Mark D Larsen
July 1, 2012
On the Stand
Last week the online magazine Death and Taxes published an article by D. J. Pangburn, titled “Mormon founder executed 168 years ago after starting rogue religious city-state.” Reading the comments to that article invoked my wrath, but I couldn't post anything without having a FaceBook account. At any rate, below is the diatribe I was going to post, for whatever its worth.
As many of the comments to this article substantiate, once again those who still hold out a belief in Mormonism defend their “prophet” by nitpicking inaccuracies, throwing out the “anti-Mormon” label, and extolling the “good works” of their cult. Never do they address the crucial questions. For starters, they could address this sampling:
- How can you maintain a belief in Joseph Myth’s “First Vision,” given that we now have documented versions narrated at different points of time which blatantly contradict each other about what he “saw”? It does not affect your faith that not one single person, including his own family, can attest to having heard about that “vision” until years after he published his book and started the cult? You believe that, at age 14, god explicitly told him not to join any church for they were all false, yet he nonetheless then tried to join Emma’s Methodist Church?
- How can you believe in the process by which he “translated” the Book of Mormon, by putting a “peep stone” in his hat, and burying his face in it, to “read” the “reformed Egyptian”? You believe he did this without the plates anywhere in sight? Using the same stone with which he had looked for buried treasure, for which he was arrested and tried in Bainbridge, NY, for duping people with such chicanery?
- How can you continue to believe that the Nephites existed, given all the historical, archaeological, linguistic, and now even biological DNA evidence to the contrary? Is it that you buy into the recent rationalizations of apologists like John Sorenson who theorize about a “limited geography” Book of Mormon in Chiapas, Mexico? Are you hoping that, with just a little more research, YBU “scholars” will finally discover the ruins of Zarahemla under San Cristóbal de las Casas? They’ll dig up horse, cow, sheep bones? Wheat, barley, oat seeds? Metal coins? Wheeled vehicles? Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics? Steel swords? You have no problem with the assertion that Moroni must have hoofed it, with 80 pounds of gold plates in his backpack, all the way from Central America to upstate New York, to bury them in a different “Hill Cumorah” than the one where the final extermination took place?
- How is it possible to believe that Joseph Myth, living in the 19th century, “translated” reformed Egyptian into 16th century English? How can you believe that this is also the way god himself speaks, since this is the same lexicon, syntax, and idiomatic phrasing of English that he uses to speak directly to Joseph Myth in the D&C? Is god a Quaker perchance? Or could it be that Joseph Myth was purposely trying to make such “scriptures” sound more “scriptural” to those whose Bibles were the 1611 King James Version?
- How can you still believe in Joseph Myth’s declaration that the Kinderhook Plates were yet another ancient American narrative, despite the fact that scientific analysis has clearly shown they were a 19th century hoax?
- How can you continue to believe in Joseph Myth’s “translation” of the Book of Abraham, now that we have the actual papyri? Do you buy into apologists’ rationalization that “we don’t have all the papyri,” despite the indisputable fact that the characters on his “Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar” in the cult’s vault prove a matching parallel between the papyri and his “translation”? Or do you likewise buy into their spin that we are just “misinterpreting” his use of the term “translate”? That the papyri were merely some sort of “stimulus” or “divine lightning rod” or “celestial antenna” to get his revelatory juices flowing? Even though he explicitly boasted that it was “A Translation of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.”?
- How can you maintain a belief in the temple ceremony, knowing that it is nearly a carbon copy of masonic rites? Knowing that it was never used in the Kirtland temple, but that Joseph Myth introduced it years later in the endowment house in Nauvoo only a few months after becoming a mason himself? How can you still believe that garments are “sacred,” magically empowered to “protect” you, with masonic signs embroidered into the fabric? Are you still able to maintain those beliefs, knowing that the cult’s hierarchy has changed that ceremony through the years? Deleting the oath to avenge the death of Joseph Myth? Dispensing with the protestant preacher as Satan’s puppet? Getting rid of the “penalties” to slit your throat, cut open your chest, disembowel yourself rather than reveal the ceremony’s secret tokens, names, and signs? It couldn’t be that such changes are simply to make the rituals more “palatable” to potential converts nowadays?
- Do you still believe that Joseph Myth was driven out of Kirtland by gentile persecution, even though it was the very members themselves who were attempting to seize him after being duped out of their money and property in the Ponzi scheme of his Kirtland Anti-Banking Society?
- Do you in fact believe that polygamy is, as D&C 132 still mandates, a requirement to enter the “highest degree of the celestial kingdom”? You believe Joseph Myth was indeed following god’s command to “marry” all those other women, many of them already the wives of other men? You have no problem with the fact that, even today, Mormon widowers are still being able to marry again and have more than one wife in the hereafter, even though Mormon widows can only remarry “until death do them part” because they’re “sealed” to their first husband?
- And when it comes to Joseph Myth’s death, do you still believe he actually made the statement that he was going “like a lamb to the slaughter”, i.e., that he expected to die? Even though he killed two people in the fray, let others die to shield him rather than give himself up, and then abandoned them to try and save his own skin by escaping out the window?
What anyone can see is that we are not talking about an occasional, isolated “mistake” here. We are seeing a repetitive pattern of unconscionable behavior over many years, all verified with documented evidence. It is a clear case of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. Joseph Myth was a liar, a con man, a charlatan, who had no qualms about deceiving others in a quest for power, influence, wealth, and ego.
I purport to you that, to maintain a belief in such things —despite the cold, hard, verifiable facts right in front of your eyes— is not faith. It is blind faith. How can you not be embarrassed to continue to defend it?