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Why “Pious Fraud” Ticks Off Everyone (Part 2 of 9)

In Joseph Smith’s History, it says his name will be known for good and evil, and that is certainly the case. Historian Dan Vogel believes Joseph was a pious fraud. What does that mean exactly? And how does it anger both critics of the Church, as well as supporters?

Dan:  I’m trying to find, as a non-believer now, the most charitable view of Joseph Smith a non-believer can have. So if you’re not going to believe Joseph Smith’s revelations, and that he had actual contact with God–this is the same question you have with any religious tradition. How do you view Joseph Smith and be a non-believer? Do you just think, “Oh, he’s just lying, and the whole thing’s a fraud, and he’s just a con man trying to get money?” [This is] what a lot of extreme critics of Joseph Smith say, “He’s trying to get power, money, sex.”

And I say, “I don’t believe that.” I believe that he used deception. If you don’t believe the Book of Mormon is actual history, but it could be inspired by Joseph Smith’s definition of what is inspired, then you have to believe that he used a little deception to sell that revelation that he had a revelation. It’s inspired, but he has to sell it to other people, to make it as hard for them to reject his revelation as possible, right?

Because he learned how to do that as a treasure digger, and he’s using this skill to build confidence to make people believe his revelations. So I see Joseph Smith as an inspired pseudepigraphist, like the Assumption of Moses, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Book of Enoch, these are pseudepigraphic works, written by anonymous people trying to smuggle new doctrines into the Christian tradition, by writing in the name of the dead Prophet. These are writings that are supposedly lost and rediscovered. So I believe Joseph was doing a similar thing with the Book of Mormon. He’s writing pseudepigrapha. But he believes he’s inspired. He knows there’s no Lehi and Nephi and all that stuff. But he believes that this is the method of teaching true doctrine. Like he said, “You can get closer to God through the Book of Mormon than any other book.” He really believes that, and he’s trying to correct false doctrine. He’s combating the deists, the non-believers in his day. He’s trying to shore up the Bible, which is being criticized by deists and skeptics of his day, because [of] problems that they see in the Bible or incompleteness and their sectarian strife over what the Bible says. He’s trying to calm that down. He’s trying to make people believe that otherwise may not believe. But he’s also trying to garner for himself power to found a new Jerusalem government.

Just a reminder.  I know that this is a controversial topic.  I am trying to approach this from an academic point of view, rather than embrace polemics.  Comments that are too critical of Joseph Smith, or bear testimony/quote scripture will not be approved.  Please keep the emotions in check as you comment, but I hope you will check out our conversation…. and don’t forget to check out our previous conversation!

Joseph Smith’s name is known for good and evil.
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Dan Vogel was a McConkie Mormon! (Part 1)

Fixed audio!  Historian Dan Vogel is one of the premiere experts on the life of Joseph Smith.  In part one of our interview, we will talk about his early life growing up in Mormonism, and I was a bit surprised to find out what a big fan of Bruce R. McConkie he was!

Dan:  I really liked research and writing on early Mormon history. Ever since I was about 16 and then going on it pretty hard. Before my mission, I had read all the standard works. I had practically all the inspired version, all the changes underlined in it from reading Bruce R. McConkie’s, New Testament Commentary. When I read those three volumes, as a teenager,

GT:  You were a McConkie Mormon, then?

Dan: Yes, and he came to my mission.

GT: Oh, really?

Dan:  Yeah. He came to my mission.

GT:  Where did you go?

Dan:  Birmingham, England. He came my mission. He was one of my heroes, because he was a scriptorian, and I was kind of scriptorian myself, as a kid. You know, I was really gung ho on seminary, going to seminary and raising my hand, “I know that! I know that!” So I was very annoying.

GT: This is early morning seminary?

Dan: Oh, yeah.

GT:  I feel bad for these people outside of Utah that don’t have release time seminary. That was too early for me.

We will talk about his mission, and his change in beliefs.  By the way, at the beginning of this episode, I introduce Dan as “Dr. Dan Vogel.”  He does not hold a Ph.D., so that is not correct.  Sorry about that slip up on my part, but I hope you enjoy the rest of episode 1.  Check out our conversation…..

Dan Vogel no longer believes in the LDS Church, but he used to be a big fan of apostle Bruce R. McConkie!
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Legal, Science, and Social Issues on LGBT (Part 4 of 4)

What are some of the legal, science, and social reasons the LDS Church may have removed the Policy of Exclusion?  Greg Prince answers these questions.

GT:  I know in our last interview, one of the things that, what’s the word? The people that disagreed with you the most, I guess we’ll put it that way. Previously, we had talked, and I know it came up again last night, where you had said that it was a straw man, where people think that the government will now force gay marriages.  You’d given an example, has a rabbi ever been forced to marry a Jew and Gentile and things like that? So, I know there are still some people, if you look at my comments, I have a few people from lawyers that say that your argument is a straw man.

Greg:  I base my argument on two bits of data. One is that when the Hawaii decision was handed down, that invalidated the law, the Hawaii Supreme Court made it explicit, that under no circumstances would the LDS Church or any church be required by the state to perform any kind of marriage, that the authority to perform marriages resided in the state. It could be given to churches, and give them the privilege of performing marriages that would be legal, but there was no obligation that extended with that privilege. In other words, the state could not say, “Here’s how you have to do it. Here’s who you have to perform ceremonies for.”  It was made explicit in that.  The other data point is lengthy conversations with Bill Eskridge, who is a professor of law at Yale, is considered the top legal expert in the country on LGBTQ law.

And on the science front….

Greg:  Decades ago, researchers started looking at twins to see if that gave them clues as to the cause of homosexuality. If it were strictly genetic, then identical twins would always be the same. If one were gay, the other would be gay, if one were straight, the other would be straight.  Fraternal twins, because they don’t share the same genetic makeup would be expected to be different, like maybe not concordant at all.  It turned out that it was a mixture of the two, that with identical twins, the concordance would be in the neighborhood of 50 to 60%–one twin is gay, then it would be likely that the other also would be gay, but not essential. Whereas with fraternal twins, it was maybe around 20%. So what that really said, although we didn’t realize the ramifications of it at that time was, genetics is part of it, but there’s something else that’s part of it, and we didn’t know what to call that yet. Eventually, that came to be known as epigenetics, which are factors that work on how the genes function, but they’re not the genes themselves.

We also talk about the recent policy change that allows Americans to get married civilly one day and sealed later without a one-year wait. The conclusion is only available to subscribers of our FREE newsletter.  Just sign up at and I will send you a free link to watch the conclusion!

Greg Prince discusses legal, social, and science aspects of LGBT policies.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Greg!

285 – Revelatory Whiplash

284 – The Christian Right & LGBT Fight

283 – Mixing Church & Politics in Gay Fight