Noggin, the story of the missing Book of Mormon manuscript intrigues me. I am curious what the generally accepted account is? Do most people believe that Lucy Harris stole them to prove to her husband that Joseph Smith was a fraud? If she did, mission accomplished, since Smith "decided" it was Gods will he not reproduce the missing text. How convenient. If he did try to reproduce it, and the original resurfaced, he'd be an obvious fraud, even to the gullible morons back then.
Also, was Smith really illiterate (but apparently fluent in sacred hieroglyphics)?
There are some people in Mormonism don’t know that 116 pages were “lost” (really stolen by Mrs. Harris, rest her soul). But most know about this. Some who attended the quasi-mandatory Mormon seminary or institute classes while in their youth recall vague accountings of the occurance of how Martin Harris lost the pages.
It’s generally accepted as outlined in the canonized Mormon scripture found in Doctrine & Covenants section #10. But here is the break down, probably too much info but oh well.
Supposedly, Jesus permitted Martin Harris to take the manuscript home with him after Smith kept pestering Jesus with prayer petitions to let Harris show the pages to his wife.. See Jesus told Mr. Smith twice an emphatic NO. Finally Jesus said Yes and nervously drummed his fingers on his reading credenza in omniscient anticipation as to what would duly transpire. Jesus had a supreme “I told U so” moment with Joseph Smith. Because, 3 weeks later Mr. Harris returned to Joseph Smith and told him that he had lost the 116 pages.
Joseph Smith was grief stricken over this, exclaiming (dramatically)
“Oh, my God! All is lost! All is lost! What shall I do? I have sinned.”
It is widely believed that Martin Harris’ wife had taken the pages. The reasoning was that if Joseph was indeed a prophet he could retranslate those same pages exactly as before and that new translation would prove Smith was actually translating instead of just making up the Book of Mormon story as he dictated it to Martin Harris. You have to remember that Harris’ wife was extremely skeptical that her husband was being conned in a huge way.
I think that was a fair test. Martin Harris’ wife wasn’t too far off the mark. I mean, after all, her husand was in hock up to his eyeballs for Joseph Smith having mortgaged just about every last penny of his farm and wealth for Joseph Smith’s cause. Mrs Harris had every right to be skeptical!!
But no, see, that ain’t sposed to be how it works, see. You are just supposed to be full of faith and trust people who claim they can translate ancient gold books by putting a green rock in a hat and peeping into it to see the english translation.
So okay, finally, a distraught Joseph Smith asked Jesus as to what he should do; in response, Smith received a revelation (section 10 of the Doctrine & Covenants.) Jesus allegedly told Mr. Smith that he should not retranslate those lost pages because Satan’s cunning plan was to have evil men alter the words in the original translation and wait until Joseph retranslated those pages. The evil men would then produce the original lost 116 pages with the alterations to prove that Joseph was a fraud.
Here comes the assumption. Of course Smith could retranslate word for word! He was a prophet after all. Smith had the omnipotent god on his side. BUT. That’s not the point. Some how, the evil men who now possessed the translated manuscript would be able to alter the handwriting of Smith’s scribes so professionally and so craftily that not even Smith’s scribes would be able to tell what they did or did not write.
uh, nevermind, that they would have the original text (retranslated) so that means they would know exactly where they should do handwriting analysis. Harris and Smith could easily view any and all alterations done by those “evil and wicked and cunning” men by comparing the 1st script to the retranslated one. But you aren’t supposed to notice that detail. God wants to brush that fact away. Or… may… be… they just couldn’t…. actually ... translate… anything….at… all. shhhhhhhhhhhh!!
Would you rather hear how Jesus explains it? Here are Jesus Christ’s words:
D&C section 10
10 And, behold, Satan hath put it into their [the evil men in company to Mrs. Harris] hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written, or which you have translated, which have gone out of your hands.
11 And behold, I say unto you, that because they have altered the words, they read contrary from that which you translated and caused to be written;
12 And, on this wise, the devil has sought to lay a cunning plan, that he may destroy this work;
13 For he hath put into their hearts to do this, that by lying they may say they have caught you in the words which you have pretended to translate.
14 Verily, I say unto you, that I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing.
15 For behold, [Satan] has put it into their hearts to get thee to tempt the Lord thy God, in asking to translate it over again.
16 And then, behold, they say and think in their hearts—We will see if God has given [Joseph Smith] power to translate; if so, he will also give him power again;
17 And if God giveth him power again, or if he translates again, or, in other words, if he bringeth forth the same words, behold, we have the same with us, and we have altered them;
18 Therefore they will not agree, and we will say that he has lied in his words, and that he has no gift, and that he has no power;
19 Therefore we will destroy him, and also the work; and we will do this that we may not be ashamed in the end, and that we may get aglory of the world.
20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that Satan has great hold upon their hearts; he stirreth them up to iniquity against that which is good;
Then Jesus goes on the rampage against the wicked conspiring evil men. Lashing out threats and breathing wo unto them. Tempest in a tea kettle really.
Excuse me, Jesus, but can you blame these people for not taking Joseph Smith’s word for it? Did you forget that Smith was convicted for fraud not even 2 years prior to Harris mortgaging his farm for Smith? Did it escape you that Joseph Smith told the entire county that he could find buried treasure via the usage of a peculiar green rock he found at a well excavation, gets convicted of fraud for using this green rock and now claims he actually found buried treasure and is translating this golden book via the same exact peculiar green rock!!!
Jesus, man… cut them a little slack. Are they really all that evil? They just want a little, you know, verification,... that’s all. Just show us the money, Jesus!! Besides!! The gold plates are RIGHT THERE!! Just let someone see them instead of decreeing through Joseph Smith no less that if you looked at the gold plates god would kill you. I mean, you can’t see it rational that people would be just a little suspicious and skeptical?? Just translate the stupid plates again and show us this is for real… why all the paranoia, Jesus?
But no. Jesus wants us to believe the convicted charlatan who was tossed out of the county on leg bail. He wants us to give the charlatan carte blanche 100% trust and credulity. Jesus wants that convicted charlatan to found his new church… even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints… and what the hell is wrong with you for not seeing it? And if you do not believe the convict Smith… you are nothing but an evil, conspiring, wicked person.
So what are the apologetics??
God, of course, in his infinite omniscience, knowing the end from the beginning, being alpha and also simultaneously omega, knew of Satan’s eventual plan to destroy this very important fledgling church that was to be restored in these latter days in fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel. Yes, god knew Mrs. Harris would try this shinanigan and succeed in obtaining the plates (even though god could have just kept saying no to Smith but that is a pesky detail we should not talk about.. muddies the waters). That’s why Jesus said to Smith NO WAY twice when Martin Harris tried to sequester the plates you see? Nevermind that Jesus could have commanded Smith with the same angel wielding a flaming sword who appeared to Joseph Smith when god was introducing polygamy, the highest and holiest form of marriage to his new church. That was the angel who appeared and threatened to kill Joseph Smith with said flaming sword if he did not marry many wives. (Could it have been any other way… sigh, Joseph really was reluctant to have 33 wives, but hey, Jesus, I mean, if you are going to kill me… oh okay, I will take these women as wives… I mean, Jesus, I don’t want you to KILL me now do I). That angel could have shown up and said NO WAY JOSE—Cant be letting you lose the plates… but now that would not be so fun.
So our clever God had the ancient south american dwelling hebrew Jew writer Nephi make two sets of plates that cover essentially the same material but written a little differently all those years ago. God is smart like that you see. Joseph was instructed to now translate from the large plates of Nephi, instead of the smaller, abridged plates of Nephi that he had translated from earlier. This way the same basic information that should be included in the Book of Mormon was there, but it would not be expected to match exactly the original lost 116 pages that were first translated by Joseph.
**end of apologetics**
Kind of makes your head spin. Smith was a smart guy.
Also, was Smith really illiterate (but apparently fluent in sacred hieroglyphics)?
He was not educated in fancy schools if that what you mean. His family was completely broke and sold root beer at festivals to earn side money to supplement their farming. The father, the brothers, and Joseph Smith did engage full time in treasure digging. Tells you a bit of their level of intelligence. The apologists want you to believe that EVREYONE dug for treasure back then. That is how they explain that away. But that is false. So no, Smith was not exactly illiterate, he could read and write but copies of letters written by smith show him to be poor in grammar and spelling. Smith was a very powerful and charismatic orator. He had many scribes and historians. Later, he became a student of the english language and also tried to master Greek, Hebrew and other languages. He did claim to translate egyptian writings pre rosetta stone. No one else could read egyptian so there was no one who could refute his translations. However, today, Smith’s translations have been verified by 3rd party non mormon egyptologists to be completely bogus… although I recently debated several rabid Mormons who are today claiming “many bullseye” hits from what Smith translated. I don’t hear the national headlines ringing out yet, so I’ll just sit tight for now.
Thanks for the detailed response Noggin. I can’t help be fascinated by this stuff. I was raised in a small Christian extreme sect myself, so I have some idea of the mental gymnastics required to believe ridiculous stories. But it still boggles my mind that modern Mormons can’t see how ridiculous this is. Smith’s excuse for not recreating the missing manuscript is about as credible as “Satan buried the dinosaur bones to test our faith”.
Mormonism is damn near mainstream. I always thought that the main thing shielding basic Christianity from more skepticism is the lack of a good historical record. I’m sure the origins of Christianity are just as ridiculous, but we have no concrete history of the time to prove it. It’s not like we have a secular judicial record of Paul being convicted of fraud.
But with Mormonism, we have perfectly good history on how the religion was founded, and as the story of Lucy Harris’ stolen manuscript shows, it’s laughable. This is recent history with all it’s details!
Side note: I read that Joseph Smith was literally illiterate when he created the book of Mormon, hence the need for scribes.
Side note 2: I hear there is a South Park epidsode on Mormons in which a Lucy Harris charachter plays a role???? Have you seen this???
Ok, I just found the South Park episode on YouTube. I wish PBS went into this level of detail on Joseph Smith and the golden plates.
Edit: Just found the full South Park Episode online: http://video.glath.com/view/southpark.All_About_Mormons