There was no start to this journey. As an adult convert to the Restored Church of Jesus Christ, I awoke one day and discovered I had been traveling down this road pretty much by myself. I looked around and decided I didn't like being alone on this particular trip. So I started doing what I do best: I started searching for like-minded people—those who had gone before me and found out for themselves just who and what Joseph Smith, Jr. was, what he really did or did not do, and what it all means to Christians today. I found, to my great relief, some "kindred spirits" who have taken their own difficult and painful trip, and who have lovingly ministered to me along my way.
Well, heck, you say, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. He started the LDS Church, from which countless factions have sprung. He may or may not have introduced polygamy to the masses. He brought back the priesthood. He wrote a new version of the Bible. Things like that. He wove Jesus Christ through it all so that it was more palatable to a large cross section of lonely, searching souls.
All of the above. So what? I don't know. From the inside looking out, it would seem all is well. It has always felt good to be part of the "in crowd"—a member of the One True Church. So what was the cause of this journey? Who started without me and pulled me along? I don't know. Or, perhaps I do. Early last year, believing I was inspired, I began writing a book. I began researching church history. Then, last fall, I began attending a Bible Study led by a woman in my branch.
What I learned in the Bible Study: Joseph Smith taught baptism for the dead. Nope, couldn't swallow that. Joseph Smith was coming back "like the Son of man" Rev.14:14. Whoa! I thought Joseph Smith was a man. Who are we worshipping here? Isn't this the Church of Jesus Christ? Where was Jesus Christ in all of this?
So I left the study group and finished writing the book, feeling incredibly satisfied and accomplished. But there were still some questions niggling at my subconscious. Little things which, when I really thought about them, had been tapping on my reality button for years:
Why are there at least seven Joseph Smith "first vision" accounts, and why were none of them written down until more than a decade after the "first" first vision?
Why did God tell Joseph to take his brother Alvin with him when he went to get the plates from the Hill Cumorah, when He knew Alvin was going to die?1
Why did all eleven Book of Mormon witnesses say they saw and handled the plates when not one of them actually saw the plates? Not one.
Doesn't anyone think it strange that Joseph Smith didn't use the Urim and Thummim to "translate" the Book of Mormon, but rather, after the mysterious disappearance of the first 116 pages, used the same seer stone he had been using for treasure hunting and occult activities?
Why does Joseph Smith's Jesus advocate preaching first to the Gentiles (Doctrine and Covenants 87:3c), then to the Jews, the opposite of what the Bible says (Matthew 10:5,6)?
Why did the Jesus of the Book of Mormon kill the unrighteous (2 Nephi 4:40,41) when the Jesus of the Bible came to save sinners (Luke 5:31,32)?
Is Jesus High Priest or not? If so, why do we need other high priests?2
Each question, taken separately, can almost be explained away. Almost. But the seven, plus a myriad of other inconsistencies and enigmas which demand answers, create a convolution of such magnitude that I must take a closer look at just where the TRUTH lies.
My journey continues. God help me.
1.) Robert D. Anderson, Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1999), pp72-73
2.) Paul Trask, Part Way to Utah, (Independence, MO: Refiner's Fire Ministeries, 2005), pp. 142-143