By James W. Adams
Probably the great hoax perpetrated in the religious world during the nineteenth century was the imposition of the “Book of Mormon” on the American public. The book first appeared for sale and distribution in the bookstore of printer, E.B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York, on March 26, 1830. It was entitled: “The Book of Mormon, by Joseph Smith, Junior, author and proprietor.” It purported to be a translation of a revelation from God written on golden plates which, directed by the heavenly messenger, Moroni, Joseph Smith uncovered on a hill just outside Manchester, Ontario county, New York. According to Smith, he was told by Moroni that God had a work for him to do, and that there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang, and that the “fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; also, that there were two stones in silver bowls – and these stones, fastened to a breast plate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummin – deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted seers in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.”
Joseph Smith claimed that by this means he “translated, by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written” the material which constitutes the “Book of Mormon.” Hence, there is no question that he claimed the “Book of Mormon” was divinely inspired, a “latter day revelation” from the God of heaven. That this is the belief of Mormons today is corroborated by the accepted name of their church: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
I have in my library a book called: “Braden-Kelley Debate.” It is a discussion between Clark Braden, of the church of Christ, and E.L. Kelley, of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. It was conducted in Kirtland, Ohio in the spring of 1884. Mr. Kelley was much perturbed throughout by the fact that brother Braden uniformly referred to Joseph Smith, Junior, as “Imposter Joe.” I do not necessarily agree that brother Braden was wise in the use of this terminology, but in the light of what follows, it would appear that the Utah branch of modern Mormons tacitly, at least, accept it to be altogether fitting.
Note the following (AP) news item which appeared in the May 1, 1990 edition of The Lufkin Daily News, Lufkin, Texas:
Mormons Revise Church Ritual
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – In a rare revision of Mormon ritual, the church has dropped wording that required women to pledge to obey their husbands and portrayed the clergy of other religions as agents of Satan. . . .
The revised ritual, which took effect last month in ceremonies performed in 43 temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is being greeted with enthusiasm by church members who say it reflects greater sensitivity toward women and other religions.
Mormons attending temples were read a statement from the governing First Presidency informing them of the changes. The statement said the revisions were unanimously approved by the three member body and the advisory council of the Twelve Apostles.
By reason of the limitations of space, I shall deal only with the change relative to Mormon teaching concerning “other religions” or the denominations of modern Christendom. Joseph Smith, Junior, professed to have had a vision when fourteen or fifteen years of age which identified him “as a person for whom God had special plans.” He reports that he saw “a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. . . I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other – This is my beloved Son, hear him!” Smith further says: “My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. . . . I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right – and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong . . . He again forbade me to join with any of them . . . that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt.” This is the teaching that is the subject of the recent change mentioned in the Associated Press news item above.
Since Smith claimed he received the above message directly from the Father and the Son, the change ordered by the First Presidency of Mormonism does one of two things: (1) It declares that today’s Latter Day Saint may ignore with impunity divine revelation; or (2) Joseph Smith, Junior, was what brother Braden declared him to be, “Imposter Joe” -that his “revelations” were pretended revelations, hence that the “Book of Mormon” is a giant hoax which makes its way by reason of the gullibility of its adherents. I charge without fear of successful contradiction that the recent ruling of the officials of the Utah branch of Mormonism is a tacit admission that Joseph Smith, Junior, was a false prophet, an imposter, hence that the Book of Mormon is a great hoax. If not, why not?
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 14, pp. 419-420
July 19, 1990