General Conference season is once again upon us with its attending pomp and circumstance.Diligent church employees are working behind the scenes getting everything ready for the big event. The cheerleaders and players are studiously preparing so they can perform at their highest level. Today, I would like to review a busted play by one of the players that took place in October 2015.

The play involved a solid player for the home team. brother Neal Andersen attempted to kick the ball between the goal posts and score points for his team. Unfortunately for his side, the kick was deflected by a host of logical fallacies that sent the ball careening into the sidelines. The talk he delivered was titled, “Faith is not by Chance, but by Choice.”

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Let us begin our analysis of what went wrong on the busted play, when he gets to the Honest Questions section. He started with this,

“Addressing honest questions is an important part of building faith..”      

On the surface, this sounds like  a good start. The key words here are “honest questions.” This is an interesting phrase that has been echoed by the brethren the past few years. For instance, brother Ballard spoke in a multi-stake conference on 9/11/2016 and used similar phraseology. Ballard mentioned how members should not listen to “alternate voices.” He said “nothing is wrong with asking questions or investigating our history,” but only if the questions are “sincere.” He said “sincere people ask honest questions…we can provide answers to those that are sincere.”

So what is going on here? On the surface, it may appear to a believing member in the audience that leaders are quite open about Church history and doctrine. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we accept the explanation the leaders and apologists give on a difficult question, we fit into the category of “sincere, honest people.” If we listen to Brother Uchtdorf  tell us the seer stone is just like an IPhone, and say, “that is a load of @#@#,” we are not the honest seekers of truth. We have violated a tenant of high demand groups by rejecting the answers the group provides.

Members in the Church follow the leaders example and echo these words and thinking. In my judgement, leaders are not echoing these words for the benefit of people who see the emperor has no clothes. These talks are carefully orchestrated to create a feeling in the believing member that “truths” in the Church are to be learned and not analyzed carefully. It is part of a socialization process where leaders and rank and file members all think alike. Leaders are converting themselves along with the rank and file, as they engage in a self-fulfilling prophecy of belief. It is part of the group’s way of creating a cultural millieu that benefits the long range interests of the brethren .He continues,

“Faith never demands an answer to every question but seeks the assurance and courage to move forward..Immersing oneself in persistent doubt, fueled by answers from the faithless and the unfaithful, weakens one’s faith in Jesus Christ and the Restoration.“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him.”

Logical fallacies abound here.He engages in Ad Hominem where he attacks the faithless and unfaithful instead of what arguments they have made.He is also engaging in Argumentum ad lapidem or Appeal to the stone. He is dismissing untold claims without addressing their merit. He is also employing the Moral high ground fallacy here.

In football,  us vs them thinking is common and creates some fun tension when the favorite team is falling behind in the waning minutes of the game.In religion, it is one of the signs of a high demand group. That is exactly what brother Andersen is doing here. He is not the only one. I will give one more example. brother Whitney Clayton has served as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy since 2008 and was named Senior President of the Quorums of the Seventy on October 6, 2015. He spoke at BYU in April of this year. He said this,

“The faithless often promote themselves as the wise, who can rescue the rest of us from
our naivete..We should disconnect, immediately and completely, from
listening to the proselytizing efforts of those who have lost their faith, and instead
reconnect promptly with the holy spirit.”

He makes no leeway for family members or even a spouse who have had their eyes open to the problems existing in the Church. Disconnect is a very strong word. It is a word long associated with high demand religious groups.

Brother Andersen continues,

“For example, questions concerning the Prophet Joseph Smith are not new. They have been hurled by his critics since this work began..”

He continues  his use of fallacies.He uses Ad nauseam fallacy here by saying we have heard these negative things for so long, we don’t need to even discuss them anymore. Let’s move on to something new. The Church does not like being on the defense with difficult questions they have never really answered. They would much prefer to be on the offense and tell members how to behave to be a good latter-day saint.  He is echoing what other leaders have said before him. Brother Gordon Hinckley did the same thing, when he was confronted with difficult questions by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes in 1996. Here is a part of that conversation.

Mike Wallace: From 1830 to 1978, blacks could not become priests in the Mormon church. Right?
Gordon B. Hinckley: That’s correct.
Mike Wallace: Why?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Because the leaders of the church at that time interpreted that doctrine that way.
Mike Wallace: Church policy had it that Blacks had the mark of Cain. Brigham Young said, “Cain slew his brother, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin.”
Gordon B. Hinckley: It’s behind us. Look, that’s behind us. Don’t worry about those little flecks of history.

Brother Andersen continues,

“..may I share some friendly advice: For now, give Brother Joseph a break! In a future day, you will have 100 times more information than from all of today’s search engines combined, and it will come from our all-knowing Father in Heaven..”

This is an interesting part of his talk. He again engages in Ad Hominem by attacking people who have put non faith promoting things on the internet and pictured them as these evil people who look to destroy faith. He also seems to be using a form of Argument from ignorance fallacy. He seems to say critics cannot prove a negative. They cannot prove with 100% accuracy that Joseph was not a prophet, therefore believe he is. Then one day you will die and guess what, the Lord will tell you all the critics in mortality were wrong. What he does not say is, ‘let us have an open discussion about Joseph, because the scientific evidence is crushing the official Church narrative.’ He continues,

“Consider the totality of Joseph’s life—born in poverty and given little formal education, he translated the Book of Mormon in less than 90 days. Tens of thousands of honest, devoted men and women embraced the cause of the Restoration. At age 38, Joseph sealed his witness with his blood. I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Settle this in your mind, and move forward!”

First, let’s talk False attribution fallacy. This occurs when an advocate appeals to an irrelevant, biased, or fabricated source in support of an argument.Do we really know how long it took Joseph to translate? We  rely on him, the very person we are questioning to support his own claims. He could have thought the book out long before meeting Oliver. Joseph’s mother tells of him regaling the family with stories of former inhabitants of America long before he claimed to have dug up the plates. Brother Andersen also uses Proving too much fallacy and Appeal to poverty fallacy here as well. What does being born in poverty have anything to do with Joseph being a fraud? Elder Andersen is reaching. Joseph died at age 38. This neither proves or disproves he was a prophet or a fraud. He continues with Argumentum ad populum. Are we to believe Joseph is a true prophet because “tens of thousands of honest, devoted men and women” believe? What does that say about the many religions around the world that have more members than Mormonism? He finishes this section with the Appeal to emotion fallacy by bearing testimony and telling us to settle this idea. Testimony is not an indicator of truth. It involves a feeling. Even Joseph Smith’s book teaches it is tied to feelings. Here Nephi is speaking to his brothers about how they cannot feel the Spirit because they are past feeling.

” Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder.”

Brother Andersen continues,

“Another gift from God that enlarges our faith is the guidance of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.. Paul said:

“He [called] apostles; and … prophets; …

“For the perfecting of the saints … 

The guidance of the First Presidency and the Twelve help protect our faith.”

 Appeal to authority fallacy has long been a favorite among those holding authority. Follow the brethren. They will not lead you astray. Sure, they have been caught involved in lying, manipulative behavior, censorship, etc, but trust them because they have the authority. He is advocating for a closed system of logic, where the truth is found in a tightly controlled group and outsiders are not to be trusted.He continues,

“The difficulties of mortality blow against you, and evil forces lurk in the darkness, hoping to extinguish your faith.”

Appeal to motive fallacy. Those folks who say Joseph Smith engaged in polyandry, sexually manipulated women, used a rock to translate a book, was fooled into translating the Kinderhook Plates, and so on, have an agenda, so it does not matter what evidence they have to support their claims.In fact, we won’t even look at their evidence, just look at the motive. This is a classic fallacy employed many times by the brethren. He continues,

“The faith of the young men of this Church is remarkable!”

Red herring fallacy where the speaker wants to distract us from the topic at hand. That is nice the young men of the Church have faith, but that has nothing to with whether Joseph Smith is a fraud. He continues,

“Faith is a choice. Strengthen your faith..”

If we are talking about something such as if God exists, we are in the realm of faith. There just is no way to prove or disprove that. Having a discussion about if Joseph Smith is a prophet or a fraud is something entirely different. I can use evidence to evaluate his claims and determine what type of a person he is. Does the evidence support his position or does it speak loudly against his truth claims?

When the talk was completed “I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down {astonished.}” He missed that kick by a mile. It sounded like he wanted me to “keep sweet” and not judge whether Joseph was a true Prophet or a false one. I thought the scriptures told us to do the opposite of what this brother is advising. In 1 John, chapter four, we read,

1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

How about Matthew, chapter 24?

11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

We are even told how to judge. Matthew chapter seven tells us,

15 ¶Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

Jeremiah told us this, “when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him.”

If we apply this standard to the Kirtland Safety Society then Joseph has some problems.

This was an organization that was first proposed as a bank in 1836, and eventually organized on January 2, 1837, as a joint stock company, by leaders and followers of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. An eyewitness told of a prophecy by Joseph how successful the organization would be. Here is the account as told by Warren Parrish, a man who had been an officer in the bank.

“I have listened to him [i.e. Smith] with feelings of no ordinary kind, when he declared that the AUDIBLE VOICE OF GOD, INSTRUCTED HIM TO ESTABLISH A BANKING-ANTI BANKING INSTITUTION, who like Aaron’s rod SHALL SWALLOW UP ALL OTHER BANKS (the Bank of Monroe excepted,) and grow and flourish and spread from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and survive when all others should be laid in ruins.” (Painesville Republican, February 22, 1838, as quoted in Conflict at Kirtland, page 297)

It was not to be however and failed miserably. There are other failed prophecies as well by Joseph, as well as examples of the bitter fruit of Mormonism.

Maybe brother Andersen wants us to give Joseph a break with the Book of Mormon. That is hardly possible. Far too many anachronisms and problems with the book for anyone to be fooled at this point in time. The evidence is overwhelming, it is a 19th century creation that sprang from the mind of brother Joseph.

I hope he is not telling us to give Joseph a break on his sexual escapades. Let us look at just one example in the case of Zina Huntington Jacobs.

Zina and her family joined the saints in Ohio in 1836. She was a faithful member who reported hearing angels sing in the Kirtland Temple. Her family lost everything they had in Joseph’s Safety Society.

While living with the Smith family in the far west, she met Henry Jacobs, a fellow member of the Church who began courting her. It was during this time Joseph taught Zina about polygamy and proposed to her(I bet he never told Emma). Joseph would always couch his proposals in terms of visions and prophecy. Still, Zina rejected him and choose Henry to marry. She probably figured that would put an end to this married man pursuing her. But alas! It was not to be.

Joseph told both Henry and Zina the Lord had made it known to Joseph that Zina was to be his “celestial wife.” He then threw a bone to the married couple by telling them they could continue to live together as husband and wife. When she still relented, Joseph sent a message to her that an angel with  a drawn sword had told Joseph he had to establish polygamy. She married Joseph when she was seven months pregnant with her first son, Zebulon Jacobs.

Am I not supposed to look at this example and use it to judge if Joseph is a false Prophet? There are so many problems with this situation. I do not know where to start. The Church was putting out scripture telling the world they were not polygamists which was a lie. Joseph was engaging in polyandry. I have never seen a scripture or revelation on that. He was marring a women who was married to a faithful priesthood holder. What was that about? He used manipulation to get his way. He engaged in something that had not even been accepted as scripture yet(D/C132) or voted on by way of common consent. The list of problems goes on and on.

There is a long list of things we could look at in regard to brother Joseph. Judging him is an important part of that.

In conclusion, this sideline reporter sees no reason to give brother Joseph a break. He willfully violated the rules and not only deserves to be ejected from the game but a lifetime ban would not be severe enough for his flagrant fouls.

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