An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins – Book Review

This is a review of the book An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins by Grant H. Palmer. With this post I delve into new territory. Although I’ve read plenty of online anti-Mormon material, this is the first time I’ve actually read a printed book allegedly of that genre.

Now, as a first matter, it is my understanding that the author is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was an employee of the Church Educational System¬† (CES) for 34 years, and that in writing this book it was the author’s stated intent “to increase faith, not to diminish it.” (Preface, p. ix) Therefore you may be wondering why I’ve put this book in the “anti-Mormon” category. I have read only a little refuting this book, but I have read enough to know that there are others who consider it to be anti-Mormon in nature. I therefore enter upon this exercise with full disclosure of the bias I possess. I am inclined to believe those who have contended against various points of the book are mostly correct. However, having said that, it is now my intent to read the book with as open a mind as possible, seeking only my own conclusions. Perhaps I will reach the end and think the author to be completely disingenuous. Perhaps I will find that those who have claimed he is are quite disingenuous themselves. Whatever the case, I cannot begin this enterprise without my biases, and so the next best thing I can do is disclose them and confront them.

— Joshua Steimle 10 April 2011

Comments from my readings of 10 April 2011
Well, that was quick. I am only in the first paragraph of the first page of the preface, and I am already taking issue with the author when he says “Unfortunately, our adult lessons and discussions at church rarely rise above the seminary level, even though many of our members are well educated. Our discussions are usually an inch deep and a mile wide as they say. We seem to have a lingering desire for simple religion.”

I’ve heard this critique before from various people and with regards to various settings. I’ve heard it said that missionaries trick people into being baptized by presenting a superficial and sanitized version of the LDS Church and its history. I’ve heard it said that the leaders of the Church hide things.

When I hear these types of comments, it seems to me that those making them are starting with the assumption that the Church is not true. They see everything about the Church, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon through eyes of disbelief. They already feel they possess proof, they are now merely looking for supporting evidence to further buttress their beliefs.

Rather than answer the question fully, I’ll merely refer you to a post where I already have.

Reading on (but still in the first paragraph) I see the author brings up the DNA question. Perhaps I’m missing something, but from what I’ve read, the science behind the experiments that show that Native Americans aren’t related to Jews is pure junk (I’ve already addressed the matter and linked to others who have done a much more detailed job than I). This is not making it easy for me to keep an open mind about this guy. I can’t see why he would include any mention of DNA in his book unless; 1) he were refuting the research, 2) ignorant of the writings of those who have refuted it, or 3) possessed of nefarious intentions.

Ok, it’s becoming clear to me that if it takes me 20 minutes to get through the first page of the book, that it’s going to take me years to complete this post. So I am going to take a somewhat different approach than what I intended, which was to make comments as I went along. Instead, I will read straight through, leaving markers/notes along the way, and then I will go back once I reach the end and summarize what I think are the key points to understand about the book, along with my general interpretation of it. Fair enough?

Comments from my readings of April 15th, 2011

Change of plans again. The more I read, the more I feel I have perhaps approached the reading of this book with too much seriousness, as one who approaches the battlefield expecting to receive many wounds and perhaps die, but who upon meeting his foe face to face sees an old man, barely able to carry his own sword. Such has been my experience reading this book, in that I have found a substantially less convincing work of scholarship than I expected, and while I do plan to read the entire book, I do not think it worth my time to make much of it.

To sum things up, the book takes claims made against Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the LDS Church generally, and puts them altogether in one book, tries to make them sound authoritative, ignores details and evidence contrary to the author’s conclusions, and presents itself to the world. Thus, my plan now is to merely list the familiar anti-Mormon claims the book addresses, and link to other websites that have done a credible job refuting those claims. As for the author’s claim that his intent in writing the book was “to increase faith, not to diminish it,” I say balderdash.

I am going to publish this post, prior to completing the book. As I continue reading, I will add to this list. In creating this list, I am not linking to a comprehensive source of refutations of each point, merely to one website I feel gives a satisfactory answer.

In addition, I may have missed some claim from the book that you would like me to address. If I have done so please bring it up in the comments and I will address it.

Ah, dang it. I just stumbled onto this. Rats, everywhere I go these FAIR guys are a few thousand steps ahead of me. Frankly, I don’t see the point in reinventing the wheel, so if you’ve read the book and you’re wondering how in the world there could possibly be an explanation for the points Grant Palmer brings up, just go to that website linked from “this” and it’s all there. If you go through all that and still have questions, by all means let me know.

Comments

  1. One theory of origin you appear not to have stumbled across is that published in the Painesville Reflector of February 28th 1831.

    In 1831 the Palmyra Reflector presented an article to its readership as the explanation the origin of the Book of Mormon. It is written in serious style entirely lacking in sarcasm in spite of its content

    >>>

    …Walters, who was sometimes called a conjuror…first suggested to Smith the idea of finding a book. Walters, the better to carry on his own deception [he was a money-digger] with those ignorant and deluded people who employed him, had procured an old copy of CICERO'S ORATIONS, in the Latin language, out of which he read long and loud to his credulous hearers, uttering at the same time [sic] an unintelligible jargon, which he would afterwards pretend to interpret, and explain, as the record of the former inhabitants of America, and a particular account of the numerous situations where they had deposited their treasures previous to their final extirpation. If the critical readers will examine the "Book of Mormon", he will directly perceive, that in many instances, the style of the bible, from which it is chiefly copied, has been entirely altered for the worse. In many instances it has been copied UPWARDS, without reference to chapter or verse. >>>

    All efforts and invitations to locate these passages have proved fruitless. I wonder why?

    • What a great recoruse this text is.

  2. Another off-the-wall theory involved 'Walters the Magician'

    THE BOOK OF PUKEI, – CHAPTER I

    1. And it came to pass in the latter days, that wickedness did much abound in the land, and the "idle and slothful said one to another, let us send for Walters the Magician, who has strange books, and deals with familiar spirits, peradventure he will inform us where the Nephites, hid their treasure, so be it, that we and our, vagabond van, do not perish for lack of sustenence.
    2. Now Walters, the Magician, was a man unseemly to look upon, and to profound ignorance added the most consumate impudence,-he obeyed the summons of the idle and slothful, and produced an old book in an unknown tongue, (Cicero's Orations in Latin) from whence he read in the presence of the Idle and Slothful strange stories of hidden treasures and of the spirit who had the custody therof.
    3. And the Idle and Slothful paid tribute unto the Magician, and be-sought him saying, Oh! thou who art wise above all men, and can interpret the book that no man understandeth, and can discover hidden things by the power of thy enchantments, lead us, we pray thee to the place where the Nephites buried their treasure, and give us power over "the spirit," and we will be thy servants forever.
    4. And the Magician led the rabble into a dark grove, in a place called Manchester, where after drawing a Magic circle, with a rusty sword, and collecting a motley crew of latterdemallions, within the center, he sacrificed a cock (a bird to Minerva) for the purpose of propitiating the prince of spirits.
    5. All things being ready, the Idle and Slothful fell to work with a zeal deserving a better cause, and many a livelong night was spent in digging for "the root of all evil."
    6. Howbeit, owing to the wickedness and hardness of their hearts, these credulous and ignorant knaves, were always disappointed, till finally, their hopes, although frequently on the eve of consumation-like that of the hypocrite perished, and their hearts became faint within them.
    7. And it came to pass, that when the Idle and Slothful became weary of their night labors, they said one to another, lo! this Imp of the Devil, hath deceived us, let us no more of him, or peradventure, ourselves, our wives, and our little ones, will become chargeable on the town.
    8. Now when Walters the Magician heard these things, he was sorely grieved, and said unto himself, lo! mine occupation is gone, even these ignorant vagabonds, the idle and slothful detect mine impostures. I will away and hide myself, lest the strong arm of the law should bring me to justice.
    9. And he took his book, his rusty sword, and his magic stone, and all his implements of witchcraft and returned to the mountains near Great Sodus Bay, where he holds communion with the Devil, even unto this day.
    10. Now the rest of the acts of the magician, how his mantle fell upon the Prophet Jo. Smith Jun. and how Jo. made a league with the spirit, who afterwards turned out to be an angel, and how he obtained the "Gold Bible," Spectacles, and breastplate, will they not be recorded in the Book of Pukei?

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