Recent Email

There is a critic who has written to me from time to time in the past. He actively posts on line under a pseudonym and I think even has a website blog somewhere. In any event I heard from him again and responded to him. He linked to a number of websites that are critical of Mormonism generally and of Joseph Smith. I responded to his email and have copied my response below:

I will take the time to review the links. Although I am busy, I do have a little more time because of the virus slowing down everything.

Thank you for caring enough to provide input. It is apparent to me that you do value the search for truth and are sincerely committed to principle.

Many times disagreements are not the result of a person’s failure to study matters through. They are the result of studying different materials and becoming persuaded by one viewpoint because of the lengthy investment of time and effort to understand that viewpoint. The disagreement flows from two different libraries being in conflict, not the ignorance or lack of diligence of either party.

I did not come to Mormonism as an eager, willing convert looking to make a change. I was quite content to leave Mormonism neglected. But once I was persuaded to at least consider it seriously, I began to study carefully what the religion taught, its historical bases, and the opposing literature. That examination has never stopped. I have read more material that challenges or criticizes Mormonism than the supporting materials. I did that primarily because there is more available material criticizing Mormonism than there is supporting it in sheer volume.

I’m actually interested in the materials you linked and sincerely will consider it. I did a quick review and saw that many of the arguments or points are familiar and often repeated. But hopefully there will be some new stuff as well.

As you know, the LDS form of Mormonism is its own worst enemy. They have oversold some things and neglected others, and in the process have distorted both the restoration and Joseph Smith. He has become a caricature and not a real person in both LDS Mormonism and in the hands of the critics. One of the reasons for writing the book A Man Without Doubt was to let Joseph step out from behind the many portrayals offered of him and let him speak for himself. He was not at all the person most people think him to be.

The Joseph Smith Papers project is also disappointing. But at least it contains original material, some of which has not been previously released. It helps somewhat. But the editors have mangled the content with their footnotes and commentary trying to force a viewpoint on the reader.

I’ve said that all history is fiction. Nothing is lived in the way it is later explained in hindsight. I have a lot of original journal, diary and correspondence materials involved in the relevant time period from 1820 to 1900. These “lived experiences” are more authentic than what the historians interpret and retell. Their lives are like yours and mine. We have our hopes, plans and expectations that are invariably frustrated, changed, abandoned and we adapt to the new circumstances. Reading through the daily struggles of those involved lets me identify with them because everyone shares the “life experience” of how this world tosses us back and forth. But historians tell the events as if they were God, with purpose and destiny always informing the storyline. But God doesn’t tell the story. He may inform a person’s life with insight, or inspire hope, or speak from time to time (almost always to correct and challenge the humble soul). But the “story” of life for everyman is the story of surprise, frustration, disappointment, sorrow, relief, appreciation, humiliation leading to humility, and challenge. But acceptance of these circumstances can lead to happiness and even satisfaction as we trouble through it all. In Liberty Jail the inspired inquiry was posited: “The Son of Man hath descended below it all; art thou greater than He?” Knowing of the Lord’s condescension helps us all bear up a little more bravely, with a little more determination, and with a little more humility.

Joseph certainly was not without his limitations and shortcomings. But, then again, so was Peter, and Moses, and Isaiah, and Elijah. Can we learn from Joseph’s life something good to take us closer to God? I leave it to you to answer that question.

All my best to you and your family;