Another Mormon Podcast

Episode 34: Joseph Smith History Series #3

On this episode, Richard, Leanna, Cynthia, and Daniel discuss Joseph Smith’s formative years between the ages of 17 to 21 years old.

4 thoughts on “Episode 34: Joseph Smith History Series #3

  1. J. Reuben Clerk

    I’m enjoying the Joseph Smith series. I have one comment. To me, the Book of Mormon addressing the pressing issues of Joseph Smith’s time/location could cut both ways.

    It could reflect Joseph dictating a story consistent with what is important to him based on his experience.

    Alternatively, it could reflect ancients prophets being inspired by God to select the right one hundredth of everything they could have selected that was particularly compelling to the people of Joseph Smith’s time/location to allow the Church to get off the ground. In other words, the Book of Mormon was just what the Church needed to get momentum and then God was able to fill in the rest via revelation. This is aligned with the argument the grand spiritual manifestations and revelations were needed initially for momentum, but are not seen now because they are no longer needed.

    Anyway, I think there are far more compelling reasons to criticize the Book of Mormon than the fact that it spoke to people in Joseph Smith’s time/day. I think the Church’s own narrative (e.g., the Book of Mormon was “for our day”) would make it easy to dismiss this criticism.

    1. Richard Post author

      I think this is an interesting example exactly because of what you have pointed out. I used to think modern themes in the BOM were evidence FOR the divine mission of the Book of Mormon. Now it seems obvious to me that in fact they are evidence for the book not really having an ancient origin. I kind of hit myself in the head thinking “why was I so stupid? It is so obvious. It was obvious to Alexander Campbell in 1833!” or whatever.

      Of course, if you are going to say that this is evidence for the divinity of the Book of Mormon, then you could really say that anything is evidence of divine guidance. Joseph’s failed prophecies? They are an example of God testing his saints! Joseph Smith having sex with dozens of women? That’s just Joseph being obedient to God! God works in mysterious ways, and you can use that fact to explain away anything you want to, including ancient authors talking about things they would have known nothing about but happen to be the hot-button topics of Joseph’s time!

      We can play this game, I guess, but I refuse to take it seriously. There have to be some ground rules. Lying is lying, cheating is cheating, and so on. God doesn’t condone lying, he doesn’t condone cheating. Those are the kinds of rules I follow when thinking about this stuff. Included in that is the idea that ancient books should have ancient, not modern, material in them. It just seems to me to be the simplest and most correct way to think about these things. In other words, I try to avoid the “mental gymnastics.”

  2. J. Reuben Clerk

    I’m not playing any games, although I suppose I am channeling my own inner TBM Whisperer. I don’t believe the Book of Mormon is a historical document. But as you said, “I used to think modern themes in the BOM were evidence FOR the divine mission of the Book of Mormon.” You were the perfect example. For people who believe in the Book of Mormon, it speaks to our day, which is something preached all the time in the Church. Trying to point out how the Book of Mormon spoke to Joseph’s day is not an effective criticism because it can cut two ways, one of which plays directly into the Church’s narrative with no mental gymnastics required. That’s why you didn’t see the obvious until you, like Alexander Campbell, didn’t believe in the Book of Mormon. For me, it is more of an “ah ha” moment for people post faith transition than a compelling argument to persuade people while still believing. I hope that makes sense. In contrast, the Church’s narrative has not been Joseph screwed up his prophecies, Joseph lied about polygamy, Joseph was having sex with his plural wives behind Emma’s back, etc. That’s why those are far more compelling issues to raise.

    1. Sarah Post author

      I think you make a good point and I think you are right that this isn’t going to change any TBM minds.

      -Richard

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