A Com­pi­la­tion of the Evi­dence Against the LDS Church

Eric Nel­son

Click to Down­load PDF of Entire 13-Essay Series

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 and crit­i­cism is worth defend­ing.”

– James E. Tal­mage –

(quot­ing “The Intol­er­ant Spir­it.” Edi­to­r­i­al. Pitts­burgh Leader. Novem­ber 13, 1919.)

Table of Contents

Intro­duc­tion

Book of Abra­ham

  1. Back­ground
  2. Sus­pi­cions and Con­cerns with BOA Trans­la­tion Emerge
  3. BOA Papyri Redis­cov­ered
  4. BOA Papyri Exposed as Ordi­nary Funer­ary Doc­u­ments
  5. Analy­sis of Joseph Smith’s Trans­la­tion of Fac­sim­i­le 1
  6. Analy­sis of Joseph Smith’s Trans­la­tion of Fac­sim­i­le 2
  7. Analy­sis of Joseph Smith’s Trans­la­tion of Fac­sim­i­le 3
  8. BOA Espous­es Dis­cred­it­ed Views of Sci­ence
  9. BOA Uti­lizes King James Ver­sion Text
  10. BOA Anachro­nisms
  11. Church’s Essay Debunked
  12. Joseph Smith’s Poten­tial Sources for Com­pos­ing the BOA
  13. Addi­tion­al BOA Infor­ma­tion
  14. Con­clu­sions

Kinder­hook Plates

  1. Back­ground
  2. Plates Revealed as Fraud
  3. Ques­tions and Con­cerns
  4. Impli­ca­tions on Joseph Smith’s Role as Prophet and Seer

Book of Mor­mon Trans­la­tion

  1. BOM Trans­lat­ed with a Peep Stone
  2. Church Has Not Accu­rate­ly Taught the BOM Trans­la­tion Process
  3. Urim and Thum­mim Not Used in BOM Trans­la­tion
  4. Gold Plates Not Used Dur­ing BOM Trans­la­tion
  5. Trans­la­tion Time­line Rais­es Addi­tion­al Con­cerns
  6. Trans­la­tion Process Rais­es Trou­bling Ques­tions

Book of Mor­mon

  1. DNA Evi­dence Dis­proves BOM Claims
  2. BOM Errors and Anachro­nisms
  3. No Archae­o­log­i­cal Evi­dence Direct­ly Sup­port­ing BOM
  4. BOM Con­tains KJV Text
  5. BOM Con­tains KJV Trans­la­tion Errors
  6. Sim­i­lar­i­ties with View of the Hebrews
  7. Sim­i­lar­i­ties with The Late War
  8. Sim­i­lar­i­ties with The First Book of Napoleon
  9. Ear­ly BOM Edi­tions Teach Trin­i­ty
  10. BOM Con­flicts with First Vision Account
  11. Implau­si­bil­i­ty of Jared­ite Sto­ry
  12. Author­ship and Divine Ori­gin
  13. Joseph Smith’s Poten­tial Sources for Com­pos­ing the BOM

First Vision

  1. At Least Nine First Vision Accounts
  2. Sum­ma­ry of First Vision Accounts
  3. Dif­fer­ences Among the Accounts
  4. Joseph Smith Nev­er Men­tioned Vision Unil Years Lat­er
  5. Joseph Smith Enhanced First Vision Account to Stave-Off Lead­er­ship Cri­sis
  6. Joseph Smith Taught Trin­i­ty Fol­low­ing First Vision

Priest­hood Restora­tion

  1. Overview
  2. Back­ground
  3. Spe­cif­ic Prob­lems with Priest­hood Restora­tion Account
  4. Arti­cles Dis­cussing Unsup­port­ed Sto­ry of Priest­hood Restora­tion Account

Polygamy/Polyandry

  1. Back­ground
  2. Joseph Smith Prac­ticed Polygamy
  3. Joseph Smith Prac­ticed Polyandry
  4. Infor­ma­tion­al Chart of Joseph Smith’s Doc­u­ment­ed Wives
  5. Evi­dence of Joseph Smith’s Adul­tery
  6. Joseph Smith Prac­ticed Polygamy Pri­or to Alleged Rev­e­la­tion
  7. Ear­ly Polyg­a­mist Unions Not Sanc­tioned Under God’s Laws
  8. Polygamy Con­demned by Rev­e­la­tion
  9. Joseph Smith Was Coer­cive in his Mar­riage Pro­pos­als
  10. Helen Mar Kim­ball (Joseph Smith’s 14-Year-Old Wife)
  11. Joseph Smith had Sex­u­al Rela­tion­ship with Wives
  12. Joseph Smith Repeat­ed­ly Lied About Polygamy
  13. Joseph Smith Mar­ried Women With­out Emma’s Knowl­edge
  14. Bogus Jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for Polygamy
  15. Joseph Smith Vio­lat­ed Revealed Rules Gov­ern­ing Polygamy
  16. Evi­dence of Joseph’s Immoral Pro­pos­al to Jane Law

Book of Mor­mon Wit­ness­es

  1. Overview
  2. Mag­i­cal World­view
  3. Analy­sis of Three Wit­ness­es
  4. Analy­sis of Eight Wit­ness­es
  5. Close Rela­tion­ship Between BOM Wit­ness­es and Joseph Smith
  6. Wit­ness­es Saw Gold Plates Via “Sec­ond Sight”
  7. No Doc­u­ments of Wit­ness­es’ Sig­na­tures
  8. James Strang and the Voree Plates Wit­ness­es
  9. BOM Wit­ness­es and Joseph Smith’s Fam­i­ly Sus­tained Strang as Prophet
  10. Prob­lems with Church’s Reliance on Wit­ness­es
  11. Con­clu­sion

Prophets

  1. Overview
  2. Adam-God The­ol­o­gy
  3. Blood Atone­ment
  4. Polygamy
  5. Race and the Priest­hood
  6. Doc­trine Ver­sus Opin­ion

Tem­ples & Freema­son­ry

  1. Intro­duc­tion
  2. Sim­i­lar­i­ties Between Tem­ple Cer­e­mo­ny and Freema­son­ry Rit­u­als
  3. Mason­ry Devel­oped Dur­ing the Dark Ages
  4. Tem­ple Changes
  5. Pur­pose of Tem­ples
  6. Con­clu­sion

Mis­cel­la­neous Con­cerns

  1. Death Pri­or to the Fall
  2. First Humans
  3. Jared­ite Sto­ry
  4. Noah’s Ark
  5. Oth­er Dis­cred­it­ed Scrip­tur­al Claims
  6. Bizarre Scrip­tur­al Claims and Beliefs

Tes­ti­mo­ny, Truth, and the Holy Ghost

  1. Back­ground
  2. Sim­i­lar Expe­ri­ences in Oth­er Reli­gions
  3. Spir­i­tu­al Feel­ings are Unre­li­able
  4. Feel­ings Change With “New” Infor­ma­tion
  5. Truth Ver­sus Util­i­ty

Introduction

I hope those of you who read this doc­u­ment do not get the wrong idea: I am not leav­ing the Church out of anger, sin, or lazi­ness. I am not leav­ing due to anti-Mor­mon lit­er­a­ture or to pur­sue dif­fer­ent lifestyle choic­es. And I am not leav­ing in hopes of bring­ing oth­ers with me. Rather, I am leav­ing for only one sim­ple rea­son: I no longer believe fun­da­men­tal Church doc­trines.

I real­ize my deci­sion to leave the Church will be both dis­ap­point­ing and painful to my fam­i­ly and friends. In draft­ing this doc­u­ment, it is not my intent to cause addi­tion­al heartache, par­tic­u­lar­ly in light of all that the Church has giv­en me. The Church has mold­ed me into a bet­ter indi­vid­ual, hus­band, and father. It has pro­vid­ed me with life-chang­ing expe­ri­ences and life-long friends. Walk­ing away from the only faith I have ever known feels a lot like leav­ing behind a loy­al friend.

My cri­sis of faith began in 2008. At the time, I was serv­ing as Branch Pres­i­dent. In so doing, I met and coun­seled with many indi­vid­u­als who were strug­gling with their tes­ti­mo­ny. Dur­ing these coun­sel­ing ses­sions, sev­er­al mem­bers raised dif­fi­cult ques­tions about seem­ing­ly obscure doc­trines and cer­tain aspects of church his­to­ry. Ini­tial­ly, I dis­missed these con­cerns and tried to shift their focus to bet­ter-under­stood doc­trines and prin­ci­ples. About that same time, I invit­ed a friend and co-work­er to take the mis­sion­ary dis­cus­sions. He agreed to do so, but sup­ple­ment­ed the dis­cus­sions with his own Inter­net research, which he then con­veyed to me through sev­er­al con­ver­sa­tions. In so doing, my friend raised some of the same con­cerns that I had pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed with var­i­ous branch mem­bers. Once again, I dis­missed these con­cerns as the prod­uct of false, anti-Mor­mon lit­er­a­ture.

At the con­clu­sion of these con­ver­sa­tions, I felt some­what dis­sat­is­fied with the way I han­dled the var­i­ous ques­tions and con­cerns. As a Branch Pres­i­dent, I felt an oblig­a­tion to have answers and insights to gospel ques­tions. I there­fore decid­ed to delve into a research project in order to square­ly address these unre­solved issues.

In the days and weeks that fol­lowed, I stud­ied a vari­ety of LDS sources ful­ly-intend­ing to find answers to my ques­tions. To my sur­prise, how­ev­er, I dis­cov­ered that the con­cerns at issue were both fac­tu­al and legit­i­mate. Although I was secure in my tes­ti­mo­ny, I was shak­en by the fact that I had nev­er heard of these issues. Occa­sion­al­ly, I began to won­der what else I didn’t know about the church. For the first time in my life, I began hav­ing small doubts of my own.

Over the next sev­er­al months, I put my doubts aside and hoped they would sim­ply go away. Or, at the very least, I thought I could dimin­ish the doubts with increased faith and church ser­vice. To my dis­may, my doubts were unre­lent­ing.

As the months mor­phed into years, I fruit­less­ly searched a vari­ety of LDS-friend­ly sources look­ing for answers. Instead, my research both rein­forced my con­cerns and cre­at­ed new ones. In turn, I began feel­ing increas­ing­ly uncom­fort­able at church. Sacra­ment meet­ing talks about Joseph Smith and the ear­ly church no longer rang true. I fre­quent­ly felt inad­e­quate in my call­ing and fraud­u­lent dur­ing priest­hood bless­ings. I felt trapped between what I want­ed to believe and what I was dis­cov­er­ing about my faith.

I tried to cob­ble togeth­er a set of beliefs that could some­how rec­on­cile my faith in the church with the many prob­lem­at­ic aspects of Joseph Smith’s life and church doc­trine. But every time I set­tled on a posi­tion, I dis­cov­ered new cracks in the foun­da­tion.

My cri­sis of faith ini­tial­ly caught me off guard and, in turn, my emo­tions ran the gamut. I felt lone­li­ness, frus­tra­tion, some­thing com­pa­ra­ble to betray­al, sad­ness, con­fu­sion, and hope­less­ness. But I have found peace in my cho­sen path.

I am now com­ing to under­stand that my sto­ry is not unique. In recent years, numer­ous news out­lets have detailed the so-called Mor­mon exo­dus. A recent Reuters arti­cle, Mor­monism Besieged by the Mod­ern Age, quotes Elder Mar­lin K. Jensen, then-Church His­to­ri­an and Gen­er­al Author­i­ty, as say­ing: “Maybe since Kirt­land, we’ve nev­er had a peri­od of — I’ll call it apos­ta­sy, like we’re hav­ing now.” The arti­cle spec­u­lates that this col­lec­tive cri­sis may be attrib­ut­able to an Inter­net-age where the Church’s warts are sub­ject to exam­i­na­tion. Recent research (includ­ing a 3,000 mem­ber sur­vey) indi­cates that the cri­sis may also be attrib­ut­able to the fact that the Church does not ade­quate­ly brace its mem­bers for what they will find upon engag­ing in a thor­ough exam­i­na­tion.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, our dis­cus­sions at church are often an inch deep and a mile wide. We seem to yearn for a sim­ple reli­gion. We nev­er learn in church, for exam­ple, the dif­fer­ences in the var­i­ous First Vision accounts. We nev­er learn that the Book of Abra­ham papyri were dis­cov­ered and ana­lyzed by Egyp­tol­o­gists and ulti­mate­ly trans­lat­ed much dif­fer­ent­ly than by Joseph Smith. We do not talk about the revi­sions to the Book of Mor­mon, the details of Joseph Smith’s polyg­a­mist mar­riages, or the DNA stud­ies impli­cat­ing the Book of Mor­mon. Ques­tions about such top­ics are frowned upon because they are uncom­fort­able. More­over, many mem­bers do not under­stand the force of this “new” infor­ma­tion. Not know­ing how to respond, they react defen­sive­ly. They are inclined to dis­miss much of the evi­dence as anti-Mor­mon. In turn, doubters are often instruct­ed to return to the famil­iar for­mu­la: scrip­tures, prayer, and church atten­dance.

This approach has iso­lat­ed many of us from the rest of the Church and ulti­mate­ly proven unhelp­ful. Part of the prob­lem is that church mem­bers too often believe that faith should not be ques­tioned or exam­ined unless the premise and endgame remains con­stant: the Church is true. I believe quite the oppo­site: an unwill­ing­ness to sub­ject one’s beliefs to rig­or­ous scruti­ny is, inher­ent­ly, a weak­ness of faith.

My acorns of inquiry and doubt did not mature into oak trees of under­stand­ing through prayer and scrip­ture study. On the con­trary, my doubts fes­tered and con­tin­u­al­ly under­mined much of what I want­ed to believe until they even­tu­al­ly became debil­i­tat­ing. Nonethe­less, for sev­er­al years I con­tin­ued exer­cis­ing faith in the Church because I hoped it was true and I didn’t think there was any way to defin­i­tive­ly prove or dis­prove its truth­ful­ness. But as I care­ful­ly stud­ied church his­to­ry and doc­trine, it became appar­ent that cer­tain LDS teach­ings and beliefs are objec­tive­ly false. As these issues added up, I found it increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to trust those aspects of the Church that must be accept­ed by faith alone. A burnt child dreads the fire, so to speak.

My deci­sion to leave the Church is the prod­uct of a five-and-a-half-year jour­ney that includ­ed count­less hours of research, study, and prayer. And now that I have arrived at this point, I feel com­pelled to pro­vide an expla­na­tion for my deci­sion. The fol­low­ing essays ana­lyze the evi­dence under­min­ing both the Church and my once flour­ish­ing tes­ti­mo­ny. I have com­piled the fol­low­ing infor­ma­tion from many sources (most of which would be con­sid­ered friend­ly to the Church) and, in many instances, copied with­out attri­bu­tion. [1]

I real­ize that many of my loved ones will nev­er agree with my deci­sion to leave the Church, but I hope those who read through these essays can come to appre­ci­ate the depth of my doubts, the sin­cer­i­ty of my search, and my ratio­nale in part­ing from a faith that has, despite my heart­felt efforts, proven elu­sive.


  1. I ini­tial­ly dis­cov­ered a great deal of the infor­ma­tion con­tained in this doc­u­ment while read­ing books, essays, and arti­cles writ­ten by LDS authors (includ­ing Richard Bush­man, Ter­ryl Givens, B.H. Roberts, Todd Comp­ton, Michael Ash, etc.) or authors who are viewed cred­i­bly with­in the LDS com­mu­ni­ty (includ­ing Grant Palmer, Simon Souther­ton, Charles Lar­son, etc.). How­ev­er, I ulti­mate­ly relied heav­i­ly on Jere­my Run­nels’ Let­ter to a CES Direc­tor and mor​mon​think​.com dur­ing the draft­ing process, as these sources (1) were avail­able online, (2) quot­ed many of the LDS sources I had read pre­vi­ous­ly, and (3) con­tained infor­ma­tion that I was large­ly able to ver­i­fy with LDS-friend­ly sources. In so doing, I essen­tial­ly uti­lized Run­nels’ letter/outline as the foun­da­tion for this doc­u­ment; I mod­i­fied much of the word­ing and some of the issues, dis­card­ed aspects that did not cause me con­cern, and sup­ple­ment­ed and added infor­ma­tion relat­ing to aspects that I deemed most prob­lem­at­ic.
Series Nav­i­ga­tion: Leav­ing the Church — Eric Nel­sonLeav­ing the Church, Part 2 — Book of Abra­ham »

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Robert Bridgstock

Dear Eric, Read­ing your intro­duc­tion remind­ed me of my jour­ney out of Mor­monism. Like you, I was also in a posi­tion of impor­tant lead­er­ship back in 1970 when I first began to have seri­ous doubts. I was the bish­op for 3 years before being released (by request). The trou­ble was, the Inter­net and its com­mon use, was not in exis­tence, so for years I strug­gled — even became a branch pres­i­dent lat­er in life for anoth­er 3 years! For so long I prayed, fast­ed read wide­ly as well as stayed faith­ful, but doubts remained and grad­u­al­ly became strong enough to stand alone and open­ly ques­tion author­i­ty. That was when ‘pride’ was so often the label attached to me, for dar­ing to have an opin­ion con­trary to the prophets. I wrote a book about it, which pret­ty much summed-up my emo­tion­al cri­sis and rea­sons for leav­ing. Thank you for such a… Read more »

Eric Nelson
Eric Nelson

Thank you so very much for the kind words, Robert.

James Allred

This is so nice­ly writ­ten Eric. I real­ly like how you have expressed your­self and described your jour­ney. I have had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to rub shoul­ders and some­times break bread with some of the best peo­ple in the world who have gone through sim­i­lar jour­neys. Your jour­ney sounds very sim­i­lar to many of them. You and they were very sin­cere mem­bers of the church just try­ing to do your best and live lives of integri­ty. I am often sad­dened in my mor­mon cir­cles when I hear dis­parag­ing com­ments about those who “lose their faith”. It is real­ly hard for tra­di­tion­al mor­mons to real­ly wrap their heads around that sin­cere, hon­est peo­ple can come to a posi­tion on faith that is dia­met­ri­cal­ly opposed to theirs. Hence, they feel the need to demo­nize the oth­ers. You are one more exam­ple that this ten­den­cy amongst mor­mons to demo­nize the oth­ers is not jus­ti­fied.… Read more »

James Wilson

Eric, any way I could get a PDF ver­sion of all the essays in one place with a dif­fer­ent title? I would love to read this with some close fam­i­ly mem­bers, but the phrase “a com­pi­la­tion of evi­dence against the LDS Church” will scare them away.

I under­stand ful­ly that your title is 100% accu­rate as this is not a com­pi­la­tion of evi­dences against and for the Church, so I would lim­it dis­tri­b­u­tion to my fam­i­ly mem­bers only in order to avoid mis­lead­ing any­one else who reads it and calls you out for being one sided.

Ex Mo Forever
Ex Mo Forever

wow you hit the nail on the head in alot of ways for me in the first para­graph —-“I hope those of you who read this doc­u­ment do not get the wrong idea: I am not leav­ing the Church out of anger, sin, or lazi­ness. I am not leav­ing due to anti-Mor­mon lit­er­a­ture or to pur­sue dif­fer­ent lifestyle choic­es. And I am not leav­ing in hopes of bring­ing oth­ers with me. Rather, I am leav­ing for only one sim­ple rea­son: I no longer believe fun­da­men­tal Church doc­trines.”. When i final­ly let “friends” in the church know i was leav­ing they list­ed off sev­er­al of those rea­sons. I was accused of being too eas­i­ly offend­ed and my head was filled with anti mor­mon pro­ga­gan­da. When i list­ed in a very long email some of the doc­tri­nal and his­tor­i­cal rea­sons for leav­ing the church my friends refused to address them. I was… Read more »

Gilbert Gripe
Gilbert Gripe

I always felt that it was telling, that the church did not go pub­lic with the prac­tice of polygamy until AFTER Oliv­er Cow­dery had died of TB. He was excom­mu­ni­cat­ed in 1838. One of the counts against him was accus­ing Joseph of adul­tery in regards to Joseph’s ear­li­est plur­al cou­plings.

Gilbert Gripe
Gilbert Gripe

The point I’m hint­ing at, is Oliv­er is the only sup­posed wit­ness to the seal­ing keys. D&C 132 inter­twines seal­ing with polygamy. Seal­ings were intro­duced secret­ly with spir­i­tu­al wifery in 1841 to select mem­bers, 5 years after the vis­i­ta­tion at the Kirt­land Tem­ple, and after Oliv­er was excom­mu­ni­cat­ed from the church and threat­ened with “exter­mi­na­tion”.

By keep­ing the rev­e­la­tion secret, Cow­dery was denied the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­firm or deny the rev­e­la­tion.

CosmicEgghead

Why are these very con­cise cas­es for inves­ti­gat­ing “truths” always ignored by those who pro­mote these “truths”?

Wes Trexler

I find it inter­est­ing that you and I both felt it crit­i­cal to point out that offense/anger, sin, and lazi­ness are not the cause.
It is such a per­va­sive assump­tion among the mem­bers and lead­ers.

LLS
LLS

I includ­ed the exact same thing in the let­ter to my fam­i­ly.

Wes Trexler

This is a great Tal­mage quote — I hadn’t heard it before. Do you know where it was said, Eric?