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Joseph Smith: Truth-teller, Or Deceiver?


Uncle Dale

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(Mainly for you contra-LDS among our ranks) --

There has been much talk in recent years, regarding the notion that JS might have been a

"pious fraud," -- that is, he made up his stories of Nephites in order to bring unbelievers to

a faith in Jesus Christ which they otherwise might never have experienced.

No need to re-hash all of that, pro or con....

My question is a simple one: Can any reasonable scenerio be presented, in which JS was

himself deceived into believing that Nephites were a reality of the American past?

Did JS invent Mormonism (and some of his extraordinary claims of the 1820s and 1830s)

because he had himself been deceived by somebody who told a false Nephite history?

If so, explain to me how on earth such a thing could have happened.

????

Uncle "no, I'm not slyly promoting some new Vogel book here" Dale

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(Mainly for you contra-LDS among our ranks) --

There has been much talk in recent years, regarding the notion that JS might have been a

"pious fraud," -- that is, he made up his stories of Nephites in order to bring unbelievers to

a faith in Jesus Christ which they otherwise might never have experienced.

No need to re-hash all of that, pro or con....

My question is a simple one: Can any reasonable scenerio be presented, in which JS was

himself deceived into believing that Nephites were a reality of the American past?

Did JS invent Mormonism (and some of his extraordinary claims of the 1820s and 1830s)

because he had himself been deceived by somebody who told a false Nephite history?

If so, explain to me how on earth such a thing could have happened.

????

Uncle "no, I'm not slyly promoting some new Vogel book here" Dale

DCP has an interesting review of American Apocrypha mapping very briefly the anti-Joseph rhetoric over time. It's interesting that he has gone from complete knave and fool to rip-off artist to genius to psychotic, etc.

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DCP has an interesting review of American Apocrypha mapping very briefly the anti-Joseph

rhetoric over time. It's interesting that he has gone from complete knave and fool to rip-off

artist to genius to psychotic, etc.

I credit that to Fawn Brodie -- almost singlehandly she eliminated the "conspiracy theory" of

Mormon origins from the worlds' reference books. Look at articles published on "Mormonism"

in the encyclopedias of 1930 and then compare the same in the enclyclopedias of 1960.

Drop in on any gathering of the Mormon History Association during the last decade or so, and

you would find among the attendees people of all sorts of religious persuasions --- but, no matter

the personal views of any individual there, the great majority would profess that Joseph Smith

brought forth and established the "latter day work" without any conspiracy with other early members,

and that the results are largely good or benign, (be he a prophet, or merely a religious genius).

But that is not my question.

Leaving aside the inevitable cat-calls of "magician" and "tool of Lucifer," is there any possible

explanation of how Nephites might be fictional, and yet the intents and outcomes of the religious

ministry of Joseph Smith, Jr. be sincere and righteous?

UD

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Can any reasonable scenerio be presented, in which JS was

himself deceived into believing that Nephites were a reality of the American past?

Sure. Why not. I can present one. And bear in mind, I don't believe it. Just putting it forward. I happen to believe the impious fraud theory.

Young, confused, and spiritually longing for something to believe in, Joseph finds himself in the sacred grove. He kneels to pray. A manifestation appears. He is told things which ease his heart, give him courage and purpose. He believes them utterly, and all that follows, to his dying day. He fashions a church around precepts and commandments. He dies in the end for it all. The trouble is, it did not come from God, but from Satan.

Hardly original, but it does fit your criteria.

Edit: Whoops. Didn't see you exempt Lucifer as part of that. Oh well. How about JS was suffering from mild but self-aggrandizing schizophrenia with visions of Heavenly messengers...?

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...

Hardly original, but it does fit your criteria....

More or less the Dan Vogel idea -- with a few embellishments.

But it does not account for the detailed Nephite stories, prophecies, preaching etc.

Either JS believed all of that to be true or he did not.

The one "long-shot" I can slightly envision is that of LDS dispensationalism --- in which the

gospel is presented six different times to the earth before a final success in the latter days.

Carrying dispensationalism to its logical extremes, an imaginative person back in 1826 might

have supposed certain things about the ancient Americans -- then studied out those suppositions

in his heart, and sought supernatural confirmation via a divining rod or seer stone....

But that is getting into some pretty wild speculation, I suppose.

UD

.

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an imaginative person back in 1826 might

have supposed certain things about the ancient Americans -- then studied out those suppositions

in his heart, and sought supernatural confirmation via a divining rod or seer stone....

Which is exactly the way the process was described in the D&C when Joseph--er, God--tells Oliver Cowdery how to "translate." Study it out, pray, and if it feels right, it's true. If Joseph believed this was a reliable method of receiving revelation (which I think he did), it's entirely possible that he believed his own tall tales about Nephites and Lamanites. The only conscious deception was in the props he used to impart credibility to his stories.

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Of course, if you accept the "Joseph made it all up and convinced himself to believe it" argument than it should not be confirmed with textual analysis, geography, cultural artifacts, nothing. Because it is fiction.

Sort of like saying Frank Baum made up Oz, and then believed its existence himself. Only then evidence of Oz starts to show up.

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Did JS invent Mormonism (and some of his extraordinary claims of the 1820s and 1830s)

because he had himself been deceived by somebody who told a false Nephite history?

If Joseph Smith "invented Mormonism" or "made it all up", as many claim, how does one "invent" the supernatural feelings associated with Moroni's promise, and witnessed by millions of people, myself incluided?

How exactly do you "invent" that?

Personally, I believe angelic beings did appear to Joesph Smith; I believe he was given the writings through channelling. He received them the same way Mohammad received the Qu'ran. Many, many have done this same thing. If you don't believe me, take a trip to Barnes & Nobles; it shouldn't take you very long to find someone who "was given" a book of "writings" from "God", "Jesus", and the "Spirit". I've got a bookshelf FULL of them.

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If Joseph Smith "invented Mormonism" or "made it all up", as many claim, how does one "invent" the supernatural feelings associated with Moroni's promise, and witnessed by millions of people, myself incluided?

How exactly do you "invent" that?

Exactly my point!

During 1979-81, when I lived in Ohio, I picked up some extra cash by teaching ESL

to visiting students from the United Arab Emirates. They were generally very mellow

folks, but they often chided me for my not accepting the Koran and their prophet. In ways

not unlike Mormons, they bore their testimonies of "knowing for certain" that Islam was

true, etc.

When I repeatedly said I could not accept Mohammed and submit to his revelations,

my Arab students concluded that I was "prejudiced" and was not exercising "fidelity"

in God. (By that, I think they meant "proper faith.")

They thought I was quite a wicked or stupid person, for not taking into the consideration

the religious experience of millions of Muslims world-wide. In fact, they made reference

to their vast numbers, and to the small number of Jews, to "prove" God hates Jews and

loves the followers of Mohammed.

But, none of that answers my original question --- and here are the four possibilities:

1. The Koran is true and Mohammed believed it

2. The Koran is false and Mohammed believed it

3. The Koran is false and and Mohammed did NOT believe it

4. The Koran is true and and Mohammed did NOT believe it

Substitute "Nephites" in place of "Koran" and add in JS's name, and the same

set of possibilities apply to our current discussion.

I think that option #4 is an absurd one, so we can eliminate it from the list.

Which leaves three rational possibilities. #s 1 and 3 need no great explanations.

But #2 (for either JS or Mohammed, and for either Nephites or the Koran) remains

the possibility MOST DIFFICULT to explain.

Perhaps, then, we should also elminate item #2 from the list.

That is what this thread is all about, in fact.

Uncle Dale

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Which leaves three rational possibilities. #s 1 and 3 need no great explanations.

But #2 (for either JS or Mohammed, and for either Nephites or the Koran) remains

the possibility MOST DIFFICULT to explain.

Perhaps, then, we should also elminate item #2 from the list.

That is what this thread is all about, in fact.

Uncle Dale

Well, I just think people refuse to acknowledge the extent to which certain personalities can confuse fantasy with reality. If the things I imagine strike me as numinous and as coming from outside myself then I wouldn't call them imaginations. I might call them revelations. But they may well be imaginations of an unusual brain.

I wonder what Julian Jaynes might have thought the possibilities were.

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hmm...as far as I have read in the BOM, nothing has been too impressive. I remember seeing something about Lamanites drinking blood, but otherwise it has just been 'evil in the eyes of God' or something like that, at least concerning God's call to his people (and some references directed at the Israelites from Jerusalem...who...are across the ocean). very few cultural details. 2 Nephi was like an Arizona Indian reservation pirated movie of Isaiah. I didn't see much in the character of God, and even if I am biased, it felt fake placed up against the Bible. that's just me, though. But I'm not done yet with the BOM

my first thought is Jim Jones. but once I get done with the BOM, D&C, and POGP, history is next! *twirls flag* then I can speak on terra firma

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Exactly my point!

During 1979-81, when I lived in Ohio, I picked up some extra cash by teaching ESL

to visiting students from the United Arab Emirates. They were generally very mellow

folks, but they often chided me for my not accepting the Koran and their prophet. In ways

not unlike Mormons, they bore their testimonies of "knowing for certain" that Islam was

true, etc.

When I repeatedly said I could not accept Mohammed and submit to his revelations,

my Arab students concluded that I was "prejudiced" and was not exercising "fidelity"

in God. (By that, I think they meant "proper faith.")

They thought I was quite a wicked or stupid person, for not taking into the consideration

the religious experience of millions of Muslims world-wide. In fact, they made reference

to their vast numbers, and to the small number of Jews, to "prove" God hates Jews and

loves the followers of Mohammed.

But, none of that answers my original question --- and here are the four possibilities:

1. The Koran is true and Mohammed believed it

2. The Koran is false and Mohammed believed it

3. The Koran is false and and Mohammed did NOT believe it

4. The Koran is true and and Mohammed did NOT believe it

Substitute "Nephites" in place of "Koran" and add in JS's name, and the same

set of possibilities apply to our current discussion.

I think that option #4 is an absurd one, so we can eliminate it from the list.

Which leaves three rational possibilities. #s 1 and 3 need no great explanations.

But #2 (for either JS or Mohammed, and for either Nephites or the Koran) remains

the possibility MOST DIFFICULT to explain.

Perhaps, then, we should also elminate item #2 from the list.

That is what this thread is all about, in fact.

Uncle Dale

I've never heard a Muslim say they knew the Koran was true because God revealed it to them. Not once. Granted I've only spoken to a handful, maybe DCP can enlighten us on the faith of the Muslims, whether it compares to the spiritual promise offered by Moroni and James and Joseph Smith.

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I've never heard a Muslim say they knew the Koran was true because God revealed it to them. Not once. Granted I've only spoken to a handful, maybe DCP can enlighten us on the faith of the Muslims, whether it compares to the spiritual promise offered by Moroni and James and Joseph Smith.

In fact, they presented their argument to me the other way around.

To wit: That only by submitting to God can you know the true religion, and

that Mohammed is God's prophet.

They did not mention the Koran, as the means to know God -- but rather,

that by submission to God, the believer will be strengthened in truth and

the truth of the "recitations" (as they called them) would become self-evident.

Why then should I submit? --- Because hundreds of millions of Muslims before

me that done just that, and practically none of them subsequently lapsed into

infidelity or hypocrisy. (They thought, however, that most of the house of Saud

were hypocrites, and that the "Persians" were knowing blasphemers).

Not exactly a Mormon testimony -- but perhaps THAT accords with what

you have learned from your own experiences.

Not one of them, that I ever encountered, thought any part of the Koran to

be untrue (or mistaken) and not one of them ever admitted that Mohammed,

after being "called," ever did any wrong in his religion.

Uncle Dale

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But, none of that answers my original question --- and here are the four possibilities:

1. The Koran is true and Mohammed believed it

2. The Koran is false and Mohammed believed it

3. The Koran is false and and Mohammed did NOT believe it

4. The Koran is true and and Mohammed did NOT believe it

Uncle Dale

Hey Uncle Dale, this is a fun analogy. Let me add another variation:

1. The LOTR is true and JRR Tolkien believed it

2. The LOTR is false and JRR Tolkien believed it

3. The LOTR is false and and JRR Tolkien did NOT believe it

4. The LOTR is true and and JRR Tolkien did NOT believe it

I would argue that it really doesn't matter how Tolkien regarded the LOTR. It is by itself an important work and reading it has enriched many of our lives. For those not confined to the literal mode in appreciating the BoM, but are still members, can you see the importance of this message?

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Hey Uncle Dale, this is a fun analogy....

Stepping one rung higher on the metaphysical ladder, we could add a second

qualifier to the list (which would have the effect of doubling the possibilities).

For example:

1. Nephites are false, and JS believed in them, and this accorded with God's plans.

2. Nephites are false, and JS believed in them, and this did NOT accord with God's plans.

etc. etc.

Which might result in the possible conclusion, that even though there were never any

Nephites, that the eventual outcomes of Joseph Smith's ministry still fit in somehow

with Heavenly Father's plan of salvation.

Or, put another way --- even if Smith did not believe in his own religion, it is still

"true" in some unexpected, cosmic sense of the term.

1. Oahspe is true, and its writer(s) believed it, and it is good.

2. Oahspe is true, and its writer(s) believed it, and it is NOT good.

3. Oahspe is false, and its writer(s) believed it, and it is good.

4. Oahspe is false, and its writer(s) believed it, and it is NOT good.

5. Oahspe is true, and its writer(s) did NOT believe it, and it is good.

6. Oahspe is true, and its writer(s) did NOT believe, and it is NOT good.

7. Oahspe is false, and its writer(s) did NOT believe, and it is good.

8. Oahspe is false, and its writer(s) did NOT believe, and it is NOT good.

Consider item #7, and ponder the ramifications.

UD

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I tend to think that a perennial approach to these questions is much less grating on the mind. I mean, it's pretty clear to me that the Book of Mormon is "good" to the person for whom it is a daily source of enrichment, but perhaps "not-so-good" for the individual who reads it and decides to start a cult (you know who you are...). To some extent, I would even apply this thinking to the question of the "truth" of the book, but that complicates things a bit, and gets a little difficult to put into words.

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One possibility I thought of was for Satan having physical plates created at some point. It might not be impossible for Satan to miracelously make gold plates if he wanted. He could have earthly person's make, and hide up fake gold plates for his future act of fraud. That he knew persons would respect the Christ centered teachings it contained, so would end up getting decieved. The Evangelical view is the Book of Mormon is wrong because it contradicts Bible authority as the final authority in faith or practice.

If the Book of Mormon is not historically factual the Bible would be the only word of God.

My second theory might account for how the book has Book of Mormon antiquity evidences that support it. But also explain why the book is not proven to be historically factual. The blame it on Satan theory works better for me than charging Joseph Smith with a mental disorder. Joseph Smith's associates had spiritual experiences they felt backed up his claim's to having plates. If they were sincere, but decieved, so could Joseph Smith.

If Joseph Smith was guilty of an act of fraud in creating plates then he knew his experiences with God, angels were lies. The only situation I see he could dupe himself is if he had an odd short-lived form of a multiple personality disorder. That one of his personalities created plates, and he had no knowledge of creating plates in that state. That his need to experience God, angels was so great it manifested itself in revelations of God, and encounters with Jesus, angels.

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One possibility ... if he had an odd short-lived form of a multiple personality disorder....

A split personality, eh?

makingprophet.jpg

Uncle "his name should be had for good and evil among all nations...." Dale

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A split personality, eh?

makingprophet.jpg

Uncle "his name should be had for good and evil among all nations...." Dale

I am convinced he had plates. Either I am decieved into thinking he had plates, or they must be accounted for in some way. I am not sure Joseph Smith had metal working skills enough to make plates. And Joseph Smith coming up with tin plates, painting them gold would be quite a feat. Then to get person's to hallucinate a visit with an imaginary angel would be tough.

I am bothered by the split personality idea though the brain and mental illness is mighty strange. I don't see any proof Joseph Smith was mentally ill. And that wouldn't account for spiritual experiences witnessed to by multiple person's.

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After I saw "A Beautiful Mind", I became convinced that it IS possible for a brilliant schizophrenic to completely believe their delusions and convince others of them because they are absolutely real to them. Like earlier posters mentioned though, this does not explain the spiritual witness of people over a century later.

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After I saw "A Beautiful Mind", I became convinced that it IS possible for a brilliant schizophrenic to completely believe their delusions and convince others of them because they are absolutely real to them. Like earlier posters mentioned though, this does not explain the spiritual witness of people over a century later.

Well, sister, that was more or less the reason why I added the second qualifier to my list

of logical possibilities. Coming out of an RLDS background, I just naturally gravitate in the

direction of the "no Nephites" but "the church is true" conclusion.

We are told that "by their fruits" we are to recognize the people who are best in accord

with the will of the Lord. So, if we recognize such "fruits" (including spiritual witness) and

then begin to trace backwards, seeking the original source of those fruits, where do we

end up? For many Reorganized Saints, we end up with a "restoration" in which the Nephites

are fictional, but the gospel is real.

'Tis a hard thing for the logical (dare I say literalistic?) mind to concede -- but Bro. Joseph

may have been wrong about a thing or two, and still ended up furthering the divine plan of

salvation (almost in spite of his shortcomings).

Then again, my list provides other possibilities --- such as: There really were Nephites, but

Smith never actually believed in them, (and thus in secret was running counter to God's will).

I present the list as a way by which we can begin to sort our experiences and conclusions

into a logical set of categories, no matter our professions as Latter Day Saints or otherwise.

But nobody has well answered my question so far --- was Brother Joseph himself deceived?

And, if so, by whom (other than by Lucifer or by some "evil twin" split personality)?

Your Uncle Dale

.

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Well, sister, that was more or less the reason why I added the second qualifier to my list

of logical possibilities. Coming out of an RLDS background, I just naturally gravitate in the

direction of the "no Nephites" but "the church is true" conclusion.

We are told that "by their fruits" we are to recognize the people who are best in accord

with the will of the Lord. So, if we recognize such "fruits" (including spiritual witness) and

then begin to trace backwards, seeking the original source of those fruits, where do we

end up? For many Reorganized Saints, we end up with a "restoration" in which the Nephites

are fictional, but the gospel is real.

'Tis a hard thing for the logical (dare I say literalistic?) mind to concede -- but Bro. Joseph

may have been wrong about a thing or two, and still ended up furthering the divine plan of

salvation (almost in spite of his shortcomings).

Then again, my list provides other possibilities --- such as: There really were Nephites, but

Smith never actually believed in them, (and thus in secret was running counter to God's will).

I present the list as a way by which we can begin to sort our experiences and conclusions

into a logical set of categories, no matter our professions as Latter Day Saints or otherwise.

But nobody has well answered my question so far --- was Brother Joseph himself deceived?

And, if so, by whom (other than by Lucifer or by some "evil twin" split personality)?

Your Uncle Dale

.

No, Joseph wasn't deceived. But I'd be interested to hear a different perspective, Uncle, it is an interesting thing that none had advanced to champion the idea thus far.

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Uncle, it is an interesting thing that none had advanced to champion the idea thus far.

The closest anybody has come to doing that, so far, is to put forth notions regarding

the influence of supposed supernatural evil forces upon Smith, or his having a split

personality, or his having a diseased mind.

But I find all of those notions unconvincing.

If Smith falsely believed in Nephites at the beginning of his religious ministry,

then surely his error would have seen some form of correction in later years.

In other words, he could not have gone on to do all the things he did, while

still laboring under a false belief in the BoM stories (IMHO).

The explanation must lie elsewhere -- perhaps in the traditional telling of the story,

or perhaps in some way we have not yet considered here.

As many probably already know, I've spent several years looking into the Spalding-Rigdon

authorship claims for the BoM. In order for that theory to hold together, it must provide

some explanation of how Rigdon met Smith and began a secretive cooperation with him --

and, such a theory must provide some logical explanation of how/why Joseph Smith might

have consented to bring forth and publish a false "Nephite record," not of his own creation.

The Spalding-Rigdon advocates have so far failed to provide any such believable

explanations --- but if they could, then one element of the story might possibly have

Smith being duped into believing that Rigdon had possession of a true history of the

ancient Americans.

Can anybody articulate such an historical re-creation?

Or is it just too improbable for our further consideration?

Uncle Dale

.

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After I saw "A Beautiful Mind", I became convinced that it IS possible for a brilliant schizophrenic to completely believe their delusions and convince others of them because they are absolutely real to them. Like earlier posters mentioned though, this does not explain the spiritual witness of people over a century later.

Some persons shared Joseph Smith's hallucinations if that's what they were? The three witnesses seeing an angel with plates is pretty amazing. So I lean towards the Satan was involved theory over a pure menal illness theory. Though Satan could make a crazy man a prophet which has happened.

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Ever read Philip K. ****? That guy's reality was stranger than his "fiction," and most of his novels were based on his experiences with different states of consciousness.

Jung is also said to have made many of his breakthroughs in analytical psychology via a document that he wrote through automatic writing during which he had strange spiritual encounters.

The more I've come to understand about spirituality and how the mind works, the less linearly I tend to think about it. Our Western culture tends to limit things to Manichean levels: "either" someone's insane, "or" a con-artist; he's a prophet or a servant/dupe of the Devil. But noone has any agreed upon parameters for any of these things.

...and that was Philip K. D i c k, for the record. You know, ****, as in phallus.

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