All religion, Western and Eastern, is founded upon miracle.
It makes little
sense to present arguments against Joseph Smith and early Mormonism that would
extend equally well to what we are told about the origins of what will
eventually be Judaism, the origins of Christianity, the origins of Islam.
religion depends upon revelation. All revelation is supernatural. If you wish
to be a hard rock empiricist, then you should not entertain any religious
The kind of revelation that Joseph describes is the scandal of Mormonism, in
the same way that the resurrection of Christ is the scandal of Christianity.
And what I mean by that is that on the face of it, that's an affront to
sophisticated notions of how the Universe works.
God doesn't deliver gold
plates to farm boys. It's a cause of embarrassment to many intellectuals in the
church to continue to insist that Joseph had literal gold plates given to him
by a real angel.
But I also mean that it's a scandal in the sense that it is inseparable from
the heart and soul of Mormonism, that one could no sooner divorce the
historical claims of the Book of Mormon from the church than one could divorce
the story of Christ's resurrection from Christianity and survive with the
I think there's no question that the [LDS] church rises or falls on the
veracity of Joseph Smith's story.
History as theology is perilous. If it turns
out that the whole story of Christ's resurrection was a fabrication, then
That's the price we pay for believing in a God who
intervenes in human history, who has real interactions with real human beings
in real space and time.
That makes it historical, and that's a reality that we
just can't flee away from.
From the PBS documentary The Mormons, 2007
Bold emphasis added.