I’ll soon be reviewing one of the best and most thoughtful anti-Mormon books I’ve read. It’s one of the very few that recognize that there has been interesting scholarship on the plausibility of the Book of Mormon. Rather than dismiss all evidence or, as many do, simply ignore it, this book attempts to explain how a brilliant mastermind, Sidney Rigdon, was able to pull together information from the Middle East and from scholarly sources to create a book with the trappings of plausibility, laced with internal evidences of Semitic origins and ancient roots. The book is intriguing and novel in some of its arguments, but breaks down terribly when it begins to confront and then ignore the most compelling evidence for the reality of the Book of Mormon from the lives of its many witnesses.
In the case of Martin Harris, a man known throughout his life for his honesty and integrity, our author cannot simply call him a con-man working to rip off gullible believers. This is a man who would sacrifice great wealth and risk his reputation for the laughable cause of the Book of Mormon. He bore witness throughout his life, even after leaving the Church over differences with Joseph Smith, that the Book of Mormon was real, that he saw the plates and saw the Angel Moroni and heard the voice of God testifying that it was true. How do we account for that?
Simple, people. Sidney Rigdon was hiding behind a tree, acting as the, uh, voice of the invisible Angel Moroni, with group hysteria and peer pressure forcing poor gullible Martin to think he was seeing an angel. “Come on Martin, have more faith. Now can you see him? Sort of? Pray harder. We can see him, can’t you? And the plates, too, right? Mmm, shiny…” And then the deep voice of Sidney Rigdon coming from behind a tree provided all the evidence Martin would need to go on and mortgage his farm and put his life on the line, becoming a lifelong witness for the reality, the physical reality, of the gold plates. Well done, Sidney!
The story of the many Book of Mormon witnesses and their lifelong commitment to what they experienced is one of the most difficult things to account for in any paradigm based upon Joseph Smith acting as a con-man. Read a little about Martin Harris and his life, and then ponder just how melodious Signey’s voice would have to be to explain how that experience would so transform Martin.