Historical Issues for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In this section we take a closer look at many historical issues for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, looking at the official church narratives against what the historical documents, accounts, and scholarship tell us today.
In this section we want to give a wide-ranging discussion about Joseph Smith's first vision accounts and why the differences between them matter. There have been many recent writings about the differing accounts, and its role as the founding moment of the LDS church makes it very important to research deeper.
An Overview of the First Vision: Different Accounts and Apologetics: A comprehensive overview of the different First Vision accounts, looking at now just what the changes were but why the changes were made. In addition to just the First Vision, we detail where Joseph Smith made similar changes in his other works when he changed the First Vision as well.
Gospel Topics Essay on Joseph Smith's Multiple First Vision Accounts (Annotated): Our annotated version of the church's official Gospel Topics essay on the First Vision accounts, looking at the apologetic arguments against what the historical record and scholarship tells us about the event.
The Church's "Now You Know" Video on the First Vision - A look at the official "Now You Know" video on the First Vision, reviewing the church's official stance on the event in their YouTube video against the historical record and scholarship that we have detailed on this site.
Why are there multiple accounts of the First Vision and what can we learn from them? A closer look. (April 3, 2020) - We take a look at the new church article about the First Vision accounts, and take a closer look at the arguments made to dismiss scholarly criticism of Joseph Smith's change in seeing just one personage to both God and Jesus from 1832 to 1838.
In this section we cover the restoration of the priesthood in the LDS church by looking at the church timeline vs what the historical timeline tells us. We also look at the evolution of the priesthood restoration narrative to try and understand why Joseph Smith changed the commandment to include John the Baptist, and why there were no mentions of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods until years after we are told they were restored.
Overview of Joseph Smith and the Priesthood Restoration: Our overviews continue with the priesthood restoration. We have a timeline detailing how the revelations in the D&C 13, 20, and 27 were altered and retrofitted to include John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John along with how both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery used these changes to elevate their status with the church.
We highly encourage you to read through all sections as we discuss the following elements of the priesthood restoration:
Race and the Scriptures of Mormonism:
In this section we want to give a wide-ranging discussion about the LDS ban on black members receiving the priesthood and/or participating in temple ordinances. One common misconception is that this ban only impacted black males, but black females were also denied ordinances in the temple as well as (in the early days) the ordinances like healing the sick by the laying on of hands.
We highly encourage you to read through all sections as we discuss the following elements of the priesthood ban:
Overview of Race and the Scriptures of Mormonism - An overview of the scriptures of Mormonism and what they teach about race. We look at the curse of dark skin in the Book of Mormon for the Lamanites, who the church believes to be Native Americans and Polynesians. After that we look at the Book of Abraham and Moses and what they say about black skin, as well as quotes from church leaders and what apologists say about the curse of dark skin in the scriptures of Mormonism.
Historical Timeline of the Priesthood/Temple Ban on Blacks: A look at the timeline of the ban on blacks using the church's historical records, quotes from leaders, and the scriptures themselves.
Official LDS Essay "Race and the Priesthood" with Discussion Notes: We review the church's official Gospel Topics essay on race and the priesthood and annotate it with notes about the ban, why leaders taught it was doctrine from God, and why it ended.
What Do The Church's Scriptures Teach Us About Race Today? - We take a look at Russell Nelson's statement that "prejudice, hate and discrimination are learned," and compare that to past statements from prophets, seers, and revelators along with what the church's own scriptures teach about what caused people to have dark skin to this very day.
Quotes from Church Leaders about the Ban: We compiled a small selection of quotes from both church scriptures and leaders to illustrate what the ban on blacks was, how it was taught, and why it is still relevant today.
Come Follow Me: The Curse of Dark Skin - A look at how the church changed their Come Follow Me manual after printing to avoid discussing the literal text in 2 Nephi that the Lamanites were cursed with a "skin of blackness" in order to "not be enticing" to the "white and delightsome" Nephites, and what church history and past prophets say about this very painful belief.
Come Follow Me: What if Skin Doesn't Mean Human Skin? - A response to the opinion piece in the Salt Lake Tribune about the dark skin controversy from 2 Nephi, and how the apologetic argument that the curse of dark skin actually meant clothing is an insult to our intelligence and has no basis in fact or common sense
Spiritual Witnesses, Testimonies, and Revelation
Overview on Spiritual Witnesses and Testimonies - A look a the concept of spiritual witnesses and how all religions have used them to convey that God has told them they are in the true church. I then look at how testimonies are both cultivated and maintained through the church and the many different cognitive biases and fallacies that keep us from being willing to look at information that might harm that testimony, and a story about probably the most powerful spiritual witness that I have ever had regarding the church.
Overview on How the Church Handles Doubt - A look at how the church has approached those with doubts in recent years, looking at youth devotionals from the Renlunds, Elder Corbridge, the Rasbands, and then the April 2021 General Conference talk from Prophet Russell M. Nelson where he called those with doubts "lazy learners" and said that members should stop discussing their doubts with others who are willing to talk about the problems with the church's truth claims.
Overview on Revelation, Part 1: Backdating Prophecy - Our first overview on revelation in the church covers the idea of backdating prophecy. In this overview we look at how Joseph Smith used events around him to backdate prophecies into the Book of Mormon so they could be fulfilled, how that allows us to date the composition of the Book of Mormon, and how members continue to backdate prophecies today, looking at how many members credit Russell M. Nelson with prophesying of COVID when he never gave any kind of indication that a pandemic was coming.
Overview on Revelation, Part 2: Joseph Smith's Revelations - We continue the overview on revelations, looking at the ways Joseph Smith used revelations in the voice of God, including using them to get members to do what he wanted done (raise funds, polygamy, etc) and to get himself out of a tough situation (116 Pages, Emma and polygamy, etc). We then look at some of Joseph Smith's factually incorrect revelations along with some of his failed revelations made as a prophet of God and what that means for his ability and credibility as a prophet.
Overview on Revelations, Part 3: Revelations After Joseph Smith - I continue the overview on revelations, looking at how revelation in the church has changed since Joseph Smith's lifetime. In addition to looking at the overall watering down of revelation since Joseph Smith, I examine John Taylor's 1886 revelation on plural marriage, the lifting of the priesthood and temple ban, and Russell Nelson's two biggest perceived revelations: the "name change" of Mormon and the reversal via revelation in 2019 of the 2015 revelation about LGBT families in the church.
Overview on Revelation, Part 4: Personal Revelation - The fourth and final overview on revelation looks at our own personal revelation, covering how patriarchal blessings have been consistently wrong to the point where patriarchs are told what they are allowed to say and how the leaders both cultivate and define our own personal revelations to keep us from contradicting the leaders. I also cover how personal revelation, just as revelation from the prophets of the church, has been watered down to the point where current leaders tell us not to expect words and visions, but just feelings to answer our questions.
The Transfiguration of Brigham Young - An overview of what is taught as the miraculous event that let members know Brigham Young was chosen by God to lead the church following Joseph Smith's death: the Transfiguration of Brigham Young. I look at what the church teaches against what the contemporary evidence tells us, and why it is such an important event to understand how easily faith promoting stories can not just be created, but solidified in a short time and what that means for the church's other truth claims as well.
The Problem With Apologetics In Mormonism - An overview of the many ways that apologists (and leaders) within the church distort, obscure, and misrepresent history and scholarship in order to make the problems with the church's truth claims and history seem less damaging to members in order to keep them 'in the boat.' I look at many different tactics such as misusing footnotes, cherry picking sources, creating strawman arguments, and probably way too many more. This might be a long overview, but is an important one as you evaluate the church's truth claims openly and honestly.
If Joseph Got It Right, Then Who Got It Wrong? - As our overviews wrap up, we take a look at what is required for the Book of Mormon to be a true, ancient text and for Joseph Smith to be a prophet of God. Then we flip that upside-down and look at what it would mean if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God when it comes to all of the areas of science, archaeology, biblical scholarship, etc that tell us that the Book of Mormon is not an ancient, historical text. This is an important way to look at the claims of Mormonism, because if they are true then much of what we think we know today in those fields is simply not correct and must be addressed.