One of my favorite things about the Book of Mormon is how fully it presents the emotional depth of mature life experiences. It profoundly describes, for example, both the crushing frustration and the soaring ecstasy of missionary work (Alma 31 and Alma 26, respectively), the anguish of parents who worry about straying children (2 Nephi 1, Alma 39), and the utter loneliness of those whose devotion to God has made them outcasts among their own people (Jacob 7:26, Ether 13:13-14, Moroni 1:1-3).
It seems unreasonable to me to think that undereducated, 23-year-old farm laborer Joseph Smith could have fathomed these extreme feelings, much less could have imagined them in rich detail.
Another example: there are three characters in the Book of Mormon who make it their professional business to publicly oppose the work of the Church, arguing that the beliefs of the Saints are wrong (Jacob 7, Alma 1, Alma 30). By far the most fully developed of these is Korihor, the Nietzsche wanna-be in Alma 30. The Book of Mormon presents his rhetoric in ample, sophisticated texture. The prophet Alma ultimately engages him and responds to each attack with withering, syllogistic precision. Their dialogue is worthy of Aristotle’s tales of Socrates. And we’re supposed to believe that this, also, was written by the unlettered and inexperienced Smith?
But most impressive to me of all this, these days, is just how presciently Korihor prefigures the current spate of elite Anti-Mormon commentators who seek to enlighten the unwashed masses about the insane, conniving cultists from Utah in this cultural “Mormon moment.” Their arguments are, in every respect, identical to those employed by Korihor in the book they’re criticizing, which was published nearly 200 years before any of them printed their earth-shattering wisdom online.
Consider what are likely the most prominent and well-rounded (relatively!) anti-Mormon articles of the last year: those of Christopher Hitchens and Harold Bloom. Respected, accomplished, scholarly mental giants, each of them, they however felt free to indulge in the laziest routines of Mormon-bashing when the muse so struck them. Compare their key points to those of Korihor below. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun. So, for the definitive refutations of their allegations, I’d refer the reader to Alma’s words to Korihor in Alma 30 in the Book of Mormon. They’re still very valuable today.
|Irrational, Anti-Mormon Cliché||Korihor, Alma ch. 30, Book of Mormon (1830)||Christopher Hitchens, “Romney’s Mormon Problem,” Slate, 10/17/2011||Harold Bloom, “Will This Election Be the Mormon Breakthrough?” New York Times, 11/12/2011|
|The Saints’ beliefs are intellectually unworthy||“a foolish and vain hope…foolish things” (13)||“weird and sinister beliefs”
“one of the most egregious groups operating on American soil.”
|“Smith was not a good writer”|
|[Distorts the facts of the Saints’ beliefs]||“Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.” (25)
|“On his later forays into the chartless wilderness, there to play the role of Moses to his followers (who were permitted and even encouraged in plural marriage, so as to go forth and mass-produce little Mormons), Smith also announced that he wanted to be known as the Prophet Muhammad of North America, with the fearsome slogan: “Either al-Koran or the Sword.” He levied war against his fellow citizens, and against the federal government.”
“More recently, and very weirdly, the Mormons have been caught amassing great archives of the dead, and regularly “praying them in” as adherents of the LDS, so as to retrospectively “baptize” everybody as a convert.”
|“Mormons earn godhead though their own efforts, hoping to join the plurality of gods, even as they insist they are not polytheists. No Mormon need fall into the fundamentalist denial of evolution, because the Mormon God is not a creator.”|
|The Saints hide or lie about their own beliefs||“ye do not know that they are true” (24)
“by their…whims and their…pretended mysteries” (28)
|“Though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer openly describes their innermost beliefs, they clearly hold on to the notion of a plurality of gods.”
“There are other secrets also, not tellable by the Mormon Church to those it calls ‘Gentiles,’ oddly including Jews.”
|The Saints’ beliefs can be adequately refuted with mere contradiction||“ye cannot know of things which ye do not see…ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ” (15)||“A superb trickster and protean personality, Smith was a religious genius, uniquely able to craft a story capable of turning a self-invented faith into a people now as numerous as the Jews, in America and abroad.”|
|The Saints’ leaders are malevolent and take advantage of them||“usurp power and authority over them to keep them in ignorance” (23)
“ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labor of their hands” (27)
“their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires” (28)
|“The Mormons have a supreme leader, known as the prophet or the president, whose word is allegedly supreme. They can be ordered to turn upon and shun any members who show any signs of backsliding.”||“The current head of the Mormon Church, Thomas S. Monson, known to his followers as ‘prophet, seer and revelator,’ is indistinguishable from the secular plutocratic oligarchs who exercise power in our supposed democracy.”
“…so much of his legacy, including plural marriage, had to be compromised in the grand bargain by which the moguls of Salt Lake City became plutocrats defining the Republican party. The hierarchy’s vast economic power is founded upon the tithing of the faithful, who yield 10 percent of their income to the church.”