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by John L. Smith (The Evangel Jan-Feb 1998)
(Among the answers to problems with Mormonism I present the following --- about one of the most distinguished Mormons--- and responded to by an outstanding former professor at BYU and the University of Utah).
Among the problems that I see with Mormonism is the fact that intelligent, experienced qualified people (often even professors at BYU) now fired from their positions and excommunicated from their church, still hang onto its claims.
They question the claims for the Book of Mormon that it is historically true. Surely they realize that archaeologically, geographically and historically it fails every test-- but though they do not get along with the Apostles and Prophets, they still want to be Mormons.
If the claims for the Book of Mormon are not true then Joseph Smith was an outright fraud.
How can sincere, intelligent Mormons continue to argue on behalf of a "Mother God," or other distinctly Mormon teachings?
Surely one or Mormonism's greatest men was Brigham Henry Roberts. Roberts (1857-1933) was one of their most able and devoted men.
The Fall 1997 issue of Dialog: of Mormon Thought. vol. 30. No. 3 (a publication of men and women of whom I wrote in my first paragraph), contains an article by Brigham D. Madsen, a Professor Emeritus of History from the University of Utah) This is found on pages 87-97 of Dialogue.
Brigham D. Madsen. a graduate of Harvard in 1960, was a distinguished professor BYU, was editor of Defender of the Faith, the B.H. Roberts Story, published by the pro-Mormon press. Bookcraft in 1980 and editor of Robert's Studies of The Rook of Mormon published by the University of Illinois Press(1985).
Longtime President of BTU. Ernest L. Wilkinson, co-author of Brigham Young University School of Destiny (1976), not only mentioned Madsen approvingly but described him as an "experienced scholar' and a "popular author and lecturer on religious subjects." He mentioned that Madsen's "traveling and lecturing took him to 60 different college campuses during the first year" of his association with BYU" (pg 797) He also represented BYU in "a commuting professorship in Mormon Studies at the Graduate Theological Union at the University of California at Berkeley"
On page 856, Wilkinson and his coauthor reported that was "to establish broader contacts with other related organizations' and "religious groups throughout the world"
Now l will not take the time to more than mention that Roberts was the author of the six volume Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My copy was published by Brigham Young University Press in 1965. It was revised by Roberts (and brought up to-date, April 6th.1930")
However, my immediate interest is provoked by the Dialogue Vol. 30, No. 3, pgs. 87-97 article by Brigham O. Madsen!
I've always heard that a genuine scholar-- let the chips fall where they may--places his scholarship above his personal desires, lifelong convictions, etc
Perhaps this is Madsen's Dilemma!
He relates that during the first 100 years of the Mormon Church's history (1830-1930) few members questioned the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Those leaving usually left over disputes over leadership, concern over polygamy, discouragement about persecution and physical hardship, etc.
Archaeology, origins of natives found here by Columbus, etc. were not well advanced. Hardships of crawling over the plains, problems with the US Government over polygamy, etc. left little lime to be concerned with the historicity of The Book of Mormon.
B.H. Roberts, a member of the Counsel of the Seventy, was to be chief defender of this "new world document," at first he spent his time advancing what he considered the biblical proofs of the veracity or the Book of Mormon.
As a result he wrote his three volume New Witness for God in 1909. About this time(1902) Roberts mentioned that he found no conflict between archaeological science and the Book of Mormon.
HE dismissed "rather lightly," Madsen says. "any accusation that Joseph Smith could have used other works as a basis for a fictional account of the origin of the American Indians..." He "even dismissed Ethan Smith's 1823 edition of View of the Hebrews, an error that "he later acknowledged."
He assured his readers that later explorations would add proof to the historicity of Smith's work. Just 13 years later, he changed his mind. In 1921. Rogers asked Mormon leaders five pointed questions. He produced 141 type written pages entitled Book of Mormon Difficulties.
Among his questions were: How could so many Indian languages evolve over the relatively short period of 1,000 years? The Book of Mormon mentions steel when the Jews had no knowledge of it in 600 BC, the use of silk in America which was unknown at the time of Columbus. The real problem Robert's had. "what about the use of horses in the Book of Mormon times?"
In early 1922, Roberts brought his problems before his fellow "general authorities". They spent three days in study. Madsen reports (page 89) that the LDS authorities "seemed little interested in his (Robert's) investigation."
Robert's Studies of the Book of Mormon (pg 271) concludes that "The evidence is I sorrowfully submit, points to Joseph Smith as author of their (the Book of Mormon story) creator"
Madsen says (pg 89 of the Dialogue article). "One can sympathize with Roberts and his sorrow that, after venerating and admiring Joseph Smith for a lifetime, he now had concluded him as less than a prophet."
He then concluded that "If the Book of Mormon itself could be proved to be other than it claims to be... then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it's message and doctrines, which in some respects may be said to have risen out of the Book of Mormon must fall; for if that book is other than it claims to be; if it's origin is other than that ascribed to by Joseph Smith, then Joseph Smith says that which is untrue; he is a false prophet of false prophets; (and all he has taught and c!aimed) are not only vain but mischievous and wicked;...... (and) beyond human comprehending".
Madsen says (Dialogue, pg 91). " The overwhelming evidence of these finds during the last 5O years casts grave doubts, if not outright disbelief about the Book of Mormon as history".
The Lost Tribes theory have long since been discarded." He says "scientists today are firm that Native Americans are related to the people of Northeastern Siberia. (Oriental).
The writer of the article (Madsen) says "some investigation.... would have intrigued Roberts ".
Roberts spent more than half a century defending the Book of Mormon Dialogue. (pg 93).
Today, "over seventy years later, Loyal but questioning Mormons" have resulted in a number of independent "study groups." Madsen insists their questioning should not result in their rejecting the claims of Mormonism.
Edward H. Ashment in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon (pg 374). edited by Brent Lee Metcalfe, says: "Unfortunately there is no direct evidence to support the historical claims of the Book of Mormon----nothing archaeologically, nothing physiological.
"The Metcalf volume is sufficient to illustrate that some of them (recent books by Signature Books and the University of Illinois Press) cast serious questions on the Book of Mormon as history.` (Dialogue. pg. 94)
"Were there really gold plates and ministering angels or was there just Joseph Smith seated at a table with his face in a hat dictating to a scribe a fictional account of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas?' (Dialogue pg. 95)."
It is no wonder that Roberts wrote that if it were other than Joseph Smith claimed, then "he is a false prophet of false prophets; and all he taught. . . (was) not only in vain but wicked." (Studies of the Book of Mormon, pg 12).
The tragedy of it all is that when Mormons finally come to the truth that there is nothing to Mormonism, they often decide that all religion is a fraud. What a pity? I think I never saw a real atheist until I went to Utah nearly 57 years ago. There are many of them there! Mormonism (and the Devil) is the culprit!
John L. Smith