Has the LDS Church Lied to It’s People?

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This conversation started in the middle of a thread on a post concerning Joseph Smith’s changing view of the nature of God based on a talk given by Grant Palmer. The conversation got on the topic of lying, and a question was asked by an LDS man for an example of when the apostles and prophets of the LDS church have lied to their people. Here’s the color code:

My original comments – black

Original LDS rebuttal – red

“The multiple first vision accounts of which they cherry picked the last one which teaches a completely unbiblical view of God (which also goes against the Book of Mormon’s view of God by the way).”

There are four First Vision accounts which come directly from Joseph Smith, and a number of second- and third-hand accounts. Joseph Smith’s different accounts all circle around a common story, with different details pertaining the audience and circumstances at the time of each account. Paul’s Road to Damascus account is found three times in the New Testament, and each account has different details, some which seem to contradict each other. Joseph Smith’s view of God is contrary to the Post-Nicene definition of God, but only by reading into the Book of Mormon do critics of Mormonism find anything in those accounts which go against the Book of Mormon.

“Even the encounters with Moroni have variant stories, some that say his name was Nephi.”

Prior to 1842, all accounts of the 1823 angelic encounter named Moroni as the visitor. The “Nephi” error first appeared in the Times and Seasons in 1842, and all references to Nephi instead of Moroni are based on the 1842 Times and Seasons error. B. H. Roberts notes the error in History of the Church:

“In the original publication of the history in the Times and Seasons at Nauvoo, this name appears as “Nephi,” and the Millennial Star perpetuated the error in its republication of the History. That it is an error is evident, and it is so noted in the manuscripts to which access has been had in the preparation of this work.”
– Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:11–12, footnote 2

“Or how about the Book of Commandments becoming the doctrine and covenants, and when it does, they change the dates and revelations.”

I’d like to see your evidence that the dates were changed. As the original text was given by revelation, there is no reason to expect that Joseph Smith might not have been inspired through revelation to edit the passages in question. We LDS don’t believe in inerrant Scripture, and Joseph Smith himself realized he was not a perfect man. In the comparisons I’ve made between my copy of the Book of Commandments and the D&C, the edited passages are generally easier to read and understand. 

Those changes, by the way, have never been secret.

“How about changing the introduction to the Book of Mormon from saying “the Lamanites are the principal ancestors of the American Indians” to saying “the Lamanites are among the ancestors of the American Indians.””

Big deal. The old version of the Introduction was no more doctrine than the new version. It represented older ideas not actually supported by a close reading of the Book of Mormon. Besides, the way genetics works, pretty much all Native Americans are going to share some DNA with Lehi after 2600 years.

“How about the original 1830 version of the Book of Mormon saying “author and proprietor Joseph Smith.””

Required by new york publishing laws at the time. There was no clause for “translator.”

“How about Joseph receiving the translation for the Book of Mormon with a seer stone in a hat, the church portraying it as him painstakingly translating the original plates,”

The seer stone was used in one of three phases of the translation process, and this hasn’t exactly been a secret either. Why, one can find a reference to the seer stone in the September 1974 issue of the Friend, the Church’s magazine for children:

https://www.lds.org/friend/1974/09/a-peaceful-heart…

(still talking about Joseph Smith’s claim about the Book of Mormon) …”calling it the most correct book on earth, and then making thousands of changes,”

Of course, when Joseph Smith called it “the most correct book” he was very clearly referring to its teachings, not grammar and printing quality. Critics of Mormonism typically only quote a tiny part of his original statement. Here it is in better context:

“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (History of the Church, 4:461.) 

The “errors” list which critics of Mormonism rely on demonstrate the following:

1 – A poor understanding of the English language from an historical perspective. Many of the “errors” use high school level “standard” English as the baseline, and this is a huge mistake.

2 – Many of the “errors” are actually artifacts of the underlying language from which the Book of Mormon was translated. The 1830 edition is a more literal translation than later editions.

3 – Many of the actual errors are something anyone familiar with the printing industry (like myself) would understand. Interestingly, the people who created the original errors list have been publishing for around fifty years, so they are actually being less than honest when they highlight typographical errors.

4 – There are some actual grammar errors. Those were corrected in later editions, most by Joseph Smith himself. Later editions tended to “modernize” the Book of Mormon, just as the King James Version of the Bible was modernized over its 400-year printing history.

(Still talking about changes to the original 1830 version of the Book of Mormon) … “including allusions of Jesus being God changed to “Son of God.” 

It’s funny how critics of Mormonism gloss over the fact that the aforementioned allusions were changed in order to harmonize the overall teaching of the Book of Mormon. The (very) few verses which seem to indicate that Jesus is God were changed to harmonize with the accurate verses which tell us Jesus is the Son of God. These changes were made in Joseph Smith’s lifetime, I believe.