On September 22, 1827--202 years ago (+ 2 days at the time of writing this because I'm a procrastinator)--Joseph Smith Jr. took the golden plates from their hiding place to be translated by the power of God.
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:
This is Martin Harris. Most Latter Day Saints remember him as the man sorta responsible for the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon. Because of that, he doesn’t always have the best reputation. The truth is, though, he was loved so dearly by Joseph Smith and his family, regardless of his mistake. Martin Harris defended the church and Joseph Smith several times, even sometimes under oath in a court of law, against his own wife. Joseph Smith spoke so many times about his love for Martin and God’s love for Martin as well. I know so many people who believe they are no longer worth living or even worthy of God’s love because of something they’ve done, the way they think and question things, struggling with their testimony in the past/present, being LGBTQ+, or literally ANY OTHER REASON. That’s just not true. Seriously, it’s not. You are so loved, especially by your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. NO MATTER WHAT. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING will ever make you or any other person immune to God’s love. Please know that. If you take nothing else from any of my posts/books/blogs/etc. Please know this at least: God’s love is infinite, eternal, and unconditional. SERIOUSLY! 💕 I promise. 🤝 I’ve felt it, and you can too. Just trust Him. 🙏 You can learn more about Martin Harris’ story in my book “1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith” in my bio if you want.
I have had a deep emotional connection to the Prophet Joseph Smith
ever since I was a little girl. The first time I read about his martyrdom, when
I was eight years old, I bawled my eyes out! Whenever we spoke about him
in church or seminary, I felt exceptionally interested and invested. My two
favorite scriptures of all time are about him. The first time I visited places like
the Sacred Grove, his home, the Kirtland Temple, Nauvoo, and other Church
history locations saved both my life and my testimony. I was diagnosed with
idiopathic gastroparesis at twenty years old; it was devastating. My dreams
of graduating from college and becoming a registered nurse were shattered.
Then I found a new passion: writing fact books. My first book is called Disney
Till You’re Dizzy: 1,001 Facts, Rumors, and Myths about the Disneyland Resort.
Only a short while after it was published, the Lord told me that it was time to
write a new fact book. This time, Heavenly Father wanted me to write a fact
book for Him, about the Prophet Joseph Smith. I was nervous and shocked.
I was accustomed to writing theme park books. I never thought I would have
to write about something so serious, important, and even controversial. But I
knew that if God commanded me to do it, He would help me through it. I was
right. God helped me every step of the way.
This book was definitely the most difficult one
I have written to date, but it was my favorite!
I genuinely believe that any decent person who seriously studies the
Prophet’s life through credible primary sources—including the writings of
Joseph himself—cannot honestly say that Joseph Smith was anything but a
truthful, virtuous, and incredible man, even if that person does not believe he
was truly a prophet of God. One of the main goals of this book is to tell the
real story, while making it simple to read and understand. 1,001 Facts about
the Prophet Joseph Smith is a history book for this generation. The entire book
can be read in one sitting, or readers can jump around to different moments
in the Prophet’s life and learn about their favorite and the most fascinating
events. I wrote it using only primary accounts to make it as accurate as pos-
sible. This book is not meant to portray Joseph Smith as a perfect man.
This book is meant to show Joseph Smith as the man he really
was—as accurately as possible—based on primary sources. This book contains
the real story.
My favorite Hymn of all time is called How Firm a Foundation. Whenever I find out we are singing it in sacrament, I look at my husband with a huge smile on my face and whisper in a giddy voice, “That is my favorite song!” This has happened so many times now that Dalyn always responds by affectionately nodding and saying with a smile, “I know.” The first line of the song goes like this: “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word.” God has laid a steady, strong, and firm foundation for our faith, through the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
While researching for this book (1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith), I stumbled upon an internet article from a bitter, former member of the Church. The article tried to use certain elements of Joseph Smith’s life to ruin the testimonies of others. I read through their entire argument. As somebody who was in the middle of studying the Prophet’s life intensely, I knew and understood the full story from the original sources before I read this article. There was only misleading and twisted information. This person wrote about specific things in Church history, without including the full story or explanation. I could see how using this–and other articles like it–as the main source of gaining information can easily mislead those who once believed in or are trying to learn about the truth. After further research, I’ve noticed this is often the pattern of modern anti-Mormon arguments regarding Church history. They manipulate the story by only sharing certain portions or their sources come from those who were trying to destroy the early Church and/or even helped kill Joseph Smith. They do not include the details that would possibly discredit their argument. It is not the full story. Every member of the Church is likely to come across these arguments at some point in their lives. Please remember to consider the source. Know they have an agenda and are therefore not telling the truth. There is really no reason to ever entertain them. Of course the Church does not highlight the ‘controversial’ times of its history in sacrament and Sunday School lessons all the time because that is not what church is for. However, real primary source accounts (meaning: journals, letters, etc. from those who were actually there during the historical events) are available online for anyone to see. My favorite resource is josephsmithpapers.org. I strongly encourage those who have doubts or questions to use primary accounts as their main source for historical information. I believe that any decent person who seriously studies the Prophet’s life through credible primary sources–including the writings from the Prophet himself–cannot honestly say that Joseph Smith was anything but a truthful, virtuous, and incredible man even if that person does not believe he was truly a Prophet of God.
In 1 Nephi chapter 8 of the Book of Mormon, we learn about Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, the iron rod, and the great and spacious building. In verse 26 Nephi says, “And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.” The great and spacious building, which we know is run by the adversary and his followers, floats in the air. It literally has no foundation. We later learn that the great and spacious building randomly crumbles to the earth and all its inhabitants are destroyed. Like the great and spacious building, these opposing arguments literally have no foundation, except lies and fallacies…like floating clouds of hot air with no substance. Like the great and spacious building, the adversary’s arguments look and sound legitimate and can be very enticing. However, like the great and spacious building, they do not hold up; they will fall. Do not be among those who will fall. One of the final lines of How Firm a Foundation goes, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed. For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand.” If we listen to Him, follow Him, hold to the iron rod, and stay firmly planted on the strong foundation of the gospel He created for us, He will not suffer that we should fall. Stay strong, stay faithful, stay firm. Doubt not, fear not. God is with thee. He is real. Stick with Him.