A Compilation of the Evidence Against the LDS Church

Eric Nelson

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“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 mormonthink.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.
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