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.)