Monday, April 28, 2008

Seen with his Spiritual Eye

John H. Gilbert, one of the printers of the first Book of Mormon, counted that he spoke with Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses of the actual gold plates, and financer.

When John Gilbert asked Martin Harris if he actually saw the plates, Martin Harris reported that he saw the plates with his spiritual eyes.

http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/JHGilbert.html

What can this mean?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Lure...

Mormonism promises eternal life with our loved ones in a perfectly resurrected state if we will live by the commandments revealed by the prophets. That promise is pretty great. I can't help but consider how that seems so similar to other lures in my life.

The Premise
Confidence men offer you amazing deals to draw you in to their confidence. The offers and promises are fantastic, and they present themselves as experts in their field of knowledge. Some will even present themselves as 'THE' expert to prove how it is that they can offer such promises while no others can. They have been studying, and experiencing and they know their promises and offers will be rewarding because they have experienced the promises and offers themselves.

Human nature pulls us in to listen, and asks us to give it a try. Human Nature requires us to listen out of fear, hope and faith that the amazing promise might actually be real. So we listen, we give it faith because we know that most men are honest and endeavor to help other men where possible. We decide to hear more to determine if the promise and offer is actually true.

We all need to save money and make the best of our lives with what we have, or perceive to have. So when we are looking for something, anything, we look for the best possible option. While we are looking, we encounter everybody's offerings.

Example 1:
Five years ago when I was looking for a new laptop, I looked at Dell, and Gateway and I found the make and model that I thought would work the best for me as a software engineer. Then I thought, I'll look at ebay as well. I found my make and model there and at a greatly reduced price. I had heard that you could get good deals from ebay, so I investigated more. This auction was different from most other auctions. The text read that in order to receive this unbelievable deal, I had to operate by the sellers distinct rules:
  • This auction was a closed auction.
  • You had to send an email to the seller to be approved to bid on the items.
  • You had to wire the money via western union.
  • You could use an escrow company for the purchase, but it had to be the escrow company the seller chose (EU Escrow), instead of the reputable escrow company ebay escrow.

The deal felt fishy, so I emailed the seller and we began to converse over chat about the deal. He was very upbeat and assured me that the deal was completely on the level, and he could even answer many questions I had about the laptop. But when I asked him if we could use an escrow company of my choosing, he adamently refused, claiming that it would break his perfectly streamlined business model and that he just couldn't do it. If I wanted this deal, I would have to adhere to his rules exactly. No matter what I did, I couldn't convince him. I didn't do the deal

Another example that points much closer is the following:

Example 2:
A year or so ago, I began talking with a neighbor of mine, well call him Johnson. Johnson occupied his time by providing financial advice supported by several financial products. These products included standard Life Insurance products and a new and exciting product that promised to provide future wealth to me and my wife and family. Johnson felt sure that this product would work. In a nutshell, he asked me to mortgage my house, take out the equity ($150K) and give it to him. He had an investment fund that would pay 2% every month. With the monthly money from that investment fund ($3,000/month), we would pay for the extra monthly payment on the house + a life insurance annuity that would build up and be very large when we retired. I studied it, read books, talked to Colleen about it and eventually decided that it was the right thing to do. I decided it sounded correct, and I also decided to place trust in my neighbor Johnson. I truly believe that Johnsonfelt this would work to help me become wealthy and him too.

Unfortunately, Johnson's plan failed. The housing market which his fund was based on plummeted and he had to stop the 2% monthly payments to all of his investors. It got bad for him and me really quick, eventually causing him to lose his house, and me to make major cutbacks and take on another job.

Comparison:
This reminds me of Joseph Smith on so many levels.
  • He offered eternal life with our families.
  • He felt he had been blessed from God to reveal the plan that would make it possible for those who would follow the plan precisely to achieve eternal life. Joseph outlined the plan fairly intricately to his investors/followers.
  • He had plenty of reason to think that he was exclusively qualified to present this plan because of past experiences with both magic and other supernatural & divine experiences.
  • He had the trust of those around him, and they trusted him too.


In the end though, Joseph Smith revealed parts of the plan to produce eternal life and everlasting marriage that were just too expensive for his followers and these turned out to be his downfall and he was murdered for it:
  • He required investors to take on plural wives as directed by him or their bishop.
  • He required them to promise to agree to give all they had to the investment group.
  • He began trying many different things to hold it all together.

The implementation of the plan began to crumble, and Joseph did too. He lost everything, and so did many of his investors. They became very angry with him for his lust for the flesh, and his inability to continue to guide the group to prosperity. He created cities and financial organizations that he promised would prosper and bring prosperity to all those who were part of it. None would be excluded. These organizations didn't prosper, they crumbled.

Conclusion:
Draw your own conclusions if you'd like, but for me, I don't believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I don't believe he was completely intellectually dishonest with himself at first, but it seems that at some point he should have figured out that it wasn't working out anymore and that he was mistaken. If there is a God, he wasn't directing Joseph Smith to command his followers to take plural wives. He wasn't helping him find buried treasure. I don't blame folks for following him. I did as well. The promises were amazing, and I wish that they were true. I wished so much that they were true, that I forced myself for so long to ignore evidence that they might not be true. But I can not ignore the evidence anymore. Now I must do with the evidence the same as I did when I figured out that the laptop couldn't be mine. The man didn't even have a laptop, he just wanted investments for his own gain. I have cut off communication with that man, and I don't give anymore money to Johnson either. I don't give money to the church and I don't contribute my time to it either.

The Official Wife Count

Richard Lyman Bushman stated in an interview with Frontline for a PBS special, "... Joseph took as many as 30 wives, 10 of which were already married to other men. Joseph Smith also had an affair with Fanny Alger, a 19 year old house maid serving in his home.

"There was pressure put on these women, telling them it was the Lord's will and that it would bring them blessings." In the end, bringing resentment to Emma as well.

The revelation brings celestial marriage, if you practice polygamy as well. When Joseph asked Brigham Young, Brigham said no, but later relented because it was required to achieve celestial eternal marriage. Eventually, Brigham Young had 50 wives, eventually bearing him 57 children.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Richard Lyman Bushman's Interview

I just listened to Richard Lyman Bushman's Interview:
http://www.stevenrinehart.com/uploads/BusmanIntrv-48br.mp3
In his interview, I was surprised to learn of a few other observations:
  • Joseph Smith was a treasure seeker in his youth, using seer stone magic to help his father uncover buried treasure. More can be found from D. Michael Quinn's study.
  • Joseph Smith was a contemporary of a man named Ethan Smith (no relation) who wrote an article or book entitled 'View of the Hebrews' describing the local indian population as descendants of the Hebrews, coming here on boats many years ago.
  • Richard Bushman Lyman claims that Joseph never 'translated' like we might see somebody translate. In fact, he didn't even look at the plates while translating.
  • Emma couldn't hardly stomach the polygamy. She tried to handle it for about 2 weeks and allowed Joseph to marry 4 women during that time. She just couldn't handle that last part of Joseph's 'religion'.
  • He also describes Joseph in his early years as part money digger & part prophet.
  • He describes the link between Mormonism and Free Masonry as 'there is some relationship'. It's foolish to say there is no connection, but the temple activities were probably seeded from it.
  • Describes Joseph as a great thinker or revelator, whatever you choose to call it.

See, in my opinion, these things don't sit well with me.

The interview was done on a website: http://www.stevenrinehart.com/

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Joseph's Secret Daughter

I've been working in the family history center during church. The church produced a new program called new.familysearch.org. This program allows church members to research and straighten up their family history by removing duplicates. My first day doing this, I decided just to go back on my lines to see where I came from. As I researched my father's line, it went back a few generations to a woman named Josephine Rosetta Lyon.

The church's software displayed her parents: Joseph Smith Jr. and Sylvia Porter Sessions.

I looked and couldn't believe what I saw. I researched it even more and found that it was indeed, Joseph Smith, the prophet of the LDS faith. Sylvia was one of Joseph's other wives. I researched it even a little bit further using the church's software to find that at the time that Josephine was born, Sylvia was married to two men; Joseph Smith & Windsor Palmer Lyon. See the timeline here:

Josephine's Birthday: 1844-1924
Windsor Palmer Lyon: 1809-1849
Sylvia & Windsor Palmer Lyon's Wedding Date: 1838
Sylvia & Joseph Smith's Wedding Date: 26 January 1842

There is no record of a divorce. This indicates that Joseph and Sylvia were married at the same time she was married to Windsor and that they had the child Josephine.

There is some doubt between interested parties and experts as to whether Josephine is really Joseph Smith's daughter or not, but the following points seems to indicate it is true:
  • The church's software indicates that he is Josephine's father.
  • In an online article Josephine claims to have had a death bed conversation with her mother Sylvia Porter Sessions in which her mother told her that she was indeed Joseph's child.
  • Josephine's name takes root in Joseph's name itself.

Ongoing DNA testing as published in the Deseret News has yet to prove or disprove Josephine's claims.

My Feelings.

It is my feeling that Joseph either was a prophet and did indeed fall in his later years, or that he thought himself a prophet, but his own inconsistencies became too complicated for him to maintain as his many doctrines began to conflict with each other. Or perhaps, he really did believe that God told him that having multiple wives and sexual relationships with these wives was commanded of God. Even if these women were already married at the time.

Either way, I don't believe that if there is a God that he would command his prophet to take wives from existing marriage relationships while he was still very espoused to Emma.

This type of behaviour would inevitably breed resentment & jealousy between any normal women and create personal heartache and possibly depression in their hearts. I refuse to believe that any God of love would favor a man's carnal desires over a woman's tender heart.

I have to think about Fanny Alger on this as well. So many women in Joseph's life having intimate relationships. That can not be what any God had in mind.