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  1. I have a couple of comments.

    First, is Ron related to Jeffrey Holland, or did they grow up in the same area? They sound so much alike.

    Second, after listening to Part 1 only, it seems to me that what Joseph Smith was doing was the same as psychics do. They claim to hear (in their head) words and phrases that they simply relay to people in this plane. So, are other psychics and mediums accepted by the LDS church? Or do they teach that that is Satanic?

    Also, the test of a psychic is how accurate their words are. For example, in the man who under hypnotism related involved stories that seemed to indicate a past life, it was determined that it was all in his head because there was found to be no basis in fact for the stories he told. So, bearing this in mind, could Joseph Smith be a true prophet since the things he wrote while in that altered state were found to not be true, according to our physical world. (Horse, steel, certain grains etc. that are considered anachronisms.)

    1. Carol – Just to give you my own take on your questions having been a convert to the church since 1955, I have never heard or read anyone suggest that mediums per say are satanic. I cannot speak to all mediums, but just take Theresa Caputo the Long Island Medium as a notable example. She seems to have a gift for positively uplifting people by relating particular events in a person’s life who has passed on to those relatives still living who know of those events. My wife watches the show on occasion, but from what I have seen Theresa never preaches God’s word. I cannot speak for the church, but I would not say that her gift is Satanic.

      As to “Horse, steel, certain grains etc. that are considered anachronisms.”
      Now consider these verses from the book of Moroni:

      13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, everything which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
      47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
      48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

      Are the above words not true because someone has said there were no horses during the time of the Book of Mormon? What is more valuable to you, horses, or “do good continually”?

      As it turns out all the things you have mentioned have been verified to have existed in the Americas before Columbus arrived. Scholars have shown that archeologists have found pre Columbian horse bones in digs and they have thrown them out because they believed that there were no pre-Columbian horses and they thought that the site had been somehow contaminated.
      See: http://en.fairmormon.org/Source:JBMS:10:1:Out_of_the_Dust:Horse_bones_in_Yucatan
      Also ancient barley has been found in southern Arizona.
      Carol I invite you to read the Book of Mormon again and if you adhere to its principles, you will have your won evidence that the book is true. It is really a better way to find out than what changing science may say on any particular day. I wish you the best Carol.

      1. Jim,

        Unfortunately all of the anachronisms Carol mentioned have not been verified to have existed in the Americas. For fairmormon to quote an isolated incident from the 1950’s in one regionalized area of the Americas, is deceptive. Usually when there is an isolated inexplicable bit a material that doesn’t match up with hundreds of thousands of pieces of material evidence in the archaeological record, it is bad science or deception (see piltdown man).

        Run the DNA and you will find that the horses are related to those brought by the Spaniards – not those living in the Pleistocene era. By the way even if such horses managed to live past estimated extinction dates, they would not have sequestered themselves in the Yucatan (see plains grazers and browsers).

  2. Wonderful podcast! Such great insight! Everything discussed helped me so much to “see” things in different ways. I am a happier person because of your wonderful minds and your willingness to share.
    Peace be with you. Thank you all!

  3. Wonderful podcast Dan. Thanks to all that participated, you were all great. I appreciated your perspectives and help in understanding this information, that is new to me.

    I am really struggling with the seer stone because it changes my understanding of the Book of Mormon as being a “translation” of gold plates from an ancient people, to what now appears to be a 19th century modern revelation that Joseph Smith received. The church article coming out in the Ensign is still claiming the Book of Mormon is a translation, but how can they say that if the plates were not used?

    It is hard for me to comprehend, but I appreciated Ann’s comments about people under hypnosis, and having the spirit influence or speak to individuals. Very interesting perspective!

  4. Dan, I loved this discussion. I was very interested in the historical discussion that you were trying to avoid Dan as my understanding has always been that the 116 pages were translated with the Urim and Thummim as well. I thought he initially used the U+T but switched to the brown stone because his eyes grew tired, which suggested to me that there was some image or something in the hand requiring use of optics. I will be researching this.

    I want more Ann Taves and to hear more from her broad background with other modern religous figures. I will certainly be looking into her writings.

  5. When I was about 17-18 I decided to fast and pray on a subject and was determined to get an answer. As a result the fasting went on for several days. At length I had my own personal religious experience, not nearly as dramatic as Joseph Smith’s, but it was similar to what Joseph Smith described as,” When you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas…”
    In this day and age I would use an analogy of a computer. A computer has two ways in which it can communicate; one is serial and the other is parallel. Serial is like when we hear someone speak, and the words stack up in our minds until we from a phrase that we can comprehend. Parallel is when we comprehend something all at once. Parallel is what happened to me and it came in such profundity that I had difficulty in speaking the ideas out in serial (words)

    Having had this experience, I think this answers for me one of Joseph Smith’s statements wherein he said:” I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other-and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism. for the dead” (DC 128:18)

    He too understood the profundity of the subject but had trouble in putting it in to words. There might not have been words to capture what he understood, what he comprehended below the language filter in his head.

  6. Just to be clear from Mark McGee’s MS Thesis there seems to be a confusion over the brown and white seer stones. The 1826 court records are clear in describing TWO stones the brown stone was Joseph’s first stone found 1819 – 1820 in an iron kettle 150 miles north near lake Eerie, and the actual stone found on the Chase property under the cover story of “digging a well” was actually the white/translucent stone “Gazelem”. In Wilford Woodruff’s journal 5:382-383, he says, “the seer stone which Joseph smith first obtained he got in an iron kettle 15 feet under ground.” i.e. the BROWN seer stone. The WHITE stone passed through different hands according to Brigham Young “the second seer stone Dr. Williams had.” and was described as “Silecious granite” by Hosea Stout. Definitely not the banded iron magnetite jasper genesis brown stone released to the public. Also in Brigham Young’s Journal for 27 December 1841, it says that they had a meeting of the twelve apostles and joseph “showed us his seer stone”. i.e. the WHITE gazelem stone found while digging a well, as Oliver Cowdery who possessed the BROWN seer stone had been excommunicated in 1838. According to McGee, “A careful evaluation of all relevant sources, with an emphasis on the most reliable accounts, leads to the conclusion that the stone found in the Chase well was the WHITE seer stone and was Joseph’s second stone.” He then says “Both stones are currently in the possession of the LDS First Presidency.” Question is when will the WHITE seer stone photos be released?

  7. Why is there nobility in a “lifelong wrestle”? I am 50 years old and spent 49 years struggling, justifying and defending. Dan, you always talk about taking 10 or 12 years to finally come to peace. As soon as I allowed myself to ask “what if”, the world finally snapped into focus. Within about 2 days, the whole world finally made sense and for the first time in my life the world became “bigger and more meaningful.” I didn’t have to lose sleep about an omnipotent being doing crappy things–an issue that has vexed philisophers and religious people for centuries. “Shit happens” is a much more satisfying and ultimately peaceful solution. I got rid of my 3′ stack of Mormon books and went to the library and checked out some books on things I have always been interested in–baseball, lighthouses, sailing ships….The list goes on. I am living my “biggest, best, brightest and most abundant life.” Something that was not possible when I spent all of my free time trying to make peace with thngs that I find, in the end, are indefensible.

  8. What a terrific panel and episode! I love Ann Taves’ take on the subject. The question was brought up in part 2 (and a little at the end of part 1) as to why it seems that the church is preferentially treating the mechanical “words appearing on stone” process that Royal Skousen promotes rather than the revelatory, inspired “knowledge” approach that D&C 8 and 9 seem to suggest. I have just a thought of clarification on this:

    The October Ensign article by Turley, Jensen, and Ashurst-Mcgee really doesn’t get into the mechanics one way or another. It really seems to focus more on the cultural setting of folk-magic (although they call it “folk ways”), the Urim and Thummim, and the provenance of the stone that is in the Church’s possession. The Gospel Topics essay, on the other hand, does seem to support the assertion that the Church is promoting the mechanical, word-for-word approach. However, even the Gospel Topics essay leaves a margin of error by prefacing with “According to these accounts, Joseph … read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument.” This is referring primarily to Martin Harris’ description of it. While I do wish that this would have been qualified better (perhaps simply by adding “According to Martin Harris,” I do think that there is still room for the revelatory process described to Cowdery in D&C 8 and 9.

    A mechanical “word-for-word” process is problematic in that it makes it more difficult to come to terms with anachronistic ideas and objects that the Book of Mormon contains. However, where I stumble over the “revelatory” process is in the accounts of Joseph spelling out words that he was unfamiliar with, stopping mid sentence and picking back up again hours or days later without so much as a review of the manuscript (according to Emma), and ideas that were surprising even to him.

    Perhaps this is something we will always struggle with. Perhaps even Smith struggled with understanding himself, as was suggested by the panelists.

    1. I believe you are referring to Emma’s statement in an interview with her son Joseph III as published in The Saints’ Herald, correct? She says,

      “The Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity—I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me for hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him.”

      Can we take her statements in this interview at face value? After all, in the same interview she summarily denies any knowledge of Joseph Smith practicing polygamy. I don’t know all the nuanced details of the situation, but if I’m not mistaken the interview was done for a Reorganized Church publication, which had a vested interest in dispelling the idea that polygamy was introduced by Joseph but maintaining his image as a miraculous translator. It was also given toward the end of her life, long after the translation was done…I personally have to take it with a grain of salt.

      Are there other witnesses that describe Joseph stopping and starting the translation in the same place after interruptions? I’m genuinely curious.

    2. I think the Church is presenting the “word for word” argument, not in support of Skousen, but because that’s what the most credible witness accounts suggest, including accounts from David Whitmer, Joseph Knight, and Ezra Booth, all who likely heard Joseph himself describe the process. D&C 8 and 9 have conventionally been interpreted as supporting a different sort of approach (of studying it out), but that’s probably not the best way to interpret those sections. See my two papers (2016, 2017) at Mormon Interpreter regarding these two topics. Some see the word-for-word approach as problematic relative to anachronisms, but I don’t, as there’s no reason anachronisms cannot legitimately be there in a word-for-word revelation. Also, the most reliable accounts (as well as BoM passage) have the words appearing “in” rather than “on” the instrument. I think it’s our modern preconceptions and unfamiliarity with “folk ways” that lead us to assume “on,” but the difference is important, as the stones were opaque, and that suggests a visionary experience.

  9. Wow. Thanks Dan for bringing these impressive people together for this conversation. Much to ponder. I’ve been pondering these issues for many years now. It is hard for me now to look at the church as I was taught, “the one and ONLY true” church in an exclusive way. I guess I don’t see any faith tradition as being exclusively “the one and only true.”

    I hope the unveiling of this material will cause us –LDS members to have greater humility and less judgmentalism, especially for those who find that their “shelf” has collapsed.

  10. I hear recurring themes: nuance, context, human foibles.

    Our leaders do not “nuance” the fact that if I leave the Church and disavow my temple covenants I will become a son of Perdition, lower than the pond scum on the bottom of Satan’s feet. They present that as pretty doggone literal. They do not “nuance” the “NO” I receive when I want to go see my daughter’s temple wedding, but I do not pay tithing because my shelf is too “full.” They do not allow me “nuance” when I make a comment in Elder’s Quorum about a doctrine or historical point I find troubling. They send the “hit squad” over to my house to tell me, in a nice socially acceptable passive aggressive manner, that I better shut up.

    If you want me to “nuance”, I want them to “nuance”.

    I lived the “context” that our leaders created by the curriculum I was fed as a child, teenager, and even an adult. They created my reality. My formative years did not include nuance. Context was absolute, and the leaders infallible. Looking back, I can only conclude that our leaders were either totally clueless or they, according to their own definition, were dishonest. Either possibility does not speak well for them. When I apply “context” to historical concepts I can understand some behaviors as cultural to a time period, but not all behaviors. Lying is still lying. Adultry is still adultry. Grooming is still grooming. Abuse of power is still abuse of power.

    I was taught all my life that our leaders would never lead us astray. You can argue all you want that the “Church” did not teach that, but it was in the Utah culture and they allowed the perception to go unchecked for decades. Again “honesty”… “omission”. Now, you want me to allow Joseph Smith to be a flawed human. Its acceptable that he lied to the members of the Church, had an over excited libido and used his position to deal with it in predatorial ways, drank liquor and coffee, defrauded members of the Church of their personal money… shall I go on? If such activities were attributed to some modern day TV evangelist, 99.9% of church members would laugh, shrug, and put him immediately on the “obvious fraud” shelf. Joseph Smith was put so high up on a pedestal that his crash down has done unrepairable damage to my trust in church leadership.

    If you want me to accept “human foibles” I want them to accept “human foibles.”

    1. Bakirish,

      I empathize with your statement. Without sounding too critical, I think it is pinch-nosed to provide an after-the-fact analysis as to the wrong ways in which people are trained to think in the church. Those who are fundamentally dedicated to the gospel are regarded with euphemisms such as “spiritual giant” or “humbly obedient” – they are in short set-aside to be the spiritual leaders. But when such people leave because of disappointment/pain, according to this podcast, they were simply gullible, too fanatical, or had misplaced expectations and were not thinking right. So when we stay we are spiritual giants but when we leave we are gullible dopes? If the gospel was never meant to be taken seriously, then why should we take the nuanced version seriously?

      Also, it is patronizing to even suggest that someone would panic and leave the church over some pictures of JS’s sear stone. While that might be the tipping point for some, it is the multi-faceted and problematic nature of the church that causes people to leave.

      1. Hi Tim,

        It took me a few minutes re-reading your comment to finally understand where you are coming from. I think I finally got there, probably.

        Could you clarify this part of the comment, “it is pinch-nosed to provide an after-the-fact analysis as to the wrong ways in which people are trained to think in the church.”? Are you saying that, after having left the Church, we should not be too hard on the members because their behaviors, although taught (“instilled”) by the Church, are not necessarily aligned with the Gospel? And therefore much of what I outlined in my first paragraph is actually “improper” behavior of members?

        “If the gospel was never meant to be taken seriously, then why should we take the nuanced version seriously?” Is this from the point of view of a Post-Mormon? Meaning, adding nuance to an already broken base does not strengthen the base?

  11. Can you list the sources for the Brigham Young quote about “were the Book of Mormon to be translated today” 3-4 decades after it was translated by Joseph Smith that it would be “materially” different?

    1. Post

      Ron Barney sent this along:

      Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is, And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation.

      Journal of Discourses 9:311

  12. Great podcast Dan! I love delving into Joseph’s mindset and trying to account for what may have happened with the interaction between Joseph and the seer stone.

    I’m curious though…do you (or does anyone) know of any good sources that explore the idea of “second sight” or “eyes of understanding”, especially in a Mormon context. If I’m correct, both Martin Harris and Joseph Smith use the second term to describe the even of the witnessing of the BOM plates and the vision of the 1836 Kirtland Temple dedication. I think that understanding second sight or “eyes of understanding” or similar concepts is critical to understanding the First Vision, the visions of Moroni, the revelations….all of it. Do you (or does anyone) know of any sources on this? I’m surprised that neither Quinn nor Vogel go into it. I asked Sandra Tanner about it last month when I was in Utah and she couldn’t think of a source….

  13. One of the speakers mentioned Mozart’s early ability to be able to compose music without having any math training. When it comes to Joseph Smith, was there any early evidence of his talent? I’m no expert, but I can’t remember anything about that. Did he display some characteristic when he was a child that would relate to what he was able to accomplish as an adult? I guess I mean did he have any kind of visionary experience?

  14. I was curious if Ron Barney would respond to this. Were you quoted correctly in Sanjiv Bhattacharya’s book “Secrets and Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy?”

    Sanjiv: So I left the singing missionaries and the endless photographs of Gordon Hinckley among happy black children and I made an appointment with the LDS Church publicity office. Months later, a chipper, corporate looking man named Mike met me in the lobby of the giant church building and led me to a man named Ron Barney, a church historian and apologist of thirty years standing. Ron’s a deliberate man with a round friendly face, but on the day we met, there seemed a certain steeliness about him—he knew what was coming.

    Sanjiv: “So, Ron, the gold plates. In the diorama, Joseph Smith’s just reading them, there’s no peep stone or blanket. It didn’t happen like that, did it?”

    Ron: “Well, no one knows. Joseph never talked about how he received these things.”

    Sanjiv: “But not a single mention of a peep stone?”

    Ron: “I agree he used peep stones. He came from an environment where the practice of magic was pretty common.”

    Sanjiv: “So why not mention it somewhere in Temple Square?”

    Ron: “We’re embarrassed. We’re ashamed that Joseph Smith was involved in that stuff. You ask any of those ladies out there in Temple Square, and they don’t have a clue! But in the historical community we say, ‘Yeah, the evidence is abundant.’”

    *Talking about Polygamy*:

    Sanjiv: “So isn’t the past being edited for present purposes?”

    Ron: “You haven’t been reading what Mormon historians have been saying. We never shy away from it. Never.”

    Sanjiv: “In Temple Square you do.”

    Ron: “Well, that’s the public aspect—people aren’t interested in history, they’re more interested in electronic gadgets and movies and all that stuff.”

    Sanjiv: “So you underplay polygamy because it’s too complicated a subject for most people. It’s best left to historians.”

    Ron: “Correct.”

  15. Just listening to the second part again and interested in Mike Quinn’s take that the leaders knew little about history and in no way were trying to deceive us by some of the inaccuracies taught. How does that jive with Boyd K. Packer saying he doesn’t like historians because they want to tell the truth, and often the truth is not useful. That sounds to me that he knew a lot but he didn’t want the troubling facts out there. Was that honest on his part?

  16. I am a new listener to Mormon Matters and I am so happy that I have found it. I love both parts of this episode. I would love to hear a podcast about how Mormon members who are aware of historical inconsistencies within the church, can honestly and actively participate in church meetings. I struggle with the reactions I get from other church members when I discuss historical matters in church or when I bring up ideas that are inconsistent with the common church world view. I don’t want myself, or my family by connection, to be ostracized for my view, but I also want to create an open environment where others like me can feel safe discussing and learning gospel principles. Any advice would be welcome.

    1. I have found it is very difficult within wards to discuss these matters. It would have to be something initiated by the bishop to work, I believe. You might discuss it with him. Otherwise, if you challenge the traditional view, you will get a lot of push back and be known as one of “those” members who struggles with their testimony. At least that’s been my experience, maybe others have better luck.

  17. Can somebody tell me where I can one of these stones? They sound very useful.

    I thought everybody knew about these stones. We were taught about these decades ago in institute. The Book of Mormon came through direct revelation more than anything else. That’s what we concluded. Same with the book of Abraham.

    Our teacher was a budding egyptologist. We accepted the existence of spirits, mediums, and the like, too.

    Looking forward to listening to the podcast to see what’s new since 30 years ago.

  18. Interesting podcast. I was with you all for the most part until Ron started dismissing those who see the evidence and do not accept Joseph Smith as being those who leave merely over baggage, a twisted nose or being offended. This is a tired old trope and it ignores the very real issues that exist. It also goes against Ron’s own statement about re-adjusting world view’s is a good thing. I suppose Ron meant that people changing their views of Joseph Smith’s translation process is good IF in the end it results in people thinking like him and remaining LDS.

    I also think his suggestion that the members lack of studying Church history is to blame for their lack of understanding of things like the seer stone is convenient and ignores the very real fear many members have of approved sources. I learned about the seer stone in the hat use in treasure digging/scrying about 8 years ago and was repeatedly told by LDS leaders and members that I had been deceived by anti-Mormon material when I talked about it. In addition whether by design or not the LDS leadership the correlated Church has taught recent generations that the only safe place for truth is the Church and it’s leaders — the sources that clearly has the least accurate accounts of Mormon history IMO. How exactly would LDS have found the truths about these things if they followed the counsel they were given? I only found these things by doing things I was told I shouldn’t.

    That said with all due respect I think Ron and Mike give the LDS Church leadership too much of a pass on their treatment of LDS history. Mike knows all too well there are clear cases where the hierarchy has suppressed real and accurate history and thereby sent the message that a full truthful account was not what was wanted. IIRC the basis for Mike’s excommunication was an essay on post-manifesto polygamy containing info now admitted to openly in the Church essays. Dallin H. Oaks talked about the need to do whatever it took to protect Joseph Smith’s reputation and limit the influence of books like Mormon Enigma. Juanita Brooks was nearly brought o a Church over her MMM book and evidence suggests that Joseph Fielding Smith as Church historian had the previously unknown 1832 FV account cut from the letterbook and squirreled away in a personal safe for decades. And if one is inclined to suggest these are all merely isolated incidents I offer Boyd K. Packer’s ‘The Mantle is Greater” talk to see the philosophy behind these actions articulated and in action.

    I agree that much of LDS leadership is ignorant of the more problematic historical issues and I think it is wrong to lay the blame for not knowing LDS history at the Church’s feet. That said I think the Church owns much of the blame and is now suffering the results of not only not teaching it’s members to think but actually suggesting that they let the Church do the thinking for them— and not only in historical matters. That actually in my mind is a far bigger matter than the seer stone or FV accounts.

  19. Thank you.

    Wish I could have heard Ann Taves talk about Muhammed receiving the Koran through revelation. I understand he heard it word by word.

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