Belated Response of an Ex-Mormon Elder to an LDS Internet Essay, "Translation of the Book of Mormon
After thirty active years that I wrongly spent as an elder, mainly a missionary, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called the Mormon Church and the LDS Church, from 1970 until 2000, my contempt for Mormonism has only grown with inexorable lividity after reading the Mormon Church’s official apologetic essay entitled “Book of Mormon Translation,” which was published on the church’s website in 2014. You see, the true unvarnished history of the Mormon Church, and about Joseph Smith, the church’s originator and founder, is so filled with lies and apologetic inaccuracies that Latter-day Saints in foreign countries have discovered, to their chagrin, that language barriers and intentionally designed attempts by the Salt Lake City Brethren to keep true Mormon history and doctrine away from the eyes of Europeans and Scandinavians, during much of the 20th Century, have resulted in shocking eye-opening realizations by these deceived Mormons through the advent of the Internet. Nowhere has this been more shockingly true than in the quaint nation of Sweden, where, in 2010, a great many Swedish Mormons began indignantly proclaiming, in one collective accusing voice, to the Salt Lake City LDS Brethren, that the Mormon history and doctrine they were taught about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the other canonized Mormon scriptures, were a pack of lies. Perhaps, in the beginning of their stark realization, the Swedes were much more patient than they currently are, and didn’t accuse the Mormon hierarchy of out-right fraud and duplicity; but asked, pleadingly, for Salt Lake City to answer their poignant questions clearly and concisely using correct, no sanitized, historical facts, the facts about which the Swedish LDS Church apparently knew very little.
Those Swedish Mormons asked, if not demanded, answers and explanations to fifteen very poignant doctrinal and historical questions, one of which was about the manner in which Joseph Smith allegedly translated the alleged golden plates from which came the alleged, and greatly criticised, ancient Mesoamerican Hebrew record called the Book of Mormon. The Mormon missionaries who were sent to Sweden by Mormon leader Brigham Young, prior to 1876, to recruit Mormon converts took with them the canonized Mormon scriptures, the “Lectures on Faith,” the doctrine of the LDS Church at that time, and the covenants of the Church, which were combined into a single doctrinal volume known as the “Doctrine and Covenants.” At that time in Mormon history, nearly a thousand Mormon men in the Salt Lake Valley, in the Utah Territory, and in the Northwest Territories (now Washington and Oregon) were married to multiple wives under the command of Brigham Young to observe the Mormon doctrine of polygamy. Almost everyone in the United States, who read newspapers prior to 1876, knew that the Mormons were eagerly practicing polygamy in their new Utah home, but very few realized that the Mormon Doctrine and Covenants contained a very false and fraudulent disclaimer about the Mormon belief and practice of polygamy, which they used when the Mormon missionaries lied to the Europeans and Scandinavian peoples, telling them that the Mormon people did not practice polygamy. They would tell them that the rumors, if any, about Latter-day Saints in America practicing polygamy were totally false, and would show them Section 101 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which stated this false and fraudulent proclamation to the world as canonized Mormon doctrine. Consequently, the Swedish, and other overseas peoples, who accepted Mormonism under this delusion, and taught their children and grandchildren to have faith in it, built their lives around this fraudulent Mormon history and its unchristian doctrines. Hans Mattsson (the Swedish Mormon Area General Authority, who had been selected by the Mormon hierarchy in Salt Lake City to be their spokesperson in Sweden) and the indignant Swedes who led the collective effort to get answers for their fifteen (15)poignant questions, had believed the doctrinal and historical representations given by 20th and 21st Century Mormon missionaries as they converted thousands of Swedish men and women to Mormonism. So the enigmatic issue that was before the Swedes in 2010, was, simply, if the 19th and 20th Century Mormon missionaries lied about polygamy, what else did they intentionally misrepresent about the history and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
The apologetic essay that the Mormon Church officially published about the alleged translation of the golden plates that Joseph Smith, supposedly, had in his possession from 1827 until 1830 (which he claimed he returned to same angel, Moroni, who showed him where the plates were supposedly buried in upstate New York) does not, in any way, address what the representatives of the Mormon Prophet, Thomas Monson, from Salt Lake City, (Assistant Church Historian Richard Turley, General Authority Erich W. Kopischke, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, and R. Ingar Olsson, a Seventy of the Swedish Area Seventy) told Mattsson and 24 other Swedish Mormons when they met at a Mormon Church building in Stockholm, Sweden on November 28, 2010. In fact, the clerical representatives of the Mormon Church didn’t respond honestly and factually to any of the questions. They let Turley, who was, and is, not a church general authority, respond to the questions. General Authority Marlin Jensen did state, at that time, that, “There’s nothing about Mormonism that bothers me. Are there contradictions, are there inconsistencies, are there paradoxes? Yes.” To this assertion one of the 24 rank-and-file Swedish Mormons there replied, “And you are aware of a lot more things that we might not be aware of yet? But still you stand and you think, ‘I can – I can stand for this?'” Jensen’s response to this was, “Right… So I’m just saying they’re good questions,” and the same Swedish member retorted, “Will you have good answers?” To this question, Jensen replied, “that the answers would have to be spiritually discerned, and each of the people in attendance wouldhave make his, or her, own decision.” Had I been in attendance, I would have asked Jensen if a specific question requiring a specific answer, such as ‘how did you, Jensen, get to the meeting tonight?’ would need to be discerned spiritually. The answer to this historical question would have obviously been no.
Hence, Jensen turned the meeting over to Richard Turley, who they could later claim, as a post-prescribed apologetic caveat, was answering the questions on a scholarly basis, and not on a spiritual or theological basis. The first question, of the fifteen, was the one dealing with the way Joseph Smith translated the golden plates into the Book of Mormon. The only eye-witnesses to Smith’s translation, Emma Smith and David Whitmer, stated in writing that Joseph Smith used the same identical seer stone (an ordinary white stone), which he and his father had frequently used to persuade their neighbors that they could discover buried treasure, through the practicing of folk magic (they never actually found any buried treasure and was sued by one particular neighbor for defrauding him into paying money for such an effort). Emma Smith (Joseph Smith’s wife) and Whitmer were the only two people who stated authoritatively that the “only” method Joseph Smith used in his alleged translation was the “seer stone and a hat.” The seer stone was placed into the hat and, afterward, Smith would put his face into the hat to obtain a translation. These witness statements were presented to Turley, who admitted their historical accuracy and truth. He was then asked why Smith had put his head into “one particular” hat in order to see the seer stone. Turley did not answer authoritatively, but in a way that could have easily generated numerous other questions. He said, “The hat was, apparently, to block light out out so that Joseph… could see what he was doing with the record. Sometimes the light, you know, affects your spirit. We don’t know exactly how it works, but he did say this: ‘in the early days of his translation, he was relying on revelatory tools of some sort or another – Urim and Thummim, seer “stones,” whatever the case may be.”
The foregoing answer, by Turley, to that first poignant question was not given in the same fashion that Emma Smith and David Whitmer had responded to the same question, “How did Joseph Smith translate the golden plates?” Neither Joseph Smith’s wife, Emma, nor David Whitmer, ever mentioned the use, or existence, of something called the “Urim and Thummim”. So, therefore, the pictures that have been used by the Mormon Church’s millions of full-time missionaries, during the late 19th Century, representing Joseph Smith translating the golden plates (showing Smith sitting before a wooden table, before a representation of the golden plates, wearing what the Mormon Church calls the Urim and Thummim and looking at, and touching, the golden plates) accompanied, and still accompany, the explanation by those missionaries that “that was the way Joseph Smith translated the golden plates.” I recall distinctly that Elders Craig Burgess and Barry Erickson, from Utah, said the same things to me in Tyler, Texas, in October of 1970.
I have explicated in other essays how the Mormon Church has managed, over 177 years, to create a tangled maze of intentional historical and doctrinal misrepresentations by endeavoring to obfuscate them with further misleading misrepresentations, hoping that the people reading them will not realize that the Mormons are “lying for the Mormon lord.” Nonetheless, in continuing with the Swedish moment in 2010, the Swedes wanted to know, and asked Turley, why the representations of Smith translating the golden plates had not conformed to correct history, showing Joseph Smith with his head in a hat. And, again, Turley responded with words that were not an answer to the question. He was struggling for something to say when he uttered, in paraphrase, that “old Christian art wrongly depicts people in the Holy Land as dressed in European garb. It is the artist’s choice.” When challenged that his response didn’t provide an answer to the question, Turley replid, “Often the way stories have been told over time don’t conform with history. And so our goal is to try to make them conform more closely.” Had I been there, my frustration, and probable anger, would have been vocally expressed when Turley had refused to answer the question. Had I been there, I would have asked Turley why, if all other official Mormon Church pictures used by local wards and stakes, correctly depict, without exception, the particular buildings, people, and objects from Mormon history, why isn’t the correct way Joseph Smith translated the golden plates depicted correctly in Mormon art, especially if they know that he put his head into a hat to do so? I would have asked him this question, and would have demanded an answer.
The official aforementioned LDS Internet essay, “Book of Mormon Translation,” is a blatant insult to anyone knowing the true history of Mormonism, and is, yet, another abstruce apologetic attempt of the Mormon Church to mollify the frustration and indignation of rank-and-file Mormons, especially those in Sweden, who believe that they were intentionally deceived. An appropriate essay by the Mormon Church could have simply been an apology for the lies and misreprestations produced by the Mormon hierarchy since the church’s inception in 1830, and a statement that Joseph Smith only used a seer stone in a hat to translate the golden plates. Yet, the LDS Church used, in its essay, references from Mormon Church history, claimed to be the genuine original writings of Joseph Smith. As the facts appear, the Mormon Church used 34 footnoted references in its essay, all of which are suspect of specious editing according to the pragmatic apologetic needs of the Mormon Church. As it was documented by D. Michael Quinn, a formerly respected LDS Church historian, in his two authoritative tomes entitled, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, 1994, and Extensions of Power, 1997,” that the official history of the Mormon Church was derived from the erratic personal journal of Joseph Smith, from around 1838 until 1844. Furthermore, Quinn clearly shows that these itinerant journal entries were substantially revised under the auspices of Brigham Young, Joseph Smith’s popular successor, in order to conform to the post-1850 doctrines of the Utah Mormon Church, and its sanitized history. These doctored records, which became the five-volume “History of the Church,” were all substantially sanitized to exclude any negative historical references to Joseph Smith, and to conform to the manner in which the Mormon Church was representing the history and doctrine of the Utah Church after the fracturing of the Latter-day Saints into splinter groups, and their ultimate expulsion from Nauvoo, Illinois. Another example of this re-writing of history was the complete revision of the only authoritative biography of Joseph Smith, produced by his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, in 1848. After reading it, Young realized that the biography contradicted numerous assertions made about Joseph Smith by the Utah Church. He, therefore, illegally seized the copyright of the biography and revised it in accordance with then revised history of Mormonism that was to be published to a world ignorant of what had been done. Young had also ordered all copies of the original Joseph Smith biography, possessed by Utah Mormons, to be destroyed, an order which, thankfully, was not fully obeyed. With the copies that have been made of the original biography, comparisons of the revisied version, with the original, establish that many improper changes were made.
The beginning assertion in the official Mormon Internet essay, “Translation of the Book of Mormon”, that Joseph Smith did not use his own human ability to translate the golden plates into the Book of Mormon, but only the “gift and power of God,” was refuted by the Mormon Church in the mid-20th Century in the 1958 official LDS seminary text, “The Restored Church,” by William E. Berrett (Former Vice-President of Brigham Young University, and commissioned by the LDS Church to write a textbook to be used by the Mormon Church in the early-morning seminaries taught to public school students in the United States, and in other parts of the world; and in the LDS Institutes of Religion). Hundreds-of-thousands of copies of this seminary text were produced between 1958 and 1985 to be disseminated around the United States; and even though the Mormon Church disclaimed the book on its title page, saying that it expressed only the author’s view of history and doctrine, the substance of the book was taught as fact to millions of school-age Mormon children. On page 132 of “The Restored Church,” Berrett stated that “Joseph Smth continued to use his own scholarly abilities in the translation of the “Book of Abraham” and other sacred writings. On page 133, Berrett also stated, to back-up his assertion on the previous page, that, “His (Joseph Smith) most notable achievement was the development of a Grammar for the Egyptian hieroglyphic form of writing. It was the first Egyptian grammar in America.” This bit of cogent history, which was contradicted in 1969 by an official proclamation of the Mormon Church, and again in 1999, and 2010, to state that Joseph Smith did not “translate by his own scholarly ability” the Book of Abraham from the Joseph Smith Papyri, but, instead, received the translation directly from God.”
I dare suppose that the Mormon hierarchy had to come-up with some explanation for the “Egyptian Grammar,” definitely produced by Joseph Smith’s own abilitiy, being a bunch a gobbly-gook, and the Book of Abraham to have had nothing, at all, to do with the Prophet Abraham, as determined by a detailed authoritative translation of the Joseph Smith Papyri fragments by Dr. Klaus Baer, of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, who, in the late 1960s was recognized as the most eminent Egyptologist on earth. What logically follows is that a presumption may be drawn by the reasonable person that, if Joseph Smith went through a process to translate the Egyptian papyri, from which supposedly came the Book of Abraham, by using a Grammar that he had developed by his on scholarly ability, Smith also went through a scholarly process to translate the golden plates, through which he was, and is, depicted in official Mormon pictures to be actually going through while sitting at a table, before the golden plates, with his Urim and Thummim hanging on his chest. I believe that the Swedes have also seen, and noted, this audaciously heinous contradiction, for there are certainly some Swedish scholars who have the ability to use, and understand, written and spoken English as well as any educated American.
The sum of the whole foregoing issue about the sordid fraudulence of Mormonism is based upon what Hans Mattsson supposedly told John Dehlin, on July 22, 2013, in an interview on one of Dehlin’s podcast series, “Mormon Stories.” The interview was actually recorded live prior to the interview that Mattsson had with the “The New York Times.” In the interview with Dehlin, Mattsson stated that he still believes in God and Jesus while still having numerous questions about Mormonism. As far as the LDS Church being the only the one true church, Mattsson has come to the conclusion that other (Christian) churches, and their leaders, are also inspired by God. Perhaps Hans Mattsson has realized that the sum of life, and the issue of Mormonism, is, as according to the wise King Solomon, which is found in Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14 (KJV): “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” I, therefore, pray and hope that Hans Mattsson will turn from the sordid blasphemy and devilish secrets of Mormonism to the truth of Jesus Christ as contained in the words of the Holy Bible; and that he will lead the other Mormons in Sweden from darkness to the light of Jesus Christ.