I've been reading Grant H. Palmer's book, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins over the holidays. It is the clearest, most to the point, book I've read on the early events in the church: Book of Mormon origins, First Vision, Priesthood restoration, Book of Abraham, etc. I agree with the reviewer at amazon.com that this book will be great to help member family or friends understand these issues. Palmer obviously isn't trying to drag people out of the church, but is making a pretty strong call for the church (and members) to shed the history that is no longer credible (an approach I agree with). Palmer's lifelong career (as a teacher and administrator) with the CES brings credibilty. Although a big order, I hope Palmer's book will help the church shape up, and help prevent many of the testimony casualties, and associated family strains, that we see...
Quotes from An Insider's View of Mormon Origins:
Pg vvi: "Questions about such topics are discouraged because they create tension; they are considered inappropriate or even heretical. This approach has isolated many of us from the rest of the world or from reality itself in those instances where we insist on things that are simply untrue."[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Pg viii: "There is a lingering distrust of anything that hasn't come directly from, or with an endorsement by, the church leadership… Some of this research has been conducted by critics of the church. Some of it contains distortions… But much of what even the critics have written is backed by solid investigation…and should not be dismissed. Your friends don't always tell you what you need to hear."
Pg ix: "We now have a body of authentic, reliable documents and a near-consensus on many of the details. From this base, the overall picture of Mormon origins begins to unfold. This picture is much different from what we hear in the modified versions that are taught in Sunday school. But…it rings true."
Pg x: "I have always thought that an unwillingness to submit one's beliefs to rigorous scrutiny is a manifestation of weakness of faith. Otherwise, everything becomes a matter of orthodoxy rather than truth."
Pg xii: "I, along with colleagues, and drawing from years of research, find the evidence employed to support many traditional claims about the church to be either nonexistent or problematic. In other words, it didn't all happen the way we've been told. For the sake of accuracy and honesty, I think we need to address and ultimately correct this disparity between historical narratives and the inspirational stories that are told in the church."
Pg 36: "My conclusion is that a large body of evidence demonstrates that Joseph Smith mistranslated a number of documents. I know of no substantial evidence to support his claim to have ever literally translated any document… With this perspective, when I read the Book of Mormon or Pearl of Great Price, I harbor the suspicion that they represent a nineteenth century encounter with God rather than an ancient epic."
Pg 260: "The foundation events were rewritten by Joseph and Oliver and other early church officials so the church could survive and grow. This reworking made the stories more useful for missionary work and for fellowshipping purposes. But is this acceptable? …we should ask ourselves what results have accrued… Has it made us more humble and teachable or more secure in our exclusivity and condescending toward others? Has it made us reliant on the expectation of infallible guidance and therefore, to a degree, gullible?"
Pg 260: "…when it comes to the founding events, I wonder if they are trustworthy as history. The issue of [Joseph Smith's] credibility in differentiating between history and allegory initially filled me with a sense of loss. But I realize that the focus of my worship, as a Mormon, is Jesus Christ… I like the fact that Jesus emphasized an empirical of his teachings to "know" him rather than a metaphysical approach to truth."