Review: An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins
An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, by Grant H. Palmer, is a solid overview of the documented facts surrounding Joseph Smith Jr., the Book of Mormon, and the beginnings of the Mormon religion. With Palmer being a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a three-time director of the LDS Institutes of Religion, a former LDS seminary teacher, and a member of the Mormon History Association, I was fully expecting his book to be an apologetic view of Mormon origins, which I’m pleased to say was not the case. Palmer lays out a very well researched and referenced exposé of the foundational aspects of Mormonism that would make any ‘anti-Mormon’ proud.
The book is written with the assumption that the reader already possesses at least a healthy knowledge of Mormon history, especially the more controversial aspects of Mormonism’s beginnings – something Palmer acknowledges is not taught, and even suppressed, in Sunday school lessons today. In the preface, he even admits that most members of the LDS Church like “simple religion”, wanting “to hear confirmations that everything is as we assumed it was” and that “adult lessons and discussions at church rarely rise above the seminary level”. The details on the foundational aspects of Mormonism that Palmer presents is likely to give any true believing Mormon pause, as they will have not likely heard them before.
Palmer’s approach is honest and forthright, and he doesn’t shy away from the rather damning evidences against his own beloved religion. He sticks to the documented facts, and avoids adding his opinion until the concluding paragraphs of each chapter (where he does venture into speculation). Palmer’s attention to historical and cultural context when addressing things like Joseph Smith’s seer stone and money-digging schemes, or the authorship of the Book of Mormon and the credulity of its witnesses, actually does more harm to the credibility of Mormonism than any other book I’ve read thus far.
Palmer goes so far as to show that Joseph Smith was not only capable of dictating the Book of Mormon himself, but that it was a fabrication based on his knowledge of Indian lore and the bible-thumping sermons being preached from every corner during the ‘second awakening’ revivals of 1824-25 – combined with a heavy dose of plagiarism from numerous sources – in order to reunite his own theologically fragmented family into a single cohesive religion. Palmer even suggests that each time Smith’s church began to hemorrhage attendants or key players, such as the witnesses, Smith would concoct a new source for his authority: God’s priesthood power in 1833, then his ‘first vision’ story of 1838 (by which time it had grown way beyond the scope of his earlier 1832 & 1835 versions).
What amazes me most about this book is that despite the large volume of evidence against Mormonism that Palmer puts forth and acknowledges, he somehow has managed to convince himself (and numerous others, based on the Goodreads reviews of the book) that this book is intended to strengthen one’s faith in Mormonism! The only way he manages to do this is by redefining what it means for him to be Mormon. In his conclusion, he narrows this definition to a simple belief in Jesus Christ’s ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection, while rejecting nearly everything that differentiates Mormonism from mainstream Christianity. He dislikes that LDS Sunday school lessons focus much more on the teachings of modern prophets while diminishing the importance of Jesus’s (biblical) teachings. He doesn’t believe that Joseph Smith translated anything: not the Book or Mormon, Book of Abraham, nor the Kinderhook plates. Palmer indicates that he sees Smith’s revelations and visions being nothing more than a combination of opportunistic creativity and 19th century credulity, and that they completely changed and contradict themselves over the course of Smith’s prophetic career. This complete abandonment of belief in Mormonism’s unique doctrines and history, combined with excellent documented evidence against its claims being published in a book, is more than enough grounds for excommunication, let alone apostasy.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to read a great summary of the evidences against the claims made by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also recommend this book to all Mormons; It has all the evidence required to cause significant doubt in the foundations of a true believing Mormon’s beliefs, while providing a safety net of having been written by one of their own. All that is required to expose the fraudulent claims made by the LDS Church, is An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins.
Update: It’s been brought to my attention that Grant Palmer has officially resigned from the LDS Church as of December 2010, over 8 years after he published this book. If you’d like to learn more about Palmer’s journey out of the Church, visit MormonThink.com/GrantPalmer
Posted on 2011-12-31, in Book Reviews, History, Mormonism and tagged Book of Mormon, Church History, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, First Vision, Golden Pot, Joseph Smith, LDS, Mormon, Prophet. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.