My Apostasy

My Apostasy From
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

By Tom Jenson
February 6, 2011

Downloadable in PDF or ePUB formats

Table of Contents
Introduction
Disillusionment
Enlightenment
Apostasy
Faith vs. Facts
Outside The LDS Box
Equal Rights & Marriage
Politics & Transparency
The Book of Mormon
The Book of Abraham
Conclusion
Footnotes
Resources
Books
Magazines, Articles & Journals
Websites

Introduction

With the start of the new year, I resolved to be more true to myself, and start living my beliefs, values, and convictions more openly. I feel as though I hadn’t been able to be open and honest with my family and friends about who I have become, in fear of their reaction to it conflicting with their own values and beliefs. I recently wrote a letter to my close family and friends, in hopes that they will be able to better understand me, and my values, which have led to my inactivity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (“the Church”). The vast majority of that letter is contained in the following.

I recently began exploring my uncertainty in the Church more fully, by reading numerous books and articles on a variety of subjects, such as religion, politics, and history. Because of this research, I feel I can now better articulate my beliefs and values, as to why they conflict with that of the Church. This process has been one of great enlightenment and growth in my life, and by sharing it with you, I hope to be able to ‘pay-it-forward’ as so many have done before me.

Disillusionment 

I come from a multi-generational Latter-Day Saint (LDS or ‘Mormon’) family, with two brothers and a sister, in addition to my two parents. My upbringing was fairly standard for those of us born into the Church: I attended church each Sunday, was baptized when I was eight years old, received the Aaronic Priesthood when I was twelve, attended early-morning seminary classes before high school each day, and enjoyed the youth social events put on by the Church. I currently have many strong ties to Mormonism, since nearly all of my immediate and extended family, and close friends, are active members of the Church.

For years now, I haven’t felt comfortable in the Church, but couldn’t quite figure out why. When I graduated from high school and began to see my friends leave on their missions, I began to realize that I didn’t have a testimony of the Church. This led me to talk to my bishop, who gave me some good advice which I appreciated, “Don’t go, unless you’re sure of what you’ll be teaching.” This helped solidify that I wasn’t ready, or willing, to start preaching something I didn’t fully believe. As hard as it was for me to tell my family and friends of my decision, I felt strangely liberated.  This feeling was contrary to what I had always been taught – that obedience to the Church brings freedom and peace – and it began to intensify my existing cognitive dissidence. How could disobeying a commandment of the Prophet (to serve a mission) make me feel better about myself than I had felt prior to that decision? This led me to become less active, as I no longer felt the need to justify my self-worth based on how well I lived up to the Church’s standards. And so, I attended church infrequently.

I soon found that a lot of the ‘friends’ I thought I had while attending church were simply acquaintances who had no desire to even talk to me outside of that framework. These conditional friendships became quite apparent, and I started to see how the Church’s forced relationships are often shallow and undesirable. This confused me; I felt good about myself, yet others were pulling away from me. I felt as though it was somehow my fault that these ‘friends’ no longer wanted to associate with me, and I came to the only conclusion I could see at the time: I must be a bad person. This self-fulfilling prophesy – I’m bad, so I may as well start doing bad things – led me to do things that I have come to regret, and led me to move out of my parents’ home. I felt I had been abandoned. As a former Bishop, and current Calgary resident, put it:

“…personal relationships of all kinds [within the Church] are determined not by personality, what you like to do, etc., but by the way in which the Mormon Church functions. This is only one of countless ways in which the Mormon Church inserts itself into our most intimate relationships with the result if not the intent that our relationship to Mormonism remains primary and all other relationships subsidiary.”1

While being less active, I continued to struggle with reconciling my lack of faith with the immense pressure I was getting from my family and friends, to continue to go to church and believe.  This was especially problematic in my relationship with my girlfriend, Eileah, as she wasn’t a member of the Church. I was torn, as I feared I couldn’t follow my heart and be with her without forfeiting the Mormon side of my life, family, and friends. This eventually caused me to end my relationship with Eileah, as I couldn’t bare the thought of losing my family forever. I started attending church again in hopes of finding peace; however, I felt absolutely no comfort from my attendance to the Church, and felt worse than ever. The rekindled ‘friendships’ were more hollow than ever, and this was becoming more apparent.

Eileah was completely distraught by me ending our relationship of 5 years, and sought solace with a good friend. This friend brought Eileah to church, hoping that it would help her find peace. This suddenly-strengthened friendship, and sense of belonging in a time of personal crisis, flooded her with a desire to become a member, simply because of the seemingly supportive group it would provide her. After a few short weeks with the Missionaries, she was baptized into the Church, though still uncomfortable with a number of doctrinal principals.

When I heard the news that Eileah was to be baptized, I felt as though this was my chance to have my cake and eat it too; that is to say, be with Eileah and remain in the Church.  After her baptism, we agreed to start dating again, and shortly found ourselves engaged to be married.  In the following months, as we planned our civil wedding, we continued to meet with the bishop to discuss the requirements of us being sealed together in the temple, and attended church regularly. As hard as I tried, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that the Church wasn’t right for me, though I was hoping, unfairly, that my fiancé would help push me to be in line with the wishes of my family. This, of course, would never work, since her own beliefs quickly became conflicted with the Church.

As time passed, we moved away from the Church as we both grew distraught with some of the principles being taught. These principles we not only found objectionable, but downright offensive. The Church’s environment doesn’t allow for its members to vocalize any differences in opinion or belief, which is something Eileah, nor myself, could live with. We’ve been inactive for the past three and a half years (since our wedding).

Being inactive has not been easy for me. I’m constantly fearful of the judgements being placed on me by my family and friends, both inside and outside the Church. Those inside the Church, I’ve found, judge me based on some preconceived idea of how only people doing ‘bad’ things become inactive in an effort to remove oneself from guilt. While those outside the Church don’t understand why I would be inactive, yet still not smoke, do drugs, drink alcohol or even drink coffee! This makes it incredibly difficult to express myself, my values, or beliefs. I fear being seen as a heathen, who’s simply out to spread hate because of some wrong that was done to me. (The Church encourages this view of apostates in order to ‘protect’ its faithful members.)

Enlightenment

Recently, I came across a documentary film entitled, 8: A Mormon Proposition. This film caught my eye as it explored the LDS Church’s involvement in a political campaign against California’s recently legalized same-sex marriage laws. Because of the subject matter (Eileah has always been a strong proponent of equal rights), and my uncertainty with the Church, we decided to watch it. The film explained how President Hinckley and his fellow apostles, along with the Catholic church, had created a coalition to funnel millions of dollars to the Proposition 8 campaign. This money, having been collected from faithful members’ tithes and offerings, was being used to take away the rights of a minority. I found this to be appalling and hypocritical, considering the members of the Church were once the victims of such political campaigns in the mid 19th century. Though the exact amount that was donated is unknown, they funded and broadcasted their own video advertising for the campaign, which would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, the First Presidency issued a letter on June 20, 2008 to all members, informing them of how they should vote.2

This led me to question the motivations of the Church, so I started to search for other members’ views on the Church’s political and historical activities. I began to read countless blogs and forums where people expressed their frustration with the Church’s political involvement (in what should be a nation with separation of church and state 3), as well as its changing doctrine, rewritten history, and contradictory teachings. I then started to research and examine these claims for myself, in an effort to ‘boldly question’ the things I was raised to believe. It didn’t take long for me to see the numerous inconsistencies in what is supposed to be the unchanging God’s ‘one true church’. Apologists on pro-Mormon websites4 only seemed to add to the list of issues I found.

I have been reading numerous books5, spanning from 1830 to present day, from both the anti- and pro- mormon viewpoints. I have found out more about the Church’s beliefs, foundations, and history from these books, than I had ever been taught while growing up in the Church. Many of these things the Church has tried desperately to hide by rewriting its history,6 changing its doctrine, and glazing over controversial topics, yet they remain in the fundamental beliefs and practices today. Even its founding leaders have been portrayed as nearly-perfect saints, yet were far from this image in reality. There is evidence that these men were drunks, abusers, liars, greedy con-men, and power-hungry dictators.

Apostasy
Faith vs. Facts.

The need to truly test my beliefs came when I found myself unable to defend the LDS beliefs, practices, and way of life when challenged by those outside of the Church. I couldn’t find anything in what I had been taught to be of any use against an apposing viewpoint based on factual and scientific evidence. This is because there’s no way to defend a viewpoint based on faith or feelings against facts unless those facts are disregarded and presumed to be unproven. It’s true that evolution is “simply a theory,” but so is gravity. One is dismissed by creationists, while the other is accepted, and yet there’s plenty of evidence for both.

Why is accepting something that is unprovable, in the name of faith, considered to be defensible? Were we not ‘created’ to think, to reason, to be logical, and to use our senses? It is through faith that nearly all wars have been and will continue to be fought, as these things can never be fully resolved without practical evidence. The best faith can offer is hope, but this hope is unfounded and even harmful. Faith is simply a feeling of things one believes to be true, though are completely unprovable. Our justice system wouldn’t work on faith because everyone has different feelings, which are interpreted different ways and therefore, are completely unreliable and dismissed by the courts. So why is it that people let faith rule over their lives, and condemn themselves to a life of service to a religion, based solely on a subjective feeling? It’s also puzzling to me that so many people seem to be able to compartmentalize their faith and rationality; they will put faith first when attending church, but then flip to put rationality first when at work or going about their daily lives.

Other than in the religious context, there is absolutely no place in our world where faith or feelings are considered to be evidence of truth, nor should there be. Truth can only be determined by comparing multiple sources of evidence, and using logic and reason to extrapolate the facts. The LDS Church discourages its members from comparing multiple sources of information by labeling any non-Church-approved literature as ‘anti-Mormon’ and a “cancer”7 to be avoided. Despite these academic and scholarly works being the most factual, with well-documented evidence, the Church frames it as victimization in order to cultivate a persecution complex. This gives the Church more control over what its members read, by instilling fear and therefore, what points of view to which they’re exposed. How does one truly believe in one point of view if they haven’t really explored nor seen any others? In my experience, members of the Church have a huge confirmation bias when they ‘question’ their beliefs, in that they only seek for answers within the confines of the Church. This is like an astrologer reading their horoscope which says “you will have financial prosperity” and then finding a $20 bill in their jacket and determining it to be proof that the horoscope was right.

The Church encourages a narrow and simplistic view on things outside of its control, in an effort to keep its membership from truly questioning its teachings. The Church is constantly enforcing the idea that the world is black & white, right or wrong, all or nothing. The reality is, that there are so many shades of grey, and the complexity of our world and society is so great, that to simplify it to this extreme is myopic. If we don’t think critically, look deeply at the things around us, or consider opposing ideas or opinions, we cannot grow; we will only continue to do the things we’ve been taught without any growth or true understanding. Imperfect people cannot run a perfect church, it’s an impossibility.

Outside The LDS Box.

It has always been apparent to me what I was expected to do with my life – the same thing my eldest brother did, and what my father did before him. My refusal to serve a mission was the first step I had taken to step outside of the LDS box. It opened my eyes to so many faults within the Church and its straight and increasingly narrow path.

I believe that true creative freedom to challenge the status quo, to think outside the box, or to re-imagine what the box is, is essential to growth, not only as an individual, but as a species. I have always felt, and witnessed, incredible restrictions with what creative directions are permissible as a member of the Church. The Church has placed restrictions on what movies are to be watched, what art is considered wholesome, what topics are not to be discussed, and how to live your life in general. There is very little room for individuality within the confines of the Church’s life path for its members.

Men are told to graduate from high school, serve a mission at the age of 19 for two years, return home to a Young Single Adult ward to find a wife, be married in the Temple as soon as possible to avoid “falling into temptation”, and start procreating as to bring more indoctrinated babies into the fold. There are priesthood responsibilities, church activities, church lessons, seminary or institute classes, scripture reading, and numerous other Church-oriented activities, on top of any ‘worldly’ work or schooling, designed to fill up ones time so completely that there’s little room for individuality or ‘going astray’.

Women, on the other hand, are told to finish high school, then prepare to be married and start pumping out the babies (a rather cynical phrasing, I know, yet oddly accurate). Post-secondary education for a woman, within the Church, remains secondary to finding a faithful priesthood holder with whom to marry and bear children. Their time is consumed with many of the same church activities as the men, but cannot hold the same authoritative positions or ‘priesthood power’ within the Church. Their activities focus on domesticated creative outlets only, such as baking, crafts, sewing, quilting, etc. They’re told to only date returned missionaries (which usually leads to a larger age difference, thus putting the ‘wiser’ man as the head of the family), and prepare to be a ‘worthy wife and mother.’

“…the Mormon Church impedes the development of friendships and family relationships by keeping people so busy that they tend to have time only for relationships that are related to Mormon Church callings, and those relationships are kept relatively superficial because they are changed to suit the Mormon Church’s institutional imperatives on a regular basis. This is yet more evidence of the way in which Mormonism puts its institutional interests ahead of those of its members.

“The Mormon Church is institutionalized as a third party to the marriage relationships. Both spouses make promises in the marriage ceremony of obedience to Mormonism. If one spouse falters in this commitment, the marriage is in trouble. Mormons are encouraged to marry young and to immediately put down anchors in terms of the wife staying home to have kids so that if the Mormon Church’s relationship to either spouse, there is a lot at stake that can be used to bring the one whose faith is faltering into line. It is this system, in part, that leads to countless social Mormons who long ago stop believing but do not dare step visibly out of line.” 8

I have come to see that the Church’s strict life path is by no means for the betterment of the individual, or even the group, but for strengthening itself and it’s power over its members. The immense pressure to live up to the Church’s standards and to fulfill all the requirements of being a member can cause many to feel inadequate, sinful, and lose their self-worth. There seems to be very little, if any, benefit to the individual. The extremely high antidepressant usage amongst Mormons in Utah9 is an example of the negative results from being over-worked and under achieved. Within the Church, it’s commonplace to thank God for the good things that happen within our lives, and see these things as a direct result of obedience to the gospel. Yet anything bad that happens, is seen as a test of faith. Therefore, the individual goes without praise for their own accomplishments (because it’s God’s doing), and they’re seen as not doing enough when they falter; it’s a lose-lose scenario. I have felt greater freedom, peace, and accomplishment in my life since I have let go of the Church’s ridiculous standards.

Equal Rights & Marriage.

I find it amazing that the Church believes that everyone, no matter what society, nationality, or culture, is bound by a singular ideology, perpetuated by a group of wealthy white males in upper-class America. The shear ignorance of such a belief disregards the individualism of billions in favour of a narrow and simplistic black-or-white classification system: you’re either a righteous follower, or a sinner. The world is a mosaic of different peoples made up of a huge spectrum of individuals. It’s my belief that everyone has equal rights, no matter what their sex, gender, sexual orientation, skin colour, religion, nationality, or physical ability.

It amazes me that the vast majority of Latter-Day Saints don’t understand the extent to which the Church harbors racism, even today. Racism is written right into the Book of Mormon, and prophets have preached that mistreatment of “the Negro” is condoned by God. This is easily seen written into the Book of Mormon, where it calls dark skinned people ugly, filthy, lazy, and perverts:

“And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.” 10

However, I have to say that of all the racist and discriminatory things the LDS prophets have said over the years, Brigham Young takes the cake. He spoke in such absolute terms; whether it was about the damnation of the negroes, the certainty of the Adam-God doctrine, the necessity of plural marriage, or his own divine authority. This, along with his fear-mongering and death threats against those who don’t obey him, is certainly more evidence of an abuse of power

“You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race-that they should be the “servant of servants;” and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree. How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam’s children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion” 11

The hypocrisy in Mormonism’s own theology is abundantly apparent, yet is overlooked and ignored. According to Church doctrine, Cain, and later Ham, (plus all of the Lamanites) were punished for their sins with a “curse” of black skin, which was passed on to their descendants. How isn’t this in direct opposition to the second Article of Faith, which reads, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins…”? Apparently this doesn’t extend beyond Adam’s transgression, despite Sunday school classes teaching that it’s to be interpreted as individuals being responsible for their own sins and not held accountable to another’s sins. Orson Hyde was the first to try to explain this paradox when he spoke of the War in heaven in the pre-existence. He explained that there were varying degrees to which we (the spirits) obeyed and followed Jesus’s, apposed to Lucifer’s, plan. This doctrine has been preached numerous times over the years, and Joseph Fielding Smith reiterated it in the 1950s:

“There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less.” 12

A rather appalling speech supporting segregation in society was given in 1954 by Elder Mark E. Peterson. In which he said, among other things:

“If [the] Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.” 13

There are many who escaped slavery who would see the promise of being a servant, even in the highest degree of celestial glory, as eternal punishment fit for Hell itself. Later, in 1967, Church President, Ezra Taft Benson, promoted fear-inducing paranoia by claiming blacks, and specifically Martin Luther King Jr., were being used by the Communists!

“The Communist program for revolution in America has been in progress for many years and is far advanced. … First of all, we must not place the blame upon Negroes. They are merely the unfortunate group that has been selected by professional Communist agitators to be used as the primary source of cannon fodder. … The planning, direction, and leadership come from the Communists, and most of those are white men who fully intend to destroy America by spilling Negro blood, rather than their own. We must insist that duly authorized legislative investigating committees launch an even more exhaustive study and expose the degree to which secret Communists have penetrated into the civil rights movement. The same needs to be done with militant anti-Negro groups.” 14

“The man [Martin Luther King, Jr.] who is generally recognized as the leader of the so-called civil rights movement today in America is a man who has lectured at a Communists training school, who has solicited funds through Communist sources, who hired a Communist as a top-level aide, who has affiliated with Communist fronts, who is often praised in the Communist press and who unquestionably parallels the Communist line. This same man advocates the breaking of the law and has been described by J. Edgar Hoover as ‘the most notorious liar in the country.” 15

What happened between 1954 (when Mark E. Peterson preached his vitriol) and 1978 that made God change his mind regarding blacks holding the priesthood? Why would God’s disciples, with a prophet who is in direct communication with Him, not have shown blacks any more respect than the rest of society? Brigham Young said that the negro wouldn’t receive the priesthood “until the last of the posterity of Able [sic] had received the priesthood, until the redemption of the earth.”16 – so it would seem that Spencer W. Kimball issued Declaration 2 prematurely !17 Maybe the civil rights movement or political pressure was the true motivation. Or perhaps, it was that the first Brazilian temple was about to open and deciphering who had african blood among an extremely mixed culture was too impractical. And what of the American aboriginal, the oriental, the south Asian, or the numerous other ethnicities? Some are very dark in skin tone and yet aren’t African nor considered to be a Negro. Were they too, to be discriminated against? Apparently so…

“Racial degeneration, resulting in differences in appearance and spiritual aptitude, has arisen since the fall. We know the circumstances under which the posterity of Cain (and later of Ham) were born with the characteristics of the black race. (Moses 5:16-41; 7:8,12,22; Abra. 1:20-27.) The Book of Mormon explains why the Lamanites received dark skins and a degenerate status. (2 Ne. 5:21-23.) If we had a full and true history of all races and nations, we would know the origins of all their distinctive characteristics. In the absence of such detailed information, however, we know only the general principle that all these changes from the physical and spiritual perfections of our common parents have been brought about by departure from the gospel truths (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 148-151; vol. 3, pp. 313-326).”18

The above was taken from the 1999 printing of Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine. This replaced a passage about “the Negro” specifically, and was supposed to be a gentler way to explain Mormonism’s discrimination. Instead, it actually opens it up to even more racism, as he is saying that ANY non-Caucasian physical characteristics are as a direct result from that nationality’s “departure from gospel truths.” This white supremacist mentality is still being printed in official Church books and being passed off as God’s doing!

The argument that the founders of the Church lived in a very different time, when slavery and mistreatment of blacks was commonplace and therefore, wouldn’t have known any better, is exactly the problem. They supposedly knew better in terms of spirituality, and knew everything about the pre- and post-existence, and yet they couldn’t foresee that other ethnicities need be treated equally? Or, if God had instructed the early Church leaders to discriminate, then He is prejudicial, and an unjust god. Either way, there needs to be an actual explanation as to why this doctrine was changed. Instead, we’re simply told “that’s behind us… don’t worry about those little flicks of history.” 19 I see the racism of the pre-1978 Mormons, and the timely reversal of doctrine, to be mounting evidence that the Church is white-man-made.

It’s interesting to see the parallels between the Church’s policy reversals on blacks having the priesthood, and polygamy. Both were certain to be God’s wishes, and yet were overturned when there’s too much political pressure. I see the Church’s current battle against homosexuality going much along the same lines; one day, a future prophet will feel the heat, and issue Declaration 3.

The idea that homosexuals are destroying the sanctity of marriage is completely absurd. Interracial relationships were once viewed the same way. Brigham Young said:

“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” 20

Not only is this statement extremely racist, it’s elitist (in that it implies that whites are God’s favored, while blacks are a lesser people not worthy of God’s love). Even when the Church finally allowed blacks to hold the priesthood on June 8, 1978, Spencer W. Kimball still discouraged inter-racial marriages!21

Half of all marriages end in divorce, spouses cheat, and others fall victim to abuse – how is this not a greater threat to the sanctity of marriage than two people of the same sex committing themselves to a lifetime of love and devotion within their own family? How does a homosexual marriage affect heterosexual marriages? In what way does legalizing gay marriage infringe on the rights of straight people? If you’re not gay, don’t marry someone of the same sex! As for the argument that gay marriage will cause the apocalypse, that’s complete nonsense.

As mentioned earlier, the Church’s involvement in the Proposition 8 campaign is shameful. For a church who believes we are all children of our Heavenly Father – who loves each and every one of us, and wishes for us to live in peace and harmony while in this temporal life – they sure know how to organize a hate campaign to outlaw the ‘God-given’ rights of a people. Throughout history, people have found reasons to chastise another category of people; weather it be that they’re left-handed, female, black, gay or Jewish/Christian/Muslim. Our society now looks back and finds it atrocious that such discrimination existed. Persecution of women or racial minorities – after numerous civil rights movements – is no longer tolerated, and laws have been put into place to ensure that (though, there’s a long way to go). Why can’t we see that homosexuality is simply today’s category to persecute, and realize that it’s wrong now, instead of later? Hate is the one limitation I’d place on human rights, as it is neither constructive to the individual nor society in any way. How many times must we persecute a minority in order to make the majority feel secure about themselves? It’s truly sickening.

I find it hypocritical that the Church has gone from a small group of progressive American Democrats, fighting for the right to practice plural marriages, to a group of conservative American Republicans fighting against same-sex marriages in the name of “preserving the sanctity of marriage”. Early Church history is full of examples of how the Mormonites continually moved further west in an effort to to escape persecution for their progressive theology. Joseph Smith Jr. was ultimately killed for challenging marriage laws with his teaching, administering, and practicing of polygamy. Church members seem to forget this when they persecute and fund political campaigns against a new group challenging these same marriage laws! Mormons are the original corrupters of the sanctity of marriage, by institutionalizing polygamy. Joseph Smith is a prime example of how corrupt marriage has been, even within ‘God’s one true church.’

Once Joseph Smith had established the Church on April 6, 1830, and saw that he had power and influence over his growing congregation, he began to use that power to persuade young women to sleep with him. Unfortunately for him, he was not only married, but was the leader of a church which had a strict “thou shalt not commit adultery”22 policy. Opportunistic as he was, he soon found that this was easily overcome by claiming to have received a revelation, instructing him to be just as promiscuous as Abraham or Jacob, provided, of course, that he marry each girl with whom he fornicates. Knowing how this might upset his followers, he made sure each of his mistresses were sworn to secrecy upon penalty of death. His first affair – only 3 years after establishing the church – was with a 17-year-old girl 23 (half his age). Smith would send the fathers or husbands of the women he pursued on missions in other states or countries, as to allow him plenty of time and opportunity to have his way with them.24 Joseph Smith, obviously had no boundaries.

Joseph Smith let only a small group of his closest buddies in on his secret, and encouraged them to do the same. After all, what good is having power over people unless you can brag about it to your buddies? If anyone was caught practicing or talking about this ‘revelation,’ they were instantly kicked out of the Church and used as a patsy, in order to distract the public from the rest of them. On July 12, 1843, after a suggestion from Dr. John. C. Bennett, Joseph Smith finally released his written Revelation on Celestial Marriage to a small congregation25 due to escalating rumors of his licentious practices. Of course, he didn’t read out the revelation himself, nor was he present; he sent his brother Hyrum so if it was ill-received by the membership, he would have a perfect scapegoat with whom to blame the ‘false doctrine.’ By this time, Joseph Smith is known to have had over 15 ‘wives’26. If this isn’t a perversion of marriage, I don’t know what is.

Joseph Smith’s polygamous teachings – which were officially instituted after his death,  under Brigham Young – was only allowed amongst the High Priests, who were the white males with power. This only goes to show the ever-growing power differential among the LDS membership. Interestingly enough, the LDS prophets since Joseph Smith have been back and forth on the issue. Brigham Young is well known for his multitude of wives, and had said, regarding polygamy:

“Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned,”27

Yet then on October 6, 1890 – after immense political pressure to outlaw polygamy, in order for Utah to become a united state in America – Wilfred Woodruff, the president of the Church at the time, issued a manifesto (which is now referred to as “Declaration 1”), which reads:

“We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice…”28

This is an obvious a lie – straight from the mouth of the prophet – as it is well documented that Brigham Young was teaching and practicing polygamy, just as Joseph Smith had done before him! Some of the apostles and leaders left the Church immediately following this declaration, while many others continued their polygamous ways for years to come. (A second manifesto was issued 14 years later, in 1904 by Joseph F. Smith.)

I’ve heard some claim polygamy to have been a practical method to balance the scale of the population or to provide support for widows, yet there were more men than women at the time, and 13-year old girls were being married off to church leaders who were up to 4 times their age! These claims would have more merit if polygamy wasn’t still ingrained in the current Church’s theology.

“The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy,”30

Celestial marriage is synonymous with polygamy. Mormon theology teaches that God has many wives, and that in order to reach godhood, every man must do the same. Polygamy, under Brigham Young, was simply another way for the Church elites to assert their power over their followers. When girls were ‘of age,’ the prophet would get to select which ones he preferred first, before offering the ‘leftovers’ to his fellow apostles. Treating a young woman as though she was a commodity or slave to be acquired and used. These women are reported to be miserable, even suicidal; being put to work doing domestic duties and pumping out babies with no regard for them as individuals. Their husbands (I use that term in the loosest way possible) spent very little time with them, as they were usually too busy in other church matters or browsing for the next wife.

Until recently, the temple marriage ritual was specifically worded for the woman to “…obey the law of their husbands…” while now they changed this to read “…to hearken to the counsel of her husband, as her husband hearkens unto the counsel of [God]…”. Though even this phrasing still subjects the woman to the man, since God has ordained the man with the priesthood and therefore an authority over others. Today, a widower can be married and sealed to another woman, yet a widow cannot be sealed to another man without first being unsealed. The beliefs are still there, although dormant, as if waiting for the day they can repeal the civil laws. Polygamy remains an essential part of the celestial kingdom and plan of salvation.

“Obviously the holy practice [of plural marriage] will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium.”31

If the Church, and its prophet, is truly in direct communication with God, then why is it always lagging behind society? The Church’s prophets didn’t foresee that polygamy was a bad idea (at least, at that time), nor did they see that racial discrimination is evil. For some reason, they can’t see history repeating itself with today’s controversy over homosexuality. Shouldn’t the prophet know, ahead of society, that such discrimination shouldn’t be tolerated?

Politics & Transparency.

The Church has always held questionable ethics: from Joseph Smith printing his own worthless money to postpone debt repayment,32 to Hinckley’s ‘Protect Marriage’ coalition and its role in funding Proposition 8. The Church has consistently tried to manipulate its population, in order to gain control over yet another aspect of peoples’ lives.

The Church’s involvement in politics seems to be an ongoing pursuit, which started with Joseph Smith’s role as Mayor of Nauvoo, and subsequent nomination for US presidency. The Church’s theocracy is much like a fascist government: one leader dictates the requirements of his subjects (no democratic vote), and subjects who oppose are disciplined or cast out in shame for not adhering to the demands of said leader. This theocracy is evident by the scripted nature of every activity, through the Handbook of Instructions given to each Church administrator. Every situation has a pre-scripted response, and any deviation from this is strongly discouraged or even reprehensible. I noticed this a lot when talking with Church leaders regarding my inactivity or questions about doctrine; the handbook was constantly being referred.

As for missionaries, I feel it is their duty to fully disclose the Mormon theology prior to encouraging people to be baptized. Instead, they rush through the simplistic discussions, trying to conjure up an emotional response (aka. ‘feeling the spirit’), and get them to commit to a life-long membership. The Church, in its time-tested wisdom, has continually shielded the most outrageous doctrines and rituals from the eyes of outsiders (or even its lesser members) by hiding them within their temples. These hidden beliefs and rituals aren’t disclosed to its members until after making various promises or ‘covenants,’ and after at least a year of devoted attendance and paid tithes. Even then, they’re sworn to secrecy, punishable by death,33 and told not to speak of the temple rituals, even amongst each other! Secret names, handshakes, and chanting are done in the temple (in a very Masonic style), as a way of rewarding its most devoted members with privileged information.

The temple marriage ceremony is a good example of how the Church puts its members under great pressure to commit to things, of which they hadn’t previously been informed. By the time a couple is in the temple, and in front of their family and church leaders – chanting “Pay Lay Ale” (or “Oh God, hear the sound of my voice,” as today’s version says), being told that their marriage is actually a three-way with God, and that disobedience will result in eternal damnation – it would be extremely difficult to refuse to commit to these new doctrines. It’s this privileged information, and promise of higher spiritual achievement, that perpetuates the hierarchy of the Church structure.34

It’s amazing how much LDS doctrine isn’t talked about, or simply overlooked, during the many Church activities and meetings. This includes: God’s plural wives, God’s planet Kolob, the Adam-God theory, polygamy, and condemned sexual expression (even between husband and wife), to name a few. That which is talked about openly, seems to be sugar-coated, or over-simplified, rendering it meaningless. Does an eight-year-old really understand the ‘covenants’ they’re making to the Church when being baptized? Are they even given a true choice in the matter? No. They only understand that they’ll receive a lot of attention and praise if they go through with what’s expected of them. I even think that coercing young children into these commitments is highly unethical, since they are not old enough to comprehend such abstract thought, let alone to make an informed decision! It’s interesting to note that all of the baptismal, and priesthood ordinances are conducted prior to the legal age of consent, for those growing up in the Church. Why couldn’t they wait until the child has grown, and is able to make an informed decision? With a lot of these commitments, come obligations to ‘donate’ your time and money to the Church. Though these are ‘optional,’ they are necessary if one wants to be good in the eyes of God.

Tithing, is the Church’s tax system: a way to generate funds for expanding its reach. It requires the membership to pay 10% of their income to the Church, or else they will not be allowed to have full membership privileges (ie. Participate in temple work, uphold callings, etc.). If one cannot enter the temple, then their spiritual salvation is in jeopardy, and so the pressure to pay for membership status is enormous in the eyes of a true believing Mormon.

The Church doesn’t disclose what these tithes are funding, beyond the obvious maintenance of Church buildings and temples, and funding charitable work.35 The Church doesn’t have any transparency and therefore, has no accountability. It’s free to take the tithing money and spend it on funding political campaigns, buying property, building multi-billion-dollar malls,36 or paying its leadership astonishingly high salaries.37 Those who live in a democratic society would never stand for a government who kept its financial books and intentions completely hidden, so why do Mormons allow the Church to hide its own books? If they weren’t hiding anything insidious, they wouldn’t have a problem disclosing their records (at least to its membership). I find it ironic that Glenn Beck, a conservative libertarian and Tea Party activist, would choose to become a Mormon, and be subject to the exact totalitarian rule of which he is so fearful.

Too much focus is placed on building up the church, and too little on building up all of those around us. Striving to make the world better and not just the Church, is what I would equate to being a loving god’s message. There are countless examples of how the needs of the individual are valued less than the needs of the Church. Someone who openly questions teachings by the prophet is excommunicated, in an effort to preserve the Church’s self-image, rather than working with that individual to find what needs they have and how the Church can work to meet those needs. There are no new or open ideas being exchanged inside the Church, only the same reiteration of old themes and regurgitated stories. Lesson manuals are scripted, messages are standardized, and missionaries have been using the same old pickup lines for decades. The Church thinks it’s perfect and therefore, is unwilling to change. It’s stagnant, and losing the battle against the information age. As Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

I’ve never quite understood why the Church has put so much emphasis on doing work in this life for the afterlife. If all of our time, here on earth, is consumed with work for the afterlife, we can’t possibly have time to enjoy the life we have now, to really experience the world around us, and to better understand each other’s intellectual, artistic, and historical differences. Should we not be trying to experience and enjoy this life while we can, rather than simply hoping for another chance to do things right later?

The Book of Mormon

Gordon B. Hinckley said it best when, in a PBS interview in January 2007, he stated:

“Well, [The LDS Church is] either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world. Now, that’s the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true. And that’s exactly where we stand, with a conviction in our hearts that it is true: that Joseph went into the [Sacred] Grove; that he saw the Father and the Son; that he talked with them; that Moroni came; that the Book of Mormon was translated from the [gold] plates; that the priesthood was restored by those who held it anciently. That’s our claim. That’s where we stand, and that’s where we fall, if we fall. But we don’t. We just stand secure in that faith.”38

This is a great example of the simplistic black-or-white thinking promoted by the Church. If that’s the argument to which they hold, then it would only take once piece of evidence illustrating it’s falsehood to crumble their tower of ‘truth’.

The Book of Mormon is the foundation on which the LDS Church is built. It is believed that it’s a historical account of the aboriginal peoples of America (presumed to be the lost tribe of Israel), which was recorded onto gold plates, and written in ‘Reformed Egyptian.’ This record was then buried in a hill in what is now upstate New York, and was hidden there for a millennium, until divine revelation guided Joseph Smith Jr. to its hiding place. Smith then began to ‘translate’ the plates using a seer stone as a means of channeling a direct line of God’s power.

“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness, the spiritual light would shine.”39

This method of translating the plates, closely resembles the money-digging40 routine that Joseph Smith had used in his previous career; he would look at this same stone in his hat, and claim to be able to see buried treasure. He charged people money for this service, promising them that they’d find great riches, and when the victim of his scam couldn’t find the treasure, he’d claim it had moved deeper into the earth. Joseph Smith was a charismatic story-teller with a fantastic imagination, and a history of using his talents in this way to make money. In fact, he was even charged with “being a disorderly person and an impostor”41 in 1826, as a result of his scam. Even after his trial, some of his victims still believed he possessed this ability. There’s even evidence to suggest that Smith came from a family of money-diggers and con-artists who were impoverished by their scams being well-known to their community.42 So why would God have chosen this method for Smith to translate the plates, when his credibility would be called into question? Couldn’t God have simply inspired him to be able to read the gold plate’s inscriptions without the need of any tools of any kind?

Smith’s poor education and illiteracy made it essential for him to have a scribe to write down the words which he would ‘translate’ from the gold plate’s hieroglyphics. The method he used was also highly suspicious, as it placed himself opposite a curtain from his scribe, or in another room altogether. It is also reported that the plates were not even in the same room as Smith. If the translation could be accomplished without the physical presence of the plates, then of what use are the plates in the first place?! Smith even claimed that if anyone but himself looked at the plates, they would die on the spot. The whole premise that the plates were not to be seen by anyone other than Joseph Smith, (and that sudden death would occur if they tried) is such an obvious attempt to hide that no such plates existed.

Joseph Smith needed money in order to have the book printed, so he recruited a wealthy land-owner by the name of Martin Harris. Harris invested an initial fifty dollars to the venture, and replaced Smith’s wife as scribe. However, as assurance of the legitimacy of the Gold Plates, he asked Smith for a copy of some of the ‘Reformed Egyptian’ hieroglyphics, which he would take to show Charles Anthon of Columbia College. The Professor of Greek and Latin looked at the hieroglyphics and recognized them as “Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and Flourishes, and Roman letters inverted or placed sideways,” among other symbols.43 Anthon then realized that Harris had been victim of a fraud, and informed him of such.

At this point Harris tells others that he met with Anthon, and claimed he verified that the ‘Reformed Egyptian’ was legitimate, and a correct translation (which, of course, was not possible to do, as no American was even able to read standard Egyptian at the time). Why he lied about Anthon’s analysis is unclear, but may have to do with his own superstitious beliefs, or his desire to profit44 from the publication of the ‘Golden Bible.’

Later, Harris mortgaged his property in order to fund the book’s publication. After the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon were completed (comprising the Book of Lehi), Harris asked to take the pages home to show his wife (presumably to convince her that this financial endeavor was worthwhile). She must not have been impressed, as she threw the pages into a fire (which she denies having done). Smith then claimed that he could not re-translate the 116 pages, as punishment for not being more careful with the writings. So instead, he translates the next book, known as the Book of Nephi, which conveniently contained a summary of the now lost Book of Lehi! This seems like another ploy to disguise the fact that he never had an original source from which to re-translate.

After the ‘translation’ was finished, Smith says that the angel Moroni took the plates back and ascended into Heaven with them. For what purpose would Heaven need the plates? Also, if God could take the plates from the Earth for safe keeping, then why wouldn’t He have simply held onto them himself, rather than keep them buried in the hillside for a millennia? Allowing Smith to keep the plates would have been concrete evidence of their existence, and would surely bring more people ‘into the fold’ (provided, of course, that they didn’t die when they gazed upon them!).

The Book of Mormon contains numerous references to emerging religious fads that were popular in the early 19th century, such as Free Masonry, and Campbellism. This suggests that the Book of Mormon was written in Smith’s time, and not thousands of years prior. There are also a great number of unique theological ideas in the Book of Mormon that are identical to that of Sidney Rigdon’s sermons prior to him joining the Church, while the general story outline is similar to Solomon Spalding’s Manuscript Story. Smith even made a critical error when he included a personal story, which is abundantly clear when one compares the account of Lehi’s dream, to the dream that Joseph Smith’s father had often spoke about.45 There have been numerous writing style and word usage studies that indicate the vast majority of the Book of Mormon was written by Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdry, and Solomon Spalding.46 These studies, along with ample evidence and testimonies, suggest that a collaborative effort was necessary to complete the Book of Mormon.47 I understand that this “Spalding-Rigdon Theory” can be contested, as can any interpretation of those events, due to an incomplete history. I do believe however, that this interpretation, with its use of logic and reason, better fits the facts which we do have in evidence, as it is based off of countless affidavits, court records, newspaper publications, personal journals, contextual historical information, census data, and scientific study.

The Book of Mormon is to be considered by Mormons to be a companion to the King James version of the Bible, and it even shares the Jacobean English style. It’s said to be the most perfect book ever printed, and “…if there be fault, it be the mistake of men.”48 If this is the case, men made a lot of mistakes.

The King James Bible, despite being one of the most accomplished literary works for its translation accuracy, is not perfect. The use of Jacobean English for the Bible is justified as it was the most respected use of the english language at the time of the gathering, translating, and publishing of that book (which was a very academic process by scholars). The idea that God would have Joseph Smith translate an ancient ‘Reformed Egyptian’ into an outdated Jacobean English – when the use of the current New English would have been much more relevant and accessible to people of his day – is a mystery.

King James’s committee of scholars who were commissioned to work on the new translation of the Hebrew Bible, were carful to ensure that they italicized interpolated words, which were inserted for euphony. This was scholarly and responsible, as it informs the reader of what was written, verses what was added. This would have been known to all those reading the Bible in Joseph Smith’s time, and he was sure to use that to his advantage. Many of the numerous biblical plagiarisms within the Book of Mormon have the italicized words of the Bible replaced with Joseph Smith’s alterations, while leaving the rest of the words intact. In other cases, he left the words intact and unitalicized them altogether.

III Nephi 24:5 “…and that turn aside the stranger, and fear not me…”

Malachi 3:5 “…and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me…”

III Nephi 24:10 “…that there shall not be room enough to receive it…”

Malachi 3:10 “…that there shall not be room enough to receive it…”

Despite the Book of Mormon being essentially translated by God, using Joseph Smith as a gateway, it’s interesting that the Book of Mormon not only quoted the King James version of the Bible specifically, it copied the same translation errors. How would the authors of the Gold Plates, being the ‘Nephite’ American aboriginals, have had the King James Bible from which to read and quote? One example (of many) is found in II Nephi 23:22, which is a quotation taken from Isaiah 13:22. They read:

“And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces…”

The use of the term “dragons” (obviously, a mythical creature) was used in substitution to an animal name that the scholars for the King James Bible had trouble translating from the original Hebrew. We have since learned that the translation should read, “wild dogs.” So why Joseph Smith, with his inspired translation, would use the same mistranslated Hebrew term from the King James Bible, when the Nephites would have written it into ‘Reformed Egyptian,’ is beyond me. (How the Nephites of America in 550 B.C. got the 1611 A.D. King James Bible of England from which to quote, is yet another mystery)

In addition to copying errors from the Bible, the Book of Mormon’s attempt at using Jacobean English is riddled with its own grammatical errors. For example, in Mosiah 4:22, the personal noun case switches from plural to singular in the same sentence “…and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.” Technically, since “ye” is plural and “thou” is singular, the last part of the sentence should read “…which ye have done”. This is more evidence of the Book of Mormon being written as an imitation of the King James Bible by someone unfamiliar with the grammatical nuances of Jacobean English and therefore, not of divine inspiration.

Essentially, we have a book which purports to be a translation from something that no longer exists in our world, and was translated using a rock in a hat. Combine this outrageous claim with the fact that not one iota of archeological evidence has been brought to light to verify the claims that millions of Israeli-descended aboriginal people fought and died in great battles, using steel swords, bows, arrows, armor, and horses. All of these claims have been significantly disproven, and clearly illustrates a 19th century understanding of the archeological history of the American continent and its peoples.

Compared to the Bible, which has numerous identifying landmarks and names which remain today, the Book of Mormon has only one positively identified landmark: The Hill Cumorah. This of course is easily excused because it is the location where Smith says he “found” the plates, and so it was worked into the stories of the Book of Mormon. As for any other location, such as the great city of Zarahemla, there have been no architectural ruins found, nor have any names of seas, land masses, or cities been found to match – despite of the surviving ‘Lamanites’ having continued to live on the American continent.

Recent DNA studies of aboriginal Americans, has conclusively shown that they are of an east Asian descent, and there is no indication that they have ever had middle-eastern ancestors. The Mayan ruins in Central America, though thought by Mormons to be ruins of the Nephites, have been dated to have been constructed centuries after the stories in the Book of Mormon were to have taken place. Furthermore, they have also been shown to have worshiped the sun, and not a personified deity. Archeologists have learned to read the ancient Mayan hieroglyphics – none of which resemble Hebrew, Egyptian, or anything similar to the symbols written down by Joseph Smith (for Martin Harris’s inquiry).

The Book of Mormon tells of Lehi’s journey to the promised land, the American continent. Upon their arrival, they speak of horses, oxen, barley, and wheat. None of which existed on the continent prior to Columbus’s arrival in the late 15th century A.D. The extensive use of metals, including steel (which hadn’t been invented), described in the Book of Mormon, haven’t been found at any archeological dig sites. One would think that a war involving millions of Nephites and Lamanites, who were using arrows and swords, would have left some evidence that such a battle took place.

All of this though, doesn’t even compare to the concrete evidence which exists regarding one of Joseph Smith’s subsequent publications.

The Book of Abraham 

The Book of Abraham is by far the most damning example of Smith’s fictional writings or delusions, as it has been conclusively shown to be incorrectly translated from the ancient Egyptian papyri. In 1835, a man named Michael Chandler was commissioned to exhibit and sell a number of Egyptian mummies and artifacts. He had sold a number of these relics, but was having difficulty selling the remainder, so when he heard about a man who claimed to be able to read ancient Egyptian, Chandler set out to Kirtland, Ohio. There is little doubt that when presented with the Egyptian artifacts (specifically the papyri), Smith’s followers would have expected that he be able to read the writings (as he claimed to have done before). There was ultimately no need for Smith to make the scrolls out to be of significance but, being the opportunistic con-man that he was, he used the situation to his advantage. This gave him an opportunity to write more scripture, and so he chose to claim the writings to be by the hand of Abraham and Joseph of Egypt. (On the papyri, Smith saw what he believed to be a drawing of a man being sacrificed on an alter, and associated it with the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac.)

After purchasing the papyri, Joseph Smith, along with Sidney Rigdon, William W. Phelps, and Oliver Cowdery, began the tedious work of deciphering the hieroglyphics one character at a time; his own records, called the Kirtland Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, or the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, describe this process. I can’t help but wonder, why he would use such a systematic approach with this translation, given his history with the golden plates (placing the seer stone in the bottom of his hat). Why wouldn’t God have simply given Smith the same translation abilities as he given him only a few years prior? After all, Smith did say that these scrolls of Abraham were brought to him by the will of God.

The Book of Abraham (a subsidiary to the Pearl of Great Price), tells of an entirely different creation story from that found in Genesis. In fact, this one book alone can account for the vast majority of the beliefs which set Mormonism apart from mainstream Christianity. This book tells of the planet Kolob (where God resides), and of the story of the pre-existence, in which multiple gods created the earth as some kind of group project (which is in direct opposition to the creation story of Genesis). This book describes Mormonism’s ‘plan of salvation’ – the essential core to Mormon theology.

With the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, scholars began to decipher the Egyptian language. By the mid 1800s, they were able to read Egyptian hieroglyphics however, this knowledge hadn’t crossed the Atlantic by the time Smith bought and ‘translated’ the papyri. Also, numerous other findings have allowed for a greater understanding of the spiritual and cultural practices of this ancient people, casting indisputable doubt onto smith’s interpretations. Even as early as 1856, Egyptologists, such as Theodule Deveria (and later, Rev. Franklin S. Spalding), criticized the facsimiles published by the Church, saying:

“… these three facsimiles of Egyptian documents in the ‘Pearl of Great Price’ depict the most common objects in the Mortuary religion of Egypt. Joseph Smith’s interpretations of them as part of a unique revelation through Abraham, therefore, very clearly demonstrates that he was totally unacquainted with the significance of these documents and absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian writing and civilization.”49

Of course, a complete review of Smith’s translation would require scholarly study of the papyri, to which no scholar had access. The papyri was later sold by Smith’s wife, Emma, and thought to have been destroyed in the great Chicago fire of 1871. Nearly a century later, news broke that fragments of the papyrus scrolls where found in the Met’s archives in 1966. Scholars finally had a way to investigate the validity Smith’s claims.

The original scrolls where returned to the Church after photographs of the papyri were published. The scrolls have been verified to be the exact ones used by Joseph Smith, as they were found with a letter of authenticity written by Emma Smith. Also, the hieroglyphics copied into smith’s own Kirtland Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar records show a match to the recovered scrolls, as do the accurate portions of the facsimiles. These facsimiles were incomplete when Smith was reproducing them, and so he, inaccurately, filled in the missing portions using his own imagination.

These papyrus scrolls have been confirmed to be standard burial documents known as the Book of The Dead (aka. Book of Breathings), copies of which have also been found in numerous other catacombs.  Archeologists and Egyptologists have concluded that the true translation of these documents bears absolutely no resemblance to the story found in the Book of Abraham. The illustrations should show the Egyptian god, Anubus, who is depicted as a black human body with a jackal head, yet Smith drew in a human head (he obviously wasn’t much of an artist).50

Facsimile1 (Extant)

Photograph of Joseph Smithʼs purchased papyri, showing the incomplete ʻFacsimile 1ʼ

Facsimile 1 (PoGP)

Joseph Smithʼs interpretation of ʻFacsimile 1ʼ as published in the Pearl of Great Price

Facsimile 1 (Book of the Dead)

The true ʻFacsimile 1ʼ as depicted in numerous Egyptian Book of the Dead documents

The Book of Abraham has absolutely zero chance of being a divine translation of the papyri, and thus is conclusive evidence that Joseph Smith had invented this fictitious book, most likely to further his reputation as a prophet of God, and to implement new doctrine that reflected his changing theology. If he lied about translating the papyri, what would make someone believe he didn’t lie about translating an entire set of gold plates? Unfortunately, we will never have the original gold plates to study – if they ever existed.

Conclusion

It’s because of my values, as illustrated above, and the way in which they clash with the fundamental principles of the Church, that have led me to research further into its doctrine and history. This opened my eyes to the numerous skeletons hidden in the Church’s closet. It’s harmful doctrine, rewritten history, and ignorance to facts and evidence, have shown me that the Church has been dishonest with its members, and the world. This, in addition to the its political involvement and bigotry, has led me to conclude that I can no longer associate myself with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have submitted a request to Church headquarters to have my (and Eileah’s) name removed from the records of the Church, effective immediately. I feel that this step is necessary for me to grow beyond the confines of the Church; to ensure that my actions are not seen by others as a representation of Mormons, nor their actions as a reflection of me.

I have enjoyed many of the friendships that were born from my Mormon upbringing, and I have many kind words to say about the members. Some may ask why I couldn’t continue to live quietly on the fringes of Mormonism, and my response would be that I simply cannot support an organization whose power and authority over it’s people would encourage them to follow blindly, without questioning beyond the context of their approved sources, lie, and rewrite history, and claim that their discrimination (even distain) toward others is condoned by God.  In my mind, the good that the Church does, in terms of charity and teaching good morals, doesn’t compare to the damage it causes, nor its abuse of power.

Sincerely,

Tom Jenson

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FOOTNOTES

1 Robert McCue (November 28, 2005). Spirituality: Post-Mormon: Mormon Relationships: It’s About Time. Retrieved July 23, 2009, Bob McCue web site: http://mccue.cc/bob/postmormon.htm

2 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (2008). Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families

“On November 4, 2008, Californians will vote on a proposed amendment to the California state constitution…” and “We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time…”

3 Though the exact phrase “…separation of church and state…” doesn’t appear in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, it was part of the original sentence which Thomas Jefferson had wrote in a letter to the Dansbury Baptists Association in 1802, and remains the intent of the amendment. The original letter reads: “…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church_and_state

4 See: Resources Page: Websites

5 See: Resources Page: Books

6 See: Jerald Tanner, Sandra Tanner (2009). The Changing World of Mormonism (Web edition).

7 Carlos E. Asay (November 1981). Opposition to the Work of God. Ensign, Vol. 67

8 Robert McCue (November 28, 2005). Spirituality: Post-Mormon: Mormon Relationships: It’s About Time. Retrieved July 23, 2009, Bob McCue web site: http://mccue.cc/bob/postmormon.htm

9 Utah is number one in usage of anti-depressants for 2006 – 18.4% of persons in the state filled a prescription for an anti-depressant according to ExpressScripts. See: http://usat.ly/d4Jo4M

I realize that the statistical information gathered on this topic doesn’t depict a causational relationship, but my own observations and experience with depression in myself and my family have led me to this correlation.

10 Joseph Smith Jr., et al. (1991). The Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 12:23. Salt Lake City (UT): The LDS Church

11 Brigham Young (October 9, 1859). Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, p. 291

12 Joseph Fielding Smith, & Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrines of Salvation: Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith Vol.1, p. 61

13 Elder MARK E. PETERSON, Race Problems — As They Affect The Church, Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College/Accounting College Level, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, August 27, 1954.

14 Benson, Ezra T. (1967). General Conference Report, October 1967, p. 38

15 Benson, Ezra T. (1969). “It Can Happen Here,” in An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 103, 310.

See also:
Michael Quinn (1997). The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, p. 100, 113, 463, 471
or
Steve Benson (July 20, 2005). Ezra Taft Benson: Mormonism’s Prophet, Seer and Race Baiter. Retrieved January 23, 2011, Recovery From Mormonism web site: http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon409.htm

16 Bill McKeever (2008). Black Skin and the Seed of Cain. Retrieved November 27, 2010, The Mormonism Research Ministry web site: http://mrm.org/curse-of-cain

17 N. Eldon Tanner (September 30, 1978). Official Declaration 2. 148th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Transcript retrieved December 12, 2010, the LDS web site: http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/od/2?lang=eng

18 Bruce R. McConkie (1958). Mormon Doctrine (1999 printing), p. 616 : Bookcraft Pubs

19 Gordon B. Hinckley (April 7, 1996). An Interview With Gordon Hinckley : 60 Minutes, PBS.

20 Brigham Young (March 8, 1863). Journal of Discourses Vol. 10, p. 110

21 Spencer W. Kimball (June 17, 1978). Interracial Marriage Discouraged. Church News

22 Exodus 20:14, Holy Bible (King James Version)

23 Fawn M. Brodie (1971). No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (2nd Ed.), p. 335, 458  : Vintage

24 Charles A. Shook (1914) True Origin of Mormon Polygamy (Second Ed.), p. 61, 164 : Standard Pub. Co.

25 Affidavit of Howard Coray (June 18, 1882). Sworn before James Jack, Notary Public. As published in: Charles A. Shook (1914) True Origin of Mormon Polygamy (Second Ed.), p. 135

26 Charles A. Shook (1914) True Origin of Mormon Polygamy (Second Ed.), p. 122

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_wives_of_Joseph_Smith,_Jr.

27 Brigham Young (July 14, 1855) Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 266

28 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (October 6, 1890). Official Declaration 1. Wilford Woodruff

29 The Second Manifesto was issued near the beginning of Apostle Reed Smoot’s Congressional hearings which was determining whether he should be allowed to sit as a U.S. Senator from Utah

30 Brigham Young (August 19, 1866). Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269

31 Bruce R. McConkie (1966). Mormon Doctrine (2nd Ed.), p. 578 : Bookcraft Pubs

32 Fawn M. Brodie (1971). No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (2nd Ed.), p. 194-207  : Vintage

33 Hopefully not a literal death, though the gestures which are made in the temple rituals do suggest the graphic cutting of the throat and spilling of one’s guts.

34 See: D. Michael Quinn (1994). The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power,

     Or: D. Michael Quinn (1997). The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power

35 Funds for charitable work usually come from additional monthly collections known as Fast Offerings. These donations are not enforced to the extent of tithing, but they are still expected.

36 The current construction of the LDS-owned City Creek Mall [and surrounding redevelopment] in downtown Salt Lake City, is currently estimated at a cost of $8 BILLION. [The Mall itself if estimated at $2 Billion. For more information, read this article found in Bloomberg Newsweek entitled, “Latter-day Lucre, How the Mormon Church Makes Its Billions”]

37 Though the LDS Church has never made its payroll public, leaked information has estimated the Prophet’s profit to be up to a million dollars per year, with additional benefits (such as an expense account, private plane, multiple homes, etc.)

38 This was a clarification of the words he said during the Spring 2003 LDS General Conference, where he said “Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.”

39 David Whitmer, Whitmer’s Address, pp.12 or True Origin of the Book of Mormon, pp.5

40 aka. Treasure-seeking: a common scam of the day, convincing others to pay them for their ability to see and locate buried treasure

41 People of State of New York vs. Joseph Smith (March 20, 1826). Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York.

See: Fawn M. Brodie (1971). No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (2nd Ed.), p. 427-429 : Vintage

42 Eber D. Howe (1834). Morminism Unveiled, p. 12-16. Painesville (OH): Eber D. Howe

43 Charles Anthon’s Letter to E.D. Howe (February 17, 1834),  As published in:

Eber D. Howe (1834). Morminism Unveiled, p. 270-2. Painesville (OH): Eber D. Howe

44 Eber D. Howe (1834). Morminism Unveiled, p. 254. Painesville (OH): Eber D. Howe

45 See No Man Knows my History, pg 58 – Fawn M. Brodie, or compare “Lehi’s Vision” found in the Book of Mormon (1830) pg 18-20 with the “Dream of Joseph Smith Sr.” As recounted by Lucy Smith: Biographical Sketches, pg 58-9

46 Matthew L. Jockers, Daniela M. Witten, Craig Criddle, et al. (December 6, 2008). Reassessing Authorship of the Book of Mormon Using Delta and Nearest Shrunken Centroid Classification. Oxford Journals

47 “Spalding-Rigdon Theory.” See:

48 Joseph Smith, Jr. (1830). The Book of Mormon (first edition), preface. Palmyra (NY): E.B. Grandin

49 Franklin S. Spalding, et al (1912).  Joseph Smith Jun As a Translator. Salt Lake City (UT): The Arrow Press

50 For a complete comparison of the Book of Abraham to the Egyptian papyri, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Abraham or view a documentary at: www.bookofabraham.info
——————————————————————————————-

RESOURCES

BOOKS

Fawn M. Brodie (1971). No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (2nd Ed.), NY: Vintage

Eber D. Howe (1834). Morminism Unveiled, p. 278-290. Painesville (OH): Eber D. Howe

Bruce R. McConkie (1966). Mormon Doctrine (2nd Ed.), : Bookcraft Pubs

Charles A. Shook (1914). The True Origin of the Book of Mormon : Standard Pub. Co.

Charles A. Shook (1914) The True Origin of Mormon Polygamy (Second Ed.) : Standard Pub. Co.

Joseph Smith Jr., et al. (1830). The Book of Mormon (first edition). Palmyra (NY): E.B. Grandin

Joseph Smith Jr., et al. (1851). The Pearl of Great Price. Salt Lake City (UT): LDS Church

Jerald & Sandra Tanner (2009). The Changing World of Mormonism (Web edition).

Brigham Young, et al.(1886). Journal of Discources. Salt Lake City (UT): LDS Church

MAGAZINES, ARTICLES & JOURNALS

Carlos E. Asay (November 1981). Opposition to the Work of God. Ensign, Vol. 67

Craig Criddle (October 8, 2005). Sidney Rigdon: Creating The Book of Mormon.

Craig Criddle, Matthew L. Jockers, Daniela M. Witten, et al. (December 6, 2008). Reassessing Authorship of the Book of Mormon Using Delta and Nearest Shrunken Centroid Classification

Craig Criddle (October 10, 2009). Constructing an Evidence-Based Narrative for the Book of Mormon

Bill McKeever (2008). Black Skin and the Seed of Cain. Retrieved November 27, 2010, The Mormonism Research Ministry web site: http://mrm.org/curse-of-cain

D. Michael Quinn (1997). The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power,Salt Lake City (UT): Signature

D. Michael Quinn (1994). The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, Salt Lake City (UT): Signature Books

WEBSITES

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: www.lds.org

The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR): http://www.fairlds.org/

Mormon Temples and Temple Rituals: http://home.teleport.com/~packham/temples.htm

The Lost Book of Abraham: www.bookofabraham.info

8: A Mormon Proposition: http://www.mormonproposition.com

Sidney Rigdon: http://sidneyrigdon.com/criddle/rigdon1.htm

The Joseph Smith Papers: http://beta.josephsmithpapers.org/home

The Mormonism Research Ministry: http://mrm.org

Recovery From Mormonism: http://www.exmormon.org/

Rethinking Mormonism: http://www.i4m.com

Bob McCue: http://mccue.cc/bob/postmormon.htm & http://bobmccue.ca/

I Am An Ex-Mormon: http://www.iamanexmormon.com/

Google Books: http://books.google.ca/

Scribd: www.Scribd.com

Open Library: http://openlibrary.org

Internet Archive: www.archive.org

Wikipedia: www.wikipedia.com

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  1. Tom,
    Thank you so much for your heart-felt message.
    I can relate to your story as a lot of my life has been similar. I recently received word that there will be a displinary council held to deal with my “apostacy” and it is so clear to me now how that church has used fear and guilt to keep its members faithful to their agenda.
    I ,like you am greatful for my friendships etc. but have found true sincere friendships since leaving the church. Although only one member of my family stands behind me, despite their Mormon beliefs, I have realized that my family had just as much control over my life as the church did. I have never been happier despite the loss and know without a shadow of doubt that my new life is as God wants it. I have never been closer to Him. I now feel love and acceptance despite my human sinful nature instead of guilt, fear, and depression!
    God bless you for sharing your life experiences!
    Be proud an remember that you are special in Gods eyes, despite what any Mormon would tell you!!!!!!

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my story!
      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had to go through much of the same issues with your own journey out of the Church. I recommend you don’t give them the satisfaction of attending a disciplinary council, unless you feel strong enough to use it as a means of informing them of the error of their ways. However, I’ve heard that such councils don’t let you speak much at all, even to defend yourself.

      Best of luck in your new life outside Mormonism!
      -Tom-

  2. “The Mormon Church is institutionalized as a third party to the marriage relationships. Both spouses make promises in the marriage ceremony of obedience to Mormonism. If one spouse falters in this commitment, the marriage is in trouble. Mormons are encouraged to marry young and to immediately put down anchors in terms of the wife staying home to have kids so that if the Mormon Church’s relationship to either spouse, there is a lot at stake that can be used to bring the one whose faith is faltering into line. It is this system, in part, that leads to countless social Mormons who long ago stop believing but do not dare step visibly out of line.”

    What a great quote to support your feelings about your relationships with your former Mormon “friends.” After I abruptly left the Church, there was not one person who called to even check if I was alive. And I was the quintessential Mormon Princess – YW leader, choir member, you name it (gag me, please). Guess that wasn’t enough!

  3. Tom, this is the only way I could figure out how to contact you. Don’t mean to misuse your comment section!
    I was wondering if you would be willing to do a book review on my new novel, A Danger to God Himself. It’s about a Mormon missionary who goes insane on his mission. I’d be happy to send you a copy.
    Thanks
    – john draper
    hoju1959@gmail.com

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