take responsibility for their own lives.” I completely agree. One of the characteristics of people who are psychologically mature and have high self-esteem is that they fully live by their mind and judgements, not unquestioningly by the group mind. My advice to Mormons (and people in other religions) is learn to think for themselves – about everything. The quality of our lives depends on it. The problem in the LDS Church is that members are indoctrinated to believe that priesthood leaders higher up in the pyramid-like patriarchal structure are more ‘spiritually’ enlightened than the general membership. As the history of the Mormon Church has shown time and again, it’s often rank-and-file Latter-Day Saints who have been more enlightened than the ‘old men’ at the top.

  60. jordanandmeg May 19, 2006 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    “The problem in the LDS Church is that members are indoctrinated to believe that priesthood leaders higher up in the pyramid-like patriarchal structure are more ’spiritually’ enlightened than the general membership.”

    I wasn’t taught that. Would that every man were a prophet.

  61. FreeAtLast May 19, 2006 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    I’m listening to Part 4 of the podcast with Grant Palmer. Thanks very much, John, for putting it together. I’ve encouraged people on the Recovery from Mormonism website to listen to it, not so that they can take ‘pleasure’ from the problems of the LDS Church, but so that (hopefully) they’ll strive to go deep into their humanity and feel for Latter-Day Saints, who finds themselves in a difficult situation.

    For the past 13 years, I have studied the psychological effects of Mormon systematic indoctrination, and would be pleased to be interviewed by you if you’re interested in a Podcast on the subject. My book on the subject is coming out in October. I can be contacted at

    Please thank Grant Palmer on my behalf for his candor and thought-provoking words.

  62. Margaret Young May 19, 2006 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    I listened to Part 4 of the Palmer pod-cast. (I am very familiar with the historical problems of the Church and didn’t feel in need of a refresher course.) Frankly, I too had a really hard time during “The Year of Joseph,” because it took us further away from being Christ-centered. I dislike sugar-coating, so I haven’t cared much for Church movies. Nonetheless, the broad brush-strokes used by SOME (not all) ex-Mormons are even more offensive to me than sugar-coating. When I’m talking to a well-educated Mormon (say a William Hartley or a Richard Bushman) about a historical issue, I find great generosity in acknowledging and facing all of the problems Palmer brings up. I find them ready to admit that ALL mortal leaders are flawed–and hence Church members are actually responsible for their own morality. I do not find similar generosity from some who have left the Church. (And I’ll admit that sometimes FARMS and FAIR give ungenerous answers to some good questions.) One of my heroes is Pastor Chip Murray, of the Los Angeles AME Church. He is to me the epitome of a disciple. I have gotten to know him pretty well as I’ve asked his counsel on some important family problems. I have found him to be uncompromisingly open, giving, forgiving, and sure of his own foundation. Though he, as a Black man, was once told by some Mormons that he was “cursed,” he has absolutely NO ill will towards any member of the Church. (In fact, when I e-mailed him President Hinckley’s words from the Priesthood Session, he responded, “President Hinckley is a true messenger of God.”) Pastor Chip lives in the bright corridors of the future, not the drab alleys of shame. He actually believes in the grace of Jesus Christ–which applies to all, even Brigham Young and other Church leaders who were burdened with the great plague of racism and other weighty ills. Christ’s grace is sufficient for the misguided and for the prideful. Our mission is to make sacred spaces where His light can shine, not to point accusing fingers at dark corners. The words “No man knows my history” usually bring either Joseph Smith or Fawn Brodie to mind. But I would say that they apply to all of us. We may think we know another person well enough to sum them up. NEVER. If we can get well-acquainted with ourselves, we’re doing fine. If we can establish true intimacy with our spouses, we’re fortunate. But how sad is the man or woman who lives with a perpetually clenched fist or an accusing, pointed finger. How much better to hold blessings in our hands and freely share them. Despite its problems (and believe me, I’m familiar with them) I have found great blessings through my membership in this Church. I will continue to seek ways to share the blessings, whether or not they come with missionary discussions. I hope to do so generously for all my days. There is no Church on the face of this earth without great problems in its history. Thank God we need not hold the present hostage to the past. We can look back and say, “We have far to go, but look how far we’ve come! We are PROGRESSING!” Apparently, God has always intended us to grow beyond the childish borders of our youth.

  63. chrisac80 May 19, 2006 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Diversity / similarity

    Hi, I wanna shift the topic a bit in my post.

    One thing which becomes clear in your postings is that there is a great diversity among Mormons.
    Some LDS are rather liberal and take a more realistic view, e.g. on the authority of the Prophet.
    They accept that the church authorities are only humans who can make mistakes. Therefore, e.g. they
    can understand that in the past people were racists. And we have to admit that people of all denominations
    have been racists, not only mormons. The “seed of Cain” theory was common among most denoms., not an
    LDS invention.
    But other people take a more literal view. And some church authorities try to enforce this literal and conservative
    view that the prophets “cannot lead the faithful astray”. When these people find out that church authorities and prophets actually made mistakes, they are shocked. That’s why, to them Joseph’s polygamy, Young’s racism, men on the moon and other topics are so faith-destroying to them.
    We have to keep in mind this diversity, because it leads to a diversity in reactions to the topics.
    While one person is totally uninterested in them, because he didn’t believed in this literal way anyway,
    others are devastated, and react extremely by loss of faith, leaving the church, becoming “anti-mormons” who get angry about the church portraying this literal, yet obviously false picture of the world.

    In this regard, the LDS church is not alone.
    Similar problems can also be found in other denominations and even in other religions.
    The church structurally most similar to the LDS church is the catholic church, because it is also
    hierarchical and puts some emphasis on the authority of their leader, i.e. the pope.
    The authority is based on some stories in the bible about Peter, “the rock”.
    Emphasis on this authority was made in the 19th. century, when Darwin’s evolution theory threatened
    the old held beliefs. Only at this point, papal infallibility was introduced, although the words of the pope
    were regarded as true also before this dogma was introduced.
    Today, many catholics face the same problem. They look back in history and see many bad and false teachings in the catholic church. They see corruption, violence, superstitious beliefs and wonder how these “men of God” could have been so errant.
    Instead of believing in the infallibility of certain persons, many protestant denominations hold up the inerracy of the bible. Although this view excludes many bad ideas developed in the course of history
    (racism, witchcraft, etc.), this view also faced severe problems when in the 19th century, a scientific examination of the bible started and many archaeological were performed.
    Several doctrines and beliefs which were held dearly in the past dissolved into air, e.g. the belief that the 5 books of Mose were written by Mose. Also the historicity of several books in the bible were questioned.
    While the problem of historicity of the bible is not as severe as it is for the book of mormon
    (The bible has a historical core, whereas the book of mormon probably is a work of fiction), there certainly are many problems, e.g. the book of Joshua turned out to be a collection of local legens, all from the tribe of Benjamin, which were combined to a heroic conquest of the holy land. This heroic conquest however, does not fit to the following stories where the Israelites face severe problems with the other people living in the same land (whereas the book of Joshua depicts the Israelites to drive them all out).
    The (catholic) book of Tobit talks about Tobit and his son, yet, the historical events described in the book span about 300 years, so those guys would be at least 150 years old each…
    The list of biblical problems could be extended to fill pages after pages, the differences in the gospels, contradicting verses throughout the bible, developments in the bible inspite of a god who never changes, etc.

    All this leads to similar developments in the other denominations and religions as well:
    There are liberal catholics who roll their eyes when the Pope makes yet another statement about condoms;
    there are liberal protestants who don’t take many accounts in the bible literally and who don’t apply all stories to modern times.
    Fortunately, this liberalism can also be found in Judaism, so much of the old testament stuff is not followed any more.

    To sum it up:
    There is a diversity in beliefs of LDS members. This diversity leads to different reactions to the problems faced by the church, such as historical issues or doctrinal problems.
    These issues can be found in other denominations and religions as well, they are not unique to the LDS church.

    Just to mention one example, I know two gays who have left the catholic church, because they don’t want to support a church which openly attacks them for what they are.

    Therefore, I would not stigmatize the church as “an evil cult” when they face the same problems as most religions, and I think we should take into account the diversity of different people which accounts for their reactions to the problems discussed in “Mormon stories” podcasts.

    Greets, Chris

  64. Confused May 19, 2006 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    If Smith lied about having seen God and Jesus; if he authored the Book of Mormon; if he only pretended to have met Peter, James and John–and even Noah (does anyone even believe the story of Noah and the ark anymore?), then the church is likely wrong about its message re. ordinances, temples, etc.

  65. RoastedTomatoes May 19, 2006 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    Confused, if the church’s message leads people to Christ, do we really want to get too hung up on the details?

    That’s a big if for some people–but it’s worth thinking about.

  66. Confused May 19, 2006 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    The details might not matter to some people in some situations, but for others it’s potentially HUGE–even life-threatening. Consider:

    1. The single person who believes so much in Eternal Marriage (TM) that s/he gives up chances to date or marry outside the church and compromises his/her emotional, social and even physical health.

    2. The gay person who lives alone and celibate, threatened by the idea that ANY relationship in which he engages will mean no celestial glory for him, no relationship with anyone, anywhere at anytime, while his straight counterparts get to have eternal wives/sex just for having been born straight.

    3. The people who don’t want to lie to get a recommend if their bishops only give TRs to true believers who will say they believe in the restoration as the Church presents it. Yet they don’t want to upset the family, or they want to go to so and so’s wedding, or they don’t want to lose face. So they lie. The Church teaches people to lie. The person in the singles ward or the young teenager who fears confession of having broken the Law of Chastity–even if it’s just a necking session–is tempted to lie and often does–because a recommend matters. A recommend to do what? If the “details” were made up and people’s life choices are in the balance, it’s a BIG DEAL. Some people value honesty more than their Church membership. And yet the Church punishes them for it. Sometimes “standing for something” is the right thing… Sometimes details do matter.

  67. ercMD May 19, 2006 at 8:10 pm - Reply


    As usual excellent Podcast with Grant Palmer. You have a talent for being able to listen actively from multiple paradigms at once. Most women pull this off in their sleep and will find it laughable I even acknowledge this as a skill but it’s rare to find a guy who’s so adept at it. I’m sure this comparison has already been made several times but in my mind you’re the LDS Larry King/Paul Harvey/Oprah all rolled up into one.

    You mentioned in the podcast you could post a link to an Ensign article from I believe you said Elder Ballard where he acknowledged the translation process may have been a bit different than we see in say “How Rare a Possession.” I may have overlooked it but if you have not already could you please post that link?

    Also, I intend to buy Mr. Palmer’s book to get the sources but would it be possible (again, I may be overlooking a feature you may have up already) to post some of the key sources of a given author in the blog? Grad school has pounded into my head that you don’t take anything at face value and always look up the sources in order to be able to see where the author made a conjecture, perhaps missed some context, etc.

    Again, fabulous job. I love these longer format interviews that are broken up into several segments. I feel like it gives you the time you need to really dig into not only the person’s story but the point(s) they are trying to make.

    BTW: Mr. Palmer is in my in-laws ward.

  68. John Dehlin May 19, 2006 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    Wow, Randy. You can flatter me anytime. :)

    You should be able to find a link to Elder Nelson’s talk here:

    Just click on the “Peep Stones” link, and you will find it in the article.

    Thanks again to all of you for your feedback and comments. What a great group of seeking, feeling folks.


  69. ercMD May 19, 2006 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    You need any help keeping the “Upcoming Podcasts” page up to date?

  70. John Dehlin May 19, 2006 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    Apparently. :) I need LOTS of help. I’m sorta tired/burned out a bit. I have like 100 emails I haven’t replied to. UGH!!!


  71. ercMD May 19, 2006 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    John, got it. Thanks:

    “Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.)

    So taking the above at face value I have a question or two:

    1. Let’s say Joseph is seeing a reformed Eqyptian character and its English counterpart simultaneously while looking at the stone which is in the hat. If the translation happened letter by letter it would seem Joseph would call out something like the following:

    “New word”
    “New word”
    “New word”

    Now let’s suppose that Joseph would first look at an actual character on the physical plates (which Grant pointed out in his interview we have no evidence of) and would then look into the hat to see the translation of that character. One would think in such an exercise that one might take a rubbing of a character, record the English translation, and build up a library. As one encountered that character again one would no longer need to obtain it’s translation via the hat again but would simply refer to the growing character library and the process should be sped along so that looking into the hat becomes less frequent and the scribe’s job is simply to apply the cipher to the rubbing of a given page/plate.

    It would seem overly laborious to re-translate a given character over and over again.

    If, on the other hand, the reality was like what Brother Palmer suggested and the physical plates may not have even been present during translation then the “parchment” Elder Nelson refers to above would appear and it would mean the book was presented to Joseph almost as a PowerPoint in a page-by-page fashion and John’s question during the interview of “why even have the plates?” is a good one.

    It also begs the question of why the Urim and Thummim/breastplate were even introduced if the existing seer stone was adequate. I’d love to see some additional references to this. And as much as I hate to say it, seeing things in a rock–albeit perhaps in one’s mind’s eye or with “the eyes of one’s understanding” as Grant put it is not too far off from the practice of peering into a crystal ball that I was told was hogwash as I was rushed along by the hand as a child at the county fair. Perhaps if we look into our past we have reason to be less critical of those who believe in the “supernatural” and hang a shingle on the corner with the neon sign claiming to tell fortunes.

  72. FreeAtLast May 19, 2006 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    “Do we really want to get too hung up on the details?”, posted RoastedTomatoes. What details should Latter-Day Saints overlook? The conflicting versions of the ‘First Vision’ that Joseph Smith produced? His propensity for treasure-digging as a young man and fascination with the occult/magic? His lying about possessing ancient ‘Golden Plates’? The fact that newspapers and records of churches in the Palmyra area prior to the spring of 1820 contain not one word or statistic supporting the statement in official church history that there was “an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country … and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties”?

    Should Mormons and potential converts overlook the detail that, according to official church history, Joseph Smith was told by God that all other religions were an abomination and to join none of them, but in 1828, he tried to join the Methodist Church? What about the complete lack of archeological and genetic evidence supporting the historicity of The Book of Mormon? Or the church’s online genealogy records that show Joseph Smith’s marriages to women who were already married and teenage girls as young as 14? What about the Egyptian papyri ‘translated’ by Smith and published as the Book of Abraham (in the Pearl of Great Price) that in fact said nothing about Abraham, Jehovah, the creation of the Earth, etc.? Which details should Mormons not get ‘hung up’ on?

    If these facts (and many others), which conflict with claims, doctrines, and teachings of the LDS Church, are not worthy of consideration, as RoastedPotatoes alludes to, then what does matter in Mormonism? Simply believing that the LDS Church and religion are ‘true’? Why not believe, as did Catholics in Europe prior to the 17th century, that the Earth is at the center of the ‘heavens’ and the stars and planets are embedded on crystal spheres that revolved around the Earth? This Aristotelian view of the universe was an integral part of the ‘spiritual’ belief system of millions of people for centuries. The ‘spiritual knowledge’ that Catholics had about the cosmos influenced everything they thought and did because it told them the ‘truth’.

    What has brought about a very different and increasingly correct view of the cosmos in the past 400 years? Individuals paying attention to details – people like Nicklaus Kopernig (Copernicus), Giovanni Benedetti, and Galileo Galilei. Their desire to understand the cosmos as it was, not as the Catholic Church told them it was, resulted in the collapse of a ‘spiritual’ cosmology that was nearly 2,000 years old. In relation to Mormonism, Latter-Day Saints must do the same. They must pay attention to the details, and not mentally flee from, trivialize, or condemn them. Mormons’ psychological health depends on them respecting the facts and modifying or getting rid of their ‘spiritual’ beliefs accordingly.

  73. ercMD May 19, 2006 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    John, sounds like you need an Aaron or two to help hold up the arms a bit.

  74. ercMD May 19, 2006 at 10:10 pm - Reply

    I suppose it may be worth mentioning what may be an orthodox point of view on Joseph’s past: if, in fact, God had an ancient record of gold plates that needed to come forth and be translated in a fantastic way who better to do it than a young man who comes from a family that does not find the idea of buried treasure close by unusual nor stones that would allow one to see “with second sight” out of the ordinary? In fact, rather than seeing these paradigms and personal history as a liability, the orthodox would probably point to them as “gifts of the Spirit” that had surfaced but had not yet been given full expression. In fact, the past was simply a training of sorts to prepare young Joseph for the true purpose of his gifts.

  75. Administrator May 19, 2006 at 10:20 pm - Reply


    That’s actually exactly what Bushman argued in his early work, and in RSR. Makes sense…….though I tried teaching this to my seminary kids…..and it wasn’t pretty. :)

    I definitely don’t recommend that. :)


  76. ercMD May 19, 2006 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Yeah I could see that. I was pretty blunt with my seminary teacher at times when something didn’t quite add up. Thanks, John for pointing that out.

    I hesitate to post since I’m not nearly as well read as you and the others on these matters and your podcast is literally the first real exposure I’ve had to a number of questions I’ve had for a while but never felt I could just bring up in EQ, (“So how ’bout those peep stones…”). I apologize for stating what is probably sophmoric for everyone else and exposing myself as a neophyte but chalk it up to enthusiasm about the show.

  77. Randy May 20, 2006 at 7:48 am - Reply

    We all know the correlated view of the translation process. My question is if that is actually an “official” story put out by the church or if it’s an interesting case of something like the Abeline paradox.

    Could it be that the church authorities were basically silent on the matter in the beginning and then various artists began to portray their rendention of how the translation may have happened (apparently being either uninformed or simply taking artistic license) and that was what made it into the church members’ collective awareness? Then, seeing that the image of Joseph thumbing through actual golden plates would be much easier for modern sensibilities to accept than a painting of Joseph with his face hidden in a hat, the church simply continued to be silent and allow that view to take hold–eventually embracing it and putting it into church films?

    It would be like the paintings by Friberg: somehow I doubt Ammon could have competed in Mr. Universe or gone up against Vin Diesel but it made an awesome depiction of a hero that I gravitated toward as a teenager and a missionary.

    Not only is this an instructive example of the power of imagery on shaping the populous mind (and/or as I mention above an evidence of the Abeline paradox) but I’m asking what evidence we have that the church officially propogated the now common translation story in the beginning.

  78. John Dehlin May 20, 2006 at 9:20 am - Reply

    No worries at all, Randy. You’d be surprised at how little I know. :)

  79. RoastedTomatoes May 20, 2006 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Confused and FreeAtLast, I think you’re overreacting to what I said. I’m not opposed to working through the details. I think it’s important to get the history right and to make realistic claims about the origins of Mormon scripture and so forth. But I did provide an answer to the question of what might be worth saving in Mormonism: the power of its texts and narratives to bring people to Christ and make them feel more in connection with God and better about their lives.

  80. John Dehlin May 20, 2006 at 9:23 am - Reply


    I definitely believe it’s totally possible the bretheren (and correlation committee) are only teaching what they were taught. I’m not big on conspiracies. I don’t really fault anyone for it…..I think it’s all human nature.


  81. Confused May 20, 2006 at 11:49 am - Reply

    Roasted Tomatoes: I don’t think I was overreacting at all! You say that “the power of (the church’s) texts and narratives…bring people to Christ and…make them feel more in connection with God and better about their lives.” I’m saying that’s absolutely impossible for the kinds of people I mentioned above–people who believe in the temple ordinances but have no hope of obtaining them; people committed to truth but who must lie about their beliefs in order to stay within the fold, etc. What good is that narrative to them? Why not just another branch of Christianity or any other faith tradition that teaches good?

    The power of the Joseph Smith narrative, the temple narrative and so much else is HARMFUL to the many of the world’s people, not helpful. And it does much to drive people away from Christ, not to him. I guess in a sense if you consider the people who consider suicide because they can’t measure up to standards, or who don’t easily fit into the plan of salvation and who want to (or actually) commit suicide, in that sense they’re brought “closer to Christ”…

  82. FreeAtLast May 20, 2006 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    You’ve raised a crucial point, RoastedPotatoes: Do people need Christianity and a belief/faith in Jesus to feel “better about their lives”. This goes to the issue of self-esteem. Many Latter-Day Saints base their self-esteem on their identity as a Mormon. How many times have we heard members say during Fast and Testimony meeting: “Without the church, I don’t know who I’d be. I don’t know what I’d do with my life. I wouldn’t know the right way to live. The church is everything to me!”

    Countless Latter-Day Saints base their self-esteem/-concept/-identity on Mormonism. They have little, and in some cases no inner experience of a self differentiated from the self that is the product of Mormon psychological conditioning. This is particularly true for people raised in the church because they never had a chance to experience life without Mormonism influences their psyche during their formative years.

    Self-esteem is the reputation that we acquire with ourselves, particularly with our mind, over time. If we mentally flee from, trivialize, and condemn facts that do not support our beliefs, including cherished religious beliefs, then we betray our mind. Our survival, quality of life, and well-being depends on us having full confidence in our mind, cognitive process such as rational/critical thinking, and our judgments.

    One of the chief problems with Mormonism in terms of people’s psychological health is that is conditions people to betray their mind and undermine their rational/critical thinking when they are confronted with information that is not congruent with their ‘spiritual’ beliefs. The typical LDS response is to discount such facts/truths. Only faith-supporting information is presented in church materials, only faith-supporting personal stories are told at General Conference, and so on. The cognitive dissonance that is very common among Latter-Day Saints is a manifestation of the psychological dysfunction caused by Mormonism.

    Another symptom of psychological dysfunction among Mormons is their baffling ‘logic’; the FAIR LDS website is full of examples. The mental gyrations that Latter-Day Saints go through in an attempt to try to make sense out of nonsensical church teachings are legion. In the end, all they can do is ‘just have faith’. Again, one might as well believe in an Earth-centered universe of crystal spheres. It is absolutely vital to Mormons’ well-being that they understand how their minds have been ‘programmed’ by the LDS Church through systematic indoctrination and their psyches conditioned by Mormonism. The extent to which they remain unaware of that conditioning is the degree to which they will unconsciously think and behave as the LDS Church/community/collective wants them to.

    Many people that they’d be nothing without God (as defined by their religion). Many Christians believe that they’d be ‘lost sinners’ without Jesus (as defined by Christian religions). In both cases, people are basing their self-esteem on externals. The ‘Heavenly Father’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ of Mormonism are psychological constructs, the products of people’s minds, starting with the mind of Joseph Smith. Many Latter-Day Saints also base their self-esteem on their ‘worthiness’, which is based on a set of compliance criteria established by the church. Mormons use an external yardstick, so to speak, to determine whether they ‘measure up’ or not. Are you ‘temple-worthy’? That depends on your compliance with requirements A, B, C, D, etc. Who created those requirements? Mormons in positions of authority in the church who believe that requirements A, B, C, D, etc. come from God. But in fact, they came from the minds of LDS authority figures. Obey and they will tell you that you’re ‘righteous’ and ‘worthy’. Don’t comply and Mormonism categorizes you as ‘unworthy’.

    Why base one’s self-esteem on others’ opinions and judgments? Why base it on other people’s concepts of God and what God ‘commands’ and wants? One does not need God or Jesus to “feel better about their lives” or themselves. Ultimately, there is no source of healthy/functional self-esteem outside of one’s self. This is a crucial psychological truth that Latter-Day Saints (and people in other religions) need to learn.

  83. Kirk Faulkner May 20, 2006 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    I want to point out again that FreeAtLast and Confused have not left the church. Even if y’all took your names off the roll call, it is obvious from your posts that a good deal of your personality is tied up in the word Mormon. Whether you put an ex or a TB in front of it doesn’t even matter that much.

    That being said… The idea that the Church is actually dangerous should be explored. Are there cases where the church can cause despair, depression, divorce and even (one more D word) death? Hell yeah. I have seen it in my own family in degrees that vary from mild discomfort to really really bad stuff, and I would bet to some extent every person on this list has felt some amount of pain that you can trace back to the church.


    So what? So this institution we were born into hasn’t worked 100%? Bummer. But what are you going to do? Put all your faith in the government (cause they never hurt anyone on accident)? Schools? Other Churches? (What if we were Catholic? At least it was only our FEELINGS that got hurt {zing} ).

    It is true that we should base all of our self-esteem on our selves. We should also floss every day. Some people (this is gonna be a bomb shell) have a hard time with self-esteem. Some people get sad and depressed. Some people have a hard time deciding who they are exactly and what they should do with their lives. They could use a little help. Now I am not saying you just give those choices to GB Hinckley and wish him luck making your decisions, but from time to time we, well, I’ll just speak for myself, I need some help.

    I am not saying stay in the church (again I bring up the point that I am chronically inactive). I’m just saying how does your criticism in any way invalidate the church for other people?

    IF the Church is NOT the one true church, then it’s just a church.

    AND if it’s just a church, why does its short comings make it any worse than any other church or really any other human institution? A church, by definition, is a place where people go to talk about what they should and shouldn’t be doing. I have trouble seeing the problem with that desire.

    We all have some complex feelings towards this thing called Mormon. There’s a lot of pain and confusion and really really dark crap. But what are you gonna do? Cry? You wanna cry little baby! THERE’S NO CRYING IN RELIGION!

    Sorry. I just watched “A League of Their Own”.

    But the point is – hmm. What is the point?

    This thing is what it is. We can sit around and argue if it is good or bad; if we should build it up or destroy it; if it does more good than harm. At the end of the day it is about YOU and YOUR own peace. Get out if you can, but since WE can’t, might as well try to make this a positive experience. And if you are really interested in the well being of the misfits of Mormonism that you talked about, you will stay in or around the church to help them out.

    And to answer FreeAtLast’s’s inquiry of my age- I’m 26. And I rock.

  84. Hellmut May 20, 2006 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Your point about LDS leaders may have been true in the sixties, John. However, Lavina Anderson has documented as early as in 1992 the systematic intimidation of historians by priesthood leaders. You can read her article in the 1992/93 volume of Dialogue.

    I am providing a collection of citations of LDS leaders and their attitude about history on my blog under the title The Testimony of a Dissident.

    In light of their own words, it is clear that many LDS leaders are well aware that the current state of historical research contradicts the correlated material. Moreover, it is also clear that LDS leaders continue efforts to persecute and punish historians.

  85. Hellmut May 20, 2006 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Kirk, I appreciate your honesty. It seems to me, however, that your argument misunderstands the problem of LDS imperfections in two ways.

    First, it’s not true that other organizations are just as imperfect as the LDS Church. Few organizations are so intolerant with regards to dissent. Few organizations instill so much arrogance in their followers as the LDS Church.

    The LDS Church is an outlier, especially within the context of developed democratic societies. In some ways, such as teenage smoking and alcohol consumption, the Mormon way of live works out pretty well. In others, as you have pointed out, it’s a disaster.

    Second, we need to remember that LDS doctrine requires unconditional obedience of its adherents. Anyone who demands so much deserves to be scrutinized according to rigorous standards.

    An organization that asks us to sacrifice everything in its behalf cannot invoke average behavior in its defense. It’s fair and appropriate to evaluate the LDS Church according to the standards that it demands of its members.

  86. Sapollonia May 20, 2006 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the song info John!

  87. FreeAtLast May 21, 2006 at 12:23 am - Reply

    Kirk wrote, “I want to point out again that FreeAtLast and Confused have not left the church. Even if y’all took your names off the roll call, it is obvious from your posts that a good deal of your personality is tied up in the word Mormon.”

    Don’t confuse personality, Kirk, with the personality-altering effects of Mormon psychological conditioning. Far too many Latter-Day Saints have unconsciously ‘closeted’ their true personality because it didn’t fit in Mormonism. Men and women who didn’t have a conservative bone in their body who buried their fun, partying, sexy self because Mormonism conditioned them to always be ‘reverent’, ‘meek’, ‘humble’, and ‘long-suffering’. Ambitious and intelligent LDS women who buried their natural drive and intellectual abilities because the LDS Church indoctrinated them to believe that their main purpose in life was to be a ‘wife and mother in Zion’. LDS boys and young men who were emasculated by Mormonism and ended up as submissive milk-toast types.

    I don’t know about other people who visit this website, but my personality is not ‘tied up in the word Mormon’. I spent a decade de-programming myself from the many unhealthy and wounding aspects of Mormonism, and liberated my personality in the process. What kept the real me buried for so many years? The fear, guilt, and shame that Mormonism conditioned me to feel every day. In the past 13 years, I have spoken with hundreds of people with experience in Mormonism who know from personal experience what I’m talking about. Mormon psychological conditioning keeps Latter-Day Saints from fully knowing/experiencing their authentic self. In some cases, the pain of self-estrangement has been so intense that Mormons have killed themselves. Countless members are chronically depressed because of LDS Church teachings and Mormon psychological ‘programming’.

    Mormonism keeps people psychologically enslaved. Its core message is “Comply or else; obey or you will suffer”. If you don’t follow church teachings and God’s commandments (as defined by Mormonism), according to church teachings, God will withhold blessings from you and punish you, Satan will gain power over you, and after death, you will suffer ‘eternal damnation’ and be forever separated from ‘righteous’ Mormon family members and friends. For generations, the church has taught that “no unclean thing can enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. What makes Mormons (and all people) ‘unclean’ according to LDS theology? ‘Sins’, as defined by Mormonism. To be ‘sinless’, you must be ‘perfect’. Is it any wonder that so many Latter-Day Saints are afraid of making a mistake and feel like God is always watching and judging them?

    It’s impossible to mature psychologically or grow/evolve when a person is psychologically bound by chains of fear. History has shown that religious fear has been a very effective means of controlling and manipulating the masses. A person can muster the courage to confront an individual, a group of people, or even an organization, but how does a person stand up to God (the version of God that they’ve been indoctrinated to believe is as real as their own self)? Mormons’ psychological liberation depends on them confronting, down to the deepest level of their psyche, the fear-inducing ‘spiritual’ ideas that Mormonism planted and reinforced in their mind. This, more than anything else, is what recovering from Mormonism is about. Having gone this process myself (it wasn’t fun) and counselled dozens of people who have struggled through the same process, I know of what I write.

    As Hellmut pointed out, the LDS Church/Mormonism is judged by the highest, most demanding standards because it has placed itself about all other institutions and organizations on Earth. It has told the world since Joseph Smith’s day that it is the one ‘true’ church of God, and Mormonism is the one, ‘true’ religion of ‘the Lord’. It cannot now try to slip out the back door, so to speak, and try to come across as just another church, run by flawed people. In past generations, the LDS Church declared that it was perfect as an organization, and only it had the power and authority of God. Generations of Mormons, including my own, were indoctrinated to believe that ‘the Lord’ directed the church via ‘revelation’. The LDS Church placed itself on the world’s highest pedestal, and there it shall stay, until its foundation of deception crumbles and fails. Anyone with “eyes to see and ears to hear” knows the church’s foundation is crumbling.

    One more clarification about something Kirk posted: “We all have some complex feelings towards this thing called Mormon.” Some people who read this blog may have convoluted feelings relative to Mormonism (e.g., they love the sense of community and family values, but dislike the ‘dark’ aspects of Mormon history). I do not. My feelings (and thoughts) are clear: Mormons are generally ‘nice’ (to a fault), friendly, and caring, but they believe nonsensical and unhealthy ‘spiritual’ ideas, which results in psychological dysfunction and self-esteem problems. As an organization, the LDS Church is morally bankrupt because of its long history of deceiving people. I left the church because in good conscience, I could no longer support such an organization. Each person has their reason(s) for leaving or staying.

  88. Confused May 21, 2006 at 6:28 am - Reply

    Kirk, I’m sorry you misunderstood, misread and misconstrued my clearly-worded points.

    To simplify even further, let me reiterate that I don’t think Mormonism is the root of all evil. Here’s what I do think:

    1. The unique teachings, practices and ordinances of Mormonism exclude certain people. These people might want to comply but simply can’t. They are therefore wracked with unneccessary pain, guilt, longing and angst. Such people include:

    (a) older singles who choose not to marry outside the Church because they believe that to choose to do so would be to “reject the covenant.” According to Smith’s D and C 132 that would mean a rejection of exaltation itself. If this doctrine is not true; if Joseph Smith made it all up, such singles are needlessly wasting their lives.

    (b) gays who want to be members of “The only True Church on the Face of the Earth (TM)” but who are made to feel that there is no place for them in the Plan of Happiness (TM). If the Plan of Salvation (TM) is a figment of Smith et al’s imagination, then the church has once again devalued the meaning of life for homosexuals.

    (c) and so on an so forth: Teachings that demean of exclude people who can’t or don’t have a Forever Family ™ are unique to the LDS church. In other faith traditions, it simply doesn’t matter what your marital status is or whether you are on the path to becoming married. This teaching needlessly hurts the very people who take Mormonism to heart/take Mormonism seriously.

    (d) The poor are made ot think that unless they consistently give ten percent of their earnings to the Church, they are “unworthy.” For some, this means the choice between feeding their family or having a recommend, going into serious debt to be in good graces of the Church, etc. If the church is wrong on this point, too, it is ahrmful to a good deal of people.

    Is this clearer to you now?

  89. WH May 21, 2006 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Hey, you guys.

    Join me in pitching John a few bucks to let him take the Dehlin Fam out to dinner after this Phenomenal run of podcasts!

    p.s. It was quite easy to donate.


  90. FreeAtLast May 21, 2006 at 11:08 am - Reply

    Great quote from the movie “The Truman Show”:

    Interviewer: Why do you think that Truman has never come close to discovering the true nature of his world until now?

    Kristof: We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented. It’s as simple as that.

  91. Randy May 21, 2006 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    WH, great idea. Done.

  92. Kirk Faulkner May 21, 2006 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    Good points guys. Confused, I should have let you know in clearer words that I do think the church can be a very negative force in the life of a person, especially the four groups you mentioned.

    The one thing that Hellmut, Confused and FreeAtLast all said was (roughly) because the church says it is the one true church and holds its members to a very high standard (perfection?) then we must judge it on a scale with its own standards.

    I’m cool with that. Scrutinize it. Tear it apart. Look in every dark corner. You will find enough evidence against the church that its claims of being the one true church will be, at the very least, called into question if not totally dismantled.

    And if you are black or gay or like tattoos or want a career even though you don’t have a Y chromosome, I would think long and hard about whether you want to be in a church whose teachings are fundamentally against you. Even if you are a white straight male with nice teeth and your last name is Young, you still need to think about it. Do what they say “Study, ponder, pray.”

    I think up to this point we are in agreeance. Right?

    So then what? What do you do next? Leave? Stay? Something else?

    I always say, if you can get out of this church, you might as well do it. But when I say get out, I don’t mean this thing we’re doing right now. I mean, leave it alone. Walk away. Move on. If your feelings about the church are truly not convoluted (convoluted – Having numerous overlapping coils or folds; intricate; complicated) then why do this? Why this constant discussion on boards? These organizations working against the church? For it? Around it? Sounds pretty convoluted.

    Since we haven’t/won’t/can’t leave it alone, what do we do?

    You guys sound like very different people to me so it seems fruitless to try to generalize but let’s just say you don’t want to be an active member of the church any more. Well neither do I. But whether we are TBMs, EX mormons NOMs or whatever we still have this relationship with the church. That was always my main point. And like any divorced couple will tell you, divorce is its own kind of relationship. Different, but no less a relationship.

    There are a million ways to deal with it and I like the idea that FreeAtLast helps others get out and provides support. That’s more than I am doing for other people. So again I say, we probably agree a lot more than disagree here.

    OK wait… what did we disagree on again?

    I guess you guys felt like I was down playing how horrible it is that (we have come to believe) the church lied to us. And yeah, I guess I am downplaying it. Not because I want to lie to myself, but because I don’t see the use in dwelling on it.

    That doesn’t mean I’m not hurt. I remeber feeling so betrayed when my faith fell apart. It was like my best friend had stolen my wife and then shot my dog while he was leaving. And that pain is still there. If I down play my anger towards the church it is because I have lived in it (the anger) for all of these years and I am exhausted. I am here because i want some peace. And when i listen to these podcasts I don’t feel alone any more. I realize that there are others out there who are in this church, but they are in it in their own way.

    Anger, bitterness, hurt, guilt (oh come on, admit it, you feel guilty you left sometimes. Nothing you can do about it); these all play a part in coming to terms with this whole thing. But there was good too. I remember it. You remember it. Denying the good is just as close minded as TBMs denying the bad.

    The Mormon Church is a church that claims it’s the one true church (as does the Catholic church, the muslims, the JWs, and about half the churches out there). It IS intolerant of blacks and gays but you can not seriously say that it is the most intolerant church in America.

    You can’t tell me that the Republican party doesn’t inspire a healthy helping of intolerance (both for minorities and dissent). You can’t tell me the Democratic party doesn’t instill arrogance in its members. And what the hell are those Shriners really up to in those little cars? Talk about secrecy.

    The church has problems. We have problems with the church. It’s a lot to sort out. Good thing we have this community in which to do it.

  93. Daniel W May 22, 2006 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    Here’s what I’m having a problem with and ex-mormons, anti-mormons and proud members alike can dash at me as you like.

    If this is all a lie. If everything I’ve been taught is wrong. If Joseph was a fraud and an evil man. If the Book of Mormon is pure fiction. etc etc etc
    Why is it that I feel such warmth, joy, peace, etc whenever I walk into a church building, a member’s home, etc? Is it just a pavlovian reaction based on the inner response I’ve been taught to feel? Why is it that I’ve felt this all my life even when I didn’t believe it?
    Even as a teen I was very much in rebellion from what my dad believed. I hadn’t yet joined the church, was looking through various wiccan, vampire, satanic, etc books and was proud to be evil. Even back then I still felt the same feelings (though to a lesser extent) in these environments.
    If I feel such peace in such a church. If I feel it when I read the scriptures (including the BoM) and pray. If I feel it when I’m in the home of a member and when I’m discussing spiritual matters with my wife, why should I leave a religion that makes me feel so good?

  94. John Dehlin May 22, 2006 at 2:31 pm - Reply


    If Mormonism is working for you and your family, you SHOULDN’T leave. I certainly haven’t. I went yesterday and really enjoyed it.

    Nothing anyone has ever discovered historically proves that Joseph didn’t have a vision, or that the Book or Momon is a fraud.

    And even if you are inclined to believe that JS wasn’t who you thought he was, or that the BOM isn’t historical–you can still choose (like many) to see them as inspired by God, even if imperfect, or not what they claim to be.

    I’ve tried other religions, and can’t get myself to feel good about switching. That’s why I choose to stay….and I’m finding a way, fwiw.


  95. Kempton May 22, 2006 at 5:08 pm - Reply


    I agree with John that if Mormonism is working for you perhaps you should stay. But the minute you start suffering cognitive dissonance or feel that you are being dishonest in some way or supporting a fraud perhaps you should consider leaving. This is why I resigned (see I was once asked your question by a Mormon friend Daniel. She asked me how can the church be so wrong when it feels good?

    Here is what I told her: I accept your personal subjective experiences Jen, but I do the same for my exMormon cousin (now born-again Christian). I accept the testimony of my Catholic relatives, my Buddhist friends, and a Hindu I met one time. All of their subjective experiences are valid and I believe can be explained psychologically. But you all proclaim a belief in a different dogma, when I just want to unite us and share with you things that we both can experience and know objectively. Isn’t it possible that each of your individual spiritual experiences are real for each of you, but does not make a particular religion truer than another?

    1. I hope you’re able to see my sincerity Jen. You have to understand that I am not coming out and saying, “Mormons are wrong.” I never said Mormons are “wrong in everything.” I’m saying everyone appealing to feelings cannot be right. There are a lot of things in LDS teachings I believe are good and true. I never said Mormons are wrong totally, I just don’t agree that Mormons are “all right” and all the other religions are “all wrong.”

    2. How can Muslims, Catholics, Jews, and Hindus be so wrong when it feels good to them?

    A. John the Hindu worships Krishna. He prays to his God and feels the spirit. He then believes those feelings prove only his religion is true.
    B. The Mormon says feelings equal his religion is true.
    C. I’m only saying that logically A & B cancel out each other.

    Saying those others only felt “the light of Christ” whereas we Mormons felt the Holy Ghost is unprovable and quite frankly a little arrogant. How can you presume to know what someone else felt and be so quick to discredit their experience as lesser than yours? And what about those Book of Mormon believers in Utah who reject Utah Mormonism and claim they felt the Holy Ghost?

    For more information on the Mormon testimony please read an email exchange between me and an LDS friend at

  96. Perry Porter May 22, 2006 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    I sent an email to John

    It bounced.

    Hey John Write me, I have something for you.


  97. chrisac80 May 22, 2006 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    Hey Kempton,

    > 2. How can Muslims, Catholics, Jews, and Hindus be so wrong when it feels good to them?

    When I read about the Mormon “burning in my bosom”, I had quite a laugh.
    A half year before that, I had been in an evangelical youth group (sect?).
    Anyway, during the bible study group, you get constantly pushed to “make a decision for Jesus”.
    Because of some personal problems, I searched the help of the almighty God, who seems so loving
    and caring in the bible stories.
    Well, one day I prayed to God and Jesus and gave my life to Jesus, and guess what…
    I had a warm feeling in my bosom, and I cried and whatnot.
    This is the proof that the “bosom-Method”(TM of the LDS church) doesn’t work, for it worked in an “apostatic church” as well.

    I think what counts is reality.
    In my study group, people constantly thank God for the good things they receive.
    That’s basically because they are spoiled children in the west who have everything.
    Of course, if you get three meals every day, thanking God is quite redundant.
    But where is God when you need him/her/it ?
    In these situations, God proves himself to be be absent.
    “…Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.”(1.Kings 18:27)
    In contrast to the nice and happy ending bible stories, in reality God is as absent as Baal in this old testament story.
    When I had such a “spiritual experience” that there is no God who cares when you really need him,
    I became an atheist.

    Actually, its ridiculous, cause in both situations I base my faith and behaviour on “spiritual experiences” which are just psychological effects.

    Anyway, as those experiences are totally exchangable (you can have your bosom burn for Buddha, Allah, Krishna, the Spaghetti Monster which created the universe, Jesus, Mother Mary, Adolph Hitler, … insert whatever spiritual leader you might want to add…, Joseph Smith.)
    it is ridiculous to base your life on such a vague foundation.

    The churches of course do SOME good, that’s how they sneak into people’s lives.
    Boy scouts here, a nice parish there, collecting money for the needy, loving your neighbour, etc.

    But under this beautiful facade, religions hide their darker side.
    “… for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”(Mt 23:27)
    The religion forces you into irrational behaviour:
    Some religions forbid pork, some coffee, some alkohol.
    Orthodox jews keep meat and milk in two different fridges.
    Some people wear secret underwear.
    Most religions tell their members that only they are the chosen people, all other religions are false.
    In the course of history, religion has caused:
    – Wars
    – Murder of witches, heretics, unbelievers
    – Destruction of cult sites of other religions
    – Break ups of families whose members belong to different faiths (especially Mormon missionaries baptizing only one member of a family thus create big conflicts)
    – Self denial, feelings of unworthiness, measuring with unrealistically high standards
    – Negative influences also on politics and states for their own purpose
    – Hatered instead of love

    All these points can be backed up with episodes from history.
    I just want to mention one point:
    When Christianity came into being, it became a competitor of Judaism, especially after Paul and others decided to depart from the Mosaic law. Like all competitors, Christianity wanted to gain more power/members by showing its competitor in a bad light.
    When the new testament was written, anti-judaistic tendencies were included.
    (cf. John 8:31,8:44, where Jesus calls Jews the sons of Satan; Mt 27:25: The Jews are blamed for Jesus’ death)
    This anti-judaistic tendency is in part responsible for many of the horrible things the Jews had to suffer, including the holocaust.

    In a similar manner, Mormonism became a competitor of traditional Christianity, and equally, the book of Mormon shows Christianity in a bad light, yea even in the Apostasy theory.

    Therefore, I would be very careful to only address the positive aspects of religion when there is so much evil and bad things religion has caused.
    You can also have a boyscouts group without Prayer,
    you can have a happy family without prescribed home evening,
    you can rear virtuous children who act responsible without threatening them with the Mormon God,
    you can have barbeque parties in your neighbourhood with people who wear different kinds of underwear,
    you can help the needy without printing an LDS tag on the goods sent,
    you can learn a foreign language in an exchange program without molesting strangers by knocking on their door and telling them about a religion which is “more an alternative which can add to the good you have”.

    By doing all this, you can enjoy your life to its fullest without regret, suppressed feelings, without irrational behaviour, wasting your time with faked historical accounts etc.
    And in the end, when you have lived a happy and harmonious life and stand at heavens gate with a good conscience, an Indian God will be quite mad at you, because you have eaten so much beef, and after all,
    cows are holy animals, aren’t they? And will be thrown into a pit of burning brimstone and suffer from endless torment.

    Ok sorry, I was just following my associative thoughts.

  98. Kempton May 22, 2006 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    Hey chrisac80,

    “Amen” to everything you said. I attended a Fundamentalist church meeting once and while joining in with the singing I felt the burning in the bosom. When I was a Mormon missionary in Indepence Missouri I spoke with an apostle of the Church of Christ, the church that owns the property where Christ will first come in the Millennium according to the D&C missouri temple. As this apostle bore his testimony that Utah Mormonism is false and that his church is true I felt “the spirit” just as I had felt hearing Mormon leaders bear their testimony. Feeling don’t equal facts and no one can disprove the subjective testimony of someone of a different religion, thus all religious testimonies are equal, that is equally invalid. I could not agree with you more when you said that “I think what counts is reality.” I wrote a short essay arguing that what counts is reality at

    In regards to your last comment, basically everyone’s going to someone else’s version of Hell. This Muslim website declares that belief in Mohammed, the Koran (Quran), and the religion of Islam equals salvation (and your 70 virgins in heaven) and disbelief equals hell fire:

    Salvation from Hellfire: God has said in the Quran:

    Those who have disbelieved and died in disbelief, the earth full of gold would not be accepted from any of them if one offered it as a ransom. They will have a painful punishment, and they will have no helpers. (Quran, 3:91)

    So, this life is our only chance to win Paradise and to escape from Hellfire, because if someone dies in disbelief, he will not have another chance to come back to this world to believe. As God has said in the Quran about what is going to happen for the unbelievers on the Day of Judgment: If you could but see when they are set before the Fire (Hell) and say, “Would that we might return (to the world)! Then we would not reject the verses of our Lord, but we would be of the believers!” (Quran, 6:27)

    But no one will have this second opportunity. The Prophet Muhammad said: {The happiest man in the world of those doomed to the Fire (Hell) on the Day of Judgment will be dipped in the Fire once. Then he will be asked, “Son of Adam, did you ever see any good? Did you ever experience any blessing?” So he will say, “No, by God, O Lord!”} From: See also:

    Well that is certainly enough manipulative fear tactics to scare the crap out of a Muslim into believing, if they’ve been reading the Koran (Quran) since birth, and all their friends and family believe. But to the Christian, they shrug off the threat. Mormons are essentially Universalists But those who hear about Mormonism and reject it will be sent to a lower degree of heaven 76: 73-119 with no second chance Shut out forever from celestial glory as the Gods above procreate forever. Freethinkers will be celibate slaves to the gods above them forever because they… get this, had a difference of opinion 76: 73-119. To the non-Mormon this is the most absurd load of bull crap one could ever imagine, but to the Mormon whose been brought up on this doctrine, encultured properly, and indoctrinated thoroughly, it is a powerful threat to be a good Mormon: believe in Joseph Smith, obey LDS rules, and get married only in the Mormon Temple to earn your own 70 virgins or else you’ll be castrated forever! 132: 1-4, 15-18, 63-64&search.x=2&search.y=5

  99. Doc May 22, 2006 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    > 2. How can Muslims, Catholics, Jews, and Hindus be so wrong when it feels good to them?

    This may be a radical, distressing, and perhaps heretical thought to some, but allow me to attempt an answer. Maybe that feeling is in fact coming through God in spite of the facts that they all have soemwhat differing creeds. Maybe God works with us to enlighten our minds wherever he is able and in a framework that we can stomach, enlarging it as we progress bit by bit as we can take it.
    One of the astounding innovations in doctrine Joseph Smith developed was reconciling evangelical christian thought about the need for a Savior of mankind and the need to make his atonement effective in our lives with Universalist thought that there are noble and good people in all faiths, therefore everyone will be saved, anything less would of itself be evil. He developed a radical and ground breaking idea of Baptism for the dead and proxy work. So many that live now or have ever lived have never received the complete gospel, In fact, no one has received it all, and in LDS Doctrine, this learning and growing in God’s wisdom is eternal for all the Righteous, a vehicle is provided for the elect of all the human family to receive salvation. Certainly many are offended when they view this doctrine in sectarian terms. “We are right, you are wrong nyah, nyah, nyah,” does not and should not sit well with anyone.
    But how else can we explain what happens to the remote, tribal villager in whatever corner of the world who has no opportunity to learn anything of the any of these prophets and teachers, make any kind of informed decision, and yet for all we know could be a bright and noble shining star of humankind, making life better for all thos e villagers with which he may have contact.
    Of course the danger in this line of thought is that it is a setup for puffing ourselves up into believing that we are better than everyone not of those “Not as true or incomplete faiths.” The savior repeatedly denounced this mindset as he castigated the leaders of Israel in his day. No one is in more danger of becoming Pharisaical, holier than thou, judgmemental, and self righteous than those whe feel they are the Lords chosen people. So to truly live such a religion, one must be able to accept people on their terms and offer them that which they can accept, and always watch for the creeping in of these self congratulatory feelings, the pride, to which they are so prone.
    Enmity, contention, and War have jealousy and pride at their root, regardless of whether the warring parties differences are political, social, cultural, etc.

  100. FreeAtLast May 22, 2006 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    Daniel W,

    Had a vision of the Virgin Mary? Felt the presence of Buddha? Experienced the ‘cosmic energies’? Known in your soul that Mohammed is Allah’s ‘prophet’? Probably not, I’d imagine. Why not? Because you weren’t psychologically conditioned in Catholicism, Buddhism, the New Age religion, Islam, or some other ‘spiritual’ tradition. By the sounds of it, you were raised in Mormonism. Hence, you were psychologically conditioned to “feel such warmth, joy, peace, etc” when you “walk into a church building” and “a member’s home”.

    You rebelled as a teenager because adolescent ‘rebellion’ is a natural part of the individuation process that people are psychologically ‘wired’ to go through. Any competent mental professional will tell you that. Individuation is how we prepare psychologically to ‘leave the nest’ and establish ourselves as independent adults in the world. In my generation, teenage rebellion involved listening to AC/DC, Aerosmith, Led Zepplin, etc., smoking pot, drinking a lot of beer, and engaging in pre-marital sex as often as possible (I was a ‘good’ Mormon youth, however). Based on my observations, the wiccan-Gothic-vampire-satanic thing seems to have been bigger for your generation. Having explored your ‘dark’ side as a teenager, you decided to come back to what was familiar and comfortable: Mormonism. If you’d been raised in Catholicism, you probably would’ve gone back to the Catholic Church.

    If Mormonism works for you, fine. Just don’t confuse psychological conditioning and its emotional results with truth.

    John wrote, “Nothing anyone has ever discovered historically proves that Joseph didn’t have a vision, or that the Book or Momon is a fraud.” What about the conflicting versions of the ‘First Vision’ produced by Joseph Smith? (Ref.
    and You’d think that if God the Father and Jesus Christ, the two most powerful and glorious ‘Celestial’ beings in the universe, according to Mormonism, appeared to someone, the person who received such a remarkable visit would get his story straight.

    Re. the Book of Mormon, there is a MOUNTAIN of evidence that the book is a fraud. Archeological, DNA, and historical evidence have thoroughly discredited the BoM. Geneticists have proven that the ancestors of the vast majority of native Americans came from northeast Asia, not Israel, as the BoM states. The remainder came from Europe, who crossed the north Atlantic following the base of the ice shield, as reported by the BBC and other news sources earlier this year.

    Archeological sites in the Aleutian islands, Alaska, British Columbia, and down into North, Central, and South America have proven that Asians arrived in the Western Hemisphere about 11,000 to 17,000 years ago in various migrations, and spread out. They reached this part of the world millenia before Lehi and his family arrived, according to the BoM timeline. The Introduction to the BoM states: “the Lamanites…are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” This is simply not true. There is no scientific evidence supporting this teaching of the LDS Church, and a great deal of evidence disproving it. As Dr. Tom Murphy, who is a church member, has pointed out that there is no genetic data supporting the story in the BoM and church teaching that the disobedience of Laman, Lemuel, and their followers resulted in their skin becoming dark.

    A fascinating website to visit is, which lists many words and expressions in the BoM which are identical or very similar to words and expressions in history books of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Those books were available in upper New York state, as notices in archived NY newspapers and other historical documents prove.

    In late December, I visited my TBM sister, brother-in-law, and their five kids. The oldest is 15 and was blitzing to finish the BoM by the end of the year. She was reading the church’s 1999 edition of the BoM For The Family. On the page of Mormon, Chapter 6 it stated that 230,000 Nephite warriors were killed in battle in the Hill Cumorah area. I told my niece that if such a massive armed conflict had taken place, there should be 230,000 skeletons and a huge number of weapons in the area. They wouldn’t be buried too deeply either because the fighting took place only 1,620 years ago. I asked her why not a single ‘Nephite’ skeleton or weapon has been found. As she started thinking, I could see by the expression on her face that she was starting to experience cognitive dissonance. Rational thinking was conflicting with what she’d been indoctrinated to believe by the church and her parents, and what she’d unconsciously accepted as ‘true’. I encouraged her to e-mail the Anthropology Dept. of Syracuse University, which is less than 70 miles to the east of Palmyra and ask for info. about any archeological evidence supporting the story in Mormon, Chpt. 6. I could tell by her nervousness that she wouldn’t. I did contact the dept. after I got home in January. They confirmed that there’s no archeological evidence from the Cumorah/Palmyra area supporting The Book of Mormon.

    Other websites with info. about the BoM are:

    If you want to read the Smithsonian Institution’s statement about the BoM, go here:

    Generations of Mormon ‘prophets and apostles’ have taught that The Book of Mormon is the keystone of the LDS religion, and echoed Joseph Smith’s declaration that it’s the “most correct of any book on Earth”. The fact of the matter is that the BoM is a work of fiction.

  101. chrisac80 May 23, 2006 at 5:16 am - Reply

    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.

  102. jordanandmeg May 23, 2006 at 9:58 am - Reply

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

  103. doc May 23, 2006 at 10:27 am - Reply

    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.

  104. Daniel W May 23, 2006 at 10:40 am - Reply

    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.

  105. pjj May 23, 2006 at 10:52 am - Reply

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

  106. John Dehlin May 23, 2006 at 11:23 am - Reply

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

  107. Kirk Faulkner May 23, 2006 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    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.

  108. jordanandmeg May 24, 2006 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    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.

  109. Mike25 May 24, 2006 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    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”)

  110. Kempton May 24, 2006 at 10:23 pm - Reply

    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
    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
    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:

  111. Mike25 May 25, 2006 at 12:32 am - Reply

    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!

  112. jordanandmeg May 25, 2006 at 12:42 am - Reply

    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.

  113. Kempton May 25, 2006 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    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

  114. FreeAtLast May 26, 2006 at 2:52 am - Reply

    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.”

  115. labguy May 27, 2006 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    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.


  116. FreeAtLast May 27, 2006 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    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.

  117. jdub May 28, 2006 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    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.

  118. Bonnie May 28, 2006 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    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.

  119. labguy May 28, 2006 at 11:00 pm - Reply


    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.

  120. FreeAtLast May 29, 2006 at 1:02 am - Reply

    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.

  121. Kimball L. Hunt May 29, 2006 at 3:03 am - Reply

    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!)

  122. […] In a recent Mormon Stories podcast, historian Grant Palmer made the claim that there are no eyewitness accounts that Joseph Smith ever had the golden plates in front of him while dictating the Book of Mormon to his scribes. He also made the claim that there are at least 20 first-hand accounts of persons saying he did not have the plates in front of him. […]

  123. Clinton May 29, 2006 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    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.

  124. FreeAtLast May 30, 2006 at 2:05 am - Reply

    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.

    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.

  125. Danielw May 30, 2006 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    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.

  126. Kirk Faulkner May 30, 2006 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    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.

  127. Clinton May 31, 2006 at 9:07 am - Reply


    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.

  128. Terminal Wally June 1, 2006 at 1:08 am - Reply

    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.

  129. SatanIsMyMotor June 1, 2006 at 8:01 am - Reply


    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,

  130. Terminal Wally June 1, 2006 at 8:39 am - Reply

    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.

  131. SatanIsMyMotor June 1, 2006 at 10:02 am - Reply


    “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.


  132. Doc June 1, 2006 at 10:16 am - Reply

    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

  133. Doc June 1, 2006 at 10:21 am - Reply

    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

  134. SatanIsMyMotor June 1, 2006 at 10:24 am - Reply


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

    Much love,

  135. Doc June 1, 2006 at 10:45 am - Reply

    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. ;)

  136. Doc June 1, 2006 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    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?

  137. FreeAtLast June 2, 2006 at 1:09 am - Reply

    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.

  138. Kempton June 2, 2006 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    I just wanted to add to what FreeAtLAst posted. 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 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:

    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?

  139. Just for Quix June 2, 2006 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    (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:

  140. Terminal Wally June 4, 2006 at 11:53 pm - Reply

    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

  141. Mike25 June 5, 2006 at 2:41 pm - Reply


    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:

    Wally and anyone else that would like to talk to me about this stuff send me a Myspace friend request here: love to here from ya!!


    ps. anyone check out the Baptist Version of the Book of Mormon? Kind of cool…

  142. annegb June 6, 2006 at 9:08 pm - Reply

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

  143. FreeAtLast June 7, 2006 at 7:15 am - Reply

    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.

    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.

    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

  144. clark June 7, 2006 at 9:47 am - Reply

    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.

  145. SatanIsMyMotor June 7, 2006 at 2:23 pm - Reply


    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!


  146. SatanIsMyMotor June 7, 2006 at 2:24 pm - Reply


    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…

  147. Margaret Young June 7, 2006 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    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.

  148. jordanandmeg June 7, 2006 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Yes, yes. Thank you, Margaret.

  149. McKay June 7, 2006 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    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.

  150. doc June 8, 2006 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    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.

  151. FreeAtLast June 8, 2006 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    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.

  152. Margaret Young June 8, 2006 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    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.

  153. John Dehlin June 8, 2006 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    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.

  154. […] Midgley begins his review by discussing the fact that, in the mid- to late-1980s, Grant Palmer circulated a draft of a text entitled “New York Mormonism” under the pen name Paul Pry, Jr. In a recent interview on the Mormon Stories podcast, Palmer states that he had adopted this alias because he had seen references to the theatrical character Paul Pry in London, and that the alias fit him. After all, his last name was PALmer, and as a historian it was his intellectual job to PRY into the past. A quick internet search confirms that Paul Pry was (and to some extent continues to be) a famous, somewhat stock character in London theater; Pry is an incorrigible busybody and an evesdropper. […]

  155. Clay July 10, 2006 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    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.

  156. […] the Wikipedia entry on Grant Palmer, our podcast interview w/ Mr. Palmer (and Mr. Bushman) is […]

  157. […] I listened to the Mormon Stories podcast interview with Grant Palmer. For those who don’t know who Grant Palmer is, he is a faithful member of […]

  158. […] to listen to our original interview with Grant Palmer please click here. Part 1: Early Sexual Allegations against Joseph Smith [ 1:00:13 ] Play Now | Play in Popup | […]

  159. […] and race.  This interview attempts to address many of the issues discussed in our interviews with Grant Palmer and Dr. Michael […]

  160. Kevin July 28, 2012 at 7:19 pm - Reply


    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?

  161. Mike Larsen August 19, 2021 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    I enjoy going back and relistening to older broadcasts. These precious interviews are part of time and place now. Grant is gone but we still have his voice and can feel his humble honesty. One can refute his opinions but never the man himself. As good a man as any I ever knew. I am so grateful for his efforts in research and his ability to bring it forth in his common sense way. No bitterness , only honesty that speaks for itself.
    Interesting also to note now, this many years after this interview how much the LDS website has put out. Gradually …one tiny step at a time they are owning up to their history . Their hand is forced , at long last.
    I’ve always felt that spirituality was open to all , completely inclusive and doctrine and dogma has to be defended, so as to exclude ‘ others.’ It’s a depressing deal altogether to observe FAIR and others try to defend and explain what is so blatantly obvious . Just own it and move forward . I suspect Grant is 100% correct that all the squirming by true believers is very harmful. Same deal in politics today ( both sides) Just ends up as divisive. “A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.”
    Grant …you are gone now but I am so beholding to you for what you did but more importantly for who you are.

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