Factual information for those who are investigating the LDS Church
TO THOSE WHO ARE INVESTIGATING "MORMONISM"
By RICHARD PACKHAM
Revisions as of May 14, 2005
If you are investigating Mormonism (the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" or "LDS Church"), you are probably studying it in private meetings in your home with missionaries from that church. Here are some of the key things that they are probably telling you:
- Mormonism began in 1820 when a teen-aged boy in western New York named Joseph Smith was spurred by a Christian revival where he lived to pray to God for guidance as to which church was true. In answer to his prayers he was visited by God the Father and God the Son, two separate beings, who told him to join no church because all the churches at that time were false, and that he, Joseph, would bring forth the true church. This event is called "The First Vision."
- In 1823 Joseph had another heavenly visitation, in which an angel named Moroni told him of a sacred history written by ancient Hebrews in America, engraved in an Egyptian dialect on tablets of gold and buried in a nearby hill. Joseph was told it was the history of the ancient peoples of America, and that Joseph would be the instrument for bringing this record to the knowledge of the world. Joseph obtained these gold plates from the angel in 1827, and translated them into English by the spirit of God and the use of a sacred instrument accompanying the plates called the "Urim and Thummim." The translation was published in 1830 as The Book of Mormon, now revered by Mormons as scripture, along with the Bible.
- The Book of Mormon is a religious and secular history of the inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere from about 2200 BC to about 421 AD. It tells the reader that the American Indians are descended from three groups of immigrants who were led by God from their original homes in the Near East to America. One group came from the Tower of Babel, and two other groups came from Jerusalem just before the Babylonian Captivity, about 600 BC. They were led by prophets of God who had the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is thus preserved in their history, the Book of Mormon. Many of the descendants of these immigrants were Christians, even before Christ was born in Palestine, but many were unbelievers. Believers and unbelievers fought many wars, the last of which left only degenerate unbelievers as survivors, who are the ancestors of the American Indians. The most important event during this long history was the visit of Jesus Christ to America, after his crucifixion, when he ministered to (and converted) all the inhabitants.
- Joseph Smith was directed by revelation from God to reestablish ("restore") the true church, which he did in 1830. He was visited several times by heavenly messengers, who ordained him to the true priesthood. He continued to have revelations from God to guide the church and to give more knowledge of the Gospel. Many of these revelations are published in the Doctrine and Covenants, accepted by Mormons as scripture, along with the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
- Joseph Smith and his followers were continually persecuted for their religious beliefs, and driven from New York State to Ohio, then to Missouri, then to Illinois, where Joseph Smith was murdered in 1844 by a mob, a martyr to his beliefs. The church was then led by Brigham Young, Joseph's successor, to Utah, where the Mormons settled successfully.
- The LDS church is led today by the successors of Joseph Smith. The present president of the church is a "prophet, seer and revelator" just as Joseph Smith was, and guides the members of the church through revelations and guidance from God.
- The modern LDS church is the only true church, as restored by God through Joseph Smith. Other churches, derived from the early Christian church, are in apostasy because their leaders corrupted the scriptures, changed the ordinances of the original church, and often led corrupt lives, thus losing their authority.
- By accepting baptism into the LDS church you take the first step necessary toward your salvation and your ultimate entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven (the "Celestial Kingdom").
WHAT THE MISSIONARIES WILL NOT TELL YOU
Until recently, the missionaries were required to present Mormonism in six "discussions", which were a series of memorized sales talks. They are now encouraged simply to "follow the spirit" in their presentations. The basic message and approach, however, is still essentially the same. A thorough, thoughtful and balanced discussion of each of the six "official" lessons as the missionaries formerly presented them to investigators is at https://www.lds4u.com, together with the techniques and strategies which the missionaries are instructed to use. (The actual texts of the discussions were also on this site at one time, but the Mormon church threatened the webmaster with a lawsuit, and he removed them; click on "next" at each window to read a summary and commentary.)
Here is a summary of important facts about the Mormon church, its doctrine, and its history that the missionaries will probably not tell you. We are not suggesting that they are intentionally deceiving you --most of the young Mormons serving missions for the church are not well educated in the history of the church or in modern critical studies of the church. They probably do not know the all the facts themselves. They have been trained, however, to give investigators "milk before meat," that is, to postpone revealing anything at all that might make an investigator hesitant, even if it is true. But you should be aware of these facts before you commit yourself.
Each of the following facts has been substantiated by thorough historical scholarship. And this list is by no means exhaustive! For links to articles substantiating each of these points, CLICK on the word NOTES following the item.
- The "First Vision" story in the form presented to you was unknown until 1838, eighteen years after its alleged occurrence and almost ten years after Smith had begun his missionary efforts. The oldest (but quite different) version of the vision is in Smith's own handwriting, dating from about 1832 (still at least eleven years afterwards), and says that only one personage, Jesus Christ, appeared to him. It also mentions nothing about a revival. It also contradicts the later account as to whether Smith had already decided that no church was true. Still a third version of this event is recorded as a recollection in Smith's diary, fifteen years after the alleged vision, where one unidentified "personage" appeared, then another, with a message implying that neither was the Son. They were accompanied by many "angels," which are not mentioned in the official version you have been told about. Which version is correct, if any? Why was this event, now said by the church to be so important, unknown for so long? NOTES
- Careful study of the religious history of the locale where Smith lived in 1820 casts doubt on whether there actually was such an extensive revival that year as Smith and his family later described as associated with the "First Vision." The revivals in 1817 and 1824 better fit what Smith described later. NOTES
- In 1828, eight years after he supposedly had been told by God himself to join no church, Smith applied for membership in a local Methodist church. Other members of his family had joined the Presbyterians. NOTES
- Contemporaries of Smith consistently described him as something of a confidence man, whose chief source of income was hiring out to local farmers to help them find buried treasure by the use of folk magic and "seer stones." Smith was actually tried in 1826 on a charge of moneydigging. NOTES It is interesting that none of his critics seemed to be aware of his claim to have been visited by God in 1820, even though in his 1838 account he claimed that he had suffered "great persecution" for telling people of his vision.
- The only persons who claimed to have actually seen the gold plates were eleven close friends of Smith (many of them related to each other). Their testimonies are printed in the front of every copy of the Book of Mormon. No disinterested third party was ever allowed to examine them. They were retrieved by the angel at some unrecorded point. Most of the witnesses later abandoned Smith and left his movement. Smith then called them "liars." NOTES
- Smith produced most of the "translation" not by reading the plates through the Urim and Thummim (described as a pair of sacred spectacles), but by gazing at the same "seer stone" he had used for treasure hunting. He would place the stone into his hat, and then cover his face with it. For much of the time he was dictating, the gold plates were not even present, but in a hiding place. NOTES
- The detailed history and civilization described in the Book of Mormon does not correspond to anything found by archaeologists anywhere in the Americas. The Book of Mormon describes a civilization lasting for a thousand years, covering both North and South America, which was familiar with horses, elephants, cattle, sheep, wheat, barley, steel, wheeled vehicles, shipbuilding, sails, coins, and other elements of Old World culture. But no trace of any of these supposedly very common things has ever been found in the Americas of that period. Nor does the Book of Mormon mention many of the features of the civilizations which really did exist at that time in the Americas. The LDS church has spent millions of dollars over many years trying to prove through archaeological research that the Book of Mormon is an accurate historical record, but they have failed to produce any convincing pre-columbian archeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon story. In addition, whereas the Book of Mormon presents the picture of a relatively homogeneous people, with a single language and communication between distant parts of the Americas, the pre-columbian history of the Americas shows the opposite: widely disparate racial types (almost entirely east Asian - definitely not Semitic, as proven by recent DNA studies), and many unrelated native languages, none of which are even remotely related to Hebrew or Egyptian. NOTES
- The people of the Book of Mormon were supposedly devout Jews observing the Law of Moses, but in the Book of Mormon there is almost no trace of their observance of Mosaic law or even an accurate knowledge of it. NOTES
- Although Joseph Smith said that God had pronounced the completed translation of the plates as published in 1830 "correct," many changes have been made in later editions. Besides thousands of corrections of poor grammar and awkward wording in the 1830 edition, other changes have been made to reflect subsequent changes in some of the fundamental doctrine of the church. For example, an early change in wording modified the 1830 edition's acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity, thus allowing Smith to introduce his later doctrine of multiple gods. A more recent change (1981) replaced "white" with "pure," apparently to reflect the change in the church's stance on the "curse" of the black race. NOTES
- Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon contained the "fulness of the gospel." However, its teaching on many doctrinal subjects has been ignored or contradicted by the present LDS church, and many doctrines now said by the church to be essential are not even mentioned there. Examples are the church's position on the nature of God, the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, polygamy, Hell, priesthood, secret organizations, the nature of Heaven and salvation, temples, proxy ordinances for the dead, and many other matters. NOTES
- Many of the basic historical notions found in the Book of Mormon had appeared in print already in 1825, just two years before Smith began producing the Book of Mormon, in a book called View of the Hebrews, by Ethan Smith (no relation) and published just a few miles from where Joseph Smith lived. A careful study of this obscure book led one LDS church official (the historian B. H. Roberts, 1857-1933) to confess that the evidence tended to show that the Book of Mormon was not an ancient record, but concocted by Joseph Smith himself, based on ideas he had read in the earlier book. NOTES
- Although Mormons claim that God is guiding the LDS church through its president (who has the title "prophet, seer and revelator"), the successive "prophets" have repeatedly either led the church into undertakings that were dismal failures or failed to see approaching disaster. To mention only a few: the Kirtland Bank, the United Order, the gathering of Zion to Missouri, the Zion's Camp expedition, polygamy, the Deseret Alphabet NOTES. A recent example is the successful hoax perpetrated on the church by manuscript dealer Mark Hofmann in the 1980s. He succeeded in selling the church thousands of dollars worth of manuscripts which he had forged. The church and its "prophet, seer and revelator" accepted them as genuine historical documents. The church leaders learned the truth not from God, through revelation, but from non-Mormon experts and the police, after Hofmann was arrested for two murders he committed to cover up his hoax. This scandal was reported nationwide. NOTES
- The secret temple ritual (the "endowment") was introduced by Smith in May, 1842, just two months after he had been initiated into Freemasonry. The LDS temple ritual closely resembles the Masonic ritual of that day. NOTES Smith explained that the Masons had corrupted the ancient (God-given) ritual by changing it and removing parts of it, and that he was restoring it to its "pure" and "original" (and complete) form, as revealed to him by God. In the years since, the LDS church has made many fundamental changes in the "pure and original" ritual as "restored" by Smith, mostly by removing major parts of it. NOTES
- Many doctrines which were once taught by the LDS church, and held to be fundamental, essential and "eternal", have been abandoned. Whether we feel that the church was correct in abandoning them is not the point; rather, the point is that a church claiming to be the church of God takes one "everlasting" position at one time and the opposite position at another, all the time claiming to be proclaiming the word of God. Some examples are:
- The Adam-God doctrine (Adam is God the Father); NOTES
- the United Order (all property of church members is to be held in common, with title in the church);
- Plural Marriage (polygamy; a man must have more than one wife to attain the highest degree of heaven); NOTES
- the Curse of Cain (the black race is not entitled to hold God's priesthood because it is cursed; this doctrine was not abandoned until 1978); NOTES
- Blood Atonement (some sins - apostasy, adultery, murder, interracial marriage - must be atoned for by the shedding of the sinner's blood, preferably by someone appointed to do so by church authorities); NOTES
All of these doctrines were proclaimed by the reigning prophet to be the Word of God, "eternal," "everlasting," to govern the church "forevermore." All have been abandoned by the present church.
- Joseph Smith's early revelations were collected and first published in 1833 in the Book of Commandments. God (as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants Sections 1 and 67) supposedly testified by revelation that the revelations as published were true and correct. Because the Book of Commandments did not receive wide distribution (most copies were destroyed by angry opponents of the Mormons in Missouri, where it was published), they were republished - with additional revelations - as the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835 in Kirtland, Ohio. However, many of the revelations as published in Kirtland differed fundamentally from their versions as originally given. The changes generally gave more power and authority to Smith, and justified changes he was making in church organization and theology. The question naturally arises as to why revelations which God had pronounced correct needed to be revised. NOTES
- Joseph Smith claimed to be a "translator" by the power of God. In addition to the Book of Mormon, he made several other "translations":
- The Book of Abraham, from Egyptian papyrus scrolls which came into his possession in 1835. He stated that the scrolls were written by the biblical Abraham "by his own hand." Smith's translation is now accepted as scripture by the LDS church, as part of its Pearl of Great Price. Smith also produced an "Egyptian Grammar" based on his translation. Modern scholars of ancient Egyptian agree that the scrolls are common Egyptian funeral scrolls, entirely pagan in nature, having nothing to do with Abraham, and from a period 2000 years later than Abraham. The "Grammar" has been said by Egyptologists to prove that Smith had no notion of the Egyptian language. It is pure fantasy: he made it up. NOTES
- The "Inspired Revision" of the King James Bible. Smith was commanded by God to retranslate the Bible because the existing translations contained errors. He completed his translation in 1833, but the church still uses the King James Version. NOTES
- The "Kinderhook Plates," a group of six metal plates with strange engraved characters, unearthed in 1843 near Kinderhook, Illinois, and examined by Smith, who began a "translation" of them. He never completed the translation, but he identified the plates as an "ancient record," and translated enough to identify the author as a descendant of Pharaoh. Local farmers later confessed that they had manufactured, engraved and buried the plates themselves as a hoax. They had apparently copied the characters from a Chinese tea box. NOTES
- Joseph Smith claimed to be a "prophet." He frequently prophesied future events "by the power of God." Many of these prophecies are recorded in the LDS scripture Doctrine and Covenants. Almost none have been fulfilled, and many cannot now be fulfilled because the deeds to be done by the persons named were never done and those persons are now dead. Many prophecies included dates for their fulfillment, and those dates are now long past, the events never having occurred. NOTES
- Joseph Smith died not as a martyr, but in a gun battle in which he fired a number of shots. He was in jail at the time, under arrest for having ordered the destruction of a Nauvoo newspaper which dared to print an exposure (which was true) of his secret sexual liaisons. At that time he had announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States, set up a secret government, and secretly had himself crowned "King of the Kingdom of God." NOTES
- Since the founding of the church down to the present day the church leaders have not hesitated to lie, to falsify documents, to rewrite or suppress history, or to do whatever is necessary to protect the image of the church. Many Mormon historians have been excommunicated from the church for publishing their findings on the truth of Mormon history. NOTES
- Mormonism includes many other unusual doctrines which you will probably not be told about until you have been in the church for a long time. These doctrines are not revealed to investigators or new converts because those people are not yet considered ready to have more than "milk" as doctrine. The Mormons also probably realize that if investigators knew of these unusual teachings they would not join the church. In addition to those mentioned elsewhere in this article, the following are noteworthy: NOTES
- God was once a man like us.
- God has a tangible body of flesh and bone.
- God lives on a planet near the star Kolob.
- God ("Heavenly Father") has at least one wife, our "Mother in Heaven," but she is so holy that we are not to discuss her nor pray to her.
- We can become like God and rule over our own universe.
- There are many gods, ruling over their own worlds.
- Jesus and Satan ("Lucifer") are brothers, and they are our brothers - we are all spirit children of Heavenly Father
- Jesus Christ was conceived by God the Father by having sex with Mary, who was temporarily his wife.
- We should not pray to Jesus, nor try to feel a personal relationship with him.
- "God" ("Jehovah") in the Old Testament is the being named Jesus in the New Testament.
- In the the highest degree of the celestial kingdom some men will have more than one wife.
- Before coming to this earth we lived as spirits in a "pre-existence", during which we were tested; our position in this life (whether born to Mormons or savages, or in America or Africa) is our reward or punishment for our obedience in that life.
- Dark skin is a curse from God, the result of our sin, or the sin of our ancestors. If sufficiently righteous, a dark-skinned person will become light-skinned.
- The Garden of Eden was in Missouri. All humanity before the Great Flood lived in the western hemisphere. The Ark transported Noah and the other survivors to the eastern hemisphere.
YOUR LIFE AS A MORMON
If you should decide to become a member of the LDS church, you should be aware of what your life in the church will be like. Although you will find yourself warmly accepted by a lively community of healthy, active and generally supportive people, many of whom are very happy in Mormonism and could not imagine their lives without it, there is another side:
- You will be continually reminded that to enter the highest degree of heaven (the "Celestial Kingdom"), you will have to go through the endowment ceremony in the temple and have your marriage to your Mormon spouse "sealed." (If your spouse is not Mormon, or if you are not married, you cannot enter the highest degree of heaven.) To get permission to have these ceremonies performed in the temple, you must prove yourself to be a faithful and obedient member of the church and do everything commanded by the church authorities, from the Prophet down to the local level. You will have to undergo a personal "worthiness" interview with the local church authorities inquiring into your private life and your religious and social activities. NOTES
- You will be expected to donate at least ten percent of your income to the church as tithing. Other donations will be expected as the need arises. You will never see an accounting of how this money is spent, or how much the church receives, or anything at all about its financial condition; the church keeps its finances secret, even from its members. NOTES
- You will be expected to give up the use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea. NOTES
- You will be expected to fulfill any work assignment given to you. These assignments may be teaching, record keeping, janitorial work, cannery or farm work, helping in the Sunday nursery - any job that needs to be done. Each task you perform successfully will make you eligible for others, with more responsibility and more demands upon your time. The members who perform these jobs, even those involving sensitive pastoral counseling, receive no formal training whatsoever (there is no paid, trained clergy). You will be told that God has called you to your assignments. Many Mormons find much of their spare time taken up with church work, trying to fulfill the numerous assignments that have been given them.
- You will be expected to be unquestioningly obedient to church authorities in whatever they might tell you to do. "Follow the Brethren" is the slogan, and it means to follow without doubt or question. Discussion of whether a decree from above is correct is discouraged. You will be expected to have faith that the leaders cannot possibly lead you astray. Even if they should tell you something which contradicts what a previous prophet may have said, you will be told "A living prophet takes precedence over a dead prophet." NOTES
- You will be able to "vote" on those who have been called to positions of authority over you, but the voting will be by the show of hands in a public meeting. Only one candidate for each office will be voted on (the one "called by God"). The voting is therefore almost always unanimous in favor of the candidate.
- You will be advised not to read any material which is "not faith-promoting," that is, which may be critical or questioning of the church or its leaders, or which might place the church or its leaders in an unfavorable light.
- You will be advised not to associate with "apostates," that is, former Mormons. (You will be asked in your "worthiness" interview about this.) NOTES
- If you are unmarried, you will be encouraged to marry a good Mormon as soon as possible. When you do marry, in a wedding ceremony in the temple, your non-Mormon family members and friends will not be allowed to attend the ceremony, because only "worthy" Mormons are allowed to enter the temple.
- If you are homosexual, you will be pressured to abandon this "evil" aspect of your nature. If you do not, you will probably not be fully accepted by other church members. If you do not remain celibate, you may be excommunicated. NOTES
- If you are a male over 12 years of age and "worthy" (that is, if you are obedient, attend meetings, do not masturbate NOTES, etc.), you will be ordained to one of the levels of priesthood, and, if you continue to be faithful and obedient, you will gradually advance through the priesthood ranks. If you are female, you will receive the benefits of priesthood authority only indirectly, through your Mormon father or your Mormon husband. The role of the Mormon woman is to be a wife and mother and to obey and honor her priest husband (or father). NOTES
- If you prove yourself to be faithful, hard working and obedient, you will eventually be considered worthy to "receive your endowment" in a Mormon temple. You will not be told in advance exactly what to expect in this lengthy ceremony, except that the details of the ritual are secret (Mormons prefer to say they are just "sacred," but they treat them as though they are secret). As part of that ceremony you will be required to swear a number of oaths, the penalty for violation of which is no longer stated but until 1990 was death by various bloody methods, such as having your throat slit from ear to ear. You will be given the secret signs and passwords which are required to enter heaven. (Although most Mormons who have not received the endowment know very little about the ceremony, the entire liturgy is now available on the Internet to Mormon and non-Mormon alike.) After receiving the endowment you will be required to wear a special undergarment at all times. NOTES
- If you should ever decide that you made a mistake in joining the church and then leave it, you will probably find (judging from the experiences of others who have done so) that many of your Mormon friends will abandon and shun you. If you are unable to convince your family members to leave the church with you, you will find that the church has broken up your family and your relationship with them may never recover. NOTES
Consider very carefully before you commit yourself, and remember that any doubts you may have now will likely only increase.
Examine carefully both sides of the Mormon story. Listen to the stories of those who have been through an unhappy Mormon experience, not just those Mormons who may speak glowingly of life in the church. NOTES
The Mormon missionaries are often charming and enthusiastic. They have an attractive story to tell. At first it sounds wonderful. But remember the old saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!" Be careful not to fall into the trap of believing something simply because you want it to be true. Mormons may tell you that those who criticize the church are lying, misquoting and distorting. If you examine the sources used by the critics, however, you will discover that most of their source material is from official or semi-official Mormon writings. You, too, should examine those sources.
Is Mormonism a "cult"? Many experts on religious cults see in Mormonism the same fundamental characteristics as cults which have entrapped the unsuspecting, even though most people think of "cults" only as small, unknown groups. Use a "cult checklist" to evaluate Mormonism, or any group, before you commit yourself. NOTES
To get more information about the other side of Mormonism, or to see the evidence supporting any of our statements about the church, feel free to contact us. Our only aim is to make sure that you hear both sides. We promise not to preach at you, but only to provide you with facts to balance the Mormon story. Click here for the names and e-mail addresses of people to contact. Click here to read personal stories of people who have left Mormonism.
For a version of this INVESTIGATOR'S INFORMATION TRACT which can be downloaded and printed for handing out or mailing click here. It contains instructions on how to edit it for use as a hand-out.
DISCLAIMER: Some of the links and references listed here, in addition to containing valuable material about Mormonism, also contain Christian proselytizing material. Their inclusion here is not intended as an endorsement of any religion or religious organization.
INTERNET SITES AND LISTS OF LINKS
https://www.exmormon.org/goodsite.htm Links to other sites.
https://www.mormonismi.info/jamesdavid/table.htm An alphabetical list, by topic, of Mormon-related links; many articles. Originally by James David.
https://www.lds-mormon.com Articles and links; one of the oldest and most extensive Internet sites on Mormonism.
https://www.josephlied.com Mike Norton's excellent analysis of Mormon problems.
https://utlm.org/ Many articles by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, especially from their newsletter The Salt Lake City Messenger. Also several complete books are online here, including their complete book The Changing World of Mormonism.
https://www.2think.org/hundredsheep/mormon.shtml Text of many early Mormon publications, including the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon and the original Book of Commandments. Curt Van Den Heuvel's site.
https://www.irr.org/mit "Mormons In Transition," sponsored by the Insitute for Religious Research, with many articles; Christian orientation; an on-line newsgroup, (MIT-Talk) with evangelical basis
https://www.mrm.org The "Mormon Research Ministry," an evangelical Christian group headed by Bill McKeever; many good articles on Mormonism
https://www.bcmmin.org/ The "Berean Christian Ministry," headed by John Farkas; many articles, a useful chronology of church history, and a long refutation of a Mormon scholar's attempt to discredit critics of the church.
https://www.realmormonhistory.com A collection of historical quotations from Mormon leaders themselves which cast doubt on Mormonism.
https://www.i4m.com/think/ "Rethinking Mormonism" - an excellent site by former Mormon "Deconstructor"
https://trialsofascension.net/mormon.html "20 Truths About Mormonism" by Jim Day, Ph. D.
Opposing Religions Views - LDS More links on Mormonism
https://www.TheShelf.com Convenient side-by-side listing of internet articles on both sides of controversial Mormon issues - maintained by Cora Judd
Listed here are only a few "must read" books. There are hundreds of others. If your local library does not own them, your librarian can obtain them for you on interlibrary loan, usually for a very small fee. Most books listed are linked to on-line reviews or order information.
No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith by Fawn M. Brodie, 2nd ed., Knopf, New York, 1993. The most authoritative biography of Joseph Smith. Brodie is a well recognized historian.
Mormonism: Shadow or Reality by Gerald and Sandra Tanner, 5th edition, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987, Salt Lake City. The Tanners have done extensive research on early Mormon history and made many rare publications available by publishing photocopies of them at a low price. This book is a good summary of the contradictions and problems of Mormonism. Available from Utah Lighthouse Ministry, where a catalog of their publications is available. Also published in a slightly smaller version as The Changing World of Mormonism, Moody Press, Chicago, 1981 (now online).
Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record by H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1994. A detailed examination by historians of Mormonism's origins.
Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon (Second edition) by David Persuitte, McFarland & Co., 2000
Farewell to Eden: Coming to Terms With Mormonism and Science by Duwayne R. Anderson, Authorhouse, 2003 - a scientist and former Mormon examines Mormonism's scientific claims
Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church by Simon G. Southerton (DNA scientist, former Mormon bishop), Signature Books, 2004
An Insider's View of Mormon Origins by Grant Palmer (Mormon, retired instructor in the church's educational system); a frank disclosure of many aspects of early Mormon history.
For Any Latter-day Saint: One Investigator's Unanswered Questions by Sharon I. Banister, Star Bible Publications, Fort Worth, 1988 (available from the author, Rt 1 Box 20, Ladonia, TX 75449, for $8.00 postpaid). Over 600 problematical questions about Mormon history and doctrine, very clearly presented, with many photographic reproductions of the relevant Mormon books and diaries. (See my review here.)
REFERENCES TO SPECIFIC TOPICS
THE "FIRST VISION"
https://www.irr.org/mit/fvision.html The official version, and why it is a fiction
https://www.i4m.com/think/intro/must_believe_vision.htm The church insists that belief in the validity of the "First Vision" is the basis of Mormonism
https://www.irr.org/mit/First-Vision-Accounts.html All of the early (and contradictory) accounts, from Mormon sources
https://www.irr.org/mit/inventbk.html (a review of the book Inventing Mormonism)
THE 1820 REVIVAL
The question of whether there was a revival in 1820 matching Smith's story has been hotly debated by Mormon and non-Mormon scholars. See the exchange between Richard L. Bushman (Mormon) and Wesley P. Walters (non-Mormon) in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, (Spring 1969) 4:1:58ff. A summary of the opposing points of view (by a Mormon scholar) is Marvin Hill, "The First Vision: A Critique and Reconciliation," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, (Summer 1982) 15:31-46.
https://www.xmission.com/~research/about/index.htm (Michael Marquardt's site)
The following three links are about Marquardt's book Inventing Mormonism, a scholarly investigation into Mormonism's early years:
JOSEPH SMITH AND THE METHODISTS
For Smith's connection with the Methodists, see Inventing Mormonism, pp 54-55, citing Turner, History of Phelp's and Gorham's Purchase, p. 214, which relates that Smith was an informal "exhorter" at Methodist camp meetings before 1822; Pomeroy Tucker, The Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism (NY 1867), p 18: Smith joined the "probationary class" of the Methodist church; there was no Methodist church in Palmyra until July 1821 (Inventing Mormonism, p 60 n 41);
JOSEPH SMITH AND "MONEYDIGGING"
https://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/ny_js.htm The report of Smith's 1826 arrest and court appearance for being a "glass-looker"
https://utlm.org/topicalindexc.htm#Money-Digging and Magic
BOOK OF MORMON "WITNESSES"
https://www.irr.org/mit/address1.html The book by David Whitmer, An Address To All Believers in Christ, testifying that God revealed to him that Joseph Smith is a fallen prophet.
(Also at https://utlm.org/onlinebooks/address1.htm
https://www.xmission.com/~research/about/docum4.htm (Martin Harris interview in Tiffany's magazine)
https://utlm.org/onlineresources/anthon.htm (Martin Harris' visit to Professor Anthon with a copy of characters from the gold plates)
METHOD OF TRANSLATION OF THE BOOK OF MORMON
https://www.irr.org/mit/address1.html (David Whitmer's Address To All Believers in Christ; see p. 12, 30)
https://utlm.org/topicalindexa.htm#Black Hole The significance of the 116 pages of lost manuscript for testing the authenticity of the book
Martin Harris, Millennial Star 6 Feb 1882, cited in Robert N. Hullinger, Joseph Smith's response to Skepticism, p 9-14, Salt Lake City 1992, said that the plates were not needed, also quoted by John Clark, Gleanings By the Way, 1842, p 228, cited in Hullinger p 11, n 23.
BOOK OF MORMON ARCHAEOLOGY
https://mormonscripturestudies.com/bomor/twm/lamgen.asp Recent study by DNA expert Tom Murphy, for which he was threatened with excommunication from the Mormon church, showing that the American Indians are not Semitic
Losing a Lost Tribe by Simon Southerton, former Mormon bishop and professional DNA expert; excellent book explaining the science and how it disproves the Book of Mormon
"Answers to Apologetic Claims about DNA and the Book of Mormon" by Simon Southerton
https://mormonchallenge.com More on DNA studies, including offer of a video about DNA's relationship to the Book of Mormon's claims
https://www.nowscape.com/mormon/zindler1.htm "How Do You Lose a Steel Mill" by Frank R. Zindler
BOOK OF MORMON CHANGES; OTHER CHANGES
https://utlm.org/topicalindexa.htm#Changes Changes made in revelations after their first publication, to reflect Smith's changes in doctrine.
The original texts of the Book of Mormon 1830 edition and the 1833 Book of Commandments (predecessor to the Doctrine and Covenants can be found at https://www.2think.org/hundredsheep/
PRESENT MORMON DOCTRINE CONTRARY TO BOOK OF MORMON
https://www.mrm.org/multimedia/text/birth.html On the Virgin Birth, how Jesus was conceived.
https://www.irr.org/mit/CHANGOD.html The changing concept of God.
https://www.bcmmin.org/bcm2.htm Changing doctrines of Mormonism.
THE 1825 BOOK View of the Hebrews by Ethan Smith
https://www.irr.org/mit/Books/View-Hebrews/viewhe1a.html (text of View)
https://www.2think.org/hundredsheep/voh/voh.shtml (text of View)
https://www.2think.org/hundredsheep/bom/written.shtml Could Joseph Smith have written the Book of Mormon?
https://www.lds-mormon.com/voh.shtml Parallels between View and the Book of Mormon. See also https://www.exmormon.org/bofmorm.htm
https://www.irr.org/mit/bhrobert.html B. H. Roberts' conclusions.
FAILURES OF GOD-INSPIRED PROJECTS
Failure of the Kirtland Bank:
Gathering of Zion:
Polygamy - see notes at: #POLYGAMY
THE HOFMANN MURDER SCANDAL
The Mormon Murders: A True Story of Greed, Forgery, Deceit, and Death by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, New York, 1988. The role of the Mormon church leadership in this scandal is carefully documented here.
A Gathering of Saints: A True Story of Money, Murder and Deceit by Robert Lindsey, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1988. Another book on the Hofmann scandal.
Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders by Linda Sillitoe and Allen Roberts, 2nd edition, Signature Books, Salt Lake City.
THE MORMON TEMPLE CEREMONY (THE "ENDOWMENT")
https://home.teleport.com/~packham/temples.htm: "Mormon Temples and Temple Rituals" - a detailed overview of this most secret part of Mormonism.
The next five links contain the actual text of the ceremony in the various forms it has had since the early days of the church.
1931 Version: https://home.teleport.com/~packham/endow31.htm
1984 Version: https://home.teleport.com/~packham/endow84.htm
1990 Version: https://home.teleport.com/~packham/endow90.htm
2005 changes: https://home.teleport.com/~packham/endow05.htm
(See also https://i4m.com/think/temples/temple_ordinance.htm for a discussion of the significance of the 2005 changes)
https://i4m.com/think/temples/ Several articles on temples
https://www.mrm.org/multimedia/text/garments.html A description of the sacred undergarment which Mormons are required to wear after receiving the endowment.
https://www.nowscape.com/mormon/undrwrmo.htm More on "garments"
https://www.lds-mormon.com/veilworker/recommend.shtml The questions that are asked in the "worthiness interview" to determine whether a member is worthy to receive admission to the temple.
MASONIC INFLUENCE ON MORMONISM
https://www.masonicmoroni.com Paul Graham's comprehensive site, with many links from all points of view
https://utlm.org/onlinebooks/changech4.htm#Joseph Smith's Magic Talisman Joseph Smith's magical talisman
THE "ADAM = GOD" DOCTRINE
https://www.bcmmin.org/evolut4.htm The changes in the Mormon doctrine about God.
https://www.mrm.org/multimedia/text/adam-god.html (Text of Brigham Young's 1852 sermon)
https://home.teleport.com/~packham/byoung.htm#ADAMGOD More statements by Brigham Young
A good discussion, with photocopy of Bruce R. McConkie's private admission that Brigham Young did teach the doctrine, is in Tanner, LDS Apostle Confesses Brigham Young Taught Adam-God Doctrine, available from Utah Lighthouse Ministry. Similar material is in Banister's book For Any Latter- Day Saint
https://www.mrm.org/multimedia/text/mcconkies-letter.html The text of McConkie's letter admitting that Brigham Young did teach that Adam was God
See also: Adam is God??? by Chris A. Vlachos, pamphlet available from Utah Lighthouse Ministry
POLYGAMY ("CELESTIAL MARRIAGE")
https://www.irr.org/mit/enigma.html A review of Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, by Linda King Newell and Valene Tippett Avery, University of Illinois Press, 1994; a biography of Joseph Smith's first wife, relating the development of Smith's ideas on polygamy and her opposition to it.
In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith by Todd Compton, Signature Books
https://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/home Biographies of all of Joseph Smith's wives
https://www.mormonismi.info/jamesdavid/denpract.htm Smith's public (and untruthful) denials of the rumors about his practice of polygamy.
https://www.mormonismi.info/jamesdavid/menwives.htm Documentation of Smith's seduction of other men's wives.
https://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/clndest2.htm An early and generally unknown revelation about polygamy
Mormon Polygamy: A History by Richard S. Van Wagoner, Signature Books, Salt Lake City. An excellent history of its theory and practice, reviewed at https://www.lds-mormon.com/polygamy.shtml.
https://www.polygamy.org Home page of Tapestry of Polygamy, a group of formerly polygamous women who are exposing its evils as practiced by some Mormon groups today.
THE "CURSE OF CAIN": THE CHANGING DOCTRINE ON SKIN COLOR
https://home.teleport.com/~packham/byoung.htm#NEGRO Brigham Young's Doctrines on the Black race
THE DOCTRINE OF "BLOOD ATONEMENT" AND THE DANITES ("AVENGING ANGELS")
The role of violence in Mormonism is the subject of Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer, Doubleday, 2003; this book was on the best-seller lists for a number of weeks.
The authoritative work on the Mountain Meadows Massacre has been Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1991.
Brooks is now supplemented by new evidence in Will Bagley, The Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 2002.
J. F. Gibbs's complete book Mountain Meadows Massacre is online at https://utlm.org/onlinebooks/meadowscontents.htm
THE BOOK OF COMMANDMENTS
https://www.2think.org/hundredsheep/boc/boc_main.shtml The complete text of the Book of Commandments, showing the revisions made to them in the Doctrine and Covenants
THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM
https://www.irr.org/mit/boapage.html The complete book By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus by Charles M. Larson
https://utlm.org/topicalindexb.htm#Book of Abraham
https://www.xmission.com/~research/about/alphabet.htm The text of Smith's so-called Egyptian Alphabet & Grammar
THE "INSPIRED REVISION" OF THE BIBLE
The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (RLDS, now renamed "Community of Christ") has long used the version by Smith.
https://utlm.org/topicalindexc.htm#Inspired Revision of the Bible
JOSEPH SMITH'S PROPHECIES
https://home.teleport.com/~packham/prophet.htm A listing of many of Smith's unfulfilled prophecies
https://www.mrm.org/multimedia/text/civilwar.html Joseph Smith's famous prophecy of the Civil War
https://www.lds-mormon.com/civilwar.shtml Another article on the Civil War prophecy
https://utlm.org/onlinebooks/changech13.htm#Rocky Mountain Prophecy Joseph Smith's prophecy about the Mormon move to the Rocky Mountains
For some of Brigham Young's failed prophecies, see:
JOSEPH SMITH'S DEATH
https://www.solomonspalding.com/docs/exposit1.htm The text of the Nauvoo Expositor, the opposition paper which Smith destroyed, thus leading to his imprisonment and death. It contains all the true accusations which Smith wanted suppressed
https://utlm.org/onlinebooks/changech17.htm#Destruction of Expositor The destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor
For a detailed discussion of Smith's political ambitions, his title "king" and his secret government, see the book by D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: [Volume 1] The Origins of Power, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1994. (Quinn was excommunicated from the Mormon church for his historical researches, but remains a believer)
MORMON FALSIFICATION OF MORMON HISTORY
https://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/mormhist.htm D. Michael Quinn's Talk "On Being A Mormon Historian" in which he urges the church authorities to be more open in telling the entire history of the church, without coloring it. Rather than follow his advice, the church excommunicated him.
https://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/legacy1.htm An evaluation of the propaganda film Legacy, produced by the church.
https://www.bcmmin.org/persecutor.htm An evaluation of the church's claim that it was persecuted.
https://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/dunn.htm The uncovering of the lies told by a high-ranking Mormon official
https://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/mantle.htm A speech by Boyd K. Packer, a high-ranking church official, on how the church justifies its distortion of its history. Also discussed at https://www.exmormon.org/disease.htm
https://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/purge.htm The recent purge of Mormon historians who told too much
https://www.exmormon.org/lying.htm A discussion of speech by Dallin Oaks, a high-ranking church official, on the need for withholding the whole truth.
https://home.teleport.com/~packham/gbh-god.htm The present "prophet" Gordon B. Hinckley lies about church doctrine in two interviews for the news media.
https://home.teleport.com/~packham/lying.htm More examples of Mormon lying.
A good example of the church's distortion of history is its long cover-up of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. See Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1991.
- God was once a man like us: https://home.teleport.com/~packham/gbh-god.htm
- God has a tangible body of flesh and bone: D&C 130:22
- God lives on a planet near the star Kolob: Book of Abraham 3:3-16
- God has at least one wife, our "Mother in Heaven": Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny, p 348-355: "All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother..." (More citations in The Changing World of Mormonism, Chapter 7)
- We can become like God and rule over our own universe. https://home.teleport.com/~packham/gbh-god.htm
- There are many gods, ruling over their own worlds: Citations in The Changing World of Mormonism, Chapter 7
- Jesus and Satan ("Lucifer") are brothers: D&C 76:25, Moses 4:1-4
- Jesus Christ was conceived by God the Father by having sex with Mary: Citations in The Changing World of Mormonism, Chapter 7
- We should not try to feel a personal relationship with Jesus: "Our Relationship With The Lord" by Apostle Bruce R. McConkie
- God ("Jehovah") in the Old Testament is the same being named Jesus in the New Testament: D&C 110:2-4; Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, article "Jehovah"; 1 Nephi 19:10
- In the the highest degree of the celestial kingdom some men will have more than one wife: D&C 132:63
- "Pre-existence": See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, ch 4, esp pp 60-61
- Dark skin is a curse from God: 1 Nephi 12:23, 2 Nephi 5:21, Alma 3:6, Jacob 3:8, 3 Nephi 2:15, Morm 5:15.
- The Garden of Eden was in Missouri: D&C 116:1; see also D&C 107:53.
PROHIBITION ON COFFEE, ETC. (THE "WORD OF WISDOM")
The text of the Word of Wisdom is in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 89
https://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/w_wisdom.htm Problems and inconsistencies with this revelation.
https://utlm.org/onlinebooks/mclaims8.htm#The Word of Wisdom
TITHING, CHURCH WEALTH
On the wealth of the church, see: Anson Shupe, Wealth and Power in American Zion, Lewiston NY 1992, or John Heinerman and Anson Shupe, The Mormon Corporate Empire, Beacon, 1988.
OBEDIENCE: "FOLLOW THE BRETHREN"
https://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/cannon.htm Excerpts from Under The Prophet In Utah by Senator Frank J. Cannon, showing how the church leaders exert power over members.
https://www.zionsbest.com/fourteen.html A speech by Ezra Taft Benson, a recent prophet and president, instructing members to obey the prophet without questioning and without checking his advice against scripture.
https://www.lds-mormon.com/thinking.shtml A critical article on the church's mind control.
https://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/purge.htm The recent mass excommunications of intellectuals and historians who questioned church authority.
https://www.zionsbest.com/heresies.html Bruce R. McConkie on the heresy of evolution.
https://www.affirmation.org The website of Affirmation, an organization for Mormons with homosexual leanings. Much information about the church's stance on sex.
https://www.exmormon.org/byuhis.htm The treatment of male homosexuals at the church university
https://www.affirmation.org/masturbation.htm A talk by Mormon apostle Mark E. Petersen, on how to prevent masturbation.
https://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/9156/WSWWB.HTM A critical article by Jeffery R. Jensen, M.D., on the harm done by the church with its stance on homosexuality.
https://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/9156/HLDSSS.HTM Another article by Dr. Jensen, criticizing the church's department of social services
https://www.zionsbest.com/only.html A speech by Boyd K. Packer on the evils of masturbation in young men, and how to prevent it.
POSITION OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
Books by two exmormon women describing their difficulties with the church's treatment of women:
Deborah Laake, Secret Ceremonies, Dell, 1993
Sonia Johnson, From Housewife to Heretic, Doubleday, 1981. Johnson was excommunicated for her activism in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment.
https://www.exmormon.org/mormwomn.htm A woman's viewpoint.
https://www.lds-mormon.com/lying.shtml How the church misrepresents its stance on the role of women.
"Mormon Women, Prozac, and Therapy" by Kent Ponder Ph.D. explores the causes for so many Mormon women being on anti-depressant medications.
PERSONAL STORIES BY FORMER MORMONS
https://www.exmormon.org/ has the personal stories of over two hundred people who left the church and their many different reasons for doing so.
For briefer comments from former Mormons, see https://home.teleport.com/~packham/voices1.htm
See also these longer accounts:
Mary Ann Benson (granddaughter-in-law of Ezra Taft Benson, president of the church): https://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon146.htm
Steve Benson (grandson of Benson, Mary Ann's husband): https://www.lds-mormon.com/benson2.shtml
Ken Clark (former teacher in the Church Educational System): https://www.exmormon.org/whylft129.htm
For longer (booklength) accounts, see:
Suddenly Strangers: Surrendering Gods and Heroes by the Morin brothers.(https://suddenlystrangers.com - click on "Excerpts")
Beyond Mormonism: An Elder's Story by James R. Spencer, who converted to Mormonism and left it to become a Christian minister
Martha Beck (daughter of Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley), Leaving the Saints, Crown, 2005, ISBN 0609609912
IS MORMONISM A CULT?
The following links are to checklists and other guidelines, to help you to evaluate whether any group (not just Mormonism) is a "cult."
https://www.freedomofmind.com/ The home page of Steve Hassan, an authority on cults and brainwashing.
"[Hassan's] BITE Model Applied Toward Mormonism"
https://www.caicusa.org/zentry1.htm Jan Groenveld's Cult Awareness Centre
https://www.factnet.org FACTnet, resources on psychological coercion and mind control
Please let me know if you find that any links are out-dated, or if you can suggest additional links. Thanks!
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© 1998, 2002, 2005 Richard Packham Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included