Skeptics like to bring up cult leader James Strang to attack Joseph Smith, as if there were some kind of comparison. But they are nothing alike. James Strang compares to Joseph Smith like Nickelback compares to Mozart. That’s why nobody has neard of James Strang, nobody cares about him. It’s easy to fabricate ancient records, but really, James Strang is proof that it takes a lot more than trickery to be anything close to a real prophet like Joseph Smith. He was an obvious fake.
CES Letter makes five comparisons:
“Claimed that he was visited by an angel who reserved plates for him to translate into the word of God. ‘The record which was sealed from my servant Joseph. Unto thee it is reserved’
Strang’s fraud came at a difficult time when Brigham Young was trying to fill Joseph Smith’s shoes as the new prophet. Splinter sects were making all kinds of claims to be his true successor. Anybody could write something down and claim it was “translated” from a record.
We can know right away that the supposed angel visitation was a fraud, because Strang did not hold proper priesthood authority in the church to be any kind of leader. Joseph Smith made it exceedingly clear through revelation that the church is properly led through priesthood authority, and continues through priesthood succession. Who was James Strang? Some random guy.
“Received the ‘Urim and Thummim.'”
Wait, wasn’t CES Letter telling us that Joseph Smith supposedly translated with a rock in a hat? Now suddenly it’s the Urim and Thummim? I wish CES Letter would be honest and transparent to their readers.
Yes, Strang made claims to sound similar to Joseph Smith, to attract Mormons to his sect. But there were no witnesses to Strang possessing a Urim and Thummim. There was for Joseph Smith.
“Produced 11 witnesses who testified that they too had seen and inspected ancient metal plates.”
Those witnesses saw exactly what they said they saw. In both the cases of Strang and Joseph Smith, the witnesses saw and felt metal plates. The reason Strang could claim to have witnesses for his metal plates was that he actually had metal plates. Strang’s law partner, Caleb Barnes, later admitted that Strang made the plates out of a tea kettle. CES Letter goes on and on for multiple pages about Strang but somehow they forget to mention this. Strang’s witnesses saw exactly what they said they saw.
Strang’s Witnesses Admitted Fraud – CES Letter claims: “There is no direct evidence that any of the above 1 1 Strang witnesses ever denied their testimony.” This is a complete bold-faced lie. Several witnesses recanted their testimonies, including Caleb Barnes, who admitted Strang created the plates out of a tea kettle. Samuel Graham admitted he helped make the plates. Samuel P. Bacon denounced the sect after he found remnants of the tea kettle in Strang’s attic: “Bro. Samuel Bacon says that in repairing Strang’s house he found hid behind the ceiling the fragments of those plates which Strang made the Book of the Law from.”
It is very disappointing that CES Letter would attack Mormons like they do, and yet cover up for Strang and pretend like his witnesses didn’t reveal him for a fraud. I wish CES Letter would be honest and transparent to their readers.
“Introduced new scripture. After unearthing the plates (the same plates as Laban from whom Nephi took the brass plates in Jerusalem), Strang translated it into scripture called the ‘Book of the Law of the Lord ‘”
This is basically a repeat of CES Letter‘s first claim, that Strang translated sealed plates from Joseph Smith. They are repeating themselves.
But now we recognize weird discrepencies. The same plates as Laban? What does that mean? Well, according to Wikipedia, they were “the Plates of Laban mentioned in the Book of Mormon,” which I suppose must refer to the brass plates. But weren’t the brass plates pretty much the same scripture as from the Old Testament? New scripture? So anyone who has read the Book of Mormon would know Strang was just making stuff up. The brass plates were not new scripture and they were not a book titled ‘The Law of the Lord.’
“Established a new Church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite). Its headquarters is still in Voree, Wisconsin.”
So? If they were really Mormons, they would believe in the priesthood as described in Mormon scripture, which was passed down to the prophets in today’s LDS church.
Mormons Duped By Strang?
CES Letter claims:
“Every single living Book of Mormon witness besides Oliver Cowdery accepted Strang’s prophetic claim of being Joseph’s true successor and joined him and his church. Additionally, every single member of Joseph Smith’s family except for Hyrum’s widow also endorsed, joined, and sustained James Strang as ‘Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.'”
“Every single… except…” So, basically two. Okay, yeah. Two of the witnesses were interested in Strang. That’s not very many.
A few of the 11 Book of Mormon witnesses thought Strang might be credible. Why wouldn’t they think that? He had metal plates, after all. But they soon realized he was a phony. The Mormons who supported Strang quickly withdrew.
None of Joseph Smith’s family ever claimed to witness or testify for Strang, nor were they duped into anything. Strang may have claimed them as members, as several splinter-sects did. They may have even found his claims appealing because Brigham Young did not demonstrate the same kind of prophetic gifts as Joseph Smith, but there is zero evidence they actually had anything to do with Strang.
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
|Falsehood||James Strang’s witnesses did deny their testimony. This may be according to second-hand reports, but CES Letter ought to still consider this “direct evidence,” considering CES Letter replies on flimsy anonymous third-hand accounts from hostile anti-Mormon competitors in other arguments.|
CES Letter suggested the Book of Mormon witnesses only saw the gold plates in their imagination. Now they say these same witnesses joined Strang because he produced metal plates that everyone agrees were real and tangible. Wouldn’t that be evidence that the Book of Mormon witnesses really did see and handle the gold plates?
CES Letter points out as a similarity to Joseph Smith that Strang claimed to have a Urim and Thummim, though nobody ever saw it. So is CES Letter finally admitting that Joseph Smith used a Urim and THummim, not a rock in a hat, to translate the gold plates?
|Guilt By Association||CES Letter quotes the Strang testimony at length because the wording sounds similar to the Book of Mormon. They point out other similarities simply to associate the Book of Mormon with some fraudulent sect. This is like saying no hundred dollar bills are authentic because some people make counterfeit money. Really, this entire argument is all about building a guilt by association fallacy.|
CES Letter repeats the argument on p.63 and p.64. They also already brought it up on p.53.
CES Letter fills in lots of keywords and phrases to make the association with Mormons stronger, such as “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator” and “testimony” and “prophet.”
CES Letter omits lots of information that shows glaring differences, and lots of context for why some LDS might initially be interested in Strang.
There is zero evidence Joseph Smith’s family was supportive of Strang.
CES Letter goes back to the strategy they used against the Book of Mormon, where they cherry-picked similarities or differences to make it look like the Book of Mormon was too similar or too different from other books. In this case, the reason for any similarities is very obvious: Strang was trying to portray himself to be a prophet like Joseph Smith.
|Big Lie Tactic – Like previous arguments, the narrative is hokey and unbelievable, but the audience is not supposed to actually believe it. The reader thinks, “Maybe Mormons were duped into following Strang, maybe not. Who knows?” The point of this argument is not to convince us that Joseph Smith was a phony because Strang was a phony, but to associate Joseph Smith with phonies. That is what really makes this argument effective. Even if you walk away shaking your heads at the argument, you still associate him now with phonies. This is why CES Letter fills up page after page with Strang’s witness testimony, which really has nothing to do with Mormons.|
Contradiction Strategy – The narrative makes no sense. If Strang fooled some Mormons with a set of metal plates he made from a kettle, how did Joseph Smith make gold plates to fool people with? CES Letter risks this clownish argument because it is so necessary for them to set a negative narrative for how Joseph Smith fabricated the Book of Mormon. The surrounding arguments attack faith and promote fake science, and they only work if the reader gets an explanation for how Joseph Smith fabricated it, as flimsy as this explanation is.
The human mind is trained to find patterns and dissimilarities. It is easy–lazy really–to cherry-pick a few vague similarities between two people, dress up the language to sound more similar, and build a narrative of association. This is the same argument that Leftists use against the bible. They say it was ripped off Babylonian, Sumerian, and Egyptian legends. The human brain is trained to look for discrepancies and patterns, so this trick is common. Pareidolia is why people see the Virgin Mary in breakfast cereal and figures on Mars. It is confirmation bias.
When it comes to history, there is so much we don’t know and will never know. All we have are some fragments of bones in the ground and some texts that claim to be ancient. Fools jump to conclusions. Followers of Satan are easily tricked when it comes to pareidolia and history, because they are lazy and do not care to use critical thought. If there is vague evidence for something but we mostly don’t know what really happened because it is ancient history, followers of Satan will jump to lazy conclusions, whatever narrative is hyped on the History Channel and dressed up in emotional language.
It is easy to manipulate Satan’s followers when it comes to history because they rely only on what they can see and put no true faith in anything.
What does CES Letter believe in? What tenant of faith do hold that we can verify or discredit with these kinds of comparisons? Global warming? Human evolution? Give us something! Why don’t anti-Mormons discuss their alternative belief to the beliefs of the Book of Mormon and bible, and talk about physical evidences? Instead, they nit-pick and tear down an entire belief system with unscientific appeals to fake science.
This Marxist propaganda technique is especially insidious as it defines Mormons in a constrained and unfair frame, and it rallies non-Mormons or anybody who was sitting on the fence in solidarity against Mormons and their beliefs.
Witnesses Are Important – At first, I was confused why CES Letter devoted so much to attacking the Book of Mormon wintesses. Like most Mormons I never considered the witnesses and anything more than a nice supporting page for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, not really all that necessary. Why does CES Letter attack their characters, almost as much as they attack Joseph Smith’s? Derision is currency for anti-Mormons; people will be turned off if they display too much bitterness so they need to choose their battles carefully.
Daniel C. Peterson gave a great explanation for the importance of the Book of Mormon witnesses. It is not by accident that CES Letter attacks them after having reduced Mormon testimonies as nothing more than emotion. Suddenly, the witness testimonies of the Book of Mormon are like the positive vibes you feel from watching Forrest Gump?
But we are living in a secular Western world, and ex-Mormons tend to become secularists. The witness testimonies are some of the best secular evidences for the Book of Mormon’s truth. It is one thing for a guy to claim visions, but it gains a lot more credibility when a dozen other men swear they the same thing and know it for a fact. Anti-Mormons are reduced to dismissing the entire 19th century New England area as a bunch of superstitious primitives in order to undercut their testimonies. The pot is calling the kettle black (no pun intended).