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Feedback #1

Names and e-mail addresses have been witheld to protect the guilty. If you recognise your letter here, and wish to have your name and address displayed, feel free to contact me.

Received: 2/14/98

I just read your "biography" that described your spiritual journey away from God. You mention that nothing is unique about the Christian faith. I understand how you have probably come to that conclusion, yet, perhaps, the similarities you have seen are not significant enough to make such a bold and certain statement.

There is no one else like Jesus. There is no story of love given than the cross of Christ. The nail prints in His hands and feet were put there out of love for you. If you have found anyone else that loves you like the Bible says that Jesus loves you, I will be amazed. But if not, please, for your sake--not mine, respond to the One who loves you more than anyone else ever can or will. He's still waiting for you.

I understand your concern, but the problem is that you cannot simply tell me what you believe without any sort of substantiation, and simply expect me to believe it as well. How do you know that Jesus loves you? How do you know that the Gospels are historically reliable? How do you know that Jesus is not dead an buried thousands of years ago?

"Raised from the dead? Sure. Right. And I have a bridge I'd like to sell you."

That's how Thomas might have responded if he had lived in the 1990s. "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." He'd seen dead people before. And Jesus was dead. He sounds like sophisticated rationalists of the Twentieth Century. "It isn't plausible," they would contend. "It didn't happen."

But what if it did happen?

Thomas was convinced when Jesus appeared to him, reached out his hands to Thomas, and said, "Put your finger here." Thomas dropped to his knees. "My Lord and my God!"

It was self-hypnosis, you counter. The disciples wanted to believe that their Lord was not dead, so they just invented it out of whole cloth. Really? Let's look at some of the evidence.

1.First, Jesus' body was missing. If the Jews could have found it, they could have stilled the preaching of Jesus' resurrection that filled Jerusalem. But they could not.

2.Next, the body wasn't stolen. The Romans had no motive. The Jews had no motive. Ah-ha, you say, the disciples stole it. There is the matter of the Roman guards, and the disciples' initial disbelief when the women brought them the news early that Easter morning. This brings me to my third point.

3.If the disciples had stolen the body, you wouldn't expect them to risk their lives. People don't die for what they know is not true. But the disciples put their lives on the line, and nearly all were eventually martyred for their faith. They certainly believed it.

4.Followers of Jesus in the city of Jerusalem grew from a few dozen to thousands upon thousands soon after Jesus' resurrection. They believed it was true.

5.Even contemporary documents refer to the event. Thallus the Samaritan, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny contain references to Jesus. Jewish historian Josephus writes about Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. They knew something had happened.

There are so many things wrong with this piece of apologetics that it is almost impossible to know where to begin. But I'll try.

1) The missing body. Let me give you a contemporary example. There are a fairly large number of people who claim that Elvis Presley is still alive. Some have even turned this belief into a nascent religion, with pilgrimages to Graceland, shrines and the like. I remember when I went to Graceland some time ago. I was standing just next to Presley's grave, being bored half to death. (My wife made me go). I suddenly became aware that even though there were a lot of people standing around, it was still strangely quiet. I took a quick look around, and noticed that a lot of people were actually weeping! It was quite a shock, I can tell you.

My point it this: why does the Tennessee state government not dig up the body of Elvis, and put it on public display? That would make all these people shut up, right?

The answer is that they simply don't care. And I suspect that the situation was the same in first century Palestine. Even if we assume that the New Testament is correct in it's handling of the events (which I very much doubt, given the contradictory nature of the accounts), it is much more likely that the Jewish government simply did not care what the Christian had to say. If you read Josephus, you will see that at the time there were a host of would-be Messiahs. If the Jewish government had to spend all their time chasing after each and every one of them, they would never get any work done.

2) The Roman guard. Actually, Matthew is the only one who mentions the guard. None of the other gospels do, which seems a little strange. In addition, you will note that Matthew does not say it was a Roman guard. Go ahead and read it again.

The problem here is that once again you have assumed that the New Testament accounts are reliable. I see no evidence to make such an assumption.

3) People will not die for a lie. I beg to differ. The "prophet" Joseph Smith, who produced the Book of Mormon and founded the Mormon church, was harassed his entire life for his claim that God had appointed him to restore the Church. He was arrested on several occasions, and tarred and feathered at least once. Eventually, he died at the hands of a lynch mob in Carthage, Illinois (after firing a few rounds himself). The point is that there is no doubt that Joseph Smith knew that he was a fraud. He wrote the Book of Mormon himself, after all. Yet he never once owned up to the fraud, even when it would have saved his life.

People's motive are difficult to discern, and it is very unwise to build a case on what people may or may not have felt.

4) The contemporary witnesses. Actually, if you read the accounts carefully, you will see that none of them were eyewitnesses. They all simply reported what they had been told by others, usually Christians. In the case of Thallus, we don't even have his original statement. All we have is the assurance of Julius Africanus, writing some one hundred years later, that Thallus referred to the crucifixion of Christ. Jospehus wrote his history in 70 AD. He was a very young child when Christ was crucified, and can hardly have been an eyewitness. In addition, there is good evidence to suggest that his famous statement about Jesus is a later Christian interpolation.

Jesus' resurrection from the dead is actually more plausible than any other explanation. That's why we Christians make such a big deal about Easter. That's why we celebrate.

There is a far more plausible explanation - that Jesus' resurrection is a myth that was circulated by the early church, and eventually became church dogma. There is very strong evidence of this in Paul's letters. He hardly ever gives any historical details, and when he does, in I Corinthians 15, he completely contradicts the Gospels version of events. Also, the fact that the Gospel accounts contradict each other so much is a good clue that we are not dealing with history, but rather with mythology.

In addition, the notion of a dying and resurrected savior-god was quite common among the Greeks and Romans. Read Joseph McCabe's article on the Resurrection Myth.

Jesus' resurrection means that death is not the end. That though my body may lie mouldering in the ground, Jesus, whom the Father raised from the dead, gives me eternal life. Ultimately, we Christians believe, our bodies, too, will be raised from the dead.

And since Jesus is not dead, people can encounter him today. You can know him through a personal relationship. I could point to lots of people who can testify what Jesus has done in their lives to bring them from the brink of disaster to peace and meaning and joy. He changes people for good.

If you're not sure can't really say you've met this risen Jesus, this Easter Sunday why don't you slip into church to seek him. And perhaps in the midst of our celebration, you'll find him for yourself.

He's alive, you know. That's what Easter is all about!

Received: 2/2/98

Was at your website and read your story, and it touched me because your experience and mine have some similarities. Your becoming an agnostic is just what happened to me. If you're interested, I've written a short "story" concerning my experience called "My Journey".

Thanks for telling your story, it helps me understand, and also to know that I'm not alone. I was a christian for 18 years, a Baptist most of the time, and finally an apostate. I've lost some beloved friends, but I guess that's the price one has to pay sometimes, for knowing the truth about the bible and it's miriad errors. Thanks again, and good luck.

I read over your page. You're correct - we have very similar stories.

I find it quite interesting, whenever I read a story like this, how nearly all "de-conversion" experiences begin when a person starts thinking logically for himself. Contrast that with the number of "conversion" stories that tell of the emotions that led a person to a decision, rather than logic. I wonder how many people have been led into a church/religion by logic and reason alone? Not many, I'll wager...

Like you, I had a watershed experience that first alerted me that all might not be well with Christianity. For me, it was Mormonism. I investigated the Mormon Church, read the book of Mormon a number of times, made notes along the way, etc. I had even planned to go to Utah as a missionary to the poor, deluded Mormons.

However, something nagged at me. I began to see that there was in fact very little difference between the way that Mormons defended the Book of Mormon from skeptics, and the way that I defended the Bible from those same skeptics. Worse than that, I began to see that the Bible and the Book of Mormon shared many of the same problems.

Since I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Book of Mormon was a forgery, I began to think the unthinkable: is it possible that the Bible, too, is more myth than history? The break came when a Mormon showed me the discrepancies between Matthew's account of Christ's riding into Jeruslem on two donkeys, compared to the other gospels, who mention only one animal.

It suddenly became very clear to me that Matthew had "fudged" his "history" in order to make it conform to his own (incorrect) interpretation of an Old Testament passage. If he could make up history in this fashion, it didn't take very long to see that there is virtually nothing in the Gospels that we can rely on as historical fact.

Since then my life has been a lot better. Gone are those horrible feelings of guilt because I wasn't living up to the "Christian" ideal of a Godly life, even though I attended more church services and functions in my fifteen years as a Christian than most people do in several lifetimes. Like you, I now find myself free to speculate about the universe, without having to worry that my thoughts are slipping into "forbidden" territory. It is a great feeling to be free.

Recieved: 1/28/98


Please let me have references to non-Mormon, peer-reviewed articles in real professional journals that support the Book of Mormon story.

Here's a hint - there are none. There is no evidence whatsoever of Nephites or Lamanites in Mexico, because they never existed. They are fictional, just like the rest of the Book of Mormon.

Received: 1/31/98 (in response to above)

And how do you know that there isn't any proof. Many people in Mexico and South America know that they are descendants of the Nephites and Lamanites. Missionaries have had the experience to meet these people and have seen the land and the things left behind from the Nephites and Lamanites.

You have the burden of proof backwards. It is not up to me to prove that the Mayans, Aztecs, Olmecs etc are not Nephites and Lamanites - it is up to you (and the LDS church) to prove that they are. Secondhand claims from Mormon missionaries are very far from "proof".

I can note the following, however.

- No Mesoamerican language or script has any connection to any Old World language at all.

- The Mesoamerican religion is completely unique. It is not Christian, Jewish or anything else. It is uniqely American, and is not derived from any Old World source.

- Mitochondrial DNA tests have shown that the indigenous Americans are most closely related to the Mongolians of North-Eastern Asia. They are not related to Semites in any way.

- No reliable Old World inscriptions (i.e. Hebrew or Egyptian) have been found in the New World.

In short, the claim that the Mesoamericans are decsended from the Jews is utterly without evidence. And no wonder. This idea was popular in Joseph Smith's time. Many books were written on the subject of the Jewish/American connection. (This is where Smith got the idea from in the first place).

Unfortunately, it soon became clear that this theory was in error. The works of Ethan Smith, James Adair and Josiah Priest are now mostly forgotten. The Book of Mormon remains an embarrasing testimony to this prescientific thinking, however. The LDS church is now in something of a quandry. They have no proof whatsoever that the Native Americans are descended from the Jews, but neither can they drop the Book of Mormon, because that would expose Smith for the charlatan that he was.

I think I asked you for references to real archeological journals in my first message. All you have given me are secondhand missionary tall tales. Unless you can come up with the requested information, I will be forced to conclude that the Book of Mormon story is indeed false, and that Smith was a charlatan.

Received: 1/28/98

I am interested to know. What is it that drives you to not believe in God? What about the creation of life? This is most definitely a controversial subject, but one that has too many holes in it. On one hand, it seems impossible to believe that there is something out there that is supreme and controls everything. On the other, it seems imposiible that things just evolved from an explosion. What created the explosion. The theory of evolutiuon is just that- a theory. It has no evidence to back it up (speaking of macro evolution). The theory of creation has no evidence to back it up, other than the testimony of people from the past it seems.

So what we have is two theories with no known scientific answers. How do we know which is correct?

I think that you have hit the nail on the head. The theory of evolution has a lot of evidence to back it up, evidence from Paleontology, Genetics and a host of other sciences. There is no longer any doubt that all life on earth descended from a common source.

However, evolution does not directly address the issue of the origin of life. There are theories, but we have so little information that it will be a very long time before we have a definitive answer, if ever.

The issue of Design, as you pointed out, remains a potential problem for naturalistic evolution. One can point to structures that seem to show evidence of intelligence. At the same time, however, there are other structures which are not well designed. For example, the human spine, pelvic bones and back muscles are designed to support walking on all fours, not upright as we do. The upshot is that almost every human will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives. There are a number of examples that I give.

Until we have more information, it is unwise to stick dogmatically to any one position. Scientists generally understand this point, which is why they insist on proof before any idea is accepted. At this point, the evidence for evolution is very strong. The question of the origin of life will remain unanswered until more information is forthcoming.

Each of us thinks individually, we think and act differently than others, yet in many ways the same. It is therefore possible that because we feel like we are alone we must create something that makes us feel secure; that something or someone is in control.

I think it goes deeper than that. Our brains have an incredible pattern recognition system, which gives us the ability to see, hear and use language. This ability is so complex that even our most powerful computers cannot even come close to matching it (yet). However, this ability tends to backfire as well, in that we tend to see patterns out of random data. I'm sure that we have all seen shapes in the clouds. People see the Virgin Mary in water stains, and Mother Theresa in a cinnamon bun. I think you see what I am getting at.

I think it is possible that our desire for God is simply a result of our inability to accept that the universe might be ultimately random and meaningless. Therefore, we see a pattern in this randomness, and call it God.

I have no problem in acknowledging that that might be the case, except for the personal testimony in my life that there is something or someone in control.

The problem with a personal testimony is that it is just that - personal, and subjective by definition. It has no bearing on reality at all. It is entirely possible that this experience of God that you and I both have (and had at one time) is nothing more than a psychological phenomenon, a wiring fault in our human brains.

I think that the fact that this experience can be simulated with psychoactive drugs and electromagnetic stimulation of the temporal lobes tends to support this conclusion.

I have seen miracles happen, and have been brought up in a family where unnatural things have occured. I have to accept the validity of God. If I do not, I am nothing short of a liar. Perhaps you have not been a witness to things seen as miraculous. What would you call a miracle? What would make you believe? Perhaps there is nothing that would make you believe in the presence of God.

There is an old adage that says that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Unsubstantiated claims of miracles fall very far short of such proof.

There are many ways that God could make himself known, if he so chose. Even something as simple as a real, verifiable prophecy would do. (The vague and easily reinterpreted "prophecies" in the Christian and Mormon traditiion do not even come close to this goal). There are many other ways that I could think of.

I think that the very fact that God seems to rely on fallible and inconsistent humans for his revelation speaks volumes about the source of such revelation. If he so chose, God could make himself known in a manner that brooks no argument.

I do not pretend to know you or what you are thinking, but after reviewing more of your website, I've come to believe that you are not looking at your reference from an objective point of view. I sense that you are out to PROVE that the Restoration movement is a hoax instead of looking for the truth.

I do not need to prove that it is a hoax - I know for a certainty that it is. The evidence is very clear on this point. By the same token, however, Christianity, Islam and all other religious traditions are equally hoaxes. The circumstances of their founding may differ. Perhaps Mohammed or Jesus (whoever he was) were sincerely deluded, whereas Joseph Smith definitely knew that he was pulling the wool over the eyes of his flock. It makes no difference - in the end, none of them have the truth.

While I find it wisdom to hold back in certain areas of proofs for the Book of Mormon, I will still be happy to discuss things with you if you so desire. There is too much evidence coming forth, from archaeologists, Hebrew scholars, protestant ministers, and so on to validate the divine direction of the EARLY Restoration Church. This is new evidence, some with elaboration on previous thoughts, and some completely new discoveries.

I have heard similar claims from a number of Mormon correspondants, but whenever I ask for details, I get only silence. Why not select one piece of evidence that you feel best supports the idea that the Book of Mormon is really an ancient book, and tell me what it is? I promise to examine it objectively, and consider all alternatives. Just keep in mind that whenever there are two alternative explanations for a phenomenon, I tend to choose the simplest. This more often than not turns out to be the theory that Smith himself wrote the Book of Mormon. You will need to present compelling evidence that this is not the case.

Please don't misunderstand me - I enjoy debating intelligent people, and I do think of myself as an objective person. But I do still require strong proof of extraordinary phenomenon. I think if you give it a little thought, you will see why this must be the case.

Here's the catch-

How willing are you to accept what is to be brought forth? If there is a God, how will he judge your response to this? We as believers are told how better it is that we believe on faith. You require physical proof. Therefore I warn you. When it comes down to the time that all things are revealed, it may be too late for those who refused to believe until shown "all things".

There is going to be a cleansing of the Church shortly. Watch what is to happen in Independence. Keep your eyes open for it. For after, there will be great turmoil upon the face of this nation. And upon the world. Look for the prophesies in Isaiah to be fulfilled. This will be your time to repent, before the Lord comes in judgement. I emplore you to understand the prophesies, they hold the key to the future.

Have a look at this page, and you will understand why I place very little stock in such "prophesies".

There are things that must be revealed in the Lord's time. I am always available for comment.

Received 1/26/98

I feel that though there are several similarities, the text of the Book of Mormon hits me the hardest, whenever a have the fortune to read it, I can feel the truth in it. I know that the Book of Mormon must be true if even someone as sinful as I am can get the chills and never have any doubt of its autheticity.

Not to be difficult, but you have to admit that your subjective feelings on the matter have no bearing on whether it is true or not. Many people of all types of faiths sincerely believe that their own "holy books" are inspired, and describe their feelings in words very similar to yours.

In a marketplace of such competing claims, the issue of subjective emotions becomes irrelevant, and the only question that remains is whether any objective fact can be proven. In the case of the Book of Mormon, for example, such proof is definitely lacking (despite what the LDS apologists may have told you). The science of archaeology has opened up the world of the First Americans to us. We can now read the Maya scripts, we have a detailed knowledge of their history, culture, religion and politics. We have a good idea of the other groups that inhabited early America. Nowhere, however, is there any sort of proof that the Nephites and Jaredites ever existed, and a good deal of evidence to the contrary. I'm afraid your feelings about the Book of Mormon are not going to change this simple fact.

Which is more possible, in your opinion: That a great and mighty culture, numbering well into the millions and existing for close to a thousand years, vanished so completely without a single clue to their existence, or that the entire story was made up out of whole cloth by Joseph Smith, and has no basis in fact whatsoever? I think that the hard evidence abundantly supports the second conclusion.

Received: 1/8/98

Interesting web site.

You have brought up many interesting questions concerning the Book of Mormon and the 'controversy' concerning its origination. However, your quotations from Mormon (Latter Day Saint) literature and history lead me to believe that you only know the history of the Church of Jesus Christ from their perspective (as Book of Mormon believers). I think that it would do you well, if you would consider looking at the facts from a more accurate view. The LDS church is known for its inaccuracy in its own church history. There is much controversy concerning ANY of the testimony of Brigham Young, and it is quite apparent that Joseph Smith did not in any way condone the actions of Brigham (including the concept of spiritual wifery, otherwise known as poligamy) or desire for him to lead the Church in his abscense, or ultimately death. I will agree that there are many apparent discrepancies in the testimony of Joseph, however I think that you will agree at least, that there is always room for arguement when history is discussed, for you must rely of the testimony of others unless you were there. In any circumstance, you must be open-minded, willing to accept truth, and truth only. You have pointed out that there are many apparent discrepancies within thc Church's history and within the Book of Mormon, but there are many facts, either of which you have overlooked or simply are unaware of (I cannot tell), that cannot be dismissed as fiction. I would be willing to discuss them to the best of my ability if you so desire. One that I will mention of most recent discoveries, links the language of the Book of Mormon to the language of some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I believe that everything should be tested in the light of scripture. If you would read the Book of Mormon, I think that you will find that it does not diminish the testimony of Christ, which is its central theme. You may believe it to be false, however I cannot deny the truthfulness of the teachings in my own life. I do not desire to be led astray and am always seeking the truth. Truth is not relative, and I am willing to accept it no matter where it comes from; for Christ is the light and the truth. So how can anything but truth be of him? It cannot. I cannot explain why the Mormon church does not believe the original wordings of the original doctrines of the Church or why they allow for changes in scripture believing that 'NEW' revelation suppercedes original revelation. They are grossly ignorant of the teachings of the Bible, and most certainly of their 'own' scripture, mainly the Book of Mormon. Why I understand your skepticism or unbelief of the Mormon faith, I think that it would do you best to seek out the truth of the matter and challenge those who actually understand it.

Received: 17/11/97

I was looking at your web page that talks about the Book Of mormon and you were complaining about words like 'manifestation' 'bitterness' and 'intents'.

Pretend for a moment that you are Jophef Smith. The way you learned how to read was by reading the bible. Nephite phrases can be contained in one letter, for instance one symbol means "Behold, I say unto you" (I'm not sure if that is exact) so when He saw a phrase that said "I was angry at him" that could be translated as "Bitterness", ect. This is a bad example, but i think you can see what i'm saying..

Several problems -

First, we have not been able to validate the existence of any language like "reformed egyptian", so to say what Nephite languages did or did not do is pure speculation at best. There are no verifiable instances of ancient Hebrew or Egyptian script in the New World, nor are any of the indigenous languages related in any way to Hebrew or Egyptian. This is easily verifiable by consulting any non-Mormon source on archaeology or epigraphy.

Secondly, your point about Joseph Smith being very familiar with the Bible is a good one. However, my point is that the Book of Mormon looks like it was written by someone very familiar with the KJV, not simply translated by someone used to the English Bible. There are places where the KJV seems to have actually influenced the narrative of the book, not simply the translation. This fits well with the theory that Smith himself wrote the Book of Mormon. Combined with other evidence, such as the complete and utter lack of archaeological evidence, and we have a very strong case for the Book being a fraud.

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