Informed by the comments, some revisions have been made to the original post.
This post begins my series-long critique of the Book of Mormon. And to kick-off the series, I’m going to focus on what I consider to be the most problematic part of the Book of Mormon: Third Nephi, chapters 8 and 9. These chapters record the events that immediately followed the crucifixion of Christ.
And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land. And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder. And there were exceedingly sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land. (3 Nephi 8: 5-7)
Whirlwinds, three days of darkness, and the wholesale destruction of many ancient American cities are described in 3 Nephi 8 as well. Amidst this chaos, the Nephites and Lamanites might well have asked, “Where is our god?” Well, we find out in 3 Nephi 9 that god was behind it all. Indeed, he seems to boast about it:
SHAFT will have its first event of the summer this Wednesday. We will be going to the 4:30 PM showing of 8: The Mormon Proposition at the Tower Theatre in SLC (876 E 900 S). Because this is a matinee showtime, tickets are only $6 dollars. The group may go out to dinner afterward, so budget for that too.
If you’re in Logan, SHAFT is organizing a carpool down to Salt Lake. Meet at 2:30 PM at Aggie Ice Cream (750 N 1200 E).
The documentary is about the LDS Church’s involvement in California’s Proposition 8, an anti-gay marriage ballot measure and constitutional amendment. If you’re not familiar with the movie, watch the trailer:
On June 27th, 1844, a mob killed Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum in Carthage Jail. Their murder was inexcusable, but not totally unexpected.
Joseph Smith made a lot of enemies the last year of his life. People were afraid that he had too much political power. Smith was already the mayor of Nauvoo and the commander of a formidable militia. Then in 1844, he also ran for president and was even coronated “King of Israel.”
Dissent was swelling within Smith’s own ranks as well. William Law, formerly a counselor to Smith in the First Presidency, and other disaffected Mormons joined together and created the Nauvoo Expositor. Its first (and final) issue, published June 7th, 1844, exposed Smith’s practice of polygamy and accused him of theocratic ambitions. Smith and the Nauvoo city council declared the paper a “public nuisance” and ordered its printing press destroyed. They reasoned it was necessary for the public safety of Nauvoo’s citizens. But the Illinois government saw it as an un-American affront to the freedom of press, so Smith, his brother, and fifteen other city council members were imprisoned at Carthage on charges of treason and inciting riot.
Only two days later, a mob intent on killing the Mormon prophet stormed the jail. Smith defended himself with a smuggled-in pistol, but was hopelessly outnumbered. He was shot three times while trying to escape out the second-story window. As Smith fell out the window, he reportedly cried “Oh Lord, my God!” These words begin the masonic distress call, and some suppose that Smith—a Mason himself—attempted this call to ask mercy of the Masons in the mob. If his last words were indeed a cry for mercy, they went unheeded. Smith was fatally shot once he landed from his fall.
Smith became revered as a martyr by his followers, and his death further catalyzed the Latter Day Saint movement. Outside of Mormonism, he is counted among the most inventive and influential religious figures.
I don’t mean to demonize or eulogize Joseph Smith with this post. I just wanted to acknowledge an important day in Mormon and American history.
I haven’t written a new installment to my “Why I Don’t Believe” series since last year. The series demanded a lot of my time, and I quickly got burnt-out. For a while, I toyed with writing a “Why I Don’t Believe” post about the Book of Mormon. That, though, proved to be a rather daunting undertaking. There is so much that needs to be said about the Book of Mormon that I couldn’t possibly distill my thoughts into a single post. So I’ve decided to devote an entire series to the Book of Mormon.
In the October 2009 LDS General Conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said that those who leave the LDS Church must do so “by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit.” Holland argued that apostates have to ignore the Book of Mormon, because they cannot explain it.
Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator.
I disagree with Elder Holland that the only available answer is that Joseph Smith translated an ancient American history by the power of god. That is a textbook example of an argument from ignorance. But I do actually agree with Elder Holland on this point: Some critics are too quick to dismiss the Book of Mormon. And while the burden of proof rests primarily with its believers, I nonetheless think we owe the Book of Mormon more than just an indifferent shrug or rolled eyes. That’s why I’m writing this series—to grapple honestly with the Book of Mormon.
Welcome a new entry to the blogroll: You Are Not So Smart. In my unsolicited opinion, it should be bookmarked by every skeptic.
The blog bills itself as “a celebration of self delusion.” It has some really informative posts on subjects like confirmation bias, logical fallacies, popular myths, and our species’ susceptibility to irrational thinking.
I particularly enjoyed the article on the malleability of memory. There, I found this fun video about a created memory involving Jackie Onassis: