I first became aware of the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was about twenty-five years old. I was happily married and the father of two young children. I was involved in my career and family as most others were at my age and time. My wife and I were brought up in Protestant churches, and we believed in Jesus Christ and lived basic Christian principles as we understood them. We were not attending church regularly because we were reluctant to be involved in organized religious worship. I suppose we were skeptical of church organizations. In our view, religious leaders seemed as confused as we were about the purpose of life and other doctrinal questions. Moreover, the church movements we were aware of seemed more interested in finances and social issues than in questions of salvation or truth.
During this time I was given a copy of the Book of Mormon by a loved one who was very excited about what she was learning and eager to share it with me. I was not pleased with the gift, but out of courtesy I kept it. I was concerned that she had been led down some unworthy path and didn’t know what she was doing. After ignoring the book for several months, I decided to read it. My purpose was to learn enough to rescue my dear friend from her folly. I started reading the first few pages, which explain the origin of the book and the story of how it was found and interpreted. My perusal introduced me to Joseph Smith–the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
What happened then completely changed my life. My intent to expose this book as a sham was replaced by an intense interest in the things it taught so clearly. As I read I was impressed by the honest nature of the boy, Joseph Smith, who had the integrity to seek for truth and the courage to follow the Bible and literally “ask of God” for the wisdom he lacked (James 1:5). His humble and sincere prayer elicited a marvelous answer from the God of Heaven. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, Joseph learned that God actually speaks to men–the heavens are not closed! Joseph had received the most important message the world could obtain, but when he tried to share his marvelous experience he was ridiculed and persecuted. I was struck by his straightforward testimonial:
I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it. (Joseph Smith–History 1:25)
Joseph sought answers because he was confused about religion. I had questions similar to his: Why were there so many “Christian” churches? Why so many different doctrines and practices? Why did teachers and leaders of religion interpret the Bible with contrasting results? Joseph wanted to know which of the churches he should join. He wanted to know the truth. He wanted wisdom that was beyond his natural ability to understand. So did I. If God’s church was on the earth I wanted to know about it and be part of it. As I pondered these things, I was intensely moved upon by the power of the Spirit. What I felt was not a fleeting, subtle emotion. It was a consuming feeling that brought great joy to my soul. It was warm and peaceful. I was bathed in the comfort of the Spirit. The only other time I’d felt such a forceful spiritual impression was as a young boy when I read in Matthew about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and received a similar confirmation of truth. By the same spiritual prompting that I learned that Jesus Christ is my Savior, I came to know that Joseph Smith was a chosen prophet of God. It was a completely unexpected and unsought-for experience, but that witness of the Spirit was nevertheless the beginning of a journey that would change my life forever.
My wife and I invited missionaries into our home who taught us the specific doctrines of the restored gospel. When we each received the necessary teachings and confirmations from our studies and prayers, we were baptized and became members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That event took place on 21 February 1971 in Portland, Oregon. We were excited to have found the true church of Jesus Christ and set about to learn more of our opportunities and responsibilities.
However, almost immediately after joining the church, I became aware of an energetic movement to expose Joseph Smith as an imposter and make claims that the Book of Mormon, and indeed anything connected with the church, was fraudulent. This was perplexing to me. I had never had my faith challenged before in such an offensive way. I had been taught that a person’s faith was sacred–whatever he believed–and making light of sacred things was always inappropriate. Yet here I was in the midst of scorn and ridicule. About this time, a well-meaning friend gave me a copy of a book titled Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?1 He suggested that I might enjoy a different view of Mormonism. I read this book with interest. It appeared to be well written and researched. It proclaimed that the Book of Mormon was a nineteenth-century fabrication and that Joseph Smith and other early leaders of the church were untrustworthy, dishonest people who were bent on deception. These were heavy allegations, and they struck me to the center. Wanting answers, I decided to do a little research of my own.
I soon discovered that the book my friend had given me was filled with errors and deceptive statements. Blatant lies were written as truth. Scriptures were quoted out of context, distorting meaning and message. Quotes and references that appeared on the surface to be trustworthy proved to be the opposite. The book was a fabrication. Its purpose was to deceive–it had no other value. I wondered why anyone would write such material. Why would someone lie about religion, of all things? The question intrigued me. I decided to research such writings and soon discovered an entire category of “anti-Mormon” literature. I spent many hours in the library of the Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon, examining shelves of books and tracts that spoke evil of nearly every aspect of the Church of Jesus Christ. Since that time I have become further acquainted with such writings. Some of these I found disgusting–claims written by people whose obvious lack of honest principle was alarming. Other authors appeared to be almost completely ignorant of Latter-day Saint doctrine or religious practice. Many writers were primarily trying to defend their religious doctrines against what they perceived as the “Mormon threat.”
This book contains doctrines and teachings for those who are honest in their desires to know the truth. My purpose is simply to help clear up common misconceptions published about the church; I do not intend to satisfy the questions of modern-day Pharisees–those who do not have ears to hear. I will try to explain, from my perspective, the philosophies and tools of anti-Mormon authors so that those who have been exposed to them may see through the veneer of their arguments. There are honorable servants of Christ in sectarian churches today, but there are others who for various reasons sow falsehood in an effort to deceive. Some are simply misguided people who are more interested in a platform for their religious views than in the truth. To the honest person, my counsel would be to learn by study, seek wisdom through prayer, and expect answers from God.
Let me affirm that I do not speak for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I present the material in this book as a humble expression of personal concern and in an honest desire to help. I have no interest in misleading anyone for any reason. If I have written anything that is factually incorrect, I hope I will be corrected.
1 Howard A. Davis, Donald R. Scales, and Wayne L. Cowdrey, Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? (Santa Ana, Calif.: Vision House, 1977).