135–136: Racism and the Book of Mormon

This episode examines the status of the claim that the Book of Mormon teaches that dark skin is a curse from God, that because of their wickedness God cursed a group of people and actually brought about a miraculous change in their skin color so as to make them seem “loathsome” and not enticing to a more righteous group with whom they were in conflict. This claim relies upon a literal reading of various passages in the Book of Mormon that seem to draw this conclusion, as well as an extremely strong view about prophetic and scriptural inerrancy.

But is this the best way to read the text, and the only real plausible conclusion to draw concerning God’s use of skin color as a marker of either displeasure or favor? Brian Dalton, the creator and star of the videocast series Mr. Deity, thinks so, and it has led him recently to create a new episode of one of his side projects, The Way of the Mister, that he titled “Mormonism is Racism.” In that episode, Dalton spells out the ways in which he believes Latter-day Saints are forced to hold to such contemptible racist beliefs because they can neither jettison the Book of Mormon nor the idea in it about skin color being connected to righteousness. Through this episode and the logic he employs in it—that this conclusion about God and skin color is “so essential to the Book of Mormon story that to get rid of it would be to undermine the entire Book of Mormon and thus the entire Mormon faith,” that Joseph Smith suggested the Book of Mormon could only be read literally, that because of the LDS teaching that its leaders speak directly with and for God, “you’re either all in you’re all out”—Dalton urges people everywhere to confront this vile message by exposing its centrality in Mormonism. He claims that because it’s a religious belief, “Mormons have gotten a pass,” but he is adamant this kind of religious cover for blatant racism should not be allowed to stand any longer. “Mormons have to be held accountable—even those running for high public office.”

In this two-part Mormon Matters episode, Brian Dalton joins Charley Harrell and host Dan Wotherspoon in a lively discussion of the Way of the Mister episode and its claims, whether there are fair readings of the Book of Mormon passages and sensibilities in question that might complicate the straight lines that Dalton draws about the message or its centrality to (or consistency within) the Book of Mormon’s story, as well as quite a bit about the value or harm that religion as a whole adds to this world. Parts of the discussion get a bit feisty, yet even amid some chaos (you’ll discover some “on-air” producing going on in efforts to re-orient and make new plans when the discussion takes unexpected turns) it presents important and clear contrasts in worldviews, especially related to definitions of God, scripture, what “revelation” or something being “inspired” might mean, the promise of science and if secularism is leading to a better world and more fulfilled lives than religion does (or can), and much more.

Part Two presents a continued conversation between Harrell and Wotherspoon that presents looks at two perspectives that the conversation with Dalton left nearly untouched: (1) alternate possible readings of the Book of Mormon if it were to be examined it on its own terms, and from the perspective that it is a thousand-year abridged history of actual, ancient people and what this might yield in terms of a different framing about racism present in the passages in dispute, and also what the implications would be for Mormons today in terms of their being forced by logic to believe in the skin color claim; and (2) how these passages and their centrality to the Mormon faith might look from a perspective that admits nineteenth-century origins for the Book of Mormon, either as the sole creation of Joseph Smith’s imagination or through some kind of “revelation” that involves both divine and human influence on the text that resulted. And, if any of this is admitted, how might this new perspective on prophetic production affect statements such as Smith’s declaration that the Book of Mormon was translated by “the gift and power of God,” and that it is “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book”?

Both parts are longer than what we typically aim for at Mormon Matters, but we think you will enjoy these discussions and find them to represent well important currents for how to best frame religion in general, and Mormonism and its holy scriptures and sensibilities about prophets and revelation, in particular. We hope you will listen carefully and then contribute to a lively discussion in the comments section below.


Links to media and articles mentioned in podcast or relevant to the topic:

“Mormonism is Racism,” Way of the Mister videocast, 10 October 2012

Mormon Stories Interview with Brian Dalton, 20 October 2010

Mormon Stories Interview with Charley Harrell, 25 January 2012

Mormon Matters episode, “How Can We Truly Confront Racism within Mormon Thought and Culture?” 9 March 2012

Utah Lighthouse Ministry list: Racial Statements in LDS Scripture

Matthew Roper, “Nephi’s Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations,” FARMS Review 15, no. 2 (2003)

Blake T. Ostler, “DNA Strands in the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone, May 2005

Blake T. Ostler, “The Book of Mormon As a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source,” Dialogue 20, no. 1 (Spring 1987)

Scott C. Dunn, “Spirit Writing: Another Look at the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone, June 1985

C. Jess Groesbeck, “The Book of Mormon as a Symbolic History: A New Perspective on Its Place in History and Religion,” Sunstone, March 2004

White and Delightsome: Racism in the Book of Mormon” by Michael Barker (post at Rational Faiths blog)



130 comments for “135–136: Racism and the Book of Mormon

  1. October 29, 2012 at 10:01 am

    in my opinion, the BoM may have racist teachings in it but does not advocate racism. My summary of how I read it and this holds whether its fiction or history:

    It is written from the Nephites point of view. They have foundational stories and narratives. Those founding stories are that they are chosen, they are righteous, they are even white and delightsome, and furthermore that it is ok to murder other people such as Laban. This founding story also means that Lamanites are not chosen, not righteous, not white and delightsome, and even are ok to kill if it is in their national interest. This founding murder of Laban gets played out over and over again (it is the sword of laban that nephites use as a symbol of kingship and use to make more weapons after all). So I see Nephi giving us a founding story with some claims about his world which include racists ones. These claims of course run headlong into Lamanite founding stories that Nephites are robbers and thieves who cheated Lamanites out of the written word, rule, and their birthright. These claims clash into one another over and over again with narratives about each other being reduced to dead bodies and innocent victims. And who ultimately are the righteous ones in the BoM.? I argue its the ones who reject the stories and traditions of their cultures. Nephites who refuse to embrace racists ethnocentric propaganda and instead live among lamanites and serve them. Lamanites who reject false traditions of their own and although they accept some Nephite traditions, at the same time they reject Nephite traditions about economic prosperity, racial superiority, and instead of being willing to kill would rather sacrifice their life than shed the blood of another in antithesis of Nephite founding narratives. These are the righteous ones. These are the ones that Jesus praises as being baptized by fire and the holy ghost before the Nephites ever were. These are also the the same people that testify against Nephite economic prosperity, racists superiority, and military hegemony in the person of Samuel, a Lamanite. The Nephites are not righteous, Lamanites are. It is not an accident that Jesus singles out Samuel as a person they ignored and whose writings are important. It is not insignificant in my view that Lamanites give lands back to nephites, and convert gadiantons through the word. Its no accident either that Jesus speaks of lamanites and their descendants as being the righteous ones who will tear through modern white gentiles who still claims ethnic and cultural superiority. So yeah I think there is a good case to be made that the BoM undermines Nephite racism with its grand narrative. I also think it has something very important to say to 19th century white americans who think just like racist, militaristic Nephites and are on the verge of destroying Native American tribes. And for that matter, to us modern american who think we are superior and run around the world like little despots murdering brown people and claiming we are exceptional and God is on our side. Like the Nephites this will end badly for us unless we abandon our racists, imperialistic narratives.

    • October 31, 2012 at 9:35 am

      I love this reading and perspective Joshua. I’d love to see you write much more about this, maybe an article or book, and/or sources you’re drawing from. It is this kind of reading that I think is potentially culture and life changing.

      • October 31, 2012 at 10:59 am

        Chapter 2 of the latest book by Kofford on War and Peace. I am currently working on a larger book that discusses these ideas in detail. Thanks for the comment

        • Diane
          April 5, 2014 at 4:45 pm

          I just downloaded this book on my kindle. Your comment was enlightening. I’m very anti-war and I feel like many Mormons support war.

    • JT
      November 4, 2012 at 8:54 am


      Terrific … I was about to independently post the following when I read your comment. You take it much farther and with greater support. Thanks.

      Here is a broader reading that builds on Nephi’s misconception about God cursing the Lamanites with dark skin. His false prophetic condemnation elevated a family conflict to a more permanently polarizing level of ethnic conflict that – by dehumanizing and excluding the voice of the other – would lead to the destruction of his own people. That may be the lesson best learned at this critical juncture in the Book of Mormon story – a lesson the Saints should have carried with them to Kirtland, Missouri, Nauvoo, and the Great Basin – though it may have made the moves unnecessary.

      • marginalizedmormon
        November 5, 2012 at 11:29 am


        thanks for this enlightening idea–

    • DarthJ
      November 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm

      I am not a mormon ,but have studied the theology.these are lies you sacks of shit!

  2. October 29, 2012 at 10:08 am

    The problem with Dalton’s video is that he suggests that he has a very strange, dare I say silly way of reading the text. If the Book of Mormon is a historical account then why would we be surprised that historical figures say ethnocentric even racist things? I’ve read enough first person historical accounts to know there is always bias and a certain amount of self-promotion and in the case of a text like the Book of Mormon, a certain amount of pro-nephite propaganda. And even if it was an elaborate fiction there is still no reason to take what every character claims as the truth. We don’t do this with literature, we don’t do this with other historical accounts, why would we do it with scripture? It’s still narrative even if it claims God’s involvement. It’s not a rule book and I fear readings like Daltons and to be fair many in our faith pretend that it is a rule book when its clearly not. Its a story. And the point of a story isnt always to take what someone says in Chapter 3 as a rule or guide for your life but to read the story as a whole and try to understand the larger themes and messages lost if we read it literally.

    • Heather_ME
      October 31, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      Based on Brian’s comment above, I don’t think he’s going to be responding to peoples’ comments. So I’ll be presumptuous and take it upon myself to point out what I think should be obvious. Brian wasn’t saying that if the Book of Mormon were a historically accurate narrative it would be devoid of racism. He was saying that a religious tome created (under God’s instruction, no less) to convey God’s moral guidance to the world wouldn’t contain morally reprehensible things. Those are two totally different things. You’re trying to discredit Dalton’s rather astute criticisms by arguing he’s wrong about apples… when the conversation was actually about oranges.

      • November 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm

        It’s a book written by humans whether you think them ancient or more modern. Why would I think a book written by humans wouldn’t contain human flaws. The book itself say its flawed and has errors.

        • Blorg Jorgensson
          November 6, 2012 at 6:12 pm

          Then why are God’s prophets continually going out of their way to 1) write the book, 2) protect the writings for millennia, 3) bring forth the English translation in the 19th century (where the racial attitudes would be transplanted to the members of God’s church), and 4) stress how vitally important and correct the Book of Mormon is?

          Nephi was commanded to murder a dude to preserve scriptures. He and so many others purportedly sacrificed so much — some even their lives — to bring forth the Book of Mormon. All that, just to provide us with… eh, a good book, but not something that we should hold to a particularly high standard?

          I just don’t get this God fellow, then. Does he REALLY want us to come unto him???

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            November 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm

            Tough stuff, for sure, Blorg. Only you can determine if it’s worth it for you to keep wrestling with such things for the possibility that there are messages or models that would bless your life.

            My increased comfort through the years with JS’s Nauvoo theologies about God(s) as finite, “working with” other eternally existing entities, able only to persuade and never coerce obedience or elements to do what the Gods present as optimum in their minds, the impossibility of overriding human desires for power/specialness/certainty, etc. all feed into my still choosing to be alive to possibilities of Divine beings (though not supernatural in any way!) and people who get a clear-ish channel from time to time.

            If go with super powerful, do-whatever-I-want God, then yeah: pretty terrible communicator. Mormonism’s descriptions have omni talk in parts, but overall I love Gods who are more like gentle parents hoping their children will grow up to be like them, Gods who call, reach toward, long to nurture/bless, are available when we relax into or somehow otherwise find those “breaks in the sky” (Go David Crosby!).

            Worth the hunt, in my opinion. Understand if not so for you and others. No matter what, though, I hope you won’t settle for anything less than full magnificence in whatever the worldview you choose hints is possible.

  3. October 29, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Listened to part one this morning.

    The conversation obviously got pretty off-topic, but I liked where it landed. I
    think you guys ended up talking about the meta-issues, which for me are perhaps
    more important anyway. Sure, it’s important to find new, non-racist ways of
    interpreting the Book of Mormon, but the real question for me is whether that
    is even a worthwhile pursuit. Is it worth it to find ways of dealing with these
    issues from within the text, even if one does not believe in it literally, or
    should we just toss the text altogether?

    Brian doesn’t see any value in scripture, so he’s not interested in new
    interpretations. Although I respect his approach and find many of his arguments
    persuasive, I think he’s wrong on that. I think even if you reject scripture
    for yourself, which is fine if that’s where you fall, you’re better off (or
    rather, the world is better off) letting people reinterpret it in a more
    ethical way. I had issues with Brian’s video because he gives ultimatums about
    how Mormons have to believe in their religion. If I were to show that video to,
    say, my elders quorum, they wouldn’t be receptive at all. They would just be
    pissed off that some ex-Mormon dude is calling them a bunch of racists. I don’t
    think his line about how he’s not saying Mormons are racist makes up for that,
    either. The overall feel of his segment was combative, not constructive (though
    entertaining). I don’t believe in the strategy of trying to marginalize and
    shame those who hold religious beliefs that offend us, because, pragmatically
    speaking, I just don’t think it works. It just hardens the hard-core believers
    toward any new perspective, making it a lot harder on us moderates who are
    trying to change things from within.

    Dan, you even mentioned at one point that you seemed to be speaking different
    languages. I had the same thought. Brian was coming at it from the angle of
    trying to demonstrate that the BoM is not true, therefore it should be ignored.
    You and Charlie were in no way trying to argue for BoM historicity, but rather
    you were simply saying, let’s take for granted that there are people who do
    believe in literal historicity, and they are not going away. How can we assist
    those people to see things in a new light?

    You guys had a fundamental disagreement on what the proper approach to
    scripture should be, and I think you came to an impasse because of that. But I
    liked the discussion and loved that you were all still friends at the end.

  4. October 29, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    I was so glad everyone was willing to argue their views; a pretty different tone than normal MM but I found it invigorating, and even though Brian seemed the most certain of the panel, I found his arguments less compelling than Dan’s more nuanced ideas. I have listened for many hours to lectures and debates from anti-theists such as Dawkins and Hitchens and while I always enjoy it and believe they make many valuable points I do not believe they present the most compelling arguments in their ultimate claims. The step from Religions Have Problems to Religions Are Evil is a leap that does not follow without a great deal of fudging. This video, I believe does a much more complete and accurate understanding of reality than the “Christopher Hitchens School”: http://fora.tv/2009/12/07/The_Great_Issues_Forum_Varieties_of_Nonbelief

    Brian makes the point that because scripture contains vile passages and teachings, it is obvious that they should not be revered as holy or useful. My approach, which I believe is the simplest of all, is that scripture contains vile teachings because people contain vile ideas. Religions reflect the people that construct them. I think we both agree that scientific findings have the capacity to undermine religious teachings, but my approach is to let science influence and modify my religious beliefs (something that I believe Mormonism with its continuing revelation and open canon supports), and Brian’s approach is to let go of religious framework altogether.

  5. October 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Hey, correction, Dan: You can access your site from BYU, which actually happens to be where I am writing this comment from. And you can access Feminist Mormon Housewives (there has been some question about that one because it said Error for a while). If anyone has evidence of your message getting censored by the Church (these days anyway), I’d love to see it.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      October 30, 2012 at 9:07 am

      Thanks for this note, Derrick, and our follow up about this via email! Glad to learn from you that apparently MM is filtered out at (at least some) LDS meetinghouses but not at BYU. And the filtering that keeps folks away from MM also blocks Facebook and most Google searching.

      I learned about there being any kind of filtering for MM from a friend who sent me an email and a screen capture of the block he got when in church one day he was trying to visit the site. The explanation that came up for him said: “Access to the website you requested is filtered by Church policy.” Then under the “reason” field it said: “Non-traditional Religions and Occult and Folklore–This category is filtered (MHI General Policy-g10)”

      Interesting, always, to see protective instincts at work.

      Out of (morbid?) curiosity, I’d love from you or anyone else when you’re accessing the web at an LDS seminary or Institute building or at some other church-affiliated venue to please share whether or not you can get MM or other of your favorite “let’s allow a broader version of Mormonism to be talked about” sites. Thanks!

      • Gaido
        December 7, 2012 at 7:49 pm

        If you want to get in the church’s wifi, the password id Pioneer47

  6. RJ
    October 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    My problem with Brian Dalton’s argument lays in the following dichotomy presented in his own words. “ Mormons are some of the best people on the planet” vs. “ Monotheism is the worst thing to happen to humanity.” First of all, to say that monotheism is the worst thing to happen to humanity (or any theism for that matter), in my estimation, reveals a shallow grasp of the reality and complexity of human evolution. I’m by no means an expert on the subject, but to me that is at best an overly reductionistic claim. Secondly, as illustrated by the above dichotomy, the problem is not nearly as simple as Brian Dalton wants to make it, which has to do with why I am still interested in bothering to do the challenging work to help preserve the best and most beautiful parts of humanity that have evolved within the community that is the Mormon faith, rather than take an ax to it and watch it burn.

  7. Adam
    October 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    I do agree with Brian that the church can’t just get rid of these racist BOM passages. But I don’t understand his assertion that the change of skin color is the central feature of the Book of Mormon. This is nothing but building a straw man. The main message of the Book of Mormon is Christ. I think the best approach to take with scripture is to follow the 13th article of faith. Embrace the good and wrestle with the bad. I really like the things you guys said about the scriptures being fully human as well as inspired. That reflects my own experience with reading scripture.

    • Matteo Masiello
      November 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      Adam, is it a straw man argument when Brian’s point is that this assertion, which is clear in the text, has resulted in terrible things being done in the name of God? I don’t think Brian thinks it is the central feature of BOM, but it can’t be ignored what was done in the past. I admire Dan’s perspective and agree with him but I have to admit that I think Brian and the “new atheists” have a point when they assert that horrible things have been done and continue to be done in God’s name. There is no straw man argument except for the straw man argument that you create by saying there is a straw man argument offered by Brian. The text has to be dealt with and literally is the way that the leadership deals with it. Fundamentalists and Atheists perhaps deal with scripture more honestly. I don’t know. For me, this has made me adopt a non-theist view of God because I cannot believe in the existence of a god that would be so capricious. That may be an error on my part but my communion and relationship with that God is not expressed in such literal ways either. There has been too much of an abuse of power in all forms of Christianity and there doesn’t seem to be much of a history of the authorities admitting the errors of their past brethren, and more importantly, a promise that it won’t happen again (on their watch at least). It seems that there is too much pride and scriptural idolatry to admit that perhaps our prophets of old were WRONG in their dissemination of God’s revelation. Also, we have to be willing to cast off all of scripture that it culturally and historically specific. We have to approach scripture in its historical context and discard what is not useful to us today in this world. We can’t keep holding on to the nostalgia of the past. We also can’t rationalize like Dan might approach doing that in digging into the text we find a more nuanced approach to scripture. The fact is, the prophets were WRONG about what they said. That doesn’t make them bad, but stop trying to defend them. What if they were right? Well, then, that god who really meant it doesn’t deserve and won’t get my obedience. I don’t believe that God operates like the way He supposedly does in scripture save for his infinite compassion, love, grace, and mercy.

  8. Sean
    October 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    I don’t want want to debate whether the BoM has racist overtones or not but I have to say that after listening to the 1st half of this that it’s one of the best interviews you have done. It’s up there with your interview on MS about atheism and your QA from Dehlin.

    My only complaint: in these settings you will only go head-to-head with the non-believers/intellectuals (which you do outrageously well) but I don’t believe you have done the same with others. It would be equally refreshing to see you do this with apologists (get one on).

    This interview rocked Dan!

  9. David Udy
    October 29, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    I loved it! My favorite Mormon Matters episode ever!

  10. Carey
    October 30, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Occams cleaver strikes again. Proving yet again the simplest way to “win” an argument is simply not to listen to the other side.

  11. Tim
    October 30, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Kudos to Dan for having Brian on. It’s quite admirable to have someone on who would so vigorously challenge your point of view.

    I was confused by one part though. Dan, you claimed that the LDS church leadership was not in opposition to your message, but then in the next sentence you said that mormonmatters.org is blocked at BYU and other such institutions. Those seem like conflicting statements.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      October 30, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      Some clarifications in response to Derrick above about MM being blocked. Seems like a meetinghouse/chapel thing and not all church entities like BYU. And I don’t think there was really much deliberate thought on what gets through the filters and what doesn’t. My guess is pretty much any non-Church run or uncorrelated website or entity about Mormonism is blocked. As i say above, though, I’d love to learn more about the church’s policy on what searches they allow!

      In terms of “not in opposition to (my) message,” that was just a passing reference to the interactions I had via my position at Sunstone and through other project involvements that the kind of broad view approach I champion is greeted at a range level among those I’ve interacted with from “Go get em! This is exactly what we need!” to “It’s important that people have forums to discuss tough issues with those who have been studying them rather than feel like they are all alone and simply fade out of the church,” to “be cautious, but if you’re prayerful and humble, you’ll be blessed in your efforts.” These are, of course, just from a few authorities, and I have no clue if anything any of us do is really on very many radars. I really never think about it much. I just happily go along and stake my claim to broad and deep Mormonism, knowing I have paid the price in study, pondering, seeking, and feel confident and greenlighted in my spirit by Spirit (or whatever one might want to call it) to do what I do. If someone in leadership finds my stuff objectionable, I’ll listen and consider their counsel or warning, but ultimately I will follow whatever I end up deciding via impressions coming through my own connection.

  12. Joshua Bragg
    October 30, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Just when I was about to stop listening to MM podcasts, this one gave me so many exciting and provoking thoughts. I felt like many of the questions/arguments I have wrestled with were finally brought up, but was a bit disappointed with the reception or answers.

    I really think Brian didn’t know his audience and didn’t realize that MM listeners are not like the majority of churchgoers, which is why you ended up speaking two different languages. It reminded my wife of an interview on Norwegian TV with the strange combination of Brandon Flowers and Richard Dawkins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjwsG36XTZ8

    I think Brian’s portrait of the church and its official beliefs was largely correct. If you asked the vast majority of church-goers “what is the most correct book on the earth?” or “which book is the keystone of our religion” or “which book did God bring about for our day?”, they would all answer the Book of Mormon. As long as most believers interpret the book literally as God’s word, Brian has a point about the church that was not addressed by Dan. Honestly, how many actually question the interpretation of Nephi or wonder what Joseph was thinking when commenting on a BoM passage in Sunday School? I have, and I always feel like I am received as in dangerous, unorthodox territory for not taking the book at face value.

    The big question of “Why believe in or follow a prophet (God’s interpreter) if those prophets are no better at knowing the nature of man, the earth, the universe (God’s creations) than any other intelligent and thoughtful person?” was glossed over because Dan sees prophets as guys that are somewhat closer to God than others, but still a product of their environment. That definition is very problematic as you take some statements as prophecy and others as the guy’s idiosyncrasy. For me, this feels like God gives a bit of divine information, but the downloads don’t ever complete or the transmissions are so bad that eventually they need to be corrected.

    If “scripture contains vile teachings because people contain vile ideas.” and “Religions reflect the people that construct them”, where is God? You would think He would not want to be associated with vile ideas and would thus enlighten His prophets. Why do we need to critically evaluate the message (or wrestle the bad parts) in order to find the truth? This ambiguity works well for those few believers who love to dig deep into these things (like us) and try to find the answer that fits the best. But, this type of belief is very uncommon and doesn’t seem like an efficient way to bring your children home.

    Dan or any other listeners, I would love to get an intelligent and lucid answer to that question that doesn’t involve a complex interpretation of scripture or leeway to prophets’ humanness. I am not sure that those that have thought deeply about their faith will be able to give a simple answer without discussing “stages of faith” or living with contradictions in scripture or revelation, but I am open. Unfortunately, no missionary, bishop or stake president has been able to give an answer and I continue to struggle with how to know God’s word, which leads to questioning the existence of God, in the absence of his influence in life.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      October 30, 2012 at 7:28 pm

      A quick try. I tend to see “prophet” and “revelation” and “God choosing someone to convey messages through” as pretty arbitrary terms, and with whatever interaction is going on in a realm where those might apply being far more weighted to a person “becoming” a prophet (aligning with spirit to have a pretty great vibrational flow going) and starting to speak in a prophetic voice rather than having God do the choosing. Like the “authority and power” of the priesthood, one can have a title and authority without much or any power: step out of alignment, you create a kink in the hose, and amen to power in the priesthood, etc. So ultimately I’m pretty dubious when it comes to any kind of being “chosen” that isn’t us choosing ourselves, choosing experience and growth in Spirit, etc. Scriptures and prophets are known to say that we all should be prophets ourselves. Why don’t we believe that is something possibly worth taking seriously, and instead fall into an attitude of “well, I’ll leave the ‘real communing’ with God/Spirit to others”?

      So when you say I see “prophets somewhat closer to God than others,” the answer is heck yes if the sense of that term means people who are super-plugged in and reveal that divine connectivity through their wisdom and love, but it’s a strong caution and not automatic thing for me to say that simply because someone is named by the church to be that (either the prophet/president of the Church or one of the “prophets, seers, and revelators.” Just like scripture has to prove itself worthy of that title through its good ideas and feel that spiritual explorers come to recognize as tinged by genuine Spirit, so do the words of prophets. Nothing in my world simply gets to be “declared” as powerful enough to be a trusted spiritual guide; it must qualify through its resonance and how it offers openings to deep insight.

      I love the scriptures, but sometimes that love is tried in powerful ways through having to cull out the small and culture bound, or mourn the damage done by the small or evil things present. But enough in LDS scripture resonates with what I’ve experienced in my own dives that I keep engaged. And sometimes in my encounters with it, things open and take me to even more wonderful vistas and I become flooded with light and energy that feels the most real of anything else I ever experience.

      Pondering on prophetic teachings, same thing. Culling but also finding resonance. Occasionally finding a way “into” an experience that fundamentally shifts something in me. In this way, prophets, to me, are also worth wrestling with.

      Ultimately, the key is that we all must try the injunctions ourselves, seek the experiences and trust our ability to recognize truth and things that lead to largeness of soul. Once experienced, worries about if this guy said this or that scripture says that fade away. Truth cuts its own way. Scripture that is scripture makes itself known to us. Prophets’ declarations, too.

      This isn’t easy, of course. We need to be patient with ourselves as we work though the messaging that says stay foremost a child in a parent/child type of dynamic with God or leaders. It takes time and a lot of work to be emboldened to really imagine discipleship and becoming like the master and eventually to seek after what the big urgings say: that we are to be brides to God as bridegroom–equals, those with whom God desires to be intimate with, share all that is possible to have/experience. Patience and faith, stumble, fall, glimpse, try again, stumble, doubt, wowie-zowie taking you somewhere wonderful and scary, fear, tremble, fresh courage take, etc… I think this sort of thing is THE journey we are built for, that scriptures encourage, that prophets encourage. Any messaging that says for us to stay small and comfortable and let others do the exploring just doesn’t get those labels of “scripture” or “prophetic” to me.

      • Mark
        October 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm

        Thank you, Dan. That is a lot to think about.

  13. Jesse
    October 30, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Jesus made man in his imag but that dont mean he didnt make some of them with a different color so that the ones who fought better before being  born would get better chance of going to celestial heaven by being white and born in America. We are a choice people.  God loves everyone but some are better for ruling forever like kings.  some are better at presthood and holding riotus authority.  This is the gospel of Jesus Christ that the prophet Joseph Smith taught by revelation. They call it racism like a dirty word but thats what god did so its good.  He changed back when so that’s good too but that doesn’t change it’s true both ways..

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      October 30, 2012 at 6:28 pm

      Jesse, much of the above is pretty “out there” theology and certainly was never official. What about it, out of other possibilities, including ones in this episode about God not being involved with race or divisions between people(s) at all, attracts you?

      • Heather_ME
        October 31, 2012 at 3:33 pm

        “Out there?”
        “Never official?”

        Seriously? If it was out there and unofficial, why was there an official proclamation in ’78?

        • October 31, 2012 at 9:51 pm

          Heather, I hear you. I really don’t get the revisionist history of the NOMs. They’re about as bad as FAIR – a Horse is a Tapir, and Official Racist Doctrine of God’s One True Church is really just the Suggestions of Men, Who Are Super-Duper Close to God, but Are Apparently More Prone to Error than Your Average Citizen.

          I guess that’s just my take as a “shallow” thinker, though.

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            October 31, 2012 at 10:02 pm

            You listened to the podcast and THIS is what you grabbed from it? How? Or just making generalizations without grounding in the actual discussion at hand?

          • October 31, 2012 at 11:37 pm

            It’s part from the podcast, and part bled-over from the Mormon Stories facebook group. Yeah, I guess that is what I get out of it. I have not listened to part 2 of the podcast (yet – queueing it up now). I simply *do not understand* the apologetic spin in your pushback to Brian’s points.

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          October 31, 2012 at 10:01 pm

          Blacks as inferior in pre-existence, most righteous spirits are born white and in America (and in order to give them a better chance?), God loves some better than others, some kind of alignment of spiritual gifts and (ruling gifts?) that somehow follows racial lines? NONE of these were ever official doctrine nor are they grounded in teachings by Joseph Smith, and I’d say they would generate a lot of head scratching and discomfort if taught out loud in the past few decades. So yeah, I think they are pretty out there, pretty offensive, and I genuinely wonder why they’d be attractive ideas to latch onto.

          • R@bster
            November 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm

            I feel that Jesse might be trolling. I may be wrong, and those are things people of a very radical mindset might still believe, but I thought he was being sarcastic or just baiting people.

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            November 2, 2012 at 9:38 pm

            R@bster, I hope that’s the case!

          • Heather_ME
            November 1, 2012 at 10:16 pm

            What is an official doctrine? Anything that hasn’t been thrown out yet, that’s what. The church has no canon. You can try to spin this all you want. It doesn’t change the fact that it was taught OVER THE PULPIT BY SUPPOSED PROPHETS OF GOD.

            Talk all you want about the fine fabric, beautiful embellishments, and expensive silk threads…. it doesn’t change the fact that the emperor is walkin’ down the street buck naked.

            But, what do I know? I’m like Thayne. I’m too pedestrian and my IQ is too low to grasp your special knowledge of the church.

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            November 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm

            As the scriptures encourage, be a prophet yourself! The way you really make your case is by showing your clothing that puts theirs to shame!

  14. Jed
    October 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Dan, I was so glad to hear you stand up for what you believed. I am tired of hearing religion attacked and those who value it as simple minded or diluted. What I was really happy about was that you weren’t really defending religious piety but the more mystical experiential side of faith which is a camp I certainly find myself in. It also reminded me of the mission days when you try to talk to people who just won’t listen to anything reasonable you have to say, even when you try to agree with them. Great episode keep them comin.

  15. Josh
    October 30, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Listened to part one this morning. I was thrilled everyone was willing to argue their views.

  16. October 30, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Boy, I wish I had time to get into these comments. I’m suddenly overwhelmed by the brilliance of the YouTube 500 character limit. I’ll just quickly say to Joshua that when God is supposed to have final edit power — remember, stone in hat — the transcendence should come through.

    • October 31, 2012 at 11:01 am

      You assume God has final edit power. Im not convinced he does. I tend to put much more weight in the human element in creation of scripture.

      • blake
        October 31, 2012 at 11:29 am

        Sounds convenient

        • Carey
          November 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm

          I think your under the impression that all us “believers” are trying to convince you that we’re right. We’re just telling you what we have came to understand and how we’ve come to see it. If it ain’t working for you then it ain’t working for you. And yes, I know that not all “believers” share this approach but from all the comments I’ve read here I think that’s a fair assessment.

      • Blorg Jorgensson
        November 6, 2012 at 6:22 pm

        … in which case, I see no point in following the alleged prophets, seers, and revelators that God has allegedly put in charge of his church. They have been wrong about soooo much. I think they are wrong about the foundational aspects of the church, as well as its truth claims.

        So, people can find parts of the Book of Mormon compelling and inspiring. Great. But what’s the point of clinging to the church structure itself when it is so clearly wrong about so much?

        In other words, I agree with “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” But to me, the “baby” is truth. The church organization is simply part of the bathwater.

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          November 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm

          Sabbatical from church? It’s helped a lot of people. When we’re agitated, everything triggers us. Stepping away can be really helpful in distancing from those things that put is in “automatic react” mode, allowing us to find center again. Then if we engage again later be more in charge of ourselves as “actors” rather than reactors, more able to see things we might be missing when it’s all playing out mostly through emotion and the chaos of definitions collapsing and settled realities all taking a beating in the storm.

          Best in all you choose!

    • blake
      October 31, 2012 at 11:28 am

      I kept thinking about this throughout the episode as well. Whatever methods that were used the book was written by the power of god right? Where is god? Why wouldn’t god fix the “mistakes of men” when he is inspiring Joseph what to write especially if they are horribly racist and evil. I get so tired of people blaming everything on the weakness of the people that were involved, that seems to be the recurring get out of jail free card. God is responsible!! After all it is supposedly his church right? His book? His prophets? From my view he seems to be doing a miserable job which is why we get racist comments coming from BYU professors. Its not the professors fault its gods….

      • Dan Wotherspoon
        October 31, 2012 at 10:15 pm

        Blake, both you and Brian are assuming a view of God that imagines omnipotent powers and as a being who can and does override agency, human conditioning, etc. This is pretty foreign to Joseph Smith’s teachings about God. Much more of a God working with the weaknesses of humans, one who can only persuade and call and entice but never force people or particular outcomes. That’s why you’re not scoring hits here.

        • blake
          November 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm

          I’m not asking for a god thats omnipotent, just one who can communicate better than a 5 year old. One question. Does god have any responsibility at all when it comes to damaging doctrines existing in his church?

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            November 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm

            To me, the larger question is whether we can “listen” and understand better than five-year-olds? When it comes to things spiritual where language and culture and personality and hopes and self interests don’t actually have a place yet when messaging about spirit emerges it always involves those, we’re in a challenging spot. Imagine pure potentiality. A Chaos so “full” that it’s all a compound in one, a soup, without form. All our acts toward it call forth a different response from it. (Is light wave or particle? Neither/Both. What we “ask” it will influence the finding.) Every act of creation and opening a gap in which we can think and move and act is a “separating.” We very easily confuse these queries, however, with capturing the fullness. (We forget that we asked a particle question and got a particle response but might have gotten a different response if we asked a wave question. We forget this this tool or that tool are good for this or that kind of question, but not good for certain others.) All the messed up answers, IMO, come from our forgetting our role in what the universe reveals to us. Wittgenstein: “all seeing is ‘seeing as'”/Hick: “all experiencing is ‘experiencing as'”–we come with interpretive apparati already in place (language that can only name so much, expectations of what we will find, or simply brains structured certain ways and sense organs attuned to only one part of a spectrum). No wonder we get so many responses!

            What we’re called on to do, then, is relax. Inquire through many tools. Hold loosely to any one but let “sensibilities” or “hunches” emerge about the whole and best ways to relate toward it. Let the specter of uncertainly constantly be warming and enriching thing for us rather than a scary one that will send us looking for reprieve from too much richness.

            When we ask children’s questions of the Chaos, we get children’s “answers” and children’s type of comfort. When we ask more complex questions, we get more complex “responses” and it is our tasks as adults (and potentially powerful shapers for good) to carefully sift through.

            So is God (if there is one–versus something more akin to an impersonal Tao that still through its wholeness influences all the parts) responsible for damaging doctrines? Not unless God created the Chaos and the rules by which it responds to our approaches. Damaging doctrines come from our not realizing or our forgetting that no interaction can yield a “full fact” but then declaring that we have captured one.

          • blake
            November 2, 2012 at 6:19 pm

            Thanks for the thoughtful reply but I just cant go there with you. Its all too mushy and I just don’t see Mormonism in what your talking about.

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            November 2, 2012 at 9:37 pm

            It’s “Mormon” in the sense that Mormonism has scriptures and tools (rituals, encouragements, opportunities to serve and grow) that can help, when we take them seriously, to spend the time learning to discern in these undifferentiated realms. Other religions have similar scriptures and tools and pointers toward experiential knowing. All encourage dives, and it’s the dives and Spirit we touch and that flows into us that transforms us. Opposite of mushy when you find your way in. After that, it’s everything else feels mushy (in the sense of meaning flat, vanilla, spinning in place).

          • Lee Baker
            December 17, 2013 at 12:15 pm

            Ridiculed again by the Mormon Church

            By Lee B. Baker,
            Former Mormon High Priest and Bishop

            18 November 2013


            For several years now, every Tuesday
            evening I have had the great privilege of hosting “Teaching The Truth”, an LDS
            focused broadcast to the Christian and Mormon listeners of Worship FM 101.7 in
            Monrovia, the capital City of Liberia, West Africa.

            I have come to know several of the
            station managers and a number of the more frequent callers to this weekly
            program. Through their comments,
            questions and photographs, I have been genuinely moved to see the application
            of their unyielding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

            Over the past few months the question of
            racist teachings in the Book of Mormon and from the past Leadership of the
            Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been on the minds of the Black
            Liberian converts to Mormonism and the many African Christians who struggle to understand
            how such a Church can be growing in Africa.

            I believe the answer is relatively
            simple; it has been the perfect merging of a sincere lack of knowledge on the
            part of the Black Mormon Converts and a disturbing lack of accountability on
            the part of the White Mormon Leaders. A
            near total lack of knowledge across Africa specific to the more explicitly
            racist teachings found within the current Mormon Scriptures, principally
            that of Black Skin[1] and even less information
            concerning the racism and bigotry openly and officially taught by the early
            Leadership of the Mormon Church. These facts, combined with the current Church
            Leadership’s inability to clearly and specifically reject its own racist
            teachings both in print and from its past Senior Leadership (liberally using the terms Nigger, Darky, Sambo and Skin of Blackness[2]), has left the
            Black Race with only a short irresponsible and offensively juvenile Official
            that claims the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knows very little
            about its own race-based policy, which lasted for well over 100 years:

            “It is not
            known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the Church, but it
            has ended.” – Official Mormon
            Press Release concerning Race and the Church

            Maintaining a detailed and comprehensive
            history of every aspect and teaching of the Church has been both one of the
            hallmarks and one of the downfalls of Mormon Church. Within the relatively young Church,
            authoritative documentation, however corrupt it may have been, has never been
            in short supply. Each of the Senior
            Leaders of the Mormon Church has had several official biographers as well as an
            army of Church approved historians to record all aspects of the History of the
            Church. In fact, one of my first of many
            “Callings” in the Mormon Church was that of a Ward (Congregational) Historian,
            long before I became a Mormon High Priest and Bishop.

            The peculiar assertion that the Mormon
            Church itself does not know the details of its very own race-based
            policy of restricting the Blacks from holding the Priesthood is tremendously
            embarrassing for all Mormons and exceptionally degrading for anyone who
            actually believes it.

            As a former local leader of the Mormon
            Church, I have repeatedly assured the African members of the Mormon Church that
            the documents and “Scriptures” I have read to them over the air are both Authorized and
            Official for the time period
            they are relevant to. I clearly state
            the current position of total acceptance of all Races by the Church, but I must
            highlight the fact that the Book of Mormon still carries it’s obviously racist
            message that dark skin was a curse from God. I have said many times on-air that like the
            Mormon Missionaries, I too believe that every African should have a copy of the
            Book of Mormon, if only to learn the truly racist teaching of the Mormons,
            directly from the Book of Mormon.

            I have and will continue to teach the
            African Nations from the authentic Mormon Scriptures and the official Church History
            documents, which I had been provided by the Mormon Church to execute my responsibilities
            as a Mormon Bishop. The Official Records of the Mormon Church include many
            jokes and sermons given within the Official Semi-Annual General Conference of
            the Mormons, using freely the terms Nigger, Darky and Sambo. Additionally, these LDS Church documents
            record nearly 100 graphic sermons and lessons that clearly teach the principle,
            practice and policy that Black Skin was, is and will remain
            forever the Curse of Cain.

            Only in the recent past has the
            “Complete History” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints come to
            the attention of its own membership, much less to the under developed regions
            of the world. As this information is
            discovered, an ever increasing number of members of the Mormon Church have come
            into a personal crisis of faith, most notably Elder Hans Mattsson[4] of
            Sweden, a General Authority of the Mormon Church who has gone public with his
            doubts and questions concerning the appalling treatment of the Black Race by
            the Mormon Church.

            Not unique to Africa, has been the
            Mormon Church’s training of young Missionaries to strictly avoid any discussion
            of several of the more embarrassing, yet true, teachings of the 183 year old
            Church. Among the prohibited subjects to
            discuss have been, becoming a God, the practice of Polygamy and religious
            racial restrictions on the Black Race.

            With the smooth talent of a skilled
            politician, the Mormon Church has ended its Official Racial Restrictions with
            the following hypocritical and deceitful, but technically accurate Statement:

            “The origins
            of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter
            were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these
            explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not
            represent Church doctrine.”

            As a former Mormon Bishop and member of
            the Mormon Church for over 32 years, let me be of some help with the
            translation of this very carefully crafted, yet deceitful message. The two key and
            noteworthy phrases are: “in the absence
            of direct revelation” and “These
            previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.”

            I will address the most obvious first, clearly
            the “previous statements” from the
            Church and its Leadership “do not”
            represent the Church doctrine today.
            The policy was reversed in 1978 and there is no question as to
            the current policy of today. The hypocritical deception is that between 1830
            and 1978 those “statements” did, very
            much “DID” not “DO” represent past Official and Legitimate Mormon Church
            doctrine. Yet, I do give full credit to
            the clever Mormon authors and editors of today for their most skillful use of
            the English language.

            And finally, the most revealing and
            enlightening statement from the Mormon Church is: “in the absence of direct revelation”. So then, it is incredibly true and accurate
            that without any mockery or sarcasm to state that; The Church of Jesus Christ
            of Latter-day Saints had for nearly 140 years, restricted a significant portion
            of the human race, millions and millions from what they teach is God’s intended blessings of Eternal Marriage,
            Salvation and even Godhood, without knowing why they did it, all without “direct

            This Official Statement of religious
            shame and embarrassment comes from the Headquarters of a Church that claims to be guided in all things
            by “direct revelation”. How then, did such an exclusive doctrine
            based on prejudice, bigotry and racism become so widely accepted, so
            authoritative, so convincing and so commanding for so long, without any “direct

            As a former Bishop of the Church of
            Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I give solemn testimony that what they have
            declared is true, in that, they were and are now racist and do not hide the
            History of the Mormon Church from its members or the public, this, their
            Official Statement on Race and their Official “Scriptures[5]” clearly
            demonstrates that fact.

            I believe that the truly wicked
            teachings as well as the repulsive history of the Mormon Church concerning
            Polygamy, Polyandry-(sharing wives among the men), Blood Atonement, as well as restricting
            the Blacks from the Mormon Priesthood is available for those who have eyes to
            see and ears to hear.

            It is my prayer that all Mormons and
            non-Mormons alike will come to know the true history of The Church of Jesus
            Christ of Latter-day Saints. I wish that
            every adult around the world could find the time to read the calculated racism
            and bigotry found within the Book of Mormon5.
            My hope is that all mankind could
            discover the contemporary Mormon Teachings, to see the deception they hold, and
            then… to read the True Word of God and follow the True Jesus Christ found only
            in the Bible.


            Lee B. Baker

            Former Mormon High Priest and Bishop

            1 Nephi 11:13, 1 Nephi 12:23,
            1 Nephi 13:15, 2 Nephi 5:21, 2 Nephi 30:6, Jacob 3:5,
            Jacob 3:8-9, Alma 3:6, Alma 3:9, Alma 3:14,
            Alma 23:18, 3 Nephi 2:14-16, 3 Nephi 19:25, 30, Mormon 5:15, Moses 7:8, Moses 7:12,
            Moses 7:22, Abraham 1:21, Abraham 1:27

            A full and
            complete list is available upon request from the author – Lee B. Baker former
            Mormon Bishop, contact: leebbaker@hotmail.com



            [5]1 Nephi 11:13, 1 Nephi 12:23,
            1 Nephi 13:15, 2 Nephi 5:21, 2 Nephi 30:6, Jacob 3:5,
            Jacob 3:8-9, Alma 3:6, Alma 3:9, Alma 3:14,
            Alma 23:18, 3 Nephi 2:14-16, 3 Nephi 19:25, 30, Mormon 5:15, Moses 7:8, Moses 7:12,
            Moses 7:22, Abraham 1:21, Abraham 1:27

  17. Kevin
    October 30, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    A remarkable podcast here. Because I find Way of the Mister and Mr. Dalton’s crusade intellectually brittle and tiresome it was a struggle to keep listening to the first segment. I was intrigued, however, by your untiring willingness to explore and to reach out, Dan, and stayed with it.

    Mr. Dalton is going way out on a limb in attempting to define God from a mortal perspective. By definition, celestial beings are on a level so advanced as to potentially be quite different from mortals. For those of us who accept the Bible, Isaiah 59:8-9 says as much. The God Mr. Dalton imagines is so sharply defined in black and white as to be a caricature of a living being, more of a geometric construct. I wish Mr. Dalton well and hope he finds what he’s looking for.

    The second segment of the podcast was a classic Mormon Matters deep dive, enhanced in its focus perhaps, for following the first. I love the notion of the translation of the Book of Mormon actually being a revelation. It just doesn’t trouble me that the Book of Abraham was revealed in association with a copy of the Book of Breathings. I believe in a God that can reveal whatever he wants through whomever he wants.

    I really enjoyed the aside about your experience with automatic writing, Dan. I’ve used Hemi-Sync CDs from The Monroe Institute for the last 10 years to help me relax and meditate. Along the way I’ve had some great dissociative experiences outside of the monkey mind. I know from my own experience that I’m more than my physical body and mind.

  18. michael
    October 31, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I found the back and forth very enjoyable. Brian came across as the typical Hitchens/Dawkins type atheist; difficult to keep on the subject at hand and committing mulitple logical fallacies – (red herring arguments, fallacy of bifurcation, etc). My favorite argument that Brian presented was his trying to paint you, Dan, as an apologist. His line of argument was: all apologetics are dumb/bad. Dan, you are an apologist, thus your arguments are bad. In one fell swoop Brian commits the fallacy of a straw-man argument, the fallacy of no true Scotsman, and the genetic fallacy; no small feet!

    • October 31, 2012 at 9:53 pm

      The great thing is that all the people we disagree with commit logical fallacies and don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, while the people we agree with are just right on point all the time and always right. Isn’t that the best?

  19. chris
    October 31, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    I liked both parts of the podcast. Its unfortunate Brian was unwilling to engage in debate. I found the 19th century production dialogue about Joseph Smith the most interesting. The key to understanding the B of M lies with Joseph Smith not in trying get inside Nephi’s head in ancient Mesoamerica.
    Really found the discussion about how revelation works and joseph’s ability to get into “revelation mode” fascinating. Like you all discussed I have also experienced getting into revelation mode, spiritual insight mode or whatever you want to call it. The ability to disassociate from reality where the unconscious mind works is very powerful and can produce amazing stuff. Joseph was special in his ability to do this. I’m not convinced it had anything to do with the supernatural or God but shows Joseph Smith was more gifted in this area than almost anyone. Dan, your comments on Joseph ability to disassociate are right on. I think this is the key to understanding him and what he produced.

  20. October 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I would like to compare Dan’s approach to a murder trial where the evidence clearly points to the suspect as the murderer. People like Dan would defend the suspect and say the evidence isn’t really what it looks like, you just aren’t intellectually superior enough to see the deeper, hidden meaning, and nuances behind the fingerprints on the gun, the victims blood on his clothes, the DNA at crime scene, the body in the freezer, the taped confession, etc.

    Of course this sounds ridiculous so why when it comes to your precious religious beliefs can you not be intellectually honest enough to acknowledge your blind spots and follow where the evidence takes you!!!! Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicle of Narnia all have hidden meaning, nuance, and deeper messages but that doesn’t make them true!

    • Matteo Masiello
      November 4, 2012 at 8:22 am

      Mason I don’t find your analogy an accurate one about Dan’s position. I also don’t understand why you compare works of fiction to scripture (well I don’t think scripture is as factual as is presumed but that’s another topic). Fiction can be truer than fact. History is creatively propagandized fiction. The truth of scripture lies in its existential meaning not whether it happened. I don’t care whether the resurrection happened or not. I believe it did and that is all that matters. Now with the BoM I am not a Mormon but I love the truth embedded in it. I believe these truths which I think Jos. Smith consciously took from scripture and embellished the rest just the writers of the OT and NT did to create “history”. I could imagine being a Mormon were it not for the authority the leaders think they have over other people’s lives.

  21. Guest
    October 31, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I would like to compare Dan’s approach to a murder trial where the evidence clearly points to the suspect as the murderer. People like Dan would defend the suspect and say the evidence isn’t really what it looks like, you just aren’t intellectually superior enough to see the deeper, hidden meaning, and nuances behind the fingerprints on the gun, the victims blood on his clothes, the DNA at crime scene, the body in the freezer, the taped confession, etc.

    Of course this sounds ridiculous so why when it comes to your precious religious beliefs can you not be intellectually honest enough to acknowledge your blind spots and follow where the evidence takes you!!!! Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicle of Narnia all have hidden meaning, nuance, and deeper messages but that doesn’t make them true!

    • October 31, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      Arguing that the Book of Mormon doesn’t teach racist doctrines–after almost
      two hundred years of racist use of those doctrines–is simply another example of
      the mental gymnastics people will attempt in order to save something that, quite
      frankly, is not worth saving. The Book of Mormon is clearly a 19th century work
      with absolutely no objective evidence supporting it as a historically accurate
      document, and yet these same folks try to salvage Joseph’s work of fiction by
      what they term a ‘deeper’ reading of it. The use of the term ‘deeper’ is a
      weasel word intending to convey the message that those of us unwilling to
      perform such gymnastics are actually just ‘shallow.’ It’s a message intended to
      offend those who have left the church rather than continue to allow it to abuse
      us while we hope it somehow decides to change.

      I’ve finally come to the point where I have no patience for the new order
      mormon/internet mormon/cafeteria mormon viewpoint. We share a common enemy, but
      they’d rather cozy up in bed with the enemy each night because it’s a
      comfortable, known evil, rather than deal with the pain of leaving it to find a
      better life.

  22. Guest
    October 31, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    My favorite line is Dan’s statement that “this looks pretty clear.” Well, it is.

    In 1 Nephi 12, Nephi prophesies/is shown:

    12:22 And the angel said unto me: Behold these shall dwindle in unbelief.

    12:23 And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.

    In 2 Nephi 5, Nephi, speaking *in first person,* states:

    5:20 Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which he spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence.

    5:21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

    5:22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.

    5:23 And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.

    5:24 And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.

    In other words, in the *lifetime* of Nephi, this happens. Dan tries to blow this off as “intermixing” with, apparently, a group of people that is *entirely unmentioned in the Book of Mormon.* In fact, only 1600 years before Nephi shows up on the shores of America, there was a great flood that wiped out all life on the Earth. The Jaredites are running around at this time and also apparently never, ever met a single person from another tribe/culture.

    So we’re supposed to believe that “we don’t really know for sure” (Charley Harrell’s words) that there weren’t other people already there. What people? How did they get there?

    To salvage the Book of Mormon and the Church here, we have to read into the Book of Mormon the most incredible ignorance possible. Nephi describes some incredibly detailed things–what kinds of fruits and vegetables the Nephites are using (barley and wheat no less!), what kinds of animals they have (horses and cattle, no less!). In the same chapter (2 Nephi 12), Nephi describes the following mundane actions:

    1. He takes his people into the wilderness.
    2. Exactly who he took with him, by name.
    3. That they took tents and lived in them.
    4. The names he used for the land he lived in.
    5. That they kept the law of Moses.
    6. That they set up farms (no less!).
    7. That he wrote on the gold plates.
    8. That he took the steel Sword of Laban and made, apparently, other steel swords (no less!).
    9. That he taught people to build buildings, work iron, copper, gold, silver, etc.
    10. That he built a temple.
    11. That he ordained the males priests and such.
    12. That about 40 years passed.

    That is JUST what is said in that chapter.

    And yet Nephi just *fails* to mention that “oh, by the way, we found a bunch of other people, they had dark skin, we stayed away from them so we wouldn’t become dark and loathsome, but the Lamanites intermingled and somehow retroactively also became dark and loathsome.”

    How does that even happen? How does such a *crucial* point get “missed” by Nephi, Prophet of God.

    It strains credibility to the max. To “willful suspension of reality” levels.

    • October 31, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      I attempted to delete this to fix the typo. Sorry about the double post.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 1, 2012 at 11:44 am

      Thayne, if any of your arguments are intended at me, I really do encourage you to listen to Part 2 (as you say in a different thread you hadn’t yet but are going to). You assume so, so much that simply isn’t true for me. I don’t defend its historicity. I don’t defend the idea of a universal flood (no Latter-day Saint should ever have to feel like they need to abandon today’s science over things in scripture like that: including God changing skin color!). And I am not really invested in whether or not prophets (ancient or modern) end up having racist views. None of that impacts my own experience of reading and sorting and finding value where I do in the Book of Mormon or many of JS’s writings/ideas.

      The plan with Brian Dalton was to talk about his video and its assumptions, and then bring alternate readings to them, showing his imposition of definitions about God, scripture, revelation, translation, status of statements like translated by the “gift and power of God,” “most correct,” etc, are not the only ways of viewing the topics at hand–and, in fact, don’t take into account what the Book of Mormon text says itself, nor match Joseph Smith’s own language about prophetic processes. To get there, we were to do a section on “what if we take the BofM at its word: that it is the history of real people who came from Jerusalem when they said they did, that it is an abridgment, etc.?” and another on “assuming 19th century origins and JS as writer or producer, what would that mean in terms of the the truth status of the claims about the book or about its value, etc.” Neither Charley nor I were planning to make claims other than the way Brian reads the situation and claims that this is the “only” way to describe the predicament Mormons are in tension with things that either of the other two experiments with different framings would show.

      Scripture/religious texts draw their power from a connection with energies that are very different from those that accompany science. We should never conflate the two. Let each be what they are. Bring them into conversation, for sure, but don’t expect either to overwhelm the power and value of the other. When different ways of knowing or accessing different aspects of reality become settled in one’s own soul/mind via experiences and genuine explorations of each (looks that reveal both major strengths and weaknesses) what you or others call mental gymnastics (elsewhere in this comments section) simply aren’t that at all. There’s no scramble or panic to make this or that fit else we lose our grounding in the universe. One can simply let reality present itself in all its multi-faceted ways, paradoxes, energies, potentialities, then enjoy those without having to settle them (tame them, force them to try to fit one view or the other, “collapse the wave function” in one direction or the other). Paradoxes and all the both/ands become enlivening and exciting rather than troubling. Except, of course, when these aren’t recognized for what they are and people taking them wrong hurt themselves and others–so then those who see from these vistas speak out, act in direct intervention, and/or to try to help reframe–whatever way best matches their gifts. In my case, writing, editing, speaking, podcasting. Maybe some will find a match with their experience and be strengthened, others perhaps might become intrigued and give themselves permission to explore if such ways of orienting toward broader reality might work to help them find equilibrium again (and hopefully delight, as well!).

      • JT
        November 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm


        Just wanted you to know I read this – twice (so far) and am still trying to understand you.

        Perhaps it’s not possible – Thomas Nagel’s philosophy of mind problem … “What’s It Like to Be a Bat?” or in this case, Dan Wotherspoon.

        And all of these physics metaphors! Be careful, I know quite a bit. Perhaps you are aware that a wave function can only avoid collapsing if it remains unobserved. That is, if it does not interact with its surroundings 🙂



        • Dan Wotherspoon
          November 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm

          We’re recording an episode on science and religion tomorrow morning for the coming week’s release. Let’s engage after that. Hopefully my own positions (what it’s like to be inside my head) will become clearer, especially as I’ll be in conversation with two guys with strong science backgrounds.

          On wave function aside I included, just multiplying metaphors that relate to the effect of our actions, modes of approach, and other factors about us help determine what we find/see/theorize/are able to grasp (nothing from quantum mechanics needed for my point, which can be made without any reference). When I use it, however, I’m not at all arguing that the ideal would be that wave functions never collapse. I’m just trying to suggest that we must always recognize that something did interact to have it collapse as it did/does, and when we’re one of those factors (via how we approach, the nature of our tools, conceptual frameworks we employ, etc) we need to remember that before the interaction we’re observing the results from there were other possibilities.

          I think there’s strong resonance outside of Quantum realm (in which, I’m, of course, a dabbler relying only on secondary sources) to the questions of what we’re going to find when we seek spiritual or archetypal kinds of insight (one of the main questions I think we’re debating in this thread that is all about whether the Book of Mormon deserves a richer reading, if spiritual communication isn’t as God driven as it’s convenient to say it is when we want to show weakness, etc.). If we approach with the wrong tools and/or misfitted expectations about the richness and potentials that might yield if we had different tools and expectations, we’ll miss accessing those yet not realize it and therefore run the danger of thinking we captured something more completely than we did.

  23. October 31, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    My favorite line is Dan’s statement that “this looks pretty clear.” Well, it is.

    In 1 Nephi 12, Nephi prophesies/is shown:

    12:22 And the angel said unto me: Behold these shall dwindle in unbelief.

    12:23 And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.

    In 2 Nephi 5, Nephi, speaking *in first person,* states:

    5:20 Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which he spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence.

    5:21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

    5:22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.

    5:23 And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.

    5:24 And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.

    In other words, in the *lifetime* of Nephi, this happens. Dan tries to blow this off as “intermixing” with, apparently, a group of people that is *entirely unmentioned in the Book of Mormon.* In fact, only 1600 years before Nephi shows up on the shores of America, there was a great flood that wiped out all life on the Earth. The Jaredites are running around at this time and also apparently never, ever met a single person from another tribe/culture.

    So we’re supposed to believe that “we don’t really know for sure” (Charley Harrell’s words) that there weren’t other people already there. What people? How did they get there?

    To salvage the Book of Mormon and the Church here, we have to read into the Book of Mormon the most incredible ignorance possible. Nephi describes some incredibly detailed things–what kinds of fruits and vegetables the Nephites are using (barley and wheat no less!), what kinds of animals they have (horses and cattle, no less!). In the same chapter (2 Nephi 5), Nephi describes the following mundane actions:

    1. He takes his people into the wilderness.
    2. Exactly who he took with him, by name.
    3. That they took tents and lived in them.
    4. The names he used for the land he lived in.
    5. That they kept the law of Moses.
    6. That they set up farms (no less!).
    7. That he wrote on the gold plates.
    8. That he took the steel Sword of Laban and made, apparently, other steel swords (no less!).
    9. That he taught people to build buildings, work iron, copper, gold, silver, etc.
    10. That he built a temple.
    11. That he ordained the males priests and such.
    12. That about 40 years passed.

    That is JUST what is said in that chapter.

    And yet Nephi just *fails* to mention that “oh, by the way, we found a bunch of other people, they had dark skin, we stayed away from them so we wouldn’t become dark and loathsome, but the Lamanites intermingled and somehow retroactively also became dark and loathsome.”

    How does that even happen? How does such a *crucial* point get “missed” by Nephi, Prophet of God.

    It strains credibility to the max. To “willful suspension of reality” levels.

    • JT
      November 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      The “other [indigenous] people” hypothesis appears to be an “ad hoc rescue” supported by the “ad ignorantiam” fallacy.

      • Dan Wotherspoon
        November 1, 2012 at 5:56 pm

        Yet the hypothesis emerged before the DNA challenge, or, really, any substantive challenges. The hypothesis emerges from a reading of the text itself, including its descriptions (some that show it quite similar to other texts that might be called a dynastic history, lineage history, minority history).

        I’m not invested in the Book of Mormon being historical, but I really don’t like “quick hits” like this that don’t show awareness of the history and scholarship that has come before and that wasn’t created by people in panic mode. Sure, lots of stuff has been. But those show themselves pretty easily for what they are, and they are easy to dismiss. This particular line of inquiry, not one of those.

        • JT
          November 3, 2012 at 5:43 am

          Point taken. I’ll read the Roper article to better inform my opinion on this.

          But I never thought it was an ad hoc response to the DNA challenges. I assumed it was a response to the gradually building scientific evidence – starting in the 19th century – that the ancient ancestors of the American Indians came across the Bering Strait.

          If this was the case, we need to look at the history of the LDS responses relative to this and see if LDS apologists made gradual concessions as the evidence for East Asian migration built up.

          My guess is that the LDS conception evolved from the indigenous people being mostly descending from Israelites to fewer and fewer as the weight of external evidence grew. Keep in mind that the orthodox Mormon belief throughout the 19th and 20th centuries was “young earth”. This dogma provides a foundation for the predominant Israelite origins of the Lamanite “remnant.”

          I’m open minded on this. On one hand I understand that the text implies a relatively small geography. On the other hand, this could have been the result of Joseph Smith’s lack of sophistication in thinking through the implicit demographics. As B.H. Roberts said:

          “In the first place there is a certain lack of perspective in the things the book relates as history that points quite clearly to an underdeveloped mind as their origin. The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency.”

        • JT
          November 3, 2012 at 6:14 am

          Point taken. I’ll read the Roper article to better inform my opinion on this.

          But I never thought it was an ad hoc response to the DNA challenges. I assumed it was a response to the gradually building scientific evidence – starting in the 19th century – that the ancient ancestors of the American Indians came across the Bering Strait.

          If this was the case, we need to look at the history of the LDS responses relative to this and see if LDS apologists made gradual concessions as the evidence for East Asian migration built up.

          My basic question is whether the LDS conception evolved as the weight of external evidence for East Asian migration grew or whether it grew as a result of more careful reading of the text itself.

          Keep in mind that the orthodox Mormon belief throughout the 19th and 20th centuries was “young earth”. This dogma provides a foundation for the predominant Israelite origins of the Lamanite “remnant.”

          But I’m open minded about this. On one hand I understand that the text implies a relatively small geography. On the other hand, this could have been the result of Joseph Smith’s lack of sophistication in thinking through the implicit geography and demographics. As B.H. Roberts said:

          “In the first place there is a certain lack of perspective in the things the book relates as history that points quite clearly to an underdeveloped mind as their origin. The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency.”

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            November 3, 2012 at 10:25 am

            Good questions. If you have interest in that dive (related to parallels about Asian hypothesis and people reading the text to see if there is an escape), please do. I don’t really, as it seems likely enough to me that somewhere along the line some people would simply have read things and gone, “What the hell? God changed people’s skin colors? That sounds awfully far-fetched (similar to worldwide flood), not to mention horrid!” and it would lead at least some among them to imagine other possibilities that might be suggested within the text. Same thing with looking at population numbers, strange notes about a person like Sherem, imagining the Jacob olive trees allegory might include his thoughts about his group and where they fit into that story, having Nephites have to look hard among their own for someone who is a descendent from Laman (because if skin color were the factor, that’d be pretty obvious), the missionary expedition northward in Helaman where about every chance to say it’s to Lamanites other than the seven cities we are now buds with that they are going to try to convert, only to have the text stay consistent and not mention that, etc. Nothing overwhelming, but certainly if someone is sitting in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, thinking about the idea presented as being about South, Central, and North America, etc., they might begin to wonder if these ideas are based in the text themselves or from previous pronouncements.

            I love the Roberts quote! Definitely one I come to again and again when I think about the Book of Mormon.

  24. JT
    November 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    To my understanding, Dan was interested re-conceptualizing the apparent racism in the Book of Mormon by framing it in terms of the Israelite prohibition against intermarriage with people outside the covenant. Brian Dalton was unwilling to entertain this “framing” seeing it as a pointless exercise – perhaps akin to arguing for or against the Elves’ racist attitudes toward the Orcs.

    While I didn’t listen to the entire second part, Dan’s approach did not strike me as such a good idea. Even if we don’t consider most of the Old Testament stories myth, there seems little to be gained by comparing the Nephites to the bigoted Israelites whose God ordered them to totally destroy the Midianites, Amorites, ands Canaanites.

    If only there were an expiration date on scripture.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 1, 2012 at 5:48 pm

      So much more going on than this. What you pick up on here is my challenging Brian’s narrow reading and that this was the only way it can be read and that the only conclusions are that this should be dismissed because of racism. When you get to the second part after Brian drops off and Charley and I are able to frame other possibilities, you’ll see that I don’t really care if prophets, ancient or modern, are racist, bigoted, etc. They don’t get a “pass” from me simply because someone calls them a “prophet” or their writings “scripture.” When we grow up, we learn to trust in our own ability to examine for ourselves, to determine if we might ever use terms like that, and for what persons or aspects of their teachings. For me, my own spiritual dives have given me a quiet confidence in recognizing resonances and disconnections–embracing the former and rejecting the latter. I’d never buy that God would order genocides, that there was a universal flood, that God’s actions rather than genetics and climate factors change or affect skin color. At the same time, I do recognize spiritually powerful insights in some passages, and, in others, people and actions that are worthy guides to ways of approaching spiritual truths (even if I might reject taking too literally what they claim coming out of their dive). At a certain point, it’s all a matter of feel/recognition/taste/recognition below words of something rich and powerful that, when aligned/in tune with, simultaneously brings peace and pain and restlessness to not let smallness stand.

      • JT
        November 4, 2012 at 7:38 am


        Just so I might understand where you are personally coming from better – to better understand your remarks:

        On what basis do you confer the status of scripture to a piece of writing?

        Is it the presence of what you believe/sense is some minimum threshold of divine inspiration by its author independent of your own mind?


        Is it any piece of writing that elicits a spiritual response (resonance) in you that derives in part from what you bring to it?

        I would ask the same question about the basis for your conferring the status of prophet to a person.


        If you would confer scriptural or prophet status to ANY writing or person (on some level – which I think I heard you say), then what special role do the “canonized” scriptures and prophets within established institutionalized religions – and in particular Mormonism – play for you, if any.

        You are evidently guided by an internal compass that is independent of the “follow the prophet” mantra, which I deeply respect. I was impressed with the “spirit” of your podcast comment, “It’s time for the [Brethren] to start reading the scriptures for real.” I think I’m getting a better idea of where you are coming from this podcast and your written responses here. I am hoping your answers to these questions – or a redirection toward more relevant points – will add to my understanding.

        No rush. I understand you are very busy.



        • Dan Wotherspoon
          November 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm

          JT, Always enjoy our exchanges!

          Totally whether I consider something inspired or not involves (quite overwhelmingly) what I bring to the encounter. At some point in the past dozen years or so, and after a dozen or so in quite a bit of turmoil and intense wrestle, I found myself fully shifting to trust in my own internal spiritual and moral compass more than the compasses of others, no matter what their title. With this compass in hand/heart, I am always still on the lookout for guidance and wisdom from others–including those given the title prophets by the LDS church as well as acclaimed that in other traditions, from people I interact with everyday, from books I read and voices I encounter–but I never accept that what they offer simply because it is they who are offering it. (Similar to the basic things that happen to all of us in school and in our professions as we become competent in the materials themselves, only just shifted to the arena of religion/spirit. Just because so and so said it/wrote it, it doesn’t mean it’s all to be swallowed, that there aren’t other angles on the issue that much be considered, etc.)

          As you have gathered from listening and reading in exchanges here, I feel centered enough in Spirit/Connectedness-that-has-attendant-energies, that when things don’t resonate (especially when they preach a narrower vision or seem to come from fear or desire to control or a lack of trust in human beings that they can experience for themselves) with me and what this long time of fighting for homebase in Spirit has taught me about myself and has suggested about all existents, I write them off as missing the mark–though I do allow that it might be intended for a different audience with different needs and for whom it might truly be helpful.

          Know, though, that what you and others are asking me here really hardly ever comes up for me. I truly don’t go around thinking very much at all about who is a prophet or what is scripture since these are categories that, for me, no longer feed much into my thinking about whether or not I should take a person or their words to heart. This person or text needs to show themselves worthy of the label (of course, judged by my compass and the feel of resonance with my experiences); no free ride on the coat tails of someone sometime naming themselves as prophet or scripture. This seems fair to me. I don’t expect others to believe me except through their own judgment criteria. I’m completely willing to be thought absurd or someone saying something that might be worth something by their own felt sense of whether or not what I say has a ring of authenticity to it–a gut trust or not that I’m not just blowing smoke when I say this has been my experience and that I believe it is one that is open to all who might decide to try a similar wrestle. That Mormonism has within it resources for assisting one in “getting there” in terms of finding a way to this sort of centering. That Mormonism and religion in general is based in/fed by energies that can yield joy and feelings of expansiveness and that are still accessible despite all the crap that obscures it. Service, ritual and ritual activities (prayer, meditation, contemplation, centering on what is deepest within us), being part of a community–these are what lead to access to Spirit and all that animates religion, what puts us in a position for possible new and fabulously rich tastes that makes life feel truly meaningful. When we don’t concentrate on the finger (and all its descriptions, especially dogmatic claims) we can experience the moon that it’s pointing at.

          So what role does scripture play for me? As a member of the LDS Church and local wards, discussion groups, book clubs, etc., I love LDS scripture (that includes the Bible, of course) as a shared language, as a source through which we might receive what Ricoeur calls “the gift of meaning from the symbol. . . . [the gift of an] occasion of thought, something to think about.” I like reading of distant peoples with their struggle to find meaning, the lessons they said they gleaned. I like peeling back the cultural layers to see what the kernel might be. If we could treat our scripture the way Jews do theirs, with the Torah at the center of a conversation that yields something like the Talmud, that yields vigorous debates in each generation that really tests a person’s spirit against a wild and crazy (and yet still very powerful) tradition of stories and teachings–wow, I’d be so happy! I push in that direction when I speak up in Sunday School, when I go to lunch with people, engage book clubs, talk online.

          Do I believe anything in or about scripture will “save” me or others? Has God really declared it as something truly sui generis, something so special and different that we are compelled to believe it “or else”” Heck no. Going all Mormon on you for a second, the only thing I really see at stake in scripture is whether by rejecting it we reject the idea that there is something one might call “spiritual experience” or that there are ways of stepping out of the day-to-day, heady, gotta-perfect-myself-by-my-own-genius kinds of thinking and, in so doing, we reject that we might actually be able to access energies that cast entirely new light on this day to day world and those we encounter in it. It’s only that we might miss out on this kind of moreness: “that which we might have received” (paraphrase/maybe a quotation from D&C 88–too lazy to look–used here solely because it really rings true to my experience, not because it’s in a so-called book of scripture). If someone finds other ways into this moreness, I only celebrate that. Scripture and wrestling with it just one way. A good one, though!

  25. Matteo Masiello
    November 2, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Dan with respect to your mention of the disassociated the Smith was in which you compare to Mohammed then what is the authority here? God then communicates with everyone who claims that God communicated with then. All sacred texts are transmitted in this state and there is no authority of one church or religion over another. There is no true gospel then. What is the criterion for truth then?

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 2, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      Yes, I’m advocating something akin to the “no authority” and “no true gospel” (at least to the exclusion of there being other true gospels) line of thinking. My advocacy is that nothing gets a pass just because of an a priori claim to it being “revelation” or “scripture.” No institution declares it is so and thus it is so and we must treat it with so much deference that we can never argue with it, never claim a person (especially those called “prophets” or seen as spiritual leaders) or view depicted in it are out of alignment with spiritual values, never challenge the assumptions in the text and whether or not they are appropriate for today, etc. After we have learned to access spiritual realities/forces/energies ourselves, we come to feel when things are connected or not, when things have the “ring” of truth, when they captivate something in us that wants to answer a call to deeper alignment.

      This is, of course, not kid stuff–either literally or figuratively. This in its full-on rawness isn’t what we who choose to raise our children within a religious tradition or engaged in spiritual disciplines would teach them (though I think it is something we should always anticipate and hope for them, something to help prepare them for as an expectation that they’ll be making such judgments for themselves). Children’s ways of learning to recognize echoes of divine/ultimate realities are great for children (drawing analogies from love they feel, noting their natural senses of injustices and linking those to deeply embedded values that seem to characterize something “spiritual”–love, compassion, connectivity, mercy, hope, etc.), and speaking of this or that text or person as “authoritative” based upon external criteria is appropriate until they can grasp more subtleties. But growing up also means growing toward owning for ourselves the task of judging richer, deeper, better, shallow, worse, harmful.

      There are dangers, though, associated with judging scripture and acclaimed spiritual writings, and that is how the ability to judge well can only emerge to the degree that through our growing up, we have begun to catch the scent of our having a deeper self, aspects that respond to things that seem somehow more important/profound than the everyday. Without this, they likely will never captivate us. With this, however, some parts of what is called scripture will jump out for us, and other parts we’ll sort into the category of the mundane. Likewise some parts of things that aren’t called by a particular group “scripture” will leap out to us and affect us in a way that will call to those deeper parts of us–and these appropriately become precious and important and meaningful as personal scripture. At a certain point in our lives, when it comes to true/false/higher/lower/bigger/smaller, ours should be by far the main voice that casts a ballot on whether something is scripture or not (and, for sure, even with the best scripture, it would be foolish to expect perfection).

      Don’t know if that helps/makes any sense or not. In short it means to me when tire meets the road and in the context of my own life, I grant the title scripture to the Book of Mormon and other LDS texts because after a lot of exploring and wrestling, I catch enough of the scent in quite a bit of it. I consider the Tao te Ching scripture for the same reason. I’ve spent time in the Qur’an and have caught the scent. My encounters with sacred texts have served as gateways into experiences that are very meaningful and empowering to me (and even the uninspired or ugly parts teach me things that I am grateful to have learned and fought through). In these ways, they are scripture. But unlike as a child, I can now appreciate them as scripture and binding on my heart in a radically different way than when I was simply told ahead of time that they are somehow special and that I am bound by a external command to respond to them as such.

      • Matteo Masiello
        November 4, 2012 at 8:11 am

        I agree just wanted to see where you were coming from. I’m a pluralist and universalist at heart. I’m not a Mormon but agree with some aspects of
        Mormon theology just like I agree with aspects of theology from all of the other Christian denominations.

  26. Brad
    November 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    I really appreciated the podcast. I think these are very important issues, and I was happy to see them vigorously debated.

    As I’ve been trying to renegotiate my own relationship with the Church and “revelation” I find myself drawn to Dan’s perspective, but I can also understand the frustrations of those who point out that Dan’s less concrete picture of the divine encounter seems pretty far from position of the Church and its general officers (or at least the story they have been telling in the manuals and other Church publications).

    It seems to me that there are a few possibilities with respect to the apparent racism in the Book of Mormon.

    1) The ‘straightforward’ reading of Brian and others is correct. (Dan made it pretty clear that, if this were the case, any god who would institute such a system is unworthy of worship).

    2) Nephi was racist and mistook the natural changes in skin color that would occur from mixing with the native populations as a curse from God (this is Dan’s main argument, and one that I hadn’t really considered before).

    3) Joseph Smith was racist and in the process of “translating” the Book of Mormon inserted some popular theories about the origins of the Native Americans (this point was suggested, but I’m not sure that it was fully developed in the podcast)

    The third possibility is the one that I find the most compelling (partly because it doesn’t require a historical Nephi or a racist god).

    But this “expansion” theory poses its own thorny problems. How do we know where to stop? I can understand the discomfort that some more conservative believers feel when us “uncorrelated” Mormons start chopping away at different cultural assumptions and “gospel truths” that they never even considered challenging.

    …anyhow — keep up the good work!

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      Definitely a tough call–and sometimes we can definitely fall in love with deconstruction (so much fun, and so easy)! Always caution and care needed. In relation to “more conservative believers” or even other people in general, I think what one says In church versus what we entertain in our own hearts are two different matters, and I think both require us to very carefully “feel” our way ahead. On Sundays I would never say things as baldly as I say here in comments or on the shows. And then in my own heart, I constantly entertain many things as possibilities that I wouldn’t even say here. Is this out of a lack of integrity? I hope not, and I think not. In my ward and with certain friends and family, the trick is more to find openings that will allow for an infusion of a bit of “more” or “here’s another way to consider this” in hopes of presenting a glimpse to them about a way they may want to consider, but it is plain foolishness to try to deliver a full load. No chance of being really “heard.” Here and on the show I’m less afraid to be challenging, figuring this is a group that has self-selected to be exposed to a wider range of thinking or to be challenged a bit more brashly–and, importantly, this is an audience who also feels green-lighted to fight back! When it comes to not always saying the things in my own heart, most often my stopping is warranted by either the ideas not really being able to be put into words–sometimes because of the nature of the idea itself, sometimes from my own lack of comprehension and ability to even, at this point, attempt words. Stuff always percolating, however–as I hope they are for every one of us!

  27. Bak Irish
    November 2, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Dan, about two-thirds of the way through the second section, you and Charles agreed that the possibility that Joseph Smith was knowingly trying to defraud the world could be dismissed. As far as I could tell, your arguments to support that were 1) your study of shamanic writings and 2) your experience with “automatic writing.” Both of these you say fit closely with what you see in the BOM. Did I understand what you were saying correctly?

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 2, 2012 at 10:30 pm

      I do think a comparison with shamanic kinds of behavior and the addressing of pressing issues through what is produced is a good fit. But I think where Charley led and I agreed was a bit more speculative than what you might be thinking. For me, anyway, the claim was more in terms of if Joseph Smith is indeed in a dissociative state (similar to shamanic trance or channeling) and things are flowing, he would assume it’s God (or the gift and power of God) that is flowing (or allowing the flow) that is coming through him. If this is the case, “knowingly trying to defraud” doesn’t seem as good a fit for the data (his claims and others about the way it was produced in bursts, stopping and starting without needing to be reminded where he was, etc.).

      • JT
        November 3, 2012 at 5:20 am

        This is an interesting possibility Dan. Thanks for this Scott Dunn reference. I think I remember a similar/updated essay he wrote for the compilation American Apocrypha.

        Yes, “Automaticity and the Dictation of the Book of Mormon.”

        Does the fact that Joseph Smith never had a comparable repeat performance count as evidence against this? I believe there is no indication that the Book of Moses, which he produced behind close doors with Rigdon, followed this method. Same with his revisions of the Bible – or his slow methodical work with the Egyptian papyri. Did Joseph simply lose his mojo after the BoM?

        Perhaps some of his revelations tapped into this dissociative state.

        For those interested, Robert Rees wrote rebuttal for FARMS


        His opening salvo reads as follows:

        “Having exhausted the more bizarre and byzantine explanations of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (written by Joseph Smith, plagiarized from Solomon Spaulding or Ethan Smith, written by Oliver Cowdery or Sidney Rigdon, dictated under the spell of epileptic seizures, etc.), some naturalist critics have postulated what appears to be a more rational explanation.”

        Curse those pesky naturalists with their “bizarre and byzantine” explanation 🙂

        Also, the book “The Sword of Laban” by William Morain psychoanalyzes Joseph in terms of a dissociated mind


      • JT
        November 3, 2012 at 5:20 am

        This is an interesting possibility Dan. Thanks for this Scott Dunn reference. I think I remember a similar/updated essay he wrote for the compilation American Apocrypha.

        Yes, “Automaticity and the Dictation of the Book of Mormon.”

        Does the fact that Joseph Smith never had a comparable repeat performance count as evidence against this? I believe there is no indication that the Book of Moses, which he produced behind close doors with Rigdon, followed this method. Same with his revisions of the Bible – or his slow methodical work with the Egyptian papyri. Did Joseph simply lose his mojo after the BoM?

        Perhaps some of his revelations tapped into this dissociative state.

        For those interested, Robert Rees wrote rebuttal for FARMS


        His opening salvo reads as follows:

        “Having exhausted the more bizarre and byzantine explanations of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (written by Joseph Smith, plagiarized from Solomon Spaulding or Ethan Smith, written by Oliver Cowdery or Sidney Rigdon, dictated under the spell of epileptic seizures, etc.), some naturalist critics have postulated what appears to be a more rational explanation.”

        Curse those pesky naturalists with their “bizarre and byzantine” explanation 🙂

        Also, the book “The Sword of Laban” by William Morain psychoanalyzes Joseph in terms of a dissociated mind


  28. JT
    November 3, 2012 at 6:19 am

    With regard to the skin color change being the result of intermarriage with indigenous people:

    It would seem that Nephite demographics would also require their own intermarriage or massive assimilation with indigenous dark-skinned people. After all, the Nephite population increased remarkably quickly.

    If the Nephi blood line remained pure and white we would be forced to imagine them as a royal family that ruled over one set of dark skinned people (who were not – at least at the start – loathsome, filthy and full of idleness) while their ethnically identical neighbors all got together with the evil Lamanites.

    Is there any good reason to read this much into the text?

    But should read the Roper reference and reread the following references before making a judgement.

    John C. Kunich’s essay in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: http://signaturebookslibrary.org/?p=10200

    James E. Smith’s 41 page FARMS rebuttal of Kunich: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=41&chapid=190

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 3, 2012 at 10:45 am

      If Nephi were a real person, it doesn’t seem to me that dark skin would be a real problem in itself. From a part of the world where there were lots of skin colors, and few if any that are “white.” If this were an historical text, then it seems to me possible for him to have his folks intermarry with those who adopt the Law of Moses or whatever else he felt were signifiers of being “within the covenant,” and no curse would come upon those of his people who intermarried. On overstating population numbers, one can also look at the text as typical of this sort of record from that period.

      I don’t see your line of reasoning about ruling over those within their own group in the third paragraph compelling or all that much “reading into the text” needed. 2 Nephi 5:9 and 14 pretty much suggest that those who are now called Nephites and those now called Lamanites is not necessarily a blood lineage thing so much as an our team v their team. And it allows for more than a decade of action to take place before the two teams start to interact again.

      I’ll read those references tomorrow if I can (busy one ahead today!), but remember at least for me whether the BofM is about historical peoples or not isn’t really an issue for my own encounters with the book. I will add suggestions like the ones I did in this podcast (look at text itself, imagine worldviews characters inhabit and how different they would be, what is the nature of prophetic inspiration/how far reaching/how clear, etc) or speak up about them in my ward SS lessons simply as a way of encouraging people to move off of hard and fast senses that they have to believe God is involved in any way about skin color, that there was a worldwide flood, that Jonah survived in the belly of a whale, that there were days without a night and a night without days, or anything else damaging. My hope is if we can all calm down and break open a bit, perhaps we will be able to see more clearly the beautiful and inspiring parts, which might lead to the kinds of experiences that truly are the purpose of religion and holy writ and prophetic encouragement, etc. It has been the case for me in my life, so I speak to these kinds of things when I can.

      • JT
        November 4, 2012 at 8:11 am

        Dan writes: “I don’t see your line of reasoning… that much “reading into the text” needed. 2 Nephi 5:9 and 14 pretty much suggest that those who are now called Nephites and those now called Lamanites is not necessarily a blood lineage …”

        Yes, I see your point.

        It’s sure is a shame that Nephi never explicitly mentions indigenous peoples (or a few other things). Boy, that would have saved a lot of memberships – and gained untold more.

        With regard to this division between Nephites and Lamanites. Would Hebrews have made such a wholesale “adoption” of non-blood relatives? Is there precedence for this in Israelite history/law? Would Laman and Lemuel have been ritualistically “excommunicated” according to Hebrew law? Is Nephite essentially creating a sub-tribe of Israel?

        I have no idea.

        However, from my relatively lightly informed impression, it seems while LDS scholars/apologists make much of the few Hebraism-hits, one might expect there would be far more than a few general references such as “keeping the law of Moses.” In other words, one might expect many important and incidental details to spill out. For instance, one might expect references to the Passover, or circumcision among the “adopted” Nephites, or the tremendous missionary/teaching efforts associated with assimilation. The incorporation of a people whose language, culture, and traditions were so dramatically different would have been a major project that preoccupied Nephi. I would guess it would have been a central theme of the Book of Mormon.

        But alas, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence 🙂

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          November 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm

          Indeed a shame. I’m not a strong defender of historicity, but I do hold, as you can tell, that the dynastic/lineage/minority history comparisons strike me as plausible (similar conventions, omissions), plus the idea that if it is what it says it is, it is an abridged text, and it would make sense that things will be left out, plus things obvious to the people writing the histories (hey, there are others around us who didn’t come directly from Lehi and gang, and there have been right from the start of them landing here) would not rise to consciousness as something to note. The air we breathe hardly ever gets notice unless something calls particular attention to it. This line of reasoning gets a little jump of plausibility for me, too, in the fact that when we have the clues of possible others in their midst, the mentions are so “off hand.” Assuming their presence. And not “really” seeing the times and days when the record would come forth and noting all the kinds of problems the oversights might cause.

          The “how Hebrew/Jewish would they be?” line of inquiry is totally up the alley of Grant Hardy’s book and the section on Nephi as narrator. He totally gets right to some of your issues by portraying Nephi as quite frustrated that the generations after him (one’s not having had the Jerusalem experience) don’t value the scriptures the way he does (he is the one who loves expounding them, likening them to their situation, reminding of their covenant status, and he laments how so much is falling by the wayside–in Hardy’s hands and explorations along this theme, there are some really interesting spins on some classic passages!). Anyway, not trying to dodge your question. As I said, it’s just not a huge deal to me that Nephi was a real person, but know that your questions definitely occurred to Hardy and his exegesis and explorations of complexity in the text and behind what appears in the text speak quite a bit of them.

  29. JT
    November 4, 2012 at 8:27 am

    I just listened again to both episodes taking advantage of the 25 hour daylight savings day.

    Thanks to all involved, but I would like to particularly thank Charley Harrell for his concise, clear, coherent and sympathetic synthesis and analysis of the key issues.

    Buy his book! He brings these same wonderful abilities to his writing on the evolution of Mormon doctrine.

  30. November 4, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    I have been working through reading these comments and I wonder if it might be helpful to consider that there is a word framing this discussion which really has gone somewhat undefined: racism. What does everyone mean when they say something is ‘racist’? What do people mean by ‘race’ or ‘racial’? Are we thinking of race in terms of identity and racism as a process of identification? Is a racial identity a social construction or is there more of an essential aspect to it? What are the ideologies or larger philosophical frameworks that make it possible for any of us to think in terms of race? In other words, is race defined by a system of science or by some other structure of knowledge like religion?

    While I recognize the importance of where the conversation of the podcast went, I will say that in much of the conversation I was struck by what appeared to be an insufficient engagement with critical racial thought. It seems hard to me to think about tackling the question about racism in the Book of Mormon or in Mormon theology or in Mormon culture without first setting parameters on what is meant by race, racial, and racist. And I wonder if returning to what we actually mean and think when we say those words would prove a fruitful avenue to pursue. Especially since it can be a way of recognizing the struggle between anti-theists and apologists but not necessarily getting bogged down in the particularities of that argument.

    For example, I think it is possible and important to talk about how the Book of Mormon is enacting a racial project–that is we can look at how it is contributing to the construction of an understanding of what race is and what race means. It reflects a 19th century understanding of race that was in flux. One thing I found wanting in Brian’s binary of religion and science was his inability to recognize that for a 21st century mindset, race is scientific. That is a language of science which was developed in the 19th century is what allowed Western civilizations in the past and pretty much the world now to understand race in terms of heredity, genetics, taxonomies, and categories. That was not always the case; one could argue that race was something that was defined along religious epistemologies–race made sense under a vocabulary and understanding of religion. Some have even argued that it is historically inaccurate to talk about race before the 18th or 19th century. And that the act of enslavement of Africans cannot be discussed as racist because “racism” as we know it did not exist; rather the project of enslavement created the concept of races and eventually racism. So not to burst Brian’s bubble, because we understand race in terms of science, science (and not religion solely) is responsible for what we term racist activities. This is important because I personally contend that both science and religion can provide vocabularies to recognize racial projects which become racist and provide a framework for altering that course or project.

    I am not a proponent of moral relativism, but I do believe that it is disingenuous and historically sloppy to accuse people who have no concept of racism (and perhaps a different concept of race) of being racist. This is not to say that we cannot interrogate the ethics and consequences of their choices, but rather a call for us to think critically about the terms that we are using. To do otherwise would actually continue to ignore how our own lack of rigor can lead us to ignore our own activities and contributions to the racial projects we all take part in. We are all, all of us, always already constructing whiteness and blackness and other racial identities.

    So I think some more thought about race, racial, racial project, and racism as terms would only seem to help the question about the relationship between racism and the Book of Mormon–whether that’s in the text, the 19th-century production of that text, the cultural and theological production fueled by that text throughout the 19th and 20th century, or the lived experience in contemporary dances people have in everyday life with the text, the history, and the belief systems of Mormonism.

    • December 20, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      “Racial project”? I can’t see how that sheds any light on the race/racism issue.

  31. Brett
    November 4, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Dan: I listen frequently to the podcast. Thank you. For what it’s worth, here are some thoughts:

    Part 1 should be renamed. It is not about scripture and race. As the father of biracial children, this topic is particularly important to my family. The shortcomings and imperfections of prophets are easier to address than the the higher standard of truth and correctness attributed to scripture. So it’s disappointing not to have heard a thoughtful discussion on the topic. Maybe Part 2 is more on point.

    Bryan offers forceful and consistent arguments. But he leaves no room for anything but a binary worldview.

    I live and work in developing parts of the world. Religious faith can be one of the few ways of giving life some order and meaning.

    Bryan is a skilled humorist and a penetrating thinker, but he doesn’t add value to this topic.

  32. Thiscrazy28
    November 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Ouch–this was painful to listen to. Let me start out with this preface: I am active in the Church, served a mission, graduated from BYU, married in the temple, and currently hold a temple recommend (though I do, increasingly, struggle with some of the belief question in the temple interview). With that preface (and hopefully some degree of impartiality), let me just say that looking for “alternative explanations and complexities” in 2 Nephi chapter 5 is going to be very fruitless. I don’t blame Mr. Deity for being so vocal and unwilling to dive into a “deeper” reading of the text. It really is a a ridiculous effort. We can change “white” to “pure” as many times as we want to in the BoM, but the premise is still very clear: the wickedness of the Lamanites caused a dark skin, a curse, to be placed on them by God. That in and of itself, at the very least, is a nod to a very racist attribute found in the nature of God. Furthermore, that the curse extended to those who inter-marry with the Lamanites, specifically in relation to their innocent “seed,” is also a very racist viewpoint. While I agree that this premise wasn’t a direct cause for disallowing blacks to hold the priesthood until 1978, I think it is unfair to say that it didn’t have any effect in the length or dialogue of the priesthood ban.

    We need to remember that JS stated that the BoM is “the most correct” of any book on the earth and, as Mr. Deity continually reminded us, it was translated through the gift and power of God. In that context, I think it’s totally fair to do what Mr. Deity said: take the book at face value. When academics have to get together to find some alternate explanation or complexity in something like the “skin of blackness,” then we have gone too far and are just kidding ourselves. I also think we undermine what we, as members, perceive as the clarity and “correctness” of the book.

  33. JT
    November 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    One more quick comment at the expense of wearing out my welcome –

    Part of the conversation addressed the issue of whether the orthodox reading of Lamanite racism in did or didn’t inform LDS Church’s discrimination against African Americans.

    That almost seems beside the point since Mormon leaders still had the Books of Moses and Abraham to support the Church’s discriminatory policy against African Americans.

    Brian makes a point about the problem with scripture and leading from behind. Having Joseph Smith’s elaboration of the OT scripture in the Pearl of Great Price is a double-perfect example of this.

    But I suppose this might be open to a broader reading also.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 5, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      My only note in the podcast on this topic was to challenge Brian’s direct line in the video between the curse ideas in 2 Nephi 5 and the priesthood ban. As you say, there are plenty of other things for Mormon leaders to draw on for that! And, from the historical record, it seems like curse of Cain, Canaan’s disrespect of Noah when drunk, idea of “protecting” a covenant remnant, etc. all played more into the rhetoric at the time the policy was starting to coalesce.

      On the bit about JS’s elaborations being something that makes it extra frustrating to be a Mormon (and have these secondary “testimonies” about things in the Judeo-Christian canon) when you want to challenge literalism of scripture, you’ll find a good articulation of that in the final twenty mins or so of the new podcast on Science and Religion, with Matt Nockleby speaking of it very well.

  34. Seasickyetstilldocked
    November 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Dan, you are a man of your word. Best podcast ever!!! You can’t honestly discuss Mormonism in a fair way without including the voice of members or ex members like Brian. Charlie is a gentleman and I loved what he said beginning around 1:14:37. Dan your personal Mormonism seems to be a beautiful place to be. It just seems like you have to have a Phd in religion to get there. How many tbms have a Phd in religion? Not many. It seems like you don’t have much respect for what you refer to as cardboard Mormonism. However, that is Mormonism. Maybe not to you because you are capable of beautifully (and I am not being sarcastic) “complexifying” Mormon doctrine and scripture, but to over 90% of members in every ward I have ever been in, well, I guess we are all just cardboard simpletons.

    I applaud you for having a voice representing the cardboard members of the church. We have very good reason for believing and thinking the way we do (and for being pissed when we discover stuff) because we represent the majority of human product that the church produces. Again, great podcast!

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      Glad you liked! Definitely listen to the Science and Religion one, too, for another ex-Mormon atheist–though quite different in tone than Brian (even as he makes some of the same points).

      I’ll disagree with you on the 90 percent as cardboard simpletons. Depth there in all. Who knows what will trigger anyone to question the assumptions we all gain as we grow and meet life, but there’s no set timetable. As C.S. Lewis often reminds, we simply don’t know another’s background: it may be one hell of a greater accomplishment for someone to be a crotchety misanthrope than it is for us to be optimistic and outward focused. And generally, for me, after meeting certain people’s parents, or learning of the alcoholic’s home they were raised in, etc., it is a lot easier to love and admire then. If we meet fear and authoritarianism and arrogance in someone, it doesn’t mean there is also no brain or depth there. Can we learn to see it as brokenness? (And how we are also broken, just in other ways?) If so, we begin to want to nurture the person rather than reject them. We are willing to be nurtured ourselves. It is definitely not a stance toward other people and ourselves that is easy to arrive at, but it is the one that I think life calls us toward. The Church, as Gene England views it and so have I come to appreciate, is, next to family and all its challenges, the ultimate “school of love.” Man, some brutal mirrors coming at us–things we don’t want to face in ourselves–but definitely these are the best triggers for our own growing and healing.

      On the PhD thing. I guess my study and background in a lot of theoretical materials comes on display in some of the podcasts, but if anything, I don’t think it was that I studied religion that led me to be able to embrace all the contraries of beauty and bullshit in religions and the LDS Church, as much as how studying something (anything!) and becoming competent in it helps you truly realize that amazing diversity of opinions on every subject and the need for coming to one’s own conclusions. And with enough time in something, confidence simply grows.

      If anything, I think a doctorate in religion/philosophy or any quite theoretical subject is a more of a hindrance than help, since such disciplines focus so much on what our heads can do. If the key to spiritual richness is confidence and grounding in something beyond (but including) our brains, I’d highly recommend quiet, centering prayer, meditation, immersion in creative pursuits, serving (even very difficult) people, etc. over study any day. I think the grace for me in still finding room for spirit even after all I learned was actually the brokenness I experienced in my late teens and early twenties when I couldn’t control my life, was totally botching it, ready to give up all hope, and then through that bottoming out and rescue starting to really feel energies that made me stronger, made things feel more alive. So then, after immersing even more in those energies and their reality on my mission, then when all the challenges came that led to the pulling apart of everything (seriously, EVERYTHING!) I’d thought before about God, scripture, our ability as humans to ever be free of the conditioning of language and other symbol systems, cultural expectations, our desires for life to match up with what we want it to be like, etc., luckily I had not fully lost the connection (and faith that it was a real connection) with something grander that I’d had before, and it was interesting and thrilling how it would buoy me up and present a glimmer of hope for greater peace and clarity again some time. Sometimes these glimmers would come in the form of people I’d meet or encounter, other times just bursts of encouragement and energy that truly was thrilling. (Still, though, we’re talking ten to twelve years of full-on battle, name calling, testing my wits against the universe.) It’s probably been about ten years now that I have centered mostly in that peace, that confidence that is the key to the rest of life and people making me crazy simply sorting itself out. When it comes to Mormonism, I truly feel that, like what Jesus is said to have said about the Sabbath, it is here FOR US, not us FOR IT. We have permission to draw on its resources and opportunities as we will, reject other parts. With strength from being fed by the well waters that nurture projects like an institutional church, it becomes easier to see the good, call bullshit on the bad, speak up and be influential even if it’s just one quiet step at a time. All in all, life in pursuit of something “worthy of the human spirit” (Viktor Frankl). That’s the key to happiness.

      So PhD required? Nah. Spiritual practices. Yes! Available to everyone. Religion/spirituality as connection NOT “ideas you have to believe.” It’s about having the experiences not talking about them and thinking in this way we understand them. Don’t overtrust your brain and only its ways of inquiring. It ends up remaining a huge part of one’s spiritual life, but with the dives into wholeness and fullness it naturally falls back into healthy balance with heart/soul/whatever you want to call it that religious disciplines work to nurture and to make more real, and these then provide back-lighting to all the rest.

      Best to you and all! Patience. Wisdom and order in all things. Wrestling (and okay to breathe between rounds). In the battle, discovering who we are and what we love. Propositions fading and fuller reality peeking through. Something beautiful in every piece of truth. Every bit adds perspective and corrects/hones every other. Paradoxes enlivening rather than frustrating. People shining.

  35. dubaiidk
    November 6, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Brian’s straightforward approach seemed to upstage Dan’s apologetic contortions.

  36. Blorg Jorgensson
    November 7, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Dan, it’s amazing to me that you seem to embrace all the positive messages of the scriptures, while you dismiss all of the negative messages as “mistakes of imperfect prophets” or “misinterpretations,” because it’s “not the God you know/worship.” Maybe it’s not the same God because that God hasn’t really been directing Mormon prophets at all.

    We can speculate on how God works thru imperfect, mortal prophets in accordance with their own culture. But the other side of that is that maybe God is just not really there. Apparently, he doesn’t make a discernible difference in the cultures he works with. The ancient Jews would have committed genocide with or without God’s command. The LDS Church would have practiced racial discrimination with or without believing it was God’s will.

    Perhaps it’s not just that prophets are product of their time, but that they are ONLY products of their time, and nothing more. Their culture is so apparent in their interactions with God because those interactions actually only involve their culture.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 7, 2012 at 4:43 pm

      I’m open to their being no God. Certainly something I have in the back of my mind all the time. My experiences that keep me open to things one might term spiritual are dominated by expansiveness, massive energies that seem to come alive in me, with residual effects that mostly manifest as love and the ability to see beauty and depth. No revelation of “there is a God” in that, though these do leave me very open to extrapolating from them to the idea that other beings would have likely had similar experiences, likely have learned to align more fully with these energies and live more easily in such burnings, who as a natural result of that are influential, possibly leading them to communicate some excitement that others were attracted to, leading in some way to having something to do with this earth being such a great place for creating the conditions for whatever we are to explore whatever we are. Don’t need a concept of God to respond to Spirit. I find Mormonism’s view of God a very attractive one, one that has never told me “no, don’t grow, don’t imagine yourself bigger and brighter than you are.” Hence I don’t believe the idea I have of God does me any harm, and instead makes more concrete in my mind what might otherwise be a bit more vague (about expanding/aligning with the energies and seeing where that might lead).

      And, of course, I’ve also imagined prophets in the ways you do here.

      Baseline, and as you seem to get about me when you say “not the God [I] know/worship,” I do judge subjectively. Sometimes these “prophets” and sometimes these “scriptures” seem to push slightly past the boundaries of their culture and into a real connection with Spirit, vibrating with an awareness that I recognize as akin/capturing and tracing the same scent I label as pointing toward largeness/expansiveness. In the Book of Mormon, I occasionally get that whiff in some of what Nephi and Jacob say, a lot in Benjamin, in Ammon and Aaron, Alma, Amulek, Moroni (Mormon’s son), and others. Not very much in Captain Moroni and in parts where Mormon is theologizing (he’s the Bruce R. McConkie of the Book of Mormon trying to nail it all down into a tidy picture–something that I guess some people need/call for–but I am not a big fan). Add in people and ideas I like and don’t like in the Bible and other scriptures. In the end, I just find my life more interesting with these characters as dialogue partners and sometimes guides. Lots of other dialogue partners and guides, too.

      • Blorg Jorgensson
        November 7, 2012 at 7:14 pm

        I guess I’m just perpetually perplexed by people like you remaining affiliated with the church organization. You obviously draw on a much wider array of sources for your inspiration and beliefs than most Mormons do. You recognize not only the imperfection of prophets but the imperfection of their teachings. And yet you still seem to embrace the church structure.

        Maybe you’re in it mostly to help others in the church, because you clearly are not in need of guidance by purported prophets who are repeatedly wrong. And that’s obviously your choice. The best thing about you is that you similarly acknowledge the validity of apostasy and cutting ties from the church.

        I think that’s a very important and laudable difference between you and apologists. You explore every side of everything (in a endless way that nearly maddens me sometimes), remain comfortable with the church, but recognize the many legitimate doubts that push others away from the church. Maybe you’re better than people like me and Brian in that way: you can comprehend our point of view, even if we can’t wrap our head around yours.

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          November 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm

          “Embrace the church structure” might be a bit too broad for me! Overall, I guess I do in the sense that I think lay leadership is an experiment worth keeping on with (though ideally with way more training and attempts to emphasize pure Christian service and Zion/community building over ideology), and I love local congregations with all their benefits even in the face of struggles (“school of love,” baby! how else we gonna learn to be like gods?). But holy hell lots I’d change, especially infusing our messaging with the expectation of adult discipleship and truly owning our own spirituality; church in service of our journeys and not us purely “for” it (maybe this can be handled in part by expanding what the “kingdom of God” means/might mean?). Anyway, I do enjoy my church associations, but it’s definitely not yet the church I want it to be!

          Silence all talk of “better than.” If anything, my guess is I just entered the real journey twenty years before you (and you possibly are getting an earlier start than me!). Time helps. Continued exposure to all sides of things helps. Life “lifing” and teaching us about weaknesses and different kinds of strengths and how weaknesses are often strengths. Reasons to be part of a church/congregation other than just to have rockin’ discussions. My sense is there’s peace ahead if you want to stay engaged. And I’m sure there is still peace ahead if you don’t. Less sure but older dude’s advice anyway: if the latter, be sure you have (or will as you go) at least given the LDS church’s role in your life its fairest evaluation. Find peace with it, even if it ends up being something mostly in your past.


      • Gaido
        December 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm

        “THERE being no God.” Sheesh

  37. Scott
    November 8, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    As a exmormon atheist, it is incredibly nice to hear Brian talking sense to a couple of believers. And Dan, though I disagree with pretty everything you said, my hats off to you for at least listening. That’s more than a lot of Mormons can muster.

  38. Jacob Brown
    November 9, 2012 at 7:27 am

    One of the more interesting podcasts. Sometimes I get bored listening to podcasts where all the talking heads agree and the only thing refreshing is that the talking points are outside the domain of Sunday School at church.

    I’m really not sure what Dan intends to gain by adding a new layer to the story. I think he is saying the racism emerges because the Nephites established a prohibition against marrying with Lamanites. How does this idea sit well with the idea that many OT scholars would argue that the condemnation against inter-faith marriage was written in by the Priestly Redactor after the Babylonian exile? This would mean that the religious significance of not marrying someone outside of the Israelite tradition wouldn’t have really developed until after the “ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America.”

    Shouldn’t we be more careful about anachronistic readings of our sacred texts? That aside, I don’t think it is implausible that any tribal religion or family would feel a tendency to not mix with foreigners. Although, this is not completely obvious considering how much appeal there is to things foreign, whether super models or sports cars. One could argue either way.

    And either way, I don’t see how the prohibition against inter-racial or inter-religious marriages solves the problem of “racism” in the Book of Mormon. The problem is that scripture is suppose to be special text and the Book of Mormon is ostensibly super special. Was God so powerless that he couldn’t keep the stories of cursed black skin out of his specially prepared text? I understand Brian’s argument that “racism” is central to the Book of Mormon story. But I don’t think that is as real show stopper. There are several aspects of the Book of Mormon that can safely be ignored in contemporary Mormon culture without much consequence as any close reader of the Book of Mormon can tell you. And I absolutely hate the idea that Dan is belittling Brian because he takes the Book of Mormon text at face value. Shouldn’t that be the de factor reading of the Book of Mormon? Mormonism is a Literalist tradition. That hasn’t changed, yet.

    I’m not sure why Dan is hung up on (to the point of doing another hour or so on his theory with Brian off the air) reinterpreting the curse as being related to not marrying “non-members”. Can’t we just say it was racism, the book isn’t perfect, and move on?

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 9, 2012 at 10:10 am

      Lots of comments in this discussion section that pertain to most your points, so I won’t repeat them here. Needless to say, I don’t think you’ve caught onto my positions very well, especially in terms of why play the complexifying game in response to Brian’s facile, straw-person reading of both the text itself or Mormon thought on God’s power, revelatory processes, etc., nor your thinking that these are my ways of dealing with the text as ways to hold onto belief in historicity and worries about prophets being wrong. (It is all over Part 2 and also in the comments that I don’t stress historicity or the presence of racism in the text whether it was ancient or the product in some way of JS and nineteenth century attitudes.)

      Very interesting on the priestly redactor possibility making intermarriage concerns too late. Thanks for adding that to the mix! Good to have that kicking around. Don’t know if you remember Jared Anderson in the Patriarchal Blessings episode also raising the idea that it is later writers who propose that the twelve tribes as sons of Israel and brothers from same family as being a big deal at all to anyone was fabricated in an attempt to unify post-exhilic peoples. Fascinating to think about the work of those who put together the text, always!

  39. testy
    November 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm


  40. Milt
    November 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Thank you for posting that. Wow, Dan got his clock cleaned by Brian Dalton. I’m not saying Brian was always right and Dan always wrong, just that Brian did a much better job of articulating his position. Dan would just giggle and complain that Brian was changing the rules and then say that Brian wasn’t interested in really looking at the text. He then got a little condescending and claimed that people who really read scripture, i.e. Dan, disagree with Brian.

    Those are terrible arguments Dan. Don’t just rely on supposed authorities and whine about the rules being changed, MAKE AN ARGUMENT. State your case in a clear and direct manner. Also, this is your podcast, right? You can make the rules. If you don’t like the direction it is going, change it. Talk about what you want. Let Brian make his points, and then address them directly. If you can’t do that then it makes people, rightly, question the strength of your position.

  41. Ron
    November 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Dan continually asks us (both in this episode and in his comments below) to disregard what Mormonism has long taught about God and what His supposed prophets have said about Him in order to excuse the racism of the BoM. The more Dan tries to stretch Mormonism, the more Mormonism simply tears and hemorrhages the authority Joseph Smith tried to claim for it.

  42. Wayne
    November 13, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Why should anyone accept Dan’s view over the explanations of prophets and apostles? Why is this extremely nuanced version of racism in the BoM any more reliable than the standard Church-issue narrative most of us grew up with? And if God isn’t racist, why did he keep changing the bad guys’ skin to dark and the good guys’ skin to white throughout the Book of Mormon? It’s kind of hard to not be racist when God himself invents it as a way to determine who’s moral pure and who’s morally reprobate.

  43. Jack Naneek
    November 19, 2012 at 8:58 am

    It is hard to listen to people who refuse to even try to understand the other sides point of view. Mr. Diety refused to even try to listen to or understand Dan’s point of view. It was painful to listen to. I thought Dan did a very nice job of pointing this out. But, listening is far important than talking in this situations. If we believe that all are God’s children, should we not listen to all. I think God does listen to everyone. God listens, as we know, far more than He talks.

  44. Mike C
    November 21, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Dan, I’ve been busy so just barely finished listening to the podcast. Great job presenting a more nuanced and complex view of religion.

    I came across this yesterday and thought how similar it sounded to what you were describing about the dissociative state–the flow: http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/11/how-the-brain-creates.html

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      Mike C. Awesome. Thanks for the link. Fun to have this tied to those other areas of creativie activity! Definitely think that quieting of the frontal lobe is also going on when Bushman in the MM episode on patriarchal blessings talks about learning to speak in the spirit of prophesy and to not sensor himself when impressions come. Completely fascinating stuff.

      In case interested, in the comments section of the Science and Religion podcast that came after this one, Eric (“JT”) and I are engaged in a discussion about whether all the things that neuro-science is showing in terms of regions of brain activity lighting up or dimming down means information/ideas/creativity is rooted fully within the brain/body or, as James, Whitehead, and others we are talking about suggest, information is also carried at a wider field level, or perhaps everything being part of a single whole (one way of engaging quantum entanglement weirdness), or through morphic resonance/fields that suggest a sort of wider species consciousness, etc. To me, super intriguing stuff!

  45. MulletAndMustache
    November 23, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Ok I know this is late but I just listened to this podcast today. I’m right in the middle of sorting out all of the issues that I didn’t know about the church my entire life so I’m listening to and reading as much information that I can. Also for reference I just listened to the Tom Phillips interview and liked a lot of the arguments that he made.

    Last disclaimer. I’m not a scholar. I like to think of myself as a smart person, but my intelligence is in areas more like mathematics, problem solving, engineering, ect. rather than history, language or things along those lines. So I like to keep things as simple as possible.

    I have a few points I’d like to discuss. Not totally on topic of racism but what was actually talked about in the podcast

    First I’m going to go back to Brian’s point of a transcendent god which also links into what I’m going to talk about later.
    I’ve been taught that God is a god of truth and light. I’ve also been taught that truths are eternal or unchanging. So we can say then that anything God has taught in the past should be just as applicable or true today as it was then. Now we can discount any totally situational messages, but the core or spirit of the message should remain true over all time. I think we should be able to agree on what I just said.

    So where we get into trouble is when there are messages in scripture/doctrine (some people even say details) which over time turn out to be untrue. I think this is what Brian was really trying to get at. So essentially in the LDS church once something is declared by a Prophet or apostle that’s it. It has to say that way for forever. Otherwise that revelation really was not from God.

    If the revelation was not really from God then it was the man declaring it. Which was something you were talking about on the second section of the podcast. You said it’s hard for somebody who’s receiving revelation to differentiate where their biases and will ends and God’s begins. This sounds a lot to me like “The Philosophies of Men Mingled with Scripture”. If a man’s faults can influence the scripture that he’s writing or translating than it’s not the true pure word of God. In the LDS church it’s taught that Book of Mormon is the true word of God. Not the word of God with some Joseph Smith thrown in.

    I don’t mean to attack you personally or way of belief, but if you have to pick and choose which parts of the Book of Mormon to believe and rationalize or ignore the “bad” teachings then something is flawed with the book to begin with. If it was the true word of God, the God of light and truth then shouldn’t the whole thing be true, now and forever?

    This brings me to the “sudden death” situation that Tom Phillips was talking about and Brother Holland. https://www.lds.org/new-era/1995/06/true-or-false?lang=eng

    It’s stated very clearly there, either the Book of Mormon is totally true or the whole thing is a sham. I’m not disputing the fact that the Book of Mormon has truths in it, many books and teaching contain truths but are not true.

    Anyway I had more to say but I’m getting tired and need to go to sleep. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 23, 2012 at 11:37 am

      M&M, Thanks for joining in the conversation.

      As I unpack the religious journey, both in my own life and informed by religious writers across time and traditions, the move is away from “truth” as ideas/claims and toward deep grounding in experiences that enliven us, expand our vision, etc. So while there is a stage at which “this is the way it is” sorts of statements will, of course, be heard and understood at the literal or claim level, life will help us break those down to ask where the power or source or reasons for those claims bubbled up to begin with. And then we find far more compelling the teachings right alongside those others that are less about factual statements and more about processes and entering into the sea of Spirit (or whatever you want to call it) that is the source of the animating energies, the things that got “religion” going in the first place. As such, eventually, “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever” becomes all about trust that God is good, always good, always loving, and that never changes rather than about God is a person, a trinity, gendered, embodied, etc., and there never again arises a worry about this or that statement in something that is quite arbitrarily called “scripture” (soon scripture proves itself against our own experience of the universe and where abundance and “more life” is found). Similarly, “the truth will make you free” becomes the truth about yourself, that you are expansive, eternal, divine, and now what this world and sensory experience and learning a body and language and so much other stuff has led you to believe. But to really “get” this, of course, we have to have a period in which we don’t get it, we have to learn it for ourselves. Knowing in theory can never stack up against knowing in body/being.

      “Philosophies of men mingled with scripture.” Great line. Great truth. Can you imagine that being great and useful as a critique of certain tendencies but there coming a time when all philosophies fade into experiential knowing, when scripture only becomes pointers toward knowing rather than the truth itself? Phil McLemore (who will be on the show in a couple of weeks) wrote in Sunstone recently about there coming a time when both the Apostle Paul and Nephi (referencing Galations 2: 19; 2 Nephi 25:25) say we are able to “easily make choices in harmony with one’s divine nature. At that point . . . the law becomes dead unto us. We have matured and no longer need a code to tell us how to live.” Across religious traditions, across time, bridging east and west, this is where we find convergence. “Ideas” fade and we choose God and godlike lives because it’s who we are.

      I am finding my way past words and ideas as primary, beginning to root more and more in connection with myself as being bigger than my body and mind and all they can do. When centered here, I have no thoughts of “picking and choosing” among scriptures (they simply reveal themselves to me at whatever level I am seeking/ready for–and much of it as very culture and time bound, very human), and things such as the “all or nothing” talk related to Book of Mormon or anything else becomes, like the law of Moses or literalness of mythic stories, dead to me. I recognize where it’s coming from, for what audience it might be appropriate for, and I honor the good intentions behind a leader choosing to say it, but it no longer stresses me out except for how much pain I know it causes so many fellow Latter-day Saints for whom these become another reason to feel marginalized. Hence my joining the podcasting and discussion ranks. I’m trying to say and model how moving from the center is a great thing–to declare from my own experience with help from the things I study that if we’re willing to step into the confusion and trust that there is peace of a whole new magnitude on the other side of the sifting and sorting and new centering processes, we will find it.

      All my best to you in this time of “sorting out all of the issues that I didn’t know about the church my entire life.” The journey (as for everyone in every tradition who tries this) will call for a reorientation in every area and every way possible. My hope is that you’ll never close the door on the tradition of your youth being of help to you. It has the resources and depth when you’re ready to take new steps. And along the way, it offers the chance to keep serving, teaching, and seeing strength and wisdom and divinity pop out from the most unlikely people; it can help you keep your heart engaged at this time when your head is spinning and therefore naturally leading out. (Mormonism is not the only path to this kind of eventual reunification, of course, just an excellent one–especially if you’re already deeply engaged with it. Hope you’ll allow its strengths to show themselves to you.)

  46. Ubik1967
    November 23, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Wow. Amazing. Brian refused to join the intellectual circle jerk. That was cathartic and I felt the spirt indeed!

  47. Gaido
    December 7, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I’m not going to lie. I really wanted to scream at Dan after being such a passive aggressive *^T&%*O&. I don’t think that Brian ever insulted Dan, but Dan kept sending these little mean-hearted comments followed by his old-lady hypocritical laughs. “Oh, well, next time let’s sing a contract, so you will discuss what you said you would.” God, what a baby.

    And the little money begging at the end reminded me to go and give $20 to Mr. Deity. You go, Brian, for not taking any crap.

    • Gaido
      December 7, 2012 at 7:53 pm


  48. Gaido
    December 7, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    So we find out that you’re not banned in the BYU campus after all, and then you delete my comments. Yay, good for you, Dan!

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      December 8, 2012 at 8:20 am

      I see five comments by you (including this one). What ones are being deleted?

  49. James
    December 11, 2012 at 2:17 am

    Who is wagging the tail?

    In my mind Brian Dalton was trying to show that as much as Charley,Dan, apologists FARMS and FAIR don’t run the church. Nuanced views never make it to Conference talks! There will always be frustration arguments and cognitive dissonance until that happens. Apologists like Sunstone, Mormon matters, Mormon stories will always be the tail trying to tell a body that can’t hear you what to do! For the amount of progress made its hardly worth it!

  50. Craig D
    February 10, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    I just recently listened to this podcast. I have to say that Brian’s case was very strong. It seems to me that if the BOM isn’t plain and precious, simple for any simple man to read and understand, then what is the reason to read it? If I have to put my faith in another man’s interpretation, then isn’t god forcing me to trust man to get it straight, rather than reading the simple text for myself. Does this god really put us into a position to follow men to find his true nature. How in the heck could we know which man is correct? I couldn’t help but ask myself when Mr. Wortherspoon alluded to “bringing something” to the text. Is it not true that Mr. Wortherspoon is bringing his own bagage (so to speak). Does he not want to minimize the clearly racist remarks somehow to make it seem like what he accepts is “acceptable.” I think it’s okay to just say, “Yep, it’s a racist remark, god is a racist, he never denied that. He has a chosen people. He has a preference. That’s just the way it is.” Of course I will say, that god is clearly man made. Just some thoughts.

  51. Guest
    March 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Just read through many of your comments to Dan on the racism podcast (w/Brian Dalton). You think and write clearly. Dan obfuscates, both in his responses to your posts and in his dialogue on this podcast with Brian. My head darn near exploded listening to it.

  52. Rebecca Wolford
    September 3, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    I just listened to these podcasts today. I thought I would add an explanation that I received from an institute teacher. This was about 18 years ago, and that institute teacher is now a general authority of the Church. He taught us that in our current version of the Book of Mormon, when it says “skin” it should actually say “skins”. It was a typographical error. I think he said older versions of the Book of Mormon had the word “skins”, but the s had been left off in our latest version. I haven’t researched this, but this is my memory of the lesson he taught some 18 years ago. The significance of this is that whenever the Book of Mormon talks about skins, it is referring to the animal skins that were worn as clothing. So when we read in the Book of Mormon about their skin becoming white after their repentance, what it really means is their skins or their clothing or garments became white. This is how I choose to view these scriptures. My institute teacher also told us that he told this explanation to one of the quorum of the twelve (if I am remembering correctly) and the apostle told him that he was not going to tell him he could not teach this. So that is good enough for me. I definitely wasn’t as eloquent as my teacher, but I wanted to share since no one else has brought this up. I hope it helps.

  53. Diane
    April 5, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    I’m a relatively new convert to the church and I have been listening to
    these podcasts pretty much continually since I discovered them. I love
    Mormon Matters! This episode really blew my mind, though. I kept
    hearing a boxing match bell in my head.

    I am familiar with the
    Mr. Deity podcast. I watched it years ago before I joined this church
    and I thought some of them were very funny. I was surprised when I heard
    Dan introduce Brian because I didn’t read the podcast description. I
    listen while I’m driving.

    I felt angry about religion for many
    years, too. I understand where Brian is coming from, but his anger
    borders on violent. Dan’s description of his comments as “flame
    throwers” was appropriate. There are a few points he makes which require
    a quite a bit of cognitive dissonance, which I think is funny because
    that’s usually what atheists level at theists. In fact, Brian repeatedly
    accused Mormons of ignoring things that weren’t convenient to their
    ability to continue practicing their religion. But here are the thoughts
    that came up for me listening to this podcast.

    1. He says he
    likes Mormons and if he had to choose neighbors he would choose them. He
    says in 27 years he never met a racist Mormon, yet he invalidates the
    entire religion (apparently) based on racist passages in the Book of
    Mormon. All those people he values so much were forged in the culture of
    this religion.

    2. He said he believed the BofM was fiction
    written by Joseph Smith, not by the power of God, and that the racism
    was Joseph’s. That does not mesh with the fact that Joseph Smith
    ordained black men to the priesthood before he was killed. The
    priesthood ban for blacks happened after he died.

    3. He said that
    when he was active, he believed he had the absolute truth. Now he
    thinks what he had was untrue and what he believes now is absolute
    truth. He repeatedly says that he can’t believe anyone would continue to
    believe what he no longer believes. He doesn’t want to peacefully live
    his own new religion-free life, he wants all religion to be wiped from
    the earth with no care of what the consequences of that would be. Things
    are very black and white (no pun intended) for Mr. Dalton. Religion:
    bad. People who are religious: dumb. He cannot imagine that erasing
    religion from society would do anything more than make everyone as happy
    and free as he claims to be.

    4. Lastly, he expressed more than
    once how much easier it is to let religion go. If you have identified
    flaws in the scripture, if things don’t fit together like a 100 piece
    jigsaw puzzle, then you are free to walk away from it all. If it doesn’t
    all make perfect sense, if one can’t find a “work-around” to explain
    confusing things away, then the only option is to chuck the whole mess.
    Dude, life is messy. People are messy. Things are complicated. That kind
    of philosophy makes it hard to survive a marriage, family
    relationships, challenging jobs…heck, anything!

    5. He promoted
    the idea of a closed cannon, even though he was raised Mormon, which
    astonished me. He also never mentioned continuing revelation or personal
    revelation and suggested that if doctrine were to change based on new
    revelation, that would completely invalidate the entire church. He can’t
    have been gone so long he’s forgotten these elements of this religion.

    I had many more thoughts I can’t remember now, but I just wanted to record them here. It seemed the most appropriate place. Thank you for all you do!

  54. September 25, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    A lot of times Dan sounds like he’s laughing while he’s talking. Giggling. I understand.

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