This is a very short sum­ma­ry of what I view as the 5 most impor­tant facts in under­stand­ing alter­na­tive mod­els for LDS truth claims. To the best of my knowl­edge, every point made in this doc­u­ment is accept­ed as fac­tu­al by both LDS and non-LDS schol­ars (please cor­rect me if I am mis­tak­en and I will alter the doc­u­ment).1

1. The 3rd facsimile is incorrectly translated

Joseph Smith mis-trans­lat­ed the char­ac­ters above the heads of the fig­ures in the third facsimile.

Joseph refers to Egypt­ian char­ac­ters in spe­cif­ic loca­tions on fac­sim­i­le 3 and he gives a trans­la­tion. This trans­la­tion does not match the trans­la­tion made by BYU schol­ars. The Book of Abra­ham lds​.org essay gen­er­al­ly admits “the char­ac­ters on the frag­ments do not match the trans­la­tion giv­en in the book of Abraham.”


2. The Book of Mormon is packed with 19th century ideas

In a recent inter­view, the well-known Mor­mon his­to­ri­an Richard Bush­man stated:

… there is phras­ing every­where [in the Book of Mor­mon], long phras­es, that if you google them you will find them in 19th cen­tu­ry writ­ings. The the­ol­o­gy of the Book of Mor­mon is very much 19th cen­tu­ry the­ol­o­gy, and it reads like a 19th cen­tu­ry under­stand­ing of the Hebrew Bible … 

By any mea­sure the Book of Mor­mon con­tains an immense num­ber of ideas, phras­es, and the­ol­o­gy com­mon to the ear­ly nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. Here are two exam­ples of many:


See Book of Mor­mon par­al­lels to 1800s thought

3. Spiritual confirmations are common to members of many religions

Mem­bers inter­pret spir­i­tu­al expe­ri­ences as a con­fir­ma­tion that their faith is true. But these con­fir­ma­tions are com­mon to mem­bers of many faiths (e.g., Judaism, Catholi­cism, Sev­enth Day Adven­tist, Sci­en­tol­ogy, Islam, and Divine Truth), many of which hold cen­tral tenets that flat­ly con­tra­dict core LDS doctrines.


4. LDS leaders taught that the Priesthood/Temple ban was divine

A 1949 First Pres­i­den­cy state­ment declared:

The atti­tude of the Church with ref­er­ence to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a mat­ter of the dec­la­ra­tion of a pol­i­cy but of direct com­mand­ment from the Lord… 

And a 1969 First Pres­i­den­cy let­ter stated:

Our liv­ing prophet, Pres­i­dent David O. McK­ay, has said, “The seem­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion by the Church toward the Negro is not some­thing which orig­i­nat­ed with man; but goes back into the begin­ning with God…Revelation assures us that this plan ante­dates man’s mor­tal exis­tence, extend­ing back to man’s pre­ex­is­tent state.” 

The Lowry Nel­son let­ters and the Stew­art Udall let­ters demon­strate the unwa­ver­ing con­fi­dence Church lead­ers of that time had in the divin­i­ty of the Black Priesthood/Temple ban and the doc­trines and teach­ings sup­port­ing it as well as the man­ner in which dis­sent may be treat­ed in the Church.


5. Joseph Smith’s polygamy is ethically problematic

Near­ly all LDS schol­ars acknowl­edge that Joseph Smith was mar­ried to at least 33 wives, 11 of whom were already legal­ly mar­ried to oth­er men. The man­ner in which Joseph Smith prac­ticed and spoke about polygamy was decep­tive2 and at least some of his pro­pos­als would like­ly be viewed as involv­ing undue influ­ence accord­ing to mod­ern eth­i­cal stan­dards.3

In a recent inter­view, the most faith­ful LDS apol­o­gists on polygamy recount­ed the feel­ings of review­ers of their recent book on the top­ic: “At the end of the book [the book review­er] didn’t get a warm fuzzy feel­ing and that’s not real­ly some­thing we think we can deliv­er with this topic.”


More Complete Analyses

See Prob­lem Sum­maries: resources dis­cussing LDS-truth claims

  1. Bri­an Hales very cur­so­ri­ly respond­ed to this doc­u­ment; Here is my response to his cur­so­ry thoughts. I have altered the pre­sen­ta­tion of a few points based on this and oth­er exchanges and appre­ci­ate his feed­back.

  2. The word “decep­tive” was cho­sen because it is the most pre­cise word to describe Joseph Smith’s polygamy denials.

  3. See The Bel­mont Report on Eth­i­cal Prin­ci­ples and Guide­lines for the Pro­tec­tion of Human Sub­jects of Research for a dis­cus­sion of what typ­i­cal­ly con­sti­tutes “undue influ­ence.”

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August 3, 2017 2:03 pm

[…] Five Key Facts (~ 1 page) […]

Wes T
July 23, 2017 7:51 pm

Such a great sum­ma­ry of some of the most seri­ous and clear issues. Thanks for sharing!

Jeff Burr
October 12, 2016 1:54 pm

Good stuff! Thanks for sharing!

October 11, 2016 4:20 pm

Thank you for your infor­ma­tion on Race and the Priest­hood. As a dece­dent of David King Udall, my great grand­fa­ther and also Stew­art Udall ‘s father. I was enlight­ened about his amaz­ing courage he had to fight for equal­i­ty for African Amer­i­cans. I was always lead to believe he was an apos­tate or in my blind­ed vision a very bad man. So sad I at the age of 51 believed those sug­ges­tions. He real­ly now in my mind was not the bad guy of my fam­i­ly tree but real­ly a hero. Thanks