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Radio Free Mormon: 008: The Amazing Contradicting Joseph Smith

Today “Radio Free Mormon” continues with its newest episode “The Amazing Contradicting Joseph Smith”  This episode discusses the changing and shifting theology of Joseph Smith and helps us see that while Religions strength is not changing and science’s strength is adaptation to new information that Joseph found a way to blend the two.




As with all guest hosts, this Episode does not necessarily reflect the views of Bill Reel or Mormon Discussion Podcast.


Like this episode and others we have had from guest hosts,  Such contributions are highly desired.  My mission with Mormon Discussion Podcast is to bring great perspectives of Mormon History & Culture that helps struggling Latter-day Saints reconcile difficulties while being encouraged to stay in the Church.  If you wish to contribute either a Blog Post or a Audio Podcast Episode please do and send to me at ReelMormon AT gmail DOT com for consideration.


24 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 008: The Amazing Contradicting Joseph Smith”

  1. Awesome podcast once again.

    It’s impressive how ahead of his time Joseph Smith’s way of thinking and style was. I like to think that somehow God’s hand was in the creation of everything that came to Joseph did (flaws & assertions).

    God works through mysterious ways and we are yet to see how Mormonism will reinvent itself. Perhaps Podcasts like these can help Mormonism pave it’s way moving forward and return to our most awesome roots (polygamy included???) jk 😛

    1. Thanks for the comments, David!

      I think this way of thinking about Joseph Smith’s willingness to contradict himself as a potential sign of a prophet tends to negate the neo-orthodox desire to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when doctrine was pure and undefiled.

      In other words, it is the “religious” point of view that Joseph eschewed that is largely responsible for the belief that there is some pristine and perfect original that can be recaptured.

      Just some thoughts coming to mind as I think about your comments.

      Thanks again!


  2. Excellent podcast! Very well thought out. One question. Does the Lectures on Faith teaching contradict the first vision? And, if the First Vision occurred as JS says it did why the confusion relating to Heavenly Father and Christ when he saw them both?

    1. I think the various iterations of the First Vision (1832, 1835, 1838 and 1842) can be linked with Joseph Smith’s developing theology.

      Having said that, I am not certain that the Lectures on Faith necessarily contradict any of those recountings of the First Vision.

      In other words, though Joseph Smith says in the first account he saw one being (Jesus), that does not preclude the Father existing as a personage of spirit (as set forth in the Lectures on Faith).

      Even later versions of the First Vision do not necessitate the Father having a body of flesh and bones, Joseph only mentioning he saw the Father, not that he actually handled his body.

      So at first blush, my answer would be that Joseph Smith’s First Vision accounts do not contradict the Lectures on Faith.

      But I do think his 1843 teaching (D&C 130) that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones does contradict the Lectures on Faith.

      For what it’s worth.

      Thanks for the question!


  3. Simply a beautiful piece of work that brought some critical points to the surface with clarity and language easy to follow for a lay thinker like me. RFM is bar none my favourite from the moment I stumbled on the milk stripping podcast and frankly, I can hardly wait until the next one comes out.

    RE this podcast: Finding a middle ground is tough and certainly what I’m looking for so thanks for the insights here. It’s made me rethink JS. It doesn’t make him a prophet or even inspired to me, but his progressive thinking and fearlessness is certainly something I think the church is in desperate need of today.

    BTW. If this sounds a little over the top, well. Trust me. I’m not a stalker. Just a very enthusiastic fan who finds the simple-speak of RFM a treasured tool as I work through a very difficult segment of life where I’m on the outside looking in. Thankyou.

  4. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Mike. I really appreciate it!

    This podcast was riddled with difficulties along the path to publication. The first time I recorded it, I went off into too many tangents. I deleted the entire thing.

    I came back to re-record it and did a much better job. But then when I was editing it a burp in the software made it so I could not access it.

    So I girded up my loins and re-re-recorded the podcast, then spent a lot of time editing it.

    This is the result. So glad it is of benefit to you.

    Please feel free to share links with your family and friends.

    I am always looking to boost listenership.

    Thanks again!


    1. Wow! All your loin-girding makes it all the more impactful considering the amount of work you clearly put into pulling this together in the first place.

      I’d also be very interested in you podcasting your ‘tangents’ some time. If they are anything like your previous work to date, I’m sure there are those of us who will benefit.

      Please keep it up!

      1. This may end up happening as far as a sequel podcast on the same subject.

        See my response to Dale below.

        All the Best!


  5. Enjoyed the idea and attempt behind understanding the process of revelatory knowledge from a Mormon perspective. However, as per my usual combative spirit, I do take exception to what I believe is the real intent of your narrative.

    First, the use of “contradictory” or “contradiction”
    seems a little out of place for the examples provided. One thing is to outright make an ultimate claim and then diametrically oppose that claim. However, to amend a truth is not contradiction. Example: If Joseph claimed Moroni was the deliverer of the plates and then we find out he then states it was a salamander then we have a absolute contradiction. (Couldn’t help using the Hoffman example). In cases of canonized statements versus speculative assumption, based on what was once understood at a particular time, then it can get a little messy of course. We shouldn’t mix the two (doctrine vs. lectures) though if we are to dissect this fairly.

    The idea that doctrine or theology in Joseph’s world mirrors that of the scientific process and conclusion doesn’t necessarily fit as a proper analogy. Science can absolutely evolve with contradictory conclusions. Remember butter vs. margarine? Maybe a poor example but hopefully shows the point. Joseph’s evolving knowledge was never ascertained through any new scientific discovery or prevailing thought of the day. It appears it was received through a revelatory process and came through a claim of divine sources. Little here and a little there, line upon line….you get the message.

    I can’t help to notice the real agenda behind the idea of accepting contradiction which is kind of a setup for the audience to accept the current sexual and cultural shifts that is so desired by some (you get that at the end). If we can buy into a contradiction acceptive narrative then the ridged holdouts in the “Church of Rut” can be dismissed without further cause. What will it be? Joseph’s Church or Today’s Church? The real contradiction lays in the idea that today’s Church is the problem since it just can’t get out of their “rut”. Really?! Denver Snuffer and those folks don’t believe that. The FLDS surely don’t believe in the “rut” theory. On the other hand we then have those that say they are of Joseph but really they reject the old and the modern. I get it…you want change and let culture and science be your Master and forget all that old religion and these stubborn old men. At least be somewhat transparent from the beginning on what the real purpose of your intent is.

    I must acknowledge that you definitely do your homework and do a great job of utilizing selective facts and methodology to lead the listeners to a place that makes your case appear faithful on the surface. However, I personally see it differently and hope others will make room too to see what is apparently being done here. Or maybe they do already without my comments.

    In conclusion… I’m sorry to be so critical. However, it would be a real drag if there wasn’t some comments of critique! Nevertheless, isn’t dialog and debate the process of determination? God bless!

    1. Dear Dale,

      I appreciate your friendly push-back. You bring up a lot of points, and I am seriously considering framing the next episode around a response to some of the points that you raise.

      There was a lot of material for this podcast left on the cutting room floor, and I think the questions you raise will give me a chance to explore some of those side-issues you address.

      I want you to know that I appreciate your comments and the language in which you frame them. I agree completely that dialogue and debate is the best process for determining the truth.

      Would that the LDS Church allowed for either. ;^)

      All the Best!


  6. Something that ties in a lot with what RFM hosts says is this scripture in 2 Ne. 32:6

    6 Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.

    When I read this, I interpret this to mean whatever Christ tells you, no matter what you believed in the past you are to follow the promptings of the present.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Great point, David!

      I agree that 2 Nephi 32:6 does tie into the idea that the Book of Mormon as originally conceived was to be the last word on doctrine until such time as Jesus comes again.

      This is doubtless what the D&C has in mind when it says the Book of Mormon contains “the fullness of the gospel.”

      And yet after it’s production, we have Joseph Smith going on to add doctrine after doctrine to what is contained in the pages of the Book of Mormon.

      I definitely think that is an important contribution to the discussion.

      Thanks for making it!


      1. But to a certain extent doesn’t believing that a prompting from the Holy Ghost almost equivalent to Christ manifesting himself in the flesh?

      2. More to my previous point, at the very least JS was claiming that Christ was manifesting himself in the flesh through his various revelations.

        Revelations that we too are entitled to and actually do receive.

        I guess I’m at the point that Joseph Smith claimed his imaginations to be divine revelation. Can we not do the same then? Where we claim that our divine imagination to be revelation just the same? In that sense we can all see Christ and believe that he talks to us.

        Or am I stretching it here?

  7. Another amazing episode of RFM. It took a turn I wasn’t expecting but appreciated the insight of seeing JS in a different way. Thank you and please keep going. I anxiously await what’s next.

    1. Thanks so much, Tyler. I will keep working hard to keep the episodes coming.

      Always expect the unexpected from Radio Free Mormon!

  8. Great podcast, but I think the term “contradiction” is used a bit loosely and was misleading. A true contradiction can’t be reconciled, most of these can. If I describe a coin that has a man’s face on it, and then I describe the same coin to someone else and describe that it has an eagle on it, it may appear to be a contradiction but we all know that if I am holding an old quarter it is not a contradiction.

    I do see apparent contradictions in the statements you brought up but most of them seem to be reasonably easy to reconcile. If two statements can be reconciled it doesn’t mean they are true, and it doesn’t mean they are being accurately reconciled, but it does mean that labeling them as contradictions may be jumping to conclusions.

    here are a few examples of some possible reconciliations of some of the supposed contradictions of Joseph Smith that you mentioned: The three in one doctrine is accepted by modern LDS theology, they are one in our modern doctrine in every way other than personage and sometimes in duty. This covers anything taught in the BOM as far as I can tell. Also, it is not a contradiction to say there are 2 members of the Godhead, and to later say that there are three members of the Godhead. If there are three members, there are also two members and there is also one member. If the spirit is the mind of God, and the spirit is a personage, lectures on faith and D&C can be reconciled. Emphasizing one or two members of the godhead, or one or two aspects of their character, doesn’t mean you can’t understand there to be 3 members total or that they have other attributes as well. God can logically be a personage of spirit, and a personage of tabernacle, likewise you are a personage of spirit and you are a personage of tabernacle according to LDS theology.

    Polygamy is accepted today as something that was once commanded and is now forbidden. The idea that God can command one thing to a person in one circumstance and another thing to someone else in a different circumstance has never contradicted our doctrine, the scriptures are full of this. If you built an ark in your backyard and told everyone that they had to get in or God would kill them, you would likely be excommunicated today. Not because the doctrine has changed, but because the command has. Polygamy is in the same boat. The idea that those old polygamist marriages are eternal marriages hasn’t changed, and the concept that it is possible to have more than one eternal spouse has not changed. I see no contradiction.

    and so on with most of your other examples.

    Accepting continuing revelation doesn’t require that you have to accept the idea that former doctrine will be necessarily contradicted. If God only reveals truth we should expect that true contradictions in doctrine only appear when man has been mistakenly attributing a concept to be from God when it wasn’t actually from God. New true revelation will always build upon old revelation just like in science. Parts of Old scientific theories change with new knowledge, but old facts that were facts before the new knowledge was obtained, are still true facts.

    IT was a great thought provoking podcast though, thanks for posting it.

  9. Fair-minded, concise, insightful. Keep up the great work.

    I have an episode request (I also sent this to Bill Reel)… Could you dig into this Dan Vogel article? –Evolution of Early Mormon Priesthood Narratives– After finding out about all the hard-to-understand Church history (polygamy, priesthood ban, and so on) this article was the smoking gun that killed my wife’s faith in the Church.

    I know you have a penchant for diving into historical details. This research is a little bit complicated and I’m trying to understand what it all means, but it seems deeply fascinating and somewhat disturbing. Can there still be legitimacy for the concept of priesthood restoration, given this research by Mr. Vogel?

  10. Pingback: Episode 80: Different Philosophical Approaches to Religion – A Response to Radio Free Mormon – Project Zion Podcast

  11. Dear RFM,

    I just finished listening to this podcast for the 5th time; I love it.

    I know this is not a new podcast, so I am not sure if you will see this message. I hope you will read this and understand my appreciation of your efforts and accept praise for your logic and concise way of presenting information.

    The constantly shifting sands upon which is built the LDS doctrine is so obviously exposed in this post. This podcast cinched any question I previously had of the validity of church doctrine.

    Thank you for the time you invest in your posts. They don’t get any better at explaining the obvious than this one.

    I am forever grateful.I will no longer invest my time and resources to furthering “the work”. “The work” is totally bogus.

    Wishing you a merry Christmas.

  12. RFM I just listened to this episode, per your recommendation in #105. You were still in fairly strong apologetic mode then, compared to now. Gave JS some really big leeway, imo, that he doesn’t deserve. Of course a lot more info has come to light in the last 2.5 years since #8. But, one by one claims of unique or new doctrine or ideas have each and every one been debunked and accounted for as plagiarism from one source or another. As far as “expansive” goes, it seems like he was changing it on the fly, in order to appeal to whatever his most lucrative funding sources liked. That probably is way too cynical a view, but the more I learn, the less respect I have for him and his following. Don’t get me wrong though. I love your podcasts, especially the last 6 or 8 months. And your interview with John D was classic.

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