Have you ever read Letter to a CES Director?
The author brought up some pretty good points about various things in Church history which troubled him. Among them included multiple varying accounts of the First Vision, the fact that Joseph did not even use the gold plates to translate, of course – Joseph’s polygamy and polyandry. But – he also brought up some disturbing facts about the temple and masonry (which I’ve known for some time and which you probably agree with).
I thought I would include FAIR’s response to his concerns about the connection of Masonry and the Temple endowment and see what you think about FAIRs reply…”
I have read the Letter to a CES Director and the FAIR response but it has been a while.
I feel that some of the FAIR responses were pretty good while others were kind of lame.
My feeling is that the atonement statute prophecy [ atonement statute final3 ] pretty much explains many of the troubling issues, including masonry and the temple endowment. In my opinion, Masonry is of the devil and it makes perfect sense that the Lord allowed it to infiltrate the church in fulfillment of his promise in 1829 that he would deliver the saints to Satan for a season if they hardened their hearts.
The fact that Joseph did not use the gold plates to translate makes perfect sense once a person realizes that it was the Lord that translated (interpreted- one of the definitions of translate is interpret) the content in the gold plates, not Joseph. Joseph simply read the English interpretation that was put before him by the power of God, hence there was really no need for the plates to always be present while Joseph read the narrative to his scribe.
He never claimed to understand the foreign language nor did he claim to be doing a traditional scholarly word or word translation from one language to the other.
I have mentioned before that the conflicting versions of the first vision presents the exact same dilemma about the Father and the Son, that shows up in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon…
..is that a coincidence?
I don’t think so.
It is very possible that during the revealing of the “mystery of Godliness” to Joseph, God appeared singularly at one point and also separated from each other at one point. Joseph was probably sharing the experience based on his audience and perception at the time of each rehearsal.
The Father and the Son are the same, when Christ is in the eternal world dwelling within the bosom of the Father, yet they are different and distinct personalities when the Father sends the Son forth to do a work. Therefore I don’t get indigestion over the apparent discrepancies in the various accounts of the first vision as they simply duplicate the “apparent” discrepancies in the relationship of the Father and the Son in the Bible and Book of Mormon.
It is interesting to note that the Father and the Son differ from each other (when Christ is sent forth from the Father) in that the Son was a “created” (organized) intelligence (only begotten of the Father) and he always has and always will derive his power from the Father, yet the Father is the great “I am“, meaning, in part, that he was never created nor did he ever derive his power from a previous God or creator. His has been eternally self existent. He has always been the sovereign, omnipotent, supreme power in the universe. (See Lectures, etc.)
I really enjoyed reading the letter to the CES director because after reviewing each issue, my faith in the restoration and in Biblical Christianity was increased as a result of studying the answers to these questions. As I recall, I already had my answers to most of the things he brought up. There were, however, a few of the things he brought up that I had not considered before, and they provided some great study topics wherein I got the answers to the questions that were brought up.. and it really enhanced my faith.
After the dust settled, as I recall, there was only a few issues he brought up that I could not find a 100% acceptable answer to YET… and I can’t even remember what those issues are.. that is how insignificant they were for me in the greater context of what has been revealed. Usually when I am confronted with something that seems to seriously challenge the restoration, or Biblical Christianity, I cannot let go of it until I have found the answer, yet I find nothing in the essay compelling.
Anyway, if there are any specific questions that you have about the paper, I would be willing to give my two cents on it.
BTW, this is a little off topic, it has become fashionable in some circles, in the Internet, to believe that Book of Mormon has very little to do with Biblical Christianity and that the evil Sidney Rigdon and Parley Pratt were responsible for superimposing the restoration of the New Testament Church of Christ, as well as New Testament theology, into the Book of Mormon narrative, directly or indirectly.
I have previously responded to that nonsense by pointing out that the D&C states that the Book of Mormon was given to prove the Bible (Holy Scriptures) is true (D&C 20:11) and that the inclusion of the Isaiah passages of the KJV of the Bible and a few passages from the NT prove that the Bible is true.
Nevertheless, I personally felt that it would be a great study project to actually go through the BofM verse by verse and compare them ALL to the passages in the Bible to see if in fact there is significantly more cross pollination than what we generally suppose.
I entertained doing that horrendous research project for about 60 seconds because I just don’t have the time to do it and it would literally take years to do it since key word searching, though helpful, would be inadequate for such an endeavor since many doctrinal passages would not necessarily use the exact same words.
Well.. to my great surprise, within a matter of weeks after pondering those things, I have been made aware of a person (that once lived in the stake I grew up in ) named Elwood Norris, that has done just that. Woody has spent over a decade making those comparisons and he has uncovered an overwhelming amount of examples where the Book of Mormon is basically parroting and rephrasing passages from the Bible with various wording changes, etc.
The funny (yet sad, ) thing is that Elwood has lost his testimony and left the church and he uses the research in his book to demonstrate that, according to his view as a skeptic, Joseph Smith plagiarized the Bible to create the Book of Mormon.
His book is called
The Book of Mormon is Literary Grand Theft
So, Norris, in his attempt to challenge the validity of the Book of Mormon has done the extensive research, that I wanted to do, to debunk the insidious claim that the Book of Mormon has a distinctly different message than the Bible! LOL
Anyway, If there are specific issues about the CES letter I have not already addressed, fire them at me. We can play stump the dummy 🙂
“Interesting you mention that about the word for word copying from the KJV. Please read this whole page of Jeremy Runnels Debunking Fair’s Debunking – concerning his doubts about the Book of Mormon claims..
Most interesting is the fact that there are word-for-word copying of the 1769 KJV translation errors including italicized words found in the Book of Mormon. Passages that later Joseph would “correct” in the JST – as his theological views changed. Why, if the Book of Mormon, was the “most correct” book on earth – would the Lord include passages that had errors that would later have to be corrected???
Read that whole linked page and follow the hyperlinks. This is pretty challenging research.”
Yes I have covered this issue in one of my posts.. I find it faith-promoting that some of the passages with errors in them were included in the Book of Mormon…. that is one of the things that, in my opinion, would prove, in a court of law, that the Bible, despite some of it’s imperfections, is a true, authentic ancient record that witnesses of Christ’s death and resurrection.
If one assumes from personal witness that the Book of Mormon is true to begin with, and that the content therein represents an inspired interpretation from God, rather then a scholarly word for word translation from one language to another, then the act of God embedding passages from the King James Version of the Bible, (including corrupted passages) hundreds of years before it is even written, proves beyond dispute, that the KJV Bible (that was the commonly read Bible of Joseph’s day), was a translation of a true ancient record, despite having a few translation problems in it.
Obviously, if the translation would have been a scholarly word for word exchange from one language to another, the KJV passages could not possibly have been found within the Book of Mormon. ( I have already addressed this in a blog somewhere, so I won’t beat a dead horse)
BTW I am not sure that the following quote you make reference to means what many people commonly assume that it means
“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (History of the Church, 4:461.)
Is he saying that the Book of Mormon has more truth and deeper doctrine and more accurate doctrine in it than any other book?
I don’t think so.
If he meant that, he would not have spent the remainder of his ministry quoting mostly from the Bible and modern revelation.
He was saying that the record of the Nephites was the most correct translation because God himself gave the inspired interpretation of what was being conveyed on the plates. That cannot be said of the Bible. The Bible is an imperfect scholarly translation with some errors although it is still extremely accurate and provides the necessary witnesses of Christ and him crucified.
By its own admission, the Book of Mormon only contains the lesser things and the time will come when the greater things (deeper things) will come forth.
I believe what he was saying in the above quote, is that the translation (inspired interpretation by God) of the Book of Mormon was the most inspired translation (interpretation) compared to the translation of the Bible which was translated by men.
Backing out the quoting of the KJV passages that were included, in my opinion, primarily for the express purpose of proving the Bible to be true, everything else in the Book of Mormon represents the most correct interpretation of what people were trying to say because God himself was providing the inspired interpretation of what they were trying to convey.
This leaves open the very real possibility that even the personal narrative of what people were saying about their own history, may have been more of God’s interpretation of what they meant, than what they actually attempted to say in their imperfect language and imperfect ability to articulate what they wanted to convey, etc. Again, I have already discussed this in a post and don’t want to beat a dead horse.
I have personally felt that there is a much softer, even more spiritual “feel” to the way the Book of Mormon is written, compared with the Bible. It speaks softly to my soul in a way that the Bible and the D&C do not, and yet, it certainly does not contain more true doctrine or deeper doctrine. Indeed the D&C is unlike any other cannon of scripture in that most of it is in the direct words of God, in our language. Since God is an eternal, exacting being, his words do not sound as warm and fuzzy to us as word that he has interpreted for us from human beings like Nephi and Alma, etc. Hence, the Book of Mormon is simply written in a way that makes me feel closer to God… I think that is the point Joseph was making.
I have pointed out before that 90+% of the references provided in lectures on faith were from the Bible.
For one thing, the Bible is the most important reference point of Joseph’s generation. Nevertheless, the Bible does not take a back seat to the Book of Mormon when it comes to deep and accurate doctrine… indeed, I am not sure that Rigdon could have provided all of the necessary documentation to what he had written in Lectures on Faith, using only the Book of Mormon.
Rigdon was using the information given him and Joseph contained in Section 76 to draw from when he wrote Lectures on Faith. Although he may have used a few BofM passages in the footnotes, the vast majority came from the Bible… again, the audience that missionary work was being directed to needed proof of what was being said in the Lectures, from the Bible, not from the Book of Mormon.
Another thing that one needs to keep in mind, is that the lesser things in our current Book of Mormon, have been given in such a way as to “try” our “faith” in the Book of Mormon. We are informed that the “greater things” will eventually be made “manifest” to those that believe. (3 Nephi 26:9)
Is there a possibility that the next installment of the Book of Mormon that comes forth will be withheld from unbelievers?
BTW all I can do is try to explain why I am at peace with these issues that critics bring up. I don’t expect this to necessarily make sense to you or to satisfy your concerns. I respect the fact that we each need to reconcile each of these issues to our own satisfaction..
“Couldn’t what you describe including Joseph almost exclusively preaching from the Bible be part of why the whole church was placed under condemnation? For “treating lightly” the Book of Mormon?”
Sure, in theory, that is a possibility. I just don’t think that is the case after evaluating all of evidence, hopefully with the spirit as my helper.
It is interesting that you pose that question today. I noticed that a recent post on another blog site makes that contention. I think this issue represents one of the many forks in the road where a person needs to decide if the work Joseph was called to ended with the translation of the Book of Mormon or if the Lord really was restoring the New Testament Church and was continuing to speak through the revelations canonized in the BofC and original D&C.
It is not a coincidence that proponents of the first mentioned fork in the road, quote the following passages from the D&C with total emphasis on the sin of taking the Book of Mormon lightly, without acknowledging the fact that the sin was two-fold, the sin of taking the Book of Mormon AND THE FORMER COMMANDMENTS lightly
4 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
It just is not consistent and honest to only see the part of a verse that we want to see.
I believe one should either reject the entire passage altogether since it implies an ongoing relationship between God and the Saints with credible revelations being given, OR accept the entire passage which validates the veracity of modern revelation and everything that modern revelation documents, including, the restoration of Biblical Christianity, the restoration of the Biblical church, the restoration of power to perform saving ordinances as documented in both the Bible and Book of Mormon, the restoration of the Biblical (and Book of Mormon) documented baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, the restoration of the law of consecration and monotonous marriage, etc., etc..
It was not just the rejection of the Book of Mormon that put the saints under condemnation. It was the rejection of the law of consecration and the rejection of the fulness of the priesthood/fulness of the Gospel that was being offered.
“Indeed it was both. But none of the truth is really still within the LDS Church at this point.
Also, even with the Atonement Statute, it takes a lot of faith to accept any true revelation coming after Joseph started practicing polygamy. It appears that started in 1833. Wow. Lots to dissect.
Please show me a credible source that proves that Joseph Smith started practicing polygamy in 1833.
The historians and history that I have read seem to indicate that 1835 or 36 is the more probable time period that is started, which fits in perfectly with the Atonement Statute prophecy and the five part ministry of Joseph Smith that I have documented.
I read on Fair Mormon’s CES Letter response. It was with Fanny Alger I believe, in Kirtland.
Response to claim: “Joseph’s marriage to Fanny Alger was described by his cousin, Oliver Cowdery, as a ‘dirty, nasty, filthy affair'”
The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:
Joseph’s marriage to Fanny Alger was described by his cousin, Oliver Cowdery, as a ‘dirty, nasty, filthy affair’
Question: Did Joseph Smith marry Fanny Alger as his first plural wife in 1833?
Joseph Smith met Fanny Alger in 1833 when she was a house-assistant to Emma
Joseph Smith came to know Fanny Alger in early 1833 when she stayed at the Smith home as a house-assistant to Emma. Neither Joseph nor Fanny ever left any first-hand accounts of their relationship. There are no second-hand accounts from Emma or Fanny’s family. All that we do have is third hand accounts from people who did not directly observe the events associated with this first plural marriage, and most of them recorded many years after the events.
Joseph said that the “ancient order of plural marriage” was to again be practiced at the time that Fanny was living with his family
Benjamin F. Johnson stated that in 1835 he had “learned from my sister’s husband, Lyman R. Sherman, who was close to the Prophet, and received it from him, ‘that the ancient order of Plural Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.’ This, at the time did not impress my mind deeply, although there lived then with his family (the Prophet’s) a neighbor’s daughter, Fannie Alger, a very nice and comely young woman about my own age, toward whom not only myself, but every one, seemed partial, for the amiability for her character; and it was whispered even then that Joseph loved her.”
Joseph asked the brother-in-law of Fanny’s father to make the request of Fanny’s father, after which a marriage ceremony was performed
Mosiah Hancock discusses the manner in which the proposal was extended to Fanny, and states that a marriage ceremony was performed. Joseph asked Levi Hancock, the brother-in-law of Samuel Alger, Fanny’s father, to request Fanny as his plural wife:
Samuel, the Prophet Joseph loves your daughter Fanny and wishes her for a wife. What say you?” Uncle Sam says, “Go and talk to the old woman [Fanny’s mother] about it. Twill be as she says.” Father goes to his sister and said, “Clarissy, Brother Joseph the Prophet of the most high God loves Fanny and wishes her for a wife. What say you?” Said she, “Go and talk to Fanny. It will be all right with me.” Father goes to Fanny and said, “Fanny, Brother Joseph the Prophet loves you and wishes you for a wife. Will you be his wife?” “I will Levi,” said she. Father takes Fanny to Joseph and said, “Brother Joseph I have been successful in my mission.” Father gave her to Joseph, repeating the ceremony as Joseph repeated to him.
Question: Did some of Joseph Smith’s associates believe that he had an affair with Fanny Alger?
Oliver Cowdery perceived the relationship between Joseph and Fanny as a “dirty, nasty, filthy affair”
Some of Joseph’s associates, most notably Oliver Cowdery, perceived Joseph’s association with Fanny as an affair rather than a plural marriage. Oliver, in a letter to his brother Warren, asserted that “in every instance I did not fail to affirm that which I had said was strictly true. A dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger’s was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deserted from the truth in the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself.”
Gary J. Bergera, an advocate of the “affair” theory, wrote:
I do not believe that Fanny Alger, whom [Todd] Compton counts as Smith’s first plural wife, satisfies the criteria to be considered a “wife.” Briefly, the sources for such a “marriage” are all retrospective and presented from a point of view favoring plural marriage, rather than, say, an extramarital liaison…Smith’s doctrine of eternal marriage was not formulated until after 1839–40. 
There are several problems with this analysis. While it is true that sources on Fanny are all retrospective, the same is true of many early plural marriages. Fanny’s marriage has more evidence than some. Bergera says that all the sources about Fanny’s marriage come “from a point of view favoring plural marriage,” but this claim is clearly false.
Even hostile accounts of the relationship between Joseph and Fanny report a marriage or sealing
For example, Fanny’s marriage was mentioned by Ann Eliza Webb Young, a later wife of Brigham Young’s who divorced him, published an anti-Mormon book, and spent much of her time giving anti-Mormon, anti-polygamy lectures. Fanny stayed with Ann Eliza’s family after leaving Joseph and Emma’s house, and both Ann Eliza and her father Chauncey Webb  refer to Joseph’s relationship to Fanny as a “sealing.”  Eliza also noted that the Alger family “considered it the highest honor to have their daughter adopted into the prophet’s family, and her mother has always claimed that she [Fanny] was sealed to Joseph at that time.”  This would be a strange attitude to take if their relationship was a mere affair. And, the hostile Webbs had no reason to invent a “sealing” idea if they could have made Fanny into a mere case of adultery.
Response to claim: “Joseph was practicing polygamy before the sealing authority was given”
The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:
Joseph was practicing polygamy before the sealing authority was given
Question: How could Joseph and Fanny have been married in 1831 if the sealing power had not yet been restored?
There is historical evidence that Joseph Smith knew as early as 1831 that plural marriage would be restored
There is historical evidence that Joseph Smith knew as early as 1831 that plural marriage would be restored. Mosiah Hancock (a Mormon) reported a wedding ceremony in Kirtland, Ohio in 1833.
Apostate Mormons Ann Eliza Webb Young and her father Chauncery both referred to Fanny’s relationship as a “sealing.” Ann Eliza also reported that Fanny’s family was very proud of Fanny’s relationship with Joseph, which makes little sense if it was simply a tawdry affair. Those closest to them saw the marriage as exactly that—a marriage.
Joseph and Fanny’s marriage was a plural marriage, not an eternal marriage
Some have wondered how the first plural marriages (such as the Alger marriage) could have occurred before the 1836 restoration of the sealing keys in the Kirtland temple (see DC 110:). This confusion occurs because we tend to conflate several ideas. They were not all initially wrapped together in one doctrine:
- plural marriage – the idea that one could be married (in mortality) to more than one woman: being taught by 1831.
- eternal marriage – the idea that a man and spouse could be sealed and remain together beyond the grave: being taught by 1835.
- “celestial” marriage – the combination of the above two ideas, in which all marriages—plural and monogamous—could last beyond the grave via the sealing powers: implemented by 1840-41.
Thus, the marriage to Fanny would have occurred under the understanding #1 above. The concept of sealing beyond the grave came later. Therefore, the marriage of Joseph and Fanny would have been a plural marriage, but it would not have been a marriage for eternity.
I believe the above response that you provided, actually proves my point.
The most powerful and compelling text in the entire thing, with regard to suggesting 1833 as the start of Joseph practicing polygamy, is the following question at the beginning of the article, that leads people to assume that if there was a marriage between Joseph and Fanny, it would have been in 1833.
“Question: Did Joseph Smith marry Fanny Alger as his first plural wife in 1833?”
Kind of an assumptive approach to begin the article don’t you think.
After the question, I could only see one shred of evidence for 1833 and that was a second or third hand reminiscence by Mosiah Handcock. The article fails to point out that the reminiscence was given in 1896!. This appears to be a memory of someone that was a teenager at the time, who was remembering rumors he heard. Add to that the bias he had in wanting to substantiate the practice as soon as possible, as a Brighamite battling with the RLDS challenge to the practice of polygamy.
It seems to me that the hard historical evidence comes with the “dirty filthy affair” event in 1835. That event seems to have more than one corroboration. If that event is true, it seems odd that it took 2 or 3 years for anyone to figure out that some kind of relationship was taking place between these two if indeed they had been married since 1833.
I guess the point is that one cannot prove historically for certain when Joseph began acting out the practice of polygamy, but I personally find historians like Anderson, Faulring, and Bushman to be more credible in their conclusions on this issue since nobody seems to be able to present more evidence that what you have shown above. In the words of Bushman, who acknowledged the conclusion made by Compton, “ there is evidence that Joseph Smith was a polygamist by 1835..” page 323 of Rough Stone Rolling
Additionally, I am not just going by history, I believe that revelation and prophecy can play a role in helping us make sense of things, and they appear to identify mid to late 1834 as being the time when the crap hit the fan and the fulness was rejected. From that perspective, the conclusions of people like Faulring, Anderson and Bushman seems to fit the Biblical Profile and history that support 1835 or later as the start of polygamy.. And keep in mind that there is a significant difference between “Biblical Polygamy” and the “spiritual wife doctrine” that emerges later on in the church.
BTW according to the testimony of Lightner and others, the angel appeared to Joseph three times between 1834 and 1842 commanding him to restore the practice of polygamy:
“Mary Elizabeth Lightner, a plural wife of the Prophet, recalled Joseph’s words relating how an angel appeared to him in 1834 commanding him to restore the practice of polygamy: “The angel came to me three times between the years of 1834 and 1842 and said I was to obey that principle.”1 This directive prompted Joseph to enter a plural marriage sometime thereafter.”
Why was Joseph telling people the angel began commanding him to restore polygamy in 1834, if he had already restored it in 1833?
BTW, I just did some surfing to see where Brian Hales stands on this topic. It looks like we can add Hales to the list of historians that accept 1835 as the most credible probability of when Joseph began living it.
Here is a quote from Hales from an article on this link
“The historical record indicates that Joseph Smith contracted his first plural
marriage in 1835 or 1836 in Kirtland, Ohio, with Fanny Alger. Upon learning
of the relationship, his legal wife, Emma, and close friend Oliver Cowdery
rejected it, considering it adulterous”.
At this point, Hales and his paid research assistant may be the greatest historical authorities on Joseph Smith’s polygamy.
Ok. But what about the Church admitting the polyandry that Joseph practiced?
I don’t see a problem.
The Polyandry also fits in perfectly with the polygamy with regard to the Atonement Statute.. [.atonement statute final3 ] the guy went bonkers when the sins of Israel were put upon him.. he committed “iniquity” and had to be chastened by the rod of man … what can I say?
For that matter, some people would argue that he committed blasphemy when he said God has not been from everlasting to everlasting, contradicting not only the Bible, but the scriptures he had helped to bring forth. Others would argue that he committed murder or attempted murder, etc.
I am not accusing him of all of these things because I don’t know for sure, however, it would only further validate the prophecy in 2 Sam 7 and all of the other related prophecies regarding the Biblical profile of Joseph Smith’s mission, if he did. Keep in mind that he had previously obtained his calling and election, so that he could make an atonement like unto what Moses did.
Editorial Note: I had the same person send a follow up question
“Since Joseph didn’t actually use the gold plates to do a word for word physical translation because the rock in the hat gave him the words – then you cannot claim that God gave the Book of Mormon prophets the modern KJV words written with errors in it”
Frankly, the deeper I delve into these kind of issues, the more clear it becomes to me that one cannot second guess the Lord on why he did the things he did and the way he did them. Spiritual things must be discerned by the spirit. This is why the promise contained in the BofM has nothing to do with over-analyzing things and getting invested in ones own critical thinking process. Christianity is a mystical faith-based religion and the test provided by the Book of Mormon is apparently given for the express purpose of weeding out those people who are not spiritually minded and who require an logical, intellectual answer on every aspect of the gospel and the way that the restoration was conducted. . The key is not to see if the Lord method of doing things meet the standards of the natural man but rather if the natural man can become humble and contrite and to realize that the Lord’s ways and thoughts are not the same as man’s ways and thoughts