Plagiarism and The Globe – a comparative analysis

Let’s say that Joseph Smith Jr. Published the Book of Mormon today, with Google’s search capability, the blogsphere, and plagiarism techniques and standards.  What might have happened?  What might have happened when he published the Book of Commandments or the Book of Moses?

Well, we have a proxy. Margaret Wente is a pretty good approximation.  She attacked the individuals who claimed she borrowed from other texts, she didn’t produce any counter evidence, and when caught a second time, she went silent.

In fact, looking up her name takes you to a wikipedia page on Plagiarism.  And not without reason.

She lifts entire sentences from other people’s works without attribution,she copies formats of writing, including starting with reminiscing about her grandmother, quoting a line or two, and then ending with the same conclusion as a blog post.  She takes key thoughts or phrases unique to other sites and uses them without attribution.  This is not just possibly plagiarism this is to a level that the Globe has had to apologize and pull the articles.

Now review the number of sources that appear in the Book of Mormon, the Articles of Faith, the D&C or the Pearl of Great Price that are using the same techniques that Margaret Wente abused:

Possible sources of plagairism for Joseph Smith

It seems clear that Joseph’s works abuse other sources in a very similar method as Margaret Wente.  It should be easily declared that his works were contemporary and not ancient, or apologists should, perhaps lend their skills to defending Mrs. Wente as Joseph’s mistakes and clear abuse of other people’s works are no different than hers except in scope and impact on the world.



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Who goes to Outer Darkness, a handy guide

In my last post, I claimed that I might be a candidate for outer darkness.  A lot of people wanted a source on that.  As with anything in Mormon doctrine, there’s a lot of confusion, contradictory information and just all around ignoring a topic that should be as simple as asking a question and getting an answer.  So I thought I’d get it all out there in one simple post.

In Christianity, it is understood that anyone who denies the holy spirit goes to outer darkness, but they see it as a synonym for “Hell”.  There was a movement a few years ago to have people deny the holy spirit on Youtube, where many a youtuber claimed they would now go to Outer Darkness.

In the D&C, the definition of those who go to Outer Darkness is stated as:

the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows; Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof;Nevertheless, I, the Lord, show it by vision unto many, but straightway shut it up again; Wherefore, the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except those who are ordained unto this condemnation (D&C 76:45-48).

Which means that really, no one knows anything about this.  It’s just “Scary bad”.  But as with anything, that doesn’t stop prophets from talking about it like they knew.


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The top 10 lies your Mormon friend is telling you

Social media has enabled communication between friends like never before. It’s also enabled lies to be spread (and debunked more quickly) than ever before.  The lies Mormons tell are typically hold-overs from before Snopes was invented, and most Mormons may not realize they are lying, or simply justify the lie because the church is too good and you, their neighbor, would “make such a good member!”  Next time a member sends you one of these lies, feel free to send them a link to this list.

Also, to you members, before your blood begins to boil on my definition of a lie, I’m using the one given in Gosple Principles lesson 31: Honesty


Lying is intentionally deceiving others. Bearing false witness is one form of lying…There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.

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“It’s the members, stupid”

Many of you millennial-types are too young to remember the debates when Bill Clinton was running for office.  People as old as I am can skip the next section, but I provide it for context.

It’s the economy, stupid” is a slight variation of the phrase “The economy, stupid” which James Carville had coined as a campaign strategist of Bill Clinton‘s successful 1992 presidential campaign against sitting president George H. W. Bush. (See the Wikipedia article on the topic)

It was the phrase leveraged by Bill Clinton’s campaign to unseat George H.W. Bush and it came down to the idea that the slowing economy was all that mattered.  The plan was simple, state that George H.W. Bush would keep things the same, say “it’s the economy, stupid” and point out that no change would keep hurting the economy, then promise health care.  He used it over and over on any number of topics.

With Jeremy Runnell’s excommunication I see a battery of apologists taking to the field arguing a very similar topic.  I’m going to sum it up as”

“It’s the members, stupid”

They blame the members, including Jeremy for not reading their books, or not researching enough, or not having the drive to do independent research.  Always their tone is condescending, not just to Jeremy, but to any of the foolish members not dropping $80 a book on their personal theories.

And yet they all are missing the point entirely, especially from the faithful perspective.  Remember who said you can buy answers (Well, “anything in this world” but that includes answers) with money?

There will be many willing to answer questions with the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture

There will be many willing to answer questions with the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture

Instead, Jeremy Runnells demanded answers from “True messengers”.  He wanted answers from the Church Education system, or from a Stake President, or from some official source.

As he said to the Stake President:

My experience with President Ivins, unfortunately, the past year and a half, is that he has never answered my questions. Not a single question.

I have asked you 3 questions over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over. 20 times. And the specific questions that I asked is

“What error or mistakes in the CES Letter, or on the website, is incorrect so I can publicly correct it?”
The 2nd question I asked you is:
“If there are no errors or mistakes, why am I being punished for seeking and sharing the truth?”
And the 3rd question I asked you is:
“What question am I being punished for?”
And you have not answered a single one of them. Can I ask you why you are not answering them?

Of course that question wasn’t answered at all, either.  But the Apologists, historians and self-proclaimed understanders of the gospel ignore that the handbook actually demands that leaders give answers and correction before excommunicating a member to point out how lost and mistaken poor Jeremy’s questions are.

Let me be perfectly clear.  The Stake President violated the handbook in more ways than one, he ignored his duty, refused to answer a person who was seeking council and guidance, and the various “experts” entirely ignore this to focus on how stupid the members are.

If you want to know why membership is falling and missionary success is dwindling, you need look no further than the idea that a church promises it has the answers to life’s questions, refuses to answer questions and then blames the people for asking them.

Shame.  Shame on everyone who says it is Jeremy’s fault, and doesn’t call out leaders for not leading, prophets for not prophesying, revelators for failing to reveal, and seers for being blind.

I propose a very different answer.  The member, they are not stupid.  they are realizing they are getting a bad deal.  I know Jeremy, he’s a bright fellow.  He put some long hours in on that CES letter and printed corrections on what he was wrong about.  Why is the church shrinking?

It’s the members, they’re not stupid

A list of websites blaming the members:

What We Should Learn from Jeremy Runnells: Some Thoughts on His Departure From the Church

And again here:

Posted in Apologetics, Current issues | 2 Comments

A timeline of thought control

You might have once had someone give you a backhanded compliment.  A child once told me I looked great for being so old (This is when I was 18, by the way), and although it’s nice for the compliment, the bad part of the compliment sucks the enjoyable nature from the positive expressly stated.

The LDS church encourages learning like a backhanded compliment.  We’ll call it “Backhanded learning”.  For example it encourages study out of the “Best books” but then gives talks that the “best books” are all about the LDS church and should be read with faith.  It has scripture that the “Glory of God is Intelligence” but then redefines “intelligences” to be the particulate matter used to create spirit in other scriptures.  The school has a University of Higher Learning but the motto is “Enter to learn, go forth to serve“, not lead, not because learning is important in its own regard, but to serve.  Now serving one’s fellow man is good and all, but when I attended, there were a few devotionals that made clear that serving the church was the intended idea.

And so it is difficult to point out thought control in the church because so rarely it comes in the form of a figure saying “Don’t think”, but through the “backhanded learning” style of “Learn only what we want you to learn.  As such here is the timeline of Backhanded learning and direct thought control:

1828 – Martin Harris alters Anthon’s words about translating a sealed book are altered to spin the story to match scripture.  The actual words of the professor are not shared with members.

1828, June – Martin Harris borrows the 116 pages.  Lucy Harris hides the manuscript and challenges Joseph to re-translate them as a simple test, as Martin was going to mortgage their house and farm to pay for the publication and had already given Joseph money.  Through revelation, Lucy Harris is called an evil woman and Joseph claims an entirely separate book is included, written ~1200 years earlier simply to avoid this woman’s simple test D&C 10:9-13.  God clearly is against simple academic tests and is willing to expend enormous amounts of effort of his followers (including lugging extra plates across a continent, writing a story twice, extra gold working, etc.) to get around them.

Apr 12, 1838 – Cowdery competed with Smith for leadership of the new church and “disagreed with the Prophet’s economic and political program and sought a personal financial independence [from the] Zion society that Joseph Smith envisioned.”[19] Then too, in March 1838, Smith and Rigdon moved to Far West, which had been under the presidency of W. W. Phelps and Cowdery’s brothers-in-law, David and John Whitmer. There Smith and Rigdon took charge of the Missouri church and initiated policies that Cowdery, Phelps, and the Whitmers believed violated the separation of church and state. Finally, in January 1838, Cowdery wrote his brother Warren that he and Smith “had some conversation in which in every instance I did not fail to affirm that which I had said was strictly true. A dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger’s was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deserted from the truth in the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself.” Alger, a teenage maid living with the Smiths, may have been Smith’s first plural wife, a practice that Cowdery opposed.[20] Excommunication of Oliver Cowdery(Bushman, “Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling,” 124; Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2004), 548.  Hymns were sung about “Though Cowdery say it was not so” even though Cowdery did not dissuade anyone from the Book of Mormon.  Preparing against such an attack that never happened is an anti-intellectual approach, known as “Poisoning the Well”

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Utah’s Ban on Porn

I am about to do something I never thought I’d do in my life.  I’m about to defend porn.  Well, not really; but it’s going to come across that way.  I’m going to use this guy to help me:

LDS Jesus

Do to others what you would want them to do to you. Luke 6:31

Oh and this guy:



The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 challenged the Bill of Rights, but ultimately led to a new American definition of freedom of speech and the press.

And even this girl:

Marge Simpson

So I’m in good company.
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2016 And new Posts

Happy 2016, everyone.

I’ve heard a few people say “Where are the great Mithryn posts?  Why are their fewer timelines in my life?  What new eclectic features of Church History am I missing out on?”

Okay, no; no one is saying that; but I still wanted to explain

  1. I have a new job.  It doesn’t require 20-60 minutes of sitting while data processes.  That cuts into “Mithryn” time
  2. I have been terribly ill for a week and a half
  3. I got Fallout 4 for Christmas.

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10 Reasons that Exmormons are not Kylo Ren

**Spoiler warning, this post is going to give away and discuss a central plot point to “The Force Awakens.  Do not read if you have not seen the movie, or dislike spoilers.  You have been warned!**

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Children and the handbooks timeline (updated)


Credit to Laura Compton for assembling this.

The first Church Handbook of Instruction was published in 1900 in response to Lorenzo Snow’s tithing visits to Southern Utah.  The handbook only speaks about how to handle Tithing.

April 1935 – The policy for polygamous parents’ kids has gone through several iterations since it first showed up in April 1935. 

“The children of men and women who have been excommunicated from the Church because of their having entered into illicit relations under the guise of plural marriage be not baptized until they have sufficient understanding to apply intelligently for baptism, give assurance that they accept the teaching and doctrines of the Church and express regret for the opposition manifested by their parents to the rules of the Church. There is no consistency in baptizing a child and having him re-enter a home, the spirit of which is antagonistic to the authorities of the Church, and out of harmony with its principles.”

1960 – The final sentence about having kids re-enter homes was removed, From 1960-2010 there was no requirement kids leave their parents.

1968 – Plural marriage was changed to “so-called plural marriage.”

1983 – bishops were first directed to forward questions about specific cases to the First Presidency. Up until that time baptism was a local matter.

1989 – the responsibility for baptism was no longer one children had to request; instead the bishop had to be satisfied baptizees understood and accepted teaching and doctrines and repudiated the teachings that led to their parents’ excommunications.

1998 – First Presidency permission for all polygamous baptism began to be required. Mission presidents and bishops are recognized as having need to review (and forward to the first presidency) requests for baptizing children whose parents had been excommunicated for practicing plural marriage.

2006 – Policies regarding children from plural marriages referenced only those children whose parents had been excommunicated from the Church. Prior to 2006, the policy did not clearly address children whose polygamous parents were not LDS members.

From 1935 – 2006, the policy on its face applied only to children whose parents had been members but then had been ex’d for turning to polygamy. (Probably not a lot of cases for the First Presidency to review each year.)

2010 – Handbook language is changes closer to the original 1935 letter than any of the intervening iterations, despite taking approval out of the hands of local leaders. It currently reads:

“Children of parents who have practiced or are practicing plural marriage contrary to the law must receive approval from the First Presidency before they may be baptized and confirmed. The mission president may request this approval from the Office of the First Presidency when he is satisfied that all three of the following requirements are met:

“(1) The children accept the teaching and doctrines of the Church

“(2) The children repudiate the teachings upon which their parents based their practice of plural marriage.

“(3) Minor children are not living in a home where polygamy is being taught or practiced.”

[updated 11/13/2015 1:15 p.m. to add current details to timeline]

Nov 5th, 2015 –  Handbook update is leaked by John Dehlin discussing excommunication of legally married gays and prevention of baptism by children who have legally and lawfully married homosexual parents.

Nov 6th, 2015D. Todd Christopherson gives an emergency interview to quell the backlash

Updates get national media attention on major media outlets.

Nov 13, 2015Clarification is issued by the church officially regarding the policy.  A list of outstanding questions and issues along with their consequences

Michael Otterson releases a PR article about “understanding the Handbook”.  The PR announcement turns a “Leak of private policy” into a “Letter from the First Presidency” as causing the debate which is a deliberate deception.

That prompted questions from many Church members, who were mostly reading media headlines portraying the instructions as a rejection of children and refusal to name babies

I think the lack of mention that this was a leak of the official handbook on how Bishops and Stake Presidents were to act, with all the context that exists in the handbook for all issues makes this statement also a blatant lie.  I’d dare Mr. Otterson to back up “most members” got their information from headlines vs. those who immediately were able to look up the details and get all the context that the church would have provided local leaders with if this had not become a national issue.  It was not misleading headlines that caused the issue.

He then makes a statement that is shocking and disturbing:

A purpose of the Handbook is to provide bishops and other leaders with a standard reference point when they make decisions. Because it is a policy and procedural manual, the Handbook is not written in language that is necessarily contextual or explanatory.

The handbook, which he admits is there to “…guide lay leaders of the church in 30,000 congregations across the world” doesn’t provide context or explantory language.  It is simply a “Do this” set of commands with no explanation.  And this is how it is for 90% of issues.  Members, I think mostly assume that leaders have reasons as to why the do things, but this illustrates that no, no context is given for instructions.

He then admits

  • There is new information in the Handbook that addresses a narrow range of situations involving the children of same-sex couples.

But still gives nowhere to go to get full context or answer all questions.  This is not PR, this is propaganda.  With most questions still unanswered the admitted issues with the policy should give anyone reading it pause.


The same-sex marriage requirements are very similar to the current polygamy requirements, but those requirements have only been extant in their current form for about 5 years.  One of the key differences is that, in fact, polygamous unions that are legal would not require First Presidency approval, while LEGAL homosexual unions do.  This may seem like a minor difference, but when it is, in summary; not recognizing marriages that are legal and lawful.

(Take a look at the Edmund Tucker Act, and General Authority statements about it if you want to see when the LDS church, itself, wanted uncommon marriages recognized as legitimate) 

[updated 11/13/2015 1:15 p.m.] The church is being blatantly dishonest with members when they were caught with this policy.  They are attempting to spin the story to alter the facts.  This is the same accusation made of the detractors of Joseph Smith Jr. and the church.  This is not moral.  We encourage the church to be “Honest in their dealings with their fellow men” and admit that this policy is hurtful, still hateful, and that the PR department is more concerned with saving face than honesty.

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A pet peeve of mine

I know that pet peeves can be silly, and this one is.  This really bugs me though.  Children’s bible stories:

greatadventuresThe cartoon style to appeal to children, while at the same time including rape, murder, homosexual relations as a condemnation of God, the concept that God would murder everyone on Earth, etc.  But even more so is right there, in the front on the right.

No no, not the burley Sampson guy who’s barber-job was hated by God so much God let him die.  No the puppy.

You see that dog there by the kid?  And puppies are always placed next to children in these books.  Dogs were unclean under jewish law:

“27 And whatsoever goeth upon its paws, among all beasts that go on all fours, they are unclean unto you; whoso toucheth their carcass shall be unclean until the even. 28 And he that beareth the carcass of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even; they are unclean unto you.”

Which means not to eat dogs.  Simple enough.

Out of the 40 references (in English Bibles) to dogs, most are decidedly uncomplimentary. Dogs are generally described as licking blood, eating vomitus, or consuming a carcass. When not doing these activities, they are described as being outside of God’s city, or dumb (as in “unable to speak”) or greedy. Ecclesiastes 9.4 (“a living dog is better than a dead lion”) is the only passage that might even conceivably be complimentary to dogs, and that’s a stretch.

Modern Jews have often extended this to include a prohibition of touching even a living dog. The question I’m posing is whether Jews in Palestine in the time of Christ would have felt that such touching was forbidden.

So these kids bible stories are very definitely “Modern Christian” and often depict kids and dogs together like we have them today.  Something that would be mildly offensive, I imagine to the modern Jew.

I know small stuff, but it’s one of those things that I think the artist could take a few minutes to study and be accurate, rather than to sell to the audience.  “See, Jesus loved puppies just like you!”

Regardless of that, there is also the overly-young characterization of David.


or other characters to sell the idea to children.  I get that the idea is that David was a young man during the story; but they tend to go all out to where he looks 1st or 2nd grade.  And when little Johny gets into a fight with a 5th grader and gets the tar beat out of him without God coming down and guiding his fighting ability, this over-sell is partially to blame.

Selling death, sexually explicit situations, and historical inaccuracy to children, all in the name of the modern concept of God.


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