Falsifying Moroni's Promise

"A Second Witness of the Truth"

Part of a series about My Faith Journey.

(*) Note: This document is a work in progress. It is very spotty in parts.

The LDS church presents a series of claims whereby a person can know if the church is true. It usually goes something like this:

  1. Joseph Smith was a "chosen vessel", a pure and righteous man who was prepared by God to fulfil his purposes.
  2. God selected Joseph Smith to do his work via the First Vision. Byproduct: TFV gives us a true understanding of the nature of God.
  3. Joseph Smith possessed the gift of translation which he used to translate the Book of Mormon and other ancient records.
  4. The Book of Mormon contains a record of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas.
  5. The Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel and many "plain and precious" teachings that were lost from the Bible.
  6. You can read the Book of Mormon, pray to God, and gain a spiritual witness that it is true. (Moroni's promise)
  7. By learning that the Book of Mormon is true, you can also know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
  8. Through Joseph Smith the priesthood was restored.
  9. That priesthood has been passed from one successor to the next, continuing a chain of priesthood authority that extends to the modern church leadership.
  10. The modern-day leaders of the church are all prophets, seers and revelators.
  11. The priesthood is on the earth today, helping to heal the sick, guide the church, and bless people's lives.
  12. "By their fruits you shall know them". The modern church exhibits good "fruits" and is therefore a good "tree".
  13. You should join the church and be an active part of it, because it is a good organization.

Question: What is an example of a similar test that could prove that the church is false? 2 Nephi 2:27 says "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things". If that is true, then there must be an "opposition" test that could prove the church is false, in addition to the "truth test" outlined above.

Here is why I ask this: 2 Corinthians 13:1 says "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." The LDS church uses this scripture to show that belief in only the Bible is insufficient to get a clear understanding of God's will, and that the Book of Mormon is needed to get a "more sure witness". In the same vein, isn't a "confirmation" test insufficient on its own? In other words, if I can prove that the church is true using Moroni's promise and I can't prove that the church is false using the "opposition" test, wouldn't I have a "more sure witness"? Isn't this better than just one test?

The importance of a falsifiable claim...

Video: Can You Solve This? (2, 4, 6)

The church ought to be willing to present us with a "negation test". They make bold claims about having the "fullness of the restored gospel", so they should feel confident about presenting a test that could prove it false, secure in the knowledge that the church would not be proven false. However, the church hasn't provided us with a "negation" test, so I'll just use the claims they make (outlined above) and then test the negation of each one.

"If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed." —President J. Reuben Clark

Joseph Smith's Character

Claim #1. Joseph Smith was a "chosen vessel", a pure and righteous man who was prepared by God to fulfil his purposes.

Support for this claim

The following are some quotes found in Teachings of Presidents of the Church manuals:

John Taylor:

I thought, why must God’s nobility, the salt of the earth, the most exalted of the human family, and the most perfect types of all excellence, fall victims to the cruel, fiendish hate of incarnate devils?

Lorenzo Snow:

There never was a man that possessed a higher degree of integrity and more devotedness to the interest of mankind than the Prophet Joseph Smith.... No one that was as intimately acquainted with him as I was could find any fault with him, so far as his moral character was concerned.

Joseph F. Smith:

I am familiar with his work, and I know that he never wronged a living soul. He did not injure his fellowmen, but he did much to exalt them.

Ezra Taft Benson:

Like the mission of the Savior, “a lamb slain before the foundation of the world,” Joseph was truly foreordained to his great mission.... I testify to you that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God..., a God-like prophet of the Lord, a truly noble and great one of all time.

Falsifying this claim

Can we falsify this claim? Can we demonstrate that Joseph Smith was a disreputable man, a man of low character?

Joseph Smith's activities

So, what were some of the things Joseph Smith did?

Plenty of others here under point #2:


Smith had been charged with treason for declaring martial law and using the Nauvoo legion to prevent his arrest.


“Punishment by death is the penalty for refusing to obey the orders of the Priesthood. I knew of many men being killed in Nauvoo by the Danites. It was then the rule that all enemies of the Prophet Joseph should be killed, and I knew of many a man who was quietly put out of the way by the orders of Joseph and his apostles while the church was there.” -- John D. Lee/Danite and adopted son of Brigham Young, John D. Lee Diaries

JS: sexual predator


“The church stands or falls with Joseph Smith. Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who wilfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect. The doctrines of false teachers will not stand the test when tried by the accepted standards of measurement, the scriptures." -- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation vol 1, pages 188-189

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." - Susan B. Anthony

First Vision

Claim #2: God selected Joseph Smith to do his work via the First Vision. Byproduct: TFV gives us a true understanding of the nature of God.

The importance of the First Vision

"Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision.. Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing we live by is of greater importance than this initial declaration… This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life." (President Gordon B. Hinckley. Gen Conf. Oct 1998. Ensign Nov 1998:70-1. Also see: Ensign, May 2005).

Falsifying this claim

There are numerous, conflicting accounts of the First Vision. They differ as to Joseph Smith's age when it occurred, the number of heavenly beings he claims to have seen, his motivation for praying, and the charge he received as a result. The earliest First Vision account appears 12 years after it was purported to have occurred. The official First Vision account, currently contained in the Pearl of Great Price was published a full 22 years after it purportedly occurred.

The church has only recently published an essay where they address the multiple First Vision accounts. The essay claims that the multiple accounts are "consistent" or "harmonious", but fails to address some important discrepancies. In the 1832 account, Joseph said that before praying he knew that there was no true or living faith or denomination upon the earth as built by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. In the official 1838 account, Joseph said his "object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join"..."(for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong).” These two statements are in direct contradiction to each other. No court would accept a testimony that was so flaky.

In 1823, Joseph Smith recorded in one of his journals that he prayed to to learn "the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist". Why would he need to pray about this if he had seen one or more supreme beings three years earlier?

Records show that in 1828, Joseph Smith attempted to join the Methodist church. Why would he do this if he had been told 8 years earlier (by God himself) that he should join none of the existing churches?

It is also worth noting that it wasn't necessarily God & Jesus that supposedly appeared in the 1838 account. There's no caller ID on who those two figures were. All that is explicitly stated is that they had a father-son relationship. It could've been Mormon & Moroni, or Lehi & Nephi, or some of JS's ancestors, for that matter.

Evidence that the First Vision was plagiarized from contemporary sources.

Evolution of the First Vision

“Our whole strength rests on the validity of that [First] vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens.” – Gordon B. Hinckley, The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith, October 2002

"If this First Vision was but a figment of Joseph Smith’s imagination, then the Mormon Church is what its detractors declare it to be - a wicked and deliberate imposture." -- Apostle Hugh B. Brown. The Abundant Life. 1965:310-11

The Gift of Translation

Claim #3: Joseph Smith possessed the gift of translation which he used to translate the Book of Mormon and other ancient records.

Falsifying this claim





Book of Moses

Uses exact phrases from Luke chapter 4 and matthew Chapter 4. If the Book of Moses is historical, that text would have been authored before the New Testament. NT phrases are out of place. This is plagiarism.

The JST translation of the bible is a complete plagiarism of Adam Clarke's Commentary.

“If Joseph Smith's translation of the Egyptian parchment could be proven discredited, and proven false, then doubt would be thrown also upon the genuineness of his translation of the Book of Mormon, and thus all his pretensions as a translator would be exposed and come to naught.” – Elder B.H. Roberts, LDS Scholar and General Authority, Comprehensive History of the Church 2:138

Historicity of the Book of Mormon

Claim #4: The Book of Mormon contains a record of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas.

Historical Problems

Native American DNA is Asian, not Middle-Eastern.

Anachronisms: horses, swine, goats, silk, barley, steel

There is no such language as "Reformed Egyptian". It doesn't exist. The characters presented to Anton (name?) were gibberish.

In the entire scope of human history, there are no instances of people keeping records on plates (Why?)

Thomas Stuart Fergusun (Mormon archaeologist) quote Nothing in the dirt matches what's in the book. (find the real quote)

Mormon Stories podcast about a non-Mormon archaeologist who spent decades digging in Mesoamerica. He saw two dozen Mormon archaeologists come through and one-by-one he saw them lose their testimonies and leave the church.

“[T]here is a certain lack of perspective in the things the book relates as history that points quite clearly to an undeveloped mind as their origin. The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency… Is this all sober history…or is it a wonder-tale of an immature mind, unconscious of what a test he is laying on human credulity when asking men to accept his narrative as solemn history.” -- B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, ed. Brigham D. Madsen (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 251.

Origins & Sources for the Book of Mormon

The Mormon church typically presents a proposition regarding the origin of the Book of Mormon that goes something like this: "Either the BofM is a divine record or Joseph Smith made it all up. But he was an uneducated farmboy, so he couldn't have made it all up. Therefore it must be a divine record." This is a false dichotomy: two propositions are presented, one of which sounds absurd (an uneducated farmboy couldn't have made it all up), so the other one must be true (it's a divine record). There could be more scenarios than the two presented:

Similar stories on the origin of the Native Americans:

“Did Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews furnish structural material for Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon? It has been pointed out in these pages that there are many things in the former book that might well have suggested many major things in the other. Not a few things merely, one or two, or half dozen, but many; and it is this fact of many things of similarity and the cumulative force of them that makes them so serious a menace to Joseph Smith’s story of the Book of Mormon’s origin.” – LDS Historian and General Authority, B.H. Roberts

How could JS have come up with all those names? By looking at a map of where he lived and this book.

Bible translation errors.

See The Book of Mormon and the Bible for a lengthy list of problems regarding the use of Bible passages in the Book of Mormon.

Quotes from portions of Isaiah that hadn't been written yet. See: 2 Nephi and the Deutero-Isaiah Problem in the Book of Mormon

 - Note the reference to Cyrus in those chapters. Cyrus wasn't born yet when Lehi left Jerusalem.

Plagiarisms: View of the Hebrews, First Book of Napoleon, The Late War between the United States and Britain, the Apocrypha, see this big data analysis and this follow-up analysis video.

See: Book of Mormon Plagiarism A growing list of evidence...

See: Book of Mormon depot for King James bible verses found in the Book of Mormon

See: Book of Mormon parallels to 1800s thought

See: How The Book of Mormon Was Created

The Late War:

Parallels between The Late War and the BofM

Mormon Discussion forum about The Late War This is the crowdsourced work done for the previous link.

The Book of Mormon and the Late War: Direct Literary Dependence?

Book of Mormon Torries This page has the quote from George Washington that sounds like Captain Moroni & the Standard of Liberty.

Pilgrim's Progress tells the story of a martyr very similar to Abinadi.

Autobiographical elements: dad's dream of the Tree of Life, King Benjamin as a parallel to the preacher of his time, George Washington quote that sounds strikingly similar to the standard of Liberty.

I think one of the reasons why the BofM "succeeded" is because shortly after it was written, it was transported away from its native territory (upstate New York) out to the Salt Lake valley where nobody would have heard of the stories that JS borrowed, or known the place names he used. (link to map/tables)

“One other subject remains to be considered in this division– was Joseph Smith possessed of a sufficiently vivid and creative imagination as to produce such a work as the Book of Mormon from such materials as have been indicated in the preceding chapters… That such power of imagination would have to be of a high order is conceded; that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question…. “In light of this evidence, there can be no doubt as to the possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph Smith, the Prophet, an imagination, it could with reason be urged, which, given the suggestions that are found in the ‘common knowledge’ of accepted American antiquities of the times, supplemented by such a work as Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews [published in Palmyra in 1825], it would make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of Mormon is.” -- Studies of the Book of Mormon, by B.H. Roberts, p. 243, 25

Editing problems

Editing errors, e.g. King Benjamin returns after he's announced as being dead.

Language problems: this video describes numerous language problems with the Book of Mormon that supports the idea that, yes, it was a relatively uneducated farmboy that wrote the book.


“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion... Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none.” -- Joseph Smith (History of the Church 4:461; 2:52)

"The Book of Mormon is the keystone of testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon... If it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church." - Ezra Taft Benson, The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion, October, 1986

"...This book must be either true or false...If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God, and will suppose themselves securely built upon the rock of truth until they are plunged with their families into hopeless despair.... If, after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments upon which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of the deception, and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion, may be exposed and silenced, not by physical force, neither by persecutions, bare assertions, nor ridicule, but by strong and powerful arguments--by evidences adduced from scripture and reason..." -- Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, 1850

See: How the Book of Mormon Was Made

Doctrines of the Book of Mormon

Claim #5: The Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel and many "plain and precious" teachings that were lost from the Bible.

Doctrinal problems with The Book of Mormon:

What about the doctrines missing from the BofM?

Moroni's Promise

Claim #6: You can read the Book of Mormon, pray to God, and gain a spiritual witness that it is true.

The church teaches that, if you pray and ask to know the truth, you will get a "burning in the bosom", or a "warm feeling" that testifies of the truth. This is the lynchpin. This is the key. This is the thing the missionaries tell you that will get you your testimony. The question is: Are your feelings reliable? Put another way, are humans really "truth detectors"?

Did you ever feel like someone was "just right" for you, and the relationship ended up being a disaster? Did your mom ever propose an activity and you hated the sound of it, but went anyway and ended up having a good time? If these things or anything like it have ever happened to you, then your feelings have been wrong. See also this video.

Premise: your best friend was a suspect in a crime and the judge decides your best friend is guilty. When you ask about the decision, the judge tells you "I prayed and asked God if your friend was guilty, and I got a warm feeling." Would you accept this, or would you demand hard evidence proving that your friend was guilty?

All major religions use this technique. Funny thing, everyone gets a "warm feeling" that their church is true. See the video on this page. Also, see this spiritual witness video. Question: Why would God give conflicting answers to prayers? I tried this by praying to Buddha to ask if Buddhism was true. You know what I got? Warm feelings.

Note that the Bible does not use the "trust your feelings" approach to determining truth. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."

Paul H. Dunn got a lot of people to feel the spirit when he gave talks. Turns out his talks were full of lies. Didn't stop people from "feeling the spirit", though. Was the spirit a reliable "truth detector" in this case?

Heartsell. The church claims that they can manufacture "warm fuzzy" feelings and use it to sell goods to people. Is it possible that they're using this same sales tactic on their members & investigators?

Another thought to consider: Let's say one of the general authorities of the Mormon church needed to have a heart operation done. He has two doctors to pick from: The first is going to employ rigorously-tested medical techniques that have been proven to work. The second is going to just start the operation, and when he gets a "warm feeling" that he should cut somewhere, he's going to cut there. Which of these doctors do you think the general authority will choose? The point is, when your salvation is on the line, the GA's are content to let you rely on feelings. When their lives are on the line, the GA's are rational skeptics that demand scientifically-validated procedures.

The "spiritual witness" as "truth test" is circular reasoning: the BofM tells you that you can get this spiritual witness, and then how to interpret it. If the BofM isn't true, then the promise it gives isn't true either.

If the "pray and get a spiritual witness" method was a reliable way for determining truth, the BYU Science Dept. should be leading the world with scientific discoveries. However, this is not the case.

This can be explained by a well-known psychological phenomenon called Confirmation Bias.

It can also be described as a "self-fulfilling prophecy": I expected that I would get a warm fuzzy and that's what I got.

Humans are feeling creatures first and logical creatures second. You notice that missionaries don't hand out copies of the Book of Mormon and ask people: "Read this and see if it makes sense." You would approach it with a very different perspective if that was the case.

The wording in Moroni's promise is manipulative. If someone doesn't get a "positive" answer, supporters of the church can simply claim that they weren't "sincere" enough, or didn't have "real intent". Since there is no way to demonstrate "sincerity" or "real intent", it gives defenders of the church an out.

Corollary to Moroni's Promise

Claim #7: By learning that the Book of Mormon is true, you can also know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

This claim is built on a number of logical fallacies:

Priesthood Restoration

Claim #8: Through Joseph Smith the priesthood was restored.

No account of priesthood restoration until 4 years after church was founded.

Accounts missing details and/or embellished.

Problems detailed here.

[an anonymous redditor said:]

 This whole priesthood idea, thanks to Mormon apologists information. a BYU paper, and history docs I have been researching, was an idea adopted from Sidney Rigdon's views of the priesthood that he adopted from Alexander Campbell. Follow the chain and you find that Campbell adopted the idea of the priesthood (before changing it to include all members) from Alexander Crawford a Scottish Baptist Preacher in Nova Scotia in 1827, that taught that there were 3 priesthoods: Aaronic, Patriarchal (after the order of Melchizedek), and the priesthood of Christ being the last High Priest. Read some of his statements on this and you can clearly see a connection in how the TSCC uses it and his ideas.

Chain of Succession

Claim #9: That priesthood has been passed from one successor to the next, continuing a chain of priesthood authority that extends to the modern church leadership

There are numerous "forks" in the chain of authority, starting with the succession crisis right after JS's death. If you believe in JS, you could have the foundation for believing in the Strangites or the Community of Christ.

In order to believe in the modern LDS church, it isn't sufficient to have a testimony of JS, you need to also have a testimony of BY. This calls into question BY's character. He committed numerous acts that were very similar to JS: polygamy, assassination, MMM etc.

There have been splinter groups that have shot off from BY, FLDS for example.

Modern-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

Claim #10: The modern-day leaders of the LDS church are all prophets, seers and revelators.

What about the LDS prophets that got things wrong?

How about prophets getting fooled by a forger?

What about all the prophets / presidents of the church that practiced post-manifesto polygamy? Or the ones that "lied for the Lord"?

How about in the year 1961 when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech, which inspired an entire race out of oppression. During this same time, David O. Mckay was preaching that blacks were lesser beings that did not need saving ordinances. Which one of these men sounds more "inspired" to you?


Consider the following interview:

Nelson “But to think that man evolved from one species to another is, to me, incomprehensible."

Interviewer "Why is that?"

Nelson: "Man has always been man. Dogs have always been dogs. Monkeys have always been monkeys. It’s just the way genetics works.”

President Russell M. Nelson 2007

Source: Pew Research Center: In Focus: Mormonism in Modern America

Space Travel

Joseph Fielding Smith quote about never going to the moon.

"When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him." -- Deuteronomy 18:22

2 groups from the New Testament: Apostles & Pharisees. Which of those two groups do the modern-day LDS apostles look most like?

When was the last time you heard a prophesy, a sight, or a revelation?

Many historical prophets of the church said things that are now considered heretical (like Adam-God & Blood Atonement) or racist (like the priesthood / temple ban with blacks). If they truly were receiving revelation from God, we should be marveling at how transcendent their message was and how timeless their wisdom, but we don't. We make excuses for why they were wrong ("they were just speaking as men", "they were just offering their opinion", "they were a product of their time"). No one should ever have to make excuses like that if those "prophets" were indeed receiving the word of God. These equivocations also raise a number of thorny questions:

"The Church, the custodian of the gospel on earth, looks with full favor upon the attempts of men to search out the facts and laws of nature. It believes that men of science, seekers after truth, are often assisted by the Spirit of the Lord in such researches. It holds further that every scientific discovery may be incorporated into the gospel, and that, therefore there can be no conflict between true religion and correct science. The Church teaches that the laws of nature are but the immutable laws of the Creator of the universe." -- John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, Bookcraft, 1960, pg. 139

The Blessings of the Priesthood

Claim #11: The priesthood is on the earth today, helping to heal the sick, guide the church, and bless people's lives.

What does the modern-day priesthood actually do?

Priesthood Ordinances

Baby blessings, baptisms, and grave dedications are largely ceremonial. These kind of things are done by clergy of other churches all the time. I see no great difference in the way these ceremonies are done by LDS priesthood holders.

Priesthood Blessings

A challenge: Can you cite an example of a priesthood blessing that "healed the sick" that couldn't be explained by the placebo effect? I've never seen a priesthood blessing restore an amputated/withered limb or restore sight to a blind man (as Jesus was recorded doing). The only place where priesthood blessings seem to function is in the foggy space where the healing effects could also be explained by natural or psychosomatic causes. Priesthood blessings don't seem much different from sugar pills when you examine the observable results.

Statistically, Utah is on par with every other state in the nation for rates of recovery from illness, injuries, accidents, etc. If priesthood blessings really healed people as they claimed, we would expect to see a statistical difference, but we don't.

Priesthood Leadership

How is the "priesthood guidance of the church" any different than the way a normal board runs a corporation? Is there any evidence of inspired leadership that doesn't compare with the leadership of the Catholic church, a university administration, or a business?

The Modern-day Church

Claim #12: "By their fruits you shall know them". The modern church exhibits good "fruits" and is therefore a good "tree".

After looking at the history, it's straightforward to conclude that the church came from bad origins and is built on shaky ground. It's questionable as to whether the modern church could be any good considering it's checkered past. Many apologists will cite the saying of Jesus where he said "by their fruits you shall know them", sometimes adding that Jesus didn't say "by their roots you shall know them." This is an attempt to ignore / discount past wrongdoings. A number of questions need to be answered:

But some will want to discount all that and say that members of the church exhibit many good qualities:

If you're going to count those, you need to consider the whole picture. There are some negative elements to the modern-day LDS church culture that can't be discounted; you can't just count the good stuff and ignore the bad stuff.

I once asked myself the "good fruits" question. I did some research and discovered that Utah has very high levels of all of the following (sometimes more than any other state in the U.S.):

Affinity fraud


Ponzi schemes







Consumption of antidepressants







LGBT suicides:





An empirical study of LGBT youth suicides in Mormon communities found "sufficient indirect and anecdotal evidence that, when combined with what direct evidence is available, strongly points to a link between" Mormon "culture/norms/rhetoric and youth suicide rates in the Mormon community, especially among LGBT youths."[2] Teen suicide rates in Utah have doubled since 2011 while the rest of the country did not see a substantial increase[13][7]:25 and the multivariate regression analysis found that "even after statistically controlling for a host of other relevant variables such as demographics, state density, gun ownership, serious mental illness, etc., the proportion of Mormons in a state is associated with faster increases in the rate of youth suicides over a five-year period between 2009 and 2014 (p=0.004)."[7]:37 The study emphasized that "there are no other factors that reliably predict increases in youth suicide rates during that same time period [2009–2014] except for the percentage of Mormons in a given state."[7]:38

there might be some contrary evidence here:


Sexual assaults / sexual violence


Sexual abuse of children



Abuse of prescription drugs


Online porn subscriptions


Eating disorders (bulimia / anorexia)


Cosmetic surgery


Passive-aggressive behaviors


Mental illness




Domestic violence / domestic homicide


Melanoma (Note: the church doesn't cause cancer, but if priesthood blessings work, this shouldn't be a statistic.)


Parkinson's disease (Note: consumption of coffee helps reduce the risk of Parkinson's.)


For another well-sourced list of social maladies that rate very high for Utah, see:


Are these really "good fruits"?

Modern church has strayed from its foundation.

Most of the good aspects of the church can be attributed to the rank-and-file members. Most of the bad stuff can be attributed to culture / environment created by the top-tier leadership.


You Should Join the Church

Claim #13: You should join the church and be an active part of it, because it is a good organization.

Why would you want to be part of an organization that punishes / excommunicates scholars & intellectuals?


Marlin K. Jensen said. "Maybe since Kirtland, we've never had a period of - I'll call it apostasy, like we're having now," If it's such a great organization, why are they losing so many members?

If the argument here is that a person should be part of a "good" organization, there are plenty of churches (and secular organizations) to pick from besides the LDS church. Most of those other "good" organizations don't use the mind-control tactics that the LDS church uses (see also The BITE Model Applied Toward Mormonism), nor do they have all of the social problems described in the previous section.

Put another way: the good features of the Mormon church are not unique, and the unique features of the Mormon church are not good.

Why People Still Believe

Even after evaluating the (frankly) damning evidence, there are some faithful members who will nevertheless continue to believe. Why is this so?

Social Pressure

We don't like thinking this of ourselves, but humans are basically herd animals.

I learned about the Asch conformity experiments, which demonstrated that people will conform to the beliefs of their peer group, even when their own senses are telling them that the group is wrong. This can be explained by another cognitive bias called the bandwagon effect. We have a strong tendency to do whatever the group is doing and believe whatever the group is believing. When you attend a Fast & Testimony meeting and hear everyone else saying "I know the church is true. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God.", you'll pick up on that and mimic it.

Some stay just to keep the peace in the house, even though they're miserable. See: In the Shadow of the Temple

Cognitive Dissonance / Consonance

Cognitive Biases

(Break up the following into, say, "Investment", "Herd mentality", "Subjective perception", etc.)

Primacy effect: We latch onto the first thing we are exposed to / taught. aka "Anchoring Bias"

Bandwagon effect
Confirmation bias

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry  off as if nothing ever happened." - Sir Winston Churchill

Endowment effect
Loss aversion
Sunk-cost effect
Mere exposure effect
Post-purchase rationalization
Selective perception
Status Quo bias

Illusory Truth Effect: The truth is what most people believe. People believe what they hear most often.



Everyone is the hero of their own story. No one wants to think that they've been duped.

"It's easy to fool a man, but nearly impossible to convince him he's been fooled." -- Mark Twain

You can't find a guilty man in prison. Every inmate has an excuse or a way to blame someone else for why they're in there, despite the fact that they've heard hard evidence that has convicted them.

Oscar Wilde is credited with saying: "You can't reason a man out of something he didn't reason himself into." I think it could be restated as: You can't reason someone out of a position that they worked themselves into emotionally. If a believer is unmoved by the reasons presented here, then I have to wonder: What reasons would convince them to question their beliefs?

Carl Sagan once said: "One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back."


Breaking up my eternal family.

Where will you go?

Fear of being happy outside the church, despite testimonials to the contrary

"It is the mind-forged manacles that are hardest for us to break." -- William Blake

"It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere" - Voltaire


Stockholm Syndrome

This Oatmeal comic about the Backfire Effect

Parting Thoughts

Many of us fall prey to having a subjective point of view. If the above information applied to a church that was not your own, you would have no difficulty seeing its founder as a conman, his works as fraudulent, and the church he founded as harmful. However, since it's your own, you don't see it.

See also: Why facts don't change our minds.

See also: Why Smart People Believe Weird Things

Consider this quote:

"Well, it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world. Now, that’s the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true." —President Gordon B. Hinckley

Or this one:

"Let me quote a very powerful comment from President Ezra Taft Benson, who said, “The Book of Mormon is the keystone of [our] testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church…”

…It sounds like a “sudden death” proposition to me. Either the Book of Mormon is what the Prophet Joseph said it is or this Church and its founder are false, fraudulent, a deception from the first instance onward.

Either Joseph Smith was the prophet he said he was, who, after seeing the Father and the Son, later beheld the angel Moroni, repeatedly heard counsel from his lips, eventually receiving at his hands a set of ancient gold plates which he then translated according to the gift and power of God—or else he did not. And if he did not, in the spirit of President Benson’s comment, he is not entitled to retain even the reputation of New England folk hero or well-meaning young man or writer of remarkable fiction. No, and he is not entitled to be considered a great teacher or a quintessential American prophet or the creator of great wisdom literature. If he lied about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, he is certainly none of those.

I am suggesting that we make exactly that same kind of do-or-die, bold assertion about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the divine origins of the Book of Mormon. We have to. Reason and rightness require it. Accept Joseph Smith as a prophet and the book as the miraculously revealed and revered word of the Lord it is or else consign both man and book to Hades for the devastating deception of it all, but let’s not have any bizarre middle ground about the wonderful contours of a young boy’s imagination or his remarkable facility for turning a literary phrase. That is an unacceptable position to take—morally, literarily, historically, or theologically." —Jeffrey R. Holland, “True or False,” Liahona, June 1996


<< X More "all or nothing" (either it is true or it is a fraud) quotes from GAs. -- distribute these up above >>


"The honest investigator must be prepared to follow wherever the search of truth may lead... He must, with fearless and open mind insist that facts are far more important than any cherished, mistaken beliefs, no matter how unpleasant the facts or how delightful the beliefs." -- First Presidency member Hugh B. Brown, General Conference address, October 1962

“Our history is especially critical, because in a sense, we rise or fall with our history. … If those early beginning stories that Joseph Smith told us are true, then we are the only true church as we contend. If they’re not true, then we don’t have what we purport to have.” -- Elder Marlin K. Jensen (Mormon Times, 19 Nov 2009; Deseret News 19 Nov 2009)

(*) Format:

Comparisons between Swedenborg's vision of heaven and Joseph Smith's:


Better formatted version of the same article:


"[An ideology] an ordered, more or less consistent picture of the world, to which our habits, our tastes, our capacities, our comforts and our hopes have adjusted themselves. They may not be a complete picture of the world, but they are a picture of a possible world to which we are adapted. In that world people and things have their well-known places, and do certain expected things. We feel at home there. We fit in. We are members. We know the way around. There we find the charm of the familiar, the normal, the dependable; its grooves and shapes are where we are accustomed to find them. And though we have abandoned much that might have tempted us before we creased ourselves into that mould, once we are firmly in, it fits as snugly as an old shoe.

No wonder, then, that any disturbance of [ideology] seems like an attack upon the foundations of the universe, and, where big things are at stake, we do not readily admit that there is any distinction between our universe and the universe. A world which turns out to be one in which those we honour are unworthy, and those we despise are noble, is nerve-racking.

This is the perfect [ideology]: Its hallmark is that it precedes the use of reason; it is a form of perception which imposes a certain character on the data of our senses before the sense-data reaches the intelligence. The [ideology] is like the lavender window-panes on Beacon Street, like the door-keeper at a costume ball who judges whether the guest has an appropriate masquerade. There is nothing so obdurate to education or criticism as the [ideology]. It stamps itself upon the evidence in the very act of securing the evidence."

-Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, 1922

We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent–if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression… This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. … We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.”

— Elder Hugh B. Brown

Origin of names found in the Book of Mormon:


"I fear dictatorial dogmatism, rigidity of procedure and intolerance even more than I fear cigarettes, cards, and other devices the adversary may use to nullify faith and kill religion. Fanaticism and bigotry have been the deadly enemies of true religion in the long past. They have made it forbidding, shut it up in cold grey walls of monastery and nunnery, out of sunlight and fragrance of the growing world. They have garbed it in black and then in white, when in truth it is neither black nor white, any more than life is black or white, for religion is life abundant, glowing life, with all its shades, colors and hues, as the children of men reflect in the patterns of their lives the radiance of the Holy Spirit in varying degrees." -- Apostle Stephen L. Richards

“They must find it difficult, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority.” ― Gerald Massey

President George Albert Smith said, “If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” (Journal of Discourses, Volume 14, Page 216)