So I’m reading Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck and wow is it eye-opening. It is raising concerns for me regarding the efficacy of anything that came from Joseph Smith. I’m familiar with the problems of the Book of Mormon, such as DNA evidence, no sheep or horse archeological evidence before the Europeans brought them over in the 15th century. Now I know a lack of evidence is not in itself incontrovertible evidence, but given the spuriousness of the POGP origins with the papyri and all, the whole BOM origin seems more tenuous. I understand from your Solving the Prophet Puzzle that the Book of Abraham helps reveal what the Gospel of Abraham entails, but it also seems to teach a false concept of the nature of God if what Martha asserts is correct. I guess the bottom line is, what makes you so sure JS was not just a charlatan from the beginning?
I remember something Pres Hinckley said in what I believe was a conference address, to paraphrase it was something like either JS was led by God or Satan to do all that he did. Thinking back on it and knowing all I know now, I wonder if even he (Hinckley) wasn’t sure which one.
I have received lots of questions like yours and I have decided to respond differently than I normally do.
After fielding numerous scientific objections to the restored gospel, and Christianity in general, during the last several decades, and debating various issues and attempting to help doubters with their scientific stumbling blocks I have come to a few shocking conclusions which I will share.
One is that when I provide a doubter with an answer to one of their scientific stumbling blocks, that I have personally found to be an acceptable answer, generally they also find it to be an acceptable answer which fills both of us with hope that they are going to recover from their temporary doubt and regain faith.
However, inevitably they return with one or two more scientific stumbling blocks that need to be answered.
Again, I share the answers that I have found that I find acceptable and usually they do to, which again fills us both with hope that they are going to get back on the path of belief.
Once again they eventually return with other scientific stumbling blocks and the process is then repeated continuously without end because there is no end to the number of scientific stumbling blocks the mortal intellect of the natural man can conjure up.. particularly when you are reading the books and articles and blogs by skeptics and unbelievers that are sharing all of their stumbling blocks. Hence I have concluded that that game is only a waist of time and effort.
Allow me to share another observation with you in the form of a quasi-allegorical analogy regarding two “paths” or “rabbit holes” that a person can choose to take once they have been introduced to religion in general and the restored gospel specifically. ( I use the term rabbit hole not necessarily in the traditional sense because one of the rabbit holes in this illustration is not evil, it is good, just difficult to stay on)
There are basically two rabbit holes that a person can choose to go down once they choose to leave the innocent mindless state of neutrality and take God seriously enough to begin thinking and searching for the truth and for him.
Before I go further, please note that the rabbit hole one ultimately chooses to go down is a CHOICE which one makes BEFORE they have any serious spiritual knowledge and it is, in my opinion, largely determined by spiritual genetics and the choices they made in the pre-existence.
In other words, I believe the outcome of our probationary existence is largely predetermined or at least strongly affected by what we did and believed and the choices we made in the preexistence.
The one rabbit hole that very few people choose to enter, (or, if entered, very few choose to stay in,) goes straight to a brilliant light at the end of the tunnel that is found on the other side of this world (keep in mind that Satan is the God of this world and he wants you keep you here in his world and his kingdom. ).
This good rabbit hole that leads to life and salvation is very straight and focused but it is very long and has lots of bumps along the way. It has doors and windows along the sides that enable people who quit looking forward at the light at the end of the tunnel to become distracted and to leave the straight rabbit hole and enter the grand maze of a rabbit hole that Satan’s world has to offer
Satan’s rabbit hole leads to an extensive maze full of smoke and mirrors that keeps the person in a state of hidden darkness. It keeps a person located somewhere inside Satan’s domain continually chasing their tail, even though a false feeling of confidence and security is sometimes felt by those that buy into the religion of intellect and science.
Gods Holy Rabbit Hole
The rabbit hole that leads to the brilliant light of eternal salvation is a very narrow course with a very limited set of instructions. Below I have listed the abbreviated set of instructions that our creator has given us for entering into and staying in straight gate or rabbit hole that leads to light and life:
1- To Do: Read ponder, search, and believe on the words of God until you are visited with the manifestation of the Spirit.
2- To Do: Keep searching the scriptures and God for greater enlightenment and for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Live a spirit led life according to the admonitions in the scriptures to the best of your ability.
3- To Do: Endure to the end by continuing to retain a remission of your sins and by continually revisiting God’s word and continually receiving the manifestations of the spirit.
4- Caution Don’t Do: Don’t accept the learning of men and the religion of science (science is a religion!) If you do you will be cursed by it.
I realize those instructions sound very simple and yet they really aren’t. It takes a lot of mental energy to ingest God’s word and living a believing life. Once you have entered the good rabbit hole it is difficult to not take your eyes off of the light straight ahead and look out the windows to see what folks in the large and spacious building are saying and thinking and teaching. it is easy to become enticed by the things in the maze and to become convinced that the light up ahead is an illusion or a figment of your imagination.
Here are a few resources for the above abbreviated instruction God has given us to return to him through the rabbit hole of faith and grace-
“behold, whosoever believeth on my words, them will I visit with the manifestation of my Spirit; and they shall be born of me, even of water and of the Spirit—” D&C 5:16
“Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” Jer 17:5
“Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.” 2 Nephi 28:31
You will notice that the prerequisites and instructions for learning truth and finding one’s way into the light are quite narrow.
Again, once a person has taken the Lord at his word and entered into the strait gate and received the manifestations of the spirit and been spiritually born again they simply need to endure to the end.
This all may sound very mystical and in fact, it is. The true Christian religion is a mystical religion that is faith based. That does not mean that knowledge is not important. It is extremely important.
There is a profound difference between blind faith without knowledge as opposed to knowledge based faith.
The book of Mormon speaks of what I refer to s “pre-knowledge faith” which is the beginning point. That kind of a faith is predicated on a desire to believe something even though one cannot see it and does not have a definitive knowledge of it.
The book of Hebrews in the New Testament on the other hand speaks of what I refer to as ‘post-knowledge faith” which is the ultimate power one is endowed with after showing forth sacrifice and commitment to the Gospel plan. -knowledge based faith is the power that an all knowing God used to create the earth.
Satans Rabbit Hole
Satan’s rabbit hole has a completely contrary set of instructions that are very seductive to the natural man and his carnal mind. The abbreviated set of instructions go something like this-
Put you faith in your logic, intellect and gut feeling and on the logic, intellect and feelings of others who have used science as their measuring yard stick for determining truth, to determine the truth. In other words, use science and the learning of man to judge the accuracy of God’s word and his gospel. In other words, rely heavily in the false light of scientific discovery.
In this scenario it is imperative to use the assumptions provided by learned authors, scholars and scientists to verify the truthfulness of what God says. Although this road often appears to result in a loss of faith and to atheism, in a sense, it really doesn’t. Because putting one’s faith in the arm of flesh and in the conclusions of modern science is actually a religion. It is the religion of the natural man. It is the religion of secularism and the religion of science and of Satan.
The thought of moving forward on faith and not using science and the five mortal senses as the measuring yardsticks for determining truth is repugnant to the carnal mind.
So in essence, both rabbit holes lead to religious belief. One worships the God of the Bible who made all things in heaven and earth while the other worships the God of science who is Satan, the master of all lies.
One of the remarkable things that the New Testament teaches us is that Satan is the God of this carnal world and that things are not as they appear. This mortal existence is largely an illusion and a deception until one humbles themselves and becomes as a little child and submits themselves to God and becomes a new creature. It is only then that a person can see things as they really are through the spiritual eye of discernment.
Scientific discovery and the philosophies of man are always in a state of flux and are unstable and ever changing. This is why modern science is continually discovering previous scientific conclusions that were wrong and is always attempting to self-correct.
When we get to the judgment bar of Christ it will not be an acceptable excuse to say “ I rejected the concept of an anthropomorphic God who is the creator of all living and created us in his own image, that came to earth to suffer for our sins because the learned John Dehlin told me that if there was a God, it is not the God of the Bible and I was not created in his image.
It will not be an acceptable defense to say “I rejected the historicity of the Book of Mormon because Simon Southerton told me that his DNA research proves differently and that science does not support the restoration narrative”.
It will not be acceptable to say, “ I rejected the validity of the Book of Abraham which ultimately led me to reject the restored Gospel because Martha Beck told me that it teaches a false concept of God”
Since when did John Dehlin, Simon Southerton, Martha Beck and a countless host of other skeptics that are not even in the correct rabbit hole become an expert on the light at the end of the tunnel?
I realize it is fun and enticing to read books like Martha’s and to view all of the enticing stuff that one can see as one takes their eyes off of the light and looks out the windows in God’s rabbit hole, but it is a very dangerous thing to do. It is also a very foolish endeavor to pursue prior to becoming proficient in the word of God and receiving the manifestation of God’s spirit.
It is my prayer that you will stay or get back into God’s rabbit hole, whichever you need to do. Then look straight ahead and fill yourself with the word of God that leads to the tree of life. Hang on to the Iron Rod with every ounce of strength you have because we are currently in a mystical fire and only the elect will be pulled out of this refiners fire:
Doctrine and Covenants 36:6
Save yourselves from this untoward generation, and come forth out of the fire..”
Although I have never seriously considered that Joseph Smith might have been a fraud from the very beginning, I did go through a period of cognitive dissonance, trying to understand why his ministry and actions during the Nauvoo period contradicted his ministry and actions during the Kirtland period. Instead of spending my time researching what everyone else had to say on the topic, I consulted the word of God and that is how I arrived at the information I have provided about the intercessory atonement offering that Joseph and other made in our behalf.
I know Joseph Smith was not a charlatan from the beginning because I have received the promised manifestation of the spirit after reading and believing the word of God that he brought forth.
The reason I made reference to Martha in a previous post was to shock people into the reality that Hugh Nibley is mortal and fallible and may have had some challenges of his own, not to encourage people to read the gospel according to Martha Beck. Martha Beck is not a credible gospel scholar.
24 Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.
25 And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
26 First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.
Those holding the apostolic commission to testify of the name of Christ and profess to know the name of Christ are going to be visited with wrath if they do not fulfill their callings with mercy and justice. Those innocent people between the ages of 8 and 18 that are being exposed to an unnatural , unhealthy, and sinful lifestyle are among those that need help, support, guidance, mentoring and the gospel message the most during the critical early years of their lives.