Purpose: To help class members realize that the Book of Mormon could have been produced by man without divine intervention.
Look at these three scripts and tell me what they all have in common:The answer is that all of these are fictional languages that took a long time to make up.
Now review this script:
What you are looking at are the characters of a manuscript discovered in 1823, taken to one Dr. Mitchell to verify that the script was authentic. No, it’s not the Anthon Transcript of the Book of Mormon, but rather Joseph Smith’s uncle’s business partner’s “Detroit Manuscript” .
Compare to the Anthon Transcript at your leisure.
1. Joseph Smith’s preparation to receive and translate the Book of Mormon
In the three years after the First Vision, Joseph Smith claimed to have suffered “severe persecution,” and yet there are many contemporary accounts which refute this claim. How can we trust someone who dreams up minor issues and “major persecution” or makes up a victim complex?
The official lesson now recounts the Moroni visitation again, which we’ve covered previously. Man… the manuals must think kids are dumb if they repeat, this often, the same material that is the very foundation of correlation. Either that or they wanted to say more, but were limited in the sources they could use.
What was Joseph praying for on the night Moroni appeared to him? Remember that his family paid for a magical parchment in hopes he would recover treasure by communing with spirits. Remember he was paid to do this professionally at this time. What can we say about a person who says he was praying for forgiveness after becoming a religious figure, but who was paid to commune with spirits about something entirely different on that night?
When Joseph Smith was first shown the gold plates, he was not prepared to receive and translate them. How did the Lord prepare Joseph to receive and translate the plates?
Mostly by having occult magicians train him, by giving his father visions that would be grafted into an ancient book, and by teaching him that stealing relative’s ideas was a successful strategy. God forbid our children actually learn from this type of “preparation.”
How did Joseph’s father respond when Joseph told him of Moroni’s visit?
He told him to immediately do as the spirit commanded as he had done on other occasions, like when he killed a sheep (or possibly a dog):
“Jo Smith, the prophet, told my uncle, William Stafford, he wanted a fat, black sheep. He said he wanted to cut its throat and make it walk in a circle three times around and it would prevent a pot of money from leaving” — Dr. Purple’s (Respected physician and personal friend to Justice Neely) recollections of the trial were printed in the Chenango Union, a local paper.
“Smith translated the Book of Mormon by means of the same enchanting spirit that directed Smith to make dog sacrifices” –(H. Lewis, 1879) (reprinted in D. Michael Quinn, “Magic and the Early World View,” 1987 edition, p. 144).
Justice Joel King Noble stated that when Joseph and others were digging “for a Chest of money,” they acquired a black dog and offered it as “a sacrafise [blo]od Sprinkled prayer made at the time (no money obtained) the above Sworn to on trial…” (Letter of Justice Noble, dated March 8, 1842, photographically reproduced in Walters, “Joseph Smith’s Bainbridge, N.Y., Court Trials,” p. 134).
What does this suggest about Joseph’s integrity and trustworthiness?
Why is it important to support our family members in their efforts to follow the Lord?
cough I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
2. The miracle of the Book of Mormon’s preservation
Joseph Smith related a tale of running away from people trying to steel the 60 lbs gold plates. Here is a video of kids Joseph Smith’s age, running with 60 lbs weights, while trying to escape people who want to catch them.
Another attempt that is often mentioned is when Sally Chase, using her green seer stone, led the treasure hunting group Joseph had signed an agreement with and smashed a wooden box that Joseph had requested Willard Chase build for him (Willard was Sally’s father).
Luckily, Joseph had not placed the golden plates in the box, but somewhere else in the house. This story, of course, presupposes that Sally and Joseph both had magical abilities, and that God told Joseph to buy a wooden box from his enemies. Very curious indeed (Source listed in this timeline).
This story is related in various church manuals and has been told by prophets in conference and in the ensign, typically with names and other details omitted, but there is no reason to doubt the story.
The official lesson then asks to recount the “Martin Harris lost the 116 pages” story again. Let’s consider it for a bit.
What was the reason God said that people had taken the manuscript?
“And, behold, Satan hath put it into their hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written, or which you have translated, which have gone out of your hands.
And behold, I say unto you, that because they have altered the words, they read contrary from that which you translated and caused to be written” (D&C 10:10-11).
Let’s think about this. This is in the 1820s. There are no word processors, no white-out. There is no way to change the manuscript without seriously crossing through words, or re-writing it entirely in a new penmanship. Who in their right mind would think that one could “alter” a pen and ink book and be credible without some sort of proof/trickery? Well, I mean beyond God.
And God has no idea where the parchment is. He doesn’t say to Joseph, “They are on the mantle in Lucy Harris’ sister’s house.” Nope, just leaves Joseph to not re-translate, but instead reveals that 2400 years prior He, God, foresaw this day and had a prophet write his work twice, all because of Lucy Harris’s future evil. And the manual calls this “miraculous” and “wonderful.”
It poses the question: What does the account of the lost manuscript pages teach about the Lord’s power?
Let’s talk about time travel. What this means is that either God is capable of time travel and there was an alternate universe in which the devil successfully outwitted God, but then God goes back (Marty McFly style) and tells Nephi to write a second book causing the other future to be erased…
Or God is really in favor of convoluted plans based on either determined outcomes (i.e. God knew that not only would Lucy Harris be born, but who she would marry and who she would meet, meaning every action is predetermined down to what you borrow from your neighbor) or some probability of occurring (i.e. Lucy Harris was very likely because of her spirit in the pre-existance to A) meet and marry Martin Harris and B) request the document and C) be persistent).
Predetermined outcomes fly in the face of agency, and if God works on probability, then we should see constant plans set up for “just in case” Ezra Taft Benson’s nephew were to talk about the autopen, or Mark Hoffman were to sell forged documents.
Instead, this stands alone in mormon history, a singular time that God rerouted all of history around the choices of a single non-member (I guess unhallowed hands can at least annoy the work for a while). Maybe God could only borrow the DeLorean once?
3. Witnesses of the Book of Mormon
A biographer wrote that his “imagination was excitable and fecund.” One letter says that Harris thought that a candle sputtering was the work of the devil, and that he had met Jesus in the shape of a deer and walked and talked with him for two or three miles (John A. Clark letter, August 31, 1840).
One must question God’s judgement of picking this man as a “Star Witness.”
Oliver Cowdery – “Oliver Cowdery… united with a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars & blacklegs of the deepest dye, to deceive, cheat and defraud the Saints” (Sidney Rigdon, 1838).
During the court discussion of Fanny Alger, “Joseph Smith… charged Cowdery with being a liar.”
Oliver Cowdery was publicly charged by Joseph Smith and leading Mormons with stealing, lying, perjury, counterfeiting, adultery, and being the leader of a gang of “scoundrels of the deepest degree.”
Hmmm… well anyone can fall, I suppose. Maybe he was a pure, innocent, honest man when called to be a witness.
Except that Oliver was, in fact, telling the truth about Fanny Alger. And that gang of scoundrels and thieves… yeah they were trying to pay off the debts Joseph left them during the Kirtland Safety Society (we’ll cover that later). So maybe Oliver isn’t so dishonest after all.
David Whitmer – Formed his own church. You can read his letter to believing Latter-day Saints as to how the church was corrupted here.
God must either be an idiot to choose men who were such lying, deceiving imbeciles, or perhaps, these were men of integrity who truly told when Joseph deceived people. Hard to say, but this is far from the very faithful message that the manual would make it all out to be.
Problems with the Book itself
We have not even begun to touch on the problems, plagiarisms, and mistakes in the Book of Mormon. Ezra Taft Benson’s quotes make is seem that the members are to blame if the book doesn’t sell well. In all honesty, the book and its coming forth are the true stumbling blocks.
Outsiders are often aware of this information and, hence, refuse the missionaries. The blinding tactics of the manuals only fool members still on the inside and are carefully crafted to do so.
We can apply the lessons of Joseph Smith to our own lives by looking at the manual and thinking about if anyone is trying to deceive us, the same way deceptions were given out in the 1800s.