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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Vickie Johnson
July 20, 2020 9:44 am

Any chance I could get a PDF file with this?

Robert Bridgstock
June 27, 2018 3:09 am

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 trea­sure of… Read more »

James Allred
February 28, 2016 5:51 am

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
January 18, 2016 12:50 pm

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
December 9, 2015 11:00 am

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
December 8, 2015 4:35 pm

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
Reply to  Gilbert Gripe
December 8, 2015 4:44 pm

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
October 30, 2015 12:23 pm

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

Wes Trexler
Admin
October 26, 2015 8:48 am

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
Reply to  Wes Trexler
November 18, 2015 9:23 pm

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

Wes Trexler
Admin
October 26, 2015 8:46 am

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