Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Testimony of Joseph Smith

I belong to a forum whose posts are open for anyone to read so I see no harm in quoting a post someone made there (they did not use their real name and I know nothing about who they really are). It was an opening post and included questions. I am quoting it and I am quoting my reply (which took two posts, then I added a postscript comment).

I view my reply as my testimony of truth. Because of that, I am making a blog post out of it.

1smartdog wrote:
From time to time I will hear or read about someone who claims to know all the dirty church history and yet believes. Frankly I do not know what to make of these people. Sometimes I think they really do not know everything, maybe some superficial stuff, but they have not explored it all. It is one thing to gloss over the BofA or polygamy, but when you dive deep you realize the very foundational stories you were taught all your life are suspect at best or more likely complete fabrications.

How does one stare so directly into the light and yet ignore it at the same time. For me and I think most people when they find the truth it takes but a short time to realize it is all a big lie. But there seems to be those few who can compartmentalize it enough to believe in spite of it all. What gives with this? Are they so vested in belief that nothing to the contrary can be contemplated? I just can not get my head around this approach.

I can accept that if you are ignorant of the facts you can believe. We all did at one point. But when faced with the evidence and you still choose to defend the church I wonder what scrambled thought processes you must endure.

My reply:
I can't say I know it all. I don't think anyone does. What I have seen, in my studies, is that people can lie about others even in the 1800s. I look at the evidence and make my own decisions. Some of what people on NOM accept as true witnesses, I do not.

However, I think one thing that is different about me is that my hopes and salvation are not hung up on Joseph Smith or any other leader of the Church. No one is perfect and it's the most damning lie we are taught - that Joseph and every president after him were perfect and that the Church is perfect. A lie equal to that is that it is ALL true or it is ALL false.

When one believes the leaders not only are perfect, but have to be perfect (except in very minor things), then they have to compartmentalize some of the things, say, Brigham, taught. In fact, for years, I denied he ever taught the Adam-God theory.

I read much of the CES letter. When I looked at the examples of the funerary pictures (facsimiles?) that were being compared with the one about Abraham we have in the Pearl of Great Price, I noticed that the funerary pictures had dead people who were acting like proper dead people, but the one of Abraham was the only dead person I'd seen or heard of who was kicking and hitting. Apparently, he didn't know how to act like a proper corpse.

As far as masonry and the temple, I see it this way: Joseph was a mason. He had seen into heaven. He knew he was going to die soon. The people weren't finishing the temple and he knew they'd receive the promised curses (being scattered, for one thing). He wanted to give them some clues to hold on to in regards to what he had been trying to get through their collective heads. (That they were each to see the Lord for themselves and not rely on him so much.)

I believe that he saw, in masonry, signs and tokens that could be used as clues if the people could figure it out. I'm not so sure he intended such an air of fear and secrecy to accompany the temple ordinances, though.

Here are some examples, and I hope I'm not telling too much. First sign. Casting out the devil so he cannot answer your prayers to God. (There is an example of this in the temple film.) Second sign. Keeping the devil at bay and coming to God as a beggar. Third sign. Even after Jesus has cast Satan/Lucifer under your feet (via the atonement and you accepting it), you are still a beggar before God. Fourth. You approach the throne of God, speaking to Him three times to signify that you are in the lowest realm (telestial, terrestrial, celestial).

Translating the Book of Mormon. I don't care that he used a hat and a stone. Sometimes I wonder why he didn't translate like I was taught, but perhaps his gift was not intended to be manifest in a typical way. What I do is look at the finished product.

Now, there is a lie, by inference, going around. That lie is that Joseph translated the book perfectly and it needed no editing. Not one stitch. Well, I've been reading the 1830 version of the book and sometimes his grammar makes me cringe. And, when they "fixed" it in later versions, they changed some things that I wonder if they ought to have - like changing "Mary the mother of God" to "Mary the mother of the Son of God."

Because of stuff like that, I figure I have a right to look at the book as if it was a typical book by a typical author. Errors in the first edition. It doesn't have to be perfect. Not really.

I find the book useful. I find that I get closer to God by studying it. I have stopped studying it with a Mormon paradigm. I search to see what the book, itself, is saying.

For example, it comes down hard on the Gentiles. Moroni says, "I've seen you." Then he says, "Why have you polluted the holy church of God?"

We are taught that these references are to the Catholic church. Why would he say that to a church that was polluted a thousand years before the people he saw and knew would read the book.

The book damns us, the followers of Joseph Smith's religions. Reading that book with the idea that most of the references to gentiles mean us is a real eye-opener and fits what we have been and what we have become. It even gave a special warning about polygamy.

Part Two -

I believe that Joseph didn't have sex with all of those women he was accused of having sex with. If he did sealings at all, I think it had nothing to do with marriage and marital relations. I think there are a lot of holes in the women's testimonies. They gave one witness while Joseph was alive and another witness after he was dead and they had something to lose by not lying for the Lord for Brigham.

I believe Bennet accused Joseph to cover up his own sins.

The precedent had already been set for altering scriptures when a committee embellished the Book of Commandments when they wrote the Doctrine and Covenants - and I believe that some of D&C 132 was altered by the man who claimed to have written it for Joseph originally, because he was loyal to Brigham - and they had to prove to Joseph's sons that Joseph had had lots of sex with lots of wives - and to keep polygamy, they had to convince the gov't that it had been practiced since Joseph's time so they could keep it under the clause of freedom of religion. (Apparently, if it was an innovation by BY, the courts would have rejected it. They did anyway, but that's beside the point.)

Now, I don't expect you guys to believe me or to accept my point of view. I'm not interested in debating your evidences against mine. I'm no scholar and I'm not into debate. I only replied because the op was wondering something and I thought I would give a reply because I fit somewhat into the paradigm he was addressing.

But I don't fit into the paradigm completely, because I hold the opinion that only Joseph was a prophet, that he didn't have to be anywhere near perfect to be so, that the books he translated did not have to be perfect. I hold that the reason Joseph came was to share the revelations and books, and to tell us that we, too, could connect directly with heaven. In fact, that it was vital for us to be able to bear the Lord's presence in the flesh. Otherwise, there could be no Zion. And without Zion, the whole earth would be utterly destroyed because no one would be able to stand in the Lord's presence without sizzling.

I believe that a formally organized church was not intended by God, but was pushed by Sidney Rigdon and others. I believe that one can be baptized and accept the Book of Mormon without ever becoming a member of one of the offshoots descending from Joseph Smith.

I think Baptists can stay Baptist. Catholics can stay Catholic. And so forth. They may have to change some of their thinking to accept the new stuff, but there is no need to leave their own formal religion. I think God wants no formal religion, with hierarchies and "holy men" who boss people around and tell them what underwear to wear.

I think religion is deeply personal and no person has a right to tell you what to believe, how to approach God, or make a set of rules (no tats, wear white shirts, pay money to attend temples, follow a man or be kicked out, and so forth).

I know that most everyone here disagrees with my beliefs. I also know that we share some beliefs. I don't have a problem with you not believing me. I'm fine with you choosing your own path and accepting what makes sense to you. That's the way it should be.

*steps down from soapbox*

I hold the opinion that only Joseph was a prophet,

This means that I don't think BY down to and including TSM are true prophets. These men may have held the title, but they were not and are not the real thing.




  1. I appreciate your post. I have a sister that has left the church and she can't understand why I can learn what I have, recognize the church is a mess but not throw it all away. She is convinced Joseph Smith was involved in polygamy and thinks there will come a time when I will want to know what really happened. I haven't been able to figure out how to tell her it never really mattered to me. He can be imperfect and still have done the Lord's work regardless of whether he was involved in polygamy or not. Thank you for your testimony. You put a voice to thoughts I have had but been unable to succinctly voice myself. I hope to share this with her sometime.

    1. Thank you for your comment. My sincere desire was that my testimony could help someone. I hope it does.

  2. Thanks for posting this, and I relate a whole lot with the things you say, as I'm also one who fits somewhat into the paradigm mentioned.

    One thing I wanna bring up that I've seen among my own friends is how quickly they've jumped from following and believing every word from one group of men (LDS leaders) to following and believing every word from a different group of men (historians, scientists).

    As you only touched upon with the topics of polygamy and Abraham, if we are to delve into any one of these so-called "unequivocal facts" demonstrated to the world by decorated historians and scientists, we will find these people *know* just as little about anything — if not less — than those who believe. Without the Holy Ghost, none of us know shit about anything, all said and done, and we're stick being blown around from one idea to the next.

    Godpseed, LJn. Thanks again for the post.

    1. Thanks for your reply.

      That is exactly what I have noticed: The transfer of trust from one man (or type of man) to another.

  3. I got some replies to my post.

    In a very calm and helpful manner, two people addressed the book of Abraham and Joseph's polygamy.

    One referred to the testimony of two women in the Temple Lot case (gave me a couple of links). One woman plainly said she had intimate relations with Joseph. The other beat more around the bush, but pretty much admitted it (but refused to say why she never got pregnant).

    My question, though, is, "Did these women lie?" The one who was not quite so forward about it seems (to me) to have lied but was uncomfortable doing it.

    I've learned the hard way that people lie, that people will believe their own lies - either because they've talked themselves into it or because they were delusional in the first place.

    And Brigham and his people had a lot to lose if Joseph hadn't started it all.

    Funny thing, though. If Joseph *did* do this, it wouldn't change my relationship with God, nor with the scriptures.

    And, about the book of Abraham. I don't know if it matches the manuscript Joseph actually translated from. I don't know if we have it or if it was never found. (I know that people say we have it and that it doesn't match what Joseph said.) What I do know is that what I read in the book seems very inspired to me. It gives me light and knowledge. And I am not convinced that, where the facsimile is ripped, Joseph simply invented (incorrectly) what the picture should have been there.

    I come from a place that is not understood by those who have had their shelves break because of all the things they have learned about history (mostly truths, maybe a few half-truths, and -I believe- some lies that may be difficult to prove).

    My relationship is with God, not man. Not any man. I have no stake in whether or not Joseph was the whitewashed man the Church has portrayed him as, nor do I have a stake in the evil, vile man the other side honestly believe he was. (I think he was neither adulterous nor a pedophile. I think the evidence for those things comes from lying people).

    Most of the things I hear now I already knew. I learned them in primary (back in the "olden" days) and I heard others from my brother (it broke *his* shelf). I also heard them when I went on a jaunt in my twenties, reading anti-Mormon books. (I was not impressed with the alarmist tone of writing, nor with the myriad "it MUST have been[s]" - nor with the way their own stories conflicted and disagreed with themselves (in the same book).

  4. The heart of what you explain that your own relationship is between you and God alone, and that while other things may help point you in that direction, you do not depend on any of them being perfect. I appreciate that tone and testimony. I feel the same way.

    These anti-mormon writings such as CES letter are not interested in "the truth". They are emotional appeals and nothing more, with some facts thrown in. For instance, they all claim it is a *fact* Smith had 30+ (whatever the exact number) wives. But when you investigate, it's quite easy to dismiss at least a few. They don't appear very interested in the truth, because if they were they'd say there are some alleged wives that likely weren't. It is much more shocking to say "Smith married a 14-year-old" than it is to admit "Helen Mar Kimball made a few claims later in life, but there isn't enough info there to demonstrate anything factually". http://www.defendingjoseph.com/2015/03/helen-mar-kimballwas-she-josephs-plural.html

    I think they're worth reading and being familiar with though because we will have to answer these things to our own children why we believe what we believe despite what others believe.

    One thing I've never heard anybody address ever with arguments over the book of Abraham is how are we so sure we know how to translate ancient Egyptian in the first place? Hear me out, as I had a moment of personal inspiration on the subject recently, and before then I never once considered anything than what I had been taught in school growing up — that is I believed it was a fact that we can properly translate ancient Egyptian as much as it is a fact we can translate from Spanish to English.

    But I'm telling you, if you dive into where our understanding of ancient Egyptian comes from, our foundation for translation is shoddy at best. In fact I recently discovered a guy in Egypt — not a mormon — who spent his life trying to do a better translation than Champollion (because Champollionhe didn't even "crack" the entire thing). This Egyptian man named Ossama Alsaadawi claims that according to his much more accurate translations of ancient Egyptian, the accademit world's entire understanding of ancient Egypt is wrong.

    I think it's at least worth considering:

    - How are our linguists so sure the original rosetta stone is translated correctly (we have no idea who even wrote this thing)
    - Why are we so willing to jump on Champollion's conclusion? There are almost infinite ways to try to crack a translation like this. It seems most people think later translations have proved Champollion's translation again and again — like it's one of those Boy Scout codes where you substitute one letter with another, and therefore if you have the crack, then everything works, and if you don't nothing makes sense. But this is so different.

    When one studies what Alsaadawi says about translating ancient Egyptian, I think don't think it's a stretch at all that it's entirely possible Champollion was just wrong, our historians are wrong, and Alsaadawi is wrong too. It's damned difficult to get things right, and even if you did, how are you so sure the guy who wrote that original stone is so accurate in the first place?

    Like I said earlier, a close, honest examination of what we consider "facts" and what we "know" about ancient or even recent civilizations only reminds us how little we really know, and how much is pure speculation. Of course the egotistical person will always promote his own speculation as fact. I am surrounded by men and women who apparently know everything about the ancient world, the cosmos, and even the driving motivations of Joseph Smith.

    I think it's good to question our own beliefs. In fact, why not question everything we are throwing around as "the truth"? Moroni explained the only way to know *anything* is true is by the Holy Ghost. The more I learn, the more I think he was onto something.

    1. Thank you for that perspective, Ben.

      I don't know enough about Egyptian things, and what you said was beneficial. It makes sense from a logical standpoint.


    2. Ben, I was on my phone when I replied to you, hence my short reply.

      I appreciate all that you said. I had supposed that we "got it right" and did not realize that there were some who thought we (as a general populace) aren't as accurate as we think we are in regards to knowing what Egyptian words mean.

      My main reason for not flying apart and for not believing something just because someone said so (even if they have been subpoenaed and are in court) is that I know people can lie or be mistaken - or "misremember" to support a cause they are wrapped up in.

      So, I don't *know* how much is true nor how much is false.

      And, let me tell you, it feels very good to have no idol but God. No man on a pedestal who would destroy my testimony if it were shown he was imperfect or even vile.