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      Mormon Hub Rules - Please be familiar with these rules before posting   04/17/08

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Grunt

The Prophet Joseph Smith

46 posts in this topic

     I'll include my backstory to apply some context, but if it's too long for people to read please just skip to the end.  

     I attended Baptist church as a child, then moved away and stopped practicing.  As an adult, I've always defended God against non-believers but always struggled with my own faith.  A few weeks ago I randomly met some missionaries.  I gave them my contact information and they followed up to request a visit.  We obliged, and they came a few days later.  In the meantime, I researched the LDS and found their values, if not their beliefs, to be very in line with my own.  We spoke about values and religion, and I've since been looking more into the church.  There is a lot of information available from current and former Mormons, and it's hard to tell fact from fiction.

     I understand and agree with 99% of everything I've been told, but I struggle with the story of Joseph Smith.  Not because I don't believe he could be the prophet and receive a further word of God (it always seemed odd to me to be told that God DIDN'T continue to speak to us through prophets), but because the story of the plates is difficult for me.  Some of the things I've read say it's difficult for some Mormons, too.  I don't know if that is just hogwash written by naysayers or if it's accurate.  I also don't know if I might not understand it properly.  I've reached out to the missionary chat and the missionaries who came to my house but haven't received much of an explanation.  Most say that they are young and I should talk to the experts, but I don't know who these experts are.  

     My questions are:  Does anyone struggle with aspects of LDS?  How do you reconcile that?  What is the best way to get more information from people who may be older and/or more informed?  Am I just at a point where I should end my quest for information due to the fact that I struggle with the cornerstone of this religion, so it will never fit for me even if everything else rings true? 

     I hope this doesn't appear insulting, because I put it forth sincerely.

Sunday21 likes this

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It's hard to address specific problems one might have with any aspect of any given thing without the specific details of what's being struggled with.

That being said, here's the dealio: And I suspect this is the same-ish answer you've gotten from the missionaries.

There is only one way to know if the Book of Mormon is true or not. Only one way to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet. And that will not be answers by others. Any specific details can be explained. But not proven. Criticisms can be randomly leveled as well, but also not proven. None of the explanations by apologists and none of the accusations by critics have any bearing on the truthfulness of what comes down to the miraculous.

Nothing that is a part of the Joseph Smith story and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is beyond God's power. Some aspect or another may strike someone as odd or implausible -- but God has often worked in mysterious ways, and many of the Biblical stories are odd and sound implausible as well.

But only God can reveal God. So the only way one can know for certain that the Book of Mormon is the word of God is by asking God.

So how I reconcile any issues that strike me as difficult in any religious experience is by starting from a place of first finding out the truth of it from God, by doing as He has said we can, and asking Him, whereupon He gives liberally to those who ask.

If one knows the Book of Mormon is the word of God because the Holy Spirit has told one so, then one can easily reconcile any concerning problems with that as a starting point.

Read the Book of Mormon and then get on your knees and humbly ask God if it is true. He will answer you. The rest is just historical detail...which is sometimes unreliable, always imperfect, and heavily based on the bias of the reporter. But God has no bias, no imperfection and is perfectly reliable. Go to Him and ask.

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Welcome, @Grunt!  Glad you've joined us. :)   Nothing at all in your post seemed insulting - rest assured on that.

You ask, "Does anyone struggle with aspects of LDS?" - I think I can safely say that the majority of members struggle with something related to the Church or the gospel or living the gospel - it's not easy to be a disciple of Christ.  Perhaps not in the way you mean, but a struggle is a struggle, whether it's to apply a teaching or to believe a teaching.

That said, be careful who you trust - there are a lot of people out there who seem to hate Mormons and will twist the truth, lie, and repeat falsehoods (knowingly or not).  So, if you want to know what we really believe, ask a believer. :)  (And access official Church resources.)  (And it's OK to ask hard questions.)

As for the plates, what is your specific question?  Archeology has shown that it was not uncommon for ancient cultures to keep records on metal plates, nor to store those records in stone boxes, so hopefully that's not an issue - but if it is, that's OK, ask away.  Pretty much everything else about them comes down to faith - we encourage investigators to study the record themselves and pray to ask God if it's true.  Regardless, I'm curious as to your question / concern, whether I can answer it or not.

PS: The cornerstone of our religion is Jesus Christ ("the chief corner stone").  The Book of Mormon is described as the keystone.  Not that it matters for your purposes, probably, but FYI. :)

Grunt, eddified, Carborendum and 1 other like this

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1 hour ago, Grunt said:

 

     I hope this doesn't appear insulting, because I put it forth sincerely.

No it doesn't, I sense a lot of honesty in your post.

My friend we all struggle with it. Every single one of us has probably had doubts and issues before. You are not alone at all. 

Edited by MormonGator
Snigmorder, Jane_Doe and Sunday21 like this

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Hi @Grunt!  Welcome to the forums, and more importantly welcome to checking out the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!  It's great to have you here.  I'll get right to your questions--

1 hour ago, Grunt said:

Does anyone struggle with aspects of LDS?

Oh totally.  In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find an LDS person who hasn't wrestled with something at some point of their life.   I have totally been a wrestler at points in my life.

1 hour ago, Grunt said:

How do you reconcile that?

It depends on what the issue is.  For me, my issues involved a lot of detangling imperfect people/culture from perfect doctrine, so that was a lot of study and prayer.  Study, prayer, and faith are all usually really big components.  Sometimes also is realizing when we don't know things.  If you wanted to talk about a specific topic, we could maybe go into more specifics there.  

1 hour ago, Grunt said:

 What is the best way to get more information from people who may be older and/or more informed?  

Just ask :)

Some people are more informed on some subjects than others, so it helps to know which subject you'd like to know more about.  One of the purposes of this forum is to actually provide such factual information (there is a lot of false junk on the internet too).  So feel free to ask away.

1 hour ago, Grunt said:

Am I just at a point where I should end my quest for information due to the fact that I struggle with the cornerstone of this religion, so it will never fit for me even if everything else rings true? 

Ok, on to the specific subject of the First Vision and receiving of the plates:

For starters, rest assured you're not the only person who has difficulty wrapping you mind about this.  In fact, even Joseph Smith's writing say he'd be hard pressed to believe it if he hadn't first hand experienced it!  I too will admit that looking from the outsider perspective it just seems wild.  We simply don't have this type of stuff in our day to day lives.  Kind of like we don't have virgin's giving birth or talking donkeys or parting seas or any other manner of things.  To me, the fact that it's different doesn't automatically make it True, but I also cannot outrule it as being false for being different either.  

Speaking personally, my testimony isn't really rooted in Joseph Smith as a person, or believing just him as him.  Rather, God testifies of the Truthfulness of the things taught by Joseph Smith- things like eternal families, the plan of salvation, etc.  They match with scripture better than the other dozens of Christian sects I've studied.  The Book of Mormon resonates as teaching God's words as well- a second witness of Christ.  So I'm left with the following logic:

-- Observation: the doctrines taught by Joseph Smith are of God.  Evidence: God told me so, matches with thorough study of scripture, etc.

-- Observation: the Book of Mormon is indeed a book of scripture, a second witness of Christ.  Evidence: God told me so, matches with thorough study of scripture, etc.

-- Logic: if Joseph Smith was teaching words from God, and presented the scriptural Book of Mormon, then it naturally follows that he was a prophet of God.  This is a logical conclusion which just sort of gets tug-boated along by the above two observations.  The above observations don't mean that Joseph Smith was perfect dude- rather scripture tells us thoroughly that only Christ was perfect, so I try to forgive him his fallings, as I forgive all other folks.  

Edited by Jane_Doe
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     Thank you very much for your responses.  I apologize for not being specific enough.  I'm just trying to tread lightly because I sincerely want to know the answers, so I don't want someone to take my words the wrong way and not respond.  When I told someone at work I was reading the Book of Mormon they laughed, so I imagine you get more than your share of that.  God seems to be a joke to most people these days.  I never understood ridiculing another's faith, though, even if it doesn't agree with your own.

     I have prayed on this, though I've not even come close to finishing the Book of Mormon.  Thus far, it rings true to me.  I just struggle with the manner in which Joseph Smith RECEIVED and translated the plates.  This happened in modern times, so while I accept the explanation I was given by the missionaries as to why there isn't a better record of the plates and their translation, the stories I've read about how they were kept, hidden from people, translated through a stone in a hat, and the witnesses said they had a vision of the plates, not physically saw them.  Maybe that isn't even the true story, but something I read from a naysayer and I took it to be from a Mormon source when it wasn't.  It can be confusing.  I have no idea how I found this forum, but I read it for almost a week before creating an account and posting.  Maybe I should accept the fact that thus far I accept he was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and not get hung up about how it came to be?

     Unfortunately, I don't know any Mormons my age that I could speak with.  The missionaries were great young men but seemed very nervous about getting deep into an explanation.  

Edited by Grunt
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14 minutes ago, Grunt said:

     Thank you very much for your responses.  I apologize for not being specific enough.  I'm just trying to tread lightly because I sincerely want to know the answers, so I don't want someone to take my words the wrong way and not respond.  When I told someone at work I was reading the Book of Mormon they laughed, so I imagine you get more than your share of that.  God seems to be a joke to most people these days.  I never understood ridiculing another's faith, though, even if it doesn't agree with your own.

     I have prayed on this, though I've not even come close to finishing the Book of Mormon.  Thus far, it rings true to me.  I just struggle with the manner in which Joseph Smith RECEIVED and translated the plates.  This happened in modern times, so while I accept the explanation I was given by the missionaries as to why there isn't a better record of the plates and their translation, the stories I've read about how they were kept, hidden from people, translated through a stone in a hat, and the witnesses said they had a vision of the plates, not physically saw them.  Maybe that isn't even the true story, but something I read from a naysayer and I took it to be from a Mormon source when it wasn't.  It can be confusing.  I have no idea how I found this forum, but I read it for almost a week before creating an account and posting.  Maybe I should accept the fact that thus far I accept he was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and not get hung up about how it came to be?

     Unfortunately, I don't know any Mormons my age that I could speak with.  The missionaries were great young men but seemed very nervous about getting deep into an explanation.  

I've recommended it before, but why not read the book "Rough Stone Rolling" by Richard Bushman? That helped me when I was looking into the church. While I don't know for sure, I probably had the same questions you did. 

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@Grunt, the articles linked on this page may answer some questions - or at least give you information about what's known about the plates and translation process...  This is not a Church website, but it's generally considered accurate and consistent with Church doctrine / beliefs.

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon#Translation_of_the_Book_of_Mormon

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1 hour ago, Grunt said:

 I hope this doesn't appear insulting, because I put it forth sincerely.

Absolutely not, thank you for asking.

The very first thing that should be said, is that in situations like these, is always seek your Father in prayer and have faith.

I'll link some websites and other things that have helped me with questions like these. 

https://www.fairmormon.org/ this website has a feature where you can ask them directly through email, and I have used it liberally.

https://rsc.byu.edu/  this is a trove of research papers and other such things. 

https://publications.mi.byu.edu/people/hugh-nibley/ Hugh Nibley's books and publications, lots of useful material here. Most can be read for free on the site.

http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/ another website full of excellent papers.

 

Now for those other things.

Here's the text version of a presentation given by Daniel C. Peterson wherein he explains why Joseph had plates in a purely secular sense, I think it's very interesting and I recommend you read it. https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2016/logic-tree-life

And here's a video that I find helpful, a presentation given by a Mormon historian.

https://youtu.be/CCVvoC2PXtM

Feel free to send me a private message if you have any questions.

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14 minutes ago, MormonGator said:

I've recommended it before, but why not read the book "Rough Stone Rolling" by Richard Bushman? That helped me when I was looking into the church. While I don't know for sure, I probably had the same questions you did. 

A book I would like to recommend is "Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses" by Richard Lloyd Anderson

Edited by Snigmorder

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2 minutes ago, Snigmorder said:

A book I would like to recommend is "Investigating the book of Mormon Witnesses" by Richard Lloyd Anderson

Another book I would recommend is the Michael Ash one "Shaken Faith Syndrome". 

Remember OP-missionares are wonderful people and I truly believe that they are doing the will of God. But (and no, this is not an insult to them or the church) they may not have all the answers you seek and worse, they might have wrong answers. They are excellent starting points-but it's okay to go here and ask questions. 

 

Edited by MormonGator
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Just now, MormonGator said:

Another book I would recommend is the Michael Ash one "Shaken Faith Syndrome". 

Remember OP-missionares are wonderful people and I truly believe that they are doing Gods will. But (and no, this is not an insult to them or the church) they may not have all the answers you seek and worse, they might have wrong answers. They are excellent starting points-but it's okay to go here and ask questions. 

 

Thank you for that.  Would it be inappropriate to reach out to the Temple?  Do you feel that will help?   I will absolutely read everything people took the time to link to or suggest, but I'd like to keep reading the Book of Mormon as well.  

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32 minutes ago, Grunt said:

. . . and the witnesses said they had a vision of the plates, not physically saw them. 

You certainly seem to be doing your homework!  As you've seen, it's hard enough to wrap one's mind around Mormonism's founding narrative without having to cope with the numerous incorrect second-hand accounts and theories that have been floated over the ears.  So with regard to the above-cited claim specifically, please allow me to recommend recommend the following: https://publications.mi.byu.edu/publications/jbms/14/1/S00005-50be6c46c6d443Anderson.pdf.  The corpus of statements from the witnesses themselves tend to debunk the notion that the witnesses regarded their experiences as being of a visionary rather than a physical nature; and theories to the contrary generally originate from writers who weren't there but assume ab initio that the gold plates never existed.

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5 minutes ago, Grunt said:

 

Thank you for that.  Would it be inappropriate to reach out to the Temple?  Do you feel that will help?   I will absolutely read everything people took the time to link to or suggest, but I'd like to keep reading the Book of Mormon as well.  

Actually, the best thing you can do is go to this site. 99% of people here (even the ones I disagree with ) are all loyal members of the church and great people who will do their best to help you in any way they can, especially because all your questions don't have an attitude or an agenda. 


After a few weeks of visiting with the missionaries, they'll probably have a member come over to your place so you can meet them. Ask them questions as well. Everyone in the church is here to help you. 

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12 minutes ago, MormonGator said:

Another book I would recommend is the Michael Ash one "Shaken Faith Syndrome". 

Remember OP-missionares are wonderful people and I truly believe that they are doing the will of God. But (and no, this is not an insult to them or the church) they may not have all the answers you seek and worse, they might have wrong answers. They are excellent starting points-but it's okay to go here and ask questions. 

 

Exactly, the task of the missionaries is to each the doctrines and the origins of the restoration by the power of testimony and of the Holy Ghost. 

Edited by Snigmorder
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7 minutes ago, Grunt said:

 

Thank you for that.  Would it be inappropriate to reach out to the Temple?  Do you feel that will help?   I will absolutely read everything people took the time to link to or suggest, but I'd like to keep reading the Book of Mormon as well.  

Book of Mormon should undoubtably take precedence.  

If you're looking for someone in your local area, some people to ask would be:

--Your local "Ward Mission Leader".  He's a local dude coordinates with the local folks the full-time missionaries who are from elsewhere.  He's also typically like middle aged.

--If female, your "Relief Society President".  She leads the local women's group.  If male, you can go with the "Elder's Quorum President" (the young dudes) or "High Priest Group leader" (the older dudes).

-- And of course your local Bishop.

The missionaries can easily put you in touch with any of these folks.

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12 minutes ago, Grunt said:

 

Thank you for that.  Would it be inappropriate to reach out to the Temple?  Do you feel that will help?   I will absolutely read everything people took the time to link to or suggest, but I'd like to keep reading the Book of Mormon as well.  

Jumping on a bit on Gator's turf--for better or for worse, Mormonism doesn't really have a formally commissioned institute of apologetics (or even theology).  Some BYU professors, and some independent LDS researchers, have done yeoman's work in these fields.  But if you approach the church itself with these kinds of concerns--whether the "mission home" (aka "mission presidency" or "mission office") that oversees the missionaries you are working with, or the presiding officers ("bishop") of your local Mormon congregation--the thrust of their ministry is opening people up to the possibility that a) a person can ask a question directly to God; and b) that, at least in generalities if not always in specifics, God will talk back.  Once that key relationship has been established, my experience is that much of the rest tends to fall into place.

Edited by Just_A_Guy
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@Grunt

I was born and raised Mormon. Lived half my life in Colorado and the other half in Utah, Mormon Capital of the universe.

Always went to church, prayed might and day. I've never sworn (on purpose or out of anger), drank, smoked, done drugs. Be never been there, done that and never got a single t-shirt for any of them.

I'm your typical peter priesthood Utah Mormon. The kind you see on magazines.

I say this not to brag, but to make a point. 

About my sophomore year of highschool I really began diving into the church and really trying to understand the gospel. I began pondering some of the stories of Christ and Joseph Smith and began finding things that didn't make sense to me. I found aspects of the situation between Pilate, Christ and the Atonement of Christ rather disturbing. I literally asked every church leader I could for a year and never got an answer. But I didn't let that keep me from church and doing what I KNEW was right.

3 years later I was at a conference listening to a leader speak about God's Plan of Salvation for us and my question about Pilate and Christ was far from my mind. He began speaking on a certain topic and the spirit brought that question running back into my mind and within 15 minutes it all made sense to me and my question was answered.

This has happened quote a few times in my life and in similar fashions, always quite a bit of time later do the answers to my biggest questions come.

Here is what I learned: God blesses those who are patient and faithful. If things don't make sense, quiting is a sure fire way of never learning.

I too have had questions pertaining to Joseph Smith, but going forward with faith has generally fixed the questions.

ALSO! Not sure why, but we as Christians tend to believe miracles in the Bible, but when we hear similar events occurring only 200 years ago or even yesterday, we become skeptical and quicker to reject.

God wants us to learn and progress spiritually and intellectually. In fact I believe the more you understand the gospel, the more you come closer to Heavenly Father,

So ask questions :) but don't let an unanswered question drive you away, we will never know everything

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11 minutes ago, Grunt said:

 

Thank you for that.  Would it be inappropriate to reach out to the Temple?  Do you feel that will help?   I will absolutely read everything people took the time to link to or suggest, but I'd like to keep reading the Book of Mormon as well.  

It would certainly be appropriate to seek answers as an endowed temple patron while inside the temple. But I'm not sure asking the people in charge of the temple would profit much.

If you're talking about a visitors center, It's perfectly fine to ask. 

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Speaking personally, I'm not a person who really cares *how* God does His miracles.  I'm just very happy and thankful with the results.  Though I do also care a lot about the "why" He did the miracle.  

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There are many, many issues one could come up with to point to as to why it is unreasonable that the translation story of the Book of Mormon, and therefore the book itself, is true.  There are also many answers, which, as @The Folk Prophet pointed out, on their own can never provide enough satisfaction to the naysayers, and should not be enough for a believer.  There are very few things in life where this wouldn't apply.  All well known religions have proponents and detractors; most weight loss programs and diets experience the same.  We each have different preferences, different temptations and struggles, and different desires, which all pull us to and away from different things.  One great blessing we have is God's wisdom, and His plan and pathway that will lead us to Christ and the eternal truths we need to gain eternal life.

Many have recommended various books and other resources, which are great materials.  However, personally, I would recommend not to put time into reading any other books until after you have made a decision for yourself about if you 'believe' the Book of Mormon is true.  As valuable as various resources, opinions, and points of view can be, nothing will come close to being as powerful as your own personal conviction and understanding, especially as it is developed and bestowed by the Holy Ghost, the power of God.

1 hour ago, Grunt said:

. . . the witnesses said they had a vision of the plates, not physically saw them.

I want to address this line from your post.  Part of what strengthens the testimony I have received from the Spirit is that in fact, God enabled certain men to have a vision of the plates, and others to physically hold them in their hands.  These two separate experiences work together to bear witness of the divinity, as well as the physical reality of the plates.  If you open up your copy of the Book of Mormon, these are in the very early pages known as the Testimony of Three Witnesses and the Testimony of Eight Witnesses.

Here are some key points from the Three Witnesses:

Quote

. . . we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record. . . we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true.

. . . we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. . . an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon. . .

And some key points from the Eight Witnesses:

Quote

. . . Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. 

One can observe that the three witnesses did not ever touch the plates and were shown them by an angel.  However, the eight witnesses were shown the plates directly by Joseph Smith and held them in their hands.  These events occurred at separate dates and times, and the three and eight witnesses were in fact 11 different people.

I personally can testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, because I have received a witness of the Holy Ghost through prayer.  I promise that if you sincerely desire to know of it's truth and are willing to follow through with the changes which will enhance your commitment to Christ (meaning you have a sincere heart), you will be able to receive a witness on your own that it is true by the power of the Holy Ghost.  Once again, as great as the advice many others are offering, I personally would counsel you to seek out a witness of the Spirit before focusing much energy on reading other materials.  You should continue asking all the sincere questions you can think of, and do whatever research will be helpful.  I promise though, that everything you need to determine if the Book of Mormon is true is contained within the front to back cover.  Anything else is icing on top of the cake.

Our forum friends will probably get tired of me saying this at some point, but, while I was raised in the Church, my father is Muslim and I have family and others from a variety of religious backgrounds.  I have dealt with persecution and anti-Mormon material for much of my life.  I have dealt with doubts and fears and questions and concerns.  I only say this because I want you to know that it doesn't matter what your background is, the Lord loves you and is willing to provide appropriate and real answers to your sincere questions.  I consider myself and intelligent and well studied member of the Church, yet the only true solace has always come initially through the witness of the Spirit of God.  You can and will come to know the Book of Mormon is true if you seek it sincerely.  We will all be glad to help you however we can in the process, but ultimately this is your spiritual journey toward Christ.

Edited by person0
typo
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34 minutes ago, Grunt said:

 

Thank you for that.  Would it be inappropriate to reach out to the Temple?  Do you feel that will help?   I will absolutely read everything people took the time to link to or suggest, but I'd like to keep reading the Book of Mormon as well.  

Go ahead and call the visitor centers. But the actual question temples may not be able to provide what you are seeking

Just know you will not be able to enter temples either. It is a very sacred place for those who have mad Covenants with God through Baptism and have show God tha they can live worthily of the commandments h has given.

HOWEVER!

After a temple is built, for about a week before opening to members of the church, there is an open house and you can go take a tour.

here is a link to all the temples under construction now:  http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormon-temples-currently-under-construction 

Hope one is near you

Edited by Fether
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18 minutes ago, Jane_Doe said:

Speaking personally, I'm not a person who really cares *how* God does His miracles.  I'm just very happy and thankful with the results.  Though I do also care a lot about the "why" He did the miracle.  

Reminds me of Jesus spitting into some dirt and rubbing the mixture onto a blind man's eyes. Certainly a strange miracle.

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2 minutes ago, Snigmorder said:

Reminds me of Jesus spitting into some dirt and rubbing the mixture onto a blind man's eyes. Certainly a strange miracle.

In my view the miracles are a clear example of when we should take on faith. I believe Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but I can't prove it. I accept it on faith. 

Edited by MormonGator
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