To celebrate, I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on one of the most motivating drivers behind my apostasy and eventual rejection of all religions: the rejection of Joseph Smith’s supernatural claims.
As I’ve stated here before, I was not born nor raised LDS. Although I joined the church at a young age (15) for mostly social reasons, I revisited my beliefs at a later time and can honestly say I really believed (and wanted to believe) the history and doctrine of the church. I became interested early on in its doctrines and eagerly wanted to teach the youth in the church. I was in Scouting and taught Primary. I did firesides and youth conferences and was generally involved in everything good the church had to offer.
Needless to say, the more I learned about the history of the church and its doctrines, the more I started to see the ugly side of it all. Between the obvious dealings with polygamy and racial discrimination to more involved topics such as Smith’s past, the Book of Abraham Papyri, or the Mountain Meadows Massacre ,I found myself truly disenchanted with the responses to such issues provided to me by the church. I became more and more confused about the church to which I belonged.
But my doubts really all started with ol’ Joe, however, so I’ll dedicate my post to him and his genius in conning the folks in this great land. The man is indeed amazing if he foresaw a fraction of the empire he helped build.
So, without further ado, here are 4 reasons why I deny Joseph Smith’s claims:
1) There’s no reliable evidence
“The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness” said Simon Laplace, which the great Carl Sagan reworded later on as “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
I contend that, in this day and age, at least in most developed countries, Smith’s claims of visions and magical tools would be highly scrutinized and eventually deemed ludicrous and borderline schizophrenic by most (unfortunately there are still plenty gullible people who still believe in enough woo to give credence to such tales). I would hope to believe they would not survive or, at best, it would exist a la Scientology, which is today a laughing stock among anyone seriously considering a theology.
2) His dirty past
From an early age, Smith and his family were actively involved in folk magic and claims of mystical visions which they said were from god. They also practiced treasure hunting via seer stones to augment their income. He was eventually arrested in one of his treasure quests and eventually forfeited his business, double crossing his partners in the process. Smith himself tells of his first vision at age 15, in which god told him his sins were forgiven and no church existed that was true. His wife’s parents never approved of their marriage and his dealing in polygamy were mostly kept secret from her. This portrayal of a young man highly influenced by religion is not unlike the youth of today involved in organizations such as Christ Triumphant Church and others around the country.
3) It’s the same old story
Smith was definitely not the only one to have ever created a following or started a new religion, and especially during the early 19th Century’s Second Great Awakening, which led to the beginnings of many new denominations and gave upstate New York the nickname of “Burned-over district,” giving rise to Adventism, Restorationism, the LDS church, and the Holiness movement, among others.
4) The bottom line
“Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course, or that a man should tell a lie? We have never seen, in our time, nature go out of her course, but we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the same time; it is therefore at least millions to one, that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie.” – Thomas Paine.
A friend of mine was telling me the story of a co-worker who one day said he had a vision from god and that god had spoken to him. This man took to write down the message on pieces of paper and placed one on each person’s desk. He was called into his boss’ office and told that the workplace was no place to disseminate religious claims. The co-worker repeated the offense and was fired. I’m willing to believe no one in the company thought they had just got rid of a true prophet of a god, but a zealous (or maybe even crazy), religious person. The bottom line is, if Joseph Smith wasn’t outright lying and swindling the people around him, he was just truly delusional.
For a complete, unbiased account of Joseph Smith’s history, check out Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith.
(post context borrowed respectfully from “Unreasonable Faith.”)