Answering Greg Trimble’s 51 Questions – Part 4

Trimble, you sly dog.  In my first post I suggested that people would probably be inclined to respond with a list of 51 questions that would cause someone to leave Mormonism.  Sure enough, Runtu put together such a list.  You won’t want to click on it though because it’s much better than your list (and I don’t say that not because he’s no longer a Mormon).

But then I found something.  A list of 50 questions for Mormons that dates back to 2001.  You cranked a prankster.  You wrote your list of questions in response to THAT list.  And then you added one more so that a web search for your list wouldn’t bring up that original list. [stands up and claps] I haven’t learned anything new about Mormonism, but I am learning somethings about you.  You’re crazy like a fox.

I think I’m ready for Part 4. But are you?

Some quick caveats for those that missed my first post..  These answers will be short and to the point. I’m not trying give a complete answer, nor am I trying to convert anyone out of Mormonism.  If I throw in a joke or two it’s to keep things interesting and not a personal attack on Trimble or an attempt to disrespect the Mormon faith.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

vw_van4

31. The Jews prepare for Elijah’s return every year during passover. On April 3, 1836 Elijah returned to the earth and appeared in the Kirtland temple on the exact day that Jews around the world had prepared an empty chair for Elijah at their Passover meal? Is that a coincidence? [More]

No, of course it wasn’t a coincidence.  It’s not like Joseph Smith knew nothing about modern Judaism.  Less than a month beforehand Joseph and a number of his followers had just wrapped up 7 weeks of Hebrew lessons from a Jewish professor they had hired.  In the “if he were making all of this up” line of questioning is it possible that Joseph was quite intentional about what day Elijah appeared? Of course it is.

What’s NOT a coincidence is that both Elias AND Elijah showed up on at the same time. That’s freakin’ unbelievable. (for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Elias is just another way to say Elijah). And by unbelievable, I mean I don’t believe it.  Like literally. I literally don’t believe it. And not in the figurative way people use the word literally these days. I mean I actually don’t believe it.

32. Why was there a sudden global interest in genealogical research and why were these genealogical societies formed immediately following Elijah’s appearance in the temple in 1836?

Seriously, help me out.  What. the. heck. are you talking about?  I did a quick Google search and don’t see anything corresponding to this claim. Who did you hear this from; the Three Nephites, Bigfoot or someone selling stakes in the Dream Mine?

I’ll play along and assume this is true in anticipation of someone giving me a reference. Hopefully that someone’s name rhymes with “peg thimble”.  Genealogy probably became popular at that time because record keeping had advanced to a point where it could support the practice.  The question could easily be turned around to ask “Is it a coincidence that Mormons found a religious reason to practice genealogy at the same time it became popular in mainstream society?”  Ditto for the Word of Wisdom copying the format of contemporary health food fads.  It seems the Mormon interest in the practice might be easier to trace than “global interest.”

33. The New Testament apostles had the ability to bind and seal on earth and in heaven. Who today claims the ability to bind and seal things on earth and in heaven?

Christians (but to be fair, we don’t say it like that).

34. Will we know our family and friends in the afterlife or do we lose our identities?

Yes! We will know our family members, all of them and then some.  The intimacy we share with our families will be shared between all believers. We don’t just get to be with our families, we get to be with every believer who has ever lived (regardless of where they are on the righteousness scale).  Imagine the things we’ll get to talk about with the heroes of the faith. Imagine the things they’ll ask us about. I’m for sure getting St. Patrick’s recipe for haggis.

35. Joseph Smith “could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well worded letter” according to his wife and many others. Could he have written the Book of Mormon?

I don’t think Joseph Smith is by any means the ONLY possible contemporary author of the Book of Mormon.  We don’t need to know who wrote it to know that it doesn’t add up to what it claims to be.

AND don’t sell Joseph so short.  He lacked education but dude was a genius.  Any Mormon who fails to recognize his brilliance is REALLY misunderstanding him.

36. If he did write the Book of Mormon, where or how did he accumulate so much wisdom in under 22 years of life?

Like I said, dude was a genius. Like literally a genius, and not in the figurative sense of the words “literally a genius.”

But there’s no reason to assume that he MUST be the writer.  If there was reason to think Sidney Rigdon was the author would we have any problem with the idea that Rigdon possessed the education and wisdom to write what we find there? (also a genius)

37. Could Joseph Smith have been capable of plagiarizing from other books to write the Book of Mormon?

Yes.  And this isn’t even all the controversial. Huge portions of the Book of Mormon are word for word in line with the copy of the KJV Bible the Smith family owned (translation errors and all). In addition there are quotes from other popular sources throughout the Book of Mormon including a speech by George Washington.

Looking at what came after the Book of Mormon within Mormonism, Joseph clearly knew how to steal like an artist.  Dude took inspiration from anywhere and everywhere and wove it into this fascinating tapestry. As I recall, that’s a major premise of the LDS Church sanctioned biography Rough Stone Rolling“.

Again, there’s no reason to assume that Joseph Smith is the source for the Book of Mormon but whoever compiled it was clearly capable of plagiarizing because the book has big time plagiarizing throughout.

38. If you say he plagiarized from a book that was popular and well known in his area, then how come no one called him out on it when he released the Book of Mormon?

They did.  You think Anti-Mormon pamphlets didn’t get started until around the time Al Gore invented the internet? PUH-lease. Come on Patrick, criticizing the Book of Mormon is as old as a transoceanic wooden submarines. People have been criticizing the Book of Mormon since before they started hooking wheeless chariots up to tapirs.

Speaking of Al Gore, did you hear why he converted to Mormonism?  After learning about the Nephite people he said “any society that can disappear without leaving behind a footprint is one that our lives must be patterned after.”

39. Every scribe for Joseph Smith said he used no other manuscript or third party source material. Do you think Joseph Smith could have curated, memorized, and dictated Jacob 5 “The Allegory of the Olive Tree”, let alone the entire Book of Mormon?

They also said that he sat on the other side of a cloth that blocked their view and that he wouldn’t let them see what he was reading off of.

Sorry, that sentence ended with a preposition. Let’s try that again.

They also said that he sat on the other side of a cloth that blocked their view and that he wouldn’t let them see of what he was reading off.

Let’s also not forget that the Book of Mormon underwent significant edits as it was being prepared for printing.  We have almost no idea what he actually dictated to his scribes.

40. Eleven plus people testified that they saw or handled the Book of Mormon plates. Many of these people became mad at Joseph Smith. Is it feasible that none of them would have “spilled the beans” if it was a calculated fraud in order to destroy Joseph Smith?

Many of them did tell us that they didn’t literally see the plates with their physical eyes. It was a spiritual experience for all of them.  Anyone who said they “hefted” the plates did so with them inside a sack where they couldn’t see what they were lifting.

Did you know that eight of the witnesses had their names signed to the testimony for them by Oliver Cowdery?  It isn’t even their own handwriting. If the evidence of these ancient golden plates was so convincing, then why did most of the witnesses leave the LDS church?


Hey I didn’t use the words “context” or “proof-text” once in this set. Nice! Proud of you.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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23 thoughts on “Answering Greg Trimble’s 51 Questions – Part 4

  1. Thanks for the mention. You’ve done a good job responding to Trimble. To me, it’s another reminder of the futility of proof-texting.

  2. I’ve always thought the uneducated Smith argument is a bit too overplayed. Not only was he apparently quite smart (smart and educated are separate issues) but he had access to a host of resources.

  3. The more I’ve studied the Book of Mormon and early LDS history, the more I believe that there is no simple explanation for the book’s origins. Even as a practicing/faithful member, I’d agree that the traditional view, the view I presume Bro. Trimble holds — that the book is basically a translation (in the conventional sense of the word) of an ancient document — doesn’t make much sense. But, for me at least, neither do the other theories that Tim has alluded to or mentioned here; the pieces simply don’t fit. So I guess I’d make a terrible apologist for either side of the debate.

    In any case, I wholeheartedly agree with Tim on at least one thing here:

    [Joseph Smith] lacked education but dude was a genius. Any Mormon who fails to recognize his brilliance is REALLY misunderstanding him.

    One thing I get tired of apologists doing is describing Smith primarily as an uneducated farm boy and saying that somehow proves the Book of Mormon. Have they not seen how he could give new life to old symbols? Have they not read D&C 121, the majestically poetic epistle he wrote in the Liberty Jail? Have they not experienced the temple ceremony, in which he upended the meaning of Masonic rituals? Have they not seen the wheels of his mind turning in his King Follett sermon? Simply put, how could they not have seen his creative genius (and I’m using that phrase literally) at work?

    You may love him or hate him or be perplexed by him, but the guy was no dummy.

  4. Eric, what do you make of the idea that there were no mistakes in the translation of the BoM? I believe it was held that the process of Smith putting it into English would not allow for any mistakes. Yet, it has been revised several times. Just curious your thoughts on that issue.

  5. We have conflicting accounts of the “translation” process, and Smith didn’t talk about it much. I assume there are errors.

  6. I don’t think Joseph Smith had the same idea of inerrancy when he was talking about the book being “perfect.” He had no qualms about revising and even rewriting the Book of Mormon in 1837 and again in 1840, and the “revelations” were heavily rewritten between 1833 and 1835. So, his idea of canon was pretty fluid.

  7. FYI – Rough Stone Rolling was not church-sanctioned. Bushman definitely took an academic approach for an academic press, which is probably why it was a tough read for many Mormons (while others, like myself, loved it).

  8. With regard to BofM translation, I find it interesting that folks like MRM and others continue to push the head-buried-in-a-hat description used by several witnesses for shock value (it certainly looks and sounds “weird” and differs from most LDS art) when, in fact, it makes it harder to argue that he was reading off of some other manuscript.

  9. I received and email from LDS.org telling me to read Rough Stone Rolling shortly after it was published.

    I don’t think the head in the hat method is necessarily incompatible with hiding behind a sheet. He could have demonstrated that his head was in a hat and then pulled the sheet between himself and the scribe.

  10. This is the email I received from Family and Church History fch-feedback@ldschurch.org :

    Thank you for your feedback. There are many issues dealing with this topic that are not well documented so they have not been included on this site.

    You can learn more basic information on Joseph Smith’s role in polygamy by reading the following: http://www.lds.org/newsroom/showpackage/0,15367,3899-1–36-2-539,00.html

    There are also articles about Joseph Smith as well as his role in Polygamy at the BYU Studies Site: http://byustudies.byu.edu/features/js/jsarticles.asp

    A recent publication that also contains good information is:

    Joseph Smith : Rough Stone Rolling / Richard Lyman Bushman, with the assistance of Jed Woodworth, New York, N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, c2005

  11. Tim – As a show of good faith that this is “not a personal attack on Trimble or an attempt to disrespect the Mormon faith,” are you planning to do this with a similar set of questions intended for Mormons put out by any number of countercult ministries?

  12. I don’t think the head in the hat method is necessarily incompatible with hiding behind a sheet.

    Except that the witnesses describing the use of a stone inside a hat specifically said that there was nothing between the scribe and Joseph (and, in the Whitmer home, apparently nothing between them and anyone else in the house). The only time a curtain is described as being placed between the scribe and translator was when Martin Harris was the scribe, but apparently at Martin's request out of "fear of the Divine displeasure." In any case, we no longer have the manuscripts for which Harris was the scribe, as they were part of the 116 pages that were lost.

  13. are you planning to do this with a similar set of questions intended for Mormons put out by any number of countercult ministries?

    Probably not, but I do plan on linking to FAIR’s rebuttal of the similar list in Part 5. Would that demonstrate good faith?

    Except that the witnesses describing the use of a stone inside a hat specifically said that there was nothing between the scribe and Joseph (and, in the Whitmer home, apparently nothing between them and anyone else in the house)

    I stand corrected but think the possibility still exists that a sheet separated them. During the period Oliver Cowdery was the scribe I think all bets are off on what the situation was like.

  14. Just a few comments.

    First, on the Genius of Joseph Smith; I am one to admit he was a very bright young man, but using the work of his later life as proof of his ability in the earlier years just doesn’t work. At the time that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon there is nothing else in his life to compare to its brilliance.

    Now, I would agree that most of these questions are simply bad questions, but mainly because they are not likely to be asked by anyone who is not already a member, and thus are asked more as a defense, to try and trap the opposition. These kind of questions don’t belong in a list of this kind.

  15. Unless you are using a very loose, mild definition of “sanction,” I think having a reference to Rough Stone Rolling in an e-mail from the Family and Church History department is a far cry from it being church-sanctioned.

  16. Does anyone know if it is true that Joseph Smith was arrested (before his Mormonism) for ‘seer stone’ fraud? I have heard that he was arrested more than once for this sort of thing between 1826 and 1830.

  17. Smith and the BoM and its perfection. I believe I have read that the tools Smith used to translate the BoM would not allow him to move on until he had the correct character in place. Is that not accurate?

  18. theoldadam – Unfortunately, the documentary history on the 1826 (trial? examination?) is a bit of a mess. Since official court records were not created for misdemeanors (only felonies), we have no official records for it. We have a few surviving testimonies from various individuals who were apparently at the proceeding with a lot of disagreement between them on what the proceeding was (trial? no trial?) and what the outcome was (guilty? acquitted? no charges?). Furthermore, there are issues with the transmission of some of these documents, and it appears that some of the witness testimonies have been edited. It makes for a fun exercise in reconstructing history.

    When looking at all of the documents together, it appears most likely that (1) the proceeding was an examination, not a trial, and (2) it was initiated by Josiah Stowell’s nephew who, it appears, wasn’t concerned so much about the “money digging” or “glass looking” as with Smith’s influence on his uncle (who was one of Smith’s early believers and testified in his defense at this proceeding).

    “Folk magic” (as we call it now – not what they would have called it) was very much a part of rural early-19th century culture, a culture Smith was a part of. From a believer’s perspective, God took Joseph Smith in his current condition and culture, much like He did with biblical prophets, and used Him as an instrument for fulfilling His purposes.

  19. Pingback: 50 Questions: Prophets, part 1 | Defending the Faith; the Truth of God's Word

  20. Pingback: 50 Questions: Prophets, part 2 | Defending the Faith; the Truth of God's Word

  21. Hey, I noticed the old list of 50 questions that you reference and decided to answer them on my blog, just for fun. I noticed that the first two have already had a pingback to this blog. If you are interested check it out.

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