Episodes

Radio Free Mormon: 161: Magic and the Book of Mormon

RFM brings to bear his training as a magician on the translation process of the Book of Mormon.  Suddenly, lots of pieces start falling into place!  Was this just a magic trick?  And has Joseph Smith been fooling people all along even down to the present day?  This one is a must-listen!

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45 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 161: Magic and the Book of Mormon

  1. You are on a roll this week! This has to be your best yet. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do an episode on Joseph Smith’s other magic tricks. Such as:

    * when he persuaded Martin Harris (I think) that he could find hidden objects, by finding an object he had previously hidden.

    * Bryce Blankenagel’s entheolgen theory (he has amassed a lot of circumstantial evidence that the hallucinations at the Kirtland dedication were helped along by Joseph)

    * When he allegedly walked on water:
    “To convince the unbelievers that he did possess supernatural powers he [Joseph Smith] announced that he would walk upon the water. The performance was to take place in the evening, and to the astonishment of unbelievers he did walk upon the water where it was known to be several feet deep, sinking only a few inches below the surface. This proving to be a success, a second trial was announced which bid fair to be as successful as the first, but when he had proceeded some distance into the river he suddenly went down, greatly to the disgust of himself and proselytes, but to the great amusement of the unbelievers. It appeared on examination that plank were laid in the river a few inches below the surface, and some wicked boys had removed a plank which caused the prophet to go down like any other mortal.” (From the Gazetteer and Business Directory of Chenango County, N.Y. for 1869–70

    * I seem to recall another time when he claimed a resurrected being would visit (i.e. a friend in a white sheet on the other side of the river) – can’t find the reference

    * And my favourite: that time the cat ate the Holy Ghost!
    “Joseph Smith had trained a dove to fly to his shoulder by putting birdseed in his ear and that he planned to mimic the New Testament sign of the Holy Ghost by having the dove descend upon him during worship services. But alas, after he repeatedly called for the sign during worship services, the voice of his plotting assistant, who had been stationed in the rafters to release the bird, called down that a cat had gone and eaten the ‘Holy Ghost’.” (from “A Mormon Miracle Knocked in the Head,” Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) 14, no. 4 (February 14, 1843) or “Stephen H. Hart’s Statement,” and “Mrs. J. D. Barber’s Statement,” in Naked Truths about Mormonism 1, no. 2 (April 1888): 3–4., quoted in Journal of Mormon History Vol. 36 The two quotes are from “WALKING ON WATER: NINETEENTH-CENTURY PROPHETS AND
    A LEGEND OF RELIGIOUS IMPOSTURE” by Stanley J. Thayne, Journal of Mormon History Vol. 36

    I am sure there are more, especially in the money digging and seer stone finding days. Bryce’s Naked Mormonism podcast has a whole episode on the magic books advertised by local bookshops in Joseph’s town. This kind of thing was extremely popular. And if people believed you had a gift, lucrative.

    • PS I hate it when people say “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE” and expect me to do a ton of work basically for free. So don’t take my entitled begging too seriously. Just keep doing what you’re doing!

    • More of Joseph’s magic tricks:

      * Persuading 8 witnesses that they actually hefted and turned gold plates (lots of prayer and spiritual eyes? Or actual gold coloured sheets?)

      * The banking scandal: persuading people that he had a chest full of gold coins (only gold on the surface: no gold beneath)

      * Josiah Stoal’s testimony that Joseph said he could find a gold mine, and did find a gold coloured rock. But (of all the bad luck!) the rest of the mine must have slipped away.

      * And Stoal’s report that JS said if they dug down they would find a feather and money. They found the feather, but the money had slipped away. Of all the terrible luck! But the feather proves he was genuine.

      * Arad Stoal’s testimony that Smith pretended to use a seer stone to read a book that was behind him. But (if I understand the implication) he was in fact using the stone as a mirror: “Arad Stowell sworn: says that he went to see whether prisoner could convince him that he possessed the skill he professed to have, upon which prisoner laid a book upon a white cloth, and proposed looking through another stone which was white and transparent, hold the stone to the candle, turn his head to book, and read. The deception appeared so palpable that witness went off disgusted.” (from the famous court case)

      You are right: magic is fun!

      • Sorry to keep replying: I got the magic bug!

        “Joseph Smith, Jun. was well skilled in legerdemain” (i.e. sleight of hand) – so says the 1834 book “Mormonism Unveiled”

        The Palmyra Reflector (January 1831) has a letter to the editor accusing Joseph Smith of legerdemain

        Rough Stone Rolling records a time when Joseph took his son to a magic show involving legerdemain.

        The book “A Portraiture of Mormonism” by George Sexton, published 1849 lists several conjuring tricks performed by Mormons to try to gain followers. One memorable trick was when a Mormon rented a room at night, then seemed to be dead. Two elders then knocked on the door and asked if there was a dead man in the house. The wife of the house was amazed and impressed: the elders explained that God had told them, and hey were to raise him from the dead. The husband of the house was suspicious, and proceeded to poke the “dead” Mormon with a stick. After very hard poking he came back to life without the help of the priesthood! All three Mormons ran away. (For the source, Google the name of the book and “legerdemain” – the only copy I can find is on Google Books, even though it’s now public domain

        My laptop battery is dying. Better stop spamming your page and give others a chance to post!

        • Here I am… back to spam (hopefully by just replying it won’t be too visible). Just heard a fascinating faith promoting rumour: that this hat was made by Edward Partridge. (search “Joseph Smith’s hat, faith promoting story” on exmormon reddit)

          f Partridge made a special hat for a local magic shop, or if it was a regular that but he knew about the stitching (OR LACK OF) and how it was easy to see from inside, then Partridge was a weak link. Smith’s whole scam depended on nobody looking inside that hat. Rather than wait for Partridge to be interviewed by an anti-Mormon (i.e. one of his neighbours who had been scammed) it would ake sense to keep him super sweet.

          Funny how he gave Partidge such a nice job. Back then being a bishop meant handling all the money: the more they moved toward the United Order, the more money and power the bishop had. Even today the presiding bishop is one of the few people who knows all the financial secrets of the church (e.g. he knew about the Ensign peak Advisers fund when most apostles did not).

          Ooh, and THIS is interesting. From Wikipedia:

          “In this position he helped lead the Mormon settlement in Jackson County, Missouri, and managed land distribution under the law of consecration.”

          Confirms that this was a big bribe. But then it wall went wrong:

          “He was tarred and feathered by an anti-Mormon mob in July 1833”

          That would make him less happy toward the church! What happened two years later:

          “During 1835, he served a mission in Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, and Indiana, then entered into another mission in New York and New England.”

          So Joseph kept him out of the way. And then…

          “Following the 1838 Mormon War, Partridge was jailed in Richmond, Missouri; in 1839, he was expelled from the state.”

          If I was Partridge, by this time I’d HATE Joseph Smith. And consider telling what I know. Or, if he was a believer, start to put two and two together. So what happened next?

          “Partridge expended much of his wealth in support of the movement before he died in late May 1840 at Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith suggested that Partridge’s death could be attributed to the stress and persecution which he and other Mormon settlers in western Missouri were subjected to in the 1830s.”

          How VERY, VERY interesting. If you follow the Naked Mormonism podcast, you will know that Smith had a habit of bleeding people dry, and then when it looked like they would turn against him, they often died unexpectedly. Could this be one of those unfortunate accidents, caused by “stress” ?

          Or maybe it’s all just a faith promoting rumour. Who knows.

  2. didn’t Bushman write the seer stone was a “crutch” Smith used early on? Later, when Smith’s “confidence” grew, he no longer needed the crutch, and simply dictated the words.

    • I agree with Bushman that the seer stone trained JS for the BoM. As a treasure seeker, JS learned the craft of deceiving people.

  3. Fascinating, RFM! I laughed out loud imagining Joseph’s pleasure if he knew he’d duped even the best historians.

  4. ARE YOU FOR REAL???????

    Seriously RFM……you cracked the code!!!!!! Until now, I didn’t think my estimation of Joseph Smith could fall any lower!

    As I listened to you apply your simple childhood magician know how to something that has baffled the most learned, I was blown away!

    This explanation explains everything; it’s the square peg in the square hole. While so much of the evidence shows that the BOM was composed fiction, I always wondered how the whole translation ruse was played out as far as just dictating it out of his head. That seemed to be asking a lot for us to believe, I don’t care how smart everyone thinks he was.

    But having his cheat notes preprepared to read from daily, really solves that problem. No wonder it was under penalty of death that anyone examine his lowly props.

    Now he’s still pretty smart, but much of his talent lies in his resourceful scrappy craftiness of deception…literally smoke and mirrors. His primary MO was always to create something from nothing…and to exploit( and entertain) the people around him.

    I didn’t know that the hat was white. I just assumed it was black if he needed to block the light out for the words to light up on the stone… a la glowing stones and the brother of Jared?

    He must have been amazed and strangely delighted at the continued gullibility of the crowd around him. When his audience would get suspicious, he’d just dazzle them with some new slight of hand. I’m completely gob smacked. What a bastard!

    Now to you….how on earth did you think of this??? You didn’t really fully explain. Was this a recent thing that just came to you or what? It’s so simple and obvious that its a wonder it hasn’t occurred to someone before now.

    I think it shows how we have all remained overly impressed with Joseph Smith’s intellectual prowess. I’m not denying him his due, but this sure brings him down to size. The wizard behind the curtain has been exposed. And I for one feel silly and foolish for having been duped by such a simple trick…..a trick that consumed over 5 decades of my life!

    This, most beloved podcaster, has been the most bittersweet gratifying thing ever.

    • P.S….It’s a modern day David and Goliath story. You have humbly taken down the giant with one perfectly positioned and timed blow, RFM.

    • One disturbing implication of this conjuring trick is that he also used it on his own wife. She was also his scribe for a short period of time. One has to think that if he is going to BS Emma during the earliest years of their marriage, what other crap will he be doing behind her back later on? Wondering if Brother Joseph’s little romp with Fannie Alger up in the hayloft might not have been such an ‘Abrahamic Test’ for him as his apologists have claimed. Then again, the verdict might still be out as to whether Emma was ‘in on the con’.

      Nevertheless, I think that there is still a strong possibility that Joseph was smart enough and had an above-average retentive memory that he might not have needed cliff notes in his hat (the exception being his blatant use of Isaiah and his brother Deutoro-Isaiah). If that’s the case, the stone, the interpreter and the hat are all just props to make Martin Harris, the money man, think that the ‘translation’ was a supernatural enterprise instead of an imaginative one.

      • The fact that he used the cheat sheets is proof enough that he couldn’t do it without. I’d bet my life Emma was NOT in on the con. Here’s why. When Joseph was caught having sexual relations with everything that moved, she would have played that trump card so fast, or at least eventually. He kept her quite powerless throughout all the misery.

        He had nothing to gain in bringing her in on it, and he was always willing to play the long game. He had to manipulate her more than anyone, not less. Just saying ….

        • Sorry Angie, I probably used a poor choice of words making it appear as if she was a co-conspirator to the whole enterprise. Although I’ve been married now for 28 years, have 3 sisters and two daughters, I still haven’t been able to figure out all the ins and outs of the female psyche. I will yield to your judgement on this particular issue.

          • No need to be sorry, Rob. I’d just be really surprised if I was wrong on that point. I guess we’ll never know! And if it makes you feel any better, I have 10, yes 10 brothers, 1 husband and 3 sons and I have still have a ton to learn about men. Viva la difference!

        • Clarification: it is not a fact (proven yet) that he used cheat sheets

          • Corrected…let me say that if its true that he did, then he needed to. The most brilliant story tellers and writers have to write their work down and do many drafts.

      • PS. But then again, Brother Joseph DID use the stone in the hat for the treasure digging enterprises. I can imagine that simply staring at a rock in a hat for hours at a time might get boring while everyone is slaving away and digging. I can see why getting in some light summer reading might make the time go by more quickly. And it WAS vitally important that he kept his face buried in that hat. Otherwise, he would have had to pick up a shovel and actually work.

        • Good point about using the hat for treasure digging. He would be under even more pressure then to give results. I wonder if he ever used notes? E.g. if the night before he figured out they should go X paces north and Y paces east, he better not get those numbers wrong the next day when he’s speaking from the hat.

  5. OMG! What a fun family home evening magic trick this would be. No mention of Joe, until next weeks FHE.

    Just have to come up with a white top hat. Hmmm, I know, FHE project. Make it out of butcher paper with a white cardboard brim and top. Make a couple of thin cardboard braces to keep it standing up. Kids love making this kind of stuff. Have them write their name on the inside of the top.

    This could be fun.

  6. Great insights once again this was a creative analysis thanks! A few fascinating details pertaining to this episode:
    1. You shared a scripture from Mosiah 8: you seem to be following along with the Come Follow Me because this week’s block is Mosiah 7-10! Inspired whether purposeful or not!
    2. Your mention of how Mosiah 8 corresponds with statements by Oliver and Martin about the idea that you’ll die if you behold the sacred instruments without being sanctioned by God reminds me some great insights in Dan Vogel’s “Joseph Smith: Making of an American Prophet” (not sure if you’ve read it). There is much evidence in the Book of Mormon that Joseph incorporates his life narrative into the text, and you covered some of the similarities between Joseph and Mormon in a recent podcast. Well Dan Vogel points out some interesting things in Mosiah. First, Martin Harris is said to have been around when Oliver began scribing for Joseph which was in early Mosiah. Well coincidentally Mosiah 4 talks about the condemnation for not returning something after you borrow it (Martin had recently lost the 116 pages), and Mosiah 4 strongly alsobencourages those with excess money to share it with the poor (Joseph was grooming Martin to help him finance the Book of Mormon).
    3. Also, in Mosiah 8, like you mentioned there is the warning that you will die if you look at the sacred instruments without being commanded by God and this could have been a reminder for Oliver and Martin, and LASTLY, as you know, Oliver tried to translate with his rod and Joseph didn’t like the competition, and conveniently in Mosiah 8 it says that a seer is the greater than anything else! Fascinating I think.

  7. RFM,
    I’d always thought he was in some sort of trance when dictating the BOM, but now that I know the hat was white–that does make it seem that he could have used notes.

    Would you consider doing a podcast on the WHY?? Why does Joseph find it so easy to justify all this deception? How is it his conscience is so clear, as he claimed as he went to Carthage? What is Joseph’s psyche? He is such a enigma and it is puzzling as to how he could justify all that he did. Maybe your being a defense attorney you could give your view. We would all love to hear it.

    In William Morain’s Sword of Laban: Joseph Smith Jr. and the Disassociated Mind he talks about Josephs’s leg surgery and how horrendous it was for him and perhaps a catalyst for his psyche. I found this fascinating but I haven’t seem much written about it.

    He seems to see the surgeon’s knife (Sword of Laban) as a reoccuring theme in the BOM. It was a bit of a stretch for me but the trauma of the surgery and how it possibly affected him is real. It is so interesting how it is framed in the Church as “look at how strong Joseph was even as a boy” when it could have been total disassociation on his part. Fascinating.

    If you’ve done any reasearch into Joseph’s psyche, I’d love to get your take.

    • Not that you’re asking ,but sometimes its just a lack of character plain and simple. Finding the bleeding heart explanation as to why he became a coniving, manipulating con man, out for himself is neither here nor there and I don’t believe he deserves our precious energy.

      He’s just not that unique. The prisons are full of these borderline personalities….he’s a cliche at best. and he couldn’t even manage to survive long enough to see anything come of it. and I believe if he had, the present day church would NOT have been the result.

  8. Hi RFM,

    Having listened to your episode 161 entitled Magic and the Book of Mormon, I have some observations about your theory that Joseph may have repeatedly used one or more pages of notes hidden in his hat to aid in dictation. Hopefully, my discussion may influence your thoughts like your discussion about playing cards influenced your mission president’s.

    I. IF ONE ASSUMES THAT JOSEPH’S MAGIC TRICK WAS TO “USE A HAT-HIDDEN PAGE OF NOTES TO AID IN ORALLY COMPOSING TEXT,” JOSEPH RISKED DISCOVERY OF THE GIMMICK BY VIOLATING THE RULE OF PERFORMING A MAGIC TRICK ONLY ONCE FOR THE SAME AUDIENCE.

    In the podcast, you note that a magician never performs the same trick for the same audience because the odds go way up that the audience will figure out what happened. Let’s assume Joseph’s magic trick was to use a page of hat-hidden notes to aid in orally composing text. If Joseph were not a skilled oral composer, Joseph would presumably need to perform the hat-hidden-page trick repeatedly every day with the same audience for weeks and weeks. Each performance would require, at a minimum, Joseph to put a page in the hat, read from the page, and removing the page without detection. If multiple pages were placed into the hat at a time, Joseph would need to be able rearrange the pages without detection.

    II. WHAT IF JOSEPH’S MAGIC TRICK WERE TO IMBUE HIS WORDS (I.E., THE WORDS PRONOUNCED ON A TREASURE DIG OR THE ORALLY COMPOSED TEXT OF THE BOOK OF MORMON) WITH THE AURA OF SUPERNATURAL VALIDITY – RATHER THAN A TRICK TO GAIN ACCESS TO HAT-HIDDEN PAGES OF NOTES?

    In the podcast, given that the hat was the common theme for both the hat-and-spectacles dictation and the hat-and-stone dictation, you hypothesize that a magic trick must exist and the magic trick must have something to do with the hat.

    I would submit that the common theme, for both the hat-and-spectacles dictation and the hat-and-stone dictation, is the hat **AND** a magical device of some sort. And this same common theme is also shared with Joseph’s hat-and-stone treasure digging.

    And in all three cases, the hat-and-magical-device tactic would be a means to the end of convincing an observer that Joseph’s words, whether guiding a treasure dig or dictating the Book of Mormon, were derived from supernatural means.

    In podcast, you also assert that, because Joseph lets observers view the stone outside the hat but not the stone in the hat, there must be something about the hat (rather than the stone) that Joseph doesn’t want the observers to see. However, David Whitmer said words appeared on the stone in the hat. If Whitmer didn’t personally view this himself (and I submit he didn’t), then Whitmer may have gotten that information from Joseph himself. If Joseph told Whitmer that words appeared on the stone, the hat would serve to prevent any onlooker from seeing that the stone did not actually have supernatural functionality, that is, there were no illuminated English words actually on the stone. Thus, even without a hypothesized page of notes inside his hat, Joseph would still have reason not to allow anyone to look inside the hat because they could discover there was nothing happening with the stone.

    Finally, if one considers only the hat to be the common denominator among all three cases (of the hat-and-spectacles dictation, the hat-and-stone dictation, and Joseph’s hat-and-stone treasure digging) and if one concludes a magic trick must exist and that the magic trick must have something to do with the hat, one has a challenge to find an explanation as to what was the gimmick that Joseph was hiding and observing inside his hat during nighttime treasure digs. More pages of Book of Mormon text?

    III. MAYBE HAT-HIDDEN PAGES OF NOTES IS NOT THE SIMPLEST SOLUTION

    In the podcast, given Emma claimed that, after breaks, Joseph would start where he left off without reading back the previous portion. However, other accounts have suggested that scribes would immediately read back the written text to ensure accuracy. I can assume for the sake of analysis that (1) every word was read back to Joseph for ensuring quality control and (2) the reading back always occurred prior to a break and never occurred upon resumption of the dictation after a break.

    With those assumptions, to know how objectively remarkable or unremarkable any particular resumption of dictation was, I would think I would need to know where the resumption occurred in the text, how long the break was, and what Joseph did during the break – but we don’t have that data.

    For illustration, suppose Joseph called it a day right the middle of Abinadi’s trial and in the middle of a speaker’s sentence and didn’t resume dictation for three days. It might have been particularly hard for Joseph to resume dictation without having it read back.

    In contrast, suppose Joseph called it a day after dictating 1 Nephi 4:19 (“And after I had smitten off his head with his own sword, I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.”) it might have been reasonably easy for Joseph to resume dictation the next day without any reading back with 1 Nephi 4:20 (“And after I had done this, I went forth unto the treasury of Laban. And as I went forth towards the treasury of Laban, behold, I saw the servant of Laban who had the keys of the treasury. And I commanded him in the voice of Laban, that he should go with me into the treasury.”)

    In the podcast, you proffered three possibilities to explain Emma’s claim that Joseph would resume dictation without re-reading the text: 1) Joseph read off a stone, 2) Joseph had an incredible memory, and 3) joseph read off pages of text hidden in his hat.

    However there is at least a fourth possibility to explain the magic trick: It Joseph was a skilled story teller who could determine a logical break in a story to pause with some idea of the next plot device to discuss when he returned to storytelling. It would not be that hard for a skilled storyteller to remember a single plot device to visit upon resumption of dictation. Given Joseph’s history of telling stories of ancient America to entertain his family (presumably without the need for a hat or notes), Joseph the skilled storyteller is the simplest explanation, which doesn’t require Joseph to successfully repeat the same hat-hidden-page trick over and over and over again. And even if Joseph the skilled story teller occasionally needed notes and if he could take breaks at will (as your hat-hidden-notes theory suggests), it would have been far less risky to him to refer to notes during a break, away from prying eyes without the need for a hat.

    IV. CONCLUSION

    The need for the hat-hidden-page trick only arises where someone assumes Joseph is not a skilled story teller and Joseph must therefore needed help throughout the dictation and upon resumption of dictation. But if someone assumes Joseph is a skilled storyteller (as his history suggests), then the hat-and-magical-device tactic can be seen for what it was actually intended: to give a supernatural aura to his dictated words and not as a prop to permit a hidden-page gimmick.

    Best regards.

    Ryan

    • your conclusion works with Bushman’s statement that Smith sometimes dictated without the hat and stone, when he didn’t “need” them as a “crutch”

      • Hi lloyd kent,

        Yes, I agree.

        My recollection from Rough Stone Rolling is that Bushman was talking about post-Book-of-Mormon dictations/revelations that Joseph received. That is, Joseph initially received revelations from the stone, but eventually he didn’t need/use the stone for those revelations.

        One reason Joseph may have abandoned the use of the stone could be that Joseph had enough credibility with his followers that Joseph no longer needed his stone to convince folks that his words were supernaturally obtained.

        Ryan

    • I’ll note that Emma’s claim about the resumption of dictation without re-reading the most recent text is paired with claim that Joseph couldn’t dictate a well-worded letter and the claim that Joseph didn’t rely upon books. These all work together to justify why she thought the dictation was divine.

      However, I am not persuaded by her argument for a few reasons.

      First, her claims come from the same interview in which she denies Joseph’s polygamy, which impeaches her credibility.

      Second, Emma’s claim that Joseph could not dictate a well-worded letter is not particularly probative because the Book of Mormon is not a letter (except for those letters to or from Captain Moroni, I suppose). The Book of Mormon is primarily a bunch of stories assembled together. What matters is whether Joseph could dictate detailed stories about Native Americans, which Joseph’s mother said Joseph regularly did before obtaining the plates.

      Third, before I could be impressed by Joseph’s resumptions of dictation, I would need to know how many Emma witnessed this process (i.e., was it just for her tenure as scribe) in addition to the other factors listed above like the complexity of text in which the resumption occurred, what Joseph did during the breaks, and how long the breaks were.

      I believe Emma’s motivation was to knock down the theory that Joseph just plagiarized the Book of Mormon using another book or manuscript. That’s why she mentions the lack of books. That’s why she mentioned the lack of letter dictation skills. That’s why is mentioning the resumption of dictation. In Emma’s mind, if Joseph lacked dictation skills, he’d need a book to be able to seamlessly resume dictation where he left off. But there weren’t any books! That’s enough to set her mind at ease.

      However, if one accepts Joseph is a skilled story teller as evident from his mother’s autobiography, then he doesn’t need someone else’s script to follow and doesn’t need a book in front of him.

      • Hi, Ryan!

        I appreciate your observations and insights.

        I even attempted to reply to some of them in today’s podcast that just went up.

        I think I do a better job at clarifying my position, and why it is I think a theory that relies wholly on Joseph Smith’s abilities as a story-teller (which abilities are granted, by the way!) may not be the best way to account for the translation process.

        Let me know what you think!

        Thanks for listening!

        RFM

  9. One evening a couple of years ago I was watching a show on how magic tricks are performed and had a similar thought. Like you, I followed it up with some research, and there’s significant overlap between your presentation and the conclusions I reached:

    https://faenrandir.github.io/a_careful_examination/hidden-material-in-hat-hypothesis/

    Ultimately, though, I became convinced by other data points that an oral composition theory fits all the data best. I think the hat may have been a way to focus and buy time during the composition. Or, there may have been some of both going on, because we still need to account for large chunks of scripture.

  10. Magic and the Book of Mormon
    Its Sunday 3rd May 2020 still in Lock Down in this surreal world we now live in that was predicted in “Back to the Future” but we took no notice did we. I distinctly remember Doc Brown grabbing McFly by the lapels staring him straight in the eye saying “Marty, promise me right now that you will never ever visit 2020.”
    Just received an email from Stake President apparently its Fast Sunday and very special testimonies have been recorded that are a must watch on something called Zoom all I need to do is Zoom in on the link below. Does anyone know what the hell they are talking about I was born in the early 1940’s and the only technology we were using was a little wooden stick with a metal nib on the end dipped in an inkwell on top of the school desk and my work was more full of big dark blue ink blobs than writing and they expect me to know how to Zoom in on Zoom. I just had Bacon, two Cumberland Sausages with Hash Browns and a couple of Large Free Range Egg so who cares.
    I found out recently that other religions do proselyte with some remarkable results as you will see from this True Story.
    A Catholic priest, an Orthodox priest and a rabbi argue who of them is the best preacher of their faith. They decide to settle the matter by going deep into the woods and trying to convert a bear. When they meet one, a week later, the Catholic and Orthodox priests are beaming with smug satisfaction, while the rabbi is terribly mauled, bruised with claw marks all over his face so he was in a grim mood.
    The Catholic priest relates: “The bear I found was mesmerized by my catechism and readily accepted the truth of the Gospel; he will partake of the Eucharist next Sunday.”
    The Orthodox priest replies, “My bear was deeply moved by my testimony on the unshakable faith of martyrs, prophets, seers and revelators and he agreed to be baptized on the spot.”
    The rabbi says, “Ah, I guess it was a bad idea to start with circumcision…”
    Well OK! But it’s as true as the Mormons ever told me. Oh Sorry its as true as the L.D.S (Lying. Dirty. Scoundrels) ever told me.
    A Stone found whilst digging a well that produces a pretty decent piece of believable fiction based on scripture in English translated from Reformed Egyptian scratched onto Gold Plates buried for 1500 years that some snotty nose kid was led to by and Angel called Moron and this is believed by millions to be true. He pops the stone into the bottom of a top hat buries his face into the hat and the stone jumps into action just like my TV when I press the remote.
    I could really kick myself for the 40 years I have wasted on Mormonism but I absolutely believed that it was true after all I had this fantastic spiritual experience confirming the truth of it all. Even a witness from the HG, apparently is not reliable. I accepted the Urim and Thummin because it is Biblical and it was provided by God as a means of translation and I really thought it must be some kind of sophisticated technology used in the eternal worlds. I only learnt the truth ie The Seer Stone fairly recently maybe a couple of months before the High Priest Group was also thrown under the bus. We were discussing the Book of Mormon when the question was asked “With what did Joseph translate the Book of Mormon” my hand shot up “Urim and Thummin” wrong says a voice from the back it was a seer stone he put in the bottom of his that he stuck his face into to exclude the light and he read the words to Oliver Cowdrey as they appeared on the stone. I thought that they were having a laugh but soon realised all the other High Priests were buying into this total load of Bullcrap except me. I already was convinced the Q15 were not what they claim to be but I was living with that but not this as it was so obviously just too bazaar. I had avoided all anti-mormon stuff but after this I started doing my own research and eventually found Mormon Stories, Mormon Discussions and eventually our dearly Beloved Podcaster RFM. I solemnly promise I will never use that phrase again. I have listened to all 160 podcasts well I did sleep through a few I admit but I found I liked this guy I think it was that laugh of his it is always there lurking in the background just waiting to burst out when you least expect it with a loud satanic ring to it. The first time I heard it I knew this guy with a laugh like that would definitely have been excommunicated. Loud laughter and all that No No No No NO not allowed.
    So “Magic and the Book of Mormon” at last I have an explanation from a magician himself from within the realms of the magic circle, well almost, an explanation that has the ring of truth now I can sleep nights knowing I was right about the sheer absurdity of the Stone in the Hat.
    Thank you RFM this was the one I was waiting for.
    The Great Puzzle
    Why do TBM’s so easily buy into this seer stone story. Our High Priests group is full of highly intelligent, successful men, business men, college lecturers, school teachers, ranking policemen and firemen, doctors and dentists. Many have been in the church longer than me mostly converted and baptised when “Kingdom Building Baptisms were the norm.” If we see any baptisms at all these days they are not of the same calibre, I do not mean to be disrespectful to new converts but it is a fact I do not see future leaders amongst them.
    However, coming back to our high priests their intelligence and experience seems to fade away where the church is concerned they are like rabbits caught in the headlights of the Q15 mesmerised by every insane word that falls from the mouths of Prophet who do not Prophesy, Seers who do not See, Revelators who Reveal Nothing. Can anyone explain this to me? If I try to inform any one of them of my concerns it is as if they turn into robots programmed to give the same apologetic response so I don’t bother anymore.

    Thank you again RFM

  11. I was wondering what song you would use to end this podcast. I burst out laughing when “Razzle Dazzle” started playing.
    So perfect!
    “When you’re in trouble go into your dance.” And
    “They’ll let you get away with murder.”
    Oh my goodness! I’ll never be able to hear that song and not think of Joseph Smith now. He is the quintessential charlatan- snake oil salesman- flim flam artist who kept everyone “Way off balance”.
    Great podcast! Great insight! Thank you RFM!

  12. One thing you touched on that I recently realized was this threat of death dealing with the stone in the hat, but also if anyone saw the plates. What a handy way to keep everyone away from them. The thing to me that doesn’t completely jive with that whole claim was the fact all these people trying to steal the plates from him. Why not just let them? They would die if they saw them. Solve the problem that way. Or just flash them at someone who is threatening to take them. Why the need to hide them when they will kill anyone who wants to steal them and see them for themselves. The other logical explanation is they were just made of tin and fraudulent. That seems to be the more reasonable explanation that falls on deaf ears.

  13. Me again DIY Dave as my family call me due my unusual skills in building and repairs, however, they are not being complimentary just because of a few incidents that went wrong like the sloping shelf or the mirror that fell off the wall I get the title quite unfairly of Destroy It Yourself Dave. Just wait until the will reading I will get the last laugh I will change my will so many times everything will go to the lawyers except for the overdraft they can share that. However, I digress the reason for this addition is that a thought came to mind RFM you asked if there were any sound tracks left from my Chuck and the Cherokee days the answer given on the podcast before this is no but one of our best was a Conway Twitty Hit “Its Only Make Believe” and I have just realised that this would be the perfect theme song for Pres Nelson and the rest of the Q15 to sing before every announcement they make from now on and certainly for all the congregations for every general conference throughout the world. I think this would be a massive hit and at long last they would be telling the TRUTH.
    Do you have anyone in mind who could get this message to him?

  14. I can’t agree more with my long time Internet friend Chris Tolworthy assessment of this episode.

    It was a BRILLIANT analysis and I know it has impressed the heck out of another friend of mine, Simon Southerton (the famous author of Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church. This is what Simon wrote me about this podcast:

    SS: Ive been raving to everyone about the latest RFM podcast. Have you had a listen?

    Me: yes, it was brilliant

    SS: I think he has discovered a critical part of the puzzle. Smith probably had the hat made to his magical prop specifications. Its so obvious now.

    He fooled us all for 200 years. Thats got to be the most successful magic trick in the history of the world!

    Well done RFM, you’ve impressed a member of ExMo royalty 🙂

    • Thanks so much for pointing that out, David!

      I will confess I saw a similar comment by Simon Southerton over at the Mormon Discussions message board and was floored when I saw what he had written.

      I just HAD to include a quote from him on today’s part 2 podcast!

      Thanks for listening!

      And for returning and reporting!

  15. Hi, Everybody!

    I just want you to know I have read all your great comments and questions, and am working hard on putting up a part 2 to try my best to respond to them.

    I was hoping to get it up today but it ended up being a lot more complicated than I thought at first. More and more ideas kept coming to me and I wanted to include them all.

    So I put up for today’s podcast an interview John Larsen did with me from ten years ago and will try hard to get part 2 on the magic and the Book of Mormon issue up tomorrow.

    I apologize for not having the time to respond to all your comments as I would like!

    Thanks everybody for listening!

    RFM

  16. Interesting take on the “translation” of the BOM. Is there any record of the whereabouts of the white hat? Unlikely outcome to enter that into evidence.

    I’ve had a question come to mind a while ago which I’m still trying to find an answer to. Where in church history, journals, or other personal accounts are records of Joseph preaching or teaching from the Book of Mormon? I’ve searched Joseph Smith Papers using key phrases, but find nothing. This seems strange especially since it’s claimed to be the most correct book with the ability to help someone get closer to God by abiding by its precepts than by other book. Add to this the fact he tried to sell off the copyright. This might be a trivial question, but after serving a mission where it was hammered into my mind the importance of anchoring people into reading the BOM daily it would appear strange that the same emphasis wasn’t given when the book was first published.

    • I think you are right about this, James.

      It has long been noted that after Joseph Smith pulled off the Herculean task of producing the Book of Mormon, he rarely if ever went back to teach principles or doctrine from its pages, or do much of anything with it at all, really.

      Instead he went on immediately to his inspired translation of the Bible, receiving lots of revelations, setting up a Zion society, building a temple, and lots of other things that seem to have wholly occupied him, including translating the Book of Abraham.

      During the Nauvoo period, Joseph segued from a heavy emphasis on receiving revelations from God for learning and teaching new ideas to doing so through preaching sermons.

      But again, the Book of Mormon is conspicuously absent.

      It could be said without much exaggeration that the next time the text of the Book of Mormon appears in Joseph Smith’s life after publishing it in 1830 is when Hyrum is reading to him from the Book of Ether on the afternoon of his martyrdom.

  17. Bravo, RFM! You know that moment when you learn how a trick was done finally, and then you can’t believe you never saw it before. That’s this podcast. Song from Chicago was a nice touch. The last conference talk President Monson gave before he died was about the BoM. He said, “If it (BoM) is true—and I solemnly testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

    Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children.” So, if it is not true, in other words it is not an ancient record JS translated, than JS was not a prophet, he did not see God, the church is not the Lord’s church, and the priesthood has not been restored. President Monson basically hinged everything on the truthfulness of the BoM. Not sure if he knew what he was doing or not, but he’s not wrong.

  18. If I understand correctly, the top 15 don’t need to find a peep stone to fulfill their callings as seer, but rather a top hat.

  19. Great work RFM. These magic episodes have me wondering about the role of faith. Why is it important? If we aren’t going to use it to heal the sick (like you’ve talked about in previous episodes) then what makes it so special? Why would God prefer belief over knowledge? I understand why a spiritual leader would need it for us to believe them and their messages. But if God wants us to be like Him/Her/It then I would expect a loving God to give us more and help us to know. Obviously people don’t need faith to be good so what is it’s purpose? Is faith just part of the “magic trick”?

    I’m a dad. If I want mykids to be like me I need to be in their life. They need to know me. I need to teach them. They need to learn and know things. If you instead inserted a middle man and paid him 10% to occasionally tell my kids things about me (some times accurate sometimes not) and my kids never met me and were only taught to believe then my expectation for success would be low. Then also hanging repentance and covenants over their heads saying they might not ever get to meet me if they don’t do what the middle man says really seems like a terrible plan. I guess I’m just seeing even the basics of faith, repentance, baptism, and the Holy Ghost as playing their own parts in the magic trick.

    And for full disclosure my confidence that there is a God that looks anything like what I was taught in Mormonism is somewhere less than 1% at this time. I’m more interested in seeing and understanding what really happened and how I was tricked than actually trying to salvage or create a new belief in God.

  20. Did anyone else take note that Vogel and RFM are magicians? As such, they are both quick to focus in the misdirections.

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