long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Hadley article on Academia.edu

Because the Hadley article is so important, I uploaded a revised version to academia.edu at this link:


Thanks to all those who provided review/input.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Comparison of approaches to Book of Mormon historicity

Recently I found a copy of a book published in March 2015. It was a first edition of my book The Lost City of Zarahemla, which discusses the articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons that led to the development of the Mesoamerican/Two-Cumorahs theory (M2C). I'll discuss it more next week because those articles are apparently still fundamental for the M2C believers. 

When I wrote that book, I thought that a new perspective on those articles might lead to a reconsideration of the assumptions and inferences that led to the development of M2C. However, I underestimated the extent of the investment many M2C scholars had made in their M2C worldview.

I'm fine with people believing whatever they want to believe. I enjoy understanding different perspectives and interpretations. It's fun and interesting. Which makes it all the more disappointing when others, particularly LDS scholars and their followers, focus more on defending their own beliefs instead of understanding what other faithful LDS believe and why they believe it.

The insular, closed-minded psychology of both apologists and critics continues to amaze me.

That's why I prefer the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding, as discussed on nomorecontention.com.


The pursuit of clarity, charity, and understanding includes the use of comparison tables. At the risk of oversimplification and generalization, comparison tables can clarify differences for everyone to see. This helps people make informed decisions.

In my latest book, The Rational Restoration, I quoted Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker's observation about how to correct logical fallacies.

Under the right circumstances—the alternatives are available for comparison side by side, and the wording of the alternatives leaves nothing to the imagination—people can think their way out of the fallacy.

The ongoing discussions about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon need much more clarity, charity and understanding. 

The FAITH model discussed in The Rational Restoration shows us how everyone can agree to the facts that are actually facts. From there, people diverge because of their assumptions, inferences, and theories. Clarity helps everyone distinguish between facts and the other elements, enabling people to make informed decisions.

The following comparison table offers an overview of the approaches taken by some of the people currently involved in the discussions. Although an oversimplification, it is a useful framework to understand some of the ongoing discussions and their various proponents. 

Relative acceptance of what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught






Cumorah location

New York




Type of analysis

Rely on the text, historical and extrinsic evidence, rational thinking

Rely on the text, historical and extrinsic evidence, rational thinking

Rely on sarcasm, anger, taking offense, making ad hominem arguments, etc.

Rely on the text, historical and extrinsic evidence, rational thinking



Seeks clarity through specific comparisons and full disclosure

Avoids clarity by refusing specific comparisons and omitting contradictory evidence

Avoids clarity by refusing specific comparisons and omitting contradictory evidence

Avoids clarity by refusing specific comparisons and omitting contradictory evidence



Assume everyone acts in good faith

Assume everyone acts in good faith

Assume fellow LDS who disagree are wrong, racist, nationalist, ignorant, etc.

Assume LDS are ignorant, deluded, dishonest, and/or abusive



Multiple working hypotheses: Fine with people believing whatever they want, no compulsion to convince, seek to understand, then to be understood

Compulsion to convince that only one conclusion is allowed: M2C.

Compulsion to convince that only one conclusion is allowed: M2C.

Compulsion to convince that only one conclusion is allowed: Book of Mormon is fiction.


Principal authors

Wayne May,

Rod Meldrum, Jonathan Neville

Jack Welch, Kirk Magleby, BMC staff

Dan Peterson, Stephen O. Smoot, Mike Parker

Dan Vogel, John Dehlin, Jeremy Runnels








Monday, October 23, 2023

Symposium report - October 20, 2023

Last Friday I spoke to around 350 people in Lehi, Utah, at the Land of Promise symposium. I discussed the two sets of plates and other topics for over an hour, followed by another hour of Q&A. Many in the audience had never heard of the events in Church history I discussed even though they were otherwise well-informed about Church history.

The most common question, as usual, is "Why haven't I heard this before?" 

It's cool to see more and more people, both Latter-day Saints and others, become aware of the original, authentic historical record about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon. 

Here are some of the slides I showed.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Land of Promise symposium

I've been invited to speak at the Land of Promise symposium in Nephi, Utah, on Friday, Oct 20th. Here's the link:


It's cool to see a variety of perspectives. 

They asked me to post this announcement:

The Fall Land of Promise Expo takes place next weekend:

   - October 20th - 21st in Nephi, Utah! 

   - at The Hive: 645 East 700 North in Nephi


Come and listen to our amazing speakers.

Strengthen your testimony as you bask in the spirit of the truths they will share with us.


Speakers include: Wayne May, Kevin Price, Dana Young, Russ Barlow, David Doane, James Harris, David Hocking, David Lindsley, Jonathan Neville, Pamela Openshaw, Farrell Pickering, Hannah Stoddard, Boyd Tuttle and Steven Wilden. 


You won’t want to miss Wayne’s report on his exciting finds from this summer!


Click on the link below and grab your passes now!





To help facilitate your stay here in Nephi please find the following list of motels and RV parks available in our area:


Best Western Paradise Inn of Nephi

1025 S Main St, Nephi  

(435) 623-0624


Holiday Inn Express & Suites Nephi

1507 S Main St, Nephi

(435) 250-8777


Super 8 by Wyndham Nephi

1901 S Main St, Nephi

(435) 250-0888


Economy Inn & Suites Nephi

885 E 100 N, Nephi

(435) 250-9000


Whitmore Mansion B&B Nephi

110 S Main St, Nephi

(385) 201-9073


Rollin' Home RV Park Nephi

2888 So. 4 Mile Rd, Nephi

(435) 250-8800


Jones High Country RV Camp Nephi

899 S Main St, Nephi

(435) 623-2624

Friday, October 13, 2023

Fundamental truths

This explains everything we talk about on this blog.

“Don’t just follow the trend... boil things down to the most fundamental truths you can imagine and you reason up from there. This is a good way to figure out if something really makes sense or if it’s just what everyone else is doing.” | Elon Musk

It makes sense to boil down Church history regarding the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon. Then we see what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said all along makes the most sense. Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by means of the Urim and Thummim, and it's a fact that the hill Cumorah/Ramah is the same hill in western New York where Joseph obtained the plates.

Simple, clear, and rational.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

50 years ago - lands of promise

Discussions about Book of Mormon geography sometimes involve the question of where Lehi's "land of promise" was. That's a valid question that people can reach different conclusions about. 

The key point for us today is that wherever Lehi's land of promise was located, in our day, the land of promise for everyone on Earth is the place where they already live. The idea of one "land of promise" changed 50 years ago.

Unlike in Orwell's Animal Farm, where some were "more equal" than others, no land today is more of a land of promise than anywhere else.


The New Testament says Abraham "sojourned in the land of promise." (Hebrews 11:9)

Lehi sought and obtained a different "land of promise." For me, it seems obvious that the "land of promise" for Lehi was eastern North America, but I'm fine with people believing whatever they want. 

The Jaredites were brought to "a land of promise" as well. (Ether 2:9) People debate whether that was the same as Lehi's land, but again, it seems obvious from Moroni's account. 

"And now I, Moroni, proceed to give an account of those ancient inhabitants who were destroyed by the hand of the Lord upon the face of this north country." (Ether 1:1) Where is "this north country" to which Moroni referred?

Moroni himself told Joseph Smith directly that the record was "written and deposited not far from" Joseph's home near Palmyra. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/69

This is simple, clear, and unambiguous. "as plain as word can be." 

The reality that many people have reinterpreted these passages to mean something else does not change what we can all read. But that's all fine.


The phrase "land of promise" occurs with this frequency in the scriptures:

OT (0) NT (1) BM (22) DC (3) PGP (1) [Jonathan Edwards used the phrase 15 times]

The phrase "promised land" occurs with this frequency:

OT (0) NT (0) BM (21) DC (0) PGP (0) JE (31)

The phrase "lands of promise" occurs only in the Book of Mormon (twice).

The significance of the phrase "lands of promise" became apparent 50 years ago when President Harold B. Lee gave one of the longest General Conference talks in recent times. 

In it, he endorsed the principle that the land of promise in our day is the area where we live. In our day, there is no need for Latter-day Saints to gather to any particular area. Instead, every part of the planet is a land of promise.

This is an important principle for everyone to remember so we don't think one "land of promise" is better than another "land of promise."


We have also been promised by the Lord: “Behold, and lo, I will take care of your flocks, and will raise up elders and send unto them. Behold, I will hasten my work in its time.” (D&C 88:72–73.)

Today we are witnessing the demonstration of the Lord’s hand even in the midst of his saints, the members of the Church. Never in this dispensation, and perhaps never before in any single period, has there been such a feeling of urgency among the members of this church as today. Her boundaries are being enlarged, her stakes are being strengthened. In the early years of the Church specific places to which the Saints were to be gathered together were given, and the Lord directed that these gathering places should not be changed, but then he gave one qualification: “Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.” (D&C 101:21.)

At the Mexico City Area Conference last August, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Council of the Twelve, in a thought-provoking address, made some comments pertinent to this subject, and I quote a few sentences from his address:

“Of this glorious day of restoration and gathering, another Nephite prophet said: ‘The Lord … has covenanted with all the house of Israel,’ that ‘the time comes that they shall be restored to the true church and fold of God’; and that ‘they shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise.’ (2 Ne. 9:1–2.)

“Now I call your attention to the facts, set forth in these scriptures, that the gathering of Israel consists of joining the true church; of coming to a knowledge of the true God and of his saving truths; and of worshiping him in the congregations of the Saints in all nations and among all peoples. Please note that these revealed words speak of the folds of the Lord; of Israel being gathered to the lands of their inheritance; of Israel being established in all their lands of promise; and of there being congregations of the covenant people of the Lord in every nation, speaking every tongue, and among every people when the Lord comes again.”

Elder McConkie then concluded with this statement, which certainly emphasizes the great need for the teaching and training of local leadership in order to build up the church within their own native countries:

“The place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. Japan is for the Japanese; Korea is for the Koreans; Australia is for the Australians; every nation is the gathering place for its own people.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Good material from Scripture Central

I often point out that 80-90% of what Scripture Central does is great. Apart from M2C and SITH, they offer lots of useful resources.

They are doing a series on Come Follow Me that is excellent. Here's an example:


Keep up the good work!

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Saturday: SITH, M2C and more

It continues to surprise me how many things there are to discuss on this blog. We have a long way to go to achieve full clarity, charity, and understanding, but we're getting closer as more people strive to become peacemakers (see nomorecontention.com).

SITH update.

I was asked to prepare a more detailed analysis of the origins of SITH, specifically the 1829 Jonathan Hadley article, so I in the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding, I put it in a comparison table, here:


MacKay and Dirkmaat (fine scholars, awesome people, and BYU professors) are among the most prominent proponents (along with John Dehlin, the Interpreter, and Mormonism Unvailed) of the stone-in-the-hat narrative (SITH). They claim that Joseph Smith personally started SITH by relating it to Jonathan Hadley in Palmyra in 1829 when he was seeking a publisher for the Book of Mormon.

However, their narrative consists of imaginative mind reading and creative assumptions because Hadley never claimed he met Joseph Smith. MacKay and Dirkmaat rely on Hadley's 1829 article which is arguably ambiguous (it requires a stretch of the imagination to make it so). But Hadley's 1842 article goes into more detail and explains it was only Martin Harris who came to his print shop. In their books, MacKay and Dirkmaat forgot to mention the 1842 article, depriving their readers of the full story. 


Multiple working hypotheses update.

Around the world, people seek to make informed decisions. Those who grew up with the Internet have little interest in controlled narratives. They reject censorship and manipulation. More and more they reject the legacy media narratives that present only one side of issues. People want to hear a variety of perspectives.

This is one reason why legacy LDS apologists, such as the Interpreter and Book of Mormon Central, have less and less credibility, despite spending millions of dollars to promote their SITH and M2C narratives. Likewise, legacy critics such as Mormon Stories that rehash their dogmatic critical narratives over and over are monotonous and boring.

New podcasters are rising who seriously and authentically explore multiple working hypotheses about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon and other issues.

Among them are the Stick of Joseph, Mormon Book Reviews, Gospel Tangents, Mormonism with the Murph, CWIC Media, and ScriptureNotes.

To their credit, two legacy LDS apologists have started appearing on the authentic podcasts: Kirk Magleby and Brant Gardner. They are both articulate, careful scholars, and great guys. They've been doing a good job explaining M2C and SITH. 

It would be even better if they could convince their legacy apologist sites, Scripture Central and the Interpreter, respectively, to be more open and honest about other faithful narratives (particularly those that still believe what Joseph and Oliver said), but there are strong institutional barriers to that happening. We remain hopeful, but realistic.

Meanwhile, the authentic podcasters are providing wonderful, enlightening content that enables people to make better informed decisions.

To cite two examples. Brant's interviews with the Murph on M2C and SITH were very helpful, as I discussed here:



BTW, people have asked me to do video reviews of these and other podcasts, but time is short and I figure informed viewers can assess the SITH and M2C narratives as well as I can anyway. But in the next few months I may have some free time during some trips I'm taking, so we'll see.


M2C on Stick of Joseph

Stick of Joseph recently posted two important videos, one by Kirk Magleby and one by Jonathan Neville.

Kirk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW2hkI7OXLU

Jonathan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDPao-SVUyY

Kirk made some excellent points, such as this:

23:30 having this old world geography approaching consensus nails historicity. Joseph Smith could simply not have come up with this stuff. It is beyond human capacity. It truly shows how divine and authentic and true to antiquity this culture is. But it also sets a nice precedent for how to go about the methodology which we're going to then apply over the new world. And number one we need a few anchor points.

Kirk then relates some anchor points in the Old World, such as how we know where Jerusalem is, the Red Sea, etc.

But this is exactly the problem with M2C. Joseph and Oliver gave us the ultimate anchor point in the New World--the hill Cumorah in New York.

Yet Kirk rejects the only specific anchor point (I call it a pin in the map) that Joseph and Oliver gave us!

How does Kirk explain that?

First, he claims Joseph learned about Book of Mormon geography in 1841 from a popular illustrated book by Stephens and Catherwood and that Joseph wrote or endorsed speculative articles in the Times and Seasons in 1842 that quoted extensively from the Stephens books. (I was surprised that Kirk resorted to this argument. It was the topic of my first book on LDS Church history and the two subsequent books. I understand the M2C argument based on the Stephens books, but it is so highly speculative compared with the direct, unambiguous statements from Joseph and Oliver that I hope more people realize that, as Kirk admits, M2C relies entirely on the speculative Stephens argument.)

Second, Kirk says Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who, along with their contemporaries and successors, misled the Church about Cumorah (although he doesn't articulate that quite so directly, which is where the problem of clarity arises in all these discussions).

42:15 Stick of Joseph: so you don't think that Moroni, he would have given any information that would have really led Joseph Smith to believe where the Book of Mormon happened?

Kirk: No, I seriously doubt that. There's there's very little evidence in in the historical record that Moroni was revealing those kinds of things. 

Comment. "very little" is a dodge because there is far more evidence of the New York Cumorah/Ramah in the historical record than there is that Joseph accepted M2C--for which there is zero evidence. For example, we can all read the Wentworth letter from March 1842, published in the Times and Seasons over Joseph's signature (unlike the Stephens editorials), where he says "I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people was made known unto me: I was also told where there was deposited some plates on which were engraven an abridgement of the records of the ancient prophets that had existed on this continent." 

With that knowledge, Joseph dug up Hopewell mounds in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, declaring they were evidence of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon and describing those states as the "plains of the Nephites." But to M2Cers such as Kirk, none of this is evidence because it contradicts their M2C theory.] 

Stick of Joseph: So kind of the idea, like, because you know I think everyone would agree that we don't believe that the prophets are infallible. Sometimes we don't act that way but we'll say it, but so we don't believe that Joseph Smith was infallible. So you would say that when it comes to Book of Mormon geography and the majority of his thoughts on where the Book of Mormon happened, that that that falls in kind of the fallible, that he just didn't know and he was doing the best...

Kirk: They were his opinions. He had a more informed opinion than yours or mine but nonetheless at the end of the day they were Joseph's opinions. And he showed himself able to improve his opinion based on better data and that's exactly what we see when he gets his hands on Stevens and Catherwood.

Comment. Obviously, this is Kirk's opinion that they were Joseph's opinions. Oliver explicitly stated that the New York Cumorah/Ramah was a fact, and Joseph endorsed Oliver's declaration multiple times. Joseph's mother explained it was Moroni who identified the hill as Cumorah the first time he met Joseph, etc. By now, everyone should know the historical record. And surely they would if Kirk's organizations, Book of Mormon Central and Scripture Central, provided more clarity instead of obfuscation about the historical record.

The second point, that Joseph "improved his opinion" based on the Stevens book, is pure conjecture, as we've discussed at length. Not unreasonable conjecture; people can infer that Joseph somehow read the two thick volumes of Stephens' work within a week, with no one noticing or commenting, and then months later, during a time when Wilford Woodruff said Joseph hardly had time to sign documents they prepared for him, Joseph somehow wrote lengthy anonymous articles that he never publicly acknowledged, cited or quoted. 

But even at that, far from "opining" that Cumorah was in Mexico, Joseph wrote a letter, published above his signature like the Wentworth letter, reaffirming that he learned about Cumorah before he even got the plates (D&C 128:20).

Stick of Joseph: yeah, okay, well that's a good understanding because I think that's really where kind of the break-off is as we talk to people like Wayne May, and we're going to be talking to other heartlanders as well, I would say that's a fundamental difference. They put Joseph Smith above the geophysical data, the scientific, the science, history and so that starts and then they're looking for the geodata and the science history based on Joseph Smith's early statements.

Kirk: That's absolutely correct.

Comment. This is one reason why Kirk is awesome. He understands the core issue here, to some degree. Yet his organization, Book of Mormon Central refuses to acknowledge this distinction on its website. Rather than enabling its viewers/followers to make informed decisions, Book of Mormon Central censors the Heartland approach and has its employees and followers attack Heartlanders on social media and in private meetings. 

And Kirk agrees that it's not a difference in extrinsic scientific data, because there is plenty of data to support both M2C and Heartland (as well as other narratives); instead, it's a difference in whether we start by believing or by rejecting what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Stick of Joseph: Okay and what we're saying is you need to use the text as your primary source.

Kirk: The text is primary.

Comment. In my interview, I pointed out that Kirk's claim here is bogus. The text is not primary; Kirk's interpretation of the text is primary. Everyone who has developed a concept for Book of Mormon geography uses the text. That's axiomatic. But people disagree on the interpretation of the text, with each one claiming their own interpretation means they are using the text as their primary source.

It's comparable to the innumerable Christian denominations who all claim the Bible is primary, but they can't agree on even basic doctrines because of their different interpretations (multiple working hypotheses).

That's one of the purposes of the Book of Mormon itself, to provide non-Biblical clarification. That's why we have modern prophets.

Starting with Joseph Smith.

Kirk's position is irrational, actually. There is no reason to look for Book of Mormon events in the Americas if we rely solely on the text. The text never mentions America or even the western hemisphere. Even when explaining his approach, Kirk goes outside the text to rely on his belief that Joseph learned from the Stevens books.

The alternative approach that seems more logical to me is to look at what Joseph and Oliver said about the setting. They were the President and Assistant President of the Church, respectively. They were the First and Second Elders of the Church, the recipients of the Priesthood and the temple keys. Kirk's position that they misled everyone about the New York Cumorah/Ramah (M2C) thwarts the whole point of having prophets.

The M2C position outright rejects what Joseph and Oliver (and their contemporaries and successors) taught about Cumorah. Instead, they prefer arguing over the interpretation of the text, and they construct an artificial "consensus" among like-minded scholars and then train the youth of the Church to think the same way by using the BYU fantasy map (or, for Spanish speakers, their detailed M2C map), while hiring and funding only those young wannabe scholars who first adopt their M2C dogma.

M2C has produced the problem Paul wrote about long ago:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

(Ephesians 4:11–14)

So long as the leaders of Book of Mormon Central, Scripture Central, the Interpreter, FAIRLDS, and other like-minded organizations insist on rejecting what the prophets have taught about Cumorah (and the translation of the Book of Mormon), these discussions will continue to leave people "tossed to and fro" by academic debates over different ways of interpreting the text. The unity of the faith will remain elusive.


Bottom line.

The legacy critics and apologists are being supplanted by the far more honest, open and useful podcasters such as Stick of Joseph and the others I've listed.

Kudos to Kirk and Brant for appearing on some of these shows, but now let's hope they move to the next step and persuade their legacy apologist sites to engage in real dialogue as we pursue clarity, charity and understanding to reach no more contention.


Thursday, October 5, 2023

Scripture Central teaches fantasy map

Scripture Central (the latest iteration of BMAF--see below) celebrated Moroni Day with a fundraising dinner. You can watch the video here. 

90% of the presentation was awesome.

But the entire presentation (and everything else they do) is tainted by M2C, their Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.

Even in their Moroni Day celebration, they presented the Book of Mormon as a fictional account by using the BYU fantasy map. 

The BYU fantasy map was designed to promote M2C by imprinting the M2C interpretation of the text onto the minds of everyone who sees it--especially BYU students. Although it is a computer-generated image, it fits the Mesoamerican model promoted by John Sorenson, Jack Welch, and their followers.

The BYU fantasy map teaches students (and everyone reached by the millions of dollars Scripture Central spends) that the "best" interpretation of the Book of Mormon fits a fantasy map akin to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings maps. 

Lord of the Rings map

It's no wonder that the rising generation increasingly sees the Book of Mormon as fiction.

The tragedy is the way we arrived at this point.

People wonder why M2C is embedded in everything they do


Scripture Central is the latest facade for BMAF.org (Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, Inc.) which is the corporate entity that owns Book of Mormon Central and all its affiliates.

BMAF is a long-time promoter of M2C, which teaches the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah because the M2C scholars know better than the prophets, due to their erudition, expertise, and education. 

BMAF's logo depicts a Mayan pyramid to represent the Book of Mormon!

The BYU fantasy map makes this explicit by showing Cumorah in a land far, far away from New York:

BYU map location for "Cumorah"

You can watch the segment of "Moroni Day" that features the fantasy map starting here:

Cleverly Fortunately they omitted their identification of Cumorah at the beginning of the video.

They show the area where their Cumorah is located, but they add the names later so their unsuspecting viewers never see how they defy the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah.

Here is the fantasy map with the names shown, well south of their "Cumorah."

(click to enlarge)

We'll discuss this more in upcoming posts. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Dumb ad hominem arguments

The first element in the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding is clarity. For that reason, from time to time we expose logical fallacies.

We can always tell when people make weak, losing arguments because they resort to ad hominem* attacks, the dumbest of the logical fallacies. An ad hominem argument attacks the person making the argument, not the merits of argument. It's a diversion tactic employed by those who realize their own positions lack merit or rationality. It's an excuse for ignoring the weaknesses of their own arguments.

People who depend on others' ignorance, apathy and/or irrationality to sustain their arguments usually end up resorting to ad hominem arguments because their arguments cannot withstand scrutiny.

It's a common tactic today among critics of the Restoration. They accuse Joseph Smith of personal failings as an excuse to justify their rejection of the Restoration, including the Book of Mormon. As Oliver Cowdery explained, "an excuse was wanted--and an excuse was had."

A month before he died, Joseph Smith responded to the ad hominem arguments made against him throughout his life.

I never told you I was perfect— but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught— must I then be thrown away as a thing of nought?


During Joseph's lifetime, critics made incessant ad hominem arguments against him and his family and associates. The 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed was replete with such arguments. Even today, critics and some faithful scholars reiterate the ad hominem arguments.

In response, Oliver Cowdery wrote Letters II and III. In Letter II, he pointed out that the biblical prophets whom modern Christians claimed to believe had all been persecuted during their lives. He then observed

But in reviewing the lives and acts of men in past generations, whenever we find a righteous man among them, there always were excuses for not giving heed or credence to his testimony. 

The people could see his imperfections; or, if no imperfections, supposed ones, and were always ready to frame an excuse upon that for not believing.— No matter how pure the principles, nor how precious the teachings—an excuse was wanted—and an excuse was had....

The savior came in form and fashion of a man; he ate, drank, and walked about as a man, and they said “Behold, a man gluttonous, and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” 

You see an excuse was wanting, but not long wanting till it was found—who would follow a dissipated leader? or who, among the righteous Pharisees would acknowledge a man who would condescend to eat with publicans and sinners? 

This was too much—they could not endure it. 

An individual teaching the doctrines of the kingdom of heaven, and declaring that that kingdom was nigh, or that it had already come, must appear different from others, or he could not be received. 

If he were athirst he must not drink, if faint he must not eat, and if weary he must not rest, because he had assumed the authority to teach the world righteousness, and he must be different in manners, and in constitution, if not in form, that all might be attracted by his singular appearance: that his singular demeanor might gain the reverence of the people, or he was an imposter—a false teacher—a wicked man—a sinner—and an accomplice of Beelzebub, the prince of devils! 



The New Testament relates the story of Saul/Paul and how people used his persecution of the saints against him even after his conversion. Even the saints initially rejected him because of his past conduct.

We meet Saul when he participated in the stoning of Timothy.

57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,

58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.

59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

(Acts 7:57–60)

1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Jud├Ža and Samaria, except the apostles.

2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

(Acts 8:1–3)

1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

(Acts 9:1–2)

His conversion made him a different person, but both his former colleagues and former targets of persecution had difficulty accepting the change.

10 ¶ And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.
 11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
 12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
 14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
(Acts 9:10–14)

After his conversion, his former colleagues were amazed at his change and tried to kill him, while the saints in Jerusalem were still afraid of him.

17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
 19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
 20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

People rejected his message by making an ad hominem argument.

21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?
 22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
23 ¶ And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:
24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.
25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

The saints in Jerusalem didn't believe him because of his past. 

26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.
(Acts 9:17–26)


* from wikipedia:

Ad hominem (Latin for 'to the person'), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a term that refers to several types of arguments, most of which are fallacious. Typically this term refers to a rhetorical strategy where the speaker attacks the character, motive, or some other attribute of the person making an argument rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself. This avoids genuine debate by creating a diversion to some irrelevant but often highly charged issue. The most common form of this fallacy is "A makes a claim x, B asserts that A holds a property that is unwelcome, and hence B concludes that argument x is wrong".