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.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Credibility spectrum, part 2

Yesterday we looked at the graphic that explains it all, which I call the "credibility spectrum."

This graphic shows the range of belief in the truth claims of the Restoration as articulated by Joseph Smith, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery. They were the only witnesses to key events, and the main witnesses to other events. Oliver was not only the scribe for Joseph's translation of the Book of Mormon, but the designated chronicler of the important events, many of which he recorded while serving as Assistant President of the Church.

Credibility Spectrum (click to enlarge)
The left side (all green) depicts accepting everything Joseph and Oliver taught. The right side (all red) depicts rejecting everything Joseph and Oliver taught. 

The range in between represents the variety of possible beliefs. Some people find most of what Joseph and Oliver taught to be credible, others find less of what they taught to be credible.

There is no right answer. Everyone can believe whatever they want. The graphic simply reflects the spectrum of belief.

Furthermore, people can move along the spectrum in either direction. Some believers lose faith; some nonbelievers acquire faith. 

Often a "faith-crisis" originates with one element of disbelief and then accumulates additional elements. For many people, a distrust of what Joseph and Oliver taught on one topic leads to distrust of their other claims. 

These truth claims are fundamental to accepting and embracing the Restoration. There are few Latter-day Saints who lose their faith while maintaining a believe in the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. 

The broad categories on the graphic are:

Joseph and Oliver told the truth and clarified. This category believes that Joseph and Oliver told the truth about their experiences and were consistent. Often they clarified previous statements, such as when they emphasized that the Urim and Thummim Joseph used came with the plates, and when they added the term Urim and Thummim to D&C 10 because, when the revelation was originally given, everyone involved knew what was meant, but people who came along later would not have known without the clarification. 

Joseph and Oliver speculated and misled (M2C, SITH, D&C, etc.). This category accepts some of what Joseph and Oliver taught, but concludes that in some cases they merely speculated and in other cases may have intentionally misled people. For example, some who believe that the Book of Mormon is divinely inspired don't believe Joseph actually translated it with the Urim and Thummim, as he claimed. Instead, they think Joseph dictated words that appeared supernaturally on the stone-in-the-hat (SITH). Another example: some who believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon don't believe the Hill Cumorah is in New York; instead, the hill in New York was misconstrued while the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in southern Mexico (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, or M2C).

Joseph and Oliver lied and deceived. This category rejects what Joseph and Oliver said regarding supernatural events, including the translation of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the Priesthood, and the historicity of the Book of Mormon. 


Today we'll break it down a bit in the table below.

This table is a chronology of some of the key events regarding the truth claims of the Restoration, as experienced and recorded by Oliver Cowdery.  

A box filled in green indicates acceptance of the truth claim. Red means rejection.

Any individual may identify with any position on the spectrum, but for illustration purposes, this table shows three general categories:

A – Traditionalists (including neo-traditionalists)

B – M2Cers and SITH sayers

C – Nonbelievers

Comments on each number are found after the table.


















1829 Apr.

Transcribes as Joseph translates with the Urim and Thummim (U&T) that came with the plates





1829 May

Receives Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist, baptizes Joseph and is baptized by him





1829 May

Receives Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James and John





1829 June

Sees the plates and angel as one of the Three Witnesses





1829 June

Completes Book of Mormon and makes a printer’s copy





1830 April

Becomes Second Elder and apostle, ordains JS as First Elder





1830 June

Transcribes Book of Moses 1:1 through 5:43





1830 Oct.

Mission to the Lamanites (Indians in NY, Ohio, Missouri)





1831 Nov.

Takes revelations from Ohio to Missouri for publication





1833 Nov.

Sets up printing press in Kirtland, reprints Evening and Morning Star, edits new editions





1834 Feb.

Founding member of Kirtland Council





1834 May

Leader in Kirtland after Zions Camp left





1834 Oct.

Edits LDS Messenger and Advocate and Northern Times





1834 Oct.

Publishes Letter I about Church history (Note in JS-H regarding translation with the Urim and Thummim)





1834 Nov.

Publishes Letter II about Church history





1834 Dec.

Publishes Letter III about Church history





1834 Dec.

Ordained by Joseph Smith as “Assistant President of the Church”





1835 Feb.

Publishes Letter IV about Church history (Moroni explains the record was “written and deposited” nearby)





1835 Feb.

With David Whitmer and Martin Harris, selects first members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gives apostolic charge





1835 Mar.

Publishes Letter V about Church history





1835 Apr.

Publishes Letter VI about Church history





1835 July

Publishes Letter VII about Church history (NY Cumorah)





1835 Aug.

Edits D&C for printing (inserts U&T)





1835 Oct.

Publishes Letter VIII about Church history (Cumorah)





1836 Apr.

Visited in Kirtland temple by Moses, Elias, Elijah, and Christ, receives the keys of the gathering of Israel and dispensation of gospel of Abraham





1836 July

Accompanies Joseph to Salem, MA





1837 Feb.

Turns over printing company to Joseph and Sidney





1838 July

“Excluded from fellowship”





1848 Nov.

Rejoins the LDS, reiterates restoration of Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods and translation by the U&T, refutes Spalding





1850 Mar.

Dies in Richmond at home of David Whitmer

1. Joseph and Oliver emphasized that Joseph translated the record by means of the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. SITH sayers reject that for various reasons, believing instead that Joseph dictated words that appeared on a seer stone he put in a hat. Nonbelievers reject any supernatural origin of the Book of Mormon.

2-3. Joseph and Oliver claimed divine messengers restored the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods by the laying on of hands. Nonbelievers reject that claim.

4. Oliver claimed to be one of the Three Witnesses. Nonbeliever reject his claim.

5-7.  Non-supernatural events that everyone accepts.

8. D&C 28, 30 and 32 called Oliver Cowdery and three others to embark on a mission to the Lamanites. They visited Indian tribes in New York, Ohio, and Missouri/Kansas. Some believers reject that identification, as do nonbelievers.

9-13. Non-supernatural events that everyone accepts.

14. Oliver's "Letter I" describes the translation with the Urim and Thummim, which SITH-sayers and nonbelievers reject.

15. Oliver's "Letter II" describes Joseph Smith as a prophet, which nonbelievers reject. 

16. Oliver's "Letter III" describes Joseph Smith as a prophet, which nonbelievers reject. 

17. Non-supernatural event that everyone accepts.

18. Oliver's "Letter IV" describes Moroni's visit, including the claim that the record "gave a history of the aborigenes of this country," and was "written and deposited not far from" Joseph's home near Palmyra, which M2Cers reject. SITH-sayers reject Moroni's statement to Joseph that he would "obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record." Nonbelievers reject everything about Moroni's visit.

19. Non-supernatural event that everyone accepts.

20-21. Oliver's "Letters V and VI" describe more of Moroni's visit and the fulfillment of prophecy, which nonbelievers reject. 

22. Oliver's "Letter VII" declares it is a fact that the Hill Cumorah in western New York is the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites, a claim that M2Cers reject. Nonbelievers reject the historicity of the Book of Mormon overall.

23. D&C 10 as published in 1835 features the insertion of the term Urim and Thummim, which did not appear in the earliest known version of the revelation. SITH-sayers reject this as referring to the interpreters that came with the plates; some say Joseph and Oliver intentionally misled everyone with these references to the Urim and Thummim. Nonbelievers reject any supernatural events.

24. Oliver's "Letter VIII" discusses the Hill Cumorah in western New York, which M2Cers reject. Nonbelievers reject the historicity of the Book of Mormon overall. 

25. Nonbelievers reject the reality of any supernatural manifestations in the Kirtland temple.

26-28. Non-supernatural event that everyone accepts.

29. SITH-sayers reject Oliver's reaffirmation of the translation with the Urim and Thummim, while non-believers reject all supernatural events.

30. Non-supernatural event that everyone accepts.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This is excellent. So clear to see in this format Thank you for taking the time and effort to make a difference for good in the world that is casting clouds of confusion and contention over what can be so simple and sweet and pure. No matter what, with a position like this, when we do get to talk to Joseph and Oliver someday - it will be a glorious occasion.