Mormonism 201: Chapter 8 – Book of Mormon

Response to Michael Ash
Rejoinder by Lane A. Thuet


his review of the eighth chapter of  Mormonism 101, Michael Ash states,
Like nearly all other anti-Mormons2,
McKeever and Johnson constantly attempt to force their own version of LDS
doctrine on their readers rather than letting ‘official’ LDS doctrine speak for
He goes on to state that McKeever and Johnson “…define
LDS doctrine in ways that makes them easier to attack.”

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.

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.3 One
was from the official LDS Church publication Gospel Principles. Three were from
BYU professors.

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.

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.

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. 4

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

“Translating” the Book of Mormon

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
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.

“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 Mormon6,
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
,8 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.9
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.10

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 the Book of Mormon was translated. The
silence of the LDS Church when advertising this process, then, is what implies that
information is being concealed.

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.”12

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
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.

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.

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

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

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

summarized the major points of Cowdery’s character, which show him to
be an adulterer, a liar, a dishonest man, and a false teacher.14
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.

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.”15
Why, they ask, would Cowdery then join one if he really believed in Joseph
Smith’s teachings?

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
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.

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
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.”16

Even the LDS temple ceremony prior to 10 April 1990 had a section that declared
how all Christian pastors were employees of Satan.17

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.18
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
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,”
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
the Book 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,” a “mean man” and a person who “Satan
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.”20

This entry is recorded in the History of the
under the date of 9 February 1834. When the original journal entry
is checked,21
however, nothing was recorded between the dates of 31 January 1834 and 26
February 1834.22
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 1834.23

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
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.”25
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
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’

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 of Dialogue 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
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 rebuttal27 – 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
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

Real or Vision?

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.

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
.28 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.

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.29Ash
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
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
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
, 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

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.31 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.33 So
did Apostle Franklin D. Richards and Elder Ray Pratt.34
The Book of Mormon itself claims that the 24 plates of Jared were of “pure
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.”35 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.

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.36

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.

how do LDS scholars and writers view the Witnesses’ testimonies? In Grant
Palmer’s book An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins,37
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.

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.”38
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.”39

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.”40

Obviously, even some LDS scholars do not take these testimonies seriously.

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

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.

on the evidence, the only honest conclusion that can be made is that the
testimonies of the Book 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

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
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
(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 the Mormonism 201 project shows that five of the FAIR writers made
the same “mistake” that McKeever and Johnson are accused of here.41 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

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
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
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.42

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.43 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 of Mormonism
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.”44 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.45
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 position46 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.”47

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

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
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 Mormonism48
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.”49
According to Ash’s personal redefinition, “fulness” means the most basic items,
though many important and essential requirements are left out and not

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
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
.”50 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.”51

What is required for entrance into this
kingdom? You must have experienced the LDS temple ordinances, especially
celestial marriage.52
Even Ash verified this himself in his rebuttal.53 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
, 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
.”54 The fact that even LDS
writers understand this point just reinforces the claim made in Mormonism

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
There is no eternal benefit, then, to accepting the teachings of the Book of
. 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.56
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.57
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…”58

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…”59

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.”61

As much as Ash and other FAIR writers want us to
believe differently, even Mormon writers have conceded that the Book of
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;62
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.63
The LDS Church today advertises that the Book of Mormon was 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

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
Smith said that David Whitmer was deceived by Satan.65 Twice, Smith called
Martin Harris a “wicked man.”66
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.67 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.68
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

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

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,69 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

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.

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

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
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
: pp. 341 – 342; quote from McConkie; Millenial Messiah,
p. 57. Emphasis mine.

Tanner and Tanner; Evolution of the Mormon Temple Ceremony:
, 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 in Mormonism 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


30 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.

Article from early 1878 in the Kingston
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
, Chapter 1 – In his opening quotation, he quotes Mormonism
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)
, Chapter 10
–  Edwards seemed to violate this “rule” more than
any of the FAIR writers. In his chapter, he refers to “President (Ezra
Benson” (text for footnote 21), referring to a quote from 1983, though
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
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
apostles at the time.)  He quotes “John Taylor…third President of the
(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
1877. Finally, he also quotes “President Spencer W. Kimball” (text for
footnote 72) in a speech given in April 1967, but again  Kimball was
president of the church until 1973 nor president of the 12 apostles
1972. 5. Kevin Graham, Chapter 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
, 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.

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 GospeLink 2001 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
, 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
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.