After listening to some of general conference this weekend, I feel that my family who are still believers, are digging their faith heels in deeper. The church does such a great job confounding all of the issues and problems with the doctrine and history. The blame always gets passed on the member who leaves. It is the individual, not the organization or even the current leadership, who is at fault. It is their problem they lost the faith or believed non correlated information about the church and its leaders. It is their fault for not giving the leaders a free pass for their past deeds. From Joseph's skirt chasing to Brigham's race issues, it is the member's problem they didn't just continue believing.
The recent talk by Neil Anderson continues this rhetoric. This kind of discussion will proceed in ripping mixed faith Mormon families apart--just as the Mormon church has always done. It causes a rift between a believing spouse and the apostate partner. Let's take a look at that talk.
Neil Andersen's talk is a discussion about Joseph Smith, who according to him, was God's chosen vessel to "restore" His church to the earth. Neil claims that Joseph was a holy and righteous man. He takes off the gloves right in the first few paragraphs;
The Lord told Joseph of his destiny:
“The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee;
“While the pure in heart, … the wise, … and the virtuous, shall seek … blessings constantly from under thy hand.”7
So according to revelation from God, which was received by Joseph himself, fools or unbelievers will disrespect or criticize him. While the virtuous, believing, wise and of course the pure in heart will follow him. This is very convenient for Joseph. This passage, from the Doctrine and Covenants, reinforces the old Mormon standard of "blaming the victim".
Mr. Anderson continues;
Many of those who dismiss the work of the Restoration simply do not believe that heavenly beings speak to men on earth. Impossible, they say, that golden plates were delivered by an angel and translated by the power of God. From that disbelief, they quickly reject Joseph’s testimony, and a few unfortunately sink to discrediting the Prophet’s life and slandering his character.
Again, he blames the victim. Grouping many of the people who don't buy into Joseph's story as "not believing" is simplifying the issue. It is slightly more complicated than that. Another point, what gold plates? They weren't even used in the translation process of our present day Book of Mormon. The final "dig" at the non believer/ex Mormon is the suggestion that those who discredit or become vocal about Joseph's flaws are "sinking" or lowering their morals.
Neil then brings up the White Salamander letter, which is very strange. He does do a good job in spinning the story to make it faith promoting. Ignoring the blatant lack of inspiration by the prophets and the burying of it in the church's vault.
Years ago I read a Time magazine article that reported the discovery of a letter, supposedly written by Martin Harris, that conflicted with Joseph Smith’s account of finding the Book of Mormon plates.14
A few members left the Church because of the document.15
Sadly, they left too quickly. Months later experts discovered (and the forger confessed) that the letter was a complete deception.16 You may understandably question what you hear on the news, but you need never doubt the testimony of God’s prophets.
Gerald and Sandra Tanner reported on a talk given by Dallin Oaks to church educators after the public became aware of the letter;
In any case, it is interesting to note that on August 16, 1985, the Mormon Apostle Dallin Oaks tried to ease the fears of Mormon educators with regard to the Salamander letter by claiming that the words "white salamander" could be reconciled with Joseph Smith's statement about the appearance of the Angel Moroni:
"Another source of differences in the accounts of different witnesses is the different meanings that different persons attach to words. We have a vivid illustration of this in the recent media excitement about the word 'salamander' in a letter Martin Harris is supposed to have sent to W.W. Phelps over 150 years ago. All of the scores of media stories on that subject apparently assume that the author of that letter used the word 'salamander' in the modern sense of a 'tailed amphibian.'Dallin Oaks' conjecture concerning the real meaning of the word "salamander" certainly shows the lengths Mormon apologists will go to try and explain away anything that challenges Mormonism. Oaks would have us believe that the news media suppressed the true meaning of the word. Actually, the news media were claiming that the context of the letter showed that the "salamander" mentioned there referred to one of the "elemental spirits" of magic. The confession of Mark Hofmann makes it clear that Oaks was way off base and that the news media were right all along. The reader will remember that when he was speaking of the word "salamander," Hofmann said: "At the time I chose it only because it was commonly used in folk magic. I didn't realize until later all the implications other people would associate with it as far as being able to dwell in fire."
"One wonders why so many writers neglected to reveal to their readers that there is another meaning of 'salamander,' which may even have been the primary meaning in this context in the 1820s.... That meaning... is 'a mythical being thought to be able to live in fire.'...
"A being that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the Angel Moroni:... the use of the words white salamander and old spirit seem understandable.
"In view of all this, and as a matter of intellectual evaluation, why all the excitement in the media, and why the apparent hand-wringing among those who profess friendship or membership in the Church?" ("1985 CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium," pages 22-23)
Mr. Anderson conveniently left out that information.
His talk continued with the witnesses to the gold plates. Unfortunately, there are some questions regarding the validity of their claims.
The Book of Mormon witnesses wrote, “We declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and … we beheld and saw the plates.”18 We could quote many others as well.19
A sincere inquirer should see the spreading of the restored gospel as the fruit of the Lord’s work through the Prophet.
Bill McKeever gives an excellent synopsis of this topic. Here is the link to his website; http://www.mrm.org/eleven-witnesses
He follows this line of thought with the classic "by their fruits" scripture. Quoting Matthew 7;
“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. …“… By their fruits ye shall know them.
Again creating this black and white mentality. Either he was all good or all bad. I think that when everything about Joseph Smith is weighed, it may not be as favorable as Neil Anderson thinks.
It seems that is his talk is about placing Joseph Smith on a pedestal. Anything that does not come from the LDS is only a "half truth". Don't look or trust the information on the internet. Evil and foolish ex members are spreading lies about him. I find it ironic that he is talking about half truths while at the same time speaking in half truths. I think Neil Anderson is telling the truth "as he sees it".