Note:
I can't remember how Ted and Eddy Shell got together, but Eddy sent the Grant Palmer book to Ted and afeter several months, this testimony emerged.—Jim Spencer


Randy,

 

As Lynn has mentioned, I have always had serious concerns and have always felt uncomfortable with the endowment session.  In addition, I have never bought into the multiple god philosophy of the church.  At any rate we have been doing some research into the church’s history.  We have avoided non member anti-Mormon  rhetoric.

 

We recently read a book called, “An Insider’s view of Mormon Origins”.  As I mentioned in an Email, the author Grant H. Palmer is a 4th generation member of the church in good standing.  The book is written for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation’s members and his intent is to “increase faith, not to diminish it”.  Unfortunately, it does raise some serious questions about several key church foundational areas.  The areas are:  The First Vision, Authorship of the Book of Mormon, and Priesthood Restoration.  I will try to be brief and concise.  His points are backed up by official church records, The Book of Commandments, documented early church member diaries, Joseph Smith diary and hand written journals etc.  One thing about our church is that it documents very well starting with Oliver Cowdery, who was the first scribe for Joseph Smith and any valid historian can review church history in Salt Lake City.  The church isn’t hiding this history, but does avoid bringing out inconsistencies.

 

The First Vision:

The earliest allusion, oral or written to the first vision is the brief mention that was transcribed in June 1830 and originally printed in the Book of Commandments (24:6/D&C 20:5) The passage states that Joseph “had received a remission of his sins.”

 

The 1832 account in Joseph’s own hand states, “while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year of my age a pillar of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day came down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee.”

 

So in 1830, 1832 and again in 1835 accounts of the 1st Vision  there is no mention of the appearance of God the Father and his divine commission to open  the last dispensation, or his appointment as the prophet of the Restoration.  Palmer states, “These omissions are peculiar.  In 1832 Joseph is privately chronicling his experiences in his own journal.  After twelve years of reflection, to then omit the role his 1820 vision played in the Restoration—to see it as a personal conversion rather than as the beginning of a new dispensation—suggests that when he rewrote his history in 1838, he reinterpreted his experience to satisfy institutional needs.”  If you reflect on the status of the church in 1838 it was a difficult time with many leaving the church? 

 

I find it hard to believe that it took Joseph 18 years to remember that it was God the Father and his son Jesus Christ who appeared before him and told Joseph to open the last dispensation.

 

 

 

The Book of Mormon:

 

There is a lot of documented evidence in Palmer’s book that basically says that the Book of Mormon was written by Joseph Smith and not translated from the plates.  I’m just going to highlight a few of his points:

 

None of the 11 witnesses to the plates ever physically saw or touched the plates, documented and recorded in Church files and in recorded interviews by the witnesses themselves.  They said they saw the plates in a vision only.

 

50 percent of Nephi 1, 2, &3 are direct quotes from the New Testament.

 

The remaining Books are a reflection of Evangelical Protestantism of that time.

 

There is no archeological evidence in the Americas to support the Book of Mormon unlike much archeological evidence supporting the Bible.  Several church archeologists have tried unsuccessfully for many years to find evidence to support the Book’s claims.

 

 

There is DNA evidence supporting the fact that the early inhabitants of the Americas came from Mongolia in Asia and no DNA evidence that they came from the Middle East.

 

Priesthood Restoration: 

 

In none of the early documentation regarding the priesthood restoration does it state that

Joseph and Oliver received priesthood authority by angelic ordination:

 

Book of Commandments Chapter 24 dated June 1830 outlines Joseph’s authority but makes no mention of receiving angelic ordination.

 

Book of Commandments 1833 edition mentions that according to revelation received in June 1829 Oliver Cowdery was “baptized (one month earlier on 15 May) by the hand of my servant (Joseph Smith) according to that which I have commanded him.” Lucy Smith said, “One morning however they sat down to their usual work (Joseph and Oliver were translating in Third Nephi in the Book of Mormon) when the first thing that presented itself to Joseph was a commandment from God that he and Oliver should repair to the water & each of them be baptized. They immediately went down to the Susquehanna River and obeyed the mandate given them through the Urim and Thummim.” (Lucy Smith’s Preliminary Manuscript, 1844-45 original in the church archives)

 

1885 – David Whitmer interview by Zenas H. Gurley Jr., 14 Jan 1885.  “My information from Joseph and Oliver upon this matter being as I have stated, and that they were commanded so to do by revealment through Joseph.  I do not believe that John the Baptist ever ordained Joseph and Oliver as stated and believed by some. I regard that as an error, a misconception.”

 

Palmer states, “It is also interesting to note that recitals in the Bible and in Joseph’s revelations, including those in the Book of Commandments, are consistent.  God calls a man by voice or by spirit to open a gospel dispensation or to commence a mission of preaching repentance.  This call authorizes the individual to baptize and ordain others.  In none of these scriptural writings do we find other-worldly beings laying hands upon mortals to bestow priesthood authority.”

 

Palmer also quotes other early church leaders such as David Whitmer and William E. McLellin who testify that they were never aware of Joseph being ordained by an angel.

 

It wasn’t until  February 1834 that Joseph first mentions in public that his priesthood office had been conferred by the ministering of the Angel of God.  Coincidently, it was in 1834 and 1835 that Joseph and Oliver were facing a credibility crisis that threatened the church’s survival.  Why did it take 4 years for Joseph to say that he had received his priesthood authority from an angel…..And then in February 1835 the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was organized and the detail regarding Peter, James, and John was added to the revelation.  This new link of succession undoubtedly bolstered President Smith’s and Assistant President Cowdery’s authority in the eyes of the new Quorum of the Twelve and the church.

 

Potential Conclusion:

My feelings:

  1. Joseph Smith may be a false prophet. 
  2. Joseph Smith was not called by God to begin the last dispensation.  He may have only been given a remission of his sins in his first vision. 
  3. The Book of Mormon is not another testament of Jesus Christ but merely a wonderful spiritual book written by Joseph Smith.  It is probably fictitious since there is no DNA evidence or archeological evidence to support the book.
  4. The origin of our priesthood authority was probably misstated by Joseph Smith and our priesthood authority may not be any different than any other Christian religion’s priesthood authority.

Grant H. Palmer’s Conclusions:

1.                     There is no evidence that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from plates

2.                     The first vision, the angel Moroni, and priesthood restoration appear to have developed from relatively simple experiences into more impressive spiritual manifestations, from metaphysical to physical events.  Joseph Smith added new elements to his later narratives that are not hinted at in his earlier ones.

3.                     The foundation events were rewritten by Joseph and Oliver and early church officials so the church could survive and grow.

4.                     I cherish Joseph Smith’s teachings on many topics, such as the plan of salvation and his view that the marriage covenant extends beyond death. But when it comes to the founding events, I wonder if they are trustworthy as history.

5.                     The issue of Joseph’s credibility in differentiating between history and allegory initially filled me with a sense of loss.  But I realize that the focus of my worship, as a Mormon, is Jesus Christ.

6.                     As Latter-day Saints, our religious faith should be based and evaluated by how our spiritual and moral lives are centered in Jesus Christ, rather than in Joseph Smith’s largely rewritten, materialistic, idealized, and controversial accounts of the church’s founding.  I hope that this study contributes in some way toward that end.

 

I agree with Palmer about Christ being the center of our lives and that it would be wonderful if marriage extends beyond death but we don’t know if we are strong enough, spiritually to overcome Joseph’s misconceptions and still remain members of the church.  I do understand Palmer’s remaining in the church because he is a fourth generation member and his children and grandchildren are also active members.  He is also hoping the church will recognize its true history and emphasize Jesus Christ at the center of the church and deemphasize Joseph Smith.  Lynn and I love our savior and will worship our Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ until we die.  We are very grateful to you and the church in bringing us so much closer to our savior.  He is now central to our lives.  But some of our concerns about some of the doctrine that we have now learned about may very well preclude us from remaining members. 

Ted Meserole