I’m interviewing Richard Bushman again soon. The topics will be:

  • The “translation” of the Book of Mormon
  • The credibility of the 3 and 8 witnesses

Please let me know if you have sincere, thoughtful, polite questions, and I’ll try to work them in.

Also, if you have follow-on questions from the past 2 interviews, please include them as well.




  1. Angry Mormon Liberal January 28, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Is it true that the witnesses claimed to see the gold plates with their spiritual eyes rather than their physical eyes? Does the historical record support this?

  2. Jeff Ricks January 28, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    I don’t have a specific question but possibly a great resource for ideas is a tasteful, balanced critical examination of Rough Stone Rolling that’s on our website. It’s quite long but well written and a fun read. The author is probably the best example I can think of for a former Mormon. Here’s the link to the article:


  3. Jake January 28, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    1) Does Dr. Bushman believe the characters and events described in the Book of Mormon to have occurred historically? If not, in what sense is the book true?

    2) Why is the wording of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon nearly identical to the King James wording of Isaiah? Shouldn’t it resemble a new and different translation of the ancient Isaiah?
    Similarly, why does so much wording in Ether and Moroni resemble the words of Paul in the King James version?

    3) In some instances, Isaiah in the Book of Mormon matches the Septuagint version rather than King James version of Isaiah (Mosiah 14:9, for example). Could Joseph Smith have had access to the Septuagint?

    4) Why did Joseph Smith need to have gold plates to translate the Book of Mormon? They didn’t seem to be materially germane to the translation process.

    5) If anyone wanted to alter the lost 116 pages of manuscript to show discrepancies with the subsequent translation of the BM, couldn’t they have done so anyway, despite the fact that Joseph Smith translated a different portion of the records? For example, they could have changed a name or two to show discrepancies.

    Perhaps for a later interview, how did Mormons become dispensationalists? Dispensationalism supposedly wasn’t introduced to North America until 1854, but it was clearly taught by Joseph Smith in the 1830’s. See wikipedia for dispensationalism.

    Sorry if my questions seem trite, but I’d like to hear Dr. Bushman’s point of view.

  4. Blake January 28, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    When early LDS sources, including Joseph Smith, refer to seeing with spiritual eyes, what do they mean?

    What does it mean to have the eyes of the understanding opened as it says in D&C 76?

    DNA rsults now show that those claiming to have off-spring of Joseph Smith in fact did not. Is it possible that he did not have sexual relationships with his plural wives?

    Has anyone attempted to test the so-called 1826 Bill of Particulars to see if it has signs of a Mark Hoffman forgery?

  5. Me January 28, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    A complaint I have heard several times is that artwork depicting the Book of Mormon translation used by the Church is deceptive because it shows Joseph looking at actual plates or because it shows a curtain or sheet hanging between Joseph and the scribe. I would like to hear you two discuss the various descriptions of the translation process, specifically whether there is any evidence other than the stone in the hat method (which I also fully except). Were there multiple methods used and can some theoretical framework be formed to include all of the described methods? Are some descriptions from his historian’s perspective less reliable?

  6. Blake January 28, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    Jeff: Your bit of missionary work for your anti-blog site is inappropriate. At most this admittedly tendentious review shows that there are various ways of looking at the evidence and the primary difference is one of judgmentalness (exactly what the articles on your cite all congratulate themselves for avoiding); at worst it demonstrates the kind of carping refusal to take the evidence seriously and to distort it to support one’s own (jandiced) view of Joseph Smith. If this is the “best example” you can think of that is offerred to by ex-Mos, then it is time for a serious reassessment indeed.

  7. Christopher King January 28, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    Hi Blake:

    Could you direct me to the source of the research that establishes that “those claiming to have off-spring of Joseph Smith in fact did not.” I’ve never heard of this. Thank you.

  8. Jeff Ricks January 28, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Blake: You’re jumping to conclusions. I have no interest whatsoever in proselytizing people out of the Church. I posted the link in response to John’s request for questions. You admit that the article shows alternate perspectives on the Bushman’s book. It’s in that light that I offer it as a resource for questions. I have no agenda beyond that in posting the link. Would you do one thing for me? Don’t be so judgmental and jump to conclusions about my motives.

  9. Blake January 28, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    Jeff: I guess what constitutes “tasteful” is soemthing that we will disagree about. I don’t see anything tasteful about this shrill and judgmental review. This review was so biased and ridiculous that I cannot see why you expect anyone to take it seriously — especially in the context of Bushman’s gracious offer to field serious and thoughtful questions. If your motive were to suggest questions — I don’t see any questions asked in this review. Just the opposite — a lot of pontificating without a shred of evidence that there could be any questions because the author of the review has all of the answers. If you think there are honest questions, ask them. Pointing to such a long-winded and uninformed and biased review does nothing to ask or suggest questions. It merely calls into question Bushman’s good faith. How is that suggesting questions?

  10. Jeff Ricks January 28, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    Blake, I offered the review as a resource because of its alternate perspective on the subject. If it doesn’t work for you fine. Maybe it will for someone else. Maybe not.

  11. el_godofredo January 28, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    1) Hugh Nibley pointed out several words used in the Book of Mormon such as “Sheum”, “Hermounts”, “Jershon”, “Ziff” as being very similar to words used in the ancient Middle East. Several proper names also appear to have non-biblical Semetic roots. Just how much Hebrew training would have been available to a teenaged farmer in rural Northern New York in the 1820’s?

  12. CE_Digger January 29, 2007 at 2:35 am

    Bushman says in his book (pg. 445?) that Joseph Smith didn’t lust for women but he “lusted for kin.” I haven’t been following the Joseph Smith desendants DNA research, but hasn’t it been disproving his paternity?

    I haven’t exactly thought through what this means yet. Joseph was obviously fertile, so if he was lusting for kin with his plural wives then something went wrong. Anyone have ideas?

  13. Jeff Ricks January 29, 2007 at 6:37 am

    [Slightly edited to remove language offensive to believers]

    Question: When Joseph was commanded by God to take Fanny Alger as a wife, why did he not also tell Joseph to let Emma know about it. It appears that not only did Joseph not prepare her ahead of time, before executing on the command, but it also appears that he denied it when he had the opportunity to fill her in.

    Below is another excerpt but this one is directly from Bushman’s book, followed by another polite question:

    Excerpt from RSR: “There is evidence that Joseph was a polygamist by 1835. Was he also an adulterer? In an angry letter written in 1838, Oliver Cowdery referred to the “dirty, nasty, filthy affair” of Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger. What did that mean? Had Joseph been involved in an illicit affair?…Was he a blackguard covering his lusts with religious pretensions, or a prophet doggedly adhering to instructions from heaven, or something in between?”

    Question: Bushman doesn’t draw a conclusion in this instance but offers three possibilities. Would he care to offer his personal opinion on this important and controversial issue?

  14. Jeff Ricks January 29, 2007 at 7:06 am

    I’m sorry but I didn’t realize that there was any offensive language in my previous post. There certainly wasn’t any cuss words that I could find. Please don’t anyone assume that to be the case. I know better than to do that.

    I can see though that the excerpt didn’t have to be included to offer the question. For that I apologize. I only wanted to show Blake that my idea for the question came from the review.

    John, it seems I have to walk on eggshells too much to post here, so I won’t be doing it anymore. Sorry for the intrusion.

  15. John Dehlin January 29, 2007 at 7:24 am


    There are 2 challenges I’m trying to deal with here…I hope you won’t take offense:

    1) I have virtually NO time to moderate comments on my blog. W/ all I’m doing, I barely have time to sleep these days.

    2) I’m trying hard to make a place that both sides feel comfortable contributing/participating. This is an EXTREMELY hard thing to balance, and as you’ll see on the internet, virtually does not exist.

    The comment I removed described Joseph as “hopping in the sack” with lots of women. It’s language like that that causes some people to be driven away. That’s all. There are ways to get your point across while still using super respectful language–since this stuff is really sacred to people.

    If you were talking to a Muslim about Mohammed, you would likely never talk that way–or to a Catholic about the Pope, or whatever. So all I’m asking is that everyone show that same respect.

    I know you can do this. You are a super thoughtful, respectful guy. You don’t need to walk on eggshells–just be a tad bit more careful about using harsh language about sacred things (to others). You can ask the same questions, and get the same points across (probably better) if you can do this.

    Sorry to be preachy. You know I have respect for you and what you do.

  16. Jeff Ricks January 29, 2007 at 7:55 am

    From my point of view I can see little difference between statement from the reivew, “hopping into the sack,” and the statement right out of Bushman’s book, a quote from Cowdery, “dirty, nasty, filthy affair.” The latter seems more harsh to me. Obviously I’m out of touch with the tone of this blog and I apologize again for crossing the line.

    You need to sign up some volunteer moderators, John. ;)

  17. Blake January 29, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Jeff: Here is the problem I have. Your agenda is transparent. Look at your question: “When Joseph was commanded by God to take Fanny Alger as a wife, why did he not also tell Joseph to let Emma know about it.” Here you ask Bushman literally read God’s mind. That just isn’t a responsible question that can be asked. The answer is: I don’t know what God was thinking. Your question is really an attempt to score points for your ex-mo view: God would have commanded at the very least that he tell Emma. You’re not asking a question in good faith.

    Well, how do you know he didn’t? How do you know Joseph didn’t tell Emma? Heck, for all that we aren’t even sure if Joseph actually married or ever had relations with Alger. If Joseph had relations, how did the rather fecund Alger avoid becoming pregnant in the pre-Bennett days? The historical record is rather sparse regarding Alger. Further, you begin by assuming all of this and then suggest that “hopping the sack” is innocent. That’s a little too naive for me. Surely you’re aware that it is an implicit moral judgment that Joseph was being loose and in fact he engaged in an affair. Bushman asks if Cowdery’s story is believable — not what we can conclude given Cowdery’s story as established fact (which it ain’t). I just don’t see this question as good faith attempt to get a response from Bushman that a human could be competent to answer.

  18. M-L-F January 29, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Possible question:
    What room do you feel there is in the church for members who participate actively in meetings and volunteer activities (auxiliaries, home and visiting teaching, etc.), who feel the church is a promising place to learn and practice love, but who reject Mormonism as “exceptional” (offering the only institutional path to heaven), and who view the current view of many historical claims of early Mormonsim (that Moroni appeared, that John the Baptist appeared, etc.)as in error?

  19. Matt Thurston January 29, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    I second M-L-F’s (#16, I think) question. (John, you need to number the questions here.)

    I’d also be interested in knowing more about Richard Bushman’s experiences as a Patriarch, since he ostensibly receives somewhat specific revelation in such a calling. Has the experience helped you better understand Joseph Smith? Would it be too personal to ask what it feels like? Or if he ever doubts or questions the source of his inspiration? Does he feel the Priesthood or Holy Ghost a necessary/indispensible component of the revelation/inspiration process, or could any person with “ears to hear or eyes to see” receive such revelation. I’d certainly understand if any of the above questions are too personal.

    I’d also be interested in knowing what is next for Richard Bushman? Is he working on a new book? If not, what book would he write if he could? What great Mormon in history (past or present) is in particular need of a new biography or a new study?

    What are Richard’s top five personal favorite books dealing with Mormon History? A top ten would be even better.

    Does he think we’ll learn anything new about Joseph Smith in the future, or have all primary and secondary sources been more or less found and documented? Does he know or believe if any crucial evidence related to Joseph Smith remains buried in the Church’s vaults?

    And finally, a speculative, fun question… when Richard dies and goes to heaven, and when/if he could meet Joseph Smith, what would be the first question he would ask him, which mystery would he most want to know/understand?

  20. Clay January 29, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    M-L-F’s question is excellent, although I don’t know that Dr. Bushman’s answer will tell us that much. He’s not really an orthodox member himself, as well as not really having inside views to the nucleus of church government in SLC.

    I would so love for you to be able to interview a general authority, especially an apostle, and ask that question. Maybe Elder Oaks? (since he was cool about your mission letter experience) Have you made any attempts to request official church representatives for podcasts, John? Have you received any contact from them?

  21. Cliffy January 29, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Angry Mormon Liberal – Why ask the question? The sources are available for the reading. I don’t get it, why you would give up your judgement to another on this.

    Jeff Ricks – I think the review you linked to was not even close to a ‘balanced’ review. What were you thinking? Like John, I too would like to you continue posting here, but I agree with JD that your phrasing was quite inappropriate. I would say that your phrasing was worse than Bro. Rigdon’s because you were not personally acquainted with the man. Had you lived back then, and written such a phrase in your journal, none would take offence if someone in the here-and-now were to quote you.

    I would like to know from Bro. Bushman how he decided / where he drew the line; as to what to include and what to leave out; based on actual evidence, or ??. I did notice several things that he did not bring up in his book that have been bandied about on the internet for years. I assume he left them out because of questionable sources, but, I don’t know for sure…

  22. Matt Thurston January 29, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    I meant to add a postscript to my previous post that I’m so pleased and thankful to John Dehlin, but especially Richard Bushman, for taking the time to do these Podcasts. This kind of open and on-the-record discussion of Mormon History is so rare that when it happens we should cherish the results, if not like a pearl of great price, then like a, what(?), an emerald of great estimation? A diamond of great desirability? A ruby of great renown?

    Thanks. And great job!

  23. Cliffy January 29, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    Rigdon, Cowdery, uh….

  24. Adcama January 29, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    Clay said:

    “I would so love for you to be able to interview a general authority, especially an apostle, and ask that question. Maybe Elder Oaks? (since he was cool about your mission letter experience) Have you made any attempts to request official church representatives for podcasts, John? Have you received any contact from them?”

    Great idea….John?

  25. Christopher King January 29, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    So here’s my question.

    Has Richard Bushman ever had the feeling he was being intellectually dishonest in order to be able to keep his faith? If so, how does he deal with this feeling?

    What is the most challenging issue to his faith?

    Would he share his testimony with us?

  26. Ann January 29, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    I recently stumbled on the idea expressed by Br. Bushman in the first episode of your podcast, that Joseph simply wasn’t the focal point of the early church. The things that were once the merely evidences of the restoration are now the foundations of church doctrines.

    How does he reconcile the truthfulness of the restored Gospel with the evidence that the early restored church looks virtually nothing like the church today?

    I don’t mean that to sound antagonistic. Of all people, I think Br. Bushman would be most clear on the differences. He must be able to align the two churches somehow.

    Also, I think the patriarch question is awesome.

  27. John Dehlin January 29, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    Thanks for all your input. I conducted this interview tonight, so I’m closing the comments.

    Thanks again!

  28. John Dehlin January 30, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Opening this back up per requests from both sides.

    2 favors…

    –Please speak to the “other side” with the same level of respect that you would offer a colleague at work, or someone of another belief system outside or Mormonism.

    –Please focus on the issues, not on each other’s approach/style (this, of course, depends on the bullet above).


Comments are closed.