Friday, June 12, 2009

Urim & Thummim or Magic Stone? How Smith claimed to translate the Book of Mormon

Note, 2015 update: This post was written back in 2009. Around 2014 the LDS church began publishing articles telling more of the full truth about the translation process of the Book of Mormon. In fact, the October 2015 Ensign article (available online) even shows pictures of Smith's seer stone; and the LDS church finally admitted the pictures of Smith using the actual "gold plates" to translate is not historically accurate. I consider this a form of vindication and evidence that the voice of the critics did lead to the LDS church being more accountable. I have kept my original blog post in its original 2009 form before these recent changes in the LDS church and their giving of fuller disclosure.

I remember the first time I learned about Joseph Smith's magic seer stone; it was after my mission. I was shocked! I brought it up to an LDS friend who actually got upset about it. He immediately accused me of reading anti-Mormon literature. He said that Joseph would have never done such a thing, for it would make the whole thing look contrived! When I provided evidence in a little known piece of LDS literature below he had nothing to say.

In an address given on the 25th of June 1992, at a seminar for new mission presidents, Missionary Training Center, Provo, Utah, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles disclosed the real means by which Smith claimed to translate the Book of Mormon:

The details of this miraculous method of [translating the Book of Mormon] are still not fully known. Yet we do have a few precious insights. David Whitmer wrote:

“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. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.) Source: Russell M. Nelson, A Treasured Testament; Ensign, July 1993. Also see here.

If one does some digging they can find other LDS magazines mentioning the seer stone. Just go do Lds.org and search "seer stone." However, after skimming these articles it seems that they are vague and don't discuss all the details I will present in this blog post. Official LDS Church images also mislead investigators and Mormons alike by depicting Smith actually translating from the plates which is blatantly false. I am not aware of any official LDS source that depicts Smith using his seer stone and his hat. The average LDS member today, who relies on official LDS sources, is left with the impression that Smith used the plates to translate today’s Book of Mormon; and if they have heard about the seer stone Smith used for most of the production of the BoM, they usually mistakenly think it is referring to the Urim and Thummim. The following post will correct these misconceptions and provide information from both critics and LDS apologists, showing that the LDS Church is not being completely forthcoming about the true methods used by Smith to produce the BoM.

[Again, a 2014-2015 Update: after this blog was published, after increasing pressure from former Mormons protesting the LDS church's false depiction of the translation of the gold plates. In 2013-2015, the online site lds.org published a series of articles in the Ensign that dealt with controversial issues, one of the articles was Book of Mormon Translation. This article was the most forthcoming the LDS church has ever been. In the article they corroborate much of this blog post, including Smith's use of the seer stone in a hat in producing the Book of Mormon. Note that I after this I have not changed the original blog post as it was written back in 2009 when the LDS church was not being fully honest and forthcoming about the details of the translation process of the Book of Mormon]

It is a historical fact that Joseph Smith followed in his father's foot steps to become a money digger. He actually pretended to put a magic rock (or peep stone/ seer stone) into a hat and then proceeded to bury his head in the hat and claimed to see where hidden treasure was buried underground, kind of like using a crystal ball. Through his money digging adventures Joseph Smith swindled superstitious people out of their money. He was even brought up on charges in court for his deception at one point.

For some Mormons this will be hard to believe but Smith used the same stone he used in money digging to "translate" the Book of Mormon (see here). In fact, according to historical data, the production of the BoM wasn't a real translation at all since Smith would put his seer stone in a hat and apparently claimed to “see” the words in the hat via the stone which he read out loud to his scribes. Thus, he never actually translated anything; according to witnesses he claimed to “read” words that magically appeared in or through a rock he placed in the bottom of his hat, thus dictating to his scribes the words of the Book of Mormon he claimed to see by staring at the rock.

Even if the LDS believer chooses to ignore all the historical evidence that Joseph Smith was a person with a questionable character in his youth, why would God choose a person to be his front man who pretends to use a magic rock to dig up treasure in the ground? Especially, if he would allegedly be asked to dig up gold plates in the ground? Isn't the issue of credibility an important one? If Mohammed had claimed to pull the Koran out of a hat after being a stage magician in his youth, would that lend credibility to Islam?

In his essay Sidney Rigdon: Creating the Book of Mormon , author Craig Criddle, provides the following timeline of Smith's money digging practices and how it corresponds with his claims to unearth gold plates:



Timeline of events 1822-1828 showing that at the same time Smith claimed to be receiving a supernatural visitor (red arrows) in anticipation of The Book of Mormon, he was also engaged in activities that show him to be a con man (blue arrows).

For more details on the alleged translation processes see here. The official Mormon History sold to investigators of the LDS church is not based on the facts but mere propaganda. It rejects full-disclosure and commits the sin of omission by presenting a false description of the alleged translation process.

In the past, many Mormons believed in magical seer stones. To see pictures of Mormon leader's seer stones click here.

The image presented at the church run websites and magazines misrepresents the facts – omitting the rock in the hat act – and shows Smith with his finger on the plates or in a similar manner as if he is actually translating the plates like one would a foreign language. The fact is that the alleged gold plates were nowhere in sight for much of the writing of the Book of Mormon, and Smith never translated anything, but dictated to his scribes out of a hat.

After reading several articles by Mormon apologists I learned that they generally conclude that the Gold Plates were not “directly” used in the alleged translation process of the BoM. For example, in the online PBS video The Mormons in Part 1:3 titled, The Early Revelations LDS apologist Daniel Peterson is honest and admits that, “We know that Joseph didn’t translate in the way that a scholar would translate, he didn’t know Egyptian. … There were a couple of means that were prepared for this. One was that he used an instrument that was found with the plates that was called the Urim and Thummim. This is kind of a divinatory device that goes back into Old Testament times. Actually, most of the translation was done using something called a seer stone. … He would put the stone … in the bottom of a hat, presumably to exclude surrounding light. Then he would put his face into the hat. It's kind of a strange image for us today …” To read the transcript see here.

Notice how Peterson says Smith used the Urim and Thummim but doesn’t specify what it was used for. That is because the Urim and Thummim that allegedly came with the plates were never used to “translate” any of the Book of Mormon that was finally published, which Mormons read today. In the fair.org article, Joseph the Seer—or Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?, author Brant A. Gardner is even more forthcoming and clear on the matter. Toward the end of his article he writes:

“As the early saints transitioned from a collection of believers into a formal religion, they began to see themselves within the Great Tradition [that is popular/formal religion]. As with early Christianity, the stories they told of themselves naturally were recast to distance themselves from their Little Tradition [small-town folklore type superstition] heritage and provide an acceptable Great Tradition history. One of the obvious places to see this process in action is with the tools of the translation. We [LDS members] all know that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon—except he didn't. The Book of Mormon mentions interpreters, but not the Urim and Thummim. It was the Book of Mormon interpreters which were given to Joseph with the plates. When Moroni took back the interpreters after the loss of the 116 manuscript pages, Joseph completed the translation with one of his seer stones. Until after the translation of the Book of Mormon, the Urim and Thummim belonged to the Bible and the Bible only. The Urim and Thummim became part of the story when it was presented within and to the Great Tradition [acceptable traditional church going investigators]. Eventually, even Joseph Smith used Urim and Thummim indiscriminately as labels generically representing either the Book of Mormon interpreters or the seer stone used during translation.

The Urim and Thummim were traditionally divinatory rocks, but most importantly, they were biblically acceptable divinatory rocks.53 From the Great Tradition [traditional religion] perspective, their presence in the Bible made them religion, not magic. I suspect that the two interpreters made a natural comparison to the two stones, one Urim and one Thummim, from the Bible. Calling the biblical divinatory tools "rocks" instead of Urim and Thummim seems to demean them. The reverse process, calling the interpreters and seer stones Urim and Thummim, places them in a more appropriate religious category where they belong because of the sacred use to which they were put in translating the Book of Mormon.

This recasting of history was a story the Saints told themselves as much as what they presented to the world. I doubt that there was any conscious attempt to reconcile their history with Great Tradition [popular religious] expectations, let alone any attempt at deception. It was simply the natural response to their self-definition as a religion rather than a folk belief. It was a story told in a way that they subliminally knew was appropriate for a Great Tradition religion. The new history did not deny the past or alter the facts, but recolored them with a new vocabulary.”


So if Smith alledgedly unearthed Gold Plates and the Urim and Thummim (or interpreters, i.e. two divinatory stones set in the rim of a silver bow functioning as spectacles or reading glasses, see images here, here, and here) but never used the plates nor the spectacles to translate today’s published Book of Mormon, why did Smith unearth them in the first place? If all he used to “translate” the final version of today’s Book of Mormon was the same seer stone he used while money digging – the same stone he found in a well and used to pretend to see where treasure was buried – why did he need to unearth the plates and the spectacles in the first place!?

Some apologists admit that the plates weren’t involved in the translation process and speculate that the plates served other purposes. See the fair wiki article Book of Mormon/Translation (Aug. 2009) here. But the Anton affair mentioned in this fair-wiki section is hardly helpful to those who have studied the details from a critical perspective. Second, the plates being used as mere evidence of an ancient artifact is hardly useful, for as Faun Brodie pointed out Smith could have produced a fake replica of gold plates, or the witnesses could have imagined them with their perceived "spiritual eyes,” hallucinated, or simply made it up, etc.

And if the plates were meant to merely persuade the witnesses that Smith was using his rock in a hat act to translate a real record, why didn’t the angel give the plates to Smith to show to the witnesses AFTER the dictation of the BoM, which he performed using his money digging seer stone? Then the Gold Plates wouldn’t have been needed at all during the alleged translation process; thus, no reason to hide them and risk them being stolen. Why the whole hiding of the plates in the woods and in a box and covering them up? Why the whole ordeal of being chased and put in harms way by those who wanted to allegedly steal them; was all that necessary when Smith didn’t even use them to translate (and in fact there was no actual translation at all)? And if the plates were to act as physical evidence to an ancient record why did the angel take them up to heaven instead of them being evidence for all to see? After all, if the seer stone Smith used to create his Book of Mormon is still in possession of the church why weren’t the plates or the spectacles (interpreters) left with the church? It seems odd that the angel took back everything Smith allegedly unearthed and all we are left with is his seer stone he used for money digging, which no LDS prophet, “seer,” and revelator has used since to reveal anything even though these LDS leaders are called seers.

This takes way too much mental gymnastics to rationalize. Common sense says Smith used the same rock in a hat act he used to dupe people into believing he could unearth gold treasures to dupe people into believing he unearthed gold plates. Thus the plates were a “prop” for added affect, to add some authenticity to his story. It would have probably been too difficult to actually create a huge book of gold plates with ancient writings on it. The witnesses could have seen that some of the plates were blank and Smith missed a spot to scribble fake characters that he made up. The seer stone in a hat was a better way to go, for without the actual original language he could never be tested. And the alleged characters he allegedly transcribed from the plates to give to Anton has never been corroborated by a reputable scholar to be anything other than mere scribbling.

Other apologists speculate that the plates served in some magical way to help Smith dictate to his scribes even when the plates weren’t in the same room with him. As they admit that the plates were either covered or weren’t in the same room when much of the BoM was being written. Thus to summarize, all the facts to the alleged translation processes present the following picture.

Joseph put his face in a hat and stared at a stone and claimed to see words on or through the stone and thus allegedly dictated the Book of Mormon while the plates were either covered -- so that no one, including Smith, could see them -- or while the plates were hidden somewhere outside. Thus Smith obviously didn’t need the plates for the formation of the Book of Mormon that was published; and all the evidence shows that he used a seer stone and not the actual plates, nor the Urim and Thummim, to dictate the contents of today’s published Book of Mormon. Thus he didn’t actually translate ancient languages off the plates into English using some spectacles he found in the ground like a modern translator might translate an ancient record; but instead its claimed that he read the contents of the Book of Mormon by allegedly seeing the words in or through the same seer stone he used for money digging; using the same method of placing the rock in a hat just as he did when he would claim to "see" where treasure was buried.

Keep in mind that the average LDS member does not read Mormon apologetics and is encouraged not to read things not officially published by the LDS church. The LDS apologetic sites exist because members read non-Mormon history books and Mormon critics and learn things the official LDS church doesn’t disclose openly. So fair.org and the Maxwell Institute act as damage control that’s caused by the official church withholding information and suppressing the whole picture.

Some Mormon apologists argue that the official LDS church is not hiding the rock in the hat act since it is mentioned in one or two Ensign articles. The problem is these are obscure references in only a few official LDS articles, and you have to dig deep in past issues to learn about Smith’s rock in the hat act. Official LDS articles are also inconsistent and contradictory, for example, the Sept. 1977 Ensign doubts Whitmer's claim that Smith used the rock in the hat act and claims a real translation took place with Smith's direct use of the plates. The 1977 article thus contradicts the Ensign article mentioned above, and the 1977 article also contradicts a recent Maxwell Institute article by A One-sided View of Mormon Origins by Mark Ashurst-McGee. In the process of trying to answer Grant Palmer’s research McGee admits that the image of Smith actually translating gold plates in front of him, that is used by the church in its official publications, is inaccurate. He admits that Smith did use the rock in the hat method and the plates in fact were nowhere in sight during the production of the Book of Mormon.

On a Mormon message board in 2009, Jeff Ricks of postmormon.org, made the following observation:

There are lots of examples where Mormonism misrepresents the facts to the public. The first one that comes to mind is the way the Church misrepresents Smiths's method of producing the Book of Mormon. On the Church's website there are at least four or five different paintings showing Smith poring over the gold plates line by line, while he or someone else writes down what he dictates, as if he's acting as a translator. But the church admits, when pressed, that Smith's actual method of producing the Book of Mormon was looking at a rock in a hat. Hmmmm....so the church has on its site at least four paintings that misrepresent Smith as a translator, while they don't have a single painting that I can find that shows him doing it by looking at a rock in a hat.

This is not a minor oversight. Church leaders have said that the Book of Mormon is the foundation of the Church, and the Church will admit that the book was produced by looking at a rock in a hat. Therefore, if the Church were more honest about its origins, that rock would be a centerpiece of the Church's story to the public. Instead, it continues to knowingly misrepresent Smith as a translator.

Let's summarize: The Church knowingly misrepresents its 'product' to the public, as we speak, and it takes in massive sums of money that's aided, in part, by that misrepresentation (I'm sure the Church's conversion rate, and therefore income stream, would reduce if the dorky rock-in-hat method were more honestly represented). In the real world, that's a serious matter. It's an ongoing willful misrepresentation that, by normal standards is unethical and immoral, and is a matter that, in the real world, possibly merits prison time, yet the Church gets a bye on that kind of dishonest, unethical, immoral behavior. Why?........ "Truth Restored"? I think not. It's more like, "Truth Distorted." ...

[Another person on the message board added the following] ... Another point of contention is they have the actual rock that Joseph Smith used to translate the BOM. If they wanted to, they could put it on display for members to view the mystical magical object. ... They don’t display the magic rock (one of two I believe they have) ... because it would bring to the surface the methods used to translate Mormon doctrine, and provide people that may not know about the arrest of Joseph Smith for glass-looking using the same "money-digger" method.


If Joseph Smith was enchanted with seer stones as a kid would that childish belief in magic rocks enter into his adult writings? Unfortunately, for the faithful Mormon it does. We find that Smith's writings do in fact echo his money digging past. In one of many passages in the Book of Mormon that gives reference to magic rocks, Joseph tells a story of God actually giving one of his faithful servants a stone: “And the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light, that I may discover unto my people who serve me” (Alma 37:23; also see here).

The Book of Mormon is full of parallels to Joseph’s money digging past. A startling example is that just as in Smith's real life – when he was a money digger he’d claim the treasure was moving under the earth and that's why the people who hired him couldn't dig it up every time they tried - likewise, the Book of Mormon people begin hiding treasures in the earth and using sorcery but the treasures are slippery and cannot be held or retained (see Mormon 1: 18-19).

In 1 Nephi 16 of the Book of Mormon a magic ball (the Liahona) suddenly appears outside Lehi’s tent to guide him in the right direction, which is very similar to the way the seer stone worked when Smith was seeking buried treasure; and just as Lehi found the Liahona Smith found his seer stone.

Pressing credulity to the max Joseph Smith writes his fascination with seer stones into the story of Jared who wonders how an air-tight oval shaped barge or submarine like container with no windows could allow the occupants to see in the dark? One wonders why he didn’t ask how they were going to steer the barges? Or what they were going to do with all the human feces accumulated by the passengers? Nevertheless, Joseph decides to fix the problem of darkness with Jared’s glow in the dark rocks to provide light for the Nephites (See Ether 3 & 4).

Joseph's fascination with magic rocks doesn't stop with the Book of Mormon. After Joseph Smith founded the LDS Church, in 1836 Joseph had read in the Painesville (Ohio) Telegraph that a treasure lay buried beneath a house in Salem. What do you think happened next? It is obvious to all impartial investigators that at this point Joseph regressed to his money digging ways and unintentionally showed the hoax of his revelations.

He actually claimed to receive a revelation from the Lord on the matter that is contained in today’s LDS Doctrine and Covenants. Smith spoke as the Lord and said, “I have much treasure in this city [of Salem] for you…you shall be led, and [it] shall be given you…you shall have power over [the city]…and its wealth pertaining to gold and silver shall be yours…in the place where [the treasure is] …[it] shall be signalized unto you by the peace and power of my Spirit, that shall flow unto you…there are more treasures than one for you in this city” ( D&C 111: 2-4, 8, 11). This theme of seeking treasure is rather familiar to his money digging past. As a money digger his seer stone also allegedly “signaled unto him” where buried treasure could be found. Smith did not take power over the city and was not led to gold or silver. Joseph returned from his treasure hunt with nothing but a failed prophecy.

If Joseph Smith was influenced by the pretend powers of seer stones ever since his youth would he go so far as to have God himself use a seer stone just like he did? It appears that Smith could not resist. In superhero, comic book, fashion Joseph paints his god as a finite exalted-man who gets his super powers from a magic rock the size of a planet, which acts like a super-computer or crystal ball giving him infinite knowledge. Smith writes:

“ ...we shall see him [God] as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves. And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there [in heaven]… In answer to the question—Is not the reckoning of God’s time, angel’s time, prophet’s time, and man’s time, according to the planet on which they reside? I answer, Yes. But there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it. The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord. The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim [i.e. a giant seer stone]. This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s. Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known…” (D&C 130: 1- 10, words in italics are my own).

Besides claiming that that the earth will one day be magically transformed into a giant crystal ball, Joseph Smith explains that God is limited to a physical body with finite limitations so he and the angels live on, and use, a planet size Urim and Thummim (giant seer stone) that makes all information and knowledge available to those who use it. This brings to mind images of the Death Star, the giant planet in the Star Wars movies where Darth Vador lives and derives some of his powers. Joseph's thinking might have been, "if people already believe that my little rock can find treasure and help me come up with the Book of Mormon, then I'll say God himself must have a HUGE magic rock that he resides on, that gives him magical powers. This will also explain how my idea of God as a finite man can know all things when he can't be everywhere at once." And last but not least, Smith says that those Mormons who make it to the highest degree of his heaven will receive their very own white stone that will act as a crystal ball, whereby advanced knowledge will be made known.

One can’t help but see that Smith’s idea of the Godhead became a projection of himself. For just as Smith’s extramarital affairs were projected onto his god, who became an exalted man who needs several concubines to populate the earth (see D&C 132: 63), Smith’s money digging seer stone days is projected onto his deity who becomes a polygamous man who lives on and operates via a huge planet size magic rock.

If you’re a true believing Mormon do you really think that God lives on and works through a giant rock and that the earth will one day "be renewed [transformed] and receive its paradisiacal glory" (See Articles of Faith 1: 10), that is, turned into a giant crystal ball? If you do believe in these things, how is your god going to accomplish this other than you just saying, "Well, it's like magic?" And why believe in such a thing as opposed to believing the earth will one day turn into a giant Rubik's Cube, each square representing a level of higher intelligence?

Why believe in Joseph Smith's story that a deity living on a giant seer stone, together with a council of gods, organized our universe out of self-existent/uncreated materials and organized the earthly bodies of humanity and produced their souls by having celestial sex with his wives and concubines as opposed to any Greek mythology?

If you believe a magic rock can help someone translate a foreign language do you believe in crystal balls?

Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Smith in 1822, "Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind."

For more facts surrounding Joseph Smith, peep stones, and treasure digging derived from 100% church-friendly sources click here.

For a brief history of Smith's money digging see: The Locations of Joseph Smith's Early Treasure Quests by Dan Vogel. Dan Vogel has several other fascinating videos I highly recommend that shed light on Smith's seer stone and the alleged gold plates. Go to his YouTube page to watch videos like Occult Context of Joseph Smith's 1823 Discovery of Gold Plates, Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial, and Joseph Smith Brings the Plates Home, etc. I cannot recommend these videos enough, there is so much interesting and informative data in this videos I never heard before.

For additional historical information on Smith’s seer stone see here.

For information on Joseph Smith's personal biography and more information on the Seer Stone here.

For a discussion of whether or not Smith put up a curtain to hide the translation process see here.

And for a historical analysis of the gold plates click here.

For more details from both LDS members and critics see here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Is This an anti-Mormon Website?

Being called a Mormon is something some LDS members do not like to be called. In this new century I see the old Mormon system of belief being changed to the New LDS belief system. Missionaries no longer ask "what do you know about the Mormons" like my parents used to do. Official LDS church publications shy away from the term Mormonism even though it is in the D&C and ironically one of the church websites is www.mormon.org.

This is not an anti-Mormon site. I am pro-Mormon as far as supporting the LDS church's family values, ethical teachings, and philanthropy. In fact, I've written a lengthy article on the positive side of Mormonism. Calling me an anti-Mormon for being critical of the claims of the LDS church would be like calling a critic of the claims of Judaism an anti-Semite. Someone can be a critic of a theology but not be anti "the people of that religious organization." As LDS apologist (Mormon defender) John A. Tvedtnes writes:

"A non-Mormon who writes about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not necessarily an anti-Mormon, even if he gets some of his facts wrong. To me, an anti-Mormon is one who deliberately misrepresents the facts about the LDS Church and its scriptures ..." (Source: Shades of Darkness by John A. Tvedtnes FARMS Review: Volume - 12, Issue - 2, Pages: 427-40).

If any of my facts are wrong I welcome anyone to point them out to me. I am very careful about citing sources and seek honestly to accurately tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

If I am to be called an anti-Mormon by an LDS member then to be fair they should accept the label anti-Baptist or anti-Catholic. Of course, Mormons aren't anti-Baptists or anti-Catholics, they just disagree with their theology and critique their doctrines in books like The Great Apostasy and many others. In fact, in the Joseph Smith—History 1: 17-20 , Smith says God forbade him from joining any of the Christian sects and that God said to him, "their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: [']they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” Does this make Mormons Anti-Traditional-Christianity? Afterward Smith told his mother that he had just learned for himself "that Presbyterianism is not true." Does this make Mormons anti-Presbyterian? Of course not, Mormons can be critics of traditional Christian creeds but not be anti-Christian. Likewise, I can be critical of LDS doctrines and not be an anti-Mormon.

I have heard many LDS members criticize the Catholic Church's doctrine of celibacy and their views on the sacrament or communion, yet those same LDS members would say it is unfair to call them anti-Catholic. They would say, being a critic of certain aspects of Roman Catholicism doesn't make them anti-Catholic, just a critic. For some reason they don't apply that same logic to their friends and family members who are critics of Mormonism (the LDS corporation) while loving Mormons individually.

I think if a mature conversation is to take place then certain LDS members need to stop the name-calling which is what calling someone an "anti-Mormon" is. It is a way to stop the person from being heard by slandering their character, by verbally attacking them with the pejorative (disparaging and insulting) label anti-Mormon. The reason it is slanderous and pejorative is because in the mind of most Mormons it is akin to calling someone an anti-Semite; in that in the Mormon mind that person labeled "anti-Mormon" is envisioned as essentially evil and a liar and trying to destroy Mormonism and hates all Mormons.

There is another element that adds to the damaging effects of the label anti-Mormon when it is leveled against good people. And that is that it triggers in the minds of many Mormons a loyalty promise they made when interviewed for entrance into the temple; that they would not associate with those who oppose Mormon dogma. Hence, labeling someone an anti-Mormon can possibly destroy friendships and families since the loyal Mormon may very well fear and distrust the person labeled anti-Mormon.

Some Mormons will rationalize using the term saying, "Well, 'anti' just means against or opposed to, and so the critic is 'against Mormonism.'" The first problem with that argument is obvious, in that the person is not called anti-Mormonism but anti-Mormon, which makes it sound like the person is against the Mormon as an individual. This is another reason why the term is akin to the term anti-Semite. Also, the Mormon must agree in the temple interview that they will not associate with "any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" and the question also asks, "do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?" So calling someone anti-Mormon would logically lead the LDS members not associating with them or sympathizing with them. Thankfully, most Mormons don't take it that far. But to really understand just how ugly and divisive the term anti-Mormon is the reader has to understand the cosmology of Mormonism as believed by the more literal minded LDS members. According to the most literal LDS members, Mormon theology holds that there are essentially two forces in the world, God and Satan. Everything that supports the LDS religion is of God, anything that does not support the church is of the Devil. With this worldview in place, some Mormons see the world as not just "us against them" like with two competing sports teams, but they create a cosmic battle resulting in what I like to call "Horns versus Halos." The "good, believing Mormon" is seen among these kinds of Mormons as if he has a Halo (holy, righteous, and part of the in group) and the critic of Mormonism (even if what he says is factually true and can't be refuted) is seen as if he has Horns (unholy, unrighteous, and part of the out group). So when Mormons accuse someone of being an anti-Mormon they are not just saying he or she is against a certain LDS church policy or dogma, they are accusing him or her of being on the side of the devil. You can imagine then how hurtful it can be for a family member to call another family member an anti-Mormon. They are saying to that friend or family member, you are not part of the in group, you are of the devil, evil, etc. So to be labeled anti-Mormon (in the eyes of many LDS members) is to be labeled basically on the side of "darkness." The damaging affect of this tradition in Mormonism can be seen all over the world, as more and more people are leaving Mormonism, and LDS fathers and mothers are fearing their own former Mormon children they reared from infancy; seeing them now as less than human being perceived as on the side of evil for merely voicing an intellectual disagreement of opinion. Of course, sometimes it is reversed and it is the former LDS parent that is ostracized by the LDS children who are grown up.

Mormons are trained by their leaders to not study the opposing point of view and to avoid any history books that reveal the whole truth are not 100% faith-promoting. They are also trained to interpret any uncomfortable feeling they experience, while learning about some fact regarding church history, as a feeling that proves the information is of Satan; and thus most Mormons experience anxiety with the first learning of the true historical facts and stop learning and investigating. So most LDS members remain largely uninformed of the details of their own history (warts and all) as the official LDS church produces a sanitized white washed version of the church's history, akin to the book 1984. So being uninformed the LDS member often feels attacked by the former LDS member who often just wishes to share historical facts with the LDS member. Since the Mormon is trained to fear information that is not faith-promoting they become anxious, defensive, and tribal: in that they feel part of the in group of Halos afraid of contamination from the out group of Horns. It does not matter if the out group is your friend or family you've know your whole life! It does not matter if the person trying to inform you of the historical facts is your spouse, your parent, your kids, or best friend; the critical truth teller often threatens the Mormon's comfort zone and their brain's flight or flight system often kicks in. So when a former Mormon tries to share information with them the LDS member most likely will feel scared, defensive, anxious, and then angry and proud defending the in group and will seek to protect their religious views. There are exceptions of course, as not all Mormons are the same.

The term anti-Mormon then must be understood in this larger Mormon context to understand why say a business owner in a state like Utah, who is labeled anti-Mormon, could actually lose his business. The term can literally destroy people's lives. Spouses risk losing their loved ones. In some Mormon families the family member labeled anti-Mormon is ostracized from family gatherings. Good people are demonized and slandered for having a difference of opinion and telling the truth as they see it. Some Mormon leaders in the past and present are even willing to squelch free speech in order to silence the critic.

The term anti-Mormon may have been appropriate a hundred years ago to refer to the occasional angry non-Mormon mob that arose here and there in Mormon history. After all, these mobs were often full of hate and attempting to do literal bodily harm to Mormons. But to accuse someone of being anti-Mormon today -- who is a law abiding citizen and wishes no harm upon Mormons, and just so happens to be a polite critic of Mormonism while having friends who are Mormons -- is downright immoral in my opinion and it needs to stop.

I say to my Mormon readers, this is not the tactics of a mature world religion, this is the tactics of a cult; and since Mormons do not want to be thought of as a cult they need to not act like one in this regard. For example, some of the members of the Moonies will call critics of their religion anti-moon. This is clearly a cult style "thought stopping" technique, wherein, it is my understanding that the Moonie will think negatively of, not trust, and not "hear the person out" who is labeled anti-moon. I don't think the Mormons are a cult like the Moonies so I wish they'd stop using some of those tactics you find in such cults.

I applaud those many Mormons who recognize the errors of the term anti-Mormon and refuse to use it. I applaud Mormons like Jeff Lindsey who wrote Cutting a Little Slack for Ex-Mormons. May there number increase. You see I think most Mormons are better than this kind of tactic. Resorting to these immature destructive tactics that divides families and ruins friendships is beneath most Mormons I know; who are kind and compassionate people of integrity. The more noble minded Mormons need to speak up about this and discourage this destructive language among some of their LDS peers. An honest disagreement of opinion and open discussion of facts can ensue without name calling.

I love Mormons as they are among my friends and family. Growing up in the church and serving a mission in Brazil I have a great love for the ethical culture it fosters and the men and women of good character it often produces. Thus calling someone like me an anti-Mormon would be nothing less than a form of slander and a cult-like thought stopping technique; as a way to control the inflow of information and keep members ignorant of the opposing viewpoint. That is the opposite of the Mormonism I have read about in LDS literature that speaks of accepting light and knowledge wherever it comes from and being open to criticism for the sake of attempting to uncover the truth without pride or prejudice.

I find that it is often the kind of Mormon who is the most uninformed of their own church history and the plight of former Mormons, that is the most ready to dismiss their former Mormon loved ones with the anti-Mormon label. You even have some LDS parents calling their own children anti-Mormon just because the son or daughter studied church history and came to a different point of view. Meanwhile, the parent who verbally attacks their own child with such divisive labels has never read their own church history and the reasons why their child has left Mormonism. They refuse to humbly seek first to understand and listen to what the son or daughter has to say. They let fear and tribal pride allow them to be driven to slander their own blood for the comfort of the group, rather than truly trying to understand their loved one's point of view. I have even heard of these same LDS parents, turning around and inviting that same son or daughter to church after representing their religion in such cold and divisive ways. It makes one think, "Really, this is what you are selling? Agree with me or I will slander you and not even try to hear you out. That is what you are selling? Come join a group that will take someone you spent your whole life knowing and then turn them against you over a mere difference of intellectual opinion? That is how you behave and then you invite the person you just slandered as devilish back to that very same system that has influenced you to behave that way? Really?"

Thank goodness not all Mormons are like that! There are so many kind and open minded LDS members. There is even a video put out by these kinds of level headed and noble Mormons called Alone (available on YouTube). The video description reads, "Feeling alone, Justin shares with his father and wife his concerns about his [LDS] church and comes to a new understanding of his [LDS] faith and those he loves." The video shows how to better treat a person who doubts the claims of Mormonism. Thus, there are plenty of examples of Mormons who avoid the destructive term anti-Mormon and instead seek to listen to the former Mormon, love them, and try to truly understand them.

I consider myself friendly toward the LDS Church. I have many friends and family who are true believing Mormons. One of my motivations for this webpage is that I am concerned about LDS members who do not become educated about the controversies. It can lead to later shock and dissolusionment as evidenced at www.exmormon.org. LDS members should also look at both sides of their religion, the pro and con, in order to better understand those family members or friends who go inactive or are no longer Mormon.

I want to unite people through mutual understanding. As LDS author, Steven Covey says in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, we should "seek first to understand." Only when one tries to understand someone's point of view can real love and understanding take place. The former LDS member understands the devout Mormon's point of view, having "been there and done that," so isn't it only fair that the Mormon try to understand the former LDS member?

I know that the LDS member has to choose to look at both sides of their religion, and it is not my place to tell them what to do. Unfortunately, when I was a Mormon I was trained to see anything critical of my religion as "anti-Mormon." This caused me to develop an aversion to other points of view regarding Mormonism; it was as if a subconscious "red flag" would pop up in my head anytime I thought about or read something that wasn't "faith-promoting." 

Ask yourself this: "If by any chance the former Mormon wasn't wrong - if there were any chance that Joseph Smith wasn't what he claimed to be - and the Mormon Church wasn't what it claimed to be, would you want to know? If there was something you could learn about Mormonism that could change your mind about it, would you want to hear it?" This is obviously a test of open-mindedness.

Maybe you're not ready for the so-called "meat," and don't want to know what I know. If so, take the "blue pill" and sign off. But if you're ready to learn more see the table of contents. As Morpheus says in the movie The Matrix, "You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. Remember -- all I am offering is the truth, nothing more..."

Related web articles:

What is an anti-Mormon? by Dr. Shades

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Table of Contents

Introduction:

> Is this an anti-Mormon website?

> Learning Different Points of View & The Courage To Be Informed

> The Danger of a Single Story & Former Mormons.

> Types of Mormons and Non-Mormons

> Urim & Thummim or Magic Stone? How Smith claimed to produce the Book of Mormon

> Videos of how Smith actually created his Book of Mormon

> My Response to Daniel Peterson on the Seer Stone

> Is the rock in the hat act a trivial matter?

Did Joseph Smith have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

> The Fruit of Joseph Smith: The Legacy of Mormon Polygamy.

> Wayne Bent and Joseph Smith

> Black skin, Mormonism, LDS Missionaries, and The Temple Before 1978.

> The Harm of the Seed of Cain Doctrine & Why It Hasn't Been Repudiated.

> Covering Up the Seed of Cain Doctrine in Mormonism.

Skin Color: Mormon Dogma vs. Science

> Rewriting History, Dishonest Advertising, False Propaganda, & the Sin of Omission in Mormonism

A Short List of Harm Caused by Mormonism

> A Short List of the Positive Aspects of Mormonism & The Goodness It Creates
> UNDERSTANDING THE MORMON BRAIN: Why it’s So Difficult Discussing Mormonism with LDS Members

The Mormon Shame and Tame Cycle 

> Why I Try Not To Take It Personally When A Mormon Acts Rude or Shuns Me

> Communicating with Mormon Loved Ones: A Five Step Method

> Exmormon musings on a visit to church

> I can’t be Mormon because I wear the wrong underwear.

> Where did the Mormon Gods come from?

> Gay Rights and the Mormon Church

> Is Mitt Romney honest about his religion?

> My Psychological Journey in Brief

> Top 10 Reasons I'm happier now as a non-Mormon

> September 11, 1857 & The Lucifer Effect By Philip Zimbardo

> Movies I Recommend With Themes Related To Mormonism

> Conversations with a Mormon

> Feeling vindicated in 2013

> Are Former Mormons Mirroring the Black & White mentality of the Mormonism they grew up?

Satan Made me Do It, Done Made me Think

In the future I will be writing about some of the positive aspects of Mormonism. Today I am going to talk about this video clip of an LDS le...