Welcome to my website. With it I propose a long overdue alternate view of the Book of Mormon. This new position argues that Joseph Smith (1805-1844) wrote his major work on an entirely different paradigm than the one LDS Missionaries teach new converts. Stories told about its miraculous origins and pious content perpetuate confusion that Joseph himself contrived lest someone discover his mischief while he was yet alive.
Rather than revealing a solemn, ancient historical record, my analysis highlights his book as an exquisite example of modernist, clandestine propaganda literature, and Joseph as a more highly skilled writer than previously imagined. He wrote following the model of 18th century works from the Age of Enlightenment. Originally published in the form of a novel, Joseph intended his work as a covert satire and critique of non-rational 19th century Christianity. In truth the Book of Mormon is one of the most underestimated works of literature ever produced, which, when analyzed as fiction, competes admirably against any of America's most honored works, but at the cost of its reputation as an ancient sacred record. It is impossible to achieve accurate perceptions for the Book of Mormon without also re-calibrating Mr. Smith as a closet intellectual, an avaunt garde propagandist, self-promoter and secret-keeper who dealt more deeply in mysteries and secrets than revelations.
My first essay, part I, "A Coming of Age for the Book of Mormon," introduces examples in his work of double entendre, humor, symbol names, Christ symbol, satire and intimate autobiographical embeds--all primarily elements of literary works, but not scripture. Therefore his book begs to be interpreted on two separate, distinctly contrasting levels, cover to cover. Those who appreciate the older classics will discover a previously unheralded instance of haute American literature.
Essay two, "Book of Mormon Characters Resurrect Heroes and Gods of Ancient Myth," offers a solution to a dozen of Joseph's most puzzling symbol names, including: Nephi, Alma, Ether, Mosiah, Helaman, Sariah, Ammon and five more. He designed his characters for highlighting the role played by ancient heroes and gods in shaping our modern world. Stories of larger-than-life characters have been used since time immemorial as models for passing down moral and philosophical principles, all the more reason for appreciating his literary insights.
In this third essay, "The Genius of Becoming an 'Unlearned Man,''" I question misleading claims that Joseph was an ignorant backwoodsman. By infringing on a passage from Isaiah, one vaguely referring to a "book that is sealed" and "him that is not learned," Smith purchased followers' esteem by persuading them that the Bible prophesied of him and his Book of Mormon. The impossibility of an illiterate man creating such a work would ordinarily imply something of a miraculous, heaven-inspired marvel. The myth of his ignorance breaks down upon closer inspection of testimony by family, acquaintances and even from Joseph's admissions. Becoming learned doesn't require a college campus as much as one's desire to know. Interpreting his book as a fictional work suggests that he became familiar with Enlightenment philosophy brought westward, perhaps along the Erie Canal, a busy waterway adjacent to his home town of Palmyra, New York.
Part IV, "Joseph's Seer Stone Translation Caper," disputes Joseph's tale that his work is a translation from any ancient text. In order to promote interest for his book, he wove a wholly imaginary story about engraved golden plates delivered by an angel, setting himself up as its "translator," rather than claiming authorship. Strategic dissimulation led followers to believe that the process of creating the manuscript must have taken an incredibly short 65-75 days. By calling it a translation he concealed the stronger probability that he had already spent years contemplating, composing and editing his masterpiece. His admitted gift of a flawless memory may have aided him during dictation to credulous scribes.
Essay V, "Phantom Witnesses Cannot Lie," examines a highly-touted pair of documents used for affirming that eyewitnesses viewed the physical golden plates Joseph claimed as the basis for his book. It turns out that the two witness documents thought to have been drawn up by eleven observers were in fact both composed solely by Joseph. To perfect his deception, he had Oliver Cowdery forge ten witness signatures just in time to appear as the final pages of the published volume. No original holographic evidence, signed by witnesses, survives to indicate that either document ever existed, as maintained by LDS general authorities, educators, missionaries and members. Oliver's forgery testifies only that Joseph perpetrated an egregious fraud on his followers, possibly with the idea of demonstrating how eagerly true-believers submit to credulousness of the unseen.
My sixth essay, "Skeptical Prophet, Enlightenment Freethinker," is online while finishing touches are being added. The intent is to demonstrate, as suggested by its title, that without the great intellectual efflorescence that erupted during the Age of Enlightenment, Joseph's teachings would never have included such alluring, advanced concepts as: other inhabited earths, materialism ("all spirit is matter"), man's pre-existence, as well as his vitriolic attacks against Christian priestcraft. Virtually every element of Joseph's heretical religious thought is traceable to existing publications by near-contemporaries. What surprises most readers is that those earlier writers (their ideas sometimes obscured, as were Joseph's teachings, being couched within esoteric expressions and satirical overstatements) were being condemned as non-conforming deists suspected of atheism. Joseph's claim that he was an ignorant man helped diffuse suspicions that he incorporated up-to-date modernist culture from the Enlightenment, particularly its skeptical questioning of long-established, often distorted, biblical traditions. Segments of Joseph's ideology and "revelations" may be traced to the published works of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Locke, Tom Paine, David Hume, Volney, Voltaire, as well as others whose philosophical gleanings continued informing freethinking skeptics well into the 19th century.