Saturday, April 29, 2017

Come on John

While browsing Twitter yesterday for updates on the 2017 NFL Draft, I came across a tweet by Mormon Stories founder, John Dehlin, where he said the following: "If plates weren't needed by Joseph Smith to translate, then why did Nephi need to kill Laban?" You can find the tweet itself here.

What never ceases to amaze me about John Dehlin is that when he asks questions, they are of the level of a person who has heard things for the first time, but he acts as though he is the one who made the actual discovery. And besides, we know that John is not really interested in getting the question answered or even in asking questions; he just makes statements to provoke his legions of followers into thinking they were justified in leaving the Church. That, or he wants myself and fellow bloggers and theologians, Robert Boylan and Stephen Smoot, to make fun of him and correct him (which Smoot did via Twitter and Boylan did via blog.

But assuming that there may have been an honest seeker who saw Dehlin's tweet and thought the question was meaningful, let's play along. Dehlin seems to think that Nephi and the Prophet Joseph Smith were in the same situation, and they were not. I will allow Nephi to explain his own situation because he does so beautifully:

7 Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine.

8 And when I came to him I found that it was Laban.

9 And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.

10 And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.

11 And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.

12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.

14 And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.

15 Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.

16 And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.

17 And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.

18 Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword. (1 Nephi 4:7-18)
First, as the opening verses state, Nephi was very hesitant to kill Laban, even though Laban had recently nearly killed his older brother and stolen his father's property. ( 1 Nephi 3:11-26) This shows us that while Nephi had suffered much from Laban, he still respected Laban's humanity and was very hesitant to kill him, showing us that Nephi was not primarily motivated by revenge.

But to Dehlin's point, notice that Nephi needed the plates of brass in order for future generations to have the law, and furthermore so they would have a visual reminder of their homeland and ancestry. A third reason, though this is not stated, is that the plates would be a means to teaching future generations to read and write, which would not have been possible in the New World. Thus, there were sufficient reasons for Nephi and his family to have the plates of brass.

As for the Prophet, none of these issues applied. The people of his time had both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, so they knew the law of Moses and about Christ already. They were a literate people as well, and they needed no reminders of their homelands because many people in Joseph Smith's time were 2nd or 3rd generation Americans who knew where their families had come from. All Joseph Smith needed was to provide people with the text of the Book of Mormon and the Spirit would do the rest (Moroni 10:3-5).

Dehlin also seems to point out that the plates were not used themselves during translation, which is true so far as we know. We do not know entirely how the Book of Mormon was translated, but it seems clear from some third person accounts that the plates were not used in translation. This would be important if Joseph Smith were a linguist and was translating one language into another, but he was not; he was a prophet using divine means to portray a divine message. The word translation is the main problem here because when we see or hear that word we think of the process of the linguist. But, due to poverty of the English language, the word will have to do for now.

John, come on. You are better than this....


  1. Thanks for your post. I disagree that the plates were not used during the translation. Most (but not all) accounts of the translation process specify that the plates were present, which suggests that they were important and may have facilitated the process in some manner--as you point out, we don't know the details of the translation process and JS never elaborated on it. When the plates were taken away from JS he was unable to translate. In any case, it seems clownish to confidently assert that the "the plates were not needed by JS to translate." The historical record doesn't suggest that at all.

  2. That snake John Dehlin knows he's deceiving. He hates that he's not going to be the prophet so he's going to hurt as many people as he can. Cause as much havoc among the saints as he can.

  3. "John, come on. You're better than this..."

    I've been following John since his first episodes of his first ( now deleted ) podcast. And I can assure you that he is NOT.

  4. John's an awesome individual, and now teaches the truth about Mormonism. I didn't need him to find the truth and to get shed of the LDS church, and my only regret vis a vis John is that he waited for excommunication. He, like me and like you, should have resigned his church membership long ago. Mormonism is just a leaky and listing old tramp steamer. I'm now on dry land doimg ground stuff. So is John. We just found dry land differently.

  5. This sounds like he did use the plates in some instances otherwise, how would he know exactly what and where he was translating:

    “The title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated, … and … said title page is not by any means a modern composition, either of mine or of any other man who has lived or does live in this generation” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 60–61).

  6. Tarik,

    You've made some assertions that seem problematic to me.

    "Nephi needed the plates of brass in order for future generations to have the law."
    That agrees with what Nephi said, but according to many accounts in the Book of Mormon, revelation is received by prophets in the promised land. Don't these accounts indicate God has the power to provide the law without the brass plates? If not, why would God be so constrained?

    "Nephi needed the plates of brass . . . so they would have a visual reminder of their homeland and ancestry."
    I don't see this assertion in the quote from 1 Ne you provided. Is that from other verses regarding the plates? But, even if it is, again, doesn't this contradict the idea of revelation and direction from God? What could the brass plates provide by way of reminder of their homeland and ancestry that God could not reveal to Lehi and other prophet that followed?

    "A third reason [Nephi needed the plates] . . . is that the plates would be a means to teaching future generations to read and write, which would not have been possible in the New World."
    Don't the plates of Lehi and the plates of Nephi demonstrate it would have been quite possible to teach future generations to read and write without the brass plates? If Lehi and others could write so many things on metal plates, wouldn't it be even easier to teach future generations to read and write by writing on things like parchment, sand, or dirt?