So there is this podcast that I absolutely love listening to. It called Timesuck by comedian, Dan Cummins. He discusses conspiracy theories, true crime, the paranormal, etc. from a more logical stand point than most others. I have been a loyal Timesuck fan for several months now. Yesterday, Dan Cummins released an episode all about “Mormonism.” Since I happen to have some expertise in this field, with writing an entire book and all, I took notes and decided to give it my honest review, and add a few historical corrections or further explanations.
Overall, I think Cummins did such an amazing job and I really appreciate all his hard work and research! I always feel like Dan Cummins puts a lot of time and energy into each episode so we get the best information. I am not a “sanitizer” of church history (as Dan referred to some of the Church apologists) so I am not offended at all with his presentations. Although, some listeners who are members of the church may find it difficult to listen too. Cummins states that he believes most Mormons misunderstand some of their own doctrine. I think he could be right to some degree, depending on how much effort that member puts into increasing their knowledge on the subject. I think that is a big reason why so many people eventually leave; because of the “sanitizers,” or the people who choose to hide the history. Then once the truth does come to light, people feel betrayed. That is not what I’m about so Dan’s well-researched and unbiased podcast episode was appreciated. But of course, there are some things I need to clarify or further explain since it is pretty much my job. (:
- Dan misunderstood the idea of the “unpardonable sin” that makes somebody a “son of perdition,” according to church beliefs so here is my explanation: We do not believe in Hell–we believe in three degrees/levels of Heaven. Yes we do believe in “outer darkness” which is the closest thing to what other Christians refer to as Hell but it is almost impossible to end up there. You have to be a son of perdition by committing the “unpardonable sin”—meaning you have seen Christ in the flesh and know He is the Son of God and feel the Holy Spirit testify it, but still deny Him. Immediately, people would assume that Judas Iscariot is a son of perdition but this is a misconception, because we don’t believe that the Holy Ghost was on earth while Christ was, so we don’t ACTUALLY know that even Judas, who is infamous for betraying Christ, is even a son of perdition. So even the worst people in the world: Hitler, terrorists, murderers, etc. probably won’t even end up there. Everyone is going to some form of heaven, according to our beliefs. It’s not that you just didn’t accept the church or don’t believe, not even close. So no worries, Dan, you are not a son of perdition, as you suggested in the episode. (;
- In the episode, Dan said he heard that the rituals performed inside LDS temples were stolen by Joseph Smith from Freemasonry. Here is my explanation: Yes, the temple rituals seem to come from Freemason rituals. However, Freemason rituals were derived from ancient religious rituals before that and used in ancient Judiac temple worship—which we believe were then restored by the prophet Joseph Smith to be used in our temples for redeeming ordinances. So we don’t believe that Joseph Smith stole them from Freemasons. But that the rituals are similar because the Freemason rituals came from ancient religious rituals done in temples long before. You can even look that up, it’s legit! So long story short, we believe that Joseph Smith joined Freemasonry, among other reasons, to further educate himself on those rituals that he was called by God to help restore.
- In the episode, Dan Cummins includes several archeological evidences found that do not support the Book of Mormon as a legitimate ancient religious writing comparable to the Holy Bible. He also claimed that there is no archeological evidence to suggest otherwise: As far as evidences for the Book of Mormon in the archeological sense, there HAS been evidence found that supports things like medal engravings for religious documents from around that time across the world, concrete and iron being used by native Americans before when was originally believed, etc. I’ll link some of those sources below so you know I’m not bullcrapping you! There are also several things in the BOM that seemed impossible in 1830 when the BOM was first released but have since been proven true. For example: in the first book in the BOM, a group of people leave Jerusalem and move south towards modern Yemen and make it to a place with an abundance of “water, wood, and fruit.” Back in western society 1830, this was believed to be false, but modern knowledge proves that the coast of modern Yemen has an abundance of “water, wood, and fruit.” There are tons more. I’ll link those sources below too.
- He made similar claims about the language of the Book of Mormon: There’s also the fact that the BOM is written in chiasmus, an ancient style of writing that was not discovered in the Holy Bible until 1871, 41 years after the BOM was published. It is difficult to imagine that Joseph smith somehow discovered this before anyone else who was more educated than he was, kept it a secret, and used it in the BOM rather than that the BOM was an actual translated record from ancient times when chiasmus was prominent in religious writings. As far as the language of Reformed Egyptian not being found on other ancient records, that might be true for now. But you cannot say that we have found everything there is to find archeologically and that we know everything yet. Something that convinced me that Joseph Smith DID translate the BOM from golden plates written in Reformed Egyptian has always been the actual manuscript of the BOM itself. It is available to read online at josephsmithpapers.org . There are several times in the manuscript when new names and places were spelled phonetically and then fixed later upon editing, which suggests that the scribes were listening to Joseph smith read the translation aloud from the plates. There are times when a division is marked later in the manuscript when it was clear that the break in text indicated a new book/author and not just a new chapter. There were no major revisions made (besides grammatical or spelling errors) before publication either and yet there are no inconsistencies in the stories, places, people, etc. According to the first hand accounts of his scribes, when returning to the translation, he never asked something along the lines of “where was I?” even if he stopped mid-sentence before the break. He always picked up right where he left off. One of his scribes once replaced one of the seer stones when he knew Joseph wasn’t paying attention with a look-alike rock to see what Joseph would do with it when trying to translate later. He claims that Joseph looked at the stones for a long time in silence and finally said he couldn’t see anything and the stones were “dark as Egypt.” If he was making it up, wouldn’t he have just kept “translating?” The only explanations for that are that Joseph somehow knew the Stone was replaced (which the scribe swears there was no way he could have known) or He was really using special seer stones from God that could not be simply replaced to do the same action. Joseph Smith did all this in only three months, spontaneously. And there is no evidence to suggest that he had help from books or anything else since the scribes all said he had none with him. All I’m trying to say is this: if you are going to present the linguistic and archeological evidence against the BOM, you should present the evidence for it as well. (:
- Dan Cummins asked why Joseph Smith never asked anybody of credibility and education about his translations to prove he was not making it all up: Martin Harris DID take parts of the manuscript to educated men who were not believers who DID proclaim that what was translated was real Egyptian and the best translation of Egyptian they had ever seen. They even gave him a certificate of authenticity saying so before ripping it up when he realized Harris was working with Smith. Link below to that source.
- Cummins suggests in the episode that Joseph Smith was a literal gold digger from birth who grew up believing in things like seer stones that could be discovered like buried treasure, which could have influenced his tales/embellishments about the First Vision and onward: He was hired, along with several other young men, by a man named Joseph Stowell to look for treasure for him AFTER the First Vision. At first Smith refused but Stowell insisted. Nothing valuable ever really came from that, besides Joseph meeting Emma. However, this is where the rumors began of Smith being a money digger.
- Cummins was skeptical that Joseph Smith could run a decent distance from the hidden place to Joseph’s home through the woods, while carrying heavy plates, while also fighting off a few attackers, and not be injured: When running with the gold plates in the forest and being attacked several times, Joseph Smith WAS injured. He dislocated his thumb which his father had to put back in place upon arrival at his home and he had several bruises on his body. Yes, it’s possible, as some “Pro-Mormon” people sources believe according to Cummins, that God gave him extra strength to accomplish this crazy task. However, I believe it was simply an adrenaline rush that helped him run through the forest with heavy plates and fight off his attackers. We have heard about crazy stories of adrenaline—like mom’s lifting full-blown cars off their babies after an accident—so if Joseph Smith was passionate enough about this and believed in what he was teaching and it’s importance, then it’s not unlikely that he was running on a high amount of adrenaline.
- Dan Cummins claimed that nobody had ever seen or touched the plates besides Joseph Smith, which raised some red flags for him: Several people have seen and held the gold plates and never denied seeing them and holding them, even after later leaving the church because they disliked Joseph Smith and some of the things he was doing. They claim they held the plates in their hands. Emma Smith, Joseph’s wife, never saw the plates uncovered but she did get curious once and touch them over the cloth that covered them. She says she could hear the plate pages clanging together when she picked them up and dropped them and she knew they were real. Emma was highly educated, far more educated than Joseph Smith. In my opinion, it would be difficult to fool her. Of course that is my opinion, but again, I’m just giving further context that was missed.
- Cummins was confused as to why the revelations given to Joseph Smith sounded so much like the King James Bible version of speaking: We believe that God speaks in the more formal English way of speaking, like from the King James Bible: “thou, thy, thee,” etc. And a lot of members of the church even phrase their prayers in this language out of respect. So no, we don’t believe God has updated his lingo to match ours, not when speaking formally or giving revelations for the whole church.
- Cummins disliked the fact that Joseph Smith brought a pistol with him to Carthage Jail in case of an attack, as that is not what “Jesus would do:” According to first-hand accounts, Joseph at first refused to bring a gun to Carthage Jail but he decided to do so last minute to help protect those who were with him including his brother. You can argue that he was just using that as an excuse to protect himself. But, once his brother Hyrum was killed, it is believed that Joseph jumped out the window so the mob would chase him and the rest of the group would be saved. He was successful, John Taylor and Willard Richards were spared. It is easy to assume that was his motivation for bringing a gun to the jail as well. So maybe it’s not what Jesus would have done but if all of the above is true, then it was for a good cause. And nobody ever said that Joseph Smith was a perfect man like Christ was, but an imperfect man called by God to do His work.
Again, I think Dan Cummins did a fantastic job overall but there are just a few historical errors or further explanations that I wanted to add. I have been a huge fan of Dan Cummins work and comedy since I was in high school (I listened to him on Pandora before seminary everyday, believe it or not!). I am a loyal fan of his podcast so I feel honored to have the opportunity to write this review.
Links to sources:
Evidence for the BOM (using a source you even quoted in the podcast): https://bookofmormoncentral.org/blog/five-compelling-archeological-evidences-for-the-book-of-mormon
Book of Mormon original manuscript: https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/book-of-mormon-manuscript-excerpt-circa-june-1829-1-nephi-22b-318a/2 (some of it was destroyed after years of wear and tear but what’s left is on display here)
Reformed Egyptian Characters legitimacy:
Further research on Joseph Smith: