Here are a few of my favorite examples of how missionaries use "milk before meat" to keep members and investigators away from anything that might keep them from the church. This is far from honest, in my humble opinion.
For the complete list that Richard Packham wrote, complete with notes, please click here.
Contemporaries of Smith consistently described him as something of a confidence man, whose chief source of income was hiring out to local farmers to help them find buried treasure by the use of folk magic and "seer stones." Smith was actually tried in 1826 on a charge of moneydigging. It is interesting that none of his critics seemed to be aware of his claim to have been visited by God in 1820, even though in his 1838 account he claimed that he had suffered "great persecution" for telling people of his vision.
The only persons who claimed to have actually seen the gold plates were eleven close friends of Smith (many of them related to each other). Their testimonies are printed in the front of every copy of the Book of Mormon. No disinterested third party was ever allowed to examine them. They were retrieved by the angel at some unrecorded point. Most of the witnesses later abandoned Smith and left his movement. Smith then called them "liars."
Smith produced most of the "translation" not by reading the plates through the Urim and Thummim (described as a pair of sacred spectacles), but by gazing at the same "seer stone" he had used for treasure hunting. He would place the stone into his hat, and then cover his face with it. For much of the time he was dictating, the gold plates were not even present, but in a hiding place.
Many of the basic historical notions found in the Book of Mormon had appeared in print already in 1825, just two years before Smith began producing the Book of Mormon, in a book called View of the Hebrews, by Ethan Smith (no relation) and published just a few miles from where Joseph Smith lived. A careful study of this obscure book led one LDS church official (the historian B. H. Roberts, 1857-1933) to confess that the evidence tended to show that the Book of Mormon was not an ancient record, but concocted by Joseph Smith himself, based on ideas he had read in the earlier book.
The secret temple ritual (the "endowment") was introduced by Smith in May, 1842, just two months after he had been initiated into Freemasonry. The LDS temple ritual closely resembles the Masonic ritual of that day. Smith explained that the Masons had corrupted the ancient (God-given) ritual by changing it and removing parts of it, and that he was restoring it to its "pure" and "original" (and complete) form, as revealed to him by God. In the years since, the LDS church has made many fundamental changes in the "pure and original" ritual as "restored" by Smith, mostly by removing major parts of it.
Many doctrines which were once taught by the LDS church, and held to be fundamental, essential and "eternal", have been abandoned. Whether we feel that the church was correct in abandoning them is not the point; rather, the point is that a church claiming to be the church of God takes one "everlasting" position at one time and the opposite position at another, all the time claiming to be proclaiming the word of God. Some examples are:
- The Adam-God doctrine (Adam is God the Father)
- The United Order (all property of church members is to be held in common, with title in the church)
- Plural Marriage (polygamy; a man must have more than one wife to attain the highest degree of heaven)
- the Curse of Cain (the black race is not entitled to hold God's priesthood because it is cursed; this doctrine was not abandoned until 1978)
- Blood Atonement (some sins - apostasy, adultery, murder, interracial marriage - must be atoned for by the shedding of the sinner's blood, preferably by someone appointed to do so by church authorities)
All of these doctrines were proclaimed by the reigning prophet to be the Word of God, "eternal," "everlasting," to govern the church "forevermore." All have been abandoned by the present church.
Joseph Smith claimed to be a "translator" by the power of God. In addition to the Book of Mormon, he made several other "translations":
- The Book of Abraham, from Egyptian papyrus scrolls which came into his possession in 1835. He stated that the scrolls were written by the biblical Abraham "by his own hand." Smith's translation is now accepted as scripture by the LDS church, as part of its Pearl of Great Price. Smith also produced an "Egyptian Grammar" based on his translation. Modern scholars of ancient Egyptian agree that the scrolls are common Egyptian funeral scrolls, entirely pagan in nature, having nothing to do with Abraham, and from a period 2000 years later than Abraham. The "Grammar" has been said by Egyptologists to prove that Smith had no notion of the Egyptian language. It is pure fantasy: he made it up.
- The "Inspired Revision" of the King James Bible. Smith was commanded by God to retranslate the Bible because the existing translations contained errors. He completed his translation in 1833, but the church still uses the King James Version.
- The "Kinderhook Plates," a group of six metal plates with strange engraved characters, unearthed in 1843 near Kinderhook, Illinois, and examined by Smith, who began a "translation" of them. He never completed the translation, but he identified the plates as an "ancient record," and translated enough to identify the author as a descendant of Pharaoh. Local farmers later confessed that they had manufactured, engraved and buried the plates themselves as a hoax. They had apparently copied the characters from a Chinese tea box.
- God was once a man like us.
- God has a tangible body of flesh and bone.
- God lives on a planet near the star Kolob.
- God ("Heavenly Father") has at least one wife, our "Mother in Heaven," but she is so holy that we are not to discuss her nor pray to her.
- Jesus was married.
- We can become like God and rule over our own universe.
- There are many gods, ruling over their own worlds.
- Jesus and Satan ("Lucifer") are brothers, and they are our brothers - we are all spirit children of Heavenly Father
- Jesus Christ was conceived by God the Father by having sex with Mary, who was temporarily his wife.
- We should not pray to Jesus, nor try to feel a personal relationship with him.
- The "Lord" ("Jehovah") in the Old Testament is the being named Jesus in the New Testament, but different from "God the Father" ("Elohim").
- In the highest degree of the celestial kingdom some men will have more than one wife.
- Before coming to this earth we lived as spirits in a "pre-existence", during which we were tested; our position in this life (whether born to Mormons or savages, or in America or Africa) is our reward or punishment for our obedience in that life.
- Dark skin is a curse from God, the result of our sin, or the sin of our ancestors. If sufficiently righteous, a dark-skinned person will become light-skinned.
- The Garden of Eden was in Missouri. All humanity before the Great Flood lived in the western hemisphere. The Ark transported Noah and the other survivors to the eastern hemisphere.
- Not only will human beings be resurrected to eternal life, but also all animals - everything that has ever lived on earth - will be resurrected and dwell in heaven.
- Christ will not return to earth in any year that has seen a rainbow.
- Mormons should avoid traveling on water, since Satan rules the waters.
- The sun receives its light from the star Kolob.
- If a Gentile becomes Mormon, the Holy Ghost actually purges his Gentile blood and replaces it with Israelite blood.
- A righteous Mormon will actually see the face of God in the Mormon temple.
- You can identify a false angel by the color of his hair, or by offering to shake his hand.