Last week I shared some of my thoughts about the audio recording of a Swedish Fireside meeting where two Mormon Church historians, former seventy Marlin K. Jensen and Richard E. Turley Jr. were sent to Stockholm Sweden to answer the doctrinal and historical questions of a number of Swedish Mormon leaders, most notably, former seventy Hans Mattsson. I will continue at about the one hour and seven minute mark of the two and a half hour meeting. Like last week, the transcript is copied as is, including typos.
Jensen: I love that fact that you’re asking these questions. Thank you. Thank you for feeling that you can do this. I really feel our desire to give you all the answers we have . But when all the answers are given and all the questions are asked… There is a book. There is a book. And when you read the book, when you read Benjamin’s discourses in the book of Mosiah, when you read young Alma in Alma 36 talking about his sins and coming to believe in Christ. When you read Moroni saying that he’ll meet us at the bar of god there’s something there that I stake my life on based on a feeling. Sure I know all of this and yes there are some things that we can’t explain, in fact. But there is the book and there is the spirit of the Lord that we can anchor ourselves in so you might want to add that. I wanted to add that.
Turley: And there’s something historically very remarkable about this book. I write books. I’ve written several and I’m in the process of writing several more. And I have a lot of help and I have a lot of education and it still takes me maybe a hundred drafts sometimes to write a book. Joseph Smith sat down and in roughly 60-90 working days he dictates this book.
EM’s Take: What strikes me about his part of the conversation is that both Jensen and Turley commit the logical fallacy of “Begging the Question.” Instead of answering the questions about how the Book of Mormon was translated VS. revealed and why Smith had to use a hat, they present the Book of Mormon as proof for, you guessed it, the Book of Mormon. Jensen admittedly bases his life on a feeling. Turley quickly adds that there are some historical things about the Book of Mormon, but fails to offer any examples of historical proof.
Folks, this is dangerous. My wife and I once talked to a Mormon who taught history at one of the local universities here in San Antonio. We asked her if she taught her classes to investigate history the same way that her Church tells her to find truth. When she admitted that she didn’t, I expressed my concern over using a method for testing the truthfulness of the most important part of her life when she doesn’t trust that very same method for secular history. It simply doesn’t make any sense to pray about the historicity of an event and take that “answered prayer” as a reason for belief. If there are historical proofs for the Book of Mormon, then present them. Whether or not the Book of Mormonism is from God is another issue, but if the book cannot even be proven to be a work from antiquity, then it does not deserve our faith. An objective faith needs just that, an object. With the Bible we have literally thousands of manuscripts as evidence. Not so with the Book of Mormon. All we have there are golden plates that cannot be seen. We are just supposed to take the word of a man whose face was in a hat and who didn’t even use the supposed golden plates in the “translation” process.
I greatly respect the Swedish response to this.
Swedish Comment: That is amazing. But those are not the questions we want.
EM’s Take: Although the English is a bit broken here, it is still plain to see the frustration the Swedes are having. They want their questions answered, not questions that Jensen and Turley want to address. In light of this Swedish response, Turley’s next comment is humorous at best.
Turley: OK. We’ll move on. I think I answered one and two here pretty concisely. Joseph Smith and his wives. Polyandry.
Swedish Comment: You didn’t say why you present this view? Why does the church present this view? Why doesn’t the church present about the seer stone more efficiently?
EM’s Take: Turley wants to move on, but the Swedes are not satisfied with an answer that Turley deems “concise.” The fundamental question here is not if Smith really used a seer stone with his face in a hat. That is a given. What the Swedes want to know is, why isn’t the Mormon Church honest about this part of its history? Why the nice pictures of the golden plates sitting on a table in plain view when Smith didn’t use this method at all? Turley explains.
Turley: In the early days of the church, they talked about it often. In the second generation, they presented it the way they tell the story, or subsequent generations. Each generation retells the story according to their own circumstances.
Swedish Question: But we are led by revelation, the Church, so I mean, shouldn’t, then, the leaders correct so that not people every generation change the story?
EM’s Take: Excellent response to a bogus explanation. Each generation retells the story according to their own circumstances? Exactly what circumstances would require another generation of Mormons to tell the story of Smith’s “translation” process differently than it supposedly happened? What possibly purpose could there be for changing the details of the story? The only answer I can imagine is that the LDS Church knows that the story is nigh unbelievable to this generation.
Turley then succeeds in changing the subject to Joseph Smith and his polygamy/polyandry. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “polyandry” it is when one woman is married to more than one man. Not only did Joseph Smith marry many unmarried women, he also married other men’s wives.
Turley: Joseph Smith’s wives. Polyandry. This is a very complex subject. This is one we could spend a lot of time on. Let me just answer some basic questions. Did Joseph Smith practice plural marriage? Yes. Many church members don’t know it but the answer is yes. Did Joseph Smith practice polyandry? The answer is yes. Joseph Smith did practice polyandry. How many wives did Joseph Smith have? We’re in the process, as you know, of preparing the papers of Joseph Smith for publication. We hope to include in the papers of Joseph Smith a list of Joseph Smith’s wives based on the best available evidence. So we’ll answer that question in the future. Why did Joseph Smith marry specific people? Which gets to your question about why did he marry the wives of people were already married? That actually boils down to a marriage by marriage statement. And it’s fairly complex but it’s an excellent question. We just don’t have time tonight to answer it, but there are answers.
EM’s Take: As I was listening to this portion of the meeting, I laughed for two reasons. First, this is how Turley comes across to me. “We have flown halfway across the world to answer your questions. These are great questions and there are answers, but we don’t have time to deal with them.” The first question which came to my mind was, “Why do you not have the time to answer questions about Smith’s plural wives? Is it because there were too many of them?” My second question was, “Why not just pick one polyandrous marriage and address that case? What gave Smith the right to marry even just one married woman?” The bad news is that Turley never does answer those questions, but the good news is, he admits that Smith was married to many other women. Some of whom were already married to living men.
Turley’s answer in no way satisfies the Swedish Mormons. Some of them brought up the fact that Smith married girls as young as 14. Others could not understand how a prophet of God could go behind Emma’s back (Smith only legal wive) and marry other men’s wives. This part of the conversation is tense. It gets to the point where one Mormon starts to bear his testimony about how he knows the Church is true even in the face of these unresolved questions. Turley’s next question deals with the Book of Abraham.
Turley: Book of Abraham. Very quickly, let me just say a few things about it very simple. Number 1, again, it was received by revelation. Number 2, we don’t have all the papyrus. We have some fragments, but we don’t have all of them. Number 3, the so called — we’ve seen a lot of studies on the so-called alphabet and grammar book. There’s some excellent research coming out of BYU in the next year that you need to read. That’s all I have time to say about that.
Again, this concept of translation if you look at the 7th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, it’s a translation of a parchment sent up by the apostle john in the new testament. There’s no evidence it was anywhere around Joseph at the time that he translated it. OK, so again, translation is not character for character translation like you and I think about it, OK?
Swedish Question: The church they believe the paper—papyrus are the words of Abraham? Or do they think they are as they are translated now?
Turley: There are lots of theories on that. The church does believe that the book of Abraham is the word of God and if you read the book of Abraham, there are doctrines and principles you will understand that are important to you. That is the church’s position. Exactly how Joseph Smith did it? There are lots of scholarly debates going on about that. But there’s excellent work going on at BYU that should be out in the next year.
EM’s Take: The Book of Abraham was supposedly translated by Smith from an Egyptian papyrus he bought in 1835. Smith claimed that the book was actually written by the Old Testament saint, Abraham. At that time in history no one knew how to translate Egyptian so Smith felt free to make up whatever he wanted. Now that scholars can translate Egyptian, the papyrus that Smith used is recognized to be nothing more than common funerary documents and have nothing to do with Abraham at all. To learn more about this subject, watch the excellent award winning video produced by our good friends at the Institute For Religious Research.
Turley’s response is less than weak. Scholarly debates? Why should there be debates at all and why do they involved BYU scholars? I keep saying it, but who needs scholars if you have prophets, seers and revelators? If the Mormon Church does not have an answer, why not just ask God? If I was a Mormon and I heard this type of response, I would quickly lose faith in my prophets. Faith in the absence of evidence is one thing, but faith in spite of evidence is another issue. Turley promised to have more information “next year.” It is now three years after this fireside. Nothing.
Jensen said something interesting about LDS Church history in the context of Smith’s first vision account.
Jensen: What I want you to know is I think there is some hint of this, there’s some feeling that somehow the leaders of the church have manipulated the church history for some benefit. And I want you to know that is not true. Nor is it true today. There’s never been an attempt to suppress the history of the church or to tell the church’s history in some untrue way to put it into an untrue light to gain some advantage, to gain converts, to gain popularity or acceptance.
EM’s Take: Really? Then please answer this Mr. Jensen. Why do these Swedish Mormons feel deceived and why did they have to research sources outside of the LDS Church to get a more accurate telling of Mormon history? If there is no attempt on the part of the LDS Church to manipulate its own history, I would like to see what it would look like if they ever decided to cover up their history. How would it look any different?
One of the more sensitive topics was about why the Swedish Mormons felt bad after going through Mormon temples.
Swedish Question: Why do we have such a bad feeling when we come to the temple? If the Holy Ghost was there this would give a testimony, you feel good about it, you like to go there again, you feel uplifted. But this is just… (unintelligible) you feel sad, you wonder, what I’ve been deceived, you really have nightmares, at least for a week.
Turley: Again, short answer, the way people react to the temple experience depends on their culture. There are some people in some cultures who go to the temple and they react very positively and there are others who do not.
Swedish Response: Yeah, but if it’s the spirit, it should testify to you if you’re African or Indian, whatever.
EM’s Take: Yet again, another bogus response. I have talked with countless people who have been through the Mormon temple and it is very common to hear them describe dark, confusing and downright scary experiences. Granted, some people have good experiences in the temple, but most I have talked to have opposite feelings. Culture has nothing to do with it. I absolutely love the response by the Swedish Mormon. Culture shouldn’t matter if the Holy Spirit is there. Mormons are taught that the Holy Spirit gives you good feelings so if you feel bad in the temple, something is wrong. To think that the person asking this question is having nightmares about the temple is downright disturbing.
There were many other topics discussed (Adam-God doctrine, Mormon archeology, DNA issues, etc.) during this Fireside and I encourage you to listen to the audio (Part one, part two) as well as reading the transcript. I want to end with how the meeting concluded.
Jensen: I want to thank all of you for coming tonight and I want to thank you for spirit that has been here. Cooperative, friendly, kind spirit that you all brought back. I wondered how this would play out. We prayed that it would play out in a way that would be helpful to everyone here. I hope and pray the spirit been here. I want to thank Brother Turley for a lifetime of study and thought and for being in a position probably as well as anyone in our church to answer these questions tonight. Has he been able to give an answer that has satisfied every one of you on every question? I doubt it. Could we? Could anyone? Could the collective intelligence of Mormonism do that? I don’t know. I doubt it.
EM’s Take: At least we agree on something. Not only do I doubt that the “answers” they provided that evening would satisfy every one of them, I would be surprised if they satisfied any of them. The LDS Church could have saved all of them some time by just sending a letter stating they need to wait another year to get some answers and that they don’t have the time to answer their other questions. Jensen then concluded with a misapplication of the Bible.
Jensen: I want to say to you as the savior said to his disciples after he fed the 5000. And if you remember, they were very happy to have the bread and the water, but then Christ did what he always does with us and that is he tried to take them to a higher level, and most of them left, remember? They walked away when he began to talk about himself as being the bread of life and the living water. And remember his exchange? He turned to his disciples and said, will you leave me also? And what did Peter answer? That’s right. To whom should we go, Lord? For thou hast the words of eternal life. And that’s what I want to say in my final testimony tonight. Where will you go, those of you who have doubts?… President Eyering’s dad who was probably the finest scientist the church has ever produced said once that in science there are contradictions and there are unexplained questions and paradoxes. But he said those things have never caused me to apostatize from my science. And in like manner he said that there may be things about the church that I don’t completely understand. He had what he called shelf issues; issues that he would put on a shelf, that he would suspend judgment on. And sometimes that’s the way we have to handle the very few little things about this church.
EM’s Take: There are two things that bother me about this statement. I will address the second one first. Jensen tells a personal story about President Eyring having doubts and “putting them on a shelf.” In other words, don’t think about it. All cults practice the same “ostrich head in the sand” syndrome. If a problem is too great to handle, they are encouraged to ignore it.
The thing that bothers me most about this statement is that Jensen takes the words of Jesus, which He applies to Himself, and then applies it to Mormonism. A number of Jesus’ disciples left Him because of some hard things that Jesus said. He asks His disciples in John 6:66-69, “Do you want to leave me too?” Peter responds, “To Whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Jensen correctly quotes Peter, but notice how Jensen then changes the focus from “to Whom” to “to where?” Jensen asks, “Where will you go, those of you who have doubts?”
Where will you go? What happened to “To Whom shall you go?” The answer to that question is JESUS! You go to Jesus! If you have doubts about the Mormon Church, you go to Jesus. Mormons cannot conceive of the idea that it is possible to be faithful to Jesus and not stay in the Mormon Church. Contrary to LDS claims, you do not need to join the Mormon Church to get to Jesus. You do that personally.
If by chance, any of the Swedish Mormons are reading this, or any other questioning Mormon for that matter. I want to tell you that First Timothy 2:5 says there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. If I need to go to a Church to get to God, now I have two mediators and one of them is not a man, it is an organization. If we want to get to God, there is only one provision for that. Jesus alone. If you doubt the Mormon Church, come to Jesus. The LDS Church has always been an obstacle anyway.