Thursday, November 21, 2013

The First Inoculation of Joseph Smith

As predicted here last June and again two weeks ago, yesterday the LDS Church released its first inoculation, or as in the words of Michael Taylor, an antigen against having hid its own history.  Members leaving the Mormon Church complain loudly that it had lied by not fully disclosing the troubling issues.

About the same time as Mormons uploaded their “First Vision Accounts”, I also finished writing Second Anointing, my novel about the secret Mormon rite called the Second Anointing, that propels the faithful Salt Lake Chief of Police to ritually murder the enemies of his church, only to gradually doubt his own beliefs.  In Chapter 17, I have a fictional character who guest-talks at a fictional radio program called Mind over Latter.  The (fictional) radio host, Finn McGill asks his guest, Celia Franson, granddaughter of a former Mormon Prophet this:

McGill:  “What evidence is there that Joseph Smith was delusional?”

“That’s a long discussion, Finn.  Let’s just start with the beginning of his prophetic experience; what he calls his First Vision.  The Mormon Church claims Smith had a vision of God, but he did not write it down for more than a decade later and not until several years after he’d written—or some say translated—the Book of Mormon. He wrote at least five and perhaps up to ten versions of the vision, each very different, and generally each subsequent account adding more and more divinity. One of the earliest written episodes had only an angel visiting him. Then it was a host of angels but not God.  Another version claims just Jesus visited him but no angels. And finally, in the officially canonized LDS version, written almost twenty years after the event, Smith claimed Jesus and God the Father as two separate personages and no angels.  The general progression is from lower claims of divinity to more and more grandeur claims of direct connection to God.  That is prototypical delusion; you increase claims when you are enabled by others believing in your delusions.  His need for more power increased the embellishment in his accounts of the delusion.
I emphasized part here about increasing claims of divinity because this is where the LDS antigen against hiding history will fail.  They make it an increasing numbers game.  I say it's a delusional claim on increasing divinity by a deluded ego-maniac.   I'll explain.

At first, the LDS Topic page attempts to spin it in this manner:

“Joseph’s increasingly specific descriptions can thus be compellingly read as evidence of increasing insight, accumulating over time, based on experience.”

Apparently “increasing insight” explains his increasing embellishments and  grandiose claims of divinity.  You see, at first, Joseph Smith couldn't understand what he saw--it was an angel. But increasing insight later told him it was a chorus of angels, no it was God, no it was two Gods! 

His increasing insights included remembering new phrases like God the Father introducing his son. Smith wasn't smart enough the first time he wrote about the vision to realize that God had just introduced his son.  But later, as his insights grew, Joseph realized, "Aha! It was God all the time! "

When they say "uneducated farm boy" they really mean it. 

 How uneducated are you, Mr. Smith, that when exactly two shining "personages" appear to you, and one says "This is my beloved Son, hear him" that you mistake it for a single angel, and then a chorus of angels, and then just Jesus, then Father God and Jesus?

This is like saying "I had lunch with a White House intern the other day. No, wait, it was all of the White House interns. No wait, it was the Vice President. No wait, it was the President who introduced me to the Vice President by name and told me he loved me."

They say increasing insights.  We say increasing delusions of grandeur. 

Then second, here’s what the LDS Topics page says about critics raising Smith’s poor memory and his embellishment of accounts (e.g., deluded ego-mania).   They defend: 

“A basic harmony in the narrative across time must be acknowledged at the outset: three of the four accounts clearly state that two personages appeared to Joseph Smith in the First Vision. The outlier is Joseph Smith’s 1832 account, which can be read to refer to one or two personages. ...  The embellishment argument hinges on the assumption that the 1832 account describes the appearance of only one divine being. But the 1832 account does not say that only one being appeared. …The 1832 account, then, can reasonably be read to mean that Joseph Smith saw one being who then revealed another and that he referred to both of them as “the Lord”.”

Now, the LDS Church moves from insights and argues from numbers.  It’s about the numbers of personages visiting. 

However, what I think is far more interesting, and as fictionalize Celia Franson says, it’s about the increasing divinity.  Smith kept changing the story, and generally over time, the increase in divine claims appears more because his followers enabled him by believing in his delusions.  Smith’s need for more power increased the embellishment in his accounts of the delusion.

Celia Franson also argues that Joseph Smith was no mere ordinary farm boy,  his intelligence and his mental disorders are far from normal: 
“Joseph Smith is clearly ingenious in his developments of a religious organization, structuring cities and maintaining societies on the western frontier. On the other hand, his unverifiable stories about visions of God and angels, his academically falsified claims of translating by the gift of God, and his misguided elaboration on planetary astronomy in the clearly fictional Book of Abraham are definitely indications of psychopathy.  Smith was not dealing with grounded reality, but formed a reality that placed him in pre-eminence above his followers, and he had the intellect and charisma to pull it off.”
The LDS Church doesn’t want you to analyze the First Vision accounts using logic and rational thinking.  The Topic tells you to follow the path to deluding yourself by feelings rather than facts:
“Neither the truth of the First Vision nor the arguments against it can be proven by historical research alone. Knowing the truth of Joseph Smith’s testimony requires each earnest seeker of truth to study the record and then exercise sufficient faith in Christ to ask God in sincere, humble prayer whether the record is true. If the seeker asks with the real intent to act upon the answer revealed by the Holy Ghost, the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s vision will be manifest.”

Smith's claim that “I had seen a vision, I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it” is hardly different than the claim made by prophets in other world religions.  If Mormons are to ignore historical issues and pray about the truth of Smith's Vision, then they should acknowledge the Muslims who've pray about Muhammad's First Revelation when the angel Gabriel visited him and revealed a verse in the Quran.  If Mormons are to dismiss the crazy inconsistencies in Smith's accounts, then they should also ignore the crazy issues of soul discovery, E-meters, auditing and more lunacy of Scientology.  If Mormons will turn a blind eye to Smith's increasing grandiose claims as he needed to assert his egomania, they should not get bent out of shape by Pat Robertson's grandiose claims. Come on, Mormons be consistent. If you use the spirit rather than logic, then you open yourself to a lot of bullshit.

(I have another response to the essay here.)


  1. Fascinating analysis! I love the phrase, "Sufficient faith". They get to decide if it's sufficient enough if it gives the answer they direct the member toward but if they get another answer then it's clearly insufficient faith. What a twisted game.

    The LDS leadership seem to be engaged in a very complicated and ultimately losing battle to ramp up their manipulations and excuses for the many glaring lies and flaws in church history, leadership, veracity of the BOM, and more. They remind me of the liar character played by Jon Lovitz on SNL, Tommy Flannagan and as he is questioned his story gets more outrageous and unbelievable and he becomes even more incensed when his lies are uncovered. HOW DARE YOU QUESTION MY INTEGRITY!!

  2. Joseph Smith wasn't doing anything new. A similar amplification spans the New Testament Gospels - Mark the least, John the most.

    1. I believe you are trying to make the same point as LDS, Inc.

      "Indeed, differences similar to those in the First Vision accounts exist in the multiple scriptural accounts of Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus and the Apostles’ experience on the Mount of Transfiguration." (Citing Acts 9:3–9; 22:6–21; 26:12–18; Matthew 17:1–13; Mark 9:2–13; Luke 9:28–36.)

      As to the "Apostles’ experience on the Mount of Transfiguration," it does not follow that because Matthew, Mark, and Luke chose to emphasize different aspects of this event from their own respective perceptions, Joseph Smith gets to change his own story over time.

      In other words, if witness A, B, & C, all recall different aspects of a car crash, it is completely understandable. But, when A's version of the same car crash keeps changing, A loses credibility.

    2. This was the same man. It's not three different witness to a car accident. I asked my wife to recall one of the most important events in her life and she related the birth of our first son. I was thinking she would recall our wedding day, but....Anyway, she was able to recount the events of that day exactly as they occured. I'm sure that if I asked her months or years later it would be the same story. My oldest son is 44 years old. The event of a child being born can't be compared to the remarkable event that eventually became the accepted version known to church members today where the Father and Son both appeared to him. It's so funny how mormons have to spend so much of their time trying to defend all of the nuttiness that is mormonism. My TBM wife says that Gods true church is organic and harmonious. She doesn't realize it but she just shot down mormonism.

  3. Consider how the elements of the inoculation metaphor line up:

    Physical inoculation means injecting a blunted form of a pathogen into an uninfected body in order to "trick" it into building automatic disease defenses that kick in upon subsequent exposure to the pure pathogen.

    "Spiritual" inoculation means injecting a blunted form of the truth into an innocent mind in order to "trick" it into building automatic psychological faith defenses that kick in upon subsequent exposure to the complete truth.

    truth = pathogen, loss of faith = disease

  4. I thought all my Mormon knowledge was a waste of time until I started reading your book The Second Annointing. Glad you found a way to put all that trivia to good use in the plot twists. Got another in the works yet?

  5. I hope everyone is interested in the truth, instead of beating up on someone's religion. I don't understand the fascination people have with the Mormons. If you don't like it and don't believe, then walk away and don't waste your time. You will never change the member's minds. They believe because they want to. Live in such a way that the LDS members will want what you have and the life you have. That is the way to convert people.

    1. I totally agree that focusing on the truth is the best way to go. What good does it do to beat up on someone else's religion, or anything else, for that matter? Contention is of the devil, and it only brings you down. Live your life in a way that helps you to find lasting happiness. Not the short-lived kind, but the kind that stays with you always. That is the way to convert people! They will want to find the happiness you have!

    2. If we're interested in truth and not tearing down or competing with other religions, why does the LDS church send out 80,000 missionaries to convert people away from their current religions? Why does the LDS Church baptize for dead people if there isn't a contention? Why did the Mormon Jesus kill the populations of more than a dozen cities in ancient America when the Jews crucified him on the other side of the world? Why does the LDS church lobby against gay rights? Why does the Mormon religion proclaim that other religions are far from God in their hearts? That they're the only true church and the rest preach doctrines of men? Contention? Very much.