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Another Jesus? How about another Joseph?

August 12, 2009
Does any man know his history?

Does any man know his history?

It’s funny how many counter-Mormon Christian ministries try to show that Mormonism preaches “another Jesus.” And then, their hope is that by showing how different doctrines (or even folklore, if authoritative doctrine cannot be found), the flustered and disaffected Mormons will say, “Oh, well, then, I’ll leave Mormonism for your church.”

Interestingly…this doesn’t work very often. 1) The gambit to show “another Jesus” often fails with many members…and 2) even if the gambit does succeed, Mormons will conclude that they like their doctrine better. I mean, when you’re trying to get Mormons to replace an expansive theology of eternal progression, families living together forever, exaltation, and these terrific ideas with a heaven of singing and harp praising, no hope for progression, and the like…well…it just seems like a bad idea.

But maybe I’m taking a wild stab, but it seems like more Mormons get shaken not because of another Jesus, but because of another Joseph.

To be certain, Mormons don’t worship Joseph Smith…so it might lead one to believe that this shouldn’t be so vital. And yet, Richard Bushman in his “The Revived Latter-day Saint” describes exactly this phenomena(and I think the blogger at LDS Revelations notes well in future analyses). Bushman notes:

Increasingly teachers and church leaders at all levels are approached by Latter-day Saints who have lost confidence in Joseph Smith and the basic miraculous events of church history. They doubt the First Vision, the Book of Mormon, many of Joseph’s revelations, and much besides. They fall into doubt after going on the Internet and finding shocking information about Joseph Smith based on documents and facts they had never heard before. A surprising number had not known about Joseph Smith’s plural wives. They are set back by differences in the various accounts of the First Vision. They find that Egyptologists do not translate the Abraham manuscripts the way Joseph Smith did, making it appear that the Book of Abraham was a fabrication. When they come across this information in a critical book or read it on one of the innumerable critical Internet sites, they feel as if they had been introduced to a Joseph Smith and a Church history they had never known before.

Emphasis added.

I find it interesting. Not to try to push towards any conclusions in specific, but I wonder if there is any thing to back that up…are there substantially more members whose faith is shaken by “another Joseph” rather than “another Jesus?” And why is that? Is it simply the issue of time (trying to discern what really happened 200 years ago vs. trying to discern what really happened 2000 years ago)?

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53 Comments
  1. Most of Christianity is a highly theoretical and theological religion.

    God is worshiped in abstract. All mythological characters are far in the distant past and obscured by legend and history. This makes the object of worship much more distant and theoretical. The subject more of theological formulas, than of real experience.

    Mormonism, by contrast is a recently minted religion. Relatively speaking, our heroes practically died only yesterday. The presence of tangible and recent heroes makes Mormonism much less theoretical, much less ethereal.

    It’s a practical religion. God is grounded in terms people understand. He isn’t some philosophical “ground of all being” or metaphysically “optimal” being. He is our perfect Father instead. God is brought down to earth and made directly relevant to people.

    So both our prophets and our God are a little bit more present and a little less distant than they are for the rest of Christianity.

    When you shake someone’s faith in something as recent as Joseph Smith, the entire down-to-earth nature of Mormonism suffers. People get burned, withdraw, and start to either 1) look for a God that is a little less distant and testable (by becoming traditional Christian) or 2) make God as distant as humanly possible by going atheist.

  2. so, do you think that if the church had had a couple thousand years (without the pesky internet, modern archeology, etc.,) that things would be different…would it have become more theoretical as a result of time or as a reaction to the passage of time, or would it try to maintain practicality over time (e.g., with the church, you always have actual, real live prophets — would that always keep the church anchored in the practical?)

  3. I think that the Church would try to keep things grounded. But theoretical drift is probably inevitable.

    I myself may be an example of that drift.

  4. You, an example of theoretical drift? When your “drift” is for more practical, a call for reform, etc.,?

  5. Let’s put it this way…

    When I try to talk religion with my own father, he gets very impatient and starts to ask pointed questions about whether I’m working hard enough at my job, whether all this dialogue-ing is interfering with providing for my family, whether I’m doing my home teaching, and am I going to the temple enough.

    It used to be worse when I was still living nearby. It’s lessened with distance.

    But it illustrates a divide between my father – who is purely focused on the practical “business of the Church” and myself who is dealing more in the realm of ideas. Not to say dad doesn’t read up on theology. And not to say that I don’t provide any service in the Gospel and all that. But the divide is there.

    And I wonder if my own focus isn’t due to me being forced to confront the idea of Joseph Smith and who was he really.

    Put simply – it’s kind of hard to get any work done when you’re forced to agonize over identity issues. My dad recognizes this. He’s actually a rather intelligent man who is well aware of the controversies.

    But he has made a decision in life that he’s not going to waste time agonizing over those controversies. He’s compartmentalized his life (which, by the way, is part of the reason I think he has succeeded in life as much as he has). He’s thrown-in with the Church and he’s not going to waste brain cells reconsidering that decision every day when he wakes up. Thus he becomes very impatient with my invitations to reopen the old “case-closed” file. He feels it would be a distraction from doing the work he has to do, and the life of discipleship he has chosen.

    So, I try not to bring this stuff up with him.

    Which is too bad, because my father is a very formidable scriptorian. He has a better grasp on the message the Brethren have been giving over the General Conference pulpit for the last 30 years than anyone I know. He’s read just about every book written by an apostle since he converted in the 1970s. He’s read Nibley, B.H. Roberts, the Pratts, the Journal of Discourses, just about everything from Stephen Robinson or Robert Millet, and countless other books by Mormon authors. His scriptures are cross-referenced so thoroughly, that I would consider his own personal set of scriptures a family treasure of knowledge and insight. His Gospel Doctrine classes were, if I may say, some of the best being taught in the LDS Church. He has lesson notes for all the standard works – chapter by chapter. I’ve never attended a Gospel Doctrine class that was better handled than those taught by my dad.

    He’s an incredible resource that I would like to draw on more often as I muddle through the theological scrum online. But I have to be very careful how I approach all of this with him.

    My loss.

  6. OK, I guess I see what you mean now.

    It just seems to me that it’s often you who’s in conversations calling for a purge of all the BS to get to simple matters.

    [But interestingly enough, when I go fully practical, it is natural for me to be far and away from anything church-related. Then again, I understand the opposite could be true for others. Practical for me says, “OK, I don’t want to drink because it is imprudent; I like having organs, I like being in control, I like stuff that doesn’t taste like fire.” Nowhere in this calculation (even when I was identifying as a member) was, “I don’t want to drink it is immoral; I like following the Lord’s guidance.”]

  7. Andrew ~ One key difference between Mormonism’s start v. Christianity’s start is that record-keeping and historiography are light years ahead of what they were back in 30 AD. We have a hell of a lot more data on what early Mormonism was than we do on what early Christianity was, and barring some catastrophe which radically alters civilization as we know it, we’re not about to lose it. I don’t think that the data on who Joseph Smith “really” was is ever going to go away or become insignificant or fall into the same “we can’t really know” cloud that we have covering early Christianity.

    As I see it, Mormonism can try three things:

    1) Continue trying to sell a pristine image of Joseph Smith as a prophet and ignore the more tarnished history except when it must be discussed. I would argue this is what the church currently does.
    2) Try selling Joseph Smith with flaws and all. Play up the fact that biblical prophets weren’t perfect, etc.
    3) Drop the emphasis on Joseph Smith and instead focus on what God has revealed to the church through all the prophets. For example, instead of asking at baptism interviews whether a person accepts Joseph Smith as a prophet, they can instead ask if someone accepts the doctrines of the Restoration. It doesn’t matter what JS did wrong, all that matters is what God revealed to the church through him.

    I’d predict that the church eventually goes with 3.

    Seth ~ Tangential question from an ignorant non-member. How often do “good Mormons” go to the temple?

  8. “…are there substantially more members whose faith is shaken by “another Joseph” rather than “another Jesus?””

    I would think so. I mean, LDS already know that they believe in “another Jesus” than the Jesus of the creeds. That’s one of the points of the Church’s existence. So when somebody quotes Galatians 1:8 at them (“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”), active Mormons (generally) automatically think, “That’s what your church does. Your church preaches ‘another’ Gospel; we preach the original one.”

    So I think that tactic in general just bounces off. But when LDS, especially those who through inclination and/or training tend to view the world in black-and-white terms, find out that the Church itself teaches things that if not outright falsehoods are far from the complete story, well, all bets are off.

  9. re kuri:

    actually, I would think that members would try to establish that the gospel taught by LDS is not different than the Gospel taught originally. So it’s not that they would concede differences, but rather note that the differences that do exist aren’t a matter of the Gospel. I’ve heard more arguments saying that the creeds are not part of the Gospel (so when you get to what *is* part of the Gospel, Mormon rejection of creeds doesn’t disqualify) than arguments saying, “well, so what if we’re different?”

    re Jack:

    So had Mormonism been founded ~2k years ago instead of ~200 years ago, would it likely be in the clear now? I think a combination of 2 and 3 will eventually happen (probably as a result of doing 2 for a long time, it being ineffective, and then going to 3)

  10. “actually, I would think that members would try to establish that the gospel taught by LDS is not different than the Gospel taught originally.”

    Yeah, that’s what I meant. The Gospel taught by the LDS Church is the same as the original Gospel. Therefore, any differences that exist are because creedal Christians have deviated from the true Gospel, not because LDS have. That’s the logic many LDS use.

    IOW, the “So what if we’re different?” means “We’re different because you’re wrong,” not “The differences don’t matter.”

  11. I don’t know about “good” Mormons, but my dad says once a month.

    But he also lives a few blocks from a temple and there’s really no excuse.

    For us, it’s a two-hour drive down south of Denver and a fairly major babysitting commitment – which makes it pretty much an all-day thing. I’d say once a quarter would be enough to satisfy me that I was really towing the line in this area.

  12. If you don’t have young kids, you have less excuses I guess. I know some elderly Provo die-hards go every week. You’ll see em dozing off during the ceremony (they’ve got the whole thing memorized). But they always seem to wake up for the parts they need to be awake for.

    While I was in the MTC, we went once a week. We considered just the change of scenery and pace a special treat.

  13. I think Mormons are already well-equipped to be a bit suspicious of traditional Christian claims. So when you shoot down Joseph Smith, you don’t tend to see Mormons flocking to sign up with the local Baptist congregation.

    For the record, I’ve always found atheist ex-Mormons to be much more challenging to debate with than Christian ex-Mormons.

  14. I agree Seth, on the Mormon being equipped to be suspicious of traditional Christian claims. However, unfortunately Pew research data show that ex-Mormons go to other religions (although it doesn’t break down if it’s other Christian denominations or other non-Christian religions) and go to a lack of religion (although it doesn’t break down if it’s atheism, agnosticism, or just an unchurched theism) in equal parts. About 50/50. So, I guess it isn’t necessary true that this suspicion is supereffective.

    I try not to debate though, but I find Christian ex-Mormons to be particularly annoying.

  15. Andrew, as a classicist, I was always a little cynical about how ancient history is done. The fact is that there are just so many questions pertaining to certain eras for which the answer is, “We don’t know. Not enough has survived.” People get passionate and write these fiery histories detailing how things were in the ancient world and everyone nods in agreement and all of academia accepts that that was the way things were and don’t you dare disagree. But it’s all built on such scant evidence, sometimes you just stop and shake your head at all the people building up guesswork on each other’s guesswork.

    If Mormonism had been founded 2000 years ago, could the indiscretions of its leaders have been safely swept under the rug? The answer is, pretty darn likely. Unfortunately (for the church’s image), it was founded in the 1800s when we’d gotten a lot better at keeping history. In our information-overloaded generation, it’s hard to keep anything a secret. Everything gets out too fast. I mean, just think, there’s four people from different parts of the country talking with each other on this thread. Just twenty years ago this would have been impossible, at least for average people. Point being, any religious movement that wants to get started today is going to have to have either leaders who don’t have major indiscretions or godly PR damage control.

    Of course, all this leads to the question, have major indiscretions on the part of Christianity’s early leaders been swept under the rug? And the answer is, we just don’t know.

    Seth, interesting information on temple attendance. I figured managing the kids was a major factor for younger couples. Thanks for telling me about it.

  16. Once I heard in the DAMU…Scientology’s the barometer for if Mormonism or any other religion can succeed. If something like scientology can make it…well…anything else is completely safe.

  17. Joel permalink

    For me, the “other Joseph” and the early LDS church was my deal breaker. I felt lied to. However it led me to study the Bible and the more I read the Bible, the more I realized that the LDS church was BS and that Joseph lied. The “gospel” taught by the LDS church like Paul said so well in Galatians is no gospel at all. And it’s nothing like the Gospel taught by Jesus and his disciples.

  18. Very insightful. I had never thought about a “different Joseph”, but I think you are definitely on to something. The “different Jesus argument has always seemed silly to me as it is to most LDS members. However, I think the disparity between the Joseph Smith presented by the LDS Church and the historical Joseph Smith is enough to make anyone balk.

  19. Hate to rain on the parade, but I know plenty of people who weren’t all that upset to find out there was a different Joseph out there.

    Myself included.

    When I learned about it, it was like – OK, cool. Didn’t know that before. Glad I took the time to read books and find out about this stuff.

    I always felt that anyone who relied on Sunday School alone for their religious education deserved whatever education they got.

    • I definitely think your last statement is way too harsh. Most LDS members assume the Church is telling them the whole history (or at least the major events). As non-historians, they don’t feel the need to do reading outside of church manuals. Why? What’s the point? Faithful LDS members are too busy living their lives, reading scriptures, having family home evenings, serving in multiple callings, being dads and moms, etc., etc. They don’t have time to dig into something they don’t even know is an issue. So sorry, I don’t agree with you. If the Church was more open in Sunday School I think you’d see a lot more members start to search these things out on their own. As it stands it’s out of sight out of mind for most weekly Sunday School attendees.

      • General authorities keep telling the membership to do their own reading. But apparently the message just never sinks in.

        For the record, I’ve been dissatisfied with the job the Church does in its curriculum of preparing people for a long time.

      • Really?? When have they encouraged members to do their own reading about Church history or Joseph Smith? Perhaps you are referring to the general advise to read out of “good books”, which could mean any number of things. I have never heard a general authority encourage members to dig into Church history outside of Church manuals. I haven’t heard every talk ever given so if you know of where they have given this encouragement please point us to it.

      • Guest Writer 800+ permalink

        Read, write and teach it as long as it is faith promoting.

        “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.” Boyd K. Packer ‘The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than The Intellect’

        http://byustudies.byu.edu/Products/MoreInfoPage/MoreInfo.aspx?Type=7&ProdID=1145

      • And he’s going to be the next prophet of the church. Goodness that scares me.

      • Guest Writer 800+,
        Is Packer’s talk somehow encouraging members to read about Church history? It sounds like he’s saying the opposite, was that your point?

      • Guest Writer 800+ permalink

        Boyd Packer was speaking to church educators and was encouraging that a sanitized, faith-promoting version of history be written and taught. I would call that censorship….let me look it up…..

        “Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient as determined by a censor.”

        Yep, that is exactly what I would call it.

      • We need to do something about these threaded comments.

        They’re out of control.

      • I hate threaded comments more than I hate Seth.

      • i keep on thinking to ban comment threading…but I kinda like two-deep comments. three-deep is too much though

    • Guest Writer 800+ permalink

      I have noticed these types of people as well, Seth.

      I was once speaking with my girlfriend (now ex) and she said that she wouldn’t be surprised if Brigham Young did order the Mountain Meadows Massacre (I have no opinion either way), but it wouldn’t alter her feelings that he was a prophet. She then added, “That doesn’t mean I think God wanted it, I think God would be very against something like that.”

      In my opinion, she had a very low standard for a man who is supposed to be God’s mouthpiece.

      • It’s not that I have a low expectation of prophets.

        It’s that I don’t have much of an opinion of my own ability to do any better in Brigham Young’s shoes. Nor do I have any particular reason to think that anyone else here would have done particularly better.

        It’s always easy to be outraged when your own moral life has been facilitated by modern civil society.

      • Guest Writer 800+ permalink

        I was saying that I felt that she had a low standard for prophets, not you. I don’t know if you feel the same way as she does about the MMM or not.

        “It’s that I don’t have much of an opinion of my own ability to do any better in Brigham Young’s shoes.”

        I find that interesting. I have the exact opposite reaction to the history. I would put my father, my uncles, myself (although I would not want the “honor”), my neighbors…pretty much any person I know in the position of Joseph and I believe that they would do a much better job. Joseph is someone that I would not trust to leave alone with my 14 year old daughter, let alone be the head of a church that I feel I should follow.

        If anything, some of the stuff he did was considered WORSE back then, rather than more appropriate. The people were pretty incensed by his actions.

      • It’s that I don’t have much of an opinion of my own ability to do any better in Brigham Young’s shoes. Nor do I have any particular reason to think that anyone else here would have done particularly better.

        I agree, Seth (although I’d have different vices than Brigham’s to sully me). But it’s easy for me to accept this, since I don’t believe in divine inspiration that people can tap into — we are only going by ourselves and our biases.

        If I believed otherwise, it would be awkward to explain.

      • Oh, people were incensed back then.

        But often for much different reasons than we are today.

      • Guest Writer 800+ permalink

        What do you believe upsets us today, but wouldn’t be upsetting to people back then?

      • The age of the brides.

        Note: I’m not trying to claim that child brides were “common as dirt” back then. But it wasn’t unheard of, and certainly not something to riot over.

        When 1800s America denounced Joseph’s marriage practices, it was not the age of the brides, but the number of them.

      • Guest Writer 800+ permalink

        So polygamy bothered people then and bothers many today, check.

        I agree that teenage Brides were a bit more common, but getting into the age of 16 is pushing it (except with arranged marriages of the upper class) and 14 is frightening.
        US Census data shows that the average marriage age for that day was still between 21 and 22.

        Today, girls start puberty around the age of 9 1/2. In the early to mid 1800s, they started puberty around the age of 13. It then takes a few years to run its course. “In the United States in the early 1800s, breast buds and menarche arrived around ages 13 and 16 respectively.”
        http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/3113/context/archive

        Helen Mar Kimball (and maybe Nancy Winchester) may have been a really early bloomer, but I think we’re getting into disturbing territory.

        But, I agree, for the most part, anything above the age of 16 doesn’t bother me as much.

      • There are also things that Brigham Young did that would not have been much-praised in 1800s America that are still now regarded as praiseworthy.

        For instance, Brigham Young’s policies toward the local Indians was frankly, astoundingly progressive. Remember, this is in an age of unparalleled American atrocities committed upon the Native American populations.

        After the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890, there are accounts of some of the participating soldiers standing before a packed audience in a Denver theater wearing top hats with hatbands made out of the vaginal skin of “squaws” they had murdered. They got a standing ovation.

        About the same time, the bloody Wyoming Range Wars were going on. For an example of that, here’s a link:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnson_County_Range_War

        That’s the kind of neighbors 1800s Mormons had.

        A lot of the hostility toward Mormon history stems from an ignorance of what America was like in those days. They were savage and brutal times when our civil society had not yet fully developed.

        Part of the problem is that high school history books (which is as far as most people get in American history) tend to present American history something like this:

        1. Revolutionary War (all glorious and noble, of course)
        2. Writing the Constitution
        3. Some small blurb about the War of 1812 – hopefully making it a little fuzzy who got their butt handed to them in a can.
        4. Civil War (all romanticized and glorious, of course)
        5. A bit about Teddy Roosevelt maybe
        6. World War I (being sure to whitewash things heavily)
        7. World War II…

        You get the idea.

        Mormonism operates under a huge disadvantage. Almost all of our founding events happened in a time period that the rest of America is doing its best to forget – that black hole between the Bill of Rights and the Civil War. Almost no one in America knows anything worth a damn about this time period. And Joseph Smith is smack-dab in the middle of it.

        It was an ugly, paranoid, prejudiced, violent and lawless time. Justice was more of an ideal than a reality on the American frontier. Women’s rights, religious tolerance, and enlightened government were all American ideals in the same sense that “all men are created equal” was an “ideal” in the deep South in 1830.

        Civil War gets press because it was too big to ignore, and you can always romanticize a war.

        What’s to romanticize about the genocidal rages of a bunch of bigoted Missouri frontiersmen?

        What’s to romanticize about sending a freaking army out to fight a bunch of religious farmers because you don’t like their marriage practices (while back in Washington DC, men were degrading and abusing their wives freely)?

        Ever read a Baltimore newspaper article on Mormonism from that time period?

        It’s enough to make “Mein Kampf” look tame by comparison.

        This is America. Romanticized, moral, always-correct, freedom-loving, nation-of-destiny, God-bless-America.

        And heaven forbid that we should have to actually sit down and face what a bunch of douchebags we really were.

        No, much easier to dump the entire historical burden on the Mormons – because then we can write the whole thing off on “religious zealotry” and go back to our secular fantasies.

      • And yes, I’m ranting.

        Nothing personal Guest Writer.

        The frustration has been building for some time.

      • Even though I’m not Guest Writer, I’d say: no need to apologize.

        My thing is…this shows even more certainly that people are…well…people. And people are low and base. If we rise up, it is from our own hard and difficult process, through blood, sweat, conflict, or even war if need be, to begin changing our values. But still, “up” and “down,” “low” and “high” are reflections of our times.

        There doesn’t seem to be any problem as long as we recognize that people are people. But if we throw an element of the divine in the mix — particularly of a deity that interacts and inspires — then things become awkward.

      • Guest Writer 800+ permalink

        “Almost no one in America knows anything worth a damn about this time period. And Joseph Smith is smack-dab in the middle of it.”

        I agree, that’s why I think some of the teenage brides should be considered even worse, when taking into account the age of puberty back then.

        “A lot of the hostility toward Mormon history stems from an ignorance of what America was like in those days. They were savage and brutal times when our civil society had not yet fully developed.”

        Agreed. For example, although both sides were at fault, I hold the Missourians more responsible for the trouble there than the Mormons.

      • Guest Writer 800+ permalink

        Also, if I were in Brigham’s place, I probably would have been kind to the Native Americans as well, because I would have believed in the Book of Mormon and D&C, both of which talk about how they were suppose to join the church and return to the fold of God.

      • I don’t think you’re going to convince me that the Mormons were equally at fault with the Missourians in the events in Missouri (like Haun’s Mill and the Extermination Order).

        I will, of course, hold the Mormons more than culpable for the Mountain Meadows Massacre and resign Missourian culpability to the realm of speculation.

      • Guest Writer 800+ permalink

        “I don’t think you’re going to convince me that the Mormons were equally at fault with the Missourians in the events in Missouri.”

        What? No. That is the opposite of what I said.

      • Oh. Oops.

        You all hate me!

        I know you do. Don’t try to deny it!

      • it’s because you’re just so hatable

      • Guest Writer 800+ permalink

        “Just so hatable in every way
        And forever more, thats how you’ll stay
        Thats why, darling, its incredible
        That someone just so hatable
        Thinks that I am just so hatable too.” 🙂

        Any other thoughts on things that we consider worse today than then? The age of marriage is a “partially worse” and “partially better” from me when taken into context.

        I hear the argument a lot that we need to take it into context, but the things that bother me about church history bothered people back then as well. Failed prophecies, years of lying to his wife and the church, altering revelations to say the exact opposite of what they originally said…things that give me reason to mistrust him and any connection with the divine that he might have.

      • I hate Seth because every time I see his handle, I think of this Seth R., and then I get the urge to go waste my time watching funny movies.

        Damn you, Seth!

  20. You can’t rain on the parade, Seth. We march under tarp here…

    Personally, I wasn’t upset to find out there was a different Joseph. It just seemed a matter of course. I mean, I’m still not anywhere near a historian or whatever, so I still learn stuff every day, but history isn’t something that bursts my bubble.

  21. FireTag permalink

    Bridget Jack:

    I think the LDS are trapped in option 2 to the point of either succeeding or going down in flames. Asserting that the doctrines taught by JS are original Christianity in a world of non-historians when a religion 40 times as large is telling people “no it isn’t” will inevitably lead back to the credibility of JS.

    Option 3 hasn’t worked really well in missionary terms for us in the CofChrist, and we have been a lot closer to Protestantism from 1844 on.

    Of course, maybe we all just go with what we believe to be true and “get along”.

    By the way, your reputation for being a NICE evil person seems heartily deserved. (I’m just not nice!) 😀

  22. I know plenty of people who started out Mormon, found out about Joseph Smith’s shadier history, and were able to find ways of staying Mormon. I know plenty of people who left the church for the same reason.

    I know very, very few people who knew about Joseph Smith’s history before becoming LDS and still chose to become LDS, and some of those few I do know were former evangelical anti-Mormons who joined the church as part of a catharsis over guilt for their bad behavior—hey, I nearly did that myself. But the reason evangelicals drill the “Joseph Smith’s child brides” angle so much is because most people who learn about it before hand will never become Mormon. It’s hit-and-miss for making people doubt the church, but pretty effective at keeping people away in the first place.

    I’m sure that sounds ugly to my LDS friends, but it’s the truth.

  23. FireTag ~ Interesting point on the RLDS comparison. I imagine the church will try option 2 for some time before it ever tries option 3. I do think that option 1 will only be disastrous in the long run. My three year-old is already hooked on computer games for tots. It will be interesting to see what the church does when faced with a whole generation of potential converts who were raised with the Internet and had such easy access to this information.

    As for me being nice… I normally have a “bitch” mode, but honestly, these past couple of weeks I’ve been feeling better than I have in years. It’s hard to be a bitch when I’m feeling this good. 🙂

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