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Mormonism 201 (Book of Mormon): Response to Michael Ash

Response to Michael Ash
Rejoinder by Lane A. Thuet


In his review of the eighth chapter of  Mormonism 101, Michael Ash states, “Like nearly all other anti-Mormons, McKeever and Johnson constantly attempt to force their own version of LDS doctrine on their readers rather than letting ‘official’ LDS doctrine speak for itself.” He goes on to state that McKeever and Johnson “…define LDS doctrine in ways that makes them easier to attack.”

In reading Mormonism 101, however, we do not see support for this claim. McKeever and Johnson only discuss LDS doctrine as it has been expounded and explained by the LDS leaders and writers. They support all their claims with references to these explanations throughout their text, so Ash’s comment is without any foundation at all. If Ash had actually shown that the doctrines discussed by McKeever and Johnson were incorrect, then he would have a point.  But he never does this. All he really proves is that he personally does not believe the doctrines as defined by LDS leaders, which is a common thread among the writers at FAIR (and FARMS for that matter). The only issue Ash has, then, is with the leaders of his own church and not with McKeever and Johnson, who simply comment upon what those leaders have said.

Ash even verifies this when he tells us that McKeever and Johnson build their claims by “citing one or more LDS figures, as if such statements represent official LDS doctrine.” Of the 24 people quoted in this chapter, the six most often cited were presidents of the Mormon Church. Three were witnesses to the Book of Mormon, one of whom also served as assistant church president to Joseph Smith, Jr. Four were apostles in the LDS Church. Two of them (one of the presidents is included here) were official LDS Church historians. Two quotes were from publications sanctioned by the Mormon leadership. One was from the official LDS Church publication Gospel Principles. Three were from BYU professors.

Now, honestly, does Ash expect anyone to believe that the LDS Church presidents, apostles, and historians – the ones quoted to establish all the official LDS doctrines in this chapter – do not give us “official LDS doctrine”? To suggest so shows unbelievable arrogance on the part of Ash. It also demonstrates that he has little or no regard for the leadership of his own church.

Even if McKeever and Johnson had not quoted from these obvious authorities of the LDS Church, the question remains – if the majority of the LDS Church membership understands a doctrine to mean something, wouldn’t they know better than non-Mormon writers? The answer has to be, yes!  Why would it be wrong, then, to quote from LDS members? They have learned the doctrine from the Church leadership in order to establish what they believe, so their understanding would represent, for the most part, what the current stand of the LDS Church would be. The problem, once again, is that Ash personally does not believe in the LDS doctrines, though he wants to defend the existence of the church.

As already demonstrated, McKeever and Johnson quoted the divinely inspired leadership of the Mormon Church to establish their claims, not just mere “LDS figures.”  Most of the men quoted are the ones who determine what official LDS doctrine is.

At the end of his opening remarks, Ash immediately knocks down the long-held LDS teaching that the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon are the ancestors of the American Indians. Ash claims that this is merely speculation of some Mormon members, and an incorrect one in his own opinion. He goes on to say, “It can hardly be called official doctrine.”  Yet printed in the introduction to every Book of Mormon since 1981 is a brief synopsis of its teachings regarding “…the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” This introduction is sanctioned by the LDS leadership and officially printed by the LDS Church itself. This means that it is the official stand and teaching of the leadership of the LDS Church. It is not speculation. And if Ash has a problem with it, then his complaint is once again with the leadership of the Church, not with McKeever and Johnson, who correctly pointed out the LDS doctrine on the subject.

“Translating” the Book of Mormon

Ash spends a lot of time in this section talking in circles to try and confuse his readers. McKeever and Johnson showed how Joseph Smith used a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon instead of using the “Urim and Thummim,” as the LDS Church asserts publicly. Ash’s main argument is that McKeever and Johnson “present this information in a manner that implies that the LDS Church has been concealing this fact.” First off, nowhere in Mormonism 101 is it ever charged that the LDS Church has been trying to conceal this fact. But the fact of the matter is that they publish a very different description to the world of how the Book of Mormon came to be.

The “Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith” is located at the front of every Book of Mormon. It states that there was “the Urim and Thummim – deposited with the (golden) plates…and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book (of Mormon).” A portion of Smith’s history is found in the Pearl of Great Price. In that history, he asserts the same information as found in his testimony from the Book of Mormon, adding that “by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them (characters from the golden plates).” Nowhere in his testimony is a reference ever made to a seer stone in connection with the translation of the Book of Mormon. In the LDS pamphlet The Prophet Joseph Smith’s Testimony, the same information is found. Again, there is no reference to a seer stone. Likewise, in the official History of the Church, no mention is made of a seer stone being used to translate the Book of Mormon. Indeed, in volume 1, which comprises the history of the Mormon Church from its inception until May of 1834, the only mention of a seer stone is to one which belonged to Hiram Page, and his use of that stone and the “revelations” he received from it are heartily condemned there.

The evidence shows that while the LDS Church leaders may not be specifically trying to “conceal” the fact, they are not even listing it honestly as a possibility. They are remaining silent about the fact, which leaves no other alternative but for the general public to believe the translation was done through the Urim and Thummim. Only if the readers are familiar with the fact that Joseph Smith was said to have used a seer stone would they have any indication that this was how theBook of Mormon was translated. The silence of the LDS Church when advertising this process, then, is what implies that information is being concealed.

On this point, Ash makes reference to McKeever and Johnson’s comment that Joseph Fielding Smith denied that a “seer stone” was used in the translation process of the Book of Mormon. Yet if we look at the line printed right in the text taken from Joseph Fielding Smith’s book, we see that it says, “The information is all hearsay, and personally, I do not believe that this stone was used for this purpose. I think it is quite obvious that this man denied the stone was used. Ash’s argument is that McKeever and Johnson did not continue further in Smith’s book, where he says that the seer stone “may have been” used. But Ash does not continue beyond those words where Smith clarified further, once again, that he did not think it likely to be more than a rumor: “It may have been so, but it is so easy for a story of this kind to be circulated due to the fact that the Prophet did possess a seer stone, which he may have used for some other purposes.” Smith did say “it may have been,” but that does not outweigh his direct statement that “I do not believe that this stone was used for this purpose.” In spite of President Smith’s belief to the contrary, the evidence is clear that Joseph Smith, Jr. did use the seer stone for the purpose of translating the Book of Mormon.

Ash then takes issue with semantics, which is a very common Mormon apologist tactic. If something proves to be a problem, the game is to just redefine words and make them mean something different than what the common interpretation of the words would be. This is why we so often find an appendix listing LDS words and their definitions in books that deal with Mormonism. Ash does it here when McKeever and Johnson correctly point out that the Urim & Thummim mentioned in the Bible were used for “revelation” but not used “for translation purposes.”  Ash’s argument is that the Urim and Thummim were used by Smith to translate by “revelation,” so it still fits the biblical description. The Bible never implies that the Urim and Thummim were ever used – even by means of revelation – to translate anything from an unknown language into a known language. Nowhere in the Bible do we see the item used in the way that Joseph Smith, Jr. claimed he used it: to translate the Book of Mormon from the golden plates.

Note, however, that Ash never does give any examples that the Urim and Thummim were ever used in such a manner. He simply derides McKeever and Johnson because they mentioned this fact in a footnote rather than in the main body of the text. He states, “Perhaps even McKeever and Johnson didn’t believe that their audience was so gullible as to believe their accusation, hence the claim was put in a footnote rather than the main body of text.” If this statement is to be taken as Ash intended, then we can automatically conclude that all the comments he made in his footnotes of the rebuttal fall into the same category. The fact of the matter is that the “accusation” made by McKeever and Johnson in their footnote was simply a statement of fact, which Ash – you will notice – never proves to be incorrect.

The Book of Mormon Witnesses

In this section, Ash took five pages to basically say that the witnesses to the Book of Mormon never denied their testimonies. McKeever and Johnson never said nor implied that they ever did, a fact that even Ash himself admitted to in his article. They simply took a critical look at the characters of these men.  After all, if the men were dishonest or generally untrustworthy, then their statements are not very reliable, regardless if they ever denied their testimonies.

It is hard to tell what Ash’s main argument in this section is. Apparently it is that if these witnesses were the types of men indicated, they should have denied their testimonies. Since they didn’t, he implies that the testimonies are trustworthy, regardless of the character of the men. Again, Ash is talking in a circle. McKeever and Johnson were not concerned about the fact that these men never denied their testimonies. They were concerned with what kind of men they were, so readers could judge for themselves just how reliable their testimonies are.

Oliver Cowdery

Mormonism 101 summarized the major points of Cowdery’s character, which show him to be an adulterer, a liar, a dishonest man, and a false teacher. Ash never denied these facts nor gave any proof to the contrary. Therefore, we can accept that Ash must agree with the statements made about Cowdery’s character, or at least that the statements were accurate. Certainly he would have said so if he disagreed or had any proof to the contrary.

Ash’s main argument about this witness was to take issue with the fact that he joined the Methodist Church. McKeever and Johnson point to the official LDS scripture that teaches that all churches in Joseph Smith’s time were “all wrong” and that their “creeds were an abomination” and their professors “all corrupt.” Why, they ask, would Cowdery then join one if he really believed in Joseph Smith’s teachings?

What is Ash’s argument here? “Nowhere does this verse state that Methodism, or any other denomination, is ‘condemned of God.'” What, really, does Ash think is meant by them being “all wrong,” “abomination” and “corrupt,” if it doesn’t mean that these churches are condemned of God? It needs to be remembered that it was supposedly Jesus who condemned these churches in the vision account.

In his Pearl of Great Price Commentary on this passage, LDS Seventy Milton R. Hunter quoted Apostle Bruce McConkie who wrote, “Joseph asks which of all the sects is right and which he should join. The word that comes back from the Son of God causes the very pillars of Christendom to totter and sway. Joseph is to ‘join none of them,’ for they are ‘all wrong.’ Some words are spoken about creeds that are an abomination in the Lord’s sight and about professors of religion who are corrupt and whose hearts are far removed from divine standards. Thus is ushered in the dispensation of the fulness of times; it comes in a day when all churches are false; it is a day in which Satan has power over his own dominions.” Even the LDS temple ceremony prior to 10 April 1990 had a section that declared how all Christian pastors were employees of Satan.

The very basis of the Mormon Church is that the true church of Jesus Christ was not to be found on the earth and therefore needed to be restored. If Ash meant to imply that some denominations (such as Methodism) were not “condemned by God,” then he will need to take issue with the foundational belief of Mormonism. If any church on the earth at that time was correct and not condemned, then Jesus lied in the First Vision. Either that, or Joseph Smith lied when he claimed Jesus said such things.

Ultimately, this point is completely irrelevant. Ash is just trying to distract the reader to cloud the issue.  According to LDS sources, Oliver Cowdery was an adulterer, a liar, a dishonest person, and a false teacher. Again, Ash never denies these accusations. Why would anyone accept the testimony of such a man? Any reasonable person would not accept his testimony as sure proof of anything.

David Whitmer

As McKeever and Johnson wrote in their chapter about this witness, Whitmer later testified that God told him how Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet and that Whitmer was to separate himself from that church. This fact creates a problem for Mormon apologists like Ash. He needs the reader to not question Whitmer’s testimony concerning the Book of Mormon. But he also needs them to ignore completely Whitmer’s later testimony about Joseph Smith and the LDS Church. In order to try and do this, Ash goes into a long discourse about how, in his opinion, Whitmer did not treat the two “experiences” equally.

Does he provide any proof of this? Nothing more than how many times each “experience” was spoken about by Whitmer. Any thinking person would expect this, however, because Whitmer had testified about the Book of Mormon for many years, then received his other recorded vision later in life. Clearly, there would be more references to the first vision. This does not nullify the truthfulness of either experience, a fact Ash apparently fails to recognize.

So Ash then proceeds to try and discredit the later testimony of Whitmer by stating over and over again his own (Ash’s) personal opinion. He starts by calling the experience “whatever came to David Whitmer,” as if trying to rename the experience will lessen its credibility. He goes on to say that Whitmer “could have” had this experience because he was just upset; or that he “may have only felt” that God spoke to him because he was indignant. He then says the experience could have come about “if he gave way” to his anger, thereby giving “Satan” the chance to “deceive him.” He finally said this later revelation “might fall” into the category of false revelation.

“Whatever,” “could have,” “may have,” “if,” and “might” – these are the very poignant arguments that Ash has for his case.   That is not a very scholarly approach to the subject. What it means is that Ash has no proof, but he wants readers to believe his version anyway. Let’s assume, for a moment, that we were to buy into this diatribe about Whitmer’s second “experience.”  What, then, is to keep us from assuming the very same things about his first “experience” regarding theBook of Mormon? After all, if Whitmer was able to be so deceived by his second experience, then he was certainly liable to be so deceived by his first one.

We can’t have one without the other. We either must take both of Whitmer’s testimonies as true (which Ash can’t have us believe, because it means Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet and that Mormonism—or at least what he taught after his fall—is questionable) or else we have to take both testimonies as false (which Ash also can’t have us believe because it means the first testimony was not valid). I feel badly for Ash being between a rock and a hard spot here. Should we believe Whitmer or not?  We honestly can’t tell, judging by the evidence. And the situation is worse if we accept Ash’s personal opinions about the character of the Book of Mormon witness. Either way it destroys any value to Whitmer’s testimony.

Ash must have seen the weakness of his argument because he then spends another whole page redirecting his argument to the fact that Whitmer never denied his original testimony. But McKeever and Johnson never said nor implied that he did. They simply questioned his character, which was—just as with the first witness—smudged by the Mormons themselves who knew him. Regardless of the fact that he never denied his testimony, Joseph Smith said he was “a dumb ass,”“mean man” and a person who “Satan deceiveth.” Once again, Ash never proves these assertions to be incorrect in any way. Why should anyone, then, accept the testimony of such a man?

Martin Harris

McKeever and Johnson quote from the History of the Church where it is recorded that Martin Harris had said, “Joseph drank too much liquor while translating the Book of Mormon.” Ash points out the next paragraph in the History of the Church where it is stated, “Brother Harris did not tell Esq. Russell that Brother Joseph drank too much liquor while translating the Book of Mormon, but this thing occurred previous to the translating of the Book; he confessed that his mind was darkened, and that he had said many things inadvertently, calculated to wound the feelings of his brethren, and promised to do better.”

This entry is recorded in the History of the Church under the date of 9 February 1834. When the original journal entry is checked, however, nothing was recorded between the dates of 31 January 1834 and 26 February 1834. The information printed for this date in the History of the Church, then, must have come from somewhere else. Upon researching further, I believe the entry was originally taken from the Kirtland Council Minute Book, where the same information is found nearly word for word, though under the date of 12 February 1834.

The difference in dates, though conspicuous, is not important to our discussion. But LDS history writer Dan Vogel makes the following remark on the charges made against Harris on this occasion:“Harris’s first assertion (that Joseph Smith drank too much while translating the Book of Mormon) is supported by Levi Lewis, who said he saw Smith “intoxicated three different times while he was composing the Book of Mormon (V.A.4, LEVI LEWIS STATEMENT, 1834).” So, while Harris claimed to the Kirtland Council that he never made that statement, the fact is actually verified by other sources. In other words, the statement was nonetheless true. Harris certainly could have denied the original statement to procure the forgiveness of the council, but whether or not this is the case is irrelevant. The fact is that more than one person witnessed Joseph drinking while “translating.”

This matter of drinking aside, however, we are still left with the fact that Harris himself claimed that he “said many things inadvertently, calculated to wound the feelings of his brethren.” By his own admission, then, we would not want to accept his testimony regarding the Book of Mormon. After all, it may have been something he said inadvertently or perhaps was calculated for some unspoken reason.

Intellectual Inbreeding

Ash apparently takes McKeever and Johnson’s critical look at the Book of Mormon very personally because he takes to name calling and deriding them personally rather than just examining their claims and giving proof that refutes them. We see this most clearly when he sarcastically labels them guilty of “anti-Mormon intellectual inbreeding.” What this means to him, he goes on to explain, is that the information used by McKeever and Johnson also appears in some of the research done by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, specifically from their well researched book The Changing World of Mormonism. Ash’s assertion is that one of McKeever and Johnson’s quotations on the subject of Martin Harris “appears to be direct ‘cut and paste’ from the Tanners’” book.

Firstly, my reply to this is “so what?” Does the fact that the Tanners printed the same information make it any less true? Not at all. Does it make the quote any less relevant to the point under discussion? Again, not at all.

Secondly, both Mormonism 101 and the Tanners gave the direct reference to where the information was found in a common publication – Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought for Winter 1972. On a whim, I decided to take a quick check of my own personal library to see if I might have the volume. I was actually a little surprised to see that of the seven volumes ofDialogue that I have personally (and a great many more than that have been printed and circulated), I had the very volume they quoted from. It seems I had quoted Hill’s article, though not on the witnesses, in one of my previous writings as well. I conclude that if I have a copy of this journal in my own library and have quoted from the article, why should it be so surprising if Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson had it and quoted from it as well? Upon checking further, I found that McKeever and Johnson do have a copy of that issue of Dialogue on CD-ROM. Bill McKeever admitted that he was not sure how the quote from Dialogue was brought to his attention, but if it was through any work done by the Tanners, it would have been through Mormonism – Shadow or Reality? and not the book Ash suspected.

Thirdly, Jerald and Sandra Tanner have done an unbelievably enormous amount of research into nearly every aspect of Mormon history and doctrine. They have spent extensive amounts of time digging up references and quotes from all manners of sources regarding Mormonism.  It would be difficult for anyone – Mormon or not – to quote from a source that hasn’t already been published by the Tanners in their excellent works. The fact that they have been so thorough and truthful in their research has made their books valuable research resources for anyone looking into the matters of LDS history and doctrine. Their works are often quoted in studies done by BYU students, LDS history writers, and non-LDS writers alike. Mormonism Research Ministry uses materials produced by the Tanners quite often when researching a variety of subjects, and the Tanners have given Bill McKeever their permission to use anything they have found. Quoting a reference that they have quoted also, then, is not at all surprising.

In fact, a quick search on Ash’s own web site shows that he has quoted from the Tanner’s books on numerous occasions himself – and not just to criticize their work, but actually to support his own claims on occasion. He even references their works for support in this very rebuttal – just three sentences after criticizing McKeever and Johnson for doing so. If using a quote cited previously by another researcher is somehow an invalid form of research, then Ash needs to take issue with himself. In his criticism of this chapter alone, he took direct quotations from numerous LDS Church publications. Several quotations he used in this rebuttal have also been quoted by the Tanners among the many publications from their research.

As I’m sure Ash knows quite well, this occurrence is very customary in research projects. It is a commonly accepted practice among scholars and researchers to use the research and writings of others when compiling information on any given topic. It is not uncommon for a researcher to use quotes previously identified by other writers on the subject being studied. This is not unique to Christian researchers. It is the way research is most often done, even among LDS apologists. They read the information compiled by a number of others on the subject, search the records themselves for anything that might have been missed or overlooked, and along the way identify information that best supports their position. When the information compiled is published, credit is then given to the original researchers either in a footnote or in the bibliography/works cited section.

A check into the bibliography of Mormonism 101 shows that the only one of Tanner’s books used as a research aid was Mormonism – Shadow or Reality? So if this was the source for McKeever and Johnson being alerted to the information in Dialogue, the fact that they list Tanner’s book as one of their research aids in the bibliography is well within the accepted standards of research and publication. Again, why does Ash make such an issue out of a matter so trivial? Because he needed to create a smokescreen to distract his readers from what he had just inadvertently pointed out Martin Harris’ own statement that discredited himself as a reliable witness.

Real or Vision?

Ash goes on to quote Harris as saying that he had actually held the golden plates on his knee and that the whole experience was real, not just a vision. Ash then takes a step backwards by quoting David Whitmer, who admitted that they “were in the spirit when they had the view.” Ash comes to the conclusion that since the experience of having a vision was real, then the items witnessed “while in the spirit” had to have been real. That is an amazing leap from one thing to another.

While discussing Martin Harris’ statement about the plates, Ash points out that “he (Martin Harris) held them (while covered) ‘on his knee for an hour and a half’ and that they weighed approximately fifty pounds.” Actually, this statement did not come directly from Harris, as Ash asserts, but was taken from the affidavit of David D. Dille (15 September 1853), which was reprinted in The Myth of the Manuscript Found. So Ash himself is admitting that whatever Harris held was covered. This means that Harris could have just been told they were the plates. Or Harris may have thought they felt like some kind of plates. Perhaps he could just have wanted to believe they were the plates. But the fact of the matter is, since he did not remove the covering, he did not really know for sure that what he was holding were the same plates Joseph Smith claimed to have used to translate into the Book of Mormon. Harris’ testimony, then, means nothing more than that he held some covered object.

Harris’ comment that the plates weighed about 50 pounds also makes us suspect he did not really see the gold plates, for plates the size as Harris described on other occasions would weigh far more than 50 pounds.Ash once wrote an examination of this particular subject, coming to the conclusion that the plates Joseph used were actually made of tumbaga. Actually, this was the conclusion of other Mormon apologists long before Ash, but he failed to cite any of them in his footnotes. He simply repeated the findings from their work and then listed the conclusion as if it were his own. Once again, it was simply a “cut and paste” article – and didn’t he condemn McKeever and Johnson of the same thing? Mormon writers were claiming the plates were made of a copper-gold alloy as far back as 1923 (Improvement Era, March 1923); and the plates were labeled as “Tumbaga” by John L. Sorensen at least as early as 1985 (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon). Yet Ash fails to point this out in his copyrighted article.  To use Ash’s own words, this appears to be a case of Mormon “intellectual inbreeding.”

In order to come to this conclusion, Ash has to ignore the testimonies of a great many LDS leaders and historical figures. First would be Joseph Smith’s own testimony, wherein the Angel Moroni (who really would have known what the plates were actually made of, since he supposedly made many of them) tells him they are plates of gold. The LDS Church News (15 May 1999) also stated that the plates were “of solid gold.” Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith’s mother, also claimed the plates were made of pure gold. So did Apostle Franklin D. Richards and Elder Ray Pratt. TheBook of Mormon itself claims that the 24 plates of Jared were of “pure gold” in Mosiah 8:9. Finally, since we are considering the testimonies of the Book of Mormon witnesses, we need to keep in mind that John Whitmer claimed the plates were “of pure gold.” Of course, readers are supposed to take the unproven guesses of the current Mormon apologists in this matter over and above the testimonies of those who supposedly witnessed the plates at the time. This is the only way that LDS writers can account for this discrepancy.

Ash goes on to quote several other places where David Whitmer positively declared that he had seen the plates with his natural eyes. We agree that these men claimed to have seen the plates, but did they see spiritual plates or the actual physical plates? If it was all in a vision, how could they tell the difference? They couldn’t. And if they actually handled physical plates, then it would not have been just a vision.

Ash ignored completely the quote McKeever and Johnson gave from John Gilbert, the printer’s assistant who helped typeset the Book of Mormon for printing.  Gilbert remembered asking Martin Harris about whether he saw the plates with his naked eyes. Harris looked down for a bit, then looked up and claimed that he did not. He said that he had only seen them with his spiritual eye.

We freely admit that there have been quotations by the witnesses both ways – sometimes claiming they actually touched and beheld the plates physically and other times claiming it happened only in vision. Ash verifies this in his rebuttal, quoting David Whitmer as both claiming the vision of the plates was a real, physical event, and also quoting him as saying it was “in the spirit.” This seems to do nothing more than confuse the issue, however, and further dampen the credibility of their testimonies.

So, how do LDS scholars and writers view the Witnesses’ testimonies? In Grant Palmer’s book An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, he takes an honest and critical look at all the evidence surrounding such early events as the first vision, the origin of the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of the LDS priesthood. He spends an entire chapter looking at the witnesses to the golden plates and their testimonies.

After examining all the evidence, Palmer freely admits, “This document (Testimony of the Three Witnesses) gives the impression that there was an actual visitation of an angel who displayed physical plates. Church members today generally interpret the statement in this way. But the individual affirmations by Joseph Smith and the witnesses themselves indicate that their experience occurred as a vision.” He shows how it was possible that people with high expectations of an event could have easily been led into having a “group vision.”  He concludes, “Thus it may not be as significant as we have assumed that three signatories to the Book of Mormon saw and heard an angel.”

His conclusion regarding the Testimony of Eight Witnesses was equally as doubtful. After weighing all the evidence and taking a detailed look at all accounts of the witnesses and their experience, Palmer concluded, “The witnesses seem to have seen the records with their spiritual eyes and inspected them in the context of a vision, apparently never having actually possessed or touched them. But for them, the spiritual was material; thus, in their official declarations, their experiences sounded more physical than was intended.” Obviously, even some LDS scholars do not take these testimonies seriously.

In the final analysis of this matter, McKeever and Johnson never claimed that the witnesses denied their testimonies. They also never claimed that the “vision” these men had was not a real vision. Obviously, these men believed whatever experience they had regarding the plates. Obviously their testimony is sincere. The real point made by McKeever and Johnson in Mormonism 101 was that the characters of these men were such that their testimonies are very suspicious.

Ash accuses McKeever and Johnson of “character assassination” on these men. But Mormonism 101 merely quoted what Joseph Smith and other LDS leaders had said about them. Leaders of the LDS Church did the “character assassination.”  Ash needs to take his complaints on this matter to them.

Based on the evidence, the only honest conclusion that can be made is that the testimonies of theBook of Mormon witnesses are unreliable. These men were apparently easily swayed by their peers as they changed from one religion to another. And readers can’t rely heavily upon their words because they have given contradictory testimonies regarding whether the experiences they had were entirely physical or only spiritual (in visionary form). That means we have to rely on other evidence to see whether or not the Book of Mormon is true.

Historical Problems in The Book of Mormon

In this section, Ash gives us yet another example of his ability to use pointless arguments. McKeever and Johnson had quoted Ezra Taft Benson on page 113 of their book, identifying him as “President Ezra Taft Benson.” This quote happened to be originally taken from Benson’s book This Nation Shall Endure, which was first published in 1977. Ash argues that since Benson was not the “president” of the LDS Church until 1985, McKeever and Johnson are wrong to identify him as “president” when introducing that statement. Ash seems to think that Mormonism 101 is making an “appeal to authority” by using a quote from the man that was given before he was church president.

Was it wrong to identify Benson as President Benson? He was the president of the LDS Church from 1985 to 1994, so he certainly earned the title appropriately. After becoming president, he never made any retractions or corrections to the quote from earlier in his career. Nevertheless, what Ash failed to realize is that when This Nation Shall Endure was published, Benson was the President of the 12 Apostles quorum, so it is still correct to refer to him as “President Benson” when introducing the quotation. No matter what title the speaker of the citation is introduced with, the fact remains that the statement was still made by the person credited. Does the “incorrect” title (though certainly a correct title during his tenure as an LDS leader) make the statement any less true? Not at all.

This is a pointless argument that a few writers from FAIR have started to use lately. It seems to be used almost exclusively with quotations from LDS presidents. It is FAIR’s latest way of discrediting the statements of their prophets that they disagree with personally. In the cases of this argument’s usage that I have seen, the LDS leaders made the quoted remarks while they were apostles of the LDS Church. Thus, the writers at FAIR who use this argument apparently do not recognize that the apostles of their church speak with much authority.

This shows that spokespersons for FAIR do not seem to have much respect for their leaders. They do not want them identified as “presidents” of the church if the quotation used was not given while they were, in fact, the church president. However, even the LDS Church headquarters has made this same “misidentification.”  For example, the official LDS Sunday School manual Gospel Principles (1992) does the same thing with Benson. On pages 289-290 of that manual, Ezra Taft Benson is quoted and identified as “President Ezra Taft Benson.”  The quoted remarks, however, were from his conference speech from April of 1971. Benson was not ordained president of the 12 apostles until 1973. He did not become president until 1985. According to FAIR, he should have been identified as “Elder Benson.” For that matter, a quick scan of the chapters prepared for theMormonism 201 project shows that five of the FAIR writers made the same “mistake” that McKeever and Johnson are accused of here. Should we discredit all of their statements as well because of this supposed “appeal to authority”? If Ash is at all consistent, then we would have to. However, I doubt that he would take the matter this far.

Overall, this is just a very childish and pointless argument. After all, an incorrect title does not mean that the quotation cited is any less authoritative. Nor does it mean the quote is somehow wrong or fails to make the point being shown. It is simply Ash’s smokescreen to distract the readers from the main point made by McKeever and Johnson.

Who Speaks With Authority on LDS Matters?

McKeever and Johnson correctly pointed out that some LDS leaders of the past have asserted that the geography of the Book of Mormon covered both the North and South American continents. Ash identifies this Book of Mormon belief concept as the “hemispheric model.” Ash never disputes that this accurately represents LDS teachings on the subject. What he does say, however, is that“to claim that this was the official LDS position is in error.”

McKeever and Johnson never said that this was the official position. In fact, if Ash had read this chapter in Mormonism 101 astutely, he would have seen the following statement: “Unfortunately, there is no official position within the LDS Church as to where the alleged lands of the Book of Mormon should be.” McKeever and Johnson then go on to frankly state that the most common belief concept in the LDS Church today is the one Ash identifies as the “limited geography” model.

Ash continues for many pages on the assumption that McKeever and Johnson were arguing that the hemispheric model was the official position of the church. His pages of arguments on this matter, then, are all in his own mind. Since McKeever and Johnson never said nor implied that, Ash appears to “define (his own arguments) in ways that make them easier to attack” – the very thing he accused McKeever and Johnson of doing in the first paragraph of his rebuttal.

It makes the reader wonder, though, who it is that Ash does consider to be “inspired” in the LDS Church hierarchy? For the last several years, the trend in Mormon apologetic circles is to use the “personal opinion” argument. This means that where LDS apostles and prophets have been shown to be incorrect in their statements, apologists simply claim it was their “personal opinion.” This argument used by Ash in regards to Book of Mormon geography does nothing more than show that he does not believe the apostles and prophets of his church are truly inspired by God. In fact, he comes right out and says, “It really doesn’t matter what Joseph Smith’s, or any other LDS leaders’ personal views on Book of Mormon geography was (or is), it matters only what the Book of Mormon itself suggests for its geography…Focusing on what someone says about text rather than what the text says is poor methodology and not the way serious scholarship operates.”

Two things should be said about this. First, he is absolutely correct. Second, Mormon writers and apologists have rarely followed that guideline when it comes to interpreting Bible text. But that has not stopped LDS apostles and prophets from giving their interpretation of the geography to the Mormon members. The point that McKeever and Johnson correctly made was that “conflicting information of this sort must certainly be confusing to the Latter-day Saint…” Ash just verifies this point for them.

Spiritual versus Empirical Evidence

Of everything that Ash says in his rebuttal, McKeever and Johnson would really like to thank him for writing the following:

“What McKeever and Johnson (and actually [Michael] Coe as well) fail to understand is that it is the spiritual nature that verifies the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Can the truth of the Book of Mormon be tested spiritually? Yes. Can the historicity of the Book of Mormon be tested by empirical means? Technically, yes. Is there enough information available today, with which to test the Book of Mormon by empirical means? No.”

The whole point of this section in McKeever and Johnson’s book is that there is no physical (empirical) evidence to support the historical reality of the Book of Mormon. The authors ofMormonism 101 must be very grateful to you for finally admitting this and making their point.

What is it, though, that Ash means by “spiritual” verification? He never explains. Judging by what LDS leaders have said, testing the Book of Mormon “spiritually” must refer to Moroni 10:4-5. This passage asks the readers to pray about the book and the truth of it will be manifested to them in a spiritual way. Mormons usually interpret that as referring to a spiritual feeling, or a “burning in the bosom.” Yet this means of testing is subjective at best and completely unreliable for verifying what is true.  Mormon members have had this experience, and Christian members have had the same sort of experience, each verifying contradictory beliefs. I myself have had a “burning in the bosom” experience verifying that the Book of Mormon is true, but I have also had a “burning in the bosom” experience verifying that the Book of Mormon is false. Clearly that “religious experience” proves nothing one way or the other.

Grant Palmer spends a great deal of time looking into this type of truth verification claim. After reviewing the LDS claims and the experiences of some evangelical believers in the matter, he writes, “The question I will pose is whether this is an unfailing guide to truth…The evangelical position of identifying and verifying truth by emotional feelings, which the Book of Mormon advocates, is therefore not always dependable.” In fact, Palmer goes further and says, “Nor does the Spirit, which testifies of the Book of Mormon, confirm the historical reality of the book.”

What we have, then, is Ash verifying McKeever and Johnson’s assertion that there is no empirical evidence to support the historicity of the Book of Mormon. The only verification that can be had, Ash claims, is a spiritual verification, which is subjective and actually proves nothing at all.

“Fulness” of the Gospel

It is impossible to take Ash’s arguments seriously when we read what he writes in this section of his rebuttal. He charges McKeever and Johnson with constructing a straw man argument that he says is “unrecognizable as actual LDS theology.” Then he restates their conclusion that “the Book of Mormon should contain everything Latter-day Saints need to guide them into the presence of God.”  But the next line Ash gives is what really shows him to be inept at any kind of apologetics. He says, “Ironically, this last sentence is correct.” Ash then clarifies for McKeever and Johnson that getting into “the presence of God” is the equivalent of getting into “the Celestial Kingdom.”

McKeever and Johnson’s point on this was that, even though the Book of Mormon is supposed to contain all the required teachings to get the Mormon member into the celestial kingdom, many doctrines are not found anywhere in this volume of Mormonism’s sacred scripture. How is it possible that Ash can conclude that Mormonism 101 is giving something “unrecognizable” as LDS theology when he then admits that the conclusions given in it are true? Does Ash even know what he is saying? He is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Either a teaching is LDS theology or it isn’t. Either McKeever and Johnson have given a correct analysis or they have not. What we see is that Ash needs to pretend to have an argument, even where one does not actually exist. It is quite obvious (according to his own words) that Ash is in agreement with what McKeever and Johnson said. That, plus the glaring fact that he fails to prove anything they have said to be in error.

Now that he has agreed that the Book of Mormon is supposed to contain all the required teachings, Ash needs to prove that it really does. After all, McKeever and Johnson showed that it clearly does not contain many of the LDS required teachings. In the midst of his desperate attempt to defend the Book of Mormon, however, Ash gets himself into trouble.

He goes through a few quotes, including some from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism before redefining his terms to conclude that the “fulness of the gospel” given in the Book of Mormon means nothing more than “the gospel in its most basic sense.”  How he can actually believe that this would be the “fulness” of the gospel in any way is a mystery to thinking people everywhere.  The very definition of “fulness” is “the quality or state of being full” or “complete.” According to Ash’s personal redefinition, “fulness” means the most basic items, though many important and essential requirements are left out and not mentioned.

In trying to understand the argument, we ask ourselves what is the gospel in its most basic sense according to Ash? He tells us it is “faith, repentance, baptism, and the reception of the Holy Ghost.” All of these items, Ash says, are clearly taught in the Book of Mormon. Then, slipping it in a little later, Ash adds two more elements: enduring to the end and receiving eternal life. So now he has gone beyond what he originally defined.

But let’s assume, for a minute, that all six elements are supposedly the most basic elements of the gospel. Let’s also defy all logic and standard word definitions to assume that this somehow constitutes any kind of gospel “fulness.”  Assuming all this, we can safely agree that these elements are taught in the Book of Mormon. What is Ash’s conclusion about the matter of this “fulness (though nowhere near complete fulness) of the gospel” in the Book of Mormon? He says,“While the Book of Mormon, like the Bible, teaches those things necessary for salvation, the Book of Mormon explains them more clearly and more precisely.” Ash just verified for us that the Book of Mormon teaches nothing more than the Bible does in regard to salvation. It only adds what Ash believes is a more clear and precise explanation of them.

What does believing in these “most basic” gospel principles earn a person in LDS teaching? Certainly not exaltation in the celestial kingdom with God. Instead, someone who believes these principles will find himself in the lower telestial kingdom of heaven. According to Bruce McConkie, these “basic” gospel principles only put a person “on the strait and narrow path leading to the celestial kingdom.” In order to actually get into that highest kingdom, which is Ash’s definition of exaltation (the gospel in its “most complete” sense), a person must meet extra requirements not found in the Book of Mormon. Again, McConkie states, “An inheritance in this glorious (celestial) kingdom is gained by complete obedience to gospel or celestial law.”

What is required for entrance into this kingdom? You must have experienced the LDS temple ordinances, especially celestial marriage. Even Ash verified this himself in his rebuttal. As Ash admitted, these items are not found in the pages of the Book of Mormon, which was exactly the point made by McKeever and Johnson in Mormonism 101.

Even LDS writers agree. For instance, Grant Palmer identified some of the missing concepts himself: “There is nothing in the Book of Mormon about potential exaltation coming through temple ordinances, baptism for the dead, temple marriage for eternity, a graded hereafter, a plurality of gods, a potential to become gods, a positive concept of human nature, or a limitation on punishment.” The fact that even LDS writers understand this point just reinforces the claim made in Mormonism 101.

It comes down to this: the Book of Mormon, by itself, can only assure a person will be resurrected. According to LDS teaching, this can assure someone of a place no higher than the telestial kingdom. The vast majority of those who believe only in the teachings of the Bible are destined for the same place, even if they reject the Book of Mormon. There is no eternal benefit, then, to accepting the teachings of the Book of Mormon. In fact, it does not fulfill its stated purpose, which is to restore those items of essential doctrine that had supposedly been lost from the Bible. Ash verified this in his review.

More Clearly and Precisely?

Missionaries to Mormons have been pointing out for years that the Book of Mormon does not actually clear up these issues, but instead make them more confusing. Yet Ash continues the LDS diatribe that the Book of Mormon “clarifies” many issues. He goes further by stating that it “is unique in the clarity and unambiguity of teaching these precepts.” But the real fact is that LDS writers have never given any real proof of this claim. Once again, what is it that the LDS scholars outside of FAIR say about this point? It becomes readily apparent that they do not agree with Ash’s assertion.

Grant Palmer gave several examples in his book on Mormon origins. For instance, he shows us how LDS scholar Boyd Kirkland wrote, “Why is it that the Book of Mormon not only doesn’t clear up questions about the Godhead which have raged in Christianity for centuries, but on the contrary adds to the confusion? This seems particularly ironic, since a major avowed purpose of the book was to restore lost truths and end doctrinal controversies…”

LDS scholar Mark D. Thomas wrote: “…on all major theological issues (the doctrines of god, humanity, and salvation),…the Book of Mormon consistently takes the nineteenth-century position most foreign to the ancient Jewish thought from which the book purports to spring…”

Palmer uses this last quote to point out that “other doctrinal ‘restorations’ of the ‘fullness of the gospel’ in the Book of Mormon are closer to evangelical Protestantism than either ancient Jewish or current LDS belief.” He also writes, “That some of our best (LDS) conservative scholars have produced lengthy articles that try to make these passages (in the Book of Mormon) and others understandable suggests that these verses are not clear…The Book of Mormon reflects the limitations of (Joseph Smith’s) 1820s understanding. As his successor, Brigham Young, stated in 1862: “If the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation.”

As much as Ash and other FAIR writers want us to believe differently, even Mormon writers have conceded that the Book of Mormon does not clear up these issues but make them more confusing to those who read the book and understand LDS teachings.


In this chapter of Mormonism 101, there were four major points that McKeever and Johnson were asserting. 1) That the Book of Mormon was translated by dubious means – meaning by use of a seer stone in a hat, rather than via a separate device called the Urim and Thummim as Smith claimed; 2) that there is no historical or scientific support for the Book of Mormon; 3) that the witnesses to the Book of Mormon lack credibility because of their characters; and 4) that instead of containing a “fulness” of the gospel, the Book of Mormon is missing many of the doctrines that the LDS Church teaches are essential for exaltation.

How does Ash answer these four main points?

Number one: That the Book of Mormon was not translated by the Urim and Thummim but instead by the use of a magical Seer Stone. The LDS Church today advertises that the Book of Mormonwas translated by use of the Urim and Thummim. Very few Mormon members know that the evidence shows Joseph Smith used the Seer Stone, instead, to “translate” the book.

Ash’s reply“A study of early Mormon sources reveals that the LDS Church has discussed this issue for years.” Ash does not deny that the Seer Stone was used for this purpose, nor does he deny that the Mormon Church continues to advertise that the Book of Mormon was translated by use of the Urim and Thummim instead.

Conclusion: McKeever and Johnson’s point was correct.

Number two: There is no historical or scientific support for the Book of Mormon. Even though many LDS members and missionaries have claimed there is a great deal of empirical evidence supporting the historicity and truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, none has ever been found.

Ash’s reply: “Can the historicity of the Book of Mormon be tested by empirical means? Technically, yes. Is there enough information available today, with which to test the Book of Mormon by empirical means? No.” Ash does not deny that there is no historic or scientific proof verifying the claims of the Book of Mormon.

Conclusion: McKeever and Johnson’s point was correct.

Number three: That the witnesses to the Book of Mormon lack credibility. In the case of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, McKeever and Johnson show that although they never denied their testimonies of the Book of Mormon, the characters of these men were questionable. Joseph Smith himself said that Oliver Cowdery was a dishonest man. Smith said that David Whitmer was deceived by Satan. Twice, Smith called Martin Harris a “wicked man.” All three of these men and several of the other eight witnesses left the LDS Church or were excommunicated from it. They were also heavily involved in the use of magical objects such as divining rods and seer stones. If this was what these men were like, according to LDS sources, then we have serious reservations about believing their testimonies.

Ash’s reply“While this might be true (and the issue is far from settled), it is not apparent how this relates to their credibility…not one of these three men ever denied their testimony of the Book of Mormon even in spite of hardships, threats, excommunication, bad feelings, and persecution.”

Ash goes to great lengths to show that the witnesses never denied their testimonies, a fact that McKeever and Johnson frankly admitted. Ironically, Ash does spend a great deal of time trying to discredit David Whitmer’s testimony that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet while still trying to defend his testimony of the Book of Mormon. However, Ash never gives any evidence to show that the characters of these men were completely trustworthy or that the derogatory statements made by Joseph Smith against them were untrue.

Conclusion: McKeever and Johnson’s point was correct.

Number four: That instead of containing a “fulness” of the gospel, the Book of Mormon is missing many of the doctrines that the Mormon Church teaches are essential for full exaltation.  There is no mention in the book, for example, of temple ordinances or temple weddings, both of which are requirements for exaltation (full salvation) in Mormonism.

Ash’s reply: “…the Book of Mormon uses the term ‘gospel’ in ‘its most basic sense.’… Exaltation, which is the highest level of the celestial kingdom, is received by temple ordinances. While such ordinances are often alluded to in the Book of Mormon, they are not necessarily spelled out.”

Not only are they “not necessarily spelled out,” but they are not AT ALL even mentioned. They are conspicuously absent from the pages of the book. Ash is therefore redefining “fulness of the gospel” to mean “the bare minimum.” In fact, going by the teachings of the Book of Mormon alone, a person would only get as high in the heavenly kingdoms as someone who goes by the teachings of the Bible alone. There is no eternal benefit to having the Book of Mormon, then.

Conclusion: McKeever and Johnson’s point was correct.

Michael Ash put a lot of effort into arguing against points that were never made in Mormonism 101. He uses these arguments as smokescreens to try and distract his readers from the main points of Mormonism 101 that he could not disprove. In most cases, Ash bluntly agrees that the points made by McKeever and Johnson were correct. But he hides these admissions within pages and pages of empty words in an apparent hope that no one will notice that fact. He never proves McKeever and Johnson wrong in anything. Calling the authors “anti-Mormon” and “intellectual inbreeders,” Ash accuses them of setting up “straw man arguments” and of “poisoning the well” and of being “completely unaware of any of the current material.” However, he never proves any of these accusations. In short, he did not prove that any of the points made in Mormonism 101 was wrong.

We would like to thank Michael R. Ash for taking the time to verify the main points from this chapter of Mormonism 101 as being correct. While I’m sure he did not intend for that to be the case, I’ve shown that this is what he did, nonetheless.


Lane Thuet has been a volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry since 1998. His knowledge of Mormon history and doctrine comes from 23 years experience as a member of the LDS Church, supplemented by 13 additional years of research and study. He graduated from LDS seminary with honors (Salt Lake City, Utah; 1985). He has reviewed and edited six books about Mormonism prior to their publications, and he completely revised the Mormonism tract for Christian Equippers International. He currently studies through the Moody Bible Institute. Lane is an Air Traffic Controller in Los Angeles where he also raises his three children.

Words in bold are the authors’ emphasis and comments in squared brackets [ ] are the authors’ clarifications – unless otherwise stated. All quotations from Michael Ash are taken from his rebuttal. In order to make this review easier to read, all original quotes from the Mormonism 201 rebuttal are boldfaced and italicized to separate these from the rest of the rejoinder.

Anyone who questions LDS teachings or compares them to the teachings of the Bible is considered “anti-Mormon” by Ash. This appears to be his favorite defamatory name. He uses the derogatory term 13 times in his 14½ page rebuttal – nearly once on every page.

Ludlow – Encyclopedia of Mormonism and Jenson – LDS Biographical Encyclopedia.

Ash does not fall into that category, by the way.

This view – that the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon are not the principle ancestors of the American Indians—is a newly adopted position by LDS writers. FARMS had to take this stand because of the recent undeniable DNA evidence that shows this LDS teaching and belief is false. Like many other cases where evidence shows LDS teachings to be in error, FARMS argues against the proof initially before quietly adopting the new position once the discussion died down. This is only the most recent example. See “The Problematic Role of DNA Testing in Unraveling Human History” {}. After the article argues against the reliability of DNA research proving the claims of the Book of Mormon wrong, FARMS writers have suddenly changed their position and decided to argue that the American Indians were NOT descendants of the Lamanites (who were supposedly Jews) as the LDS Church has consistently taught and believed for over a century – the very thing the DNA evidence showed was the case.

Joseph Smith – History 1:35

Ibid., 1:62.

Printed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, September 1984.

In fact, the only mention in the entire set connecting Joseph Smith with a seer stone is in the introduction to Volume 5, pages xxxi-xxxii, where Orson Pratt comments that Joseph Smith “used the Seer-stone when inquiring of the Lord, and receiving revelation,” but even there no mention is made of Joseph having used it to translate the Book of Mormon.

History of the Church, 1:109-110

Doctrines of Salvation 3:226, emphasis mine.


What a childish remark. Footnotes are regularly used for notes of reference, explanations or comments about the matter at hand. Additional information or side notes to the matter being discussed are regularly relegated to footnotes in any study.

These were the accusations made against him by Joseph Smith and other LDS leaders who knew Cowdery personally, as Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson proved.

Joseph Smith – History 1:19

Milton R. Hunter; Pearl of Great Price Commentary: pp. 341 – 342; quote from McConkie; Millenial Messiah, p. 57. Emphasis mine.

Tanner and Tanner; Evolution of the Mormon Temple Ceremony: 1842-1990, pp. 79-84. I myself went through the LDS temple in 1989 and can verify by personal experience that this section was included in the ceremony at that time, then removed in April 1990.

Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia 1:246. See additional information inMormonism 101, p.109

See History of the Church 3:228; Doctrine and Covenants 28:11; and Mormonism 101, p.110

History of the Church 2:26

This is the original record from which the History of the Church was ostensibly copied.

Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith 2:21

Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 2:282-283.

Ibid, 2:282fn3

History of the Church 2:26; Early Mormon Documents, 2:282-283

It could have been through a keyword search on the CD-ROM or it could have been something that Eric Johnson had contributed through his research. Since the initial work on that chapter was done in 1999, he no longer remembers where every quote originated in their research for the book.

See footnote 42 of his rebuttal, where he cites support for his argument from the Tanner’s book– Case Against Mormonism, V.2

Elder George Reynolds, The Myth of the Manuscript Found (1883), pp.88-89. We have to wonder if Ash was just doing a “cut and paste” from this book.

Ibid. It should be pointed out that McKeever and Johnson previously dealt with this “tumbaga” theory in their 1994 book Questions to Ask Your Mormon Friend (pp. 28-29) and showed it to be lacking in evidence.

Joseph Smith – History 1:34

“Hands-on Opportunity,” LDS Church News, 15 May 1999

Letter to Mary Smith Pierce, 23 January 1829 – LDS Archives; cited in Dean C. Jessee, BYU Studies, Fall 1982.

“Revelation and Priesthood,” Franklin D. Richards, 5 October 1895; cited in Brian H. Stuy, ed.,Collected Discourses, Vol. 4; Elder Ray L. Pratt, Conference Report, April 1929, pp. 72-73

Article from early 1878 in the Kingston Sentinel, quoting Whitmer speaking on 13 January 1878;cit. in Saints’ Herald 25 (1878):57; cited by Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (1981) p. 132

Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Vol. 1 – last introductory page prior to reproduction of 1830 Book of Mormon; as cited in Mormonism 101, p. 111

Palmer is no slouch. Among other things, this Mormon writer: has twice been director of the LDS Institutes of Religion; has a master’s degree from BYU; was an instructor at an LDS college in New Zealand; has served as a Mormon seminary teacher’ and is a member of the Mormon History Association.

Palmer; An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, p. 197

Ibid, pp. 194-195

Ibid, p.207

  1. David Waltz , Introduction (one of two introductions to this project posted) – He quotes from “President Harold B. Lee.”  The quote is from 2 January 1969 (see Waltz’s writing, text for footnoted number 47). Lee was not president of the church until 1972 nor president of the Quorum of 12 Apostles until 1970. 2. Steven DandersonChapter 1 – In his opening quotation, he quotes Mormonism 101 which quotes Spencer W. Kimball. Danderson (two paragraphs after completing his quotation) verifies that “President Spencer W. Kimball” did teach these things. The quote was taken from one of Kimball’s writings dated June 1955. Yet Kimball was not president of the church until 1973 nor president of the 12 apostles until 1972. 3. Michael Fordham – Chapter 9(first of two chapters labeled Chapter 9 in this project) – Halfway through his rebuttal,  Fordham talks about “President Gordon B. Hinckley” participating in the groundbreaking of the Missouri Temple on 30 October 1993.   Hinckley was not president of the church until 1995 (though he was a member of the First Presidency since 1981). 4. Edward (Ted) JonesChapter 10 –  Edwards seemed to violate this “rule” more than any of the FAIR writers. In his chapter, he refers to “President (Ezra Taft) Benson” (text for footnote 21), referring to a quote from 1983, though  Benson was not president of the church until 1985. (He was, however, resident of the 12 apostles at the time.)  He quotes “President (Lorenzo) Snow” (text for footnote 33) in a speech he had given on 6 October 1893, but  Snow was not president of the church until 1898 (though he was president of the 12 apostles at the time.)  He quotes “John Taylor…third President of the Church” (text for footnote 55), in a speech given in February 1863, but Taylor was not president of the church until 1880 nor president of the 12 apostles until 1877. Finally, he also quotes “President Spencer W. Kimball” (text for footnote 72) in a speech given in April 1967, but again  Kimball was not president of the church until 1973 nor president of the 12 apostles until 1972. 5. Kevin GrahamChapter 11 –  Graham refers to a quote by “President (Spencer W.) Kimball,” dated 1969. But once again, Kimball was not president of the church until 1973 nor president of the 12 apostles until 1972.

Ash referred to it there as the “straw-man” argument – yet another FAIR buzz phrase that most accurately describes what Ash does in his rebuttal.

See, for example, the common LDS mis-interpretation of Ezekiel 37:16-17. The prime example (though not the only one by far) is found in Mormon Doctrine, p. 767. The “stick of Ephraim” from this Bible verse is identified by LDS apostles as the Book of Mormon, and they identify the “stick of Judah” as the Bible. But the text itself clearly identifies in verses 18 through 23 that the “sticks” are referring to the two kingdoms of Israel, not two books of writings. See also Encyclopedia of Mormonism 3:1418

Doctrine and Covenants 9:8; 50:21-22

“Religious Feeling and Truth,” An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, pp. 130-133.

Most evangelicals do not hold to this position, but verify truth by comparing teachings to the Bible.

Ibid, pp. 131-133.

Though he quotes from it in his rebuttal, Ash has apparently never really looked at this set. He claims it is a “five-volume set,” but it really consists of only four volumes. Even the LDS GospeLink2001 CD-ROM calls it a 4-volume set. We have to wonder if Ash was really doing any of the research for this weak rebuttal.  Add to this the fact that he had to rely on points made by other people to bolster his arguments, and we wonder just how much of this article really was written by Ash. Six times in his footnotes he lists that other people were responsible for “pointing out” potential arguments or information to him.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition; “Full,” “Fullness,” “Fulness,” p. 572

Mormon Doctrine, p.116


According to Bruce McConkie, ordinances are defined as “washings, anointings, endowments, sealings” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 779). Regarding celestial marriage, see pages 117-118, 257.

Mormonism 201, Chapter 8, where Ash writes, “Exaltation, which is the highest level of the celestial kingdom, is received by temple ordinances.” See also his fn 91; citing Margaret McConkie Pope, “Exaltation,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism 2:479. Ash also admits these things are not in the Book of Mormon, claiming instead that they are “often alluded to,” though “not necessarily spelled out.”  In support of this, he refers to a book written by John Welch of FARMS. Ash obviously had no examples of his own to give from the Book of Mormon itself.

An Insiders View of Mormon Origins, p. 124

Mormon Doctrine, p. 778

1 Nephi 13:20-29 and 2 Nephi 29:3-14.

An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, pp. 122-124

Ibid, p. 122; citing Boyd Kirkland, “An Evolving God,” Dialogue 28 (Spring 1995): v-vi.

Ibid, pg. 123; citing Mark Thomas, “Is the Book of Mormon Ancient or Modern History? A Discussion Focusing on the Book of Mosiah,” Sunstone 13 (February 1989): 55

An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, p. 123

Ibid., pp.123-124; Original Brigham Young quote from Journal of Discourses 9:311, 13 July 1862

Joseph Smith – History 1:62

A Seer Stone is an object used for the purpose of scrying (gazing in to determine the future or learn information), much like using a crystal ball. On one occasion, Joseph Smith’s brother, William Smith, called this seer stone the “Urim and Thummim” (Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America, 2:417), but we know that the two were different items in LDS history. The Urim and Thummim was said to be found in the stone box along with the golden plates in 1826 and that they were comprised of two crystals set in silver bows (Joseph Smith – History 1:35; see also Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, p.101). But the seer stone was a chocolate colored, egg-shaped stone that Joseph Smith found while digging a well in 1822 (Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:129; also D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, p. 44).

Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:246, “Cowdery, Oliver.”

History of the Church 3:228; Doctrine and Covenants 28:11

Doctrine and Covenants 3:12-13; 10:6-7

An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, Chapter 6, pp.175-213.

Mormonism 101, p.109. Ash even pointed this out in his rebuttal: “…and (I suppose to their credit) McKeever and Johnson never attempt to show that they did deny their testimonies.”

Ash references a book at this point, but never gives any examples from the Book of Mormon to prove his point.


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