Home > Uncategorized > Joseph Smith, Paul, and Revelation

Joseph Smith, Paul, and Revelation

My current reading list includes “No Man Knows My History–the Life of Joseph Smith” by Fawn Brodie.  If you enjoy reading a good biography I highly recommend this one to you.  First published in 1945 and revised in 1971, the book is considered a modern classic of the biographer’s art.   The story of how Smith convinced so many people that he had received another “testament” engraved on golden plates is absolutely fascinating.  Whatever else you might say about Smith, the guy definitely had charisma.

Reading the story of early Mormonism, one quickly sees parallels to the beginnings of Christianity (and probably any other religion for that matter.)  Like Joseph Smith, the apostle Paul’s ultimate claim to authority came from revelation–“because God told me so!” Throughout his epistles Paul reminds his readers that he has some kind of special conduit to divine wisdom and that he speaks for God.  These passages are numerous, but one example should suffice to make the point:  “…what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. Anyone who does not recognize this is not to be recognized.” (1 Corinthians 14: 37-38) Sounds just like something any cult leader might say to intimidate the flock.

And that is religion in a nutshell.  Anybody who can convince enough people that he/she converses with undetectable beings can start one.   The metaphysical claims of Mormonism are no crazier than the metaphysical claims of Christianity.  They just might seem a little crazier because we’re not as familiar with them as the world-view of orthodox Christianity which permeates our culture.

For atheists, agnostics, and other skeptics who might be reading this, I’m sure this comes as no “revelation” to you.  I just wonder why it took me so long to see it, and being able to write about it is therapeutic for me.  Thanks in advance for being patient with a slow learner!

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  1. Celia
    April 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    It took me a long time too. I wish I’d ‘seen the light’ sooner, but I finally gave up on god one night while trapping feral cats for a trap/neuter/release project I was participating in. It became clear to me…finally….that god hates feral cats or there is no god. I’m an atheist and I continue to help the feral cats because it’s the right thing to do. I’m much nicer than god. By-the-way, I met you in DC at Linda’s breakfast and gave you hug. Very proud of you! Celia

    • April 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      Celia! You evil little thing… 🙂

    • April 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      Celia, Yes I most definitely remember meeting you. I’m honored that you took the time to read my blog. Thanks for the support!

  2. Gary Williams
    April 7, 2012 at 2:04 am

    Just read your blog. Very interesting reading. Will be interested to see where you go with this.

  3. Chris Breman
    April 7, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Compliments on your coming out! And it takes very long to see clearly when your brain is fogged with dogmas. It took me years, after being raised in a fundie church.

  4. Andrew
    April 13, 2012 at 3:32 am

    Interestingly, Joseph Smith excluded Paul from all of his visionary experiences in the 1820s.
    He was visited by God, Jesus, Peter, James, and John — but Paul was a no-show. Perhaps the anxiety of influence was at work, but he may have also realized that the appeal of his new church was its contrast to Pauline Christianity. So “true Christianity” became corrupted … by 50 AD!

    • April 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      Andrew, thanks for your comments–insightful as always. Until you mentioned it, i had not made the connection with Paul’s lack of appearances in Smith’s visions, and you’re absolutely right. Fascinating. Smith was certainly a genius at crafting and marketing the right religious product for his times, capitalizing on the growing sense of Manifest Destiny and American exceptionalism.

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