First and foremost, I do not consider myself an apostate from Christ. I feel that I have been enlightened and can finally come to peace with myself.
Now you may ask “how can you possibly throw off the light of the Church?” I do not believe the church has any light, but it is Christ Jesus, that has light and shares it with the world. Neither Joseph Smith, the current prophet of the Mormon church, local ecclesiastical leaders or anyone else has anything to do with my salvation. Only the Christ has that place in my life. Scripture is replete in the New Testament in regards to this.
I was asked what lead me to lose my testimony. Well, I did not lose my testimony. It has changed. I am a more spiritual person today than I was a year or even six months ago. I read the Bible and other early Christian writings nearly every day. At home we are reading the Book of Mormon each day in spite of the fact that I do not believe it is anything more than pseudo-inspired fiction. We pray at home. We hold family home evening and attend church meetings. In spite of this the spirit has confirmed to me that there are and have been problems with the Mormon church.
My Problems with the Mormon church include but are not limited to:
1. Joseph Smith
2. The 6th Article of Faith
3. Lies and Deception in the Church
4. The cult-like mentality of the church
The most damning evidence against the church originates with Joseph Smith. First and foremost Joseph Smith was a con-man. March 20, 1876 Joseph Smith was fined by Judge Neeley for being a glass looker, a misdemeanor for fraud. He was found guilty as a mittimus was deposited at the Sheriff’s office to escort him out of the county. Lies and Fraud were part of his life. It is well known fact that Joseph Smith was a polygamist. Joseph Smith in the Times and Seasons in 1842 stated that he did not practice polygamy. However at this time (1842), Joseph was married polygamously to at least 7 women. All without the knowledge of his wife Emma. These women included Fanny Alger, Lucinda Harris, Louisa Beaman, Zina Jacobs, Prescinda Buell, and Sylvia Sessions. Joseph Smith also practiced Polyandry. He married nine women who were still married to living husbands. This is adultery. His wives included girls as young as 14 years old and even included one mother and her daughter. This is abhorrent.
If lying and adultery are not enough to show that Joseph was a false prophet, we may turn to the subject of false prophecy. The Lord in the Old Testament was quite explicit in regards to false prophets. “And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deut 18:21-22). It was also stated in Deuteronomy that a false prophet was to be put to death. Perhaps that is why Smith was killed at Carthage?
At least a dozen of Joseph’s prophecies were false. They did not come to pass. To name just two I would cite D&C 114 where Patten was prophesied to go on a mission in the spring of 1839. He did not go. And, D&C 115 where it stated that a temple would be built in Far West. The Temple was never built. These are just two examples. More exist.
As a final statement about Joseph Smith I want to address the Book of Mormon and also the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith was said to have translated these items. Translation by definition means that one takes from one language and converts it into the equivalent meaning in another language. If we take the record of Joseph translating these ancient texts then the famous painting of him sitting at a table and reading from the plates and writing the translation down should be like it happened. However this is not the case.
We know through church records and writings in diaries that Joseph used a form of divination to “translate” the Book of Mormon. Joseph would put a peep stone in his hat and bury his face in it and would divine the translation. From Emma’s diary: "In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us." David Whitmer corroborated this practice in his diary: "I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. 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. “ Now this begs the question, that if God was giving Joseph this translation word for word, why have thousands of grammatical errors been corrected in the Book of Mormon? Is God not perfect? Can’t he write a book in perfect Jacobean or 1830's English?
Today the Mormon Church has copies of the scrolls that Joseph Smith had in his possession and which he translated as the Book of Abraham. The scrolls were presumed lost but in 1966 they were rediscovered. On the backs of the scrolls were drawn maps of the Kirtland area and drawings of the temple. The figures in the scrolls also matched those printed in the Book of Abraham. Experts on Egyptology concur that the Pearl of Great Price has nothing to do with what is written on the scrolls. And that the translations of the characters on the facsimiles made by Joseph Smith are not what the characters actually say. Some have argued that we do not have all the scrolls that may have been there originally. However, we have Joseph’s Smiths notes and between his notes and the existing scrolls it is easy to determine that the scrolls in question were the ones he was working from. Today we can actually determine Joseph Smith’s translation ability and it is found lacking. If Smith had said that when he saw the scrolls he was given a vision by God who gave him the lost texts that would be one thing. But he said he translated the scrolls (written in his diary and in church records) and as noted above his translation ability is lacking.
Returning to the Book of Mormon, Mormons believe that it is a record of the people who inhabited the American Continents prior to the arrival of Columbus. The book of Mormon talks of many things including the use of steel, horses, cattle, sheep, barley, linen and other things. Not just in isolated instances but that they were used throughout the peoples inhabiting the land. There is no, and I stress no archaeological evidence to show that this was the case. We also have no language groups that I am aware of that resembles in any way Hebrew or Egyptian in the indigenous American people. And now we have DNA evidence that refutes the claims that the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas were of Hebrew stock.
One further note about Joseph Smith is that his doctrine of the godhead changed over time. Twenty years after his supposed first vision (of which there are three conflicting versions), in the Lectures on Faith he stated the following about God the Father: “the Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fullness”. A personage of spirit, not a man. No body. This agrees with the definitions out of the Book of Mormon, which also agrees with the Bible. If Joseph had seen God the Father with a body wouldn’t he have taught this in the Lectures on Faith? Something just does not add up here.
Now I will move on to the 6th Article of Faith. This is the article dealing with church organization. First and foremost I must ask, in the Primitive church as laid down by the apostles and early bishops, where were the stake presidents, high councils, presiding bishopric and other positions that exist today in the Mormon church?
It is my belief that Joseph Smith modeled his church loosely after some titles taken from the New Testament but certainly gave them his own flair and did not use the organization that was laid out by the early church leaders. So, where did he obtain the ideas for at least some of the positions?
First we must look to Ephesians 4:11 in the New Testament: “And he gave some apostles and some prophets and some evangelists and some pastors and some teachers.” Here Paul is indicating some of the workers in the church that were appointed. Unfortunately he does not list each one's duty. This is from the King James version of the Bible. I believe that Joseph was a student of the Bible. Perhaps even a serious student. These positions were given for the work of the ministry. That is the spreading of the Word (λογοσ). The word apostle comes from the Greek word apostolous meaning a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders. As far as I can tell it does not intone the meaning of someone in charge. With the apostles we have evangelists (enaggelistas in Greek). The Greek term signifies a biblical and ecclesiastical word, a bringer of good tidings, an evangelist. This name is given to those heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles. Along with these two we have prophets, shepherds and teachers. However, it appears that these ministers of Christ's word were not in charge of the church. So, if a ministry is necessary (which it may still be) there will be these traveling teachers as noted in Ephesians but they do not run the church. Note also that prophets was in the plural. Not just singular. And prophets is noted after apostles and does not convey that the prophets were in charge of the church. Reading in the New Testament it is clear that there were the apostles and that there were also many prophets. Some even women.
But what of established home-churches/congregations or the early church itself? The two primary offices noted in the New Testament and other early Christian writings are those of the bishop and the deacon. First Timothy chapter 3 is quite explicit on some of the qualifications for a bishop and deacon. First and foremost the bishop must be the husband of one wife. How many early Mormon bishops had more than one wife? In chapter 3 verse 1 it also states that people should aspire to the office of a bishop. My feeling is that it is not just being called to the position but working towards the position. Clement Chapter XLII discusses the order of the ministers in the church and covers the offices of bishop and deacon. Clement was a first century Christian writer. During the first century the apostles were still alive and people like Clement learned from the apostles and those that the apostles first taught.
Deacons are workers in the church. The word deacon comes from the Greek diakonias which means service, ministering, especially those who execute the commands of others. In first Timothy 3:12 it states that deacons should be the husbands of one wife. If Joseph Smith new the New Testament inside and out he would not have missed this. Polycarp in his epistle to Philipi lays out the duties of deacons, youths and virgins. He treated them separately and at least as to deacons and youth we can say that they were not the same. It is also a possibility that there were female deacons. 1 Timothy 3:11, from the Greek original intimates this.
We also know that the church had elders (presbyters). Polycarp outlines their duties in his epistle to Philipi in chapter VI.
Now, on to lying. For an institution that says it is devoted to Christ, to lie or be deceptive is unconscionable. Let me quote from Mormon Scripture: 2 Nephi 9:34 “Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.” This is just one of many scriptures used by Mormons that condemns lying. I have already shown some of the lies of Joseph Smith. I believe the leaders of the Mormon Church today also take part in deceptive practices. I will start with the current president of the Mormon Church. In a public interview Sunday April 13, 1997 (San Francisco Chronicle) he was asked “There are some significant differences in your beliefs. For instance, don't Mormons believe that God was once a man?” His answer was “I wouldn't say that. There was a little couplet coined, "As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.'' Now that's more of a couplet than anything else.” This is an outright deception or President Hinckley does not know Mormon Doctrine. Either is bad for a real prophet.
Boyd K. Packer stated on 22 August 1981 “There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.” This is in disagreement with Mormon Scripture that states “whatever is truth is light (D&C 84:45)” This statement by Boyd K. Packer condones being deceptive in my eyes. In his message to the Church Educators in 1981 (The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect, BYU Studies, Vol 21, No 3, pp 259-271) Packer states that the church is biased in its representation of itself. That it is the sacred duty of church educators to present only a one-sided version of history. I would say this is lacking in honesty and integrity, and is a sin of omission. As an example, how would you feel about buying a car from a salesman who doctored the car to hide serious defects and then said not to have an outside mechanic check it out? Is a person or institution who never admits faults or defects and who sanitizes every word about the institution a credible person or institution? Are leaders worthy of trust if they hide the truth?
The church has been deceptive or outright lied about polygamy and racism. Elder A.B. Morrison stated in the Sep 2000 Ensign “How grateful I am that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has from its beginnings stood strongly against racism in any of its malignant manifestations.” However until 1978 the official policy of the Church was to forbid blacks the priesthood. Brigham Young went so far as to say “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” (Journal of Discourses10:110, March 8, 1863) Death to someone who marries a person of black descent? Is this not racism and at the very foundation of the church?
In more modern times Bruce R. McConkie stated “NEGROES ARE NOT EQUAL WITH OTHER RACES WHERE THE RECEIPT OF CERTAIN SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS ARE CONCERNED...”(Mormon Doctrine, 1958, p. 477) Other examples are available in regards to racist teachings in the church from its very foundation with Joseph Smith who condoned slavery. See History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Vol. 2, pages 436-438.
As a final example of church officials lying, in October 2003 General Conference, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, said "From 1820 on, Joseph Smith was steadily attacked in a pattern of accusations — followed by eventual vindications. The pattern continues." The greatest attack against Joseph Smith was that he practiced polygamy, as he and other church leaders decried its practice from the pulpit and in writing. Joseph was not vindicated in this but was found guilty. The accusations were true. Joseph Smith’s enemies were sometimes telling the truth. One crucial event that led up to the death of Smith was his illegally destroying the printing press of the Nauvoo Expositor newspaper. This newspaper published articles that accused Smith of being a polygamist.
The last thing I want to bring out in this letter is the cult-like mentality of the church. The US constitution and the Mormon Church’s articles of faith give men the liberty to practice religion as they deem fit. However, the church uses threats, withdrawal of pastoral rights and downright damnation for those that question anything about the church. In my study of cults I found this list of traits that help to identify a cult. I have included a few thoughts on the points as well:
1. "The group focuses on a living leader to whom its members appear to be extraordinarily committed."
The prophets are almost deified. They are said to be infallible. Only one was infallible that lived on earth and that is Jesus. Many even seem to put Joseph Smith higher or of more importance than Jesus. Then there is the adjuration to obey the prophet and church leaders above all else. This is what cults do.
2. "The group focuses heavily on recruiting new members."
Missionary program. And in this a full disclosure of what people will have to go through is not given. Only the milk is taught before getting people hook, line and sinker.
3. "The group focuses heavily on making money"
Tithe or you won’t make it to the celestial Kingdom. However you look at it this is paying for indulgences.
4. "Members who question, doubt, or dissent with the group's beliefs are discouraged or punished."
It is common knowledge that a number of Mormon writers have been excommunicated for their writings. Even when these writings were in obscure journals that the membership of the church does not read. Dr Murphy was recently threatened with excommunication over his paper on DNA and the Book of Mormon. It was only after bad press for the Mormon Church that the excommunication was dropped.
5. "The group uses techniques that numb the mind to suppress doubts about the group and its leaders. These include long work routines, denunciation sessions, meditating, chanting, or speaking in tongues."
Suppression of doubts and free thinking is readily apparent in the church. Frequent meetings for the lay clergy that keeps them from their families also helps to numb the members.
6. "The group's leaders tell members how they should act, think, and feel. For example, members must get their love life and jobs okayed. Leaders may tell them what kind of clothes to wear, where to live, how to raise their children, etc."
Need I say more about this?
7. "The group sees itself as especially and uniquely blessed; for example, the leader is believed to be a Messiah or avatar, or the leader and the group have special orders to save the world."
The Mormon church sets itself up as being better than everyone else. This is judgmental and non-Christian.
8. "The group has an us-versus-them outlook, which puts it in conflict with mainstream culture."
You know Mormon history and philosophy as well as I do. Tell me truthfully that this is not so.
9. "The group's leaders are accountable only to themselves and are not guided by or disciplined by any higher authorities as are, for example, military officers, and the ministers, priests, and rabbis of mainstream religions. The group believes its goals justify methods that members would have considered unethical before joining, such as raising money for fake charities."
The church does not report to the membership where the money is being spent. I do not know of any reputable business or charitable organization that takes part in a similar practice.
10. "The leaders manipulate the members into feeling guilty in order to maintain control."
No one is ever good enough in the church. I felt guilty all my life until I freed myself from the mind-control of the church.
11. "Because members become subservient to the group, they cut ties to friends, families and the personal goals and activities they had before joining."
I have been told by church leaders that it is better to divorce a spouse that becomes inactive than to stay together. Is this what local Mormon leaders are going to try and do with my family?
12. "The group expects its members to devote inordinate amounts of time to it."
Look at all the meetings, etc that are expected of members. What of the family?
13. "The group encourages or requires its members to live or socialize only with each other."
I’ve seen this plenty over the years. I’ve also seen Mormons get friendly with someone and then drop them like a hot potato when they would not join the church. I had a friend in college that one day asked me if I was still going to be their friend if they did not take the discussions and join. I was floored by this but in time came to understand why they said it.
The Mormon Church exhibits many if not all of these characteristics.
I could go on but I feel that this is enough to show that there are problems with the Mormon Church. I was asked what it would take for me to come back fully into the fold. I’ve thought about this and the following are just a few of my thoughts on the matter.
• The Church leadership would have to become more accountable to the church membership. Disclose all finances of the church. Be less authoritarian and encourage people to write about the history of the church even if it does not cast the church or its early leaders in a good light. Simply teach true principles and let people govern themselves.
• Admit the problems with the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price.
• Allow all family members to view and take part in weddings.
• Drop all doctrines and church practices that do not have evidence for them in the Bible.
• Drop the selling of indulgences, i.e. forcing the paying of tithing for blessings.
• Come face to face with old and current Mormon doctrine such as the Adam-God theory, God having an incestuous sexual relationship with Mary to produce Jesus, non-eternal nature of God and other non-Christian doctrines and drop them.
• Ecclesiastical Leaders that must counsel people will take training in conflict management and counseling. Not from LDS Social Services but from an accredited non-LDS institution.
The above would help me to re-consider my stance as currently, I feel that the Mormon Church is a Christian Church in name only and in no way has all the truth that there is. If you are interested in giving counter arguments, please do not waste your time. I have read the apologetic information as espoused by groups such as BYU FARMS and find it a logical nightmare filled with circular logic and no basis in scientific reasoning or truth. I grew up being indoctrinated in Mormon belief and so know it very well. You may bear your testimony that the church is true, but how can you prove it is true? What outside sources can the church use to prove its position while I am able to use sources within the church to show that there are problems? And when you say you know that it is true what do you mean by that? Do you mean you have perfect faith or has God or an Angel visited with you? Faith is a tenuous thing based on emotions and we all know where emotions can get us. Look at all the frauds perpetrated on Mormons in Utah.
As to what I want right now is to be left alone. I politely request no contact for myself at this point. I am in no way binding myself from talking to people about my concerns. With that, I am also not going out of my way to talk to people. They may believe as they wish. I also request that my church records not be moved from the Cherry Hill Ward.
And now I will bear my testimony to the truth and light as taught by Jesus and the apostles that he chose in Palestine when he walked the earth during his ministry. If we will simplify our lives and live by the precepts that he taught his followers and that were passed down through the new testament and early Christian writings we will be better people and will allow us to see and be with God one day. I also bear my testimony that Joseph Smith was a con-man, liar and adulterer, as well as a pedophile. He corrupted Christianity into his own warped form and added to its simplicity to the extent that it is no longer Christianity. I testify that today the Mormon Church is founded on lies and deception and it is only through turning back to Christ and throwing off the shackles of darkness that a person will be truly saved. In his Holy Name. Amen.
William E. Wilson