[In recent decades LDS scholars have discovered many early documents throwing fascinating new light on Mormonism's history. The facts herein, drawn almost entirely from LDS leaders and scholars both past and present, briefly summarize them. Photocopies of (and sources for) all of these facts can now be obtained from the Salt Lake City organization listed herein. To save space, some abbreviations are used: M (Mormon), J.S. (Joseph Smith), B.Y. (Brigham Young), B of M (Book of Mormon), D & C (Doctrine & Covenants), PGP (Pearl of Great Price), etc.]
(1) PGP contains J.S.'s account of his First Vision occurring in his "15th year" during which "two" personages (Father and Son) appeared and told him to join no church since all were wrong. J.S. "told but one story" of this (Preston Nibley). Upon this vision "rest the truth and value of his subsequent work" (Apostle John Widtsoe). "Its importance is second only to belief in the divinity of Jesus" (James Allen) - for it is foundational for "plurality of gods" and "God became an exalted man." Some claim that J.S. couldn't have seen the Father-God and Son-God in 1820 because D & C 84 says that "without...the priesthood...no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live." (J.S. didn't even claim to have the priesthood then!) This "official" account was "first published...in 1842" (Hugh Nibley).
(2) In 1953 LaMar Petersen wrote that Levi Young has discovered, in the LDS archives, documents revealing another First Vision account. Young "was told not to copy or tell what they contained" (Petersen). M scholars now admit that leaders had suppressed several First Vision accounts, written or dictated by J.S., for 130 years. (Hugh Nibley wrote that he himself was "refused" permission to see his own great-grandfather's journal even though he was the one who donated it to the archives!) In one of the newly-found accounts (1835), J.S. said that when he was "about 14...many" personages appeared to him and that he then "knew not who was right or who was wrong." In his earliest account (1831-32), J.S. said that in his "16th year" only one personage, who said nothing about other churches being wrong, appeared to him. Still another account has turned up. "There are four official accounts of the First Vision" (Richard Anderson).
(3) Top M historian B. H. Roberts wrote that some of J.S.'s "ancestors...believed in fortune telling, in warlocks and witches." Many in J.S.'s day, including his family, were "money-diggers" (seekers of lost and buried treasure) and often used occultic "divining rods" or "seer stones." J.S. used both. He claimed to be able to find treasure by "pretending to see by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face....the manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods!" (Isaac Hale, J.S.'s father-in-law). J.S. wrote that he "only got fourteen dollars a month" for money-digging.
(4) "Some of the rodsmen or money diggers who moved into Mormonism were Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, Orrin P. Rockwell, Joseph and Newell Knight, and Josiah Stowell" (Marvin Hill). J.S.'s revelation that Cowdery had "the gift of working with the rod" (Book of Commandments 7) was changed to "the gift of Aaron" (D & C 8). "During the Nauvoo period Apostle Heber C. Kimball 'inquired by the rod' in prayer" (D. Michael Quinn). B.Y. used Cowdery's "rod" when "he pointed out where the Temple should be built" in Salt Lake City (Anthon Lund journal).
(5) J.S's "talisman, which he worked during his lifetime and which was evidently on his person when he was martyred...can now be identified as a Jupiter talisman....Jupiter was...Father of the Gods....the celestial intelligences...guaranteed to the possessor of this talisman the gain of riches, and favor, and power..." (Reed Durham). After his death J.S.'s mother, in a family history, revealed their obsession with obtaining money via the occult - a book banned by B.Y. from Utah but later reprinted after much of it was deleted.
(6) J.S.'s Nauvoo newspaper reported that when he anticipated uncovering the gold plates, he was thinking of "the certainty of wealth and ease in this life." Paul Cheesman found a long-suppressed document written by J.S. stating that he "sought the Plates to obtain riches." The PGP reprinting of J.S.'s history deleted all references to "wealth" and now says he had "no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God" (JS-H 1).
(7) For a century anti-M's had claimed that J. S. was convicted in Bainbridge, N.Y. of using a "seer stone" to defraud. M leaders had long reacted: "no existing proof that such a trial was ever held" (Apostle Widtsoe); "no such record" (Francis Kirkham). If an authentic court record could be produced, "it would have been impossible for him to have organized the restored church" (Kirkham) and would be "the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith" (Hugh Nibley). M leaders knew that someone had long ago removed the Mar. 20, 1826 courthouse records.
(8) In 1971 historian Wesley Walters found, in the Chenango County Jail basement, the original bills charged to the county for costs in warrant-serving, arresting, and trying J.S., bills submitted by Judge Albert Neely and Constable Philip DeZeng. Neely's bill listed "Joseph Smith The Glass Looker" as having been tried on the "misdemeanor" charge on "March 20, 1826." Walters also found a letter written by Judge Joel Noble (who tried J.S. in Colesville, N.Y. in 1830, when his occultic money-digging was again aired) which stated that "Jo. was condemned" in this 1826 trial. M scholars now admit that J.S. was at least "brought to trial in 1826" (Marvin Hill, Leonard Arrington, Davis Bitton) - a year before he said he discovered Cumorah's gold plates
(9) J.S. said he returned the B of M plates to an angel. But long-suppressed facts about the eleven B of M "witnesses" to the plates remain as external evidence that can now be analyzed. (Eight of them eventually apostasized.)
(10) J.S. said that Oliver Cowdery was led astray by a "seer stone" owned by Hiram Page, another B of M "witness." By 1841 Cowdery had denied the B of M. He accused J.S. of lying, teaching false doctrines, and adultery. Other M's claimed that Oliver had committed "adultery." J.S. testified that Cowdery was "engaged in making a purchase of bogus money and dies."
(11) J.S. said that David Whitmer was "too mean to mention" and a "dumb ass," and the M's said that Whitmer belonged to a "gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs." Whitmer wrote that by 1838 the "heads of the church and many of the members had gone deep into error and blindness."
(12) In two D & C revelations, J.S. called Martin Harris "a wicked man," and in 1838 he accused Harris of "swearing, lying, cheating, swindling, drinking" and "debauchery." Harris said that "Joseph drank too much liquor when he was translating the Book of Mormon" and that J.S. knew what was in the B of M "before it was translated"!
(13) These three "witnesses" was eventually excommunicated along with Sidney Rigdon and other M leaders. During the Kirtland period, "apostacy" overtook "one of the First Presidency, several of the Twelve Apostles, High Council, Presidents of Seventies, the witnesses of the Book of Mormon..." (Apostle George A. Smith). In 1838 Stephen Burnett wrote that he heard "Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes [but] only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it..." (long-suppressed letter, J.S. papers).
(14) The translation of ancient Egyptian fascinated J.S. "I can read all writing and hieroglyphics....No man can learn you more than what I have told you....I know more than all the world put together..." (J.S.) J.S. said he translated, from Egyptian papyri, his "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar" which M scholars have viewed as his "key" in translating the "Book of Abraham" (PGP).
(15) In 1935 James Clark and Sidney Sperry discovered the original J.S.-written "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar" in the church's archives. It had been "hidden and suppressed" (Hugh Nibley) for 130 years. "I am amazed how we managed to persuade the Church authorities to let us bring that Egyptian grammar down here to the BYU..." (Sperry). On p. "G" J.S. drew a column of "Egyptian numbers" from 1 to 10 which, embarrassingly enough, almost completely resemble numbers used today by Americans - which caused Sperry to state that J.S.'s "translation" of numbers "is not used in conventional Egyptian." "Most of the scholars...have already disagreed with" J.S. "on his translation" (James Clark). "Joseph Smith never pretended to understand Egyptian, nor that the book of Abraham was a work of his scholarship..." (Hugh Nibley).
(16) Until 1967, M writers had been led to believe that the Egyptian papyri J.S. used in translating the "Book of Abraham" had been destroyed in the 1871 Chicago fire. But then came word that they had been quietly "discovered" in 1966. The PGP introduction to the "Book of Abraham" describes it as the "writings of Abraham...written by his own hand, upon papyrus." "I commenced the translation...found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham..." (J.S.).
(17) Top M scholar B. H. Roberts wrote that the author of a 1912 work "submitted the facsimiles" of the "Book of Abraham" papyri "to a number of the foremost of present day Egyptian scholars." Their summaries of J.S.'s translation effort: "impudent fraud....Smith has turned the Goddess into a king and Osiris into Abraham" (A. H. Sayce); "too absurd to be noticed....not one single word that is true...." (W. M. Flinders Petrie); "absolutely ignorant of...Egyptian writing" (James H. Breasted); "pure fabrication....a farrago of nonsense....imposture" (Arthur C. Mace); "pure imagination" (S. A. B. Mercer). Hugh Nibley referred to these men as "the most formidable roster of scholars that have ever declared against Joseph Smith as a prophet...."
(18) M leaders had long declared that the "Book of Abraham" is 4000 years old. "...the book of Abraham...hid from the knowledge of man for the last four thousand years..." (Wilford Woodruff). M scholars, however, date the papyri much later: "...early Christian times, and thus follow Abraham by about two millennia. Abraham could therefore not be the author of the papyri" (John Tvedtnes); "...in the first century A.D." (Hugh Nibley).
(19) Scholars have noted the spectacle of "translating" an impossible number of words from a simple character. Hugh Nibley has written that "when a symbol as brief as cat is 'translated' by an involved paragraph of over one hundred words, we are not dealing with a 'translation' in any accepted sense of the word...." Nibley translated a few Egyptian characters in the "Book of Abraham" papyri and came up with the two English words "born of"; J.S. "translated" the very same characters and came up with 130 English words found today in PGP beginning with the first word in Abr. 1:29. J.S. derived Abr. 1:11-12 (135 words from the Egyptian word meaning pool or lake, and also derived Abr.116-19 from the word Khons. Leading Egyptologists, when translating the papyrus J.S. used in bringing forth the Book of Abraham, have come up with an average of only 87 English words J.S. squeezed "5,470 words" (Sperry) from the same papyrus; "...a handful of Egyptian symbols was apparently expanded in translation to the whole book of Abraham" (Hugh Nibley).
(20) Leading Egyptologists have long declared that the "Book of Abraham" papyrus has nothing whatever to do with the Old Testament prophet Abraham or his religion. They have also stated that the same papyrus is really part of an Egyptian funeral document known as the "Book of Breathings" - actually, instructions for including this "Book" with a mummy. The papyrus drawings show occultic, pagan, obscene sketches. Fig. 7 (which is upside down in Facsimile No. 2 in the "Book of Abraham") is actually an altered reproduction of the original sketch portraying two pagan Egyptian deities known as "Nehebka" and "Min" (Michael Dennis Rhodes, R. C. Webb) - both of whom exhibit an aroused and exaggerated male sex organ.
(21) In his newspaper in 1842, J.S. reproduced this "explicit portrayal" which then "offended Mormon sensibilities" (Ian Barber). Later PGP editions whited out the phallic portion. But when the "triple combination" came out in 1981, M leaders incredibly restored in Fig. 7 the long-censored "pornographic phallus" along with J.S.'s blasphemous "interpretation" that these two heathen gods represent the "Holy Ghost" and "God sitting upon his throne"!! M scholar Grant Heward wrote a scholarly paper demonstrating that the "Book of Abraham" is a fraud. After he handed out copies of his paper at the church's 1967 annual conference on Temple Square, he was excommunicated.
(22) On May 1, 1843 J.S.'s newspaper reported that six brass plates, with apparently Egyptian characters on them, had been found in a mound near Kinderhook, Illinois by nine men. J.S. wrote that "I have translated a portion of them," adding that the person the plates described "was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt...." Within a few years W. P. Harris, one of the nine, admitted in writing that some of the others had "cut and prepared the plates" and "engraved them" and dropped them "into the pit where they were found" - a deliberate hoax to test J.S.'s translating ability. Another of the nine wrote a similar statement. In 1965 M physicist George Lawrence tested the one surviving Kinderhook Plate and wrote that its characteristics "are consistent with the facilities of an 1843 blacksmith shop and with the fraud stories of the original participants" in the hoax. In the late 1960's M scholar Bruce Owens sent copies of the Plates' "hieroglyphics" to Oriental language experts at the Smithsonian Institution and elsewhere - all of whom replied that the writing is not Egyptian but Chinese (similar to the Chinese found on tea chests in J.S.'s day). Apostle Orson Pratt described the Kinderhook Plates (which, like the "Book of Abraham," reveal J.S.'s ability to translate Egyptian) as a "fraud."
(23) The B of M is another work that J.S. said he translated from Egyptian. In recent times M's have been told: "When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done." But D & C 109:7 commands studying as well as faith: "...seek learning even by study and also by faith." Apostle Orson Pratt encouraged his hearers to test the B of M's internal evidence and added: "If...it be found an imposition...the evidences and arguments on which the imposition was detected, should be clearly and logically stated...."
(24) Famous M historian B. H. Roberts wrote a secret, unpublished manuscript entitled "A Book of Mormon Study" which has recently emerged. He demonstrated many parallels between the B of M and Ethan Smith's book "View of the Hebrews" - the latter widely circulated for years before the B of M came out. In response to scholars wondering if J.S. could have been the real B of M author, Roberts wrote: "...that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question...." He said that "if it be assumed that he is the author of it, then it could be said that there is much internal evidence in the book itself to sustain such a view." Edward Ashment, an Egyptologist employed by the M church, wrote that "the book of Mormon reflects the literary language of Joseph Smith" and "does not closely reflect Egyptian and/or Hebrew," adding that the "triple combination's" scriptures "were all filtered through the same mind...."
(25) The B of M is the only "ancient Jewish" history written not in Hebrew but Egyptian. In this "Jewish" book, however, there is no mention of "passover," "unleavened," "feast," "festival," "temple" (for hundreds of years), "altar" in the western hemisphere, "burnt offering," or offerings labeled "trespass, meat, drink, wave, or peace." And there is almost no mention of "sabbath," "sabbaths," circumcise," "sacrifice," "clean," "unclean," and "purification." Yet Alma 30:3 declares that these Jews "were strict in observing the ordinances of God, according to the law of Moses."
(26) At the same time, the B of M contains "every error and almost every truth discussed in New York" during J.S.'s youth - "even the question of free masonry, republican government, and the rights of man" (Alexander Campbell). The B of M even contains exact wording found in Shakespeare's "Hamlet," the Westminster Confession (1729), and one of Josiah Priest's books (1825) - all of these written many centuries after the B of M was reportedly finished!
(27) Sidney Sperry admits that J.S. inserted into the B of M, often "verbatim," at least "seventeen thousand words" from the 1611 King James Bible. This is "too striking...to be accidental..." (J. N. Washburn). Although Apostle Orson Pratt commented that the lad J.S. "was unacquainted with the contents of the Bible," J.S. himself stated, in a manuscript suppressed for 130 years, that he was "searching the Scriptures...from the age twelve years to fifteen...."
(28) "The first myth we need to eliminate is that Book of Mormon archaeology exists" (Dee F. Green). Hill Cumorah in N.Y. "was not large enough to have accommodated the great armies which camped around Ramah-Cumorah" (Thomas S. Ferguson). Hill Cumorah was in southern "Mexico" or in "Central America" (Fletcher B. Hammond, M. Wells Jakeman).
(29) M-ism teaches that "pre-existent spirits" became humans and that humans can become "gods." Another "progression" is the way M-ism's doctrines and historical records have drastically changed since 1830.
(30) J.S. "progressed" from the Bible to the Bible-verse-riddled B of M (still used to attract potential converts) to M-ism's distinctive beliefs. Many still don't know that the B of M actually opposes temple oaths, polygamy, baptism for the dead, and eternal progression. And they aren't aware that Mosiah 3:19 says that "the natural man is an enemy to God" and that 2 Nephi 10:24 tells us that "It is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved" - reflections of many Bible verses. In recent years many M's have progressed back to the Bible (J.S.'s original source), have discovered verses like Rom. 3:23, Luke 13:5, Eph. 2:8-9, and John 1:12, and then have prayed (in their own words) this sort of prayer: "Dear Jesus, I admit I'm a sinner and realize that your death paid completely for my sins. I forsake them and all religious beliefs not taught plainly in the Holy Bible, no matter what the cost. I ask you right now to be my personal Saviour and Lord. Please lead me into Your truth and righteousness." (I testify that if you will pray this sort of prayer with sincerity, you will really start living!)
(31) This paper's facts are only the iceberg's tip. Klaus J. Hansen contends that the LDS archives "may well contain important secret documents," possibly even records of the secret, political "Council of Fifty" - a "kingdom" within, but not loyal to, the U.S. which even ordained J.S. (and later on B.Y.) as "King" (Kenneth Godfrey, Richard D. Poll) and which some believe is still operating behind the scenes. Documentation (and photocopies) of the facts in this paper of mine can be obtained from: U.L.M. [an independent LDS-documents group], P. O. Box 1884, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110.
(32) Even though the title page of J.S.'s own "History of the Church" declares it was written by J.S. "HIMSELF," M scholars now admit that less than 40 percent of it was compiled during J.S.'s lifetime. And even "large portions" covering his lifetime "were written by scribes and later transferred into the first person to read as though the words were Joseph's" (Marvin Hill). Also, M leaders have changed, added, and deleted thousands of words in the same history. They've done this to eliminate J.S.'s original statements, some of which were contradictory, indecent, had profanity, or had prophecies that never came to pass. M scholars now know that J.S. and B.Y. continued using tobacco and strong drink all their lives. They know that J.S. secretly practiced polygamy before his polygamy revelation, violated banking laws, committed property fraud, and protected money counterfeiting. And they know that B.Y. and several Apostles learned that they had been indicted on money counterfeiting charges and were about to be arrested in Nauvoo - the REAL reason M leaders quickly hurried up the exodus from Nauvoo during a harsh winter (which needlessly killed many) "rather than in the spring as originally proposed" (Kenneth Godfrey)! M scholars moreover know that B.Y. supervised money counterfeiting in Salt Lake City and was also indicted for murder!
(33) M leaders have also greatly altered J.S.'s original revelations and much of M-ism's original doctrine. Newly found documents show that the long-held anti-black doctrine was actually based on a MISSING portion of the "Abraham" papyrus! The still-suppressed documents in the Mormon archives may well throw light on priesthood-for-women and other current issues.