Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The fiction narrative - Grapes of thorns

Fantasy map: the seed of fiction
Unless there is a change of course soon, within a few years it will become commonplace for faithful members of the Church to believe and teach that the Book of Mormon is fiction. Even today it's not unusual to meet active members who think this.

The seeds of the fiction narrative have already been planted in the minds of the youth.

It seems unlikely, to say the least, that the fiction narrative will produce the fruit of strong testimonies and conviction.

After all, do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

From the time a handful of scholars persuaded so many LDS to disbelieve the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, the fiction narrative became inevitable.

IOW, the M2C narrative leads directly to the fiction narrative. Looking for Book of Mormon events in Mesoamerica is like looking for Biblical sites in eastern China because there are ancient cities there. If one tried hard enough, one could find "correspondences" between those ancient cities and the descriptions in the Bible, applying the same circular reasoning that the M2C advocates apply to "see" the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica.

Some people find it impossible to believe that the fiction narrative would ever become mainstream in the Church.

But the seed of fiction cannot produce the fruit of divine authenticity.

Think about the fruit another seed has produced.

Twenty years ago, members of the Church would have said it was impossible that someday, LDS scholars would teach that Joseph Smith didn't really translate the Book of Mormon, that he didn't use the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates, and that he didn't even use the plates themselves.

After all, Joseph and Oliver consistently and persistently taught that Joseph translated the engravings on the plates with the Urim and Thummim. The revelations in the D&C teach the same thing. The prophets have reaffirmed their testimony innumerable times over the years.

And yet, here we are today.

The ideas that Joseph didn't use the plates, didn't use the Urim and Thummim, and didn't translate anything is completely mainstream.

Scene from Church film that teaches the
stone-in-a-hat theory of translation
This is a still image from a movie now being shown in visitors centers that depict Joseph Smith staring at a stone in a hat to dictate the text, while the plates remain under a cloth, a useless prop.

The script for this film was adapted from a passage in the 1834 book, Mormonism Unvailed.

Here is the passage.

now playing at a
Visitors Center
near you
The translation finally commenced. They were found to contain a language not now known upon the earth, which they termed "reformed Egyptian characters." The plates, therefore, which had been so much talked of, were found to be of no manner of use. After all, the Lord showed and communicated to him [Joseph] every word and letter of the Book. Instead of looking at the characters inscribed upon the plates, the prophet was obliged to resort to the old ''peep stone," which he formerly used in money-digging. This he placed in a hat, or box, into which he also thrust his face. Through the stone he could then discover a single word at a time, which he repeated aloud to his amanuensis, who committed it to paper, when another word would immediately appear, and thus the performance continued to the end of the book. 

The screenwriters could have chosen instead to use the scriptures for a text, but the scholars and film producers claim the scriptures are, at best, misleading. They prefer Mormonism Unvailed over the scriptures.

Actually, they could have used another passage from Mormonism Unvailed:

Another account they give of the transaction, is, that it was performed with the big spectacles before mentioned, and which were in fact, the identical Urim and Thumim mentioned in Exodus 28 — 30...

Of course, the second version is the one Joseph and Oliver testified was true. Right in the Pearl of Great Price, where everyone can read it, we have their testimony:

Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger. ...  immediately after my arrival [in Pennsylvania] I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them... Two days after the arrival of Mr. Cowdery (being the 7th of April) I commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, and he began to write for me.
(Joseph Smith—History 1:52, 62, 67)

Oliver Cowdery describes these events thus: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’
(Joseph Smith—History, Note, 1)

I realize that our revisionist historians claim that when Joseph and Oliver used the term Urim and Thummim they actually meant the peep stone; i.e., they claim Joseph and Oliver were misleading the Church by using a code word for the peep stone described in Mormonism Unvailed

That's how they rationalize using Mormonism Unvailed instead of the scriptures to explain Church history and the origins of the Book of Mormon.

You can read it right in the Saints book, volume 1.

Buried with the plates, Moroni said, were two seer stones, which Joseph later called the Urim and Thummim, or interpreters. The Lord had prepared these stones to help Joseph translate the record.... Sometimes Joseph translated by looking through the interpreters and reading in English the characters on the plates. Often he found a single seer stone to be more convenient. He would put the seer stone in his hat, place his face into the hat to block out the light, and peer at the stone. Light from the stone would shine in the darkness, revealing words that Joseph dictated as Oliver rapidly copied them down.

Saints, Volume 1, pp. 22, 61, available here:

Saints teaches revisionist history that directly contradicts the scriptures quoted above and everything that Joseph and Oliver said about the translation. For example, here's what Joseph actually said about the Urim and Thummim:

He said unto me I am a Messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things. He told me also of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold. I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited. He said to me the Indians were the literal decendants of Abraham. He explained many of the prophecies to me; one of which I will mention, which is in Malachi 4th chapter. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh <​(&c​> He also informed me that the Urim & Thummim was hid up with the record, and that God would give me power to translate it with the assistance of this instrument;


It's undoubtedly true that several people testified they saw Joseph put a stone in a hat and dictate words. What they never testify to, however, is that Joseph said he was translating the Book of Mormon. They never relate what words he dictated. All the evidence indicates Joseph was demonstrating the process, not translating the Book of Mormon in front of an audience.

After all, Moroni (and the Lord) had told Joseph he could not show the plates or Urim and Thummim to anyone until the translation was complete. He couldn't possibly have translated the plates in public view without violating that prohibition.

With the peep stone in the hat narrative as precedent, do you still think it's impossible that the seed of the fiction narrative will bear fruit?

I posted some comments about the faith crisis here:



  1. It's not just Mormonism Unvailed that teaches the translation was done in part by a seer stone in a hat-the gospel topic essays do as well. Should we ignore the First Presidency sanctioned essays on the subject?
    Also, the reason that many members of the church now believe the Book of Mormon to be a fictionally inspired narrative is the lack of historical, linguistic, genetic, and archaeological evidence supporting the historical narrative.
    The Bible for example has loads of evidence of its historicity from coins found engraved with the name Pilot, to the Mesha stone and Sennacherib's prism to the identification of Biblical cities, languages, peoples, etc.

  2. I assume you're referring to the anonymous Gospel Topics Essays, which do discuss the stone-in-a-hat scenario. These essays do not represent Church doctrine. They are merely resources for further study. They have been edited in the past without notice and are always subject to future editing and correction. Hopefully some day they will be improved even more.
    I don't disagree with you about why many members think the Book of Mormon is fiction because they've all been taught M2C. However, there is abundant evidence of the Book of Mormon in North America, right where Joseph Smith identified it (e.g., Zelph, the plains of the Nephites in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, the New York Cumorah).