Recently I’ve been discussing Christianity, religion, and Mormonism with a member of the church of jesus christ latter-day saints, and we made a deal, if I read the book of mormon he would read the CES letter. So here I am!
For those who don’t know, the book of Mormon is allegedly a book translated from gold plates which Joseph Smith found on top of a big hill near Manchester, Ontario Country, New York, having been directed to by the angel Moroni.
It’s about the stories of great tribes in the america’s who followed Yahweh, and branched off from Jerusalem, and the tower of babel.
And the CES letter is a letter written to the LDS church, asking questions about the religion. These questions are quite critical of the organisation, and question things about it’s methods, teachings, doctrine, and holy book.
I have found problems with the book already, you have to keep an open mind when trying to find the truth, but you shouldn’t keep it so open that your brain falls out. I said I’d keep an open mind, however you can’t just ignore problems you have and things that you see that are bad no matter how hard you try. If your investigating it as a truth claim, it’s important to factor both things in mind.
The tower of Babel, is obviously fictional. What’s more likely, that languages occurred through different tribes communicating with each other in different ways over a long periods of time over different locations, creating many different communication systems based on where people are located. Or everyone on the earth regardless of location all spoke the same language, and God suddenly took people’s free will away to force them to forget their previous language, instantly master a different one, and then these people whose language had changed, instead of learning the previous language that they were forced to forget, set out and formed separate groups, in the exact same geographic area, and completely forgot everything about where they came from. Yeah I’d like to think it’s obvious which one of these is true.
Regardless, I am still happy to proceed with the assumption, that though the language thing is not real, the tower of Babel was an actual tower and the people in the america’s came from that.
You don’t have to take everything in the bible literally to believe in it.
I’m waiting before passing complete judgement, but the Lamanites are said here to be the ancestors of the native Americans described when Columbus discovered America. So there has to effectively be a regress in technology and progress within this book or after the events described in this book. Obviously as I read I will be looking for signs of this, and stay aware of this in the back of my mind, historically this should be perfect since this is actually described as direct word from God, so there should be a smaller chance of human error. However appearances of things that should not be there in a civilisation of that age is a good sign of fabrication – keep an eye out!
Then they go into testimonies from the people who saw the plates, there are 12 people who saw them in total, which is a total I would like to be higher. When some to all of these people are friends or close family of Joseph Smith, it looks suspicious. As well as that theirs a whole extra family besides the Smiths, there are four members of the Whitmer family.
Then we move on to Joseph Smith testimonies which is quite strange to me.
I don’t remember any mention of the three people who testified that they saw the angel Moroni in addition to Joseph Smith.
I also question the angel Moroni, first of all he came across as quite forgetful, needing to appear three times in quick succession to tell Joseph Smith things, you’d hope he would remember before going back.
You also have to keep in mind that 1/3 of the angels were cast out as demons, but these demons still appear as angels. I was told repeatedly throughout the bible that angels were scary, based on the fact that they always said “Do not be afraid” – Moroni has no such description.
There is a possibility that even if this all really did happen, that Moroni cannot be trusted.
I also question why they needed to give these gold plates back. Surely being able to say “here they are, you can analyse them carefully to show that they are gold” and “here, look at it, and translate it for yourself if you disbelieve” would be far more convincing than taking them away instantly, and only letting 12 people see them.
What surprises me the most about this is just how easily this kind of story could be fabricated. Essentially the story hinges on the testimony of just 12 guys, one angel being who he says he is, the profits deciding to not predict or show any signs that this book will arrive to make people be more ready to accept it, and Joseph Smith transporting 15 small and huge gold plates across a huge mountain to take it back to translate. The book of Mormon is also huge, it’s a leap of faith to even believe that the words in the book could even fit on the plates in the first place!
You also have to wonder how the original people got the plates there in the first place. You have to bear in mind that the civilisations that eventually led to the native Americans needed to somehow create gold plates, and decide to bury them too!
I said I’d keep an open mind, which is something that I still intend to do, as if these issues were cleared up I wouldn’t fight them, but believe the answers, but right now, believing that this story is real is an exercise of mental gymnastics against the most likely and plausible idea.
But perhaps these things all have explanations and answers to alleviate my concerns. I’m not willing to blindly follow things that on the surface level are nonsense though.
I’m instructed to pray as well as read, so who knows, maybe it could just be that something is revealed to me as well.
So was there anything I liked about it? I guess I respect the effort to go this far to create an extra religion. I also like the naming system of the book of Mormon. You have “The old Testament” then “The New Testament” and then finally “Another Testament”
See you in the next part as I review “The first book of Nephi – His reign and Ministry” – It’s much longer than the introduction and testimonies so be patient!