Criticism of Mormonism/Books/No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith/Chapter 8

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 8: Temple Builder"

A FairMormon Analysis of: No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, a work by author: Fawn Brodie
Claim Evaluation
No Man Knows My History
Chart.brodie.ch8.jpg

Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 8: Temple Builder"

Jump to Subtopic:


Response to claim: 117 - Joseph elaborated on Isaiah's prophecy regarding the learned man and the sealed book to match details of Martin Harris' visit to Charles Anthon

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph elaborated on Isaiah's prophecy regarding the learned man and the sealed book to match details of Martin Harris' visit to Charles Anthon.

Author's sources:
  1. George B. Arbaugh, Revelation in Mormonism, 1932, pp. 75-85.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Actually, Arbaugh claims that Sidney Rigdon "expanded" Isaiah 29:11-12 into a prophecy in 2 Nephit 27 the Book of Mormon. Arbaugh, a non-believer, assumes that Rigdon helped author the Book of Mormon.

Arbaugh,

In February, 1828, Harris took the paper to Professor Anthon of New York City. He told Harris what the figures were and that he was being swindled. The Mormons, however, claimed that Anthon said the letter's were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic and that Smith's translation was correct, but that when he learned an angel had revealed the plates he destroyed his certificate of correct translation. He offered to translate the plates if Harris would bring them, according to the Mormons, and when Harris said he could not bring all, because some were scaled, said: "I cannot read a sealed book." 30 In Isa. 29:11-12 when "one that is learned" is asked to read a book he replies: "I cannot, for it is sealed." Then it is given to one "that is not learned" and he says simply: "I am not learned." In II Nephi 27, Rigdon expanded this into a page of prophecy. The sealed book is part of the Book of Mormon.

And the learned (Anthon) shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read And the man (Harris) shall say: I cannot bring the book, for it is sealed. Then shall the learned (Anthon) say: I cannot read it. Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver the book.... to him that is not learned (Smith).... and say unto him: The learned shall not read...[1]


Response to claim: 118 - Joseph's description of the three degrees of glory contrasted Book of Mormon descriptions of a "lake of fire and brimstone"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's description of the three degrees of glory contrasted Book of Mormon descriptions of a "lake of fire and brimstone."

Author's sources:
  1. Author's opinion.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The is simply the author's opinion.


Question: What is the nature of "endless" or "eternal" punishment?

The Book of Mormon seems to indicate that the suffering of the wicked will go on forever without end

The Lord often uses the phrases "endless punishment," "endless torment," and "eternal damnation" to describe the type of punishment that will be administered to the wicked. It is natural to assume, given our understanding of the words "endless" and "eternal," to believe that punishment would continue forever. In fact, the Book of Mormon states:

1 Nephi 9:16

And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end.

This certainly initially appears to support the idea that the Book of Mormon indicates that the suffering of the wicked will go on forever without end. In fact, Alma's son Corianton was concerned about the nature of this punishment.

Alma 42:1

And now, my son, I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind, which ye cannot understand—which is concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner; for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery.

The Lord clarified the meaning of these terms to Joseph Smith in a revelation given in March, 1830

Alma's response to his son emphasized the need to repent in order to satisfy justice, but he did not elaborate on the exact nature of the punishment that would be administered if one did not repent. The natural concern is the idea that people would be "consigned to suffer throughout all eternity for what was done during the few years of mortality." [2] Fortunately, the Lord clarified the meaning of these terms to Joseph Smith in a revelation given in March, 1830.

DC 19:4-12 states:

And surely every man must repent or suffer, for I, God, am endless.

Wherefore, I revoke not the judgments which I shall pass, but woes shall go forth, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, yea, to those who are found on my left hand.

Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.

Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory.

Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles.

I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest.

For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore—

Eternal punishment is God’s punishment.

Endless punishment is God’s punishment.

The Book of Mormon does provide indications that the use of the words "endless" and "eternal" indicate the nature of the punishment rather than its duration, thus contradicting the claims made by the critics. The Lord, through modern revelation, provided clarification on the meaning of the terms "endless" and "eternal" when used to describe punishment. Thus, Latter-day Saints understand "endless punishment" and "eternal punishment" to mean "God's punishment," since "endless" and "eternal" are two of God's names. Likewise, the term "eternal life" can be interpreted to mean "God's life" in the same manner.


Question: What is the meaning of "eternal" life?

Given the "eternal" punishment represents "God's punishment," it stands to reason the "eternal" life refers to "God's life"

Arthur R. Bassett states in the February 1978 Ensign:

The significant relationship between knowing God and eternal life is clarified by the Lord’s explanation to Joseph in 1830 that “Endless” is another name properly applied to Him, and, consequently, that Eternal punishment, or Endless punishment, is God’s punishment. (See D&C 19:10–12.) It seems to follow then that eternal life is God’s life. Therefore, the Prophet’s statement can be taken to mean, in part, that eternal life, being God’s life, is understood only as one comes to know God and Christ. Knowing the Master ultimately seems to mean becoming like the Master. [3]


Question: Does the Book of Mormon support the idea that "eternal" or "endless" punishment can be temporary?

In the Book of Mormon, Alma's "eternal torment" only lasted three days

The Book of Mormon does indeed provide some indication of the true nature of "eternal" and "endless" punishment. Consider Alma's description of his conversion experience during the three days that he was incapacitated after seeing an angel. Alma says,

I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. (Alma 36:12) (emphasis added)

Alma's "eternal torment" lasted only three days, which implies that he was describing the nature of his torment rather than its duration. Similarly, in Mosiah 27:28 Alma says

Alma was also removed from a state of "everlasting burning"

Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God.

The term "everlasting burning" obviously refers to a state of torment rather than a duration.

In the Book of Mormon, we find:

O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment. 2 Nephi 9:19 (emphasis added)

The statements by Alma and Nephi effectively negate the criticism that the Book of Mormon contradicts Joseph Smith's teachings on the nature of "endless" and "eternal" punishment.


Response to claim: 120 - The Missouri Mormons never forgave Joseph for returning to Ohio

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The Missouri Mormons never forgave Joseph for returning to Ohio.

Author's sources:
  1. No sources provided. Author's conjecture.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is pure speculation on the part of the author.


Response to claim: 124 - The "Civil War" prophecy was abandoned and excluded from early collections of Joseph's revelations because they thought it had failed

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The "Civil War" prophecy was abandoned and excluded from early collections of Joseph's revelations because they thought it had failed.

Author's sources:
  1. Source not provided

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

There is plenty of evidence that LDS missionaries continued to preach the prophecy.


Question: After the end of the rebellion in South Carolina, did the Church not mention the Civil War prophecy for many years?

Joseph Smith reiterated the prophecy in 1842, and added more detail, 19 years before the Civil War

12 I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God, that the commencement of the difficulties which will cause much bloodshed previous to the coming of the Son of Man will be in South Carolina.

13 It may probably arise through the slave question. This a voice declared to me, while I was praying earnestly on the subject, December 25th, 1832. (D&C 130:12-13)

Orson Pratt preached about the prophesy in 1832, 29 years before the Civil War

Orson Pratt testified that he began preaching the prophecy soon after it was given. In 1870, he said:

I went forth before my beard was gray, before my hair began to turn white, when I was a youth of nineteen, now I am fifty-eight, and from that time on I published these tidings among the inhabitants of the earth. I carried forth the written revelation, foretelling this great contest, some twenty-eight years before the war commenced. This prophecy has been printed and circulated extensively in this and other nations and languages. It pointed out the place where it should commence in South Carolina. That which I declared over the New England States, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and many other parts in the East, when but a boy, came to pass twenty-eight years after the revelation was given.

When they were talking about a war commencing down here in Kansas, I told them that was not the place; I also told them that the revelation had designated South Carolina, "and," said I, "you have no need to think that the Kansas war is going to be the war that is to be so terribly destructive in its character and nature. No, it must commence at the place the Lord has designated by revelation."

What did they have to say to me? They thought it was a Mormon humbug, and laughed me to scorn, and they looked upon that revelation as they do upon all others that God has given in these latter days—as without divine authority. But behold and lo! in process of time it came to pass, again establishing the divinity of this work, and giving another proof that God is in this work, and is performing that which He spoke by the mouths of the ancient prophets, as recorded in the Book of Mormon before any Church of Latter-day Saints was in existence.[4]

Thus, Orson Pratt indicates that not only did he preach regarding Joseph's prophesy in 1832, but that he was ridiculed for it. He would also remember:

Now I am aware that it is almost impossible for even some of the Latter-day Saints to get that confidence and that strong faith in the events which God intends to accomplish on this land in the future to believe in such a thing, to say nothing about outsiders, that do not believe a word of it. Outsiders do not believe it any more than they believed me when I was a boy and took that revelation which was given in 1832, and carried it forth among many towns and cities and told them there was to be a great and terrible war between the North and the South, and read to them the revelation. Did they believe it? Would they consider that there was any truth in it? Not in the least, "that is a Mormon humbug" they would say. "What! this great and powerful nation of ours to be divided one part against the other and many hundreds of thousands of souls to be destroyed by civil wars!" Not a word of it would they believe. They do not believe what is still in the future.[5]

The Church printed the prophecy in the Pearl of Great Price in 1851, ten years before the Civil War

The Church also printed the prophecy in the Pearl of Great Price in 1851, and continued to publicize it until the Civil War. Clearly, they did not keep it "under wraps" until the Civil War became inevitable.[6]

Orson Pratt also included the full prophecy from December 1832 on the front page of his publication The Seer in April 1854, seven years before the Civil War

Orson Pratt also included the full prophecy from December 1832 on the front page of his publication The Seer in April 1854, with interpretation and editorial comment for 6 pages.[7] There are also many extant manuscript copies of the prophecy, in the handwriting of men who left the church before Joseph Smith died, and some who didn't (WW Phelps, Thomas Bullock, Willard Richards [who died before the Civil War], Edward Partridge, Algernon Sidney Gilbert, Frederick G. Williams).[8]

The Philadelphia Sunday Mercury quoted the prophecy in 1851, ten years before the Civil War

Robert Woodford's Ph.D. thesis also located a an article in a Philadelphia paper quoting the revelation from 1851, with comments, from May 1861; it was reprinted in England a month later:

Philadelphia Sunday Mercury, Sunday May 5, 1861

A MORMON PROPHECY

We have in our possession a pamphlet, published at Liverpool, in 1851, containing a selection from the ‘revelations, translations and narratives’ of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. The following prophecy is here said to have been made by Smith, on the 25th of December, 1832. In view of our present troubles, this prediction seems to be in progress of fulfilment, whether Joe Smith was a humbug or not:

‘A REVELATION AND PROPHECY BY THE PROPHET, SEER, AND REVELATOR, JOSEPH SMITH. Verily thus saith the Lord…. Amen [complete text quoted]’

The war began in South Carolina. Insurrections of slaves are already dreaded. Famine will certainly afflict some Southern communities. The interference of Great Britain, on account of the want of cotton, is not improbable, if the war is protracted. In the meantime, a general war in Europe appears to be imminent. Have we not had a prophet among us?[9]

Clearly, members of the Church did not hide the prophecy, and spread it far and wide among themselves and among others from the 1830s until its fulfillment in the 1860s.


Response to claim: 127 - Joseph couldn't initially called the Kirtland Temple a "temple," since there was already land dedicated for a temple in Missouri

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph couldn't initially called the Kirtland Temple a "temple," since there was already land dedicated for a temple in Missouri.

Author's sources:
  1. Author's opinion.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is pure speculation on the part of the author.


Notes

  1. George B. Arbaugh, Revelation in Mormonism, 1932, 37.
  2. John L. Clark, "Painting Out the Messiah: The Theologies of Dissidents," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 11/1 (2002): 16–27. off-site wiki
  3. Arthur R. Bassett, "The Shepherd and His Other Sheep," Ensign (Feb. 1978), 53.
  4. Orson Pratt, (10 April 1870) Journal of Discourses 13:135.
  5. Orson Pratt, (27 December 1868) Journal of Discourses 12:344.
  6. Paul H. Peterson, "Civil War Prophecy," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:288.
  7. Editor [Orson Pratt], "A Revelation and Prophecy by the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, Joseph Smith," The Seer 2/4 (April 1854): 241–247.
  8. Robert Woodford, The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants, Ph.D. Dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1974, 1104–1124.
  9. Woodford, "The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants," 1110, 1111 (figures 12 and 13) [figures contain photocopy of the masthead of each newspaper, and the article itself].