Church Discipline and Grant Palmer

Joseph Smith Translating the Book of Mormon

Recently I listened to the Mormon Stories podcast interview with Grant Palmer. For those who don’t know who Grant Palmer is, he is a faithful member of the LDS church. He wrote a book titled ” An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins.” As a result of writing his book he was disfellowshipped from his congregation (only one member of his disciplinary committee actually read his book). His book at the time was sold in Deseret Books and is still today sold in the BYU bookstore (so I hear). In the podcast Palmer explains that he has no desire to see anyone leave the church nor is it his desire to leave.

One story I thought was of particular interest was that in the 1980s he was disciplined for telling his Seminary students that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using a seer stone in a hat and not by using the actual golden plates. (Image A as opposed to B) Since that time this story has been confirmed and affirmed a number of times as the truth (even in the Ensign by Apostles Neil A. Maxwell and Russell M. Nelson). Today it would be very unlikely that anyone in an official church position would be disciplined for the same reasons as Palmer was in the 1980s. I think that it is great that there has been a greater interest and acknowledgment of LDS history by those within the church. It makes me wonder if in another 20 years that it will be unlikely to see authors like Palmer disciplined by the church at all.

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17 thoughts on “Church Discipline and Grant Palmer

  1. I’d hardly characterize someone who has been disfellowshipped as a “faithful member of the LDS Church.” If he’s been disfellowshipped, it doesn’t just apply to his congregation. I imagine that only having one member of the disciplinary committee who had read his book worked in his favor. If the others had read it he’d probably have been excommunicated.

    I also doubt that his trouble in the seminary class was due to merely telling about the seer stone. That was standard information in my seminary classes in the 70’s and I’ve taught it in my own Institute classes for 15 years. It’s more likely the flavor of the commentary that accompanied it rather than that he told about it.

    I was frankly astonished that Palmer was only disfellowshipped, but then again all we have is his account. It’s rare that the church announces to the public the decision of a disciplinary council. The announcement of the September 5 was a big anomaly.

  2. Also, I really, really doubt that Palmer’s book was ever available at Deseret Book or the BYU Bookstore. If you log in to the bookstore’s site, it doesn’t come up as a book they carry. When I went to get the book when it was first published, it wasn’t at Deseret Book.

    Alma

  3. You’re right I should have clarified that Palmer describes himself as a “faithful member”. I guess it’s up to each individual (and to God) to determine if they agree, but he is a member and he still faithfully attends his local ward each week. We’ll have to take his word for how and why he was disciplined in the 80s.

    I can direct you to a number of people who bought Palmer’s book in Deseret Book. They still have their copies with receipt and Deseret price tag. I believe in the interview, Palmer himself says that it was sold there. Have you listened to the interview?

    Friulivento said:
    “I imagine that only having one member of the disciplinary committee who had read his book worked in his favor. If the others had read it he’d probably have been excommunicated.”

    If this is the case, then justice was not done. Those who chose not to read the book, did not fulfill their duty. Regardless of what you think of Palmer, it’s difficult to assume that justice is accomplished when those passing the judgment don’t seek out all of the facts. Perhaps his discipline should have been (and still should be) more severe.

  4. Okay, I’ve never been told otherwise concerning the seer stone so I don’t see how this is news of any sort. We’re all taught that. But I fail to read in either of those articles, so please point out where it confirms Joseph used the stone IN A HAT.

    Not that it matters one way or the other, I’m just really once again tired of all the twisting and distorting you do. Every time I start to think maybe you aren’t so bad, you tell some more lies about my Church. If you can show me where Elders Maxwell or Nelson confirmed that, I’ll eat my hat. I’ll also apologize.

    And how dare you question what went on in one of the disciplinary councils when you weren’t there and clearly have no clue whatsoever?

    How about post something like this for a change (and this crap still goes on at every Conference):

    HOW ABOUT TOLERANCE FOR ALL?
    by Bob Lonsberry
    SLC Tribune, October 2003

    Some Muslims wear sacred clothing. So do some Jews. The same for Native American and some Hindus and others.

    Bits of cloth or string that are physical reminders of God
    and his bond with man. Sacred things, really. Prayer shawls
    or beads, head coverings or aprons, medicine bags. Things
    that are special to people. Honorable and good things. Things
    that should be respected.One would not for example rip the
    yarmulke from a Jewish man’s head and mockingly fling it like a
    Frisbee. Nor would you wear a yarmulke as a spoof or joke.
    Certainly not as an attack on Judaism. Not as a mockery of Jews
    and their faith.

    Yet something like that happened this weekend in front of thousands
    of people in one of America’s great cities. An act of religious
    desecration, bigotry, and discrimination. And the perpetrators boast
    of it to the press.

    It was in Salt Lake City and it was against Mormons. And somehow
    that makes it acceptable. Here’s what happened.

    Over the weekend, Mormons gathered for what they call “general
    conference”. It is a twice a year meeting that draws tens of
    thousands to Salt Lake City and is broadcast around the world to
    an audience in the low millions. It is a worship service. It is sacred
    and special to them. And each year it is protested. So called Christian
    evangelists stand on the sidewalk outside the Mormon meetings and
    shout rude condemnations of the religion to the thousands who pass in
    and out It is an odd spectacle. UNMATCHED IN AMERICAN SOCIETY.
    To think that crude protesters would stand outside a mosque, or synagogue, or cathedral or church, and harass worshippers and denounce a religion is just beyond the pale.

    It is an act of indefensable religious bigotry. And yet it happens, and is
    often applauded and boasted of. This column started with a mention of sacred clothing. Well, Mormons have sacred clothing, too. Like a variety of
    religious garments, it is worn against the skin. It is a type of underclothing. They don’t talk about it. They don’t show it to people. They keep it sacred like virtually all religious clothing, it is a specific reminder of promises made to God. Like virtually all religious clothing it is precious and significant to those who wear it.

    Well, Sunday the evangelists had some. Maybe six guys, Baptist ministers
    mocking the Mormons as they came out of a meeting. Shouting rude things to people coming out of church. And they had these sacred garments, and one supposed minister of the gospel was wiping his backside with the, laughingly treating them like toilet paper as thousands who held them sacred walked by.

    Can you see that being done to a prayer shawl in front of a synagogue, or a prayer rug in front of a mosque? Wouldn’t that sacrilege be publicly
    denounced by all decent people? He also draped them about his neck and pretended over and over again to sneeze into them. And loudly blew his nose into them while while families and children walked past.

    Stop for a moment. Lay aside for a moment what you do or don’t think about Mormons. ,,,,,,,,Was that RIGHT? More to the point, was that Christian???? Is that what Jesus would do? Absolutely not. It’s wrong. It’s bigoted. It’s unAmerican. No matter who it’s against. It was an affront.

    It smelled like the bigotry of the KuKluxKlan and the Third Reich. And yet
    the ministers boasted of it to the reporters and posed for pictures and no one in the Utah or American religious, media or civil rights communities has condemned it.

    And oddly, two worshippers were taken away in handcuffs. One man dressed in his church clothes, walked past in the crowd, saw the insults and desecrations, and gathered the piece of clothing. To protect it. He was charged with robbery and taken to jail.

    Half an hour later, another worshiper similarly gathered a molested garment and attempted to take it away. He was unsuccessful and waiting police stepped in to take him into custody.

    And that’s the world we live in. You are harangued for your beliefs and
    arrested for defending them. And the bigotry of our society is illustrated by how selectively we practice tolerance.

  5. Well, I think it is presumptuous to assume that writing a book was the purpose of the council. And the fairness would come in the exploratory converstation Palmer would have with the council. Speaking with the man in person, I think, would provide a much more accurate understanding of his intent, desire and aim in publishing such a work.

    I also think it is reasonable to assume that a book was not the only form and forum in which Palmer expressed his views.

    As to your initial post, I would like to point out that neither of your reference provide your conclusion that Joseph did not use the plates. Certainly we have indications that multiple methods were likely used as Joseph matured in this work, but the overriding understanding is that it was not a character by character translation performed by the education of man. It was an inspired work that was performed by means and methods that spoke to Joseph’s capabilities and capacities and faith. All of which grew tremendously during this time.

    That said, I agree that it is obvious that people make mistakes. Even leaders. It seems unrealistic to expect it would be otherwise. We are imperfect people given the opportunity to participate in an eternal and perfect work. It is unreasonable to expect perfect management from imperfect beings. Moses sure understood this. As did Paul. In fact he spoke directly to it in 1 Cor.
    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/1_cor/13/8-12#8

  6. From the Nelson article:
    “Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine.”

    Joy said:
    “Every time I start to think maybe you aren’t so bad, you tell some more lies about my Church.”

    Joy, I’m sure you don’t mean to be rude, but this greatly offended me. Can you show me where I have told lies about the church? I’m well aware that I don’t have perfect knowledge and that I may make mistakes, but I am unaware of a single time I have willfully distorted ANYTHING concerning the LDS church or its leaders. You are bearing false witness against me. I like you a great deal but I don’t think I deserve this treatment.

  7. C John said:
    “As to your initial post, I would like to point out that neither of your reference provide your conclusion that Joseph did not use the plates. Certainly we have indications that multiple methods were likely used as Joseph matured in this work, but the overriding understanding is that it was not a character by character translation performed by the education of man.”

    You’re right there seems to have been multiple methods. But as you stated no one should get the idea that Joseph studied out the plates and made a character by character translation as if he were educated in Reformed Egyptian. Though it’s interesting how often the Ensign depicts the translation process this way despite the contrary evidence.

  8. Regarding the desecration of the garments that Joy posted… to say that that kind of thing never happens to other people is just ridiculous. It’s incredibly sad and juvenile when anyone does it, but it is certainly not limited to happening to Mormons.

    And, as for the idea that the translation happened in a hat being common knowledge in the church… well that’s not quite accurate either. Since I did not attend seminary, I did not learn it there. I learned about it after I saw the South Park episode that made fun of it, and my husband told me that that part was factual (but told quite irreverantly, South Park style.

  9. Dando said:
    “But as you stated no one should get the idea that Joseph studied out the plates and made a character by character translation as if he were educated in Reformed Egyptian. Though it’s interesting how often the Ensign depicts the translation process this way despite the contrary evidence.”

    That is not what I said. It seems that through the course of this work Joseph was educated somewhat on “reformed egyptian”

    What I said was that it was not a translation that depended on the education of man.

    And just how often does the Ensign depict this translation, especially in a given process?

    I think you overstate your point.

  10. My apologies if I misconstrued your point.

    Pictures in the Ensign of the translation process typically look like Image B above. Often they will show a scribe sitting directly across from Joseph at the same table. We know that Joseph either put a sheet up across the room so that the scribe couldn’t see the plates, used the seer stone in the hat or didn’t use the plates or any device whatsoever to translate. (if I have this wrong, please correct me) The idea that Joseph sat with the plates openly in a room with a scribe is a misrepresentation on the artist part.

  11. After my hat eating ceremony… the straw one was easiest to eat. I APOLOGIZE. I stand corrected. I was totally wrong about the hat thing.

    I will say though, I have never been told that Joseph Smith was learned in anything. Quite the opposite. And what you need to do is read the Ensign instead of just looking at the pictures. ;o)

    I have a suggestion for you Dando.

    Write about what you DO know, which is what YOU believe. If you truly want to ‘understand’ the LDS Church go to its official website. Go to websites of true followers of the Church like JeffLindsay.com

    Or, rename your website to show you true Motives… ‘Evangelical who wants to convert Mormans’ or something. Or even ‘Reaching out to misguided Mormons’ or whatever you actually believe. But be HONEST about it.

    The fact is, you have yet to make a post about the Church that has been accurate. You twist and distort doctrines in an attempt to make the Church look bad.

    You want to convert people, fine, be honest about it. Stop acting as if ‘understanding’ is what you’re looking for. That’s the biggest lie.

    At least if you’re honest I can respect that. Once again I’m gone… this place makes me sick with your anti-Mormon garbage.

    I’m a part of a website where ther are several different belief systems represented and it’s peaceful and loving and respectful. There are pagans, protestants, unitarians, mormons and a few others. Why do we get along and unsterstand each other so well? We write about what we know… we don’t go telling each other what the other REALLY believes… the Holy Spirit is free to work. It’s not contetious. It’s refreshing.

    This site you spout some erroneous teaching… a real Mormon refutes it, then they get tag-teamed by the two EX-Mormons who won’t admit they never were truly converted or had strong testimonies… which means they never did understand in their HEARTS what they were doing. They did nothing from what I’ve read but look for faults and analize with their minds… which is fine. They can use their agency any way they wish. They can leave the Church if they wish. I am curious as to whether they’ve had their names removed from the Church rolls or not. They need to if they’re going to continue with their anti-Mormon activities.

    But the fact is this website is a fraud in its stated intent. And the format of a non-mormon trying to tell true Mormons what they beleive is beyond absurd.

    You want to evangalize, I have no trouble with that… again just be honest about your intent and evangelize by telling people the truths about what YOU believe instead of twisted up warped versions of what Mormons believe.

    Now, I need to go find a liquid to help help get this hat down… I won’t recommend eating hats every again. ;o)

  12. Dando proposed this idea to me. I don’t really think it’s fraudulant.

    From the outside much of what is represented as mormonism seems patently ludicrous.

    Even the first few steps into it, you swim through a lot of the culture. Much of the culture is built up around tradition. Traditions are notoriously skewed takes on the core or foundational principle.

    Truth does not need to be feared. All things in proper perspective yeilds growth, and does not need to yeild contention.

    We just need to be really clear about matching up apples to apples. When we discuss doctrine, it is not accurate to cite speculative works as doctrine.

  13. “Then they get tag-teamed by the two EX-Mormons who won’t admit they never were truly converted or had strong testimonies… which means they never did understand in their HEARTS what they were doing. They did nothing from what I’ve read but look for faults and analize with their minds… which is fine. They can use their agency any way they wish. They can leave the Church if they wish. I am curious as to whether they’ve had their names removed from the Church rolls or not. They need to if they’re going to continue with their anti-Mormon activities.”

    I grew up in the Church. I was raised in the gospel. We had family home evenings. I graduated from seminary. I kept the commandments as well as I could, and when I faltered, I went to see the Bishop. I’ve been to the temple. I served a full-time mission and I worked myself to tears. I came home, was active, met the most wonderful girl in the world, and married her in the temple. I’ve done my best to magnify my callings. I have read the Book of Mormon at least twelve different times and in two languages. I’ve read Talmadge, LeGrand Richards, and all the other “Missionary Library” books. I’ve given and received priesthood blessings.

    I’ve prayed my heart out to know what is true, and I’ve always done what I thought was right. I’ve listened to my heart, and I’ve thought with my mind. In the end, I decided that the church simply is not what it claims to be, and I have to be honest with myself.

    So, basically, I would appreciate it if you would sit down and shut up.

    I think Dando’s blog is fair and honest, and remarkably even-handed. Sure, it’s from an Evangelical perspective, because Dando is an evengelical. The same topics from a Mormon perspective would probably sound different, and likewise the same topics from a neutral, academic perspective would dound different. But this is what it is.

    I don’t post here to “tag team.” I post here because Dando is a friend, and the stuff he’s writing about are things that interest me. If you hate it here so much, don;t come here! It’s one tiny blog in a gigantic internet! If you only want Mormon-friendly blogs, the Bloggernacle has probably thousands of them.

  14. It was originally my intent to have C John post blog entries as well so that the blog didn’t get too one sided. He’s welcome to anytime he wants.

    Joy, I appreciate your apology and your hat eating, but I don’t know how sincere it is when you follow it up with name calling. I think you’re better than that.

    I quite HONESTLY have no desire to cause anyone to leave the LDS church. I would like to see some changes in the church, but if it is truly a place where people come to Christ, why would I not want people to be a part of that?

  15. “two EX-Mormons who won’t admit they never were truly converted or had strong testimonies… which means they never did understand in their HEARTS what they were doing. They did nothing from what I’ve read but look for faults and analize with their minds… which is fine. They can use their agency any way they wish. They can leave the Church if they wish. I am curious as to whether they’ve had their names removed from the Church rolls or not. They need to if they’re going to continue with their anti-Mormon activities.”

    This may be considered ‘tag teaming’, since both Kullervo and I are responding… but you were talking about me here, and I don’t appreciate that. I am most assuredly NOT anti-Mormon and have never said anything “anti-Mormon”. I have a lot of respect for the Church, and I know that I received answer to prayer to join it when I did.

    I did not look for faults. I did not analyze with my mind. I followed answers to prayers–as I continue to do–and they have led me away from the church. Please don’t make assumptions about me–that’s rude.

    No, I did not have my name removed from church rolls. Why would I? For all I know, following Jesus Christ will lead me back there someday. I don’t question the road I’m on; I just follow it. 🙂

  16. I will gladly take the accountability for not keeping up my agreement here. I have had to scale back on some things and I chose this.

    Dando has kept in contact with me and encouraged me to be more active here with my own blogs.

    These are well made points and not at all overly anti. If someone feels there is error, it shouldn’t be beyond expectation that they would call it out.

    I’ll try to recommit myself to adding more of the LDS perspective here as far as my thoughts and understandings.

    I strongly feel that the overriding concern is to search for truth. Where our beliefs are challenged, if they cannot stand up to an inspection of truth, there must be closer examination.

    It is quite aparent to me that much of the tradition and culture of the LDS church is strayed a bit from the core doctrine. There is much speculation that has been adopted as accepted doctrine when it isn’t.

    To be fair, that happened in the bible too. So, if we are really intent on finding truth, and willing to make changes in ourselves when need be to accomodate that, it will all be good in the end.

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