What follows is a summary of some of the major points. These are the result of a great deal of objective research into church history with the goal of finding the truth. Many critics of the church lie or distort the truth. We have found that the church, unfortunately, does the same. Additionally, the church hides basic facts about key events in church history because they are not “faith promoting.”
Carl Sagan: “But for me, it’s best to see the world the way it actually exists, rather than persist in delusion, no matter how comforting that might seem.”
The Book of Abraham
The Book of Abraham was canonized in 1880, about nine years after the papyri were thought to have been destroyed in a fire and with them any chance of confirming or refuting Joseph’s translation. When some of the same papyri were rediscovered in 1966, the church obtained them and admitted that they were ordinary Egyptian funerary texts, had nothing to do with the Book of Abraham text as we have it, and were even dated to almost 2,000 years after Abraham’s time despite Joseph Smith’s claim that they were written by Abraham’s own hand. Wikipedia page with sources
The First Vision
The First Vision supposedly took place in 1820, but there are no historical accounts in diaries, newspapers, or any other writings of the time regarding the vision until more than a decade later. Despite Joseph’s claims that there was a great fervor when he told people, there is absolutely no record of it. Joseph’s own mother wrote in her journal that the whole thing started with the visit of an angel in Joseph’s bedroom in 1823.
There were also multiple conflicting accounts of the First Vision. Some of them were written by Joseph himself. The version that the church now teaches to the complete exclusion of the others is certainly the most powerful, but it also differs significantly from accounts written by Joseph himself. Joseph couldn’t keep the vital details constant: who actually visited him, how old he was, what they told him, and the reason for seeking divine help. Despite the official version stating that Joseph was told no church was true and to join none of them, he joined the Methodist church eight years later. Sources
The Kinderhook Plates
Joseph Smith also claimed to have translated a portion of some plates called the Kinderhook Plates and stated that they contained a story about an ancient Jaredite. Although he died before finishing his translation and the plates were lost, church scholars claimed it was further evidence of Joseph’s calling as a prophet and translator. When one of the plates was discovered in 1960 and the church admitted it was indeed a Kinderhook plate, extensive research was done on it. The church eventually admitted that dating on the plate showed it to be of 19th century origin, a successful frontier hoax to catch Joseph in a lie. Sources
Joseph was a convicted con man before he claimed to be a prophet
Joseph was convicted of being a treasure seeker and “glass-looker” in 1826. During this period, he found a stone at the bottom of a well while being paid to find treasure on someone’s property. Despite depictions from the modern church that the translation process of the Book of Mormon consisted of Joseph sitting at a table with the plates in view, perhaps using the Urim and Thummim, the historical accounts tell a very different story. Joseph used the stone he found years earlier in the well. He would put it in a hat, bury his head in the hat, and dictate the text. The plates were not in view and were often not even in the room for the “translation” process. That same “head in the hat” process was used in the 1820′s when Joseph was a treasure seeker. Sources 1 and Sources 2
The real history of Mormon polygamy
Despite President Hinckley’s statement on Larry King Live that polygamy started when the church moved West, it actually started with Joseph Smith. Familysearch.org clearly lists most of the 33+ wives that Joseph had, including 11 who were already currently married to other members of the church. That’s a practice known as polyandry and is specifically forbidden as adultery in D&C 132.
Joseph frequently lied about his polygamy publicly, including deceiving his own wife. Joseph married two 14-year-old girls and five other teenagers. He would coerce his intended brides by claiming their exaltation was at stake or that an angel threatened him with a sword. His first polygamous marriage was performed before the sealing power was supposedly restored. Oliver Cowdery referred to that relationship as a “dirty, nasty, filthy affair.”
Joseph was sent to Carthage for illegally destroying a printing press that publicized his polygamy. Despite claims that he was led “like a lamb to a slaughter”, Joseph shot three men while in Carthage, killing two of them. Sources
The Book of Mormon
B.H. Roberts, a General Authority and well-respected church historian, concluded that the evidence clearly points towards Joseph Smith as the author of the Book of Mormon instead of the translator.
There is not a shred of historical, archeological, anthropological, linguistic or biological evidence that the Nephite/Lamanite/Jaredite civilizations existed as described. The National Geographic Society stated, “Archaeologists and other scholars have long probed the hemisphere’s past and the society does not know of anything found so far that has substantiated the Book of Mormon.”
Simon Southerton, a Mormon geneticist, wrote, “Ten centuries ago a handful of Norse sailors slipped into Newfoundland, established small colonies, traded with local natives, then sailed back into the fog of history. In spite of the small scale of their settlements and the brevity of their stay, unequivocal evidence of their presence has been found. Just six centuries earlier the Book of Mormon tells us, a climactic battle between fair-skinned Nephites and dark-skinned Lamanites ended a millennial dominion by a literate, Christian, Bronze Age civilization with a population numbering in the millions. Decades of serious and honest scholarship have failed to uncover credible evidence that these Book of Mormon civilizations ever existed. How is it that they remain a great civilization vanished without a trace, the people along with their genes?”
Two battles recounted in the Book of Mormon at the Hill Cumorah described the deaths of over 2.2 million people in the vicinity of the hill. The Civil War resulted in less than a third of that many deaths and over a much wider area. Since prophets from Joseph Smith to Gordon B. Hinckley have identified the hill as a certain place in New York, why is there absolutely no evidence of those battles and deaths?
Beyond the complete lack of evidence, there are a number of anachronisms. People at that time and place did not have the following technologies, flora and fauna mentioned specifically in the Book of Mormon: windows, silk, chariots/wheels, steel, metal currency, cattle, domesticated goats, swine, horses, elephants, honey bees, figs, wheat and barley.
Linguists agree that the variety of languages found among Native Americans points to thousands or tens of thousands of years in development and a non-Hebrew origin. DNA evidence clearly shows that Native Americans came from Asia and not Israel. The population growth numbers, especially considering the numerous wars, are inconceivable.
Joseph quite clearly copied entire verses directly from the 1769 King James version of the Bible, complete with mistranslations and inaccuracies. Some of those verses could not have been on the brass plates because they hadn’t been written when Lehi left Jerusalem. Sources
Seven weeks after Joseph Smith joined the Freemasons, he copied their handshakes, gestures, wording, and symbols into a newly “revealed” temple ceremony. These are the same things supposedly required to enter heaven, but had existed for over a hundred years prior to Mormonism in a pagan cult. Joseph himself established a Masonic lodge and his last words in Carthage were a Masonic distress call.
Despite Joseph Smith stating, “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed”, the temple ceremonies have changed dramatically over the years. They used to include, among other things, an oath of vengeance against the United States as well as a portion that required the participants to symbolically cut their own throats and disembowel themselves. Sources
Joseph Smith gave the priesthood and gave temple blessings to black people. At some unknown date after his death, Brigham Young instituted a policy of discrimination without a declaration of revelation. Beyond his numerous racist statements, Brigham Young and other early church leaders claimed it was doctrinal and that black people were not valiant in the pre-existence. That doctrine has now been denied by the church with no reason given for the 120+ years of discrimination and racism.
The church’s official policy for that period was opposition to interracial marriage. It not only frequently taught that interracial marriage was wrong, but it campaigned against the legalization of it. Ezra Taft Benson also published a pamphlet claiming that the Civil Rights movement was a secret communist plot. Sources
Brigham Young taught two important doctrines in his sermons, Blood Atonement and the Adam-God Theory, that the church now ignores. The Blood Atonement doctrine, in particular, was a an incredibly dangerous teaching that morally justified suicide and murder in many cases. Sources
The church doctrine conflicts directly with science on numerous issues. The church has stated many times that the Great Flood was a literal global event, with water covering the earth for 8 months and God committing genocide on all but a chosen few. There are nearly 2 million species on earth, including 200,000 different species of beetles and 50,000 species of frogs. Even if Noah and his seven compatriots could somehow gather up all these animals, how could they fit them on one boat, feed both herbivores and carnivores for eight months, and distribute them back to their appropriate climates and continents? How did any non water-based plants survive? Why is there absolutely no geologic evidence that this took place about 4,400 years ago when we have incontrovertible evidence of global floods during ice ages millions of years ago? Sources
Despite President Hinckley’s claims to the contrary, members have very little insight into how the church spends donation money. Tithing is a pay to play system: you can’t enter the temple and thus be worthy of exaltation unless you pay up. The estimated worth of the church is well over $30 billion, yet its humanitarian efforts are miniscule. From 1985 to 2009, the church spent roughly $1.3 billion on humanitarian aid. That sounds like a large number, but it amounts to less than $10 per member per year. And a portion of that comes from member donations that are in addition to tithing. The $3 billion shopping mall being built in Salt Lake is twice the cost of all the humanitarian aid the church has provided in the last 25 years. Sources
D&C 134:9: “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.”
In direct contradiction with its own scriptures, the church has launched a number of campaigns in Hawaii, Alaska, California and Minnesota to remove the civil rights of a minority group, claiming moral superiority. It has long taught that homosexuality is a choice. Boyd K. Packer gave a sermon at BYU condemning it as selfishness.
Scientists, social workers, mental health workers, and actual gay people are quite clear about it: homosexuality is not a choice. Dr. William Bradshaw, an acclaimed Harvard biochemist and faithful Mormon who recently retired after 40 years of teaching religion and biochemistry at BYU, stated categorically that it has nothing to do with upbringing or choice. Sources
Joseph F. Smith, while President of the church, testified before Congress in the Reed Smoot hearings that he had never received revelation as a leader of the church and that both Apostles and Prophets are chosen by vote rather than revelation. Sources
The church has established through scripture and modern teachings that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, directly contradicting established science putting it around 4.54 billion years old. Evolution, a scientific fact, disproves many aspects of Mormonism including the idea that the human race started with two people. The church teaches that mortality came to earthly creatures six thousand years ago with the fall of Adam, yet fossils, skeletons, dinosaurs, oil, etc. all clearly show that is completely false. The church also claims that the flood of Noah was a literal global event, yet this is easily disproved by science and reason. Sources
You can find more details and solid sources for each of the above from the menu items above or to the left. We welcome skepticism and open discussion.
From the current Gospel Principles manual:
When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.
We were raised in the church and very active for over 25 years. We didn’t know about the Book of Abraham papyri. We didn’t know the head-in-the-hat translation process of the Book of Mormon. We didn’t know about the multiple conflicting accounts of the First Vision. We didn’t know about the plagiarism of Masonic secrets in the temple ceremony. We didn’t know that Joseph married teenagers, other married women, or even anyone besides Emma!
It’s difficult not to conclude that the church is lying. Whether it is silent, telling only part of the truth, or leading us to believe something that is not true, the church by its own definition of honesty is simply not honest.
Unfortunately, we also somewhat understand why it is not honest about its history. The facts, when laid out objectively, are damning.