Off by Just a Tad

This review comes two weeks after Tad Callister, the General Sunday School President,  spoke at the LDS General Conference. Initially, I hesitated to pen my thoughts about his talk. I was just going to ignore the things he said and leave it alone. But I’ve decided that I can’t do that. Mainly for two reasons: 1) because Callister opened the door for critical review by calling out the “critics”—furthering the notion that their arguments are weak and problematic and 2) mostly because talks like this are absolutely damaging–to believing members (though they surely don’t realize it), towards the progress of transparency and in casting an even deeper wedge between the relationships of the believing members and the critics—people who typically still strive to maintain relationships with the believing members.

Keep in mind, this is not going to be another “list of issues”. The “CES Letter” and the “Letter to My Wife and Children” have sufficiently and accurately created a snapshot of issues found in the history and doctrines of the LDS Church. For further light and knowledge, I highly recommend clicking those links, today, tomorrow, whenever. This piece is meant to highlight and challenge the points specifically brought up in Callister’s talk. I will be pointing out and even challenging certain claims and statements made by Tad. You can find his talk entitled, “The Book of Mormon is God’s Compelling Witness of the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Prophetic Calling of Joseph Smith, and the Absolute truth of this Church” here.

This book [Book of Mormon] is the one weight on the scales of truth that exceeds the combined weight of all the critics’ arguments. Why? Because if it is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet and this is the restored Church of Jesus Christ, regardless of any historical or other arguments to the contrary.” -Tad-

I’ll be honest, I’m actually disappointed he started with a contraposition–or, in this case, a false equivalency. A myopic one, at that. To paraphrase what he just said, “If the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, then the Mormon church based out of Utah is the restored church.”

First of all, it’s not that simple and it’s not that black and white. And using a false equivalency so broadly to prove a point is disingenuous, at best. Tad wants you to assume/believe that the LDS Church is the only Mormon church with a valid claim to divinity and pure restoration roots. That is absolutely inaccurate. After Joseph was killed at Carthage Jail, the members of the church who remained didn’t truly know what to do as far as the succession of authority was concerned. Unbeknownst to most, Joseph did apparently leave two separate instructions as to who was to be his successor when he died (and neither of those appointed successors were Brigham Young–go figure).

“I have often been asked who would succeed me as the prophet of the church. My son Joseph [the III] will be your next prophet.” -Joseph Smith Jr.

David Whitmer was also named a successor in a blessing given by Joseph Smith in 1834 (when Joseph the 3rd was two years old).

Because of this confusion, heated conversations and debates ensued as to who was to be the new leader. Brigham Young claimed he was (he was the current, senior apostle), Emma believed it should be her son (as fits the pattern of prophetic succession in the BOM and Joseph’s own words), David Whitmer (per the blessing Joseph gave him), James Strang (claimed he received revelation he was to be the next prophet), Sidney Rigdon, and a few other men. Aside from those members who picked who to follow, there were also many members who simply believed Joseph was the first and last prophet of the dispensation, took what he taught them and assimilated back into society. Because of this, the church split up into numerous different groups. Brigham Young and his group traveled west, the remainder of the other groups remained in the east. Many of those groups in the east still exist and thrive to this day.

Interesting to note a couple things; James Strang’s claim of revelation to be the next prophet eventually attracted Emma Smith, Oliver Cowdery and all of the original eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon (Strang even had a peep stone just like Smith, gave revelations, healed the sick, and even translated a book—all just like Smith). Now, if there happen to be any believing members of the Utah-based Mormon church who are reading this, I have a question for you:  Are you willing to completely trust the eight witnesses integrity and character that their testimonies and witnesses of the Book of Mormon are true and authentic, and at the same time reject  their same integrity and character of their endorsement and witness that James Strange was to be the next prophet? If you accept their witness to the Book of Mormon, but reject their witness that James Strange was the rightful successor of Joseph Smith, then that is called confirmation bias. Look it up.
Another small thing to point out: Brigham Young, Hebert C. Kimball and countless other general authorities all commanded that polygamy was there to stay and you couldn’t enter the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom without entering into plural marriage. So when the Brethren, under Wilfred Woodruff, came out with the Manifesto (note–after Brigham’s death) stating the church would no longer practice polygamy, a good portion of members broke off. Those break-offs created groups such as the current FLDS church and others who felt the church broke due to social and political pressure and were no longer practicing God’s true gospel and eternal doctrines. The gospel and eternal doctrines that Joseph Smith, through divine inspiration, had originally reintroduced to the world.

To circle back around and bring my point to a head: Callister’s false equivalency stating, “IF the Book of Mormon is true, THEN Smith was a prophet, therefore the LDS Church IS TRUE” is actually a non sequitur. And he knows that. There are many break offs that believe the Book of Mormon to be true, who believe Joseph to be a prophet….and all have just as much claim (in the case of Strange and his group or even Joseph Smith III and his group — I’d argue have way more claim than Brigham’s group) as the Utah-based Mormon church. Those two claims do not make the Utah-based Mormon church any more true than any other break-off. Now that I’ve beat that point to a bloody pulp, let’s continue.

For this reason, the critics are intent on disproving the Book of Mormon, but the obstacles they face are insurmountable because this book is true.” -Tad-

I’d like to know what he means by “true”. True historically? True spiritually? Both? Can that be separate? There are many faithful members of the church who recognize the problems of historicity, and to maintain their faith, have experienced a paradigm shift admitting the Book of Mormon is not historically true, but is still spiritually true. Virtually, there are faithful, temple recommend holding members who are submitting that Joseph used an elaborate fable to express divine truths—just as the writers of Job did; or any other author writing the spiritual stories in the Old Testament. If Callister is referencing it’s historical truth claim, then he would be receiving push-back by even some LDS apologists and scholars.

Or, if Tad measures truth in absolutes–count me out. This reminds me of a talk Tad gave in general conference in 2009. Wherein he said that the Book of Mormon was either fully true or of the devil.

“Years ago my great-great-grandfather picked up a copy of the Book of Mormon for the first time. He opened it to the center and read a few pages. He then declared, “That book was either written by God or the devil, and I am going to find out who wrote it.” He read it through twice in the next 10 days and then declared, “The devil could not have written it—it must be from God.”

“Likewise, we must make a simple choice with the Book of Mormon: it is either of God or the devil. There is no other option.”

With that line of logic, so is Dianetics, or the Quran or Ellen White’s prophetic call (the founder of the Seventh-day Adventists).

An apologist for the Seventh-day Adventists had this to say about Ellen White’s prophetic calling:

“You’ve got Ellen White being attacked, why? Because you have incidentally Dr. Pippen shares the story that when his sister became a SDA, he wanted to overthrow her faith. And he said the best thing he figured to do was to start with that church’s false prophet, Ellen White. So he said, “I picked of one of her books, The Great Controversy” so that I could point out the error in it and show my sister she was a false prophet.” He says, “I started with the wrong book”. The Bible says “by their fruits he shall know them”. Ellen White has been the means of multitudes—we can’t even count them here—multitudes who have given their lives to Jesus Christ. Now my feeling is this, if Ellen White’s a false prophet, the devil ought to find himself a new false prophet because the one he has is winning too many people to Jesus.”

Does that logic sound familiar?

First, the critics must explain how Joseph Smith, a 23-year-old farm boy with limited education, created a book with hundreds of unique names and places, as well as detailed stories and events. Accordingly, many critics propose that he was a creative genius who relied upon numerous books and other local resources to create the historical content of the Book of Mormon. But contrary to their assertion, there is not a solitary witness who claims to have seen Joseph with any of these alleged resources before the translation began.” -Tad-

Well, short answer: my personal hypothesis is that his final product (the Book of Mormon) was a development over the years of an imaginative mind, a discovering of personal theological beliefs, experiences gained (treasure hunting/close association with the occult), books read (e.g., “View of the Hebrews”), and circumstances and people taken advantage of (evolving treasure digging opportunities, meeting individuals such as Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdrey).

I could conjure up and plan an awesome story over the next ten years if I wanted to. Then when I meet the right people, or the timing is right, I could present my, already formed ideas, as inspiration.

Fun Fact: no one in the Church ( I mean, no one–including his own family) ever heard of Joseph’s “First Vision” account until 12 years after the Church was organized. That means he didn’t bother telling a single soul about this miraculous, historical event til 22 years after it happened. Even then, he told different variations of the event to different people.

Additionally, Joseph’s mother said he had a very imaginative mind: “During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelings, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.” – Joseph’s Mother, Lucy Mack Smith-(Biographical sketches of Joseph Smith the prophet, and his progenitors for many generations, page 85) (She said this before he came out with the Book of Mormon)

Another fun fact: Did you know that Joseph’s infamous “Tree of Life” account in the Book of Mormon that he attributes to Nephi, is actually a plagiarized dream of his father, Joseph Smith Sr. His father had that dream while Joseph Jr. was a youth (1811), and had told it a few times to the family.

But finally, this is such a weak “proof” for divine origins in my opinion. The “they weren’t smart enough for this to be man-made” argument is utilized in almost every religion. As a cross-reference, we need only examine a religion that is similar in origin and time period–the Seventh Day Adventists. Ellen White organized this religion in 1863. Here are some things her followers/apologists say about her:

“Ellen White is thought to be the third most translated author in history and the most translated American author, male or female. So far as we know, she wrote and published more books, and in more languages, which circulate to a greater extent than the written works of any other woman in history. By the close of her seventy-year ministry, her literary productions totaled approximately 100,000 pages, or the equivalent of 25 million words, including letters, diaries, periodical articles, pamphlets, and books.

At the time of Mrs. White’s death (1915), twenty-four books were currently in print and two more were at the publishers awaiting publication. In the 1990s, 128 titles were in print bearing Ellen White’s name, including books that are compilations of her thoughts on various subjects.

How did it all begin? Not a brilliant student, college-trained! Not a skilled and published writer! It would be difficult to say that Ellen White’s remarkable literary production was merely a product of human genius and invention. Her contemporaries, knowing her background and minimal education, also knew that more than human wisdom was responsible for her incisive, commanding eloquence in print as well as in the pulpit.” -www.ellenwhite.org-

“Her writings have been translated into more than 148 languages. That’s more than Marx or Tolstoy or William Shakespeare. Not bad for a women who worked with her twin sister and parents making hats for a living.” -Brent Whinfield, Seventh-day Adventist Elder-

Sound familiar?

Also, here’s a video with examples showing how special all the holy books are to their followers. Click here

“Where did he get… King Benjamin’s sermon on the Savior’s Atonement, perhaps the most remarkable sermon on this subject in all scripture?”-Tad-

In Joseph’s day, specifically in Joseph’s time and demographics, there was a huge frenzy of Christian enlightenment. Joseph was partial to the Methodist sect of Christianity. Fun fact: Even after “supposedly” meeting with God, Jesus and Moroni (or Nephi?), Joseph still attended and believed in Methodism. He was even almost baptized into the religion! Anyways, there were many revival camps in New York during his time as a youth. My short analysis will not do this point justice, so please, please take the time to read Grant Palmer’s book, “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins” Chapter 4. It goes into complete detail as to where Joseph got the idea for “King Benjamin’s Sermon” in the Book of Mormon. Basically, that sermon was essentially the same format, verbiage and content that you found at the revival camps in the mid-1800’s in New York. I’m sorry,  but nothing special there.


“Contrary to such a conclusion, God’s fingerprints are all over the Book of Mormon, as evidenced by its majestic doctrinal truths, particularly its masterful sermons on the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” -Tad-

Once again, inspiration to do and be better can be found in almost anything. Even in fictional writings. This statement does not mean or prove that the Book of Mormon is true and historical and that Joseph was a prophet. People find inspiration in “Dianetics”, does that make L. Ron Hubbard a prophet and the Church of Scientology, God’s one true church? Additionally, one of our main humanistic traits we naturally inherit is altruism.

Also, I have two issues with this:

1) let’s assume for a second that the Book of Mormon is true. That still doesn’t prove that his church is the correct brand of Mormonism. Numerous other brands claim the same line of divinity, all the while believing the Book of Mormon to be true.

2) praying about something and getting a “good feeling” isn’t a reliable method of finding truth. Let’s go back to my previous issue and use it as a model. Say all the different brands of Mormonism pray about the Book of Mormon AND about the authenticity of their brand of Mormonism. And all get that “warm and fuzzy” feeling…uhhh. Hopefully I’m not the only one who sees the issues with this.


“But even if we suppose that Joseph were a creative and theological genius with a photographic memory—these talents alone do not make him a skilled writer. To explain the Book of Mormon’s existence, the critics must also make the claim that Joseph was a naturally gifted writer at age 23. Otherwise, how did he interweave scores of names, places, and events into a harmonious whole without inconsistencies? How did he pen detailed war strategies, compose eloquent sermons..to suggest that Joseph Smith at age 23 possessed the skills necessary to write this monumental work is simply counter to the realities of life.” -Tad-

Well, as history demonstrates, Joseph was a theological genius. Starting at the age of 12. Though he may not have had a photographic memory, it is shown through statements made by close friends and family that he most definitely had a creative and imaginative mind. Which, when writing fiction, is arguably more valuable than a photographic mind.

Based on the extensive research of the late Grant Palmer, he conceded that, though Joseph may not have been the most academically educated, history and evidence shows that Joseph was absolutely educated and proficient in the Bible and Christian theology.

As far as names and places….courtesy of Jeremy Runnells (so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel):

Here’s a start:

Untitled presentation

“Throughout the Book of Mormon we read of such features as “The Narrow Neck of Land” which was a day and a half’s journey (roughly 30 miles) separating two great seas. We read much of the Hill Onidah and the Hill Ramah – all place names in the land of Joseph Smith’s youth. We read in the Book of Mormon of the Land of Desolation named for a warrior named Teancum who helped General Moroni fight in the Land of Desolation. In Smith’s era, an Indian Chief named Tecumseh fought and died near the narrow neck of land helping the British in the War of 1812. Today, the city Tecumseh (near the narrow neck of land) is named after him. We see the Book of Mormon city Kishkumen located near an area named, on modern maps, as Kiskiminetas. There are more than a dozen Book of Mormon names that are thesame as or nearly the same as modern geographical locations.

Hill Cumorah:
Off the eastern coast of Mozambique in Africa is an island country called “Comoros.” Priorto its French occupation in 1841, the islands were known by its Arabic name, “Camora.” There is an 1808 map of Africa that refers to the islands as “Camora.”
Camora is near center in the 1808 Map of Africa The largest city and capital of Comoros (formerly “Camora”)? Moroni. “Camora” and settlement “Moroni” were common names in pirate and treasure hunting stories involving Captain William Kidd (a pirate and treasure hunter) which many 19th century New Englanders – especially treasure hunters – were familiar with. In fact, the uniform spelling for Hill Cumorah in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon is spelled as “Camorah.” Pomeroy Tucker was born in Palmyra, New York in 1802, three years before Joseph Smith. He is considered to be a contemporary source. This is what he said about Joseph Smith:
“Joseph … had learned to read comprehensively … [reading] works of fiction and
records of criminality, such for instance as would be classed with the ‘dime novels’
of the present day. The stories of Stephen Buroughs and Captain Kidd, and the
like, presented the highest charms for his expanding mental perceptions.”
– Mormonism: Its Origin, Rise, and Progress, p.17
Some apologists say that Tucker’s Mormonism: Its Origin, Rise, and Progress is anti-Mormon and thus anything in the book cannot be trusted. The problem with this premise is that LDS scholar and Church history compiler B.H. Roberts quoted Tucker for background information on Joseph and FairMormon has an article where they quoted Tucker 4 times from his book as support for Joseph and even referred to Tucker as an “eye witness” to Joseph and his family. Is Tucker’s peripheral information only useful and accurate when it shows Joseph and the Church in a positive and favorable light?
“We are sorry to observe, even in this enlightened age, so prevalent a disposition
to credit the accounts of the marvellous. Even the frightful stories of money being
hid under the surface of the earth, and enchanted by the Devil or Robert Kidd
12 (Captain Kidd), are received by many of our respectable fellow citizens as truths.”
– Wayne Sentinel, Palmyra, New York, February 16, 1825
Notice that this is considered “prevalent” and “received by many of our respectable fellow citizens as truths.” The above contemporary 1825 Palmyra, New York newspaper quote was not tainted by any desire to damage Joseph Smith. This article provides a snapshot of the worldview of 1825 New England.”

The author of the CES Letter, Jeremy Runnells, then asks these relevant questions:

“Hill Cumorah and Moroni have absolutely nothing to do with Camora and Moroni from
Captain Kidd stories? Stories that Joseph and his treasure hunting family and buddies were familiar with? The original 1830 Book of Mormon uniform “Camorah” spelling? This is all just a mere coincidence?

Why are there so many names similar to Book of Mormon names in the region where Joseph Smith lived? This is all just a coincidence?”

You decide…


“Are we now to believe that Joseph Smith, on his own, dictated the entire Book of Mormon in a single draft with mainly minor grammatical changes made thereafter?” -Tad-

Well, Tad, there is evidence that others helped in creating the Book of Mormon. Fun Fact: Did you know that Joseph tried to sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon to publishers in Canada?When they rejected his offer, he said that it was a failed revelation. That some revelations are from God, some are from man and some are from the devil. How convenient. Also, there are roughly 3,900 changes to the Book of Mormon. Some of those are grammatical, yes. But some of those are also doctrinal changes. Like changing, “He is God” to “He is the son of God” (that kind of changes the doctrine from Monotheism to Polytheism–in case you were wondering). Or having to switch around names like: King Mosiah was really King Benjamin and Nephi was really Moroni (I’m not kidding, the second edition of the Book of Mormon literally had to switch those names around).

Also, all witness accounts to the translation of the Book of Mormon claim that Joseph would put his seer stone in a hat and then put his head in the hat. And that letters would form on the rock and that the words would not disappear until he got the translation exactly correct. So……why all the errors in the Book of Mormon?

And finally, even if one accepts all of the foregoing arguments, dubious as they may be, the critics still face another looming obstacle. Joseph claimed that the Book of Mormon was written on golden plates. This claim received unrelenting criticism in his day—for “everyone” knew that ancient histories were written on papyrus or parchment, until years later, when metal plates with ancient writings were discovered. In addition, the critics claimed that the use of cement, as described in the Book of Mormon, was beyond the technical expertise of these early Americans—until cement structures were found in ancient America. How do the critics now account for these and similar unlikely discoveries? Joseph, you see, must also have been a very, very lucky guesser. Somehow, in spite of all the odds against him, against all existing scientific and academic knowledge, he guessed right when all the others were wrong.

First off:

“You will not get to know it [whether the Book of Mormon is true] by trying to prove it archaeologically, or by DNA, or by anything else…Religious truth is always confirmed by what you feel. And that’s the way heavenly father answers prayers.” – M. Russell Ballard – Mormon Newsroom, Oct 4 2007

Callister is eager to show a couple archaeological findings in recent years that help “prove” Joseph was right, therefore inspired.  I wonder if Callister is also willing to show the “looming obstacles” Joseph got wrong? There are key “looming obstacles” that we don’t have to wait to be uncovered to be proved or disproved.

Kinderhook Plates: In 1843, Joseph Smith was presented with six ancient plates that were dug up in a hill in Kinderhook, Illinois by Bridge Whitten, Wilbur Fugate and Robert Wiley. These men expressed to Joseph that they had heard he had the gift of translation and were desirous to see if he could translate the ancient hieroglyphics found on the plates they unearthed. Joseph began the translation of the plates, but was not able to continue for he was killed shortly after.

According to Smith:

“I insert fac-similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook, in Pike county, Illinois, on April 23, by Mr. Robert Wiley and others, while excavating a large mound. I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth.”

After Joseph’s death in 1844, those three men who found the plates and delivered them to Smith, admitted that they made those plates and gave them to Smith to see if he would attempt to translate them. Joseph fell for their trap. Surprisingly, the Church at the time didn’t believe the mens’ claim! The Church held to the belief that the Kinderhook plates were real and that Joseph started the translation. For another 140 years, pictures of the Kinderhook plates could even be found on the covers of Church magazines and were talked and witnessed about by General Authorities in conference talks as tangible proof of Joseph’s divine calling! It wasn’t until 1980 that scientists tested the plates and found that they were, in fact, fake antiquities forged in the mid-19th century by the original men who took responsibility. The Church never mentioned the Kinderhook plates from that day to the present day.

  The Abraham Papyrus (the canonized “Book of Abraham” found in the Pearl of Great Price): The original scroll fragments that Joseph translated into the Book of Abraham were acquired by the LDS Church in 1967. Eager to, once again, have tangible proof of Joseph’s call as an authentic translator from God, the Church set to work translating the papyri. Egyptologists, including LDS scholars, concluded that nothing Joseph “translated” into the Book of Abraham was found on the actual scrolls. It turned out to be a common, Egyptian funeral text.

According to Joseph:

“I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham”.

According to LDS.org:

None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham, though there is not unanimity, even among non-Mormon scholars, about the proper interpretation of the vignettes on these fragments. Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies.”

Also, interesting to note; they dated the scrolls and found that they were 1500 years after Abraham would have lived.

Nephite DNA: Growing up Mormon, I always had a smirk on my face anytime I’d watch a special on TV where archaeologists were trying to figure out where Native Americans came from. The smirk was because, well, I knew where they came from. They were Nephites and Lamanites, of course (it felt good knowing more than archaeologists). How did I know that? I was taught that throughout Sunday school, the Book of Mormon, church leaders over the pulpit, personal study of church-approved resources, institute and seminary.

It was common knowledge that Native Americans were the ancestors of the Lamanites. After all, even in D&C Joseph and others were commanded to direct their missionary efforts to the Lamanites. Joseph Smith’s army would later uncover a skeleton in Illinois wherein Joseph would go on to identify the skeleton as an ancient “white-skinnned” Lamanite warrior named, Zelph. Later on, in the mid-20th century, church leaders even had programs set in place to house and adopt Native American children in White Mormon homes so that they could become “white and delightsome” as the Book of Mormon suggested.

In 1960, Spencer Kimball gave a conference report talk entitled, “The Day of the Lamanites” wherein he talked about his observations about a tribe of Native American Indians in Arizona: “The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised (2 Ne. 30:6). In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation.”

As noted from my friend and author of “Letter to the CES Director”, Jeremy Runnells: “DNA analysis has concluded that Native American Indians do not originate from the Middle East or from Israelites but rather from Asia. Why did the Church change the following section of the introduction page in the 2006 edition Book of Mormon shortly after the DNA results were released?

“…the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians”
to
“…the Lamanites, and they areamong the ancestors of the American Indians”

As of now, and contrary to even Joseph Smith’s accounts, most modern LDS apologists and scholars have disavowed Book of Mormon geography and history taking place in the United States; but now offer a “Limited Geography Model” in South/Central America. On the more progressive end of LDS scholars/apologists and every day members who are finding the actual historicity of the Book of Mormon problematic, they have had to have testimony paradigm shifts. In other words, they’ve concluded that the events in the Book of Mormon are not historical, factual events, but more allegorical and spiritual.

Anachronisms: In 1519, Cortes brought the first 16 horses to the North American continent via Mexico to explore for new lands and for gold. Before that time, the only horses that set hoof on the American continents were prehistoric horses who had died out some 10,000 years ago. Also, chariots weren’t a thing in the pre-Columbian time period. You won’t find any “Ben Hur” cameos in this story, sadly.

But according to Alma 18:10, “Now when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses and his chariots he was more astonished”. It goes on to record “horses and chariots” almost 20 separate times in the Book of Mormon.

To give you an idea of the impact and consequences of finding anachronisms like this in the Book of Mormon: it’s like me trying to write a historical account of a Viking warrior and I mention in the book that he would invade sea-side villages in his motorboat and he would coordinate attacks with his men via radio. If you read that, would you still take my historical account, seriously? Or would you call me out and call me a liar?

Those aren’t the only anachronisms found in the Book of Mormon. There were no domesticated animals, silk, steel, iron, etc. Speaking of iron and steel…the Book of Mormon records unbelievable battles that took place. In some of these accounts, millions would die in a single battle. All would be wearing their, Roman-style armor and toting their swords “made of exceedingly fine steel”. Yet, there is no archaeological findings to give any credence to these stories. None. We are able to uncover thousands of artifacts from civilizations from across the world that lived thousands of years before the Nephite/Lamanite civilizations, but we can’t find a single iota of evidence for the Nephites and Lamanites who’s people were placed in the millions.


“When all is said and done, one might wonder how someone could believe that all these alleged factors and forces, as proposed by the critics, fortuitously combined in such a way that enabled Joseph to write the Book of Mormon and thus foster a satanic hoax. But how does this make sense? In direct opposition to such an assertion, this book has inspired millions to reject Satan and to live more Christlike lives.”-Tad-

I’m not exactly sure where his line of reasoning was going with that. Just because something is not true or historical, doesn’t mean it is “of the devil”. There are many things that are fictional that inspire me and make me want to be a better person. I’ve, personally, never heard a critic of the Book of Mormon claim that Joseph fabricated it all for satanic purposes. So once again, I find his argument here, moot.


“While someone might choose to believe the critics’ line of reasoning, it is, for me, an intellectual and spiritual dead end. To believe such, I would have to accept one unproven assumption after another. In addition, I would have to disregard the testimony of every one of the 11 witnesses, even though each remained true to his testimony to the very end; I would have to reject the divine doctrine that fills page after page of this sacred book with its supernal truths; I would have to ignore the fact that multitudes, including myself, have come closer to God by reading this book than any other; and above all, I would have to deny the confirming whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This would be contrary to everything I know to be true.”-Tad-

As pointed out above and pertinent to Callister’s argument here: He is not willing to “disregard the testimony of every one of the 11 witnesses”, yet, he is willing to disregard their testimony when it came down to which successor of Joseph Smith they chose to endorse and follow. I really hope you see the irony in that.

And to send my point home, here is a quote from one of the witnesses regarding his credibility: “If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens and told me to ‘separate myself from among the Latter Day Saints, for as they sought to do unto me, so it should be done unto them.” -David Whitmer-

Also, a little historical context to the “testimonies of the 11 witnesses”. None of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon ever actually said they literally saw the plates. The one’s who did speak more liberally about their experience admitted that they saw them with their “spiritual eyes”. For example, a prestigious member of the church by the name of Stephen Burnett wrote one of the apostles in regards to why he was leaving the church. Here is a small excerpt of that letter: “When I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundation was sapped & the entire superstructure fell in heap of ruins.”

As noted in the CES Letter:

“We are told that the witnesses never disavowed their testimonies, but we have not come to know these men or investigated what else they said about their experiences.
They are 11 individuals: Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, Hiram Page, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jr., Hyrum Smith, Samuel Smith, and Joseph Smith Sr. – who all shared a common worldview of second sight, magic, and treasure digging – which is what drew them together in 1829.”


“If one will take the time to humbly read and ponder the Book of Mormon, as did my friend, and give ear to the sweet fruits of the Spirit, then he or she will eventually receive the desired witness.”-Tad-

This is essentially the subtle invitation of psychological repetition known as “Illusory Truth Effect”. So basically; repeat, repeat, repeat until it becomes true to you.

Similarly, the Brethren encourage members to bear their testimony even if they don’t have one. If they continue to bear one, they will eventually get one. Once again, “Illusory Truth Effect”. Sneaky psychology.

To wrap things up:

When I was a believing member, I was a huge fan of Callister, eating up all of his words, logic and ideas. “The infinite Atonement” and “The Great Apostasy” were among my favorite books—still on my bookshelf. This talk wasn’t directed to critics of the church, it was to members of the church. Members who, eat up and trust his words (at least I did). He knows that. The Brethren know that. Which is why they are able to abuse and take advantage of the trust members have in them. He knows he can give talks like this (knowing critics know better) and pacify the believing members. It’s for this reason I expose the deceit and blatant cherry-picking. I am also of the opinion that it is Callister who has the most hurdles and difficulties when attempting to prove the truth claims of the Book of Mormon. Not the critics. Unfortunately, even the best of evidence against the Book of Mormon will seem weak and problematic to a believing member who has been indoctrinated into associating “truth” synonymously with “the church”.

The questions Callister is asking, and the pattern in which he asks them, are meant to be deceiving and to pacify. They are NOT mean to encourage critical thinking.

This apologetic style is used to pacify believing members, not to be transparent.
By nonchalantly, “mentioning” small tid-bits of fact, leads believers to believe that the brethren are being transparent, when in reality, they are using sleight-of-hand and deception. Problems with this talk and others like it, are an attempt to merely pacify. To say, “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”. Virtually saying, “the critics are the ones with issues, we have no issues”. All the while, even LDS apologists admit there are issues:

“The fact that there’s phrasing everywhere, long phrases (in the Book of Mormon) that if you Google them, you’ll find them in 19th century writings. The theology of the Book of Mormon is very much 19th century theology, and it reads like a 19th century understanding of the Hebrew bible, as an Old Testament: that is, it has Christ in it, the way Protestants saw Christ everywhere in the Old Testament.” – LDS Historian, Richard Bushman-  Mormon Discussion Podcast Episode #182, Perspectives – Richard Bushman, 9:57-10:22

In the 1920’s, the Brethren commissioned the Church’s historian and General Authority, B.H. Roberts to do an extensive analysis of the Book of Mormon and it’s origins. After his research and in reporting to the Brethren in regards to his research and findings, this is one of the statements he made (after making it, his findings were not turned over to the general populace of the Church):

“One other subject remains to be considered in this division– was Joseph Smith possessed of a sufficiently vivid and creative imagination as to produce such a work as the Book of Mormon from such materials as have been indicated in the proceeding chapters… That such power of imagination would have to be of a high order is conceded; that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question….
“In light of this evidence, there can be no doubt as to the possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph Smith, the Prophet, an imagination, it could with reason be urged, which, given the suggestions that are found in the ‘common knowledge’ of accepted American antiquities of the times, supplemented by such a work as Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews [published in Palmyra in 1825], it would make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of Mormon is.”

– Studies of the Book of Mormon, by B.H. Roberts, p. 243, 25

“[T]here is a certain lack of perspective in the things the book relates as history that points quite clearly to an undeveloped mind as their origin. The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency…

Is this all sober history…or is it a wonder-tale of an immature mind, unconscious of what a test he is laying on human credulity when asking men to accept his narrative as solemn history.”

B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, ed. Brigham D. Madsen (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 251.

“Did Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews furnish structural material for Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon? It has been pointed out in these pages that there are many things in the former book that might well have suggested many major things in the other. Not a few things merely, one or two, or half dozen, but many; and it is this fact of many things of similarity and the cumulative force of them that makes them so serious a menace to Joseph Smith’s story of the Book of Mormon’s origin.” – LDS Historian and General Authority, B.H. Roberts-
Not everyone comes to the same conclusion as Tad Callister, that the Book of Mormon is such a great book.

“The book [of Mormon] is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow,” so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle — keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate.”

-Mark Twain-

8 thoughts on “Off by Just a Tad

  1. Thank you for writing this up, his talk has been on my mind a lot the past few weeks. One thought that keeps popping up is how his main point is that critics of the BoM have to jump through a lot of hoops to explain how the book came to be. What Callister fails to mention is that those who believe the BoM to be true have to jump through just as many, if not more assumptive and completely unverifiable hoops to explain the existence of the book. Joseph was visited by an angel, was given golden plates handed down from one generation to the next for centuries and buried in a new england hill. And if you believe the book is literally true and the people and events described in it actually happened, theres an entire set of other hoops to jump through. So whats more likely? Joseph was a brilliant albeit under educated dude who came up with a new book of scripture? Or an angel came down from heaven and showed Joseph where to dig to find a fantastic artifact which he somehow “translated” and which contains verifiable historical errors?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done, Cody! I have been mulling this talk over, myself. What you wrote, the analysis you’ve done, are top notch!

    I have added your site to my WordPress reader.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m curious what you think about the following article? The article linked below seems to indicated that B.H. Roberts did believe the book of Mormon. Perhaps you are cherry picking statements from B.H. Roberts that you feel are supporting your opinions and beliefs. Wouldn’t that be called “confirmation bias” Perhaps representing B.H. Roberts the way he wanted to be represented would be more accurate.

    “Indeed, B. H. Roberts may have foreseen that some, willfully or otherwise, might misunderstand his studies of the Book of Mormon. “Let me say once and for all,” he wrote in a letter relating to those studies, “so as to avoid what might otherwise call for repeated explanation, that what is herein set forth does not represent any conclusions of mine.”48 He took the position, he said, that “our faith is not only unshaken but unshakable in the Book of Mormon.”49 Speaking in October of 1929, he apparently sought to correct such mistaken notions as those now advanced by Mr. Spencer. He asserted his belief in Mormonism, and then concluded, “I hope that if anywhere along the line I have caused any of you to doubt my faith in this work, then let this testimony and my indicated life’s work be a correction of it.”
    -Welch, Reexploring the Book of Mormon, 90.

    https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1441&index=13

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    • Thanks for contributing. I am familiar with the article and content you present. My post wasn’t intended to be faith-promoting. Simply presenting information that is not typically (if ever) talked about in a church setting or over the pulpit to lay members. That’s not confirmation bias. I intimately aware of what confirmation bias is, as I spent years of my life defending the Church.

      I even stated in the article, that this isn’t a piece that lays out all the issues the Church has, it merely was to highlight and address claims and statements made by Callister.

      Thanks for your comment. Cheers.

      Like

      • You avoided a couple of points that Tad made, and one reason Mormons believe that Brigham Young was the next prophet was because he continued building temples just as God’s people always have. (I have a few Mormon friends).
        Just saying;)

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      • Thanks for your response, Storm. When reading, please keep in mind I prefaced the article by stating I was going to address the points I felt were misleading and/or incorrect entirely. Hope that helps in response to your concern that I “avoided a couple of points that Tad made”.

        Also, Mormons believe Young was to be the successor, for a myriad of reasons. Most importantly, they believe he was….just because they are a part of the religion that believes that. To be simple.

        The other Mormon sects and break offs believe their leaders are the correct ones as well. And all originate with Joseph Smith.

        Anyways, thanks for your comment.

        Like

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