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Radio Free Mormon: 043: Selling Your Soul for Apologetics

RFM takes issue with the Logical Fallacies, Deceptiveness, and Blatant Lies by LDS Apologist Dan Peterson in his article “Defending the Faith: The supposed scandal of multiple First Vision accounts”.  In the article Daniel Peterson goes to great lengths to frame the public awareness of the multiple first vision accounts in a faithful context.  Sadly in order to do so, Dan must avoid telling people the problematic details and even go so far as to lie about the history of how and why the 1832 account was obscured for so long.  RFM even goes to show using both a personal interaction with Daniel as well as public audio from Elder Holland that obfuscation and dishonesty is par for the course when trying to defend the Church using apologetics.


Elder Holland lying and obfuscating with BBC interviewer

Stan Larsen’s Dialogue Article (Absolute Must Read for Latter-Day Saints who want to understand the History of the First Vision Accounts)


20 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 043: Selling Your Soul for Apologetics”

  1. Thanks for the episode RFM! Great as always! If you see this comment though, could you post a source for Alma being a man’s name in Joseph Smith’s time? That seems like a great argument against the BOM, but I would like to have a good reliable source before sharing the info with others. I have tried to find it myself and was having a hard time locating it. Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Nicole! Sorry I have been a bit late getting to the comments section.

      I am working hard on trying my hand at my first podcast interview.

      I see others have answered your question, though.

      Thanks, everybody!

  2. A very good episode, one of your best! I can never get enough of that stuff about him hiding those pages! Now that you’ve added the intrigue about the JFS journals…well it just gets better and better.

    1. I was glad I had an excuse for including that little factoid about footnote 8 in Stan Larsen’s 2014 Dialogue article.

      It just seemed to small to justify an entire episode.

      But then Daniel C. Peterson’s Deseret News article came looming over the horizon . . .

  3. Thank you for this podcast. Many of us have recognized Peterson’s “inique” behavior over the last several decades. You might be interested to see some other well documented behavior from Peterson. Here are just a few examples out of thousands:

    Peterson telling a respected LDS scholar to go to hell:

    Apology for posting racist pictures on the internet:

    Peterson’s misogyny:

    Examples of Peterson’s plagarism:

    Examples of Peterson caught lying:

    Peterson’s ethical lapses:

    1. Thanks so much for the diligent work on providing so many links, Bill.

      Professor Peterson has left quite a trail in his wake.

  4. Definitely infuriating that we are affected by these tactics.
    Coming clean will be difficult to execute, but we are trying to be transparent the best way we know how.

    1. The problem is that, as a general rule, you have to know what it is they are hiding in order to know they are hiding it.

      That means they can get away with their game with the vast majority of Mormons . . . and non-Mormons alike.

  5. RFM, I’ve come to love your podcasts. Thanks.

    Your history and my history are very similar. From my first year of conversion, almost 30 years ago, and for many years, I read all the “anti Mormon” stuff, and was able to confound the authors of such material and considered myself a fairly skilled apologist for the Mormon faith.

    I do feel the institution has apostatized, and the top leadership has probably all been infiltrated and comprised by tares planted by the enemy.

    However, on the 4 different first vision accounts, I’ve seen nothing that serves to plant doubt to the degree that one should conclude Joseph was a liar.

    I read Stan Larsen’s essay and listened to your podcast.

    First off, I will say that as one having a testimony given to me personally by God I cannot deny happened to me, that I KNOW the BoM is true. This means Joseph was a true messenger and his official testimony of 1838-39 is true, as is his 1832 account. That the vision DID happen is my frame of reference.

    Joseph is not a liar.

    And esp not on the subject of the First Vision, or on any of his accounts.

    That means I can confidently, as a first-hand “witness”, if you will, reverse engineer the so-called dilemma being raised. Which is the supposed different accounts, namely that the 1832 account only mentions Jesus, omitting the Father, with the second omission being that Joseph ALREADY knew there was a general apostasy underway and that he omitted asking the Lord which of all the churches were true.

    Neither of these omissions shake my faith that Joseph was a true prophet, but if I wanted to give a lawyerly defense to smash the accusers’ prosecution, I would only have to ask a simple question, “Do either 1832 omissions (in the 1838 account) absolutely prove the 1838 version is false?”

    The truthful answer is, “NO they don’t.” Because, needless to say, an omission of mention doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    At the very least, even doubters should have “reasonable doubt” in the anti-Mormon conclusion, and they should have “reasonable belief” that Joseph merely focused on different details when recording the account in 1832 and 1838-39.

    If he were alive and able to speak for himself, it’s totally believable he would convincingly testify both were true, and give context to explain the concerns people have.

    The tangible thing we DO have that PROVES, even in Joseph’s present absence, Joseph was sent by God and is not a liar on this most basic subject of differing First Vision accounts is….the Book of Mormon. For goodness sake, given that we do have the BoM, the intelligent thing would be to give the man the benefit of the doubt, esp when he’s not here to give context!

    If there’s any doubt, just ask, Where did the the BoM originate, if not by the power of God?

    No matter how many leaves detractors may hack at, there remains the tap root of the origins of the BoM.

    Even Joseph Fielding Smith’s (did I get the right president?) apparent attempt to conceal the 1832 version is a “leaf” and not the taproot. If that 1832 caused doubt in HIS mind, that’s HIS issue. HIS issue is separate and apart from the truth of the BoM. Who cares what HE did or doubted! His attempted cover-up only highlights his own doubts and insecurities.

    1. I appreciate your position, Underdog, and thank you for taking the time to set it out so fully.

      I will say that I tend to see things a bit differently.

      I, like you, have received a witness that the Book of Mormon is true. But I have had to come to understand that this says little to nothing about how it was produced, or about the person who produced it.

      It is clearly a 19th century production meant to explain the Hebrew origins of the American Indians, similar to what many of Joseph Smith’s contemporaries believed and wrote.

      And I have had to recognize that what “true” means is very different from this place in my life than when I was eighteen.

      From your point of view, I would ask:

      If the Book of Mormon being true does not mean the current church leadership is approved by God, why should it mean the early church leadership was?

      1. RFM, thank you for taking the time to reply.

        You said: I, like you, have received a witness that the Book of Mormon is true. But I have had to come to understand that this says little to nothing about how it was produced, or about the person who produced it.

        Me: Not sure I follow you. You received a witness that it was true, and that, to me, means “the how” is “by the power of God.” What it says about the person who produced it, at least at the time is was translated, was that he (Joseph) was approved by God. He was pure. He was approved. He was authorized. Otherwise, he would have had no gift to translate.

        You: It is clearly a 19th century production meant to explain the Hebrew origins of the American Indians, similar to what many of Joseph Smith’s contemporaries believed and wrote.

        Me: If I interpret you correctly, you’re saying that a 19th century mind (Joseph’s mind or a contemporary of his) invented the book’s content from his imagination? If you’re saying this, then your definition of “having a witness the BoM is true” is different from mine. Care to elaborate?

        You: And I have had to recognize that what “true” means is very different from this place in my life than when I was eighteen.

        Me: This helps explain how you are thinking. I think I partly understand what you’re saying. Let me answer your question, and return to your above quote in a moment.

        You: If the Book of Mormon being true does not mean the current church leadership is approved by God, why should it mean the early church leadership was?

        Me: I agree completely. Let’s clarify “leadership”. I’m not sure this is the best word, first of all. If you mean a plurality of men, or the group of men who “led” the church back in Joseph’s day, as well as a group who lead the church today, then I agree with you. Today’s group is apostate, and the group in the 1830’s/ 1840’s could have been COLLECTIVELY apostate, notwithstanding Joseph’s approved status with God.

        And even if you’re referring to one “leader” named Joseph Smith, not ALL of his words are ratified by God or the Spirit. Our test and duty is to know for ourselves WHICH words he (or anybody) spoke were true. He spoke as a true messenger only when moved upon by the Holy Ghost.

        The “BoM being true”, to me, means its contents are approved by God and His mind and will for us today. It’s a covenant for us to accept or reject. We must not treat it lightly. But we have, and so collectively have been under condemnation since 1832. The book “being true” means Joseph was “sent” to translate it. It doesn’t mean he would act error-free for the remainder of his life. I recognize Joseph was fallible.

        Was he a liar who engaged privately in sex with women other than his wife (and privately teaching such behavior was divinely-inspired), while publicly pretending to be monogamous? I don’t believe that. True, there is historical evidence supporting both sides. I would find it an amazing fall from grace for a man to have communed with God — who had PROVEN himself over many years to be trustworthy to have received so much light and truth and knowledge of the mysteries — to have succumbed to such base and vile instincts completely unbecoming a true messenger sent from the presence of God. That is incongruous.

        Not that he couldn’t have used his free agency to choose an evil, reprobate path. But if he HAD chosen such a path, he must have had other evils deeds attributed to him, and they should be documented, right?

        Your masterpiece on Brigham’s coup d’etat illustrated that Brigham wasn’t just a womanizer of epic, carnal, lustful proportions, but that he was a conniving politician, like most members of Congress, who sought to rule over a people for his personal financial gain, which led him to likely murder and rob the people of their tithing money. Brigham had to engage in long-term, planned lies and subterfuge, involving conspiracy with other like-minded individuals.

        On the other hand, Joseph, as you pointed out in those coup d’etat podcasts, had set up (in scripture) a system of checks and balances, which diffused power, and protected against any one person or group of people from forming an despotic oligarchy. Joseph was into equality, and to pointing men away from him and to God, and those are signs of godliness.

        In short, the 13th Article of Faith aptly describes Joseph’s mindset and character. I believe he was a holy man, a messenger sent by God. I believe the same about the man God has named “David” today as well who is “producing” volumes of revelations so fast that it’s near impossible to keep up with, much less understand the content of the truths being poured out. A fire hydrant (a servant) is gushing the words of the Eternal God, and most of us in the world are therefore walking in darkness at midday. It’s a great time to be alive.

        Not that either of these two men (assuming both are true servants) are infallible. Both can fall.

        What I like about the teachings of a true servant, is that they teach us to connect with God, and to trust God, to face Him, and follow Him. I appreciate this proper focus, vs. the abject priestcraft and idolatry we see in General Conference after General Conference. Can’t wait to hear your review of April’s Conference by the way!


        I got back to what you said: And I have had to recognize that what “true” means is very different from this place in my life than when I was eighteen.

        Me: This resonates with me greatly. I was 4 to 5 years older than you when I received my spiritual witness of the truth of the BoM (assuming you were 18), as a new convert. That witness prompted me, unwisely on my part, to label as “true” many things that were not and should not have been grouped together with the BoM. The spiritual BoM witness I had applied strictly only to the content of the book and the translator, but notably NOT to modern “leadership”, or to any organization or to doctrines not contained in the BoM. But what I erroneously did was cover ALL of these things with the blanket of the witness I received. So yes, in this sense, what’s “true” to me now is “different” from back then.

        Thanks. I really like your style and gift of effectively communicating ideas and information.

    2. Underdog, I feel your sincerity but I have to disagree about Joseph being a liar. He did lie. A lot. What kind of man looks into the eyes of his wife, the mother of his children and lies for a decade? Who can break the heart of their wife 30+ times? In my book it would have to be someone with zero integrity. What kind of man locks young women in rooms with him and tells them it has been revealed that they are to marry him or lose their salvation?

      Christ taught a gospel of love, faithfulness and honesty. If Joseph was restoring Christ’s Church wouldn’t he use Christ’s teachings as the foundation and then build on that? Instead Joseph taught a doctrine that allowed for lying if you were a leader. Joseph started an elitist religion that gives privilege and permission to those in authority. I think the 2nd anointing is the most un-Christlike principle I’ve ever heard and it started with Joseph and continues today. How do you trust a liar? Can truth be taught through lies? How do you know when to believe someone with permission to lie? (I have a great illustration but it’s after midnight here!)

      Great podcast RFM. I didn’t think I cared about the different versions of the first vision but it does present problems. To me the biggest problem is the deceit used in hiding a version that made the church look bad. I’ve spent my whole life in the church. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be obedient to men who are probably invoking their right to the 2nd anointing and saying whatever they want from the pulpit. It really bothers me. You can’t speak for God through lies. I could accept almost any weirdness (I mean I’m Mormon, right?) but dishonesty….ummm. Nope!

      1. Ceci,

        Thank you for your comment.

        If I believed what you believe about Joseph, I would absolutely agree with you.

        It seems like there are two groups of LDS people:

        1) Those who believe Joseph was a prophet AND a polygamist, who had multiple wives and was having sex with them.

        2) Those who believe Joseph was a prophet AND a polygamist (ONLY in the sense that he sealed other women besides his wife to “the fathers,” to whom he himself was sealed and was himself “a father”), but only had sex with his wife, Emma.

        The mainstream corporate LDS Church (teachings found at teach the former view. This view of history unavoidably views Joseph as a liar. The other choice is that Brigham was a liar. One of them was lying about the mandatory practice of polygamy. The corporate church decided long ago to throw Joseph under the bus, as so many decades and teachings of the post-Joseph leaders were devoted to the abomination of polygamy. Could it be that the apostolic coup led by Brigham and his power-hungry, sex-hungry, money-hungry cohorts were the bad guys, and Joseph remained faithful to Emma and condemned the practice of polygamy?

        I subscribe to that view, in other words, I’m in group 2. DNA technology has proven Brigham had multiple wives (as was plainly known and undisputed), and as well proves that Joseph only sired children with Emma. DNA evidence vindicates Joseph on the issue of polygamy, as far as I understand.

        Obviously group 2 is in the minority. With the decades of lies by the Church going back to Brigham’s coup, it’s no wonder that the vast majority of people are in group 1, and that they believe the lies of the mainstream church. I get it.

        But what if Brigham’s story and the official church narrative about polygamy is a lie? What if Brigham was the Warren Jeffs of his day, just a sex addict who used religion and the good name of Joseph to quench his cravings and justify his evil teachings?

        Perhaps we live in an empire of lies, and the only way to break free is to become as a little child. To move forward, just like the crab, we must walk backwards (and be humble, and acknowledge we know nothing), for only then can we have hope to see through the lies.

  6. I also procured myself a copy of JFS’s Answers To Gospel Questions while on my mission (10 years after you) to try and reconcile some things that didn’t add up as I underwent my first serious run through the BoM. I also wrote my parents to have them send me his Doctrines Of Salvation and a few other titles for Christmas that year. This was the beginning of the self load. I also did my graduate work at Ut-Austin! Hook ‘Em.

    I love the defense of the 1832 account that says just because he didn’t mention the Father being there doesn’t mean he wasn’t. Technically true I guess. But I f Bono and Bruce Springsteen knocked on my door this afternoon and we had a conversation on my front porch, I doubt I would leave one of them out in subsequent retellings of the encounter. But that’s just me.

    I also find the idea of that the Joseph Smith Papers are an example of the Church’s transparency interesting. They have a tough enough time just getting most members to do a cursory reading of the scriptures. Only the hard core are going to did through all of that. To me it’s like an attorney burying damaging info to their case in a mountain of paper. The church can bury the controversial info while still claiming transparency. Brilliant. Lately I have been comparing the published revelations in the D&C with the originals in the Joseph Smith Papers. Fascinating.

    Keep up the good work. I enjoy listening.

    1. Always fun to hear from somebody with a similar trajectory!

      As to the Joseph Smith Papers, I seem to remember a number of years ago when Hans Blix was pestering Saddam Hussein about information relating to his weapons, and at the eleventh hour, Saddam produced tons and tons of documents, with the obvious intent of making it virtually impossible to weed through it all to make heads or tails out of it.

      I think it was referred to as a “document dump.”

      That is sort of what the Joseph Smith Papers reminds me of.

      But there are scholars out there who are going through it with a fine tooth comb and finding interesting things.

      Like the fact you can actually SEE the scotch tape used in Letterbook 1 to tape back in the three pages containing the 1832 First Vision account!

      1. Adopted Israelite No More


        First off, love your podcasts. Thank you for your time and research put into each episode

        In Letterbook 1, there are eight additional pages, sixteen total pages front and back, missing and never returned, at least this is what I’ve heard from multiple sources. Do you know anything about these pages or if it was addressed by the JSP project people?

  7. Loved this episode. I could not stop laughing because RFM NAILED it on the head! I experienced this same defensive pattern from Daniel Peterson on a comment section several years ago.…”I’m too busy” to answer your question since I have piles of more important things to do.” Yet , he proceeded to respond on a comment section all afternoon with his typical ad hominem attacks and redirecting the argument He also had to throw In some big words in his defense to try and make himself sound intelligent which really only made him come off as a ass. He certainly pops up in web comment sections and personal Facebook pages often, so this tells me he has plenty of time to scour the internet for hours. He doesn’t even realize that he comes across as a fool. I DON’T like him and there are only about 3 people that I dislike on the planet. Thanks for the episode. So funny and so good.

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