S A I N T S: “TWO CHASMS, PLUS A THIRD; A DETOUR”
At this point, a brief interlude is in order. We’re at a critical juncture in the production of the Book of Mormon, and it’s time to step back, take a detour, if you will, and view what’s happening from a more objective, outsider’s point of view.
Although the church loves to tout its accomplishments, they are still quite small in the world perspective. Yes, Mormonism is recognized throughout the globe, and there is a sense of wholesomeness associated with it in many countries.
Why hasn’t the impact of God’s “one and only true religion” taken the world by storm?
As many returned missionaries can attest, there are no fewer than two incredible chasms to navigate in accepting the gospel as it is presented:
Chasm 1: The Arrival of the Golden Plates, and
Chasm 2: The Departure of the Golden Plates.
CHASM #1… The amount of twisting and turning required to accept the “physical existence” of the Golden Plates cannot be understated. There appeared to be delay-after-delay in their arrival. Once they were purged from the hill, no one could see them; it was not allowed. In fact, all eleven witnesses were either unreliable, close family, or confessed to never seeing them in any way except in a vision or dream (More about them in future posts). Joseph’s own wife, Emma, never saw them. One is left to wonder if Joseph Smith himself ever saw the plates, as many times during the translation process they were resting quietly in the woods; nowhere near pen and paper.
“An anecdote touching this subject used to be related by William T. Hussey and Azel Yandruver. They were notorious wags, and were intimately acquainted with Smith. They called as his friends at his residence, and strongly importuned him for an inspection of the ” golden book,” offering to take upon themselves the risk of the death-penalty denounced. Of course, the request could not be complied with; but they were permitted to go to the chest with its owner, and see where the thing was, and observe its shape and size, concealed under a piece of thick canvas. Smith, with his accustomed solemnity of demeanor, positively persisting in his refusal to uncover it, Hussey became impetuous, and (suiting his action to his word) ejaculated, “Egad ! I’ll see the critter, live or die!” And stripping off the cover, a large tile-brick was exhibited. But Smith’s fertile imagination was equal to the emergency. He claimed that his friends had been sold by a trick of his ; and ” treating” with the customary whiskey hospitalities, the affair ended in good-nature.”
Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York, NY: D. Appleton and Company, 1867), 31-32.
All the secrecy and threats of eternal doom for anyone other than Joseph Smith is a real head-scratcher for investigators.
Couple this with the fact that history is quite clear about Joseph’s treasure seeking adventures, and his conviction for con-artistry in a New York Courtroom (see http://www.ldsdefector.com/fact-1197/) just a year before the angel allowed him to take the Plates, and the average person will say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve heard enough.”
CHASM #2: Few singular items match the astonishment and feeling of skepticism as the admission that these ancient items were delivered back to the angel; never to be returned for analysis. If CHASM #1 didn’t nag at your conscience, this one will.
If fact, it was something I was personally embarrassed to have to admit to family and friends. “So, where are the plates now? Can we see them in a museum?” “I’m afraid not. The angel demanded them back.” Without question, these times left me feeling the reality of how badly I’d been played; how silly I must appear to my loved ones.
The third CHASM is: The church treats all of this with complete historical confidence. There is no hesitation in their delivery. The message has been so well manufactured over the years that the faithful revel in the presentation. They testify about the transformation of body, mind, and spirit while following the principles of the religion.
This CHASM is the one that is illusive to the active membership. It’s the one that binds them to unquestioningly obey and accept whatever is presented to them. For those of us who choose to leave it, it can be the most harrowing transition of our lives. One, which many are never able to leap over.
The clear reality is this: In accepting the religion, we are completely at the mercy of Joseph Smith’s account. Indeed, the entire religion stands or falls on his claims. It is an incredible commitment to trust in the word of a solitary man from 200 years ago. One who has a sordid, and well documented history with trouble.