bildeIn 2002 anthropologist Thomas Murphy, Ph.D. published the first peer reviewed academic journal article on DNA and the Book of Mormon, demonstrating that DNA evidence (at the time) did not support the Book of Mormon’s historical claims.  Dr. Murphy was subsequently summoned to an LDS disciplinary council for apostasy, but the disciplinary council was “called off” at the last minute, and he has not been pursued since.

In this two-part podcast series, Dr. Murphy discusses:

  • His early years in the LDS church.
  • His loss of LDS belief as a young adult as a result of military service, demonstrated lack of inspiration on the part of his church leaders, and information he learned as an anthropologist working primarily amongst native Americans.
  • His research and publication regarding DNA and the Book of Mormon.
  • His work as an anthropologist in Latin America, including field work in Mexico and Guatemala.

To access Thomas’ academic writings on Mormonism, see here.


Part 1:

Part 2:


  1. gracepeace June 21, 2016 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    John, can you please elaborate on the following “(at the time)” comment in the following quoted phrase that’s in the above opening comment?
    “…demonstrating that DNA evidence (at the time) did not support the Book of Mormon’s historical claims.”

  2. Thomas W Murphy June 21, 2016 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    I wouldn’t read too much into that qualification. Today’s DNA evidence provides no more support for the Book of Mormon’s historical claims than it did 14 years ago, despite some widely circulated claims of Rod Meldrum. These have been soundly refuted by leading geneticists. See:

    • Paul Purcell July 26, 2016 at 5:14 pm - Reply

      Hi Thomas,

      I remember your earlier interview on ‘DNA and the BoM’ put out by some Christian ministry,…good stuff! It looks like your view has not changed about there being any DNA evidence for the Jewish ancestry of the American Indian,….does it still stand in your opinion that there is STILL no ‘evidence’, even with the recent LDS truth claims that such is so? Can you point to where recent LDS apologetic efforts can be challenged or refuted as well? Sorry, I’m new here if this has been shared already. Thanks!

    • Russ October 31, 2019 at 12:01 pm - Reply

      Confusing how you can be LDS and do documentaries debunking Mormonism.

    • Mark Hoffman November 16, 2019 at 4:05 am - Reply

      So my main question is about what Rod Meldrum and his association present as DNA evidence that proves the Book of Mormon true. Is he stretching the truth or are there actual stones to build up to his conclusions .

  3. St. Ralph June 22, 2016 at 2:40 am - Reply

    A very interesting episode. Thanks.

    I personally give JS a lot less credit. He was using the Bible as a model and he knew that the Bible spanned the Bronze Age and part of the Iron Age. He knew there were no firearms in the Bible, but he figured any technologies that were in the Bible probably would have been in the New World, too, had there been a civilization there. And I doubt he even “figured” that; it was probably an “off the cuff” assumption.

    What can LDS, Inc. do now? The Community of Christ has done what can be done as far as creating a safe, sane, responsive, member oriented church on top of the historical Mormon narrative. If you want a kinder, gentler, saner Mormon church, there’s one down the street.

    • St. Ralph June 22, 2016 at 12:40 pm - Reply

      Actually, what most LDS, Inc. members would like is for LDS, Inc. to become the Community of Christ beneath their feet, so that they don’t have to leave anything or anyone. That’s the really horrible part. If the Church would just become the CoC very gradually, but steadily, then all of the people one would have had to piss off eternally by leaving just get swept along by the same groundswell until they are all deposited, as a group, on a sunnier shore without ever having taken a step. Why not?

      • Thomas W Murphy June 22, 2016 at 1:25 pm - Reply

        Thoughtful observation!

        • Boyd Tuttle February 19, 2023 at 10:49 pm - Reply

          Wow, I must have missed this whole episode back in the day. As one who has spent quite a while reading about DNA and population spead combined w intercontinental sea travel, I think the argument posed by T. Murphy (and others) grows weaker by the day. I actually sailed with Captain Philip Beale on the Phoenicia expedition of 2019 that sailed a 600 BC replica merchant vessel from ancient Carthage (Tunisia) to Dominican Republic, then onto Miami Florida. Demonstrating that the ancients were very capable of reaching the new World 2000 years before Columbus. It is featured in Beale’s new book “Atlantic BC.”

          • Maven February 20, 2023 at 12:21 pm

            That’s interesting, Boyd! Just to clarify, the argument you are referring to as growing “weaker by the day” is in regards to transcontinental oceanic travel and NOT what DNA evidence continues to show?

      • Noone June 13, 2020 at 1:19 pm - Reply

        I’m one of those older Mormons, and they haven’t pulled the wool over my eyes at all. I’ve noticed the subtle changes and I am offended by all the lies I’m finding. All of the subtle changes stink to high heaven, and makes all the previous lies and coverups egregious.

    • Coriantumr June 23, 2016 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      There was a Civilization in the New World, just not one that had acquired metal smiting tech until late in the curve.

      • St. Ralph June 23, 2016 at 3:37 pm - Reply

        Yeah, I realized that after I hit “Post Comment,” but alas there is no way to edit posts on this site. I should have said something like, “. . . had there been a parallel civilization,” or something. Thanks for the comment.

    • Robert Hodge June 27, 2016 at 5:39 pm - Reply

      But still a church founded on the basis of an abject fraud.

      • Uncle Ralph June 27, 2016 at 8:58 pm - Reply

        Well, yeah, if you’re talking about golden plates and divine inspiration and stuff. I doubt he even used the “seer stone in the hat” method. My gut feeling is that Rigdon, Cowdery and Smith sat around with a copy of Solomon Spalding’s manuscript and the KJV Bible and pieced the BoM together. I know the Spalding manuscript theory is widely pooh-poohed these days, but I still think that’s how it went down.

  4. Bob June 22, 2016 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Teetering on a crisis?! Not sure why you’re being so kind to the Church. The Church has been engaged in direct fraud from day one and are now getting caught in their multi levels of lies. Just look at the latest remarks of Dieter Uchtdorf claiming that he believes Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon with a rock in a hat?

    Good question…after all of the abuse and deceit and pain, why would you care at all what happens to the LDS Church?

    Not being perfect is one thing. A lifetime of direct and wilful and hurtful fraud is a much different conversation.

    “Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!” Sir Walter Scott,

    • Thomas W Murphy June 22, 2016 at 1:30 pm - Reply

      Bob, my desire is to be charitable even towards those who may not yet exercise the same charity. I have called out lies when I see them, much to the consternation of Daniel Peterson (see my appearance in the Bible vs. the Book of Mormon and Peterson’s responses on You Tube). I continue to state the evidence that the Book of Mormon is not what Joseph Smith claimed it to be. One can still, though, confront deceit charitably.

      • joy June 23, 2016 at 4:25 pm - Reply


        We all would like to act charitably, however, when there is so much pain after SO MANY lies, it is very hard to do so. We have been told that our eternal salvation rests upon something that is built on lies from a boy that was a total fraud. When the church realized that social media and “independent thinking” people were starting to unbury these lies, the lies became deceitful to confuse and switch words around and ultimately excommunicate members that saw the truth and questioned it. We cannot live with our families forever in the celestial heaven unless we embrace the church?? ? Craziness!! God was once a human and we can become Gods if we obey?? That is NOT Christian. Yet, we are told that we follow the bible and we are Christian. It doesn’t make sense and when I read about your studies and that there is no DNA evidence that supports the BOM, it helps. It helps people like me to know that it is just another layer of deception. Why are missionaries still telling investigators that the BOM was translated by “golden plates”? It is because all the pictures still depict this as truth. Also, if they told people about the stone in the hat, they know people would shake their heads. What about the Book of Abraham and the Papyri? It is now PROVEN that JS had no idea how to translate. The papyri didn’t even mention Abraham’s name… yet we are still told that it was written by “the hand of Abraham himself”. WHEN is the church going to stop and start telling the truth?? They are now adding layers to their lies which is so hurtful. It is people like you that have knowledge, have done research and we want to know the truth. We deserve it because it needs to stop with us, not continue with our kids. Our kids will have more resources, advances technology to prove even more that JS was a fraud. The lies need to stop and the truth needs to be heard loud and clear. Thank you for all your efforts.

        • Nobunaga73 June 27, 2016 at 2:03 am - Reply

          I think that the way to find it in your heart to act charitably here is to remind yourself that the Church has been around for nearly two centuries and has created its own insular culture and traditions; today’s Church leaders were themselves (almost exclusively) born into this culture and learned it from their parents, grandparents, neighbors, etc. This isn’t like Heaven’s Gate, or even Scientology, where the foundation occurred within living memory. Church Leaders have been defrauded as well, whether they now realize it or not.

          • Thomas Murphy June 27, 2016 at 10:48 am

            Well-stated Nobunaga73!

          • Noone June 15, 2020 at 3:47 pm

            I don’t think so. Once you hit the payroll and privilege, especially the Q 15 who decide everything, you have to know you’re preaching revelation without revelation. Same as a lie.

      • Robert Hodge June 27, 2016 at 5:41 pm - Reply

        When that deceit has been used to fool masses of innocent people from 1830 to the present day, I find it hard to be charitable.

        • Bob June 28, 2016 at 5:16 pm - Reply

          There comes a time when we need to reserve our charity and kindness for those who deserve it. To continue to be kind to those who are criminals only serves to give us more of the treatment they’re used to dishing out.

          Time to cut out the cancer before it does any more damage.

        • Noone May 16, 2020 at 8:50 pm - Reply

          Especially with aim being money and control.

  5. Monkeyking June 22, 2016 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    Thank you for such a great podcast. I eagerly await the posting of the other parts. I have been considering and studying many of the topics covered so far. In particular the origin of the Book of Mormon.

    I agree that Book of Mormon is definitely the product of Joseph Smith’s time and understanding of the world. Which is what I would expect, because Joseph Smith was clearly not doing what we today would consider a “translation” of an ancient record. I have read many critiques on the Book of Mormon and reviewed the various assertions as to the origins and content and have not yet found any which, for me, point to a real source material. Many assert various other texts as boing source material but when I compare them they are at best books on the same theme. All they really show is that many authors of that time period were writing fictions about the Origins of the indigenous people of the Americas.

    Because of that I have been doing some independent research and have come across one source which ignited a theory which I am hopeful Dr. Murphy would be kind enough to address, if it has any merit.

    There is a book that I found: Speeches Delivered by Several Indian Chiefs, also, An Extract of a Letter from an Indian Chief Printed by Samuel Wood (NEW-YORK: 1812)
    The speeches in this book have profoundly affected the way in which I perceive the people of the First Nations. In addition to enlightening me as to those people it also seems to me as a possible source of inspiration to J.S. to write the Book of Mormon and formulate some of the distinctive doctrines of the L.D.S. religion. The Book of Mormon seems to be a direct answer to one of the challenges raised in the book:

    “We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us as well as you, why has not the great Spirit given to us, and not only to us, but why did he not give to our forefathers, the knowledge of that book, with the means of understanding it rightly?”

    Is that not what the Book of Mormon Claims to be? A record of the forefathers of the First Nations to be given to their decedents translated so that they can understand it. As I go through the speeches in the book I finds the unique teachings of J.S. to be answers to the challenges to Christianity that were raised. Considering that these speeches were given, some in 1805 in Buffalo Creek, NY and others about 1809 in Seneca Falls, NY. I expect that even if J.S. didn’t read this book those speeches were available and a subject of discussion regarding spreading Christianity to the native peoples in that area.

    • Thomas W Murphy June 22, 2016 at 1:38 pm - Reply

      What a fascinating reply to see! I think you’re onto something and headed in similar directions to my current research. The paper I shared at the BYU seminar that brought me to Utah specifically addressed Red Jacket’s response to Rev. Crum that you’ve quoted. Following the lead of the historian Lori Taylor and the religious studies scholar Peter Manseau I trace the connection of Red Jacket to Palmyra just months before the uncovering of the gold plates. The probable Iroquois influence goes much deeper than these speeches I would contend but my forthcoming paper emphasizes the importance of recognizing the ways that the Book of Mormon differs from Iroquois thought, especially that beyond the prophet Handsome Lake. There is much more to come soon on these topics. A little more of a preview on these topics is also available in my Color of Heaven podcast interview:

    • miles davis June 23, 2016 at 10:47 pm - Reply

      You write, “Many assert various other texts as boing source material.”

      Correcting your typo, I think you mean, “Many assert various other texts as boring source material”

  6. Andrea June 22, 2016 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Just a little tidbit- Alexis de Toqueville wrote about the commonly held belief of an advanced civilization being wiped out by the native americans in his study of the US written before the civil war called Democracy in America.

    • St. Ralph June 22, 2016 at 4:04 pm - Reply

      “Wiped out” I might believe, but every last trace of them removed from the face of the earth as if a Mafia “cleaner” had gone over the entire continent? We don’t need an inventory of what was here so much as we need an explanation of how it vanished so completely.

      • Thomas W Murphy June 22, 2016 at 4:53 pm - Reply

        As I briefly discussed in the podcast these myths of an ancient white race of mound builders blossomed in the aftermath of the American Revolution as a convenient justification for the violence that settler colonists were inflicting upon Native peoples. By positing the idea that the ancestors of the American Indians had only recently engaged in a war of extermination against an ancient white civilization then settler colonists could ease their own guilt over the current atrocities. I would highly recommend that more Mormons pay attention to the writings of Seneca descendant Barbara Alice Mann on this subject, particularly her book Native Americans, Archaeologists, and the Mounds.

        • Coriantumr June 23, 2016 at 3:55 pm - Reply

          I do have a problem with that proposition. The North East has a slightly different history than in South and the South West in Native American treatment of populations [The Americas were, by definition, sort of an empty land so in my opinion NO ONE is Native] but generally the early Colonials did see the Native Americans they encountered as being in the savage stage. Your own ancestors, the Iroquois and their Confederation [so pivotal for The 13 Colonies Independence] were masterful manipulators and politicians and even today I still have to see a good reference in a general 101 college course of History of the United States a good reference to them. My daughter took 2 semesters without any reference to this fact. The Brits had in fact fallen in the 10 lost tribes of Israel bandwagon since the 17th century. The Spaniards were no better, but more coy in the way they imposed themselves over an already established power structure as opposed to the Brits. For the Brits a Malthusian solution was always the preferred method. The French generally had a land colony without a critical mass of White population. As such both French and Spanish had more interracial marriages than the Brits. The early colonials had always in mind that the people they lived side by side with, nor the people they read about in books from Spanish and early Brits explorers away in the south were capable of doing any buildings or had any skill higher than a hunter gatherer. The Book of Mormon just became a novel hit in the early 19th century confirming a cozy and well conceived “fact”. Their conscience never needed an Advil with rum to feel good with their philosophy. Just own it and move on.

          • Thomas Murphy June 23, 2016 at 11:13 pm


            Undoubtedly, various Indigenous populations experienced colonialism differently. There are significant differences between Spanish, French, Dutch, English, and EuroAmerican versions of colonialism. It is a common practice of EuroAmerican colonialism to attempt to deny autochthonous status to the people colonialists encountered here. The Book of Mormon’s claim that American Indians were recent immigrants from Israel is one example. Your claim that “NO One is Native,” if I’ve understood you correctly, is yet another example. Regardless of what opinion you may have, the Americas were not an “empty land” and the DNA evidence that got me in trouble with the LDS Church has soundly landed on the side of supporting Indigenous claims to have been here “since time immemorial.”

  7. robert bridgstock June 23, 2016 at 2:19 am - Reply

    Loved this interview. Dr Murphy, when John (toward the end) seemed slightly frustrated that you did not condemn the ‘fraud’ but rather talked about other alternatives to just black and white acceptance or rejection. You spoke with compassion about accepting Joseph Smith’s human weaknesses; our own weaknesses; honouring our ancestors, etc. I feel like John – I have felt so much anger at the fraud. I was a convert member from 18 and live in England. I was a dedicated member and one time Bishop as well as Branch President, but I was excommunicated when I was 59 (2006)
    I want to ask you a pretty simple question: I do not see general human weakness, which is forgivable and understandable – being the same as the determined, ongoing perpetuation of a fraud? To me, it would have been fine if Joseph had moments of lust, anger, jealousy or greed, but to deliberately invent a false, untrue claim and then to ‘use’ and ‘abuse’ peoples’ gullible belief to sustain various benefits to himself without regret, to the grave, is beyond acceptable and ‘normal’ human weakness. Having said that, I absolutely love and feel inspired by you charity – your love and spirit. So here’s the question: Do you feel the same about the ‘con man’ you identified in your employment history – when you were young, as you do about Joseph Smith – both were con men, deliberately exploiting ordinary people?

    • Thomas W Murphy June 23, 2016 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      I’m copying and pasting my responses on Facebook for those only reading this forum.

      That’s an excellent question, difficult to answer in this forum. I do feel some charity for John Curtis, the con man in my youth. Even he did some things that helped protect me from worse consequences of his fraud. For example, he declined a business partnership that could have made me liable for some of his exploits, opting for a contract instead that he paid on until he disappeared. He, too, was human in all its complexity.

      I see Joseph Smith as something like a trickster in Native traditions. Tricksters break social norms in flagrant ways but those flaws can have both creative and tragic consequences often at the same time. They are bumbling fools. It is in that context that I see the fraud of both John and Joseph.

  8. tropical animal June 23, 2016 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    You mention “we have been colonized” and that you have a program with a mission to “un-colonize” us. Would you tell us more about your “un-colonization” program and give us a reference for more information. Been thinking of how Europeans, with their conquest and ethnic cleansing of the World, wipe out and replace the human pattern. And in the process, also wipe out the human.

    And thus today, the human (what we are) and the human pattern (how we are programmed to live) have vanished and have been lost by our civilization. Thus today, we live a fake and superficial inhuman existence defined (not by what we are) but by and for the purposes and aims of the hierarchical institutions of our civilization.

    And thus today, we live alone and lonely as strangers in a fake, superficial existence, in a fake mass indifferent society. In our institutionally correct existence, we haven’t a clue as to what it really means to be human.

    We group mammals are not programmed to live this way.

    Even our psychology is half-assed and incomplete because it is missing the basic human pattern we lived for millions of years.

    I feel we need to return to the human and the human pattern, perhaps like you suggest. We have been
    “colonized” and we need a program to “un-colonize” us humans.

    And by the way, I appreciate your pioneering documentation on native DNA.

    When my third great grandfather was called by Brigham Young on a Mission to the Lamanites.
    Everyone knew exactly who they were and where they were.

    But today: Lamanites? Yeah, they gotta be somewhere, we just haven’t found em yet.

    But I don’t think you’re going to find Jewish DNA in ficticious characters created by Joseph’s imagination.

    Love you all. But don’t tell anyone where you saw me. OK?

    • Thomas W Murphy June 23, 2016 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      I do not know that I would say that I have a mission to decolonize anyone. Missions are themselves colonial tools useful for advancing or imposing a particular point of view on a people presumed to lack something that we have to offer. My hope is to move beyond cultural assumptions that I have something that you lack and that you ought to emulate me (or vice versa). This missionary impulse, just like the concepts of good and evil or truth and fraud, is part of the problem. I hope not to reproduce it in my work.

      It would be more accurate to say that my research is inspired by decolonization theory and methodology. In my doctoral dissertation ( I attempt, somewhat imperfectly, to move Indigenous voices to the center of analysis. I attempt to reconsider Mormonism and particularly ideas about Lamanites from Indigenous perspectives. Mormon Studies, as an academic field, did not yet seem to have a place for the centering of Indigenous voices. I tried to articulate this problem the best that I could at the time, but I’m not sure I succeeded in overcoming it. You can see my struggle to do this in my article, “Other Mormon Histories: Lamanite Subjectivity in Mexico” (

      Since I wrote these pieces fourteen years ago the field of decolonization and developed significantly. It is a complex field and difficult to summarize in a few paragraphs. I would recommend viewing the video below by Dr. Michael Yellow Bird for a great audio/video introduction to decolonization.

  9. Thomas W Murphy June 23, 2016 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    I have been reflecting on what might make my perspective difficult for some viewers to understand. My thinking has been deeply influenced by my work in Indigenous communities. I have long since jettisoned a view of the world as divided between good and evil forces. Instead of trying to rid the world of so-called “evil” or fraud in the discussion above I prefer an approach that seeks a balance.

    Fraud has consequences, for sure, but I don’t think all of Joseph Smith’s actions were fraudulent. I suspect that he perceived his visions, dreams, and inspiration as real. I think he tended to place too much trust in them and thus had difficulty recognizing when his own wish-fulfillment surfaced. The Book of Mormon and his own stories, though, have moments of self-conscious doubt. In my scholarship such as “Sin, Skin, and Seed: Mistakes of Men in the Book of Mormon” ( I highlight that self-consciousness, those moments when he seemed to recognize more clearly his own limitations. In my forthcoming scholarship I examine this tendency more deeply, particularly when he gives deference to presumed Indigenous perspectives.

    By bringing these moments of greater clarity into focus, I hope to discourage the type of blind faith that makes people so susceptible to fraud. One of the things that I learned by being duped by a con artist was to think more critically about my own complicity in that action. I wanted the con artists’ promises to be true and I let clues that in retrospect seem so obvious slip by without a second thought. I am not trying to blame the victim here but I do think it is worth considering that some of our behaviors, particularly as believers, can contribute to duplicity. If we see ourselves today as simply good and Joseph Smith as simply evil then I think we miss the complexity of human interactions.

    People do not become prophets and seers simply because they want to. There is a social dynamic at play between the prophet and those who follow her or him. The prophet certainly has self-motivations but also must be responsive to that which others wish to gain from her or him. These social dynamics are much more readily apparent in Indigenous narratives such as those of tricksters. Indigenous protagonists cannot be placed into categories of good and evil. The social dynamics between prophets and followers are not as obvious in Christian narratives that seem to separate the world into good and evil. If we see or portray Joseph Smith just as evil or only as fraudulent then I think we’re missing a significant portion of his complexity. I think he genuinely believed that he was doing good and that was a significant part of what made him so dangerous!

    • Monkeyking June 23, 2016 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      I wanted to thank you again for the additional readings you gave me. I had thought to post it above but after reading this response I had to thank you for your insight and perspective in the above response. It is so good to hear from someone who is able to talk about these topics without taking sides. I have yet to find a forum to discuss J.S. and the early church without others immediately either trying to defend J.S. and the church or tear him down.

      It seems that many who are raised in Mormonism (both in and out of the church) have something akin to BPD that is triggered when discussing religion. It is all good and has always been good or it is evil and has always been evil and if you try and talk about something in-between they just get louder. To them either Joseph Smith was a pedophile fraudster or a divinely inspired saint who was justified in every action he ever took. Why not a sincere man trying integrate parts of various religious traditions in hopes of creating a utopian society who struggled with self-delusion and self-control just like the rest of us?

      On another note, based on doing some genealogy and discovering that a relative who was a semi-prominent early church member was raised in the Ephrata Cloister and may have also lived in the Harmony Society prior to joining the church, I have been looking into Radical Pietism and there appears to several doctrines which were adopted into the church. What I am wondering is if anyone has written on that topic, and if so, if you could point me in the right direction?

      • Thomas Murphy June 23, 2016 at 8:12 pm - Reply

        If you’re not already familiar with D. Michael Quinn’s Early Mormonism and the Magic World View and John Brooke’s The Refiner’s Fire then these books are great places to start.

        You might also enjoy a critique of some of Quinn’s work from a blog on the Ephrata Cloister at the link below.

    • EET June 23, 2016 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      Thomas and John,

      Thank you for your interview. I look forward to the next segment. I also appreciate other’s great comments. Slowly but surely, these efforts will be good in the long run….even though, the evolution to truth seems painfully slow and almost unnoticeable in our own lifetimes. Regardless, we can at least live the 13th article of Faith, in the mean time, and make the most of seeking after the good things in life.

      Your last paragraph above, talked about the dynamics between the prophets and the followers. It seems to me, that in the church, this dynamic is much more heavily weighted, in favor of perpetuating the well-being and image of the leaders…”prophets, seers, and revelators”, rather than desire of individuals to be true to themselves, their questions, doubts, and personal integrity….much in the way that Tropical Animal, commented earlier.

      For example, the church perpetuates the image of the leaders as “prophet, seers and revelators”, by a built in question in the Temple recommend interview. If we want to see our children, relatives, or good friends married in the Temple, we must sustain the top leaders as “prophets, seers, and revelators”, or else we miss one of the most important events and celebrations in this life. Perhaps you may recall, when Pres. Hinkley, was interviewed by Larry King, and King asked him if he, Hinkley, believed himself to be a prophet, and he replied, something to the effect, “that is how our members, sustain me”. Well, its not that simple, is it?…We must sustain them as such, if we want to participate in such a fundamental joy in life, as the wedding of a loved one. This is part of the pain, that so many people refer to….this odd “dynamic” where we have to surrender personal integrity, to participate, in a sense, a “self perpetuation” of the image of “prophet, seers and revelators”. It creates the dynamic of either you are all in or you are out.

      • Thomas Murphy June 23, 2016 at 11:01 pm - Reply

        I would agree that the LDS Church seems structured to benefit the people at the top at the expense of most everyone else. I also have felt the pain of exclusion from family weddings all too personally. Yet, we do have some choice in the matter. We can choose not to sustain the current leaders of the church, not to attend, or not to pay tithing to an institution that works against the morality that even its leadership preaches. We need to speak out, to share our frustrations, tell our truths.

        I suppose I speak from a position of some privilege. I stopped attending more than twenty years ago. My immediate family and the vast majority of my extended family have also left so I don’t experience the exclusion as often. I also live outside of Utah and Idaho. I was fortunate. I stood up to the church and it backed down, even changed the introduction to the Book of Mormon. I realize that circumstances beyond my control put me in this place to have these experiences. They undoubtedly contribute to and limit my perspective.

        I do not want to douse anyone else’s anger, frustration, or sense of betrayal. I recognize your experiences as equally valid to my own. I appreciate the thoughts all of you have shared in an effort to engage me in dialogue. I simply want to own who I am, where I am at now in my life, and what I believe. I’ve been able to let the anger and much of the pain go, but that did not come quickly or easily. If you read my dissertation ( or my essay “Double Helix”( you will find the pain and anger barely concealed between the lines.

        My ability to let it go was aided, in part, by stepping away from Mormonism for a dozen years and from the guidance of Coast Salish elders and careful study of the wisdom of Haunenosaunee traditions. I have been very fortunate to have those experiences, to have a career where I am free to engage deeply in Indigenous traditions, and to have traveled the path that life has given me.

        I encourage those who feel betrayed, harmed, and hurt to share your pain. Express it clearly and forthrightly. You need to be heard if change is to happen, both in your own lives and in that of the church.

        • EET June 24, 2016 at 3:11 pm - Reply


          Thanks for your reply. I totally agree that we do have a choice in the matter, and I appreciate your understanding that those choices in regards to “speaking up”, etc. are not so easy with the big picture of family, children enjoying church activities, and other loved ones that you don’t want to hurt. It sounds to me that you have tried to approach these issues with sensitivity, respect, and charity, as we a trying to do as well….I hope many can learn from your manner and approach to these problems….realizing that everyone is at different stages in life and that it takes time to take it all in.

          My wife and I just got home to California yesterday, from dropping off our youngest daughter to BYU Provo, for her first semester of college….she was so excited, and already having a wonderful time, as I did, many years ago at BYU. She understands that I question many things with the church, even as I support her in her activities with the church….letting her have experiences and figure things out on her own, without too much preaching from Dad. Yesterday, she called me, to ask what questions she should ask her Book of Mormon class teacher, after the teacher had asked the students to bring him any questions they have about the Book of Mormon. There certainly has been a storm brewing, and the teachers know these things need to be discussed. I told her to ask about the DNA problems, plagiarism, and lack of scientific evidences, etc.

          Thanks again for your time and research.


  10. Linda Easthope June 23, 2016 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Supremely intelligent. Progressive. Compelling. And yes, faith promoting in its own way. Thank you.

    • Thomas Murphy June 23, 2016 at 8:23 pm - Reply

      You’re most welcome! I haven’t heard “faith promoting” yet as a description of my work. My mother would be impressed. She told me at our last Thanksgiving dinner that she believed that I would one day “prove the Book of Mormon true.” Initially, I thought, how naive! Yet, on further contemplation I could see how someone might take my current work that is just trying to justly and fairly honor all of my ancestors as some sort of neo-apologetic, or “faith promoting in its own way.” Further food for thought.

      • Linda Easthope June 23, 2016 at 11:03 pm - Reply

        Neo-apologetic? Not at all. This points to a faith that reaches beyond culture, history and truth claims. By calmly facing the facts and discarding the old, flawed narratives, you leave room for light to enter. Your mother has every reason to be proud of you.

  11. Ryan June 23, 2016 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed the discussion about Dr. Murphy’s temple sealing. I too experienced a sealing to a crying baby. (My daughter was about 9 months old and was not happy about being restrained for the ritual.) It was incredibly uncomfortable for me to restrain her, but as was noted by the temple patron who talked to Dr. Murphy, it had to be done (as far as I knew at the time, I suppose). It illustrates a major problem with the LDS church: it can motivate otherwise good and well meaning people to treat others poorly.

  12. Clint June 23, 2016 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    I did not listen to this interview so please forgive me. But right off the bat I’ve got a problem as I read the introductory summary. DNA evidence does not disprove the historical claims of the Book of Mormon. Perhaps it disproves what Joseph Smith said about it. He claimed the Native Americans were descendants of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon itself does not make that claim. And that my friends is a big distinction. I happen to believe the Book of Mormon is a book that came from God but Joseph Smith did not have authority from God to do anything beyond that. I do not believe he was a true prophet. He was to “pretend to no gift” beyond the translation of the Book of Mormon. He was not authorized to establish a church nor was he to be ordained as prophet, seer, and revelator. Please see these two posts to see how Joseph altered the contents of section 4 of the Book of Commandments that is section 5 of the current Doctrine and Covenants:

    • Thomas Murphy June 23, 2016 at 11:03 pm - Reply

      Clint, let me know what you think after you have had a chance to listen to the podcast.

  13. Thomas Murphy June 23, 2016 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    Ryan, on one hand I’m glad to hear that I wasn’t the only one to have such experiences. On the other hand, I’m appalled that I wasn’t the only one to have to restrain a crying child on the altar in the temple. It just brings frightening images of Jacob and Isaac to my mind and opens scars of domestic abuse from my own childhood. I am sorry that you too have had to suffer similar pain.

    • Ryan June 24, 2016 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Dr. Murphy. I, having a different childhood experience, can only imagine that your sealing experience was different in meaningful ways from mine, but similar in some. I appreciate your willingness to share your own experience and your vulnerability in do so. I had not thought about my sealing the 5 years since my sealing, and your story has helped me significantly reframe my own experience. I too am sorry that you or I (and most certainly others) have experienced that or anything like it. It strengthens my resolve as I work with my spouse, who is (at the moment) still interested in remaining active LDS. Thank you for this wonderful interview! I look forward to the additional episodes in the future and look forward to reading my copy of American Apocrypha, which I have ordered.

  14. Kay June 23, 2016 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    The Dr. said that the core message in the BoM is that God speaks to everyone, and in their own language. This sort of assessment really upsets me because it is simply modern progressives projecting their own morality into the story.

    The actual story is sending the opposite message. God is speaking in the BoM story to the same people he spoke to in the bible. Actually, he is speaking to a WHITER version of the Jews of the bible, because Joseph Smith is very insistent in his narrative that these people are WHITE AND DELIGHTSOME. They are not the historical Middle Eastern Israelites.

    The story is VERY EXPLICIT in its racism: White skin is good, dark skin is bad.

    And the absence of any female narratives is laughable, and, to me at least, one of the biggest clues that the book is the invention of one ignorant 19th century farm boy and con artists.

    Even the most male domineering, sexist and oppressive societies in human history could not avoid writing about their women. Whether those stories are defamatory or glowing, they are there in the cultural, mythological and religious miles of even race, ethnic group and nation of people. Yet we are suppose to believe that over thousands of years of recorded history of BoM civilization not one woman is worthy of being called by name or noted in any serious way. Not one woman did anything uniques, courageous or even scandalous?

    This whole thing is a bad joke and con, and trying to redeem it is a futile and DISHONEST endeavor.

    • Kay June 23, 2016 at 11:43 pm - Reply

      I wish there was an edit button.

  15. Thomas Murphy June 23, 2016 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    Kay, you’ve only heard a small portion of my argument and the evidence behind the idea that the Creator (Divinity, God, Manitou, the Great Mystery, or whatever term one may prefer) speaks to everyone in their own terms. There is much more to the argument that may surprise you, particularly in the way that it ties back to the voices of the Gantowisas (Iroquois clan mothers). Before I offer more details, let me be clear that I am arguing that this is “the radical message” of the Book of Mormon, not necessarily its core message. I am challenging believers and doubters to take that radical message more seriously. I am not white washing or dismissing the problems with the Book of Mormon.

    I agree that the central message of the BoM and the one that people are paying most attention to is the opposite. I’ve spent a significant amount of time and effort attempting to destabilize that central perspective. I agree that the Book of Mormon’s sexism and racism are integral to the text and repugnant at the same time. I have argued that these are “mistakes of men” that must be jettisoned (see I agree that the absence of voices from women is scandalous as you’ve also contended.

    That said, the radical message that the Creator speaks to people according to their own language and understanding may very well have originated with the voices of the Gantowisas (Iroquois clam mothers). This is a complex argument that is fully spelled out in the article I shared at the BYU seminar discussed in the podcast. A shorter, oral version of the argument also appears in my podcast on Feminist Mormon Housewives ( But, here’s a succinct summary without the extensive set of footnotes and documentation behind the argument.

    In the forthcoming article I look deeply into the claims of Iroquois influence on the Book of Mormon. While I acknowledge the many parallels between the two traditions I emphasize the differences that are often overlooked in the debate. In particular, I emphasize the leading role that women play in traditional Haudenosaunee society and especially in dream interpretation. I contrast Lehi’s dismissal of Sarah’s critique of his dream with the central role that Gantowisas play in the interpretation of dreams in Iroquois tradition. I also acknowledge the similarities between the Great Peace of Iroquois tradition and the climax of Jesus’ appearance in 3 Nephi. While there are similarities with the Book of Mormon, in Iroquois traditions the Peacemaker did not act alone but collaborated with the Mother of Nations without whose involvement equality and peace would not have been established. The most striking component of Iroquois traditions absent from the Book of Mormon is the central role that women play in Haudenosaunee tradition and society. This is indeed scandalous!

    How do I propose that the voices of the Gantowisas actually may have made it into the Book of Mormon? During Joseph Smith’s lifetime (and that of his parents) Red Jacket was a Seneca orator whose role was to be the spokesperson for the Gantowisas. In that role he gave several speeches in which he clearly articulated the idea that Haudenosaunee people had their own religion, according to their own understanding, that was sufficient on its own terms without Christianity. Some of his speeches, especially his response to Rev. Crum (see MonkeyKing’s link above), were the among the most widely reprinted speeches during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Not only that, but Red Jacket appeared in Palmyra and gave a similar speech shortly before Joseph Smith claimed to have found the gold plates (making the connection in time and place quite tight). While I am not the first scholar to point out the correlations between Red Jacket’s speech and the timing of Joseph Smith’s gold plate story, I have pointed out what other scholars have overlooked. Red Jacket was not speaking as a man. His social role was to speak the words of the women who told him what to say. These ideas were theirs, not necessarily his (he may have agreed with them but his role was not to share his point of view but theirs). If he deviated from their instructions then they removed his privileges as a spokesperson (which did happen at one point in his life).

    When one has been in as many Indigenous ceremonial and diplomatic contexts as I have then this social context is obvious. But to those who haven’t lived in Indigenous communities or seen women tell the men what to say in these contexts it is easy to overlook. The evidence that this is what was happening is not just a product of my own lived experience in modern times but the historical record provides clear evidence that this was Red Jacket’s role at that time and place. So, when I claim that this is an inspired message I am crediting the Gantowisas with that inspiration, delivered to Joseph Smith via Red Jacket as a spokesperson. I am not sanitizing the Book of Mormon, I am inviting Mormons to consider the fact that the Gantowisas might have something to say that is important and culturally relevant even today.

    • Linda Easthope June 28, 2016 at 11:35 pm - Reply

      Having reviewed both this episode and the one from FMH referenced above, what stays with me is not the DNA or the theft of the Native American story, although both are compelling. Rather, it is the words of the Grandmothers through Red Jacket. For decades we were taught that the Book of Mormon is the answer, but we had forgotten the question. Red Jacket: “Why has not the Great Spirit given to us … the knowledge of that book [the Bible]…?” Within this historical context, we can understand an idealistic young Joseph’s motivation to begin work on the Book of Mormon. Here was a way to reach out with Christian love to the disenfranchised, taking into account the worldview of the times. Somewhat ironically, understanding the context and accepting the book for what it is frees me to look again at its contents, to seek out the good contained within. This is a most welcome outcome, but not one I would have expected.

      • Thomas Murphy June 29, 2016 at 11:49 am - Reply

        Linda, your response and summary really gets at the core of the issue for me too. The questions that Joseph Smith was asking are more compelling than the answers he proffered. In fact, the questions remain relevant today and worthy of continued pondering and investigation in the information age. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  16. Adam June 24, 2016 at 2:03 pm - Reply


    Thank you for sharing your story and your research.

    I probably have a different view than most that have left the church, but I have a strong testimony that the Book of Mormon is true. I actually had my name removed from the church because it declares doctrines that are outside of Jesus’ simple doctrine in the Book of Mormon and Bible.

    I agree with what Clint said above. The Book of Mormon itself makes no claim of what people it is talking about, and where they actually lived. So any DNA evidence would only prove Joseph Smith wrong, it would not prove the Book of Mormon is not true.

    Joseph was given one gift, and that was to translate the Book of Mormon. Almost everything that came after that from Joseph was NOT of God, and many of Joseph’s claims have been proven wrong.

    The Book of Mormon and the doctrines set forth in it agree with the doctrines in the Bible. The doctrines in the Mormon church, however, do NOT agree with the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

    I wish you all the best in your search for the truth.

    • Thomas Murphy June 29, 2016 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      Adam, thanks and best wishes in your pursuit of truth as well!

  17. David June 26, 2016 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    Very enjoyable podcast…

    You mentioned, Joseph Smith’s grandson using peyote, while president of the reorganized Church. I’ve always wondered if Joseph Smith and his closest followers used any kind of hallucinogens. Is there any evidence that they did?

    Thanks, I look forward to your further podcasts.

    • Thomas Murphy June 27, 2016 at 9:30 am - Reply


      I’m not aware of evidence that Joseph Smith used peyote or other hallucinogens. I’ve also not really investigated that question. I certainly think it is possible but not necessary. My undergraduate honors thesis on peyote was published by the Peyote Way Church of God and is available for a free download from the link below. Just be aware that it is in two parts and thus two files. To read the second part you need to go up to the section of the page that says files and select the second file which you then need to download.

  18. Emma June 27, 2016 at 12:34 am - Reply

    Thomas reminds me of Witherspoon and bushman, even though he knew the book of Mormon is not true he wouldn’t admit the Joseph Smith was a liar
    Seems like he was defending jSmith and I wonder if he just doesn’t have the facts about what Smith said and did ? yet it is clear that he is very educated . How could he not know the facts
    I don’t think people are being honest when they have the facts showing Smith was not a prophet of God But they won’t admit i how disturbing it is that millions of people believe the lies
    And these lies have caused so much pain and guilt and fear
    John tell me why do people do this ?? Are they afraid they will be excommunicated if they do ?

  19. Emma June 27, 2016 at 12:54 am - Reply

    I just posted a comment about Thomas’s refusal to admit Joseph Smith was a liar and Caused so much pain fear and guilt
    I would like to ask Thomas to answer the question —?? why is he defending a person who Has lied consistently about Almost Everything he did
    And by doing so has hurt many many people ???

    • Thomas Murphy June 27, 2016 at 9:25 am - Reply

      Emma, I do not recall refusing to admit Joseph Smith lied. I am pretty clearly on the record acknowledging his deceit and that of Mormon apologists in the documentary films, “DNA vs. the Book of Mormon,” and the “Bible vs. the Book of Mormon.” My position on that has not changed. I do not recall John asking me about whether or not I thought Joseph Smith had lied but I will state clearly here that I believed he lied on multiple occasions. Some of the more problematic times include his claim to have possessed gold plates and his lies to Emma Smith about his relationships with other women. My point in the film was that Joseph Smith was human and thus subject to the same flaws and limitations as the rest of us.

      My intent with this emphasis is two fold. First, I want to remind Mormons that they tend to expect too much of him. He never was and could have been perfect or anything close to it. Second, I want to draw scholarly attention to those cues that he was aware of his own limitations, even his own deceptions. He admits that the Book of Mormon contains “mistake of men,” grammatically changed today to “mistakes of men.” The Book of Mormon also contains acknowledgements that its message is limited and culturally bound. Just like a mother can read the cues on her child’s face that s/he is lying. We can learn to read the cues in the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith’s own awareness of his deceptions and the limits of his understanding.

      • Bob June 27, 2016 at 9:51 am - Reply

        It’s one thing to make an honest mistake. No one is being faulted for that.
        But Joseph Smith and the LDS Church has been built on a foundation of fraud with the intent of misleading people since day 1. They’ve even hired artists to create art to promote their story.
        That’s why the Church is embroiled in scandal all the time and they seem to have a ready excuse for why things didn’t turn out which they quickly bury from view.

        The temple.. Church leaders had once said that the temple ceremony would never change…yet they have.

        Prop 8. I saw Ballard say publicly after prop 8 passed say in an interview “Well we know what the Lord wants.” Given the entire country now has approved LGBT marriage, so much for the Church’s efforts to promote the traditional definition of marriage.

        The DNA efforts has had them change their entire narrative about who the Lamanites were. Instead of being the principal people who were descendants were all of the American Indians, Polynesians, etc are now just a small colony who’s DNA has been lost in the larger groups of people who were already here.

        Now they admit Joseph Smith had translated the Book of Mormon with a rock in a hat instead of with the gold plates.

        Recent “revelations” of excluding the children of LGBT couples who have to reject their parents lifestyles or the idea that a young teenage woman would be required to be locked up in a room with a middle aged man (a bishop) discussing her sexual activity as a way of determining her worthiness and not think this was wrong show the complete lack of awareness of the Church is telling of just how “inspired” the leaders really are.

        Even now as the Church has provided articles of limited accuracy on their website shows the continued effort to mislead the people until they are forced to is telling of the view and perspective of the Church “leaders”. They rely on Church historians and so called intellects to write these articles. If the leaders are directed by God, why aren’t they giving revelations that lead the Church?

        People have to go through such mental gymnastics and have to sacrifice their integrity to stay in the Church. Members have been raised with it because of the level of brainwashing.

        • Thomas Murphy June 27, 2016 at 2:47 pm - Reply

          Bob, I’m not quite sure I see the connection between your list of church scandals and my podcast interview. Perhaps, it is just the venting that you need to share. For that I applaud and appreciate your sharing.

          I hope I made it clear in the interview that I have been completely out of the LDS Church for nearly 25 years and that I cycled between sporadic activity and inactivity for the seven years prior to that. I was on my way out at 16 years of age because I couldn’t accept the abuse I witnessed in seminary. I later would find the Joseph Smith story to be far from convincing and would recoil at the racism, sexism, and homophobia I found incompatible with my personal sense of morality.

          I would never encourage people to engage in “mental gymnastics” or “to sacrifice their integrity to stay in the Church.” I could not do it myself, so why would I want to encourage that behavior in others?

          A significant amount of my scholarly career has helped expose some of the problems you have listed. I have recently returned to Mormon Studies as an academic field (definitely not to activity in the LDS Church) because it is clear that more work in addressing the LDS Church’s racism, sexism, and homophobia needs to be done. This work can be done compassionately and charitably. I hope I have modeled that approach in the interviews but please do not confuse my kindness with any sort of endorsement of Joseph Smith or the LDS Church.

          • Bob June 28, 2016 at 2:53 pm

            I listened to your interview, and what I take issue with is any attempt to cut Joseph Smith any slack at all as it pertains to his deceitful and criminal behavior. The guy was a crook from the get go.

            Any effort to suggest he was simply a human simply making “mistakes” is ridiculous.

            That’s when I hear Uchtdorf suggesting in general conference that some of the so called “leaders” were making mistakes to me is more calculated deceit. A simple mistake is one thing. Deliberate fraud is intentional and given it was discussed among them and continuous isn’t simple either.

            If you read the essays the Church now puts on it’s website, those who know the true history of the Church can see instantly that the essays are incomplete and misleading. Further, they’re difficult to find and are sufficient so as to say
            “we’ve written something”. For a Church supposedly led by men who receive “divine revelation”, we can’t be certain who wrote them since there’s no byline or identification of authorship which raises another question. Why not? Aren’t the apostles and prophets suppose to be leading the Church?

            When a Dallin Oaks says “members aren’t suppose to criticize the leaders even if they’re wrong”, that tells me they think they’re a law unto themselves and above scrutiny.

            Given their continuous criminal and deceitful behavior they don’t deserve kindness.

  20. Thomas Murphy June 27, 2016 at 9:33 am - Reply

    I have had questions about the film “In Laman’s Terms.” It, sadly, is no longer accessible at Culture Unplugged. It is available, though, for purchase from the Native Voices program at the University of Washington. For a small price you can support Native Voices and get a copy of an excellent film. Details are available at the link below.

  21. Doubting Thomas June 27, 2016 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    Great stuff Tom! I enjoyed this very much and I learned a great deal. My conclusion about Joseph is this: He took from everything around him and had no original thought on the topic of religion or deity. If I am wrong I’d love to bet corrected.

    Again thank you.


    • Thomas Murphy June 29, 2016 at 12:03 pm - Reply

      Tom, perhaps his original contribution was giving his interpretations of the ideas of the day the stamp of scripture.

  22. Emma June 28, 2016 at 3:09 am - Reply

    It was clear that you were saying we shouldn’t judge JS too harshly because he is only human–
    But the point is smith made it clear that he was a prophet of God and the doctrine and scriptures were revelations directed by God
    This is the issue
    Will you admit he was a false prophet and that the doctrine and scriptures were based on lies?
    Let an average man write say and do what he chooses–but if he claims to speak for God we must have a higher godly standard than you suggest
    We are taught we must believe and do what JS taught–and because people believe he is a prophet they have been deceived
    Thomas-speak the truth and admit that he and His doctrine and scriptures were based on lies and therefore have hurt many people
    This is not excusable as you want us to believe
    We are not talking about one mans right to his opinion or right to make a few mistakes
    We are talking about a man claiming to speak the truth as directed by intimate contact with God himself
    It is not excusable — and when are we going to hold him accountable for immeasurable Fear guilt and pain he causes everyday to those who still believe his lies and believe he was a prophet
    He was not even an average good person–he loved his position of power and authority and used it for
    His own gratification– and used and misled innocent trusting men and women– especially women
    We must not say — well he was only human so it is ok……he was not a good person as hard as it is to admit

    • Thomas Murphy June 28, 2016 at 10:08 am - Reply


      Thank you for engaging in further conversation. I feel the pain that you express in response to the betrayals inherent in the differences between what Joseph Smith claimed to be and what he actually did. He clearly had too much pride in himself and took advantage of people in the process. He expected way too much of his ability to discern history via seer stones. It is now abundantly clear that he was not capable of what he claimed to be doing, producing historical accounts via the seer stones, inspiration, revelation (or whatever one might want to call it). There is compelling evidence that Joseph Smith used lies and deceptions as part of his ministry and abused people, especially young women, in the process.

      There should be much in the paragraph above that we can agree upon. I do not, though, see the world as engaged in a battle between good and evil. I would not label Joseph Smith as either good or evil nor would I recognize him as either a true or false prophet. Those categories have no meaning in my world view. I simply see him as human (and a pretty flawed one at that). I would add that I see all prophets, whether coming from the Bible, Native American traditions, LDS Church, or elsewhere as likewise human and flawed in their own ways.

      The biblical prophet David, similarly, took advantage of Bathsheba and sent Uriah to die in battle, making him not just guilty of adultery but complicit in murder. Does that make David a true or false prophet? Neither, in my opinion. It just demonstrates his humanity and particularly his flaws. In the Iroquois oral traditions of the prophet Handsome Lake they speak forthrightly of his flaws, particularly his drunkenness and his complicity in putting women to death for witchcraft. These flaws do not make Handsome Lake a false or fallen prophet. They do not make him a true prophet either. All prophets have flaws, all prophets are ultimately human and subject to the same struggles as the rest of us.

      As I’ve said above and in my podcast interview on Feminist Mormon Housewives, I see Joseph Smith as something like a trickster figure or a bumbling fool in Native American traditions. We can learn from a bumbling fool, mostly what not to do. It would, in my humble opinion, be foolish to believe in him, worship him, or even to follow his example. The same is true for the biblical David and for Handsome Lake.

      I hope that explains a little more of where I am coming from.

      • Bob June 28, 2016 at 12:40 pm - Reply

        Can we cut the nonsense here and call Smith what he was. He wasn’t a “trickster” as were any of the rest of the so called “leadership” of the Church, Their crimes are deliberate and calculated. They’re the very ones “who lie in wait to deceive” and because of their grandfatherly appearance, we were put off guard not expecting the deceit to come from them.

        When Uchtdorf talks about the leaders being “men” and capable of making mistakes, that’s a further deceit. These men have willfully and continuously committed fraud to get gain and to maintain their power. They should all be put in jail for good.

    • p June 28, 2016 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      He did answer your question, several times. It is unclear to me, and likely others, what you are asking him to add.

      • p June 28, 2016 at 10:54 pm - Reply

        Sorry, wrong place, see below –

  23. Emma June 28, 2016 at 3:30 am - Reply

    You say we expect too much of smith– but the truth is we expect him to be what he claimed to be– he is the one who set the standard and expectations so high–he even said that he what he had done for us all is comparable to Jesus himself
    In so many ways Smith is the one that tells us he is much greater than the average man– therefore our expectations must coincide with his claims –if he does not measure up to his own standard it is because it was all based on egotistical lies or some sort of mental illness
    If we judge him harshly it is because he taught us to expect him to be what he claimed
    Please let us know if you agree that he was a false prophet and his doctrine and scriptures are based on lies
    It cannot be that you are unaware of smiths history
    Let’s be honest about the kind of man he was– and judge him accordingly
    He must be held accountable

  24. Thomas Murphy June 28, 2016 at 10:23 am - Reply


    As I stated above I agree that Joseph Smith based his ministry, at least in part, on lies and deceptions and that he does not measure up to what he claimed. Likewise, I do not believe that the Book of Mormon contains accurate history. Nor do I believe that Nephites and Lamanites ever existed in ancient America. I agree that we need to hold Joseph Smith accountable for his role in these distortions of history and for his complicity in colonialism.

    I think, though, that we need to remember that Joseph Smith did not live in a vacuum. He lived in a social context that encouraged and supported his lies and deceptions. He did not act alone. Many people contributed to his conceptions of himself. Some encouraged and perpetuated his deceptions. They did so, in part, because they benefited from these distortions of history. The belief, for example, that an ancient white race had been annihilated by the ancestors of the American Indians served as a justification for genocidal campaigns against the Iroquois during the American Revolution. Joseph Smith perpetuated that lie but he didn’t invent it. It was widespread among settler colonists of his day. His followers embraced the lie, in part, because they benefited from it.

    If we scapegoat Joseph Smith as simply a false prophet and his followers as simply duped then we fail to recognize the problematic aspects of the culture of settler colonialism more generally. Joseph Smith’s followers also need to be held accountable for their complicity in genocide!

    • Wondering Wanderer July 16, 2016 at 4:39 am - Reply

      There is plenty of blame to go around for the atrocities and genocide that have routinely occurred throughout human history. How can we combat the hatred and indifference to human suffering that drives this kind of corruption and inhumanity? Religion and politics have had millennia to find solutions to human need and human greed, but have instead only fanned the fires of division, intolerance, inequality, hatred, and war. John Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” gives me more inspiration and hope for the future of the human race than any hymn or political slogan ever has. How sad that someone who spoke out so beautifully for unity, peace, and love had his voice silenced by violence.

      I see it as a huge impediment to human progress that people equate their particular religion with truth, and equate their particular politics with correctness. Religions give people comfort in the face of their mortality by providing hope for an afterlife. Politics supply a way to participate in government. We are naive if we think that religious leaders or politicians are in the business of telling us the whole truth or providing justice for all. The ultimate goal of religious leaders and politicians is the protection, survival, growth , and perpetuation of the institution or organization they serve.

      Politics are often more about personal gain for those in charge than about doing the correct thing for all of society. Religion is all about wishful thinking and faith in a better life to come after this one. This way of thinking is a recipe for martyrdom. It makes religious fanatics all too willing to sacrifice their own lives and to take the lives of others. Religious faith is not at all about provable truths, observable reality, common sense, or logic, yet it is these things that are more likely to lead us to solutions for the problems in the here and now.

      The important separation between church and state is becoming increasingly blurred. Unless people can concede that their religious convictions are a personal choice based not on fact, but upon what feels most emotionally comforting and satisfying to them, they cannot begin to feel tolerance and love for followers of other religions or for agnostics and atheists. Until people can make compromises in politics in the interest of the common good, rather than cling to political beliefs based on what is in their our own personal self interest, we cannot begin to build a better world. The world will never find peace unless religious dogmatism and political self interest are set aside and the world’s top concern instead turns to providing access for all to basic human needs and rights. Human beings are strongly driven by the need for safety and security, food, shelter, clothing, and sex, and people will do whatever it takes to fill those needs. This is how we survive as individuals and as a species. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are freedoms that we can enjoy only if we first survive and thrive. In the light of modern nuclear weaponry, and the repercussions ahead due to global warming, the human race must stand together to save the planet and one another, or we will all fall together. Unless everyone is dedicated in a cooperative effort toward not only survival, but prosperity for all, we will not stand.

      I don’t think that discussion of the highly personal and emotion-based subjects of religion or politics can result in more tolerance or understanding among factions. Discussions on faith only highlight differences and create frustration, defensiveness, argument, and anger, because it is impossible to defend or to prove right something that is based on feelings rather than facts.

      The discussion that can truly bring us together has to be about common, practical problems facing all humanity. It must be about the most urgent needs . . . finding ways to stop the destruction of the environment, and ways to end ignorance, hunger, poverty, disease, genocide, and war, the very conditions under which desperation, fanaticism, and terrorism are bred.

  25. Jake June 28, 2016 at 12:28 pm - Reply


    First, thank you. I have really enjoyed the segments so far. Thank you for your attempts at being as objective as possible. I just read your article “Sin, Skin, and Seed: Mistakes of Men in the Book of Mormon”, it really opened my eyes to how society frames gender, skin color, and procreation. The whole idea of carrying on the male “family name”.
    I also found the DNA research interesting. I learned quite a few things I hadn’t seen before so thank for that. Especially the LDS responses on the research.

    I recently finished reading Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman. After reading that book I totally agree with your view on Joseph Smith. He was definitely not perfect. Bushman spends some time talking about the “Culture of Honor” that was so important to Joseph and his father. The “Culture of Honor” is described as basically having great pride/honor in your family and those loyal to you; doing anything to protect those loyal to you. Joseph always spoke very highly of those who showed loyalty and even bestowed promises and blessings upon them. However, if they challenged, questioned, or doubted him he would turn on them, usually very harshly. He even told Orson Pratt to divorce his wife and start a new family after Pratt’s wife denied Joseph’s marriage proposal.

    The problem I have are the claims. It is taught from birth, in my case, that the BOM is true. It is the most correctly translated book. The church is the only true and living church on the earth. The prophets and apostles speak for God. These absolutes have a great effect on people that have doubts and questions. It takes a mental toll because the reactions we get are so emphatic at times. “How could you think it’s not true, you have said you felt the spirit, how can you deny that?” How can you say that you haven’t felt “something” when it is all you have known and been taught all your life?
    When someone says the BOM is true… what does that even mean? Historically true? Spiritually true? It was translated from ancient gold plates? The only thing I can agree with is that it MAY be partially spiritually true. Only as true as the bible is.

    I believe it was mentioned in an earlier post that Joseph was to “pretend to no gift” beyond the translation of the Book of Mormon. Where did this come from? A revelation given by the mouth of Joseph that was supposed to be the voice of God. It has been proven that we cannot take every word of any LDS leader in history as absolute fact. I guess I find it ironic that if you don’t believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet why would you quote his own words to prove him wrong?

    • Thomas Murphy June 28, 2016 at 1:38 pm - Reply

      Jake, very well-stated. I have problems with the same claims. Thanks for the feedback and your perspective.

  26. Emma June 28, 2016 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Thank you for taking the time to read and respond but you did not answer the questions! please answer the questions–
    1 do you believe Joseph Smith was a false prophet

    2 …..that doctrine and
    scriptures were based on lies??
    (Lies–meaning they weren’t Direct revelation from God as he claimed)

    3 do you believe The doctrine Smith Taught has created much fear guilt and pain

    Please be direct and clear about answering these questions❗️❗️

    I truly want to know what you personally feel about this. After knowing all Smiths history

    This is important to me because I can’t comprehend your acceptance of what Joseph Smith said and did as a prophet of God

    If you don’t want to be direct and clear please tell me why?

    Thank you for your research about DNA I would like to have heard more about that
    The sad thing is all the people today that think they are Lamanites really are not –they are not descendants of Lehi—They are of Asian descent

    But please answer my questions thank you

    • p June 28, 2016 at 10:55 pm - Reply

      He did answer your question, several times. It is unclear to me, and likely others, what you are asking him to add.

    • Thomas Murphy June 29, 2016 at 11:54 am - Reply

      Emma, I do not think I can answer your questions any more clearly than I have done above. Perhaps, you overlooked them or, more likely, you do not agree with my responses. It appears that we have two very different world views. That’s okay. I do think we have some common ground, though. We can agree that continued belief in ancient Lamanites and Lehi are problematic, even destructive to people and cultures.

      • Milo Jury July 10, 2016 at 3:17 pm - Reply

        I am about to start the podcast, but was reviewing the comments beforehand. It seems to me that those struggling with your perceived unwillingness to denounce JS might be based in the increase prevalence of leader worship found in the church today. When that leg is taken out of our belief system, it creates a substantial amount dissonance that is hard to reconcile. Your efforts to show forth charity to all then appears to be acceptance.
        Thanks for your kind responses! I am learning much from your views!

    • Monkeyking June 29, 2016 at 1:37 pm - Reply

      Your questions are unanswerable to someone who strives to maintain an unbiased or scientific outlook. You are asking for simple answers to complex questions which can only be answered based on bias.

      For example: How do I say that J.S. was a false prophet (or not) if I understand that a prophet is a function of society. To answer the question you pose I would have to make a determination that one group (believer/non-believer) are incorrect in their belief. Is it scientifically or morally acceptable to determine that beliefs on others are false based on my own or someone else’s experiences and observation? I say no, for two main reasons.

      1) To do so discounts the experiences and observations of an entire class of people and leads to a distorted view of reality. (Think of Mormons who believe that everyone else is in error, do they have an unbiased view of reality?) The reality is that J.S. was a true prophet to some and to others, not. If you want to understand what he really was you must consider him from the observations of both believers and non-believers.

      2) To do so allows for the dehumanization of entire groups of people which is one things that perpetuates Colonization, which Dr. Murphy is also discussing. If we decide that a group has false beliefs (as opposed to simply different) then it is morally requisite (or at least permissible) to subjugate or destroy them…

  27. Emma June 28, 2016 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    Thomas sorry as I read your previous response it seems to say that you will not state that Smith was a false prophet? What is the problem with that designation? You agree that he lied about receiving revelation
    Isn’t that the definition of a false prophet? He lied over and over again about almost everything
    …..but you won’t take a stand

    2 You seem to admit that some of his doctrine and scriptures were based on lies yet I’m confused if you think he was ever receiving revelation from God
    I still would like to know do you think most of his doctrine and scriptures were based on lies (not revelation)

    3 Also my last question could you tell me more simply ‘ do you think Smiths doctrine has caused great pain guilt and fear for many people? ‘

    Thanks again

    • Dallin June 30, 2016 at 11:04 pm - Reply

      Emma – Your questions are reminiscent of some temple recommend interviews I’ve been in (only in reverse!) It’s almost like Dr. Murphy must pass your test for being a “worthy” non-believer! Strange, yet understandable given the indoctrination.

      Black and white thinking isn’t a virtue on either side of the Mormon coin.

      Fascinating interview. Thanks for sharing your experience Dr. Murphy.

  28. Holly June 28, 2016 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Just finished the first part of this interview on and plan to finish the rest tomorrow. It’s very interesting. Please forgive me if I’m wrong or this has already been asked. Did I read or hear somewhere that JS was very interested and studied native Americans? If so I find it interesting that they had a word of wisdom and now we do… Did I make a wrong connection or hear something wrong?

  29. p June 28, 2016 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    Yes, great post, many thanks. Interesting, isn’t it, that the present administrators of the church seem the least prepared to usher it into the modern [Information] age David O McKay-style (and yes, the man had style!). How can they be so oblivious of the damage they are doing their own institution? – a missionary church with a public image just this side of Westboro Baptist? This is poor management, and in any other corporation they would have been sacked long ago. This is the danger of a self-perpetuating hierarchy: you can’t get rid of them and the damage they do not only continues but accrues interest. I fear we are rapidly reaching a point of no return.

  30. beth June 29, 2016 at 6:48 am - Reply

    Thanks jon and Thomas for a great interview, l am afraid l have to admit that l feel it’s so important for us all to hear and know the truth, if joseph smith was fabricating his own story of god and Jesus, through the book of Mormon , then l get that that can be really helpful in bringing people to Christ and help all people to learn of Christ which is wonderful but its all the rest of the abuse that joseph appeared to cause members of the church from the beginning of Mormonism, plural marriage etc, you can’t just take these things lightly and no-one is prepared to really acknowledge or seek forgiveness for past mistakes by the church or mistakes made by joseph himself and l get that we all make mistakes of course we do but when you are saying that god is leading you to do certain things and you hurt people in the name of god and religion it is such a dangerous and hurtful thing, we need to seriously think about these issues, thanks again jon.

    • Thomas Murphy June 29, 2016 at 12:00 pm - Reply

      Beth, thanks for your thoughts. I hope my efforts to expose the distorted and harmful views of Native Americans promulgated by the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, despite his intentions are helpful. I agree that we cannot ignore his other faults as well. Neither should we excuse or cover them up. Apologies on the part of the LDS Church leadership would be helpful, but do not seem very likely at this point in time. Maybe, the Pope’s example will open up similar possibilities in Mormonism.

  31. Linda Easthope July 6, 2016 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    For those interested in further exploring the effect of colonization on North America’s indigenous peoples, as well as seeking a view into their spirituality, this podcast may be helpful.

  32. Quanah Parker July 12, 2016 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Mr. Murphy,

    I found your podcast very interesting; however, I have a few questions arose that I hope you can address.

    First, I’m not a TBM, I’m not white, I’m not a republican and I don’t live in Utah. Now that I’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way on to my questions.

    Your hypothesis that JS projected the artifacts he found in the mounds around Palmyra into the past is very unlikely.

    First, the Revolutionary war was not fought in upper New York State as you referenced. The closest revolutionary skirmish was those engaged in by Henry Knox while he was bringing down cannons from Canada. Even then, these skirmishes were not close to Palmyra .

    Second, the solders in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 etc.. did not use swords described in the BOM. There is ample evidence guns, knifes, and bayonets were used, but not the swords described in the BOM (see below).

    “And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.”

    Lastly, you used terms that I find very offensive. Perhaps I misunderstood, so I hope you would elaborate.

    You described the reduction of the Native American tribes as genocide. While this might fit a progressive narrative the facts do not align.

    As you know genocide is the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. What the Nazi attempted to do to the Jews and what ISIS is doing to the Christians is Genocide. In most cases, what the Europeans did to the Native Americans were acts of intolerance and ignorance. Keep in mind, the Europeans had the technology to deliberately kill all of the Native American tribes, but they didn’t. The US Gov relocated the North American tribes to reservations. Whether or not relocation was the right policy by the US Gov is a legitimate debate, but relocation is not genocide.

    There is no question the tragedies of Sandy Creek and Wounded Knee are a sad reminders of how the some soldiers treated the native tribes, but again these tragedies are not genocide. And the diseases brought over from Europe were very destructive to the native tribes. Bringing disease over is not a deliberate or intentioal and is not genocide. If we use your version of genocide then the Comanche, Apache, Arikara and Lakota tribes committed genocide against the Native Americans. Surely, you’re more sensible.

    You mentioned you got back into Mormon studies because you felt some of Mitt Romney’s statements were laced with racism and sexism. Weren’t you equally upset when you found out Elizabeth Warren peddle the lie that she was a Native American? Don’t you find it offensive when Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton change their tone and language when speaking to a largely African American audience? These actions are overtly and are committed by those who claim to champion minority causes. Least you misunderstand. I’m not a fan of Mitt Romney, but I don’t believe Mitt has ever been this overtly racist?

    Lastly, you believe Israel is occupying Palestinian land? This statement is very offensive, and in my view is anti-Semitic. I sure hope I misunderstood. The Jews are not occupying Palestinian land no more than the Chickasaw Nation is occupying Oklahoma. Once again, there is a legitimate debate on this issue, but Occupation of Palestinian Land is very insensitive to the Jewish nation.

    When you come back, and I hope you do. Please tell the entire story of the Native Americans. It is well documented that North American has been fought over for centuries. The Comanche Natives didn’t start in Texas, they took it from the Apaches and slavery was not a Europe invention. Sadly, the only narrative that is told in our schools is how bad the Europeans treated the Native Tribes.

  33. PaVel August 17, 2016 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    Yo tengo una pregunta…..

    EL Dr. Murphy, verificó pueblos en sud-américa?? como los viracochas (descendientes), Otavaleños, la gente de la Sierra Nevada en Colombia.??

    O “América” solo se refiere a U.S.???

  34. Thomas Murphy August 20, 2016 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    No hay estudios de ADN desde cualquier lugar de las Américas, incluyendo América del Sur , han proporcionado apoyo para el Libro de Mormón . Véase el video en el siguiente enlace.

  35. Larry Ballard December 1, 2019 at 11:52 am - Reply

    Here is a question. If there is a toxic world view or construct that confines the mind with legalistic doctrines that hurt people, mislead their minds or cause suffering, why would there be any desire to continue working within that destructive framework? I would suggest that it honors our ancestors to become a cycle breaker and forge a new way that apophatically identifies that which is incorrect, inaccurate, illusion and a lie and begin the basis from a more firm foundation to replace it with an expanded mind to that which is accurate, real, truthful, and valid and is more in accordance with Natural Law. We need reasons to believe and have hope. Those reasons need to be based on making sure that they are not based on fantasy; rather a scrutinized approach. “What kind of man am I? I am one of those who would be glad to be refuted when saying a thing that is untrue. Glad also to refute another if he says something inexact. None the less to be refuted as it is the greater good…..” What knowledge does one have that the ancestors were not caught up in any less illusion that many of us today? What if those who came before us were abandoned and lied to? I am suggesting that we honor our progeny by being Truthseekers in all of it’s many facets…if in no other way than to prove that which is wrong. What is logos….’Requires one to convince the minds of the listeners or readers by PROVING the TRUTH of what one is saying.’ Pathos is to convince the listeners or readers by PUTTING THEM IN TO A FRAME OF MIND CONDUCIVE TO ONE’S PURPOSES. THIS IS DONE MOSTLY BY WORKING ON THE EMOTIONS. When one has been lied to or one’s ancestors have been given less than the truth, let us identify all that is illusion as best we can.

  36. William Covington March 23, 2020 at 6:34 am - Reply

    Smith’s ‘Book of Mormon’ fails to satisfy the basic requirement of history. There is no evidence to support any of Smith’s claims in his Book of Mormon. I don’t understand why any person would accept the Book of Mormon as history. Mormon missionaries peddle a hoax book; Mormon leaders uphold a hoax book and Mormons believe a hoax book is the word of God. Smith’s Book of Mormon was written for people in America in 1830 and as such the book should remain in 1830.

  37. Rebecca Davis August 6, 2022 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    apologies if this is addressed or answered elsewhere, but I haven’t found it… why was dr murphy not featured in other interviews after this one? I am definitely behind the times but was very interested after listening to this interview and was looking forward to the others. apologies also if there are other interviews, but I have not been able to find them either.

    I am yet another nevermo who has been interested in mormon history and culture for the last two decades. really enjoying mormon stories, and very much appreciate everyone’s hard work on this podcast.

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