the Mormon Claim
Rewriting the LDS History
As I have spent time looking at the Mormons during these last four months, it has become very obvious that the LDS Church is guilty of systematically rewriting its own history. It thus paints a picture of itself that is historically untrue in many ways. I remain undecided about just how serious a blow this represents to the unique claims of Mormonism, but at the very least it is be appropriate to judge Mormonism by what it truly is and what it truly has done, not by the "spruced-up" picture it presents of itself.
LDS Church history can be divided into several segments, but the most important one in examining the unique claims of Mormonism is the period from the claimed "First Vision" in 1820 until the death of Joseph Smith in 1844. The official LDS Church representation of this period is contained in the seven-volume "History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, History of Joseph Smith the Prophet, by Himself, with Introduction and Notes by B.H. Roberts", published 1902-1912. (Actually only the first six volumes covered this period; the seventh has more to do with the later period under Brigham Young.) This book is not what it claims to be, in two important ways. First, it is a revisionist history in many ways, as can be easily demonstrated. Second, only about 40 percent of the History was written by Joseph Smith, the remainder was written by other Mormons and has been edited to make it appear as if it was written by him. This too can be easily demonstrated.
Let me focus on just the first of these two issues, because it is the more important. I stated that the revisionism is easily demonstrable. This is because much of the 40 percent of the History that Joseph Smith wrote was published serially in a variety of Mormon magazines and newspapers at the time. The revisions were made later, under the direct guidance of Brigham Young (who succeeded Joseph Smith as President of the LDS Church), and were then collected and printed in their altered form beginning in 1902. Ironically, there is an admission of all of this revisionism in the seventh volume of the History (the one about Brigham Young), which was not published until 1932. The entry for April 1, 1845 (vol 7, p. 389) is the first of a number of Brigham Young journal entries were this is explicitly mentioned. By comparing the "History of the Church" with these Mormons periodicals, it is immediately obvious that substantive changes have been made.
The changes have occurred in several categories. One category concerns Joseph Smith's breaking of what Mormons call the "Word of Wisdom". This "Word" concerns the prohibition of such things as caffeine and liquor. Occasional mentions by Smith that he broke this supposed commandment (with regard to alcohol) on a semi-regular basis have been removed without any notice. Another serious change involves what Mormons call the "Rocky Mountain Prophecy." This was supposedly a prophecy made by Joseph Smith, but in fact was added in after the Mormon move to Salt Lake City. Another category of changes concerns the various criminal charges that were filed against Joseph Smith during his lifetime. For example, the Mormon
"Millennial Star" printed that "Joseph Smith was indicted for treason" (vol. 21, p. 762), but the "History" notes only that Smith was indicted (vol. 5, p. 514). The words "for treason" have been dropped with no notice whatsoever.
Another category involves the deletion of prophecies made by Smith that turned out to be false. Two examples. First, Smith prophesied the total eradication of the U.S. Congress
(Millennial Star, vol. 23, p. 406), which has been conveniently deleted in the History's reproduction of this exact passage in vol. 6, p. 116. Second, Smith prophesied that the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, would be the site of the salvation of the dead
(Millennial Star, vol. 23, p. 280). But in the reproduction of this exact passage in History (vol. 6, p. 319), this prophecy has been deleted with no notice.
Perhaps the most embarrassing problem concerns the name of the angel that supposedly appeared to Joseph Smith on September 21st of 1823, 24, 25, 26, and 27. Ask any Mormon if it is possible that Smith didn't know this angel's name, or that he forgot it. "Impossible," they will rightly say. But throughout the early 1830's, the name of the angel was not mentioned when Smith told the story of the angel visiting him. For example, see "Messenger and Advocate", vol. 1, p. 79. For a few years Smith then used the name "Moroni", but in the 1842 "Times and Seasons" (vol. 3., no 12., p. 753) it was related as "Nephi". The reprinting of this exact passage in History (vol. 1, p. 11) has changed "Nephi" to "Moroni", even though "Nephi" was again printed in the
"Millennial Star" (vol. 3, pp. 53, 71). "Nephi" was also used in the original editions of the PofGP, but was changed to "Moroni" beginning with the 1878 edition. The LDS Church is aware of this major discrepancy, but claims that it was an accidental error, and cites D&C section 27, which is supposedly a revelation given in 1830, as proof that "Moroni" was used as early as 1830. But as I mentioned in an earlier posting, the D&C also has been revised in a number of ways, and when this revelation was originally printed in 1833 the angel was unnamed. In any case, to claim that this was an isolated error strains credulity. It is like speaking for years about Peter's conversion on the road to Damascus.
All of this contrasts with the words of the preface to the History (vol. 1, pp. vii.): "The most careful attention has been given to this work by those engaged in its preparation. The manuscript has been read to the Church Historian, President Anthon H. Lund, with constant reference to the original manuscript history and all copies of it published in the Times and Seasons and the Millennial Star; and also to various editions of the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of Commandments published at Independence, Missouri, in 1833, where the revelations received by the Prophet Joseph Smith are contained. In the course of this work slight variations in phraseology were discovered in the several editions of the Doctrine and Covenants, that doubtless arose through careless proof reading; and as between the most carefully proof-read editions and the revelations found in the manuscript History of the Church there were some slight differences, which were corrected to agree with the original manuscript; but the corrections were never made until first submitted to the First Presidency, and carefully considered and approved by them. We therefore feel that this great care has resulted in presenting to the Church and to the world the revelations which the Prophet Joseph Smith received in their most perfect form; and that a standard is created for all future publication of these revelations."
This statement is an outright lie. Period. The fact of a lie such as this raises serious questions about the claim that the LDS Church is the one and only church supported by God at this time
P.S. I realize that neither you nor the average Mormon has access to copies of these early documents. I have electronic copies of ALL of these references on a CD-ROM, and can send you copies of them if for any reason you want to see them for yourself.
Avon, Indiana, USA