Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Book of Mormon: "Seen" in a Hat.

We should ignore what is not uplifting?
" Joseph’s wife Emma explained that she “frequently wrote day after day” at a small table in their house in Harmony, Pennsylvania. She described Joseph “sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.”28 "
(from the official the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints website)

I realized last week that my knowledge of Mormonism was limited to polygamy, interest in genealogical research, and the names of the founders.  I have been trying to remember what started me down this avenue of research. I was watching YouTube videos about Judaism and the history of antisemitism when a video about Mormonism popped up in the recommended column. "Top 10 Mormon Problems Explained" by MormonHistoryBuff.  I was intrigued.

The Internet provides an overwhelming amount of information but much of it is unintentionally inaccurate or knowingly misleading.  I may start my search at such places as YouTube or Wikipedia but only to gain enough knowledge to find credible sources.  My research into antisemitism was started by a chance meeting with a holocaust survivor at a flea market.  As I talked with Aliza, I realized I knew nothing about the depth and scale of antisemitism.  The next step was listening to college courses through iTunesU and lectures by rabbis about Judaism, Christianity and antisemitism.  But, I digress.  

So, I watched the video  "Top 10 Mormon Problems Explained".
1. The Book of Abraham
2. The First Vision
3. The Book of Mormon Translation
4. The Book of Mormon Problems
5. Authorship of the Book of Mormon
6. Blacks and the Priesthood
7. Kinderhook Plates
8. Polygamy
9. Witnesses
10. Temple

I can not even attempt to intelligently discuss all of these topics yet.  While MormonHistoryBuff's video was well made, logical and seemed credible, I have no idea if it is and I will not even repeat the claims I can't verify from reliable sources.  So what would constitute a reliable source for Mormonism? The official LDS website is one.  Daniel C. Peterson, Professor of Islamic Studies at Brigham Young University, Mormon apologist, and LDS member is another.  For this first critique, these two LDS sources are enough to convince me of a major problem in the foundation on Mormonism.

A little background first...

Joseph F. Smith claimed to be visited by an angel named Moroni in 1823.  This angel told him where to find gold plates which contained a written history of the early inhabitants of America.  In 1827, Smith began his translation.  He translated and subsequently lost 116 pages.  Moroni rebuked him and Smith did not resume his translation until 1829.  He completed the dictation of his translations in just three months and he return the gold plates to the angel.

So, how did Joseph Smith go about his translation?  In what language were the plates written?  Did he spend hours pouring over the gold plates taking notes?  Did he have a translation guide?  If so, where did he get it?  

Anyone who has taken a foreign language in school knows how difficult it is to effectively translate even one paragraph let alone an entire book.  It is not enough to simply replace the foreign words with English words.  Grammar and syntax vary from language to language.  Idioms and meaning vary not just between languages but also within a single language.  A "sweeper" is the same as a "vacuum" where I live but not elsewhere in the United States.  Not long ago, "to be gay" meant being happy.  I am not good with languages.  To effectively translate such an important text would be overwhelming.

So how did Joseph Smith do it?  Look at the picture at the top of the page.  This drawing from the LDS shows a man with his head buried in his hat.  The man depicted is Joseph Smith and he is shown "translating" the gold plates.   When I first heard that Smith buried his head in a hat on the YouTube video, I almost laughed.  I thought this was something fabricated to discredit Mormonism.  

So, I checked with the official Mormon version of the story.  The quote at the top of the page is from the LDS website and quotes Smith's wife describing the translation using a hat and seer stone.  (reference and additional information provided by LDS is at the bottom of the page)  This notion of being able to translate gold plates given by the angel without even looking at the plates is the most far fetched claim I ever heard.  Why did the angel give him the plates if they weren't needed for the so called translation?

How can an entire religion be based on what a man almost literally drew from his hat?  God inspired him?  Well, God has inspired me to write this.  

As far as the actual existence of the gold plates, no one else saw them.  All the witnesses "saw" them in their mind the same way Joseph Smith "saw" the translation.

An entire religion founded on a lie and a sham by a man with a criminal history of conning people.  

(28)“Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald 26 (Oct. 1, 1879), 289–90. Some outside reports describe the spectacles being placed in the hat during the translation process. A Palmyra newspaper published the earliest known account of the translation in August 1829: Jonathan Hadley, a Palmyra printer who may have spoken with Joseph Smith about translation, claimed that the plates were found with a “huge pair of Spectacles,” and that “by placing the Spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters.” (“Golden Bible,” Palmyra Freeman, Aug. 11, 1829, [2].) In the winter of 1831, a Shaker in Union Village, Ohio, spoke of “two transparent stones in the form of spectacles” through which the translator “looked on the engraving & afterwards put his face into a hat & the interpretation then flowed into his mind.” (Christian Goodwillie, “Shaker Richard McNemar: The Earliest Book of Mormon Reviewer,” Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 2 [Spring 2011]: 143.)

Mormon Fraud: A Brief Summary of Mormonism and its Deceptions - Kindle edition by Kristan Payne. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @