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.
- Joseph Smith translation of the Bible does not agree with ancient documents such as the Dead Sea Scrolls
- Joseph Smith copied parts of the Book of Mormon from the Bible
- The papyri from which came the Book of Abraham are common funerary texts
- The facsimiles from the Book of Abraham have nothing to do with what Joseph said they do
- Science and excerpts from the Book of Abraham don’t mix well
- The Kinderhook plates
- Zelph the “white lamanite”
- DNA and the Book of Mormon (lot of stuff here, be prepared)
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.