Discussion Questions (from a Christian to a Mormon)
1) There have been thousands of minor and major changes made to the original 1830-edition of The Book of Mormon when compared to the current edition. If the records of how Joseph Smith reportedly translated The Book of Mormon are to be believed, then would errors exist that would need to be corrected in later editions? Why or why not?
2) If one edition has errors that are corrected in a later edition, which one do (you) Mormons accept as “official” and/or “binding”?
3) Where is the “official Mormon doctrine” which supports your answer to question 2 above?
4) Why does The Book of Mormon contain massive sections copied word-for-word out of the 1611 edition of the King James Bible?
5) On the title page of the 1830 edition of The Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith is credited as “author and proprietor”. (It was changed to “translated by” in all subsequent editions.) Mormon apologists state that the reason for the original 1830 credits is copyright regulations of the time. However, why does Joseph Smith call himself “The Author” on page IV of the very odd “Preface” (see below) in the same 1830 edition?
6) I have a replica of the 1830 edition (for research purposes only) and it contains a copy of the copyright notice as the first page. (A bizarre thing to file in any genuine attempt at “restoration,” if you ask me.) Is this in the original?
Constructive replies related to the cartoon or the questions are welcomed and appreciated!
Preface to 1830 edition of The Book of Mormon:
TO THE READER—
As many false reports have been circulated respecting the following work, and also many unlawful measures taken by the evil designing persons to destroy me, and also the work, I would inform you that I translated, by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written, one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from the Book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon; which said account, some person or persons have stolen and kept from me, notwithstanding my utmost exertions to recover it again—and being commanded of the Lord that I should not translate the same over again, for Satan had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God, by altering the words, that they did read contrary from that which I translated and caused to be written; and if I should bring forth the same words again, or, in other words, if I should translate the same over again, they would publish that which they had stolen, and Satan would stir up the hearts of this generation, that they might not receive this work: but behold, the Lord said unto me, I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing: therefore thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye come to that which ye have translated, which ye have retained; and behold ye shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words. I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will shew unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the Devil. Wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, I have, through his grace and mercy, accomplished that which he hath commanded me respecting this thing. I would also inform you that the plates of which hath been spoken, were found in the township of Manchester, Ontario county, New-York.
Noteworthy about the Preface:
1) Remember: The 1830 edition was the first edition. Yet “the author” complains that even before the first edition has reached print “many false reports have been circulated respecting the following work”.
2) “The author” then goes on to say “some person or persons have stolen and kept from me” the first 116 pages of The Book of Mormon. (It was Lucy Harris, wife of the first scribe and “patron” of Joseph Smith who mortgaged his farm to pay for the publishing of The Book of Mormon. The whole ordeal cost him his farm and his wife.)
Now, you know you’ve got a problem when people are already slamming your book before it’s even published and you’ve lost the first 116 pages of it.
Something to think about…
Who Really Wrote The Book of Mormon?
by Wayne L. Cowdrey, Howard A. Davis, and Arthur Vanick
Paperback: 558 pages
Publisher: Concordia Publishing House (July 30, 2005)
Explore letters, personal testimonies, and historical documents to discover who really wrote The Book of Mormon. Was it given to Joseph Smith by an angel or created from a work of fiction originally written by Solomon Spalding, a former Congregationalist minister? As the evidence unfolds, the authors of Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? The Spalding Enigma reveal a mystery that challenges the history of the Mormon church. Who was Solomon Spalding? Was his novel connected to Joseph Smith? Explore these questions and the conspiracy surrounding the Spalding manuscript and the origins of Mormonism.
except from the Introduction
In Who Really Wrote The Book of Mormon? readers will become aware of a fascinating body of evidence that has continued to accumulate over the years and, despite efforts by pro-Mormon scholars to deny or dismiss it, has grown to such proportion that it now poses a significant challenge to history itself. At stake is nothing less than the Church’s most sacred text, The Book of Mormon. At issue is whether this long-revered book is actually a valuable, historical record of pre-Columbian North America or a deception of the first order, perpetrated upon the gullible and credulous by the very founder of the Church himself, Prophet Joseph Smith.
Not Just a Mere Book — It’s Like an Encyclopedia!
I just put down the book this afternoon and thought long and hard about how to write a worthwhile review; something that would showcase how exceptional this book is and what a valuable reference it is. Not only is it an essential tool for we Christian apologists who engage Mormons, it should also be required reading for Mormons, too, and anyone researching 19th century American literature for that matter. It isn’t just a book — it’s like an encyclopedia of Who’s Who at the core of the birth of Mormonism and the history of its deceptive “Bible”, The Book of Mormon. And since I’ve concluded that there’s no way I could write a concise review and relay all the important details of this fascinating record, I hope to at least spark your interest in it enough to make you want to buy it (see below).
558 Pages AND Concise
Even at a length of 558 pages, Who Really Wrote The Book of Mormon? is concise. Yes, “concise”. The authors didn’t waste space on unsubstantiated opinions or rhetoric or anything else that might be construed as “anti-Mormon”, a tactic that more and more Mormons are using in place of honest inquiry or considerate answers. (And even at the rare times when the authors do venture into speculation, they are clear at labeling it as such.) They went to the trouble of referencing all sorts of records of varying levels of obscurity and even legibility — tax records, census records, family histories and so on — to reconstruct the events leading up to the initial 1830 printing of the Book of Mormon and a few years thereafter. The amount of references is just incredible. I mean that. And let me be perfectly clear: I’ve never actually read a book with such an abundance of references. All summed up, there are around 130 pages of notes and references alone! And the sad fact is that in all likelihood, the majority of Mormons would relegate this incredible work of research to the “anti-Mormon” bin without once putting a crease in a page.
Detail After Detail After Detail After — You Get the Point
The sheer amount of detail that forms the content of this book is to the extent that it makes the authors seem obsessive-compulsive — and that’s a compliment! It’s rich and fully referenced.
To give you an idea of the amount of detail in this book, take a look at the section labeled “A Chronology of Elder Sidney Rigdon’s Activities: 1822 ~ 1830″ which begins on page 334. There, you will find a month-by-month record over an eight-year span of time listing the whereabouts of the infamous Sidney Rigdon. (This is important because Mormons claim that Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith did not know each other until around 1830 or 1831.)
I’m really at a loss for a worthy enough compliment to give this book. It was a fascinating read that forced me to stay up many late nights because I just could not put it down. (And I mean that in the most literal sense.)
As I closed the final page of the appendix, I was actually sad that this literary journey that was the reading of this amazing piece of research had come to an end. The authors set out to demonstrate that, at the very least, The Book of Mormon is the mere product of a man. They not only succeeded, but, in my opinion, they went beyond that and gave ample evidence enough to show who that man might have been. It may very well have been Solomon Spalding and his manuscript, Manuscript Found. Sidney Rigdon had the opportunity to steal it, as he was accused of by Solomon Spalding himself before he died (!), and the twisted motive to do so. In Oliver Cowdery, he found a willing “scribe” who could copy out the text with Sidney’s “doctrines” input therein. And in Joseph Smith, he found a fall guy — or so he thought.
So very well done, Wayne, Howard, and Arthur!
Next up, I’ve finally gotten a replica of the 1830 edition of The Book of Mormon. I’m anxious to see this work of fiction in all its original “splendor”, since there are about 70,000 differences between it and the current version. How interesting that there on the first page is, “Joseph Smith, Author and Proprietor.” Telling indeed!
Get the book for HALF-OFF the cover price (just $9) at the Concordia Publishing House here:
Read a 14-page sample here:
Be offended. I was.
The devil’s tail of Mormonism, the supposed Book of Abraham, is a devil’s tale.
Joseph Smith took a now well-known Egyptian burial artifact called a hypocephalus and then connected it to the content of an ancient papyrus, which he and his associates originally claimed was the handwritten record of the biblical patriarch Abraham. The so-called Book of Abraham contained three facsimiles, the only Mormon “scripture” to contain artwork (artwork that featured representations of 4 pagan deities and a pagan priest, no less; it’s important to capture what those pagan deities looked like).
The second facsimile, incorporated in my cartoon here, was enumerated and explained at the direction of Joseph Smith, probably with help from Sidney Ridgon and others. He explained figure seven this way:
“Fig. 7. Represents God sitting on his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood; as, also, the sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham, in the form of a dove.”
However, the figure is actually the ancient Egyptian deity Min or Amun wrapped in burial wrappings with, yes, an erection (known by its less overt and more obtuse term in the archaeological field as “ithyphallic“).
Interestingly, this part of the facsimile was even censored by the Mormons themselves in printings of the Book of Abraham and not fully restored until 1981. As pro-Mormon apologist Ian Barber of page F-5 of What Mormonism Isn’t wrote regarding the said figure:
“…that the explicit portrayal offended Mormon sensibilities is evidenced by the fact that the phallus has been removed from several printings of the Pearl of Great Price…”
Well, why on Earth would they want to censor something that their “Abraham” spent so much time drawing with such clarity and detail?
Other interesting “truths” that Joseph Smith revealed to the world from this piece:
1) The Mormon [g]od (one of the many) lives near Kolob. (figure 1)
2) One day on Kolob equals a thousand years on Earth. (figure 1)
3) “Oliblish” apparently is Egyptian for “Kolob”. (figure 2)
As much as Joseph Smith would have enjoyed sharing with us the true meaning of figures 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 — those are all secret, even to this day. In light of the life-altering and faith-impacting information that he previously revealed (detailed above), isn’t it interesting that humanity is still not deemed ready for the translation of those additional parts? Oh, well. Maybe one of these days…
Now, understand that it is obvious that Joseph Smith didn’t know that the seated person in figure 7 had an erection. It is just as it is obvious that he had no clue what the rest of the image was about.
The Book of Abraham. And that is just one of the many reasons I have never been a Mormon nor will ever be.
By the way, does your Strong’s Concordance list “grand Key-words of the Priesthood”? Sounds very “Freemason”-esque to me…
A Note About the “Devil’s Tail”
Here’s an excerpt from an Alan Keyes speech that explain the phrase very, very clearly and concisely. It fits this situation perfectly (and I do think that Alan Keyes is a brilliant and intelligent speaker).
“We don’t have to worry about the devil when he shows up looking like the devil. Gotta worry about him when he shows up looking like the nice guy who lives next door. Then you have to look carefully. I think it was in medieval times–what did they tell you to look for? What did they tell you to look for? The one thing the devil couldn’t hide. His tail. See, the devil is going to show up, smiling and telling you all kinds of things you want to hear, and handing you things that you think are wonderful, and seducing you with wonderful promises that the things you hope for and believe are going to come to pass. He’ll speak your language; he’ll quote your scriptures; he’ll fall down on his knees and pretend to worship your God. And meanwhile, he’ll be leading you off down a road that goes in just the opposite direction. But he’ll look good. And so they always used to say, he can’t, however, hide that tail. He’s got to find a place to put it. He can dress up like us, but at the end of the day, he’s got to find a place to put that tail. So you always want to look for the devil’s tail.”
Good advice indeed!
Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who wilfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false…
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, pp.188,189 (1959)
The NoApologiesAllowed fictional response (were I around in 1959):
Dear 10th President of Mormonism:
Thank you for the open invitation to expose Joseph Smith. I accept.
Enclosed with this brief letter is my second attempt to show that he, indeed, “was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen” — and arrogant, too. (Of course, it’s much easier to be arrogant when you’ve got nearly 3,000 equally foolish people acting as your own personal militia, as he did. [reference: Nauvoo Legion])
Do expect more in the future.
PS – By the way, you said that there is “…no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith. If Joseph Smith was verily a prophet, and if he told the truth…. No man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, pp.189,190). Calling such a statement “ridiculous” would raise it to a level of dignity that it doesn’t deserve. Your obvious lack of careful reading of the truly inspired Scriptures (the Old and New Testaments) forces me to doubt your claims. That salvation depends on anything other than the work of God through the risen Lord Jesus Christ is one of the many deceptive things that your organization believes, teaches, and promotes.
I’ll do what I can to help you and all those like you to see that.