Episode 139b: D&C 8 and 9 for Dummies Part 2

98 comments on “Episode 139b: D&C 8 and 9 for Dummies Part 2”

  1. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

    John, your comment about the church’s case is stronger than they make it.  I agree.  I just shack my head every time I read any press release from the church, none of them sound like anything that the true church of Jesus Christ would ever be saying.  
    John, we have debated your interpretation of how the church teach’s how to get personal revelation.  I believe the church and the scriptures teach that you need to have faith that you will receive an answer, not a specific answer.  I do think there are other things that are problematic.  Like coupling that with a testimony is protesting too much.  When everything needs to be accompanied with I testify that this is the right answer comes across as very suspicious.  It seems like if you were not worried about the accuracy of what you were saying you could  let the evidence or the answer that you may receive from God to stand on its own.  It is also problematic when you couple the the idea of personal revelation with Elder Oak’s favorite tune you can’t receive any personal revelation that contradicts the brethren it seems like a house divided against itself.  Part of my exit story is that my wife of 13 years came out to me.  When she shared she was gay I had a spiritual experience as strong as any I had ever had telling me that God created her gay and it was good.  When I shared this answer I was told that I received it from the wrong source or that it is impossible to get an answer different than the brethren.  These answerers never made since to me. Because the only reason I believed anything the brethren said was because of the process they were telling me to disregard.  So if I was going to disregard the process than I would disregard everything the brethren had to say anyway.

  2. Mike Tannehill Reply

    I havent listened back to this yet, but I thought I’d add here the accounts of the original apostles that we have concerning their use of their “Rod’s of Aaron”:

    Orson Hyde – In 1841 Orson Hyde wrote from the Near East after dedicating Israel for the Gathering: “On what was anciently called Mount Zion, where the temple stood, I … used the rod according to the prediction upon my head”

    Heber C. Kimball – Heber recalled a dream he had of Joseph while on a voyage to England in 1837. In his dream the Apostle stood near the front of the ship and was visited by the Prophet, who said, “Brother Heber, here is a rod (putting it into my hands) with which you are to guide the ship. While you hold this rod you shall prosper… and the hand of God shall be with you.” In the dream the promise was fulfilled by the ship’s knifing through all obstacles. Heber’s was a straight staff: “This rod which Joseph gave me was about three and a half feet in length.”

    Pioneer Sarah Granger Kimball recollects brother Kimball’s real rod : “Brother Kimball showed me a rod that the Lord through the prophet Joseph had given to him. He said that when he wanted to find out anything that was his right to know, all he had to do was to kneel down, with the rod in his hand, and that sometimes the Lord would answer his questions before he had time to ask them”

    Heber’s son added” :My mother and my sister, Helen Mar, told me the same thing and added to it, that President Young received a similar rod from the Lord at the same time.”

    Heber C. Kimball’s journal notes his staff in contexts of solemn prayer. In Nauvoo, after the Martyrdom, “he went home and used the rod. I got witness Elder Richards would live – that we would overcome our enemies.” One can not be sure, but Kimball’s entries suggest more than yes-no questions. In Washington, three weeks before the Martyrdom, Heber detailed the most solemn priesthood prayer, the comfort he received, and then he added: “I inquired by the rod. It was said my family was well, that my wife would come to me in the east, and that Congress would not do anything for us.” A similar procedure recurs in the Kimball journal, 25 January 1845, in solving a mosaic of personal concerns:

    “The same evening I sat down in my house in the presence of my wife and inquired of the Lord by the rod as follows: if we should finish the temple -it was verily, yes. That my sins were forgiven and that I should overcome and get my appointment of my inheritance while in this probation. And that the temple committee were not enemies to the Twelve Apostles.”

    Heber C. Kimball’s biographer adds – “Unlike the cane, there are no family traditions regarding this unusual rod; it has completely disappeared. Perhaps it was an aid to guidance and revelation. There is no evidence that it was a divining stick or “water witch” popular at the time.

    he shall go from land to land and from sea to sea

    • Anonymous Reply

      So Mike, why don’t we have them now?  Why don’t the apostles talk about the revelations they receive while their faces were shoved in hats or while using divining rods? 

      • Mike Tannehill Reply

        I have never heard of any of the modern apostles using them. Maybe they have them in the temple when they have their meetings? It sopunds like the originals have all gone missing as well.

        • Fred W. Anson Reply

          Joseph Fielding Smith confirmed that the seer stone is in the possession of the Mormon Church:
          “The statement has been made that the Urim and Thummim was on the altar in the Manti Temple when that building was dedicated. The Urim and Thummim so spoken of,however, was the SEER STONE which was in the possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith in early days. This seer stone is NOW in the possession of the Church.”
          (Doctrines of Salvation,Vol. 3, p. 225)

          On February 25, 1856, Brigham Young displayed the seer stone to the regents at the University of the State of Deseret (Later re-named University of Utah),one of which was Hosea Stout. He described it that night in his journal:
          “a silecious granite dark color almost black with light colored stripes some what resembling petrified poplar or cotton wood bark about the size but not the shape of a hen’s egg.” 
          (Stout Diary, February 25, 1856)

          In 1887, a body guard of church president John Taylor reported that he had seen and handled the seer stone:
          “On Sunday last I saw and handled the seer stone that the Prophet Joseph Smith had. It was a dark color, not round on one side. It was shaped like the top of a baby’s shoe, one end like the toe of the shoe, and the other round”
          (Samuel Bateman diary, 17 Aug, 1887, Lee library)

          Wilford Woodruff, as new president of the church in 1888, dedicated the Manti, Utah temple. While there, Woodruff had the stone upon the altar:
          “Before leaving I Consecrated upon the Altar the seers Stone that Joseph Smith found by Revelation some 30 feet under the Earth [and] Carried By him through life” 
          (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 18 May, 1888)

          Mormon Bishop Fredrick Kesler wrote in his diary in 1899 that church president Lorenzo Snow showed him the seer stone:
          “…showed me the Seerers [sic] Stone that the Prophet Joseph Smith had by which he done some of the Translating of the Book of Mormon with. I handeled [sic] it with my own hands. I felt as though I see and was handling a very Sacred thing. I trust and feel that it will work in his hands as it did in the Prophet Joseph Smiths hands.”
          (Fredrick Kesler diary, 1 Feb, 1899, Marriott Library)

          In about 1982, a descendant of Brigham Young, Mary Brown Firmage was told by the First Presidency’s secretary that there were 3 seer stones in First Presidency’s vault. She was allowed to see one when she visited that office. She reported:
          “The stone was not chocolate brown but rather the color of brown sugar.It was 3-4 inches long, 2 inches wide, and had a hump in the middle which made it perhaps 2 inches thick at the thickest point. It was flat on the bottom and had three black, concentric circles on the top 1/2 inch. Below the circles were many small black circles. The stone was not transparent.”
          (Mary Brown Firmage interview with Richard S. VanWagoner, 11 Aug 1986. Van Wagoner papers, Marriott Library)

          And there are other other Mormon friendly citations and references about the use of Seer Stones by Joseph Smith, Jr. and other sources here: 

  3. Great & Abominable Reply

    As a non-Mormon Christian, the discussion about how best to get revelation sounds to me like medieval wizards comparing their alchemical recipes. Why not simply ask God for guidance, and try to be open to hear God’s response? Why does Mormonism try to make everything so technical?

    That being said, I’m a great fan of Mormon Expression. It’s always fun to listen to, and I’m always impressed by how articulate and thoughtful all the panels are. I’ll even give Mike a pass for calling my own faith tradition “of the devil” way back on the episode about Bruce R. McConkie.

    • Patriarchal_Gripe Reply

      As an Atheist, you sound like someone arguing that his wizard can beat their wizard in a Dungeon’s and Dragon’s game.  If you could provide me with an email address or phone number to contact God, I would love to ask him for some guidance, otherwise your method is just as magical as a Mormon’s.

      • Great & Abominable Reply

        I know! It is so frustrating that God is always off the net! Not even a Facebook page!

        Sorry, but I just don’t understand your concern. There are wizards beating other wizards? Whatever that’s about, it’s beyond me. I just like simplicity. And anyone is welcome to be an Atheist, as far as I’m concerned. More power to you, brother-or-sister-as-the-case-may-be!

      • Great & Abominable Reply

        I know! It is so frustrating that God is always off the net! Not even a Facebook page!

        Sorry, but I just don’t understand your concern. There are wizards beating other wizards? Whatever that’s about, it’s beyond me. I just like simplicity. And anyone is welcome to be an Atheist, as far as I’m concerned. More power to you, brother-or-sister-as-the-case-may-be!

  4. Richard of Norway Reply

    This was a great podcast. It was really nice to have George back after his long hiatus. Welcome back George!

    Hats off to both Mike and Brandt for taking the criticisms so well. I was impressed by their honesty. It was nice to hear Brandt admit that he too has issues with some of the church policies on history.

    It struck me again how obvious it is to outsiders (and to those of us who have found our way out of the church) that Joseph Smith was making it up as he went along. That this stuff is man-made and so very tainted and affected by the culture and times of Joseph Smith. It may have made sense to people living back then but makes no sense to people today – unless you have been raised to believe it from birth. (Obviously the church gains converts today too, but they aren’t subject to the true history of the church and if they were they would most likely not join.)

    I found it kinda sad when Brandt tried to defend the church at the end of the podcast and said “Since Joseph Smith was God’s prophet he could change things over time as he felt God wanted him to.” (not verbatim)

    The problem with that thinking is that you have to come to the conclusion that Joseph was a prophet BEFORE that makes any sense (and even then it’s pretty sketchy). If you are given detailed facts surrounding the revelations and then asked to conclude a most-likely-scenario based on that information, it doesn’t lead to a natural conclusion that the man was a prophet. Rather, it appears he was making stuff up as he went, and the church wanted to cover his tracks.

    To Mike and Brandt, I ask: What sounds more likely to you? Forget that you already *know* Joseph was a prophet and try to transpose his scenario to any other human on the Earth.

    • brandt Reply


      You pose some interesting questions.  And I would admit to even people within the church that I have problems sometimes with their approach to history.  I don’t know exactly how to solve it, but I do think that in 2011, with the information that is all available, that while we shouldn’t air all of our dirty laundry for everyone to see for honesty’s sake, we also shouldn’t shun away from things.  Which is why, if the Joseph Smith Papers project is what I was told it was (and I pressed my contact pretty hard about every issue), according to my contact, it will be the church saying “We’re laying all the cards out on the table.”

      Regarding Joseph Smith and God changing things – the problem that you and I are going to have with this discussion is the fact that I believe he was called of God, and you believe “he was making stuff up as he went.”  For me, looking at Joseph in a prophetic vein, I see a man who was taking his world environment and being added upon by the way God was teaching him.  While I can’t say this is a broad blanket statement for the entire D&C, all of the uncannonical revelations, and all of scripture, I also don’t think the opposite is true (that everything was made up).

      • Richard of Norway Reply

        Thanks for your quick response.

        I hope you are correct about the Joseph Smith Papers project but I don’t see how it will make much of a difference unless they include the information in course manuals or make it readily available for seminary and institute teachers. From what George says, it doesn’t sound like they are moving in the right direction – in regards to the general church membership. If members have to pony up $100 or more to learn about the “real” and complex history of Joseph Smith I don’t see that it will hit the mainstream members. But I do hope you are right.

        My point regarding JS making stuff up as he went was that if you take his scenario and transpose it to any other human on Earth, would you then think the man was “called of God” (what about JS makes you say that anyway?) or would you think he was probably making it up as he went.

        I used to be a believer too. Until about 4 or 5 years ago in fact (I am 40 years-old). So I can totally understand where you are coming from. But I wonder if you are intellectually honest enough with yourself to be able to conceive of the possibility that JS isn’t what you have always thought him to be.

        What is the difference between Joseph “taking his world environment and being added upon by the way God was teaching him” as you say, or Joseph taking his world environment and being added upon by his own mind and imagination, which was teaching him, and take god completely out of the picture. I wonder what you think the scenario would be like today if Joseph were making it all up. Would the church be any different than it is now?

        Again, kudos and my full respect to you for opening yourself up like this. I think most believers aren’t up for it. Most are too afraid of criticism I guess.

        • brandt Reply

          Regarding the JS Papers project – I would hope…HOPE…that the reason they’re putting the cost of the books so high is because of the cost of printing…maybe?  I don’t know, that’s probably not the best argument, but you’re right, if they just publish the books without any long-term vision, it will be fruitless.  I served my mission in Korea.  Aside from a few Korean-written books by members who had the books “OK’ed” through area-authorities, the only things we had in Korea was official church-published books, and a few books from DesBook that had been translated.  The members in Korea will have access to the books, I’m sure, but they won’t be able to do anything with it.  And with them putting out (according to them) 20-30 volumes, at a cost of about $100.00 per book, you’re only going to be attracting a select few.  So next time I talk to my contact (which might be in a couple of months), I’ll ask him what the long-term plans are.  Because if they don’t incorporate that stuff into their manuals, they’ve published it for publishing’s sake.

          Regarding transposing the JS claims to any man – honestly, I would probably think he’s crazy.  If we’re being honest.  As a matter of fact, one of the “open your mind” type moments when I was on my mission was when I was about to fall asleep one night and thought long and hard about exactly what we were saying.  For someone who has grown with the church their entire life, hearing Joseph’s story is the “norm.”  But if you were to take the same Joseph experience, and transpose it to John Smith down the block from me, I’d think he was a crazy man.  So instead of harping on the JS vision, I actually talked more about the Book of Mormon and how I felt it was scripture.  Loose or tight translation, real or faked, it’s an intriguing book that discusses a whole variety of topics.  I know the arguments about Joseph taking all his experiences (including his environment) and transposing it into the Book of Mormon, but I do value it as scripture.  I think we members claim exclusivity on dramatic spiritual manifestations, when we’re not the only ones (especially in America) to have that view.

          Richard, I would be willing to open my mind that Joseph wasn’t what I always thought him to be.  I would.  As a matter of fact, in learning a lot about the early beginnings of the church (folk magic being a good example), you HAVE to throw out past notions of what you thought.  However, I would put the same on you – is there any, ANY possibility that Joseph was who he said he was?  Because again, that’s the crux of our discussion – you say he wasn’t, and I say he was called of God.  And coudln’t you say the same about anyone in scriptural history?  Could you say that Peter was just fooled by his environment?  Or that Abraham was just horny, and that’s why he took a concubine?  I mean, it’s a trite cliche, but God works in mysterious ways.  I don’t get it.  I don’t always understand it.  And naturally, as a believer, I’m going to take what I see in the external environment and match it to my beliefs. 

          And honestly, you all are intimidating – I’m just a young pup, 27 yrs old, and still learning – but I must admit, for as intimidating as an audience as you all are, you’re not as evil and heretical as we make you out to be.


          • Megan

            Young or not, you’re a great addition to the crew – glad you’re here, glad you’re talking, glad you’re willing to express doubts and concerns and ponderings as well as bland statements of faith!

          • brandt

            I wouldn’t be living up to my TBM name if I didn’t throw out bland statements of faith.


          • Megan

            Heh, wasn’t until I re-read my comment that I realized it sounded like a back-handed comment – sorry about that! What I MEANT to say was ‘rather than‘ and not ‘as well as’. Mea Culpa, and thanks for being so nice about it!

          • Richard of Norway

            Dude, you’re awesome. 🙂

            Is there any, ANY possibility that Joseph was who he said he was?

            I could easily admit that my conclusions could be wrong. But unless all the non-Mormons in the world are involved in a conspiracy against the truth that is Mormonism, then the answer has to be No. Joseph can not be who or what he claimed to be because we know (thanks to science and historians)…

            1) The Earth is older than 6,000 years old

            2) Adam is a mythological figure, not actually the “first man”

            3) The Tower of Babel (mentioned in BoM’s book of Ether) story is also mythological, not actual history

            4) The American Indians are not descendants of Jews who migrated to America from Jerusalem

            5) Dark skin is not a “curse” but due to natural, scientifically explained phenomena and the skin color of an entire race of people can not be changed the way the BoM describes

            6) Many of the stories described in the NT Gospels are not historically accurate (they were written down for the first time more than 50 years after Jesus lived on the Earth so why should we expect them to be?) and important, key elements of the narrative, including Jesus’ birth, resurrection, and exact quotes (the words Christians attribute to being a 100% accurate direct quote from Jesus) can not be taken as literal 100% accurate truths.

            There are many more examples of things we know about the world that just simply does not fit into the world view Joseph had, and the one we must have if we take these things as literal truths.

            If we take a more liberal approach, then sure, I can admit the church has lots of good in it and may even be a great place to live and raise your family, etc.

          • brandt

            Interesting questions.  I think that many of your questions could accurately describe much of Christianity, and much of religion.  Personally, I think a vocal group (that has slowly been shrinking) has been touting scriptural literalism.  As a matter of fact, whenever we discussed Noah and the flood when it came to our gospel doctrine class, there was quite a spirited discussion about a local vs. global flood theory.  I think the scriptures have a mixture of literalism and symbolism – and we need to take it as that.  Taking stories at face value in scripture is always treacherous.

          • Richard of Norway

            I agree. Many religions are hit by those points. I think Mormonism is especially hit hard because the Book of Mormon depends on the Tower of Babel being factual, on Adam and Eve being literally the first humans living on the Earth, and on American Indians descending from Jews in Jerusalem. Strike 1, 2 and 3. And those are just the easy ones. There’s the Book of Abraham, polygamy, etc.

            Honestly, for me it took more than BoM or JS issues to lose my faith. I had to lose faith in Jesus and the Bible before my mind could comprehend that it just wasn’t what I grew up thinking it was: Literal 100% truth and an accurate history of the world.

          • JMW

             And with all that knowledge you can’t explain how Joseph in 1842 was able to lay hands on Eliza Rigdon, who was dead for about 36 hours, and brings her back to life. In front of witnesses! Nor can you explain how in 1839 he was able to bring William Huntington back from the dead via a priesthood blessing, again in front of many witnesses… How much time have you spent in the journals of those who were his contemporaries? The problem all critiques of Joseph Smith have, is how was he able to deliver on the spirituality?

            How was he able to affect men that he never met like John Hamilton Morgan who was converted in the 1860’s and sent by Brigham Young to be the mission president to the southern state missions in the 1870’s. He went through a small village in Virginia and laid hands on a boy who was dead and laid out on a cold stone to preserve his body. This after the entire town had turned out for his viewing before he was to be buried. He after being raised from the dead via a priesthood blessing was sitting on the fence the next day at the school. His teacher shit her knickers because she thought she was seeing a ghost! That boy would later write this experience in response to a request by JM Morgons grandson when compiling a biography on his life. This is the same man the received a telegraph from a sister in North Carolina asking him to send a priesthood holder to come dedicate the grave of her just deceased daughter. His response to her was, do not bury the body, i’ll be there in 3 days. He then gets on his mule and makes the 3 day journey to the woman and lays hands on her dead child and brings her back to life.

            I could go on and on and on and on but it’s too easy not to believe…

          • Richard of Norway

            Why should I want or need to explain stories claiming people were raised from the dead? We all know that is not possible so in any case where people make such claims there must be more to the story. I have no doubt that some people believe they were raised from the dead or that they witnessed such an act. But that doesn’t exactly prove anything. Does it? People are mistaken about events they witness all the time. It’s a matter of what their mind can comprehend at the time of the incident, based on their world view. For people who believe in such religious or supernatural experiences, naturally that’s the explanation they would give. If you had a non-believing scientist present he would likely have another version of the story. Don’t you think?

            If you buy into all the raising the dead stories, please explain why god would bother with such trivial things back then and not in our time? If there was cause or reason in Joseph’s day, there most certainly is in ours. Yet we don’t see this any more. Ever.

            You might want to consider other possibilities – alternative explanations – to the events those people describe, rather than simply taking them at their word. It doesn’t have to mean that anybody was lying or exaggerating (though that is also possible) but it could simply be a matter of them not sharing all the facts (again, not necessarily to hide anything), us not having the full story, then not having the understanding of the world, health and science that we have today. There are surely hundreds of possible explanations for events such as those. You seem to be just buying into the one that best supports your personal view of the world – while at the same time ignoring the points I listed above – and several others – that do not fit in. Looks like you are cherry-picking evidence to support the way you want the world to work.

          • Richard of Norway

            Would you really think JohnSmith was crazy? Or would you think he was a con man trying to deceive people for his own personal gain?

            I’m not sure but I don’t think any crazy person could have achieved what he did. It had to go much deeper than that.

          • brandt

            I think he was probably both.  I mean, give Joseph credit, IF he wasn’t as he said he was, he must have been a combination of both crazy and con-man.  Crazy, to actually believe all the things he said, and con-man, to actually pull them off.

          • KC

            Brandt, thanks for your contribution. Having read through a couple of the JS papers books, it would be nearly impossible for the average member to get much of anything out of them. By keeping them in print form only and not publishing them on the Net, they are avoiding the searching capabilities that come with the internet. So with the high cost of the books and not puting them on the internet, it is assured almost nobody will know whats in them. They are long and tedious to get through and without extensive referencing and indexing, impossible to research. I think the endgame is to put so much information out there so as to make the whole issue overwhelming.

  5. Megan Reply

    So glad to have another believer, and one with a different approach to belief and orthodoxy as well! I think there was a tendency to push Mike into an extreme position sometimes simply because he was the sole defender on some very tricky subjects (I realize that Mike has a more black-and-white, my-view-is-the-one-view take on the church which exacerbates this tendency).

    Regarding magic and the roots of the priesthood in the folk traditions, I think that once the church began to expand, and once Joseph Smith began to make efforts to educate himself, he realized that not only is magic unacceptable to many people because of the beliefs about its satanic origins but also that the people he most admired – those with higher education and scientific learning – discounted magic entirely. So I think it’s quite possible that the mentions of physical magic devices like the rods and peep stones were removed or toned down (to become metaphorical rather than actual) as part of Joseph Smith’s efforts to intellectualize his religion (and elevate his own status as an intelligent, educated man.) It makes sense that around the same time his translation method changes from the peep-stone-in-a-hat thing to a purely mental thing – and that false etymologies and other intellectually-based elements creep into the scriptures.

    Think about the shift from the Book of Mormon – close parallels to existing scripture, adventure stories, hero tales, stories of war and nation founding to the Book of Abraham and the Pearl of Great Price which is speculation on physics, cosmology etc. It definitely looks like a move from story-book to scientific and religious philosophical musing. Yes, a lot of the BoA and PoGP are strange, and often untenable in a strictly modern view, but they are far more daring and mature as intellectual exercises, even when Smith’s lack of understanding is evident.

    • sinclaire Reply

      ok…just so i’m clear on what you just said- JS misled others re. his practice of “magic” and what-not to elevate his status and appear to be more educated? hmmm…not very honest but then again-some things that are true are not very useful!
      I wonder why Moroni didnt come down and smack him in the head for using his magic applications instead of looking at the plates and actually translating them…………

      • Megan Reply

        I really don’t know where I stand on purposeful misleading vs genuine belief with Joseph Smith. I think he really did believe in the magical stuff – or else he wouldn’t have used it as the basis for his own religion. I don’t think he had ever examined it thoroughly, but simply accepted it as ‘how the world works’ because that was what he was taught. As I remember, his family wasn’t officially a part of any of the local churches although they likely attended [note: does anyone know about the Smith family religious history and how much they were likely to attend?], but they do seem to be a family that was very deeply spiritual and magic was apparently a significant part of that spirituality.

        The fact that he was a money digger and took part in what seem to be clearly fraudulent activities is a bit difficult then – did he believe, but was willing to exploit, making the fraud purposeful? Did he believe and then really think that money just ‘slipped away’ due to some mistake during the ritual? I don’t know. I do think that, as a young and charismatic man, he enjoyed the feeling that he could call on some other-worldly power that no one else had access too. I think he liked being ‘different’ and ‘special’ and, probably, more influential or powerful than the people around him.

        It seems natural to me then that when he begins to get more exposure to a larger world, more access to other people, and realizes that his own world-view is not only limited but seems naive and possibly ridiculous to those with more experience, that he will try to acquire the sophistication that he sees and admires in others and that this new set of ideals (scientific and linguistic) replace the old ones (magic and spiritualistic). Was the change in language in the D&C deliberate? Absolutely – and it is clearly a move away from a folk-belief based system (I don’t want to use the loaded word ‘primitive’ here), but was that change due to Joseph Smith and his aides trying to obscure those magical roots, or more to their own feeling that this is clearly what they meant all along.

        I think it’s a very human practice to evolve in a view or understanding of things and then revise memories so we honestly believe that this new, more acceptable understanding is what we had all along – at least in some form or other.

        Really, the D&C is a very cool archaeological record of the evolving cosmology of Joseph Smith and his inner circle. Whether you want to argue that God drove that evolution or not is up to the individual. Personally I don’t really understand why, when God is essentially starting from scratch here and EVERYTHING is new, it was necessary to take two steps back and give some confusing and sometimes contradictory stuff first, only to tidy it up later. Why not make the scriptures perfect from the get-go?

        • brandt Reply

          Re: Smith Family Religious history

          I don’t have my copy of “Rough Stone Rolling” here at work, but Bushman uses the first chapter basically setting up the stage for Joseph’s religious inclination.  The footnotes there would probably be a great resource for further research.

          • brandt

            Honestly, sometimes I feel this should be a required text for any church history course.  While I don’t agree with Brodie’s conclusions, her footnotes and access to sources is something that is second to none.  As a matter of fact, Bushman relied a lot of Brodie’s bio for many of his sources as well, and doesn’t hide it either.

          • Anonymous

            Yes, I agree.  It is the most honest evaluation of Joseph Smith that I have ever seen written by a believing LDS, though it appears to me that even Bushman relies heavily on “grasping at straws” type of arguments to maintain his faith.

          • Megan

            Brilliant – thanks! Been meaning to buy both books, but I’m trying to only purchase e-books (big move coming up) and that limits my options for the moment.

          • brandt

            I know you can get “Rough Stone Rolling” on Kindle – I have it in hardcover, but I want to have it on my Kindle so that I can have it wherever I go.  Just go to Amazon, look for RSR, and I believe its about $15.00

            I can’t find an eBook copy of “No Man Knows My History” anywhere (whether on PDF or on Kindle).  The problem you’re going to find when starting to look for more “scholarly” types of books like these is that there won’t be a lot of eBook options for older “essential” books, like “In Sacred Lonliness” by Compton or “Mormon Enigma” by Tippets and Avery.  But many of the newer books are coming out in Kindle/Nook format, which is incredible based on the ability to make everything available within seconds that the book publishers are getting to.

          • Megan

            I hear you on the academic books. It really frustrates me as I work in academia and see e-books as the obvious venue for their publication (in fact, I’m attending a seminar this morning on e-publishing in academia and hope to really jump-start something in my organization!). Google books helps with some older stuff – I think I found Eliza Young’s book there? But it’s hit or miss. Project Gutenberg is a great option, but only for things that are either very well known or are the pet-project of a particular person. Of course, since No Man Knows My History is probably still in copyright neither of these options really works. Sigh.

            However! Off to download Rough Stone Rolling and add another candle to my iPad shrine!

  6. Patriarchal_Gripe Reply

    Just a quick thought about the tone of this podcast. 

    In spite of being someone who considers themselves an ex-Mormon, I found myself very uncomfortable with the ganging up on Mike that happened on this podcast.  I understand the itch we get as critics to jump all over a TBM (excuse the label) during a doctrinal discussion, but we all need to remember that we were all wearing the same filter when we were faithful.  Most of the “questions” fired at Mike were ones that most critics have already answered solidly, and they seem to be directed at Mike just for the inner glee one can feel listening to him stammer and stutter. 

    Kudos to John and Heather for stepping in with apologetic responses that most believers have never found the need to store away, and kudos to Mike and Brandt for “taking one for the team”, as John put it.

    • sinclaire Reply

      i was never a believer-i was forced to go to church. as an ex-mormon i ask TBM’s ALL TIME to explain why and how they believe what they do. Maybe if more TBM’s would stand up and “take one for the team” he wouldnt appear so picked on.

    • Anonymous Reply

      PG, I can’t speak for the other people on the podcast, but I never “jump on” TBMs during doctrinal discussions that occur on “their turf” (ie their facebook pages, on their blogs, in their homes, or in casual conversations where they didn’t knowingly sign up for religious debate)  — nor do I ever have the itch to.  Mike and Brandt came on the podcast willingly and knowing what the conversation would be like.  In my mind that doesn’t really constitute being ganged up on.  Also, I don’t think anyone asked questions for the inner glee of watching Mike squirm.  It was a lively discussion and sure, there was a little good-natured ribbing (paying for the smashed ouija board), but that’s what happens among friends.  I don’t think anyone on that panel holds ill will towards Mike or Brandt.  It was all in good fun and, if you think about it, none of us got our feelings hurt when Mike told us we are ridiculous.  😉

      • Richard of Norway Reply

        I agree with you Heather and think especially you are very careful and respectful in the way you engage believers.

        However, for this particular episode there were apparently some bystanders in the room and there was often audible laughter and whispering in the background that seemed like mocking or chiding the TBM’s. I am pretty sure you guys (including every body in the room) were laughing and whispering about each other – and stuff we couldn’t see or hear – rather than at Mike or Brandt or their beliefs, but I can totally see how it may be misinterpreted since the general tone was often quite… (I can’t think of the word) antagonistic? Blame it on John. 😉

        Regardless, I think it was great! I just hope it didn’t scare Brandt or Mike off for too long. It was really great having them on. And I really loved Mike’s “You guys are ridiculous.” comment. Cracked me up! 🙂

      • Patriarchal_Gripe Reply

        Heather, I agree that you and John don’t jump on them, but the open mic comments all started this way:  “So Mike, I have to ask you a question…”

        You and John did a great job keeping the topic on track and it actually seemed like you stepped in with apologetic answers to buffer Mike a bit.  Just something I noticed.

        Maybe, put a sign up in front of the open mic saying “Please be nice to the believers”.

        • Fred W. Anson Reply

          PG, your point is well taken.  I think it important to treat everyone with respect – especially those we disagree with.

          And I can’t speak for others but very often I find myself reflexively laughing (without even realizing it I might add) at the “answers” that Mike and  other TBMs give simply because they’re so over-the-top ludicrous. And other times it’s anxiety relieving “nervous laughter” as is, “He can’t REALLY believe that can he – it’s a total mind frak man!” 

          So yes, I suppose we all should work harder to NOT react at all at those moments but, frankly, it can be really, really, really hard. 

          Or if you prefer, you can just write it off to, “Those laughing just don’t have the witness of the spirit!” and move on.

    • brandt Reply

      PG, honestly, I didn’t feel it as a “ganging up.”  I can’t speak for Mike, but like Heather said, I knew what I was going into.  My thinking going into the podcast was this:

      I’m most likely not going to change your views.  You’re most likely not going to change mine. With that understanding, we can have a good discussion while having to conceede that we won’t agree on everything, and that there will always be differences.  Instead, it’s the broad spectrum of Mormonism that fascinates me, and all of you (at least, that’s the impression I get). 

      I wouldn’t compare it to going into a hornets nest.  That’s a bit strong.  But for me, whether listening or participating, it is like going into an area that has a high concentration of mosquitos.  I might get stung a little bit, it might be a bit uncomfortable, but I knew about it going in.

      NOT THAT ALL OF YOUR ARE MOSQUITOES.  I really enjoy all your viewpoints.  So I hope that analogy isn’t too derogatory.

      *good gracious I hope that analogy comes off correctly*

      • Richard of Norway Reply

        I get your analogy. It’s very good. It’s like you want a delicious cheeseburger with bacon and onion rings and to get it you need to cross the mosquito-infested pond. The view is nice and the air is fresh but it might hurt a little bit along the way. Very nice. 🙂

        • brandt Reply

          Richard, it’s lunch time here in Detroit, and I’m trying to eat healthy.  This is not helping me in the least little bit.  Throw in a Coke to go with it, and it would have driven me over the edge.


      • Anonymous Reply

        The analogy was perfectly clear. John, Heather and the other other anti-scum on ME are bloodsucking parasites. Got it.

        Kidding aside I appreciate your willingness to discuss these ideas with people who have all kinds of views on Mormonism. Mike too. I think it adds to the discussion.

        I sincerely wish I could talk with more believers about these issues. Most believers don’t want to talk and no one else really cares.

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      I didn’t see it so much as “ganging up” as asking the obvious questions. 

      And, true to form, Mike was his typical irrational self which, sadly, just fuels the fire because his mind numbingly absurdist and spin doctored explanations just lead to yet more obvious questions that must be asked.

      Sadly, the mantra of far too many TBMs is, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

      Mike would do well to take lessons from Brandt IMO.  

      • Anonymous Reply

        @Fred: “I didn’t see it so much as “ganging up” as asking the obvious questions.”

        That’s exactly the same way I see it (as, I’m sure, did the panelists asking the questions).  I hope that both Mike and Brandt understand that as well, and not as a concerted attempt to maximize their discomfort and embarassment.

        I also wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of Hugh Nibley’s explanations.  It is remarkable to me how so many TBMs (especially LDS leaders) fail to see just how embarassingly irrational and dishonest many of his apologetic explanations were.  As I have said before, the lame attempts by apologists like him to explain away the hard problems posed by critical questioners of LDS doctrine and history actually did more to convince me that the LDS Church was not what it claimed to be than the critical questions themselves!

    • Ozpoof Reply

      It may appear like ganging up because there are no adequate responses by TBMs for many of the questions put out there, however, it is the TBMs who claim to have the truth. If they can’t defend their beliefs that’s their problem. 

      “Inner glee”? I heard laughing at the realization that someone such as Mike can actually defend his faith despite it’s leaders being caught so many times lying outright. Mike is not ever willing to accept even blatant lies such as that mentioned by John with the reprint of the BoM. At least Brandt was honest. Mike defends lies because they are church lies. That’s cult think.

  7. Anonymous Reply

    I’ve been thinking about Amy’s comment that a wand in a woman’s hand makes her a witch, but in a man’s hand it makes him a seer.  I wonder if it’s just a function of the time period.  100ish years before at the Salem witch trials, Giles Corey was pressed to death in an attempt to get him to confess he was in league with the devil.

    There was a time when the Catholic church tortured and burned those who vocally disagreed with the papacy.  Now they just give sermons about heresy.  Maybe the same kind of transition occurred in New England.  At one time they were hanging and burning people believed to be practicing sorcery but by JS’s day people just rolled their eyes and clucked their tongues.  Maybe a gal could have picked up a divining rod in those days.  Maybe they did.  But instead of people calling, “WITCH WITCH!” they just patted her on the head and told her to stop doing men’s work. 

  8. George Reply

    Hey Richard. Thanks for the Shout-out. It was a good time being back in the panel. Good times.

    As to the ganging up on Brandt and Mike. I felt a bit funny about that myself and thought they both did a great job of keeping things clear. My question to both of them at the end was one that I struggle with in many aspects of my life, that is: when faced with a clearly contradictory situation related to my faith journey, how do I reconcile it in my head. I ask loved-ones about this on a regular basis. I think it is fair question to ask. In the example I used, when shown such clear evidence of a change in cannon, and especially as John shows that they even left the dates and version numbers the same, what revolutions of the brain can reconcile that? Mine finally imploded, but I’m left with a half-in half-out life. It isn’t fun.


  9. Sam Reply

    I enjoyed this podcast very much.  Several yrs ago I learned about the existence of original versions of D&C 8 and 9.  Once I read and studied them, it changed my whole understanding of Joseph, “translation”, the BOM and the conundrum of the golden plates.
    The D&C itself says Oliver made an attempt to translate.  As an active beliver, I had never stopped to ask the next logical question… which is “so, Oliver saw the plates on multiple occassions, and not just in the field with Martin Harris and David Whitmer? Cool!”  If this is so, why isn’t there a great deal of fanfare about this instance and using it as another “witness moment” to support the existence of the plates?  
    Add to this the multiple accounts of Joseph translating without the the plates even in the room, and you can only conclude that the plates were not a part of the process.  With this understanding, and by accurately reading D&C 9 as a section on the translation process (not on getting answers to prayer) and it becomes terribly obvious that the BOM (words, stories, plot and characters) all came from the seedbed of Joseph Smith’s mind. 
    The BOM was “revealed” to Joseph’s mind the same way each section of the D&C was, and the same way the Book or Moses and the JST was… it came to his mind as “intelligence” and it got written down.  

    I had always thought the BOM translation was a “transcription” process (i.e., tracing fingers on the plates, checking the seer stone or U&T for what that character meant, and then telling Oliver what to write).  You just can’t read and understand the real story behind the original D&C 8 and 9 and reach that conclusion.

    It was a conjuring exercise where Joseph focused his mind started talking.  As D&C 8 and 9 make clear, Oliver lacked the gift for focusing his mind and starting to talk.  In short… Joseph had an incredibly brilliant mind capable of great imagination… Oliver did not.  I envision Oliver’s attempt to translate as grabbing his diving rod or putting his face in the hat and then waiting for the words to flow.  They didn’t.  He couldn’t replicate Joseph’s talent.

    This begs another question alluded to in comments above… what was Joseph’s motive?  I have struggled for years to reach a conclusion and still don’t know where I stand.  A big generous part of me wants to believe this:

    Joseph *truly believed* HIS THOUGHTS were SPECIAL.  He believed his imagination was unique.  He recognized that the ability to spew out stories off the top of his head like that was unique among his family and community, and therefore he interpretted that as a gift/talent from God.  He BELIEVED the BOM was an inspired dictation.  He believed when he stood and recited a new revelation that those thoughts were unique/special and from God.  What the rest of us might see as normal introspective thoughts and imagination were, to him, divine inspiration.  If this is true, then maybe he’s not a charlatan after all.  Just a bit of a deluded genius. 

    However, there is one problem with this: the damn PLATES.  For me, his story of the existence of the plates is a clever that cuts him into one of two camps… 1) they are real, he’s called by God and the BOM is true, or 2) he was intentionally out to deceive and defraud people.  Ugh. 

    Why would God go to great lengths to preserve the plates for 1000 years and deliver into his hands, only to have them sit in a log in the woods while Joseph dictated the BOM.  Were they some kind of channeling device the proximity of which was necessary for Joseph’s mind to come alive? Or, do we throw up our hands, accept the principle behind Occam’s Razor and accept that the simplest answer is the most likely.  He made it up.  Probably to help his family financially as postulated by Dan Vogel and others. 

    John: we need a Dan Vogel interview on the podcast!

    • Richard of Norway Reply

      Excellent comment! I appreciate how your min works. Very similar to my own thought process.  I do give one more twist to your two scenarios for Joseph. 3) He did deceive people intentionally but only because he thought it was the only way for them to believe him – and he really did think he was gifted and doing god’s will. At least I think that is possible. When I read Joseph’s journal entries he really doesn’t come off as a man out to deceive. He seems sincere. But then obviously that was his talent in the first place or how else could he gain so many followers?

      • Anonymous Reply

        Like you, I am not sure to what extent Joseph Smith actually came to believe his own religious claims, but there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that he knew he was lying when he denied his polygamous relationships.  That he married so many women didn’t bother me nearly as much as the facts that: 1. Fully one third of these women were already married to other men (some of whom were conveniently out of the way on missions that JS had sent them on at the time he married them) and 2. He so egregiously lied about them, even to those who were closest to him and whom he should have loved and trusted the most (like Emma).  Also, I don’t doubt for a minute that his repeated claim that an angel with a fiery sword threatened to take his life if he did not institute polygamy was an outrageous, deliberate and self-serving lie.  Even without the numerous other intractable problems concerning LDS historical and doctrinal claims, those issues alone are more than enough to convince me that JS was a charlatan and con man who does not deserve anyone’s trust!

        Whether the LDS Church leaders and apologists admit it or not, they simply cannot explain away or justify or even deny this behaviour by JS without further embarassing themselves and the Church!

        • JMW Reply

          You’ve obviously heard one side of the story, I think you’ll find that the RLDS did extensive research into it and they show that a lot of what you call fact is very much fiction. Not only that but Joseph is still pulling off miracles and gifts of the spirit that are documented at the time in printed publications and person diaries/journals. I’d suggest Pure Mormonism’s blog, he does a very thorough post on throwing out polygamy and links to great essays and even free ebooks.

          Top that off with Michael Quinn bringing to light that Joseph and Emma burned the original revelation that was later recreated by Brigham as section 132 and you have a guy that received an answer via revelation to his questions about Abraham and his wives and thought it completely ok to set it on fire and warm his hands over it with his wife.

          Sometimes I don’t know whats worse people that let church leaders do their thinking for them or people that let scholars do their thinking for them as if scholars don’t have their own personal agenda’s too… Hopefully you’ll continue your studying in the subject and see that there is more to the story than you may have known.

  10. Fred W. Anson Reply

    OK, Mike said (paraphrasing), “At least we’re not like the Born Agains who publish a new Bible every two years.” 

    Well, I know that Mike has never let little niggling things like facts get in the way of good Mormon dogma but that bit of fallacious nonsense deserves a response. 

    Mike, it is true that mainstream Christianity enjoys a rich and diverse smorgasboard of Bible translations to to choose from. However, despite your derivise, condescending tone, what they’re publishing are new translations of the Bible not new Bibles. 

    You see Mike – and I realize that as a True Believing Mormon you may find this a hard thing to grasp -Christians throughout history have enjoyed a rich body of Bible manuscripts to work from. Some manuscripts are better than others (older thus presumed to be closer to the original “autograph” manuscript of the author; more complete; etc.) and new manuscripts continue to be uncovered and folded into the body of evidence that Bible translators can work from. 

    As a result, today’s modern translations it is generally agreed, are better, more refined, more accurate than past efforts. 

    They’re also more readable.  Many translations are simply attempts to communicate the text of the aforementioned transcripts in ways that modern men and women can better understand given the fact that English continues to grow, change, and evolve.

    Therefore (and to summarize) the overwhelming motivator is to serve the needs of humanity with better, more accurate, clearer translations of the Bible, nothing more.  To illustrate, please consider the opening lines of the introduction to the 2009 English Standard Version (ESV):

    The English Standard Version (ESV) stands in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations over the past half-millennium. The fountainhead of that stream was William Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526; marking its course were the King James Version of 1611 (KJV), the English Revised Version of 1885 (RV), the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV), and the Revised Standard Version of 1952 and 1971 (RSV). In that stream, faithfulness to the text and vigorous pursuit of accuracy were combined with simplicity, beauty, and dignity of expression. Our goal has been to carry forward this legacy for a new century.

    To this end each word and phrase in the ESV has been carefully weighed against the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, to ensure the fullest accuracy and clarity and to avoid under-translating or overlooking any nuance of the original text. The words and phrases themselves grow out of the Tyndale-King James legacy, and most recently out of the RSV, with the 1971 RSV text providing the starting point for our work. Archaic language has been brought to current usage and significant corrections have been made in the translation of key texts. But throughout, our goal has been to retain the depth of meaning and enduring language that have made their indelible mark on the English-speaking world and have defined the life and doctrine of the church over the last four centuries.

    The ESV is an “essentially literal” translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. It seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.
    (see http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/English-Standard-Version-ESV-Bible/#booklist ; retrieved date of post. Bolding and underling added for emphasis) 

    Now, Mike I’m sure that this fixation with accuracy and precision must make you seethe with jealousy since there are no manuscripts to validate the accuracy and precision of Joseph Smith’s non-English “translations”.  And, without a doubt, I’m sure that many a Latter-day Saint must tire of the clumsy, antiquated, Elizabethan English of the LdS Standard works (of course God obviously ONLY speaks 17th Century English – but that’s another “vital” topic for another day). I’m sure that they would gladly love to have a better, more accurate, more communicative, modern translation of non-English LdS Scripture from the manuscripts – were that possible. Sadly it’s not since all manuscripts are missing except for one – and it’s nothing more than a common Egyptian “Book of Breathings” funerary scroll that utterly discredits Joseph Smith’s so-called “translation” of the Book of Abraham.  

    Bummer man!

    Further, I’m sure that given the LdS Church’s poor track record in stewarding the purity and integrity of non-English LdS Scripture it must be a constant source of frustration given the fact that the manuscript base can’t be called on to clarify the meaning and intent of the original author as well as hold them accountable to the original words of the manuscripts! 

    So given all these annoyances I can certainly understand the deeply seeded anger and frustation that manifested itself in making an arse of yourself by arrogantly touting your jaw dropping and stunningly embarrassing arrogance . . . er, I mean ignorance . . . in public like you did . . .  

    … yet again.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Jared Anderson posted on Facebook about his discomfort with Christ saying, “Don’t touch me I have work to do,” to Mary when he was resurrected.  But when he looked at a better translation from Greek he saw that it could more accurately be translated as, “You must let go of me, I have work to do.”  (Or something like that.)  Those two things are completely different.  One is a chastisement that calls into question the value of womanhood.  The other is an exclamation, made in a loving way, during an embrace. I think looking at different translations of the Bible could be nothing but helpful as languages don’t always translate easily into other languages and word usage changes over time.

    • KC Reply

      Your point about newer translations being useful and speaking to modern Christians is well taken. However, maybe Mike was not referring to new translations but to a culture of Biblical consumerism in which publishers seem to put out a bible geared to every niche and walk of life. In his book “The Rise and Fall of the Bible” Timothy Beal writes about the explosion of the bible publishing industry which is now customizing bibles for every group of people. There are even bible magazines such as Resolve and Refuel geared to the youth.

      See USA Today article about this.  Here are a few excerpts.  http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2008-10-07-gateway-bibles-publisher_N.htm

      “Secular as well as traditional religious Bible publishers are getting in on the act. Dozens of different versions of the Bible come out each year for various niches: the outdoorsman, the married couple, business leaders. There are electronic Bibles available for the Kindle, iPods and handheld devices. There are graphic novel and comic book interpretations. There’s even a new chronological version of the Bible coming out this fall.”“It’s difficult to capture how many different versions of the Bible are sold each year. But the Book Industry Study Group estimates that Bibles, testaments, hymnals and prayer books were a $795.2 million market in 2007”“The Bible is reinvented quite often. While essentially still the same book, Gutjahr said that for the past two decades, updates were largely focused on new translations. There are also versions that come out each year that are essentially the same book, with different covers and sizes based on people’s wants”

      Perhaps this is what Mike was referring to.

      • Fred W. Anson Reply
        • Anonymous Reply

          I generally agree with what you are saying, but there are newer versions of the Bible that are not the product of honest attempts to improve how true the translation is to the original, ancient texts.  For example, as I understand it, the New World translation used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses was produced not by examining the ancient, original texts, but by altering or removing passages in already available, accepted translations that did not seem compatible with what the Jehovah’s Witnessses founder wanted to promote or believe.

          • Fred W. Anson

            You’re correct Gunnar and when that occurs the translation is exposed and denounced – as was the case with the New World Translation. The following is from the neutral source, Wikipedia:  

            A 2003 study by Jason BeDuhn, associate professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University in the United States, of nine of “the Bibles most widely in use in the English-speaking world,” including the New American Bible, The King James Bible and The New International Version, examined several New Testament passages in which “bias is most likely to interfere with translation.” For each passage, he compared the Greek text with the renderings of each English translation, and looked for biased attempts to change the meaning. BeDuhn reported that the New World Translation was “not bias free”, but emerged “as the most accurate of the translations compared”, and thus a “remarkably good translation”, adding that “most of the differences are due to the greater accuracy of the NW as a literal, conservative translation”. BeDuhn said the introduction of the name “Jehovah” into the New Testament 237 times was “not accurate translation by the most basic principle of accuracy”, and that it “violate[s] accuracy in favor of denominationally preferred expressions for God”, adding that for the NWT to gain wider acceptance and prove its worth its translators might have to abandon the use of “Jehovah” in the New Testament.[55]

            Theologian and televangelist John Ankerberg accused the NWT’s translators of renderings that conform “to their own preconceived and unbiblical theology.”[56] Dr. John Weldon and Ankerberg cite several examples wherein they consider the NWT to support theological views overriding appropriate translation. Ankerberg and Weldon cite Dr. Julius R. Mantey, co-author of A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament and A Hellenistic Greek Reader, who also criticized the NWT, calling it “a shocking mistranslation.”[56][57]

            Dr. William Barclay, Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism, concluded that “the deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in the New Testament translation. … It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest.”[58]

            Edgar J. Goodspeed, translator of the New Testament in An American Translation, wrote in a letter to the Watch Tower Society: “I am interested in the mission work of your people, and its world wide scope, and much pleased with the free, frank and vigorous translation. It exhibits a vast array of sound serious learning, as I can testify.”[59]

            Robert McCoy stated “One could question why the translators have not stayed closer to the original meaning, as do most translators … In not a few instances the New World Translationcontains passages which must be considered as ‘theological translations.’ This fact is particularly evident in those passages which express or imply the deity of Jesus Christ.” [60]

            Former American Bible Society board member Dr. Bruce M. Metzger concluded that “on the whole, one gains a tolerably good impression of the scholarly equipment of the translators,”[61] but identified instances where the translation has been written to support doctrine, with “several quite erroneous renderings of the Greek.”[62] He described the NWT’s comma placement at Luke 23:43[63] as a device “supporting the doctrine of ‘soul sleep’ held by Jehovah’s Witnesses,”[64] and said the insertion of the word “other” four times inColossians chapter 1, “making Paul say that Jesus Christ is one among ‘other’ created things,” was designed to provide support for the Witnesses’ doctrine of nontrinitarianism, which he states was “totally without warrant from the Greek.”[65] Metzger noted a number of “indefensible” characteristics of the translation, including its use of “Jehovah” in the New Testament. He said the insertion of the name “Jehovah” in Jude 11-15 was “singularly inappropriate,” stating that the name was unknown to Enoch who is quoted as using it, and that the tetragrammaton is not used in “the Greek text of the Book of Enoch, with which the quotation by Jude agrees almost verbatim.”[65]
            (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_World_Translation_of_the_Holy_Scriptures#New_Testament ; retrieved date of post) 

            And you will note that the criticism in all cases points to translation corruptions relative to what the source manuscripts actually say. 

          • Anonymous

            I concede all your points if it is indeed true that JWs never refer to themselves as “born again.”

            I especially agree with your last point (assuming you meant to include the word “not” between “are” and “the” in the next to last paragraph).  Joseph Smiths “Inspired Translation” of the Bible is almost certainly a prime example of what we are talking about.

          • Fred W. Anson

            LOL! Thank you for catching my typo – I’ve corrected my last post. And yes, Joseph Smith’s “Inspired Translation” of the Bible is another example.  However, what Smith did was ESPECIALLY overt and blatant in regard to translation corruption.  I hope you don’t mind if I expand on it a bit. For a start, he wasn’t really “translating” at all as he was working from an Bible that was in English. As a 1900 Improvement Era article explains: “The Prophet had a large German Bible upon the margins of which he made the corrections as he was inspired while studying certain topics of the scriptures. One subject at a time was taken, and every reference to that subject was looked over, and where needed, corrected. But only a very small number of all the subjects were ever thus considered. Some most excellent corrections were made, but perhaps there were a dozen or more subjects or principles in certain chapters where one only was corrected. Hence it is that while one topic, as in the chapter referred to in Hebrews, has been explained, and much light thrown upon it, it does not follow and is not true that the Prophet either “revised” or “translated” the whole chapter or considered every subject therein. And this may be said of nearly all the chapters in the scriptures.”(Please note that the Bible was indeed in English – that wasn’t explicitly stated in the article but that was the case) Therefore, as the same article corrects assesses: “It should be remembered that rather than a translation it was a revision” (see http://www.ida.net/graphics/shirtail/jst.htm; retrieved date of post) But, of course, Smith went further – adding page after page of text with absolutely no manuscript support at all to back it. As BYU Studies states on it’s website:  “Joseph Smith’s ‘corrections’ to the canonical text were not a matter of retranslating ancient manuscripts.”(see http://byustudies.byu.edu/showTitle.aspx?title=7811 ; retrieved date of post) And those who have listened to this podcast should find this method of so-called “translation” familiar: “As with Joseph Smith’s other translations, he reported that he was forced to “study it out in [his] mind”[2] as part of the revelatory process.”(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith_Translation_of_the_Bible#Translation ; retrieved date of post) The irony is that Smith was doing EXACTLY what he claims was done to the Bible during “The Great Apostasy” – adding and taking away text based on a personal Theological agenda.  It’s really quite funny if you think about it – the hypocrisy is deliciously amusing. Finally, and to your comment about whether Jehovah’s Witnesses refer to themselves as “Born Again” or not: It really isn’t germane as the context of our conversation was Mike Tannehill’s derogatory comment which clearly was referring to Evangelicals. I seriously doubt that Mike Tannehill gives JWs or the New Century Translation of the Bible much thought at all. Personally, I would have chosen another case study that was closer to the mark relative to Mike’s comment (there many), but no worries, we’re stilling have a great discussion. 

          • Anonymous

            Thank you for those links–especially the mormonthink link.  Mormonthink is one of my favorite sites, but I hadn’t yet read that particular discussion (or, at least, not all of it).  It refreshed my memory of what I had already learned about the JST and added very interesting insights that were new to me.  I found the BOM passages that were word for word identical to the corresponding KJV passages, yet differed significantly from the same verses in the JST to be particularly amusing.

            Yes, I realize that JS was not really translating when he worked on the JST.  That is why I put “Inspired Translation” in quotation marks.

            Richard Packham also has a wealth of information pertaining to this and other Mormon topics.  I trust you are probably also familiar with his site.

          • Fred W. Anson

            At the risk of drifting the thread I have to gush: I absolutely love Packham and his work – big, big, big fan here. 

            Have you heard his linguistic analysis of The Book of Mormon from the 2009 ExMormon Foundation Conference yet?  It’s a classic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_LBzEsTlbk 
            And, of course, you’ll find the transcription on his website here: http://packham.n4m.org/linguist.htm

            I wasn’t aware that he’d also done work on the JST.  Do you have links? 

            And on this . . .

            “I found the BOM passages that were word for word identical to the corresponding KJV passages, yet differed significantly from the same verses in the JST to be particularly amusing.”

            Well now then, when you’re making it all up on the fly . . .


          • Anonymous

            Yes, I have heard his liguistic analysis of the BoM and was very impressed by it.  As for Richard Packham and the JST, I just looked at his website again and could find nothing by him on the JST.  I might have gotten him momentarily confused with Grant Palmer.  I wouldn’t be surprised, though, to find that Packham has also had something to say about the JST.  If I find something on that before you do, I’ll try to let you know.  Maybe I can blame my confusion on my very late youth.  I started subtracting a year from my age every birthday since my 50th.  I am already down to 33, approaching 32.  Obviously my youthful ignorance is returning as I continue to get younger.  Yeah, that’s it!  It couldn’t possibly be due to approaching senility, could it?


          • Fred W. Anson

            Using your math, I’m now 49 approaching 48 and that senility thing scares the h*ll out of me. 

            I reckon that a good, solid regiment of Mormon Studies for the remaining years that I draw breath just might keep “the little grey cells” around a bit longer – either that, or I’ll end up like Nibley, Shirt, May, Ash, Petersen and their ilk – and start drooling on little buggers instead!

            After all didn’t Mike Quinn once famously say at Sunstone a few years ago that anyone who’s still in Mormon Studies after 5-years is obviously mentally imbalanced?  


          • Anonymous

            “A good, solid ‘regiment’ of Mormon Studies?”  Do we really need to become that militant? 😉

          • MoJim

            Gunnar1961: “For example, as I understand it, the New World translation used by the
            Jehovah’s Witnesses was produced not by examining the ancient, original
            texts, but by altering or removing passages in already available,
            accepted translations that did not seem compatible with what the
            Jehovah’s Witnessses founder wanted to promote or believe. ”

            I think the LDS church is guilty of this as well. The way I understand it, the LDS church’s new edition of the Bible in Spanish was produced in much the same way, with a “translation” committee updating the most-recent public domain version of the Spanish Reina-Valera translation of the Bible not by comparing it to ancient Greek and Hebrew texts (the “translation” committee didn’t even have any no ancient language experts!); instead, they “updated” the language by making it more closely conform to the English-language KJV and BoM passages which quote the KJV, all the while making small changes to make it agree more with LDS theology.

          • Anonymous

            Mojim: “I think the LDS church is guilty of this as well. The way I understand it, the LDS church’s new edition of the Bible in Spanish was produced in much the same way, with a “translation” committee updating the most-recent public domain version of the Spanish Reina-Valera translation of the Bible not by comparing it to ancient Greek and Hebrew texts (the “translation” committee didn’t even have any no ancient language experts!); instead, they “updated” the language by making it more closely conform to the English-language KJV and BoM passages which quote the KJV, all the while making small changes to make it agree more with LDS theology.”

            Yes.  As already mentioned in this thread, Joseph Smith’s Inspired Translation of the Bible is (if anything) an even more blatant example of this kind of thing.  Based on what little I know of the new Spanish edition (including your comments and the Deseret News article to which Fred provided a link), it appears that it too is a prime example.

  11. Fred W. Anson Reply

    This was a great podcast, I really enjoyed it – especially the addition of a reasonable, balanced, and diplomatic True Believing Mormon voice to the proceedings – welcome Brandt, please stick around.

    In the end I felt that all the obvious questions were asked except this one – which, for me, this key:

    Since Mormonism claims to be derivative of the Judeo-Christian religion AND claims to be Biblically congruent then why was it’s founder engaged in “folk magic” practices like the type of skrying/divination that the Early Mormons engaged in that are expressly condemned in the Bible from cover-to-cover?

    As Mormon Studies Scholar Eric Johnson notes in his review of “Early Mormonism & The Magic World View”:

    The Bible very expressly forbade the Jewish people to be involved with such practices as magic, sorcery, and divination. Consider, for instance, Deuteronomy 18:10-11. Among other things, it said no one should be found among God’s people who practiced these things:

    Deuteronomy 18:10-11 (KJV)
    There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.

    Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
    (see http://mrm.org/early-mormonism-and-magic-world-view ; retrieved date of post; formatting added for emphasis)

    And I would add this passage from the Revelation of John:

    Revelation 21:6-8 (King James Version)
    “And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

    He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

    But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
    (formatting added for emphasis)

    So from Torah to New Testament, the very “folk art” practices described in this podcast are condemned.
    How then, was it OK for the Early Mormons to engage in them let alone acquire their scripture and revelations from them?

    Thank you for considering my thoughts and questions. Again, this was a great podcast – one that I will be recommending to others.

  12. Ozpoof Reply

    Mike: “If it was changes to make it more understandable then there’s nothing
    wrong with it……There’s nothing wrong with clarifying scripture.”

    That’s all very well, except the Scriptures are not very clear at all. They are repetitive and use what appear to be fillers such as “and it came to pass” constantly. They contradict themselves, each other, as well as current Mormon assumed doctrine. They are in Elizabethan English, not common to Joseph Smith’s time or ours. 

    I have to say that anyone who believes these documents are inspired or direct words of God have a very, very low opinion of deity.

  13. Greg Reply

    Ok, I’m really late with any comments, but as I was (one of) the main sources of open mic contention, I want to say just a couple of things…

    1) I apologize to Mike and Brandt if any of my comments were unkind or inappropriate.  Like many of you, I am trying to figure out what to think about my life’s philosophical rug being pulled out from under my feet.  John Larsen has (gently) told me on a number of occasions that the way I think about all of this a year from now will be different than the way I think about it now.  It is only in the past few months that I ever considered Oliver trying to translate the BOM with a divining rod… and you know what?  That’s kind of an hysterical image to conjure up.  Which means…

    2) Yes, we were laughing.  We weren’t laughing at the temple ceremony, or at seriously sacred things (although maybe I can’t tell the difference anymore).  We were laughing at the idea of selling divining rods in Deseret Book (and other ridiculousness).  C’mon, it is ridiculous.  It’s funny.  The ME podcast on the 14 fundamentals of following the prophet or the bonus episode on the lost 10 tribes get into a pretty unfunny debate about serious things and there isn’t much quarter given.  I guess my serious question here is: does it seem more condescending when there is laughter in the conversation?… maybe it’s the one-two combo of loud laughter AND evil speaking…

    3) I appreciate Mike and appreciated Brandt for standing up and trying to give support to the other side.  They had a rougher job on this one than most.  There’s a reason why the revelation was changed, and I don’t know that it’s for clarity’s sake.  It’s difficult to defend a cover-up and occult practices from a modern LDS perspective…. kind of strains credibility.  

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  15. Course Correction Reply

    “In fact the Church teaches us that two men together (or three) are better than one. Two or three men (and no women) are the very best leadership structure there can possibly be . . . hmmm. Now, (I may be implying but) I am not saying that God likes the idea of (male) gay marriage . . .”

    What a great statement! And here Church leaders have been worried about things like Mormon bishops giving rides home to neighbor women on rainy days.

  16. Kris Fielding Reply

    This is very insightful. It seems to be a commonality in all religions that god’s standards already reflect the existing social structure, so I think you are right that people create god in their own image. In our arrogance we assume that we (the in-group) have already made the transformation and it’s everyone else that is falling short.

    It reminds me of a gospel doctrine lesson on the “pride cycle.” I remember sitting in class (still a TBM) a few years ago thinking about it and wondering what point we, as a church, were at. I thought about all the materialism, fake friends, apathy, judgmentalism and arrogance. But, then later the bishop gave a special lesson on the women wearing clothes that are too tight and flip flops and I knew the leaders were inspired.

  17. Kevin Reply

    Great post, Tierza. You can really put together a thoughtful, persuasive piece.

    Your post suggests two aspects of Christ’s teachings that I think are emphasized too infrequently. First, he never talks about building an ideal society or culture. In fact, he dismisses the whole idea, pointing out that his kingdom is not of this world.

    The wisdom of this teaching has been borne out by all of the failed attempts to build “heaven on earth.” The revolution that Christ wanted was in the human heart. And he seemed to think that the revolution depended on some virtues more than others. How often did he preach forgiveness and tolerance and generosity as compared to, say, chastity?

    This leads to a second underemphasized aspect of Christ’s teaching: He knows that we tend to think in terms of worthiness and of getting what we deserve and he says, basically, “get over it.” The parables about the prodigal son and the day laborers illustrate that God’s mercy is extreme to the point of being offensive. But God is merciful anyway.

    I suppose that’s part of the point of being God: He gets to do things his way. We shouldn’t be like the children who expect God to dance when we play a happy tune, or to mourn when we play a sad tune. We should simply accept his mercy and try to reflect it in our relationships.

    I find that hard to do, but it seems to be what he demands.

  18. Mike Tannehill Reply


    I can assure you that the “stirring up” that has gone on on Facebook was not intentional. It started with a sharing on my wall of a British News headline and ended up spilling over into numerous discussions on other boards by others, not by me. I for one am glad that it is pretty much over and done with. Seeing supposed Christians bend and twist the teachings of Christ to suit their own supposed views is disturbing.

    What do we know of Women in Heaven? The scriptures are clear, the same sociality that exists among us here will exist among us there. If you want to see a small part of the Celestial Kingdom you merely have to visit a faithful and strong members home. Take in the smell, the atmosphere, view the way they treat one another. What role does the wife and mother play in that home? You know these families in your own ward. What is it like to visit them and spend time with them?

    I think the question I posed is a good one that deserves attention. Why is it that those who fight against the church place so much emphasis on tolerance and forgiveness and so little to chastity and virtue? All four are important but you cannot remove two and still claim to speak for the Lord or demand respect as an honest critic. I have heard two apostates in the past month ask “What does chastity even mean?” I think that speaks volumes.

    In regards to being judgemental: We all make judgement calls every day. We choose to restrict entertainment that our children view, we choose what magazines to buy and what books we encourage our children to read. We each choose a culture to have in our homes and shape that culture by cutting away at what we see as negative influences on us and our families. This often extends to the friends we choose to have and the discussions we choose to allow around us.

     I choose to make a stand against the current cultural trend of accepting homosexuality. I think both the Old and New Testaments are very plain and clear in regards to the wrongness of it, and our modern prophets are also very clear in condemning the behavior. While we are told to never make a final judgement we are expected to decry sin and bad behavior as a covenant people who have taken on themselves the name of Christ (D&C 84:54-62).

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      Mike I would like to give you a hearty “Thank you!” for validating every point that I made with such a fine example of your methods and means. Perhaps you should read my post again paying special attention to the following:

      “Psychological Projection is one of Mike’s favorite tools – he projects onto God, he projects onto Atheists, he projects onto Anti’s, he projects, he projects, he projects, until there’s Mike splattered all over everyone and everything.

      That tool along with his other favorite tool, eisegesis (“the process of misinterpreting a text in such a way that it introduces one’s own ideas, reading into the text” – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E… )”

      And please slow down and read twice, maybe even three times when you get to the part that says:

      “[His use chronic and continuing use of eisegesis tends to] create some “interesting” dynamics, not the less of which is his ability to offend vast portions of his fellow creatures with just a few word (a pattern which he seems wonderfully – almost magically – oblivious to)”

      “What do we know of Women in Heaven? The scriptures are clear, the same sociality that exists among us here will exist among us there. If you want to see a small part of the Celestial Kingdom you merely have to visit a faithful and strong members home. Take in the smell, the atmosphere, view the way they treat one another. What role does the wife and mother play in that home? You know these families in your own ward. What is it like to visit them and spend time with them?”

      1) New alert Mike: Mormons are the overwhelming minority on the planet most Christians don’t know LdS Scripture, don’t care about LdS Scripture, and outright reject LdS Scripture and here’s what the scripture that they hold as authoritative says about the “society” that will exist in heaven in terms of the issue of gender, sexual reproduction, and marriage:

      Matthew 22 (New Living Translation)
      23 That same day Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: 24 “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name.’ 25 Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children, so his brother married the widow. 26 But the second brother also died, and the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them. 27 Last of all, the woman also died. 28 So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.”

      29 Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. 30 For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven.

      31 “But now, as to whether there will be a resurrection of the dead—haven’t you ever read about this in the Scriptures? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead.

      33 When the crowds heard him, they were astounded at his teaching.”

      AND Mike I would add that the Gospels cite this episode and give the same answer not just once, not just twice, but three times – you will also find it in Mark 12:18-27 and in Luke 20:27-40.

      Further, if you want to know what type of “society” is going to exist in heaven you can also read the Book of Revelation as well as other books in the scripture that the people that you are so calavierly slandering consider authoritative scripture rather. In this way you just might gain understanding and empathy for their point of view rather that demanding that they conform to yours.

      Speaking of which, I just loved this bit of eisegesis – classsic!

      If you want to see a small part of the Celestial Kingdom you merely have to visit a faithful and strong members home. Take in the smell, the atmosphere, view the way they treat one another. What role does the wife and mother play in that home? You know these families in your own ward. What is it like to visit them and spend time with them?

      Let’s turn to scripture that, I believe both you and those you criticize and condemn can agree is authoritative:

      Revelation 19 New Living Translation (NLT)
      1 After this, I heard what sounded like a vast crowd in heaven shouting,
      “Praise the Lord!
      Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.
      2 His judgments are true and just.
      He has punished the great prostitute
      who corrupted the earth with her immorality.
      He has avenged the murder of his servants.”

      3 And again their voices rang out:

      “Praise the Lord!
      The smoke from that city ascends forever and ever!”

      4 Then the twenty-four elders and the four living beings fell down and worshiped God, who was sitting on the throne. They cried out, “Amen! Praise the Lord!”

      5 And from the throne came a voice that said,

      “Praise our God,
      all his servants,
      all who fear him,
      from the least to the greatest.”

      6 Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder:

      “Praise the Lord!
      For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
      7 Let us be glad and rejoice,
      and let us give honor to him.
      For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
      and his bride has prepared herself.
      8 She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.”
      For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.

      9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”

      10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers and sisters who testify about their faith in Jesus. Worship only God. For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus.”

      And elsewhere:

      Isaiah 6 (NLT)
      1 …I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2 Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 They were calling out to each other,
      “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!
      The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

      4 Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.

      Oh indeed! That sounds EXACTLY like what one experiences when one visits a “faithful and strong members home” doesn’t it?
      (please note dripping sarcasm in tone)

      “Seeing supposed Christians bend and twist the teachings of Christ to suit their own supposed views is disturbing.”

      All I can say to THAT Mike, is “Thus speaks the pot to the kettle”

      Mike, while I think I understand – and even empathize – with your blindness it troubles me that despite evidence and entreaties like what I’ve said and presented above it not only continues, but seems to be getting worse.

      May I respectfully suggest that going forward you consider applying the following rules of interpretation that have been the basis for sound interpretation for over 2,500 years?

      The Eight Rules of Interpretation
      “…the Eight Rules of Interpretation used by legal experts for more than 2500 years.

      1) Rule of Definition.
      Define the term or words being considered and then adhere to the defined meanings.

      2) Rule of Usage.
      Don’t add meaning to established words and terms. What was the common usage in the cultural and time period when the passage was written?

      3) Rule of Context.
      Avoid using words out of context. Context must define terms and how words are used.

      4) Rule of Historical background.
      Don’t separate interpretation and historical investigation.

      5) Rule of Logic.
      Be certain that words as interpreted agree with the overall premise.

      6) Rule of Precedent.
      Use the known and commonly accepted meanings of words, not obscure meanings for which their is no precedent.

      7) Rule of Unity.
      Even though many documents may be used there must be a general unity among them.

      8) Rule of Inference.
      Base conclusions on what is already known and proven or can be reasonably implied from all known facts.

      (sources: http://www.apologeticsindex.org/b11.html ; http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/20_interpretation.html)

      I think that if you would do so people like Tierza wouldn’t feel the need to write long blogs about your behavior, I wouldn’t feel the need to write long comments trying to reason you out out it, and you would find the line of pissed off people waiting to challenge you a heck of a lot shorter!

      I know that in the end you’ll do whatever you want to (you always seem to) but please consider it.


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