The Church was orga­nized in Man­ches­ter, New York, on April 6, 1830. The orig­i­nal name used on that date was actu­al­ly the “Church of Christ.” This was changed in 1834 to “The Church of the Lat­ter Day Saints,” and then changed again in 1838 to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Lat­ter Day Saints” (see Fair­Mor­mon). Joseph Smith Jr., the first Prophet and Pres­i­dent of the Church, claimed that orga­niz­ing the Church was part of the ‘Restora­tion’ of the ancient Church of Jesus Christ to the earth. The Book of Mor­mon is rec­og­nized by Church lead­ers and mem­bers as the ‘key­stone’ of the reli­gion, and as a part of the Canon of Scrip­tures. Oth­er writ­ings were sim­i­lar­ly accept­ed into the Canon dur­ing the Church’s ear­ly years (The Book of Abra­ham, The Book of Moses, and the Doc­trine & Covenants).

The Church makes a vari­ety of claims about itself, its ori­gin and teach­ings, and has sent many thou­sands of Mis­sion­ar­ies through­out the world, to try and con­vince oth­ers that these claims are true. My pur­pose here is to exam­ine these claims, to see if they hold up under scrutiny.

George A. Smith, an ear­ly mem­ber of the Quo­rum of the Twelve Apos­tles (and grand­fa­ther to lat­er Pres­i­dent of the Church, George Albert Smith) said:

If a faith will not bear to be inves­ti­gat­ed; if its preach­ers and pro­fes­sors are afraid to have it exam­ined, their foun­da­tion must be very weak.”
Jour­nal of Dis­cours­es, Vol­ume 14, P. 216

J. Reuben Clark, who served in the Quo­rum of the Twelve, and as a Coun­selor in the First Pres­i­den­cy, stated:

If we have the truth, it can­not be harmed by inves­ti­ga­tion. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”
Quot­ed in J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years, D. Michael Quinn. Brigham Young Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1983, P. 24

James E. Tal­mage, anoth­er past mem­ber of the Quo­rum of the Twelve, and one of the most respect­ed thinkers in Church his­to­ry, said:

The man who can­not lis­ten to an argu­ment which oppos­es his views either has a weak posi­tion or is a weak defend­er of it. No opin­ion that can­not stand dis­cus­sion or crit­i­cism is worth hold­ing. And it has been wise­ly said that the man who knows only half of any ques­tion is worse off than the man who knows noth­ing of it. He is not only one-sided but his par­ti­san­ship soon turns him into an intol­er­ant and a fanat­ic. In gen­er­al it is true that noth­ing which can­not stand up under dis­cus­sion or crit­i­cism is worth defending.”
James E. Tal­mage (Improve­ment Era, Jan­u­ary, 1920, p 204.)

Hugh Nib­ley, some­times con­sid­ered one of the great­est intel­lec­tu­als the Church has ever had, made this statement:

The Book of Mor­mon can and should be test­ed. It invites criticism.”
Hugh Nib­ley, An Approach to the Book of Mor­mon, 1957, P. 13.

It is not my intent to make an exhaus­tive or com­pre­hen­sive list of all of the Church’s claims, and wish to con­cen­trate on the most impor­tant ones, the ones that under­lie the Church’s foundations.

Fur­ther, I wish to address these claims from sev­er­al dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, to pro­vide a more broad­ly-based analy­sis. The three approach­es I will be tak­ing are:

A. Fac­tu­al Claims
B. Epis­te­mo­log­i­cal Con­sid­er­a­tions (or how we know what we think we know)
C. Exam­in­ing the Fruits of the Church in Practice

Series Nav­i­ga­tion: Exam­in­ing Church Claims — Don CohenFac­tu­al Claims »
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