Mormonism: Anatomy of a Colossal Fraud

Jenny - posted on 09/16/2009 ( 29 moms have responded )

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Source: http://secweb.infidels.org/?kiosk=articl...



Beginning with a handful of members in 1830, the story of the Mormons has been marked by steady growth and success. Today they number around 9 million (only about half in this country), rake in $10 million a day, and wield influence beyond their numbers, being disproportionately represented in corporate management and in America's Intelligence apparatus. And their influence will continue to grow. Mormons are assiduous, if less than formidable, missionaries, and their emphasis on fecundity insures a constant growth in membership--after all, it's easier to breed new members than to convert them.



Notorious for their squeaky-clean image, Mormons practice a religion born in controversy. The complete truth about their religion is not generally forthcoming--least of all from Mormons themselves--but is available from a number of sources. Exposes on the religion appeared early and often enough in the previous century, but tended to disappear for obvious reasons. Today their influence as well as a misguided form of tolerance, causes even some encyclopedias to shy away from unpleasant disclosures about the history of Mormonism. But the truth cannot be fully suppressed, and free from niceties, is presented below.



According to the official story from the LDS Church, Joseph Smith, Jr., received a series of supernatural visitations from 1820-29. Ultimately he was visited by the angel Moroni, a resurrected being, who revealed the location of the "golden plates," written in "reformed Egyptian caractors" (sic). These plates contained the prophetic record and history of Ancient Israelite settlers in America, including the appearance of a resurrected Christ. With the help of magic specs that translated them for him, Joseph Smith presented the world with the Book of Mormon and established the One True Religion.



Now for the facts. It was a time of revivalism, millennial fever and evangelical zeal; a time when the common people still believed in folk superstitions and odd supernaturalistic ideas. The young "Jo Smith" was a fellow described by family, friends, and neighbors as a prankster and as a gifted storyteller who regaled them with stories of the original inhabitants of America. It prefigured what he'd later be telling the world. Smith also was known as an avid "money digger." Sometimes for himself, sometimes for hire, he'd dig for the lost Spanish treasures and Indian riches that dreamers felt just had to be around. In this endeavor, he employed a "magic stone" in a hat that he claimed revealed the location of buried wealth (a form of scrying). He never found any, but always had a plausible excuse to account for the failure, such as evil spirits or ritualistic impropriety. In 1826 he was hauled into court, accused of being an impostor, and convicted of disorderly conduct, the records for which are sketchy.



An early influence on young Jo may have been an itinerant magician named Walters, who would utter gibberish and pretend to translate it, telling a story of former inhabitants of America who deposited treasure before their extinction. He also claimed to have unearthed an ancient lost book by Cicero. Smith, some speculate, may have taken over his act.



The dawn of Mormonism is traced to 1827, when Joseph Smith Jr. announced to his family that he had found the "Gold Bible." Originally the tale had nothing to do with a new revelation, a new religion, or an angel. He told of a large man in ancient bloody clothes who appeared and told him of buried treasure. His family believed him, but when they asked to see the Gold Bible, he told them he'd been commanded not to. A friend of Smith named Peter Ingersoll later told an early investigator that Smith confided that he had no such book. "I've got the damn fools fixed and will carry out the fun." To suggest his alleged treasure, he made a wooden chest, which he carried in a pillowcase. Another man named Willard Chase testified that Smith first asked him to make the chest, but he'd refused. Soon enough, the gold Bible became the golden plates, the "translation" of which Smith was dictating to his first scribe, Martin Harris. Smith's use of scribes may have been to conceal his poor grammar and spelling, though the scribes weren't all that much better. As he "translated," he conveniently had a blanket between himself and his scribe, lest the latter catch an unauthorized glimpse of the plates. As part of the project, other key Smith followers reportedly spent much time thumbing through and copying portions of the Bible, which so happen to be contained in the Book of Mormon.



Martin Harris was a devoted follower and financial backer of Smith from the beginning, who would eventually sell his farm to finance the first edition of the Book of Mormon (early on referred to as Smith's Gold Bible.) His wife Lucy felt he was being deceived and defrauded by Smith. and brought suit against the Prophet. The judge acceded to male authority and dismissed the case, in accordance with Martin's wishes. One early debunker, Abner Cole, later alluded to one of the Three Witnesses (presumably Harris) beating his recalcitrant wife to persuade her to convert.



In 1828 came a major crisis for Smith. Martin Harris asked and received permission to take the first 116 pages of the text recently "translated" to show his family, in an attempt to justify his sponsorship. The manuscript disappeared and was never seen again. (Lucy Harris is the likely culprit.) This created a sticky problem. If Smith tried to rewrite it from the start, it could not possibly be identical to the original, which would be embarrassing should it ever resurface. If it had been in fact a Divine translation, it could simply be retranslated the same as before. But differences in "translation" would point to human fabrication.



At first Smith was lost, and claimed the gift of translation had been taken away from him for the sin of not protecting the manuscript. But he eventually resolved the problem as best he could. He claimed, in another one of his frequent "revelations," that he'd been instructed not to retranslate the plates he'd already worked on. These were the plates of Lehi. Some of the yet untranslated plates had an account of the same history by Nephi. Thus he could retell the story without worrying about it being identical. Smith suggested that the "stolen" manuscript, should it ever turn up, would prove to be altered rather than being actually divergent, in an attempt to make him look like a fraud. Smith switched scribes (new man, Oliver Cowdery), and continued. Meanwhile, Martin Harris obtained a handwritten copy of text written in the "reformed Egyptian caractors" and took it to one of America's leading experts in antiquities, Charles Anthon of Columbia University. It was a "singular medley" of Greek and Hebrew characters copied from a dictionary. along with inverted Roman letters, stars, and half moons. Anthon told him the text contained "anything else but Egyptian characters," and that he thought someone was trying to perpetrate a hoax. Harris, however, concluded that this only proved Smith was a better translator than the noted academic, and must be working under Divine impulse. He returned claiming that Anthon had originally certified the translation, but withdrew it when informed it was for religious purposes. Anthon vehemently denied approving the translation, and is considered a liar by Mormons to this day.



In 1970 what is believed to be the actual transcript sample was found in an old Smith family Bible. It confirms Anthon's public statements, and refutes Harris' account of his meeting with him. Also helpful is a public statement by the Smithsonian institution in the 1840's denying that any example of Hebrew or Egyptian writing had ever been found anywhere in the Americas. (As recently as 1988 the Smithsonian still had the courage to publish material asserting that the Book of Mormon is not a reliable guide for archaeological understanding of early American habitation.)



As the book of Mormon was being finished, Smith realized that someone else besides him had to see the plates or there would be a credibility problem. He had a "revelation" in which God said he would grant a vision of the plates to three and no more. Smith told Martin Harris that the Lord had said, "Martin Harris shall say, 'I have seen them, shown unto me by the power of God",' and if he doesn't, "he is condemned." In intensive prayer sessions with Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer all three were eventually bullied into "seeing" the plates by the power of suggestion. Cowdery and Whitmer claimed they'd seen the plates in a vision "revealed by the power of God," the same circumstances in which Harris was told he'd see them. All three witnesses, though, told different versions of their visions at different times, versions not consistent with each other or with themselves. But the most important thing to notice is that no one actually saw the plates in the normal physical sense. They were seen with "the eye of faith," another term for "vain imaginings."



Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated in 1838 after accusing Joseph Smith of adultery. He'd also come to believe that the translation was entirely Joseph Smith's work, and not God's. (Furthermore, the angelic voice he'd heard at his baptism, on retrospect, sounded a lot like a certain Sidney Rigdon.) David Whitmer was also excommunicated and Martin Harris left the faith. But the testimony of all three men is still reprinted in every Book of Mormon it attesting to the existence of the golden plates they'd never actually seen. And despite Smith's "revelation" that the vision would be granted to "three and no more," eight witnesses were later added, and their testimony is printed below that of the original three.



It must be pointed out here that the fabled "Hill of Cumorah," where the plates were allegedly unearthed, has produced no physical evidence of anything along the lines claimed by Mormonism. Not only the plates, but no weapons,, bones, or artifacts of any kind were ever found at the site, despite it being--as Mormonism asserts--a veritable Armageddon.



When the project was finished, the prophet's loyal brother Hyrum thought to copyright the "holy book" and suggested that the copyright could be sold for money. Joseph consulted his holy oracles and OK'd the venture, but no buyer was found. David Whitmer wondered how Smith could receive a revelation on it, yet still see the effort fail. Smith sought a new revelation, and informed his followers that some revelations were from God, some from the devil and some from man. (Thus discrediting the reliability of the entire revelation process!) Lacking money, he simultaneously came up with a revelation for Harris: Be more generous in supporting the Book! (Which source for that one?)



Even before publication, the prospect to a purported new "holy book" met with public hostility which only increased afterward. But from an idle tale of buried treasure, Joseph Smith had created a new religion and enjoyed the power and prestige it conferred from the gullible. Others, meanwhile, were claiming to be receiving revelations and gaining a following; and Cowdery and Whitmer were falling for it in the case of a Hiram Page,, who employed a "sacred stone." Smith produced a "revelation" calling him Satan-deceived, and asserting that only he was appointed to receive commandments and revelations. It worked.



Smith and 70 followers moved from New York to Ohio in 1831. There Smith tried his hand at healing. He had dazzling success with one woman's bum arm (a likely hysterical symptom), but failed at other healings, also at an attempt to raise the dead. Clearly, his ego had gotten out of control. Just a few months lateral a revelation instructed him and most of his flock to move to Jackson County, Missouri, which was purportedly the site of the original Garden of Eden. Paranoid, clannish, and with an attitude of superiority (not to mention the beginnings of polygamy), they incurred the hostility of their rough-hewn rustic neighbors, who were afraid of being squeezed out by a bogus Divine provision. There were numerous clashes, killings, and house burnings on both sides. Joseph Smith himself was tarred and feathered, regrettably a lost art these days.



Meanwhile, back in Ohio, a church-run bank (of which Smith was treasurer) had failed. Originally denied a charter, it had opened as an "anti-Bank," and its operations, illegal from the start, included printing their own currency. This created a false prosperity early on, but ultimately collapsed the local economy. This did not do much for their image. Neither did the mysterious fire at the local press building, which many blamed on Smith's instigation.



In Missouri, the Mormon community was finally expelled front the state. The governor who issued the order of expulsion was later shot and nearly killed. By an amazing coincidence (ha!) Smith had earlier "prophesied" his death by violent means, and was very nearly on target. (Or someone was .... ) All along, Smith kept at his task of spurious translation. Papyrus scrolls from Egypt had found their way to America, and they were shown to Smith as an alleged authority. He pretended to translate them, producing a paraphrase of Genesis along with some imaginative embellishment and called it the Book of Abraham. (It was included in a later Mormon text.) These papyri were rediscovered in 1967, matching portions made in Smith's own hand. Legitimate Egyptologists could thereby determine that the actual translation had nothing whatsoever to do with what Smith claimed it said. Smith was also taken in by a hoax by three men who pretended to discover brass plates in the ground, which they'd etched with strange letters and artificially aged before burying. Smith, of course, claimed he could read it, but years later one of the participants revealed it to have been a prank.



After being run out of Missouri, the Mormons moved on to Illinois, where they likewise ran into hostility. 62 neighbors signed a petition stating that Joseph Smith and his father were "entirely destitute of moral character and addicted to vicious habits." Smith was eventually arrested for forging bank notes and for aiding and abetting fugitives from justice. He is also believed to have ordered the destruction of the presses of the Nauvoo Expositor, which had been critical of him. But unfortunately for us all, a mob stormed the jail and shot him and his brother, thus creating martyrs to give impetus to the new religion. Brigham Young, an effective but sometimes ruthless leader, took over and led the long march to Utah, where they would have no neighbors to bother them, other than the remnants of the "Lamanites" who could be displaced without protest by the Federal government. There they went on to the success they enjoy today, so much so that they are almost never referred to as a cult.

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Kelly - posted on 09/21/2009

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I am sorry, but this thread and the polygamy thread are getting a little off kilter...... After spending my HS days arguing with my Mormon friends over their beliefs, I NEVER thought I would be the one to defend their religion, but there is so much crap out there it is crazy. Mormons do NOT believe that Jesus and Satan were brothers. FLDS are NOT Mormons. The Book of Mormon is simply an addition to the Bible. Mormons supplement the Bible with the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine & Covenants. I don't agree with a lot that they believe or teach, but just because you don't understand something doesn't mean you should belittle it. I don't believe there are 100 virgins waiting for every Muslim in Heaven either.

Esther is right, "Under the Banner of Heaven" is a great book, and if you read it you will notice that Krakauer makes it a point to say that the Fundamentalists are not Mormons. (A lot of the founders of the Fundamentalist groups are ex-communicated Mormons so they do have the same "history" in their teachings)

As far as the Mountain Meadows Massacre goes, there is a lot more back history there than that movie showed. In the late 1830's the Mormons were being murdered and run out for their beliefs. After they relocated to Utah, tension was still high between them and the Federal Govt. In 1857, (the year of the massacre) they were expecting the US Army to attack. There is some circumstantial evidence that Brigham Young knew about the massacre, but some evidence leads to the conclusion that it was an isolated community of Mormons that were responsible for the attack, and the Church was not behind it. Either way, lets face it, all religious groups have dark parts of their past that they are not proud of, and no Tawny, I am sure that you will not find a single Mormon that is proud of what happened at Mountain Meadows.

I realize that many of you are atheists or agnostics, so you may not understand where I am coming from. People are jumped on other threads for being insensitive to Muslims and labeling Middle Easterners. Why is it ok to spout off against Mormons, (When many obviously know absolutely nothing about them) but its prejudice to say anything negative about Muslims and their religious beliefs? Just wondering, not trying to start a fight.................

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Jeannette - posted on 09/22/2009

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Quoting Carol:

I decided to google your question. And this is what I came up with:

http://www.mormon-underwear.com/

I am now certain that the internet is complete and all possible existing information in the world has it's own website.


LMAO!!!!!  Good one!

Kelly - posted on 09/22/2009

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Jenifer it must be nice to know you don't exist..... lol thats a new one, never heard that before. The Fundamentalists think that the mainstream Mormon Church has strayed off the path of what God wants. (the polygamist crap, blood atonement, etc) but they are the crazy offshoots. Similar to the extreme Muslims who are NOT following the teachings of the Koran. I wasn't upset, just wanted to correct what I knew was wrong. I would hope that if I said something blatantly untrue on a subject that I would be corrected.

[deleted account]

Kelly - I agree with you that there is a lot of misinformation about Mormonism out there. I didn't notice the Jesus and Satan as brothers thing, but I'm glad you corrected it. I hope this isn't taking things too far off of the original topic, but I was particularly interested in why you said that FDLS are not Mormons. They consider themselves to be Mormons, and while it is safe to say their beliefs are not the same as the dozens of other groups that branched away from the original group started by Joseph Smith, that doesn't mean they aren't Mormon. I know a lot of Christians don't believe that Mormons or Catholics are 'true Christians'. I've been told that I'm not really an atheist because 'atheists don't exist'. I guess I think that how people identify themselves in something personal like religion is pretty important. I didn't see anyone suggest FDLS and mainline Mormons all believe the same things, but I'm think that is just as wrong as painting all Middle Easterners as being fundamentalist Muslims.

Tawny - posted on 09/21/2009

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I think it is because they have made themselves easy targets. They have kept quiet about there religion, when all other religions put there beliefs out in the open pretty much. They are the most secretive religion and that is why everyone likes to talk about them. Your hear so much bad things about them (im not saying that they are not the only religion that are talked about) but they say they will tell you there religion. But I have found out that they don't and when you give them feedback they don't like it and everyone else is false. So that is my belief as to why mormons get so much flack. I didn't bring up the movie to start a fight. I could also say the same thing about Catholics, Baptists and etc. and this isn't to start a crazy arguement I am just making an example. So I didn't mean to upset you Kelly! I was just putting my two cents and the mormons fascinate me!

Tawny - posted on 09/21/2009

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There is a movie called September Dawn that I just saw recently on one of the movie channels about the mormons. It was about when the settlers came thru Utah to get to Calif. and they had to ask permission to stay and rest for a couple of weeks. The mormons believed they were the group from Missouri who killed Joseph Smith and was coming after them. But they weren't. The mormons ended up killing about 100 people from older all the way to little babies. They tricked them by lying to the Indians and having the Indians attack them and when the indian chief lost all is soldiers he told the mormons to fight there own battle. So the mormons dressed up as indians and started killing the settlers and tricked them into believing that they were there to help but ended up slaying them all. This is supposed to be a true story that happened. It was so sad to know that this really happened and that innocent people were killed. Boy those mormons should be so proud of there ancestors.

Dawn - posted on 09/17/2009

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yeah and stupid FB just kicked me out of COMs too. I hate it when it does that and I'm just done writting a response. Makes me not want to bother!

Dawn - posted on 09/17/2009

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I stand corrected on Buddhism. I missed read the B.C. part. Same with the Islam. I meant that it was "created" in the 600 A.C. time.

I'll blame it on the head cold I'm currently fighting. LOL

Sharon - posted on 09/17/2009

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LOL i'm not getting notices when people reply to some topics - weird. I've had a lot of fun with this discussion.

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Islam and Buddhism are much older than that. But I was thinking more along the lines of religions created within the last 200 years or so. I'd bet you could find analysis similar to this one for the Jehovah's Witnesses, Baha'i, the Nation of Islam, Scientology, etc. But since those are so recent, the mythology and strength of numbers hasn't built up the way it has with much older religions.

Sara - posted on 09/17/2009

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Actually, I think Islam is about 1400 years old, it dates back to 600 A.C.E., and buddhism goes back to about the 6th century B.C.E. By contrast, Mormonism is only about 180 years old...

Sharon - posted on 09/17/2009

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I don't know about islam but I like buddhism. I may convert.

quick note... buddhism is at least 1500 years old. not 600, and possibly as old as 2000

read the 5 minute guide here...



http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/5min...



I read 3 sites and that link seems to have the same basic common information

Esther - posted on 09/17/2009

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For a history of mormonism (and an interesting, fun & easy read) I highly recommend: "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer.

[deleted account]

Personally, I think the only difference between Mormonism and other religions is that it is newer. We have a better historical record of the development of the church and belief systems. I imagine the early days of Christianity, Islam, whatever, were pretty similar. But is what they believe any more unusual than the tenets of other religions? Speaking as a former Catholic, I'm not sure the idea of the trinity or transubstantiation are any more believable, just more familiar.

Dawn - posted on 09/17/2009

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Yeah thats the weird part of that belief. They believe that the more children they have the more "children" they will have on their planet. They also believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers and both wanted Earth and when Jesus received Earth from God, Satan started to do his evil on Earth, still wanting the planet.



One other tidbit. I have two cousins that were nuns in the Catholic church and they left it to become mormons. Lets just say they have been banned from my Catholic part of the family. (Irish side)

Jeannette - posted on 09/16/2009

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I don't belong to any religion. I did let a couple of mormons into my house once, big mistake, because then they wanted to come over every day until they got me converted. I explained to them that I was only interested in learning more about their religion, not joining. I told them if a Cathollic had walked up to my door, I would have done the same. I find them interesting, but not enough to do active research...but hey, if the research walks right up to your door?
Anyway, I asked them why Mr. Smith wrote in King James English if he was alive here in America in the 1800s? They said (there were two of them, and for a minute I really thought both their first names to be Elder): Because the King James version of the bible is all he'd ever read, because he didn't know how to read. I asked them if they just heard their answer. They said yes, and laughed.
Anyway, several question and answers later - one of the Elders lets it slip that they believe that we all get our own Heaven to rule. That we rule with our spouse and our aunts and uncles...I said, so, there's more than one Heaven? Yes.
Jesus is the teacher you have until you are ready to rule your own heaven. It was interesting - very interesting.
My husband's cousin was a mormon until she got kicked out of the church. I asked her how do you get mormons to stop visiting your house? She said..tell them to stop coming to your effing house, that'll work.
I didn't do that...I politely explained more than once that me and church don't mix..any church.

Johnny - posted on 09/16/2009

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I find all religions to be ridiculous cults, but few more so than mormonism. It's my favorite to learn about though, all that nutty stuff makes for some good reading.

[deleted account]

I think scientology might be the only religion that gets more crap slung its way that Mormonism. I think they're both pretty silly. But then, I think a lot of religions are silly.

ME - posted on 09/16/2009

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I don't like any organized religion particularly, but Momonism is spectacular!

Sara - posted on 09/16/2009

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Obviously, I'm not mormon...but I think mormons get a lot of flak because their religion is so new. No doubt this is how people reacted to Christianity when it first arrived. I don't personally believe in any organized religion, I don't believe the bible to be the word of God nor do I accept Jesus as the son of God, but I don't think Mormons are any worse than any other organized church or religion, IMHO. But, the finding of gold plates, the angel with the secret decoder ring...it's at least entertaining! :)

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