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An Insider's View of Mormon Origins Paperback – November 15, 2002
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This book will be a good addition to your library. -- Association for Mormon Letters, Jeffery Needle
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Another book that was recommended to me in this arena was Rough Stone Rolling. To compare the two, in case you are wondering which to read... Rough Stone Rolling is a very very long read, and it is very difficult to determine what is fact and what is opinion, as the author writes as if his opinions are fact. Insider's View is a pretty quick read, and I feel is quite neutral in the way information is presented (it is very clear what is opinion, and opinion is sparse.) Rough stone rolling is very very very opinionated in the positive towards Mormonism. It points out a lot of the crazy stuff that went on in the Mormon churches beginnings, but stays clear of the really disturbing stuff. Not that it is good or bad, it just depends on what you are looking for. Insider's View in my opinion was exponentially more beneficial. Especially for the amount of time I spent reading. Rough Stone rolling is so full of opinion and conjecture and fluff that I felt like I had to read other sources to get to the meat. Speaking of sources, that is my biggest beef with Rough Stone Rolling. The sources and references were not easy to follow at all. I gave up on trying to find sources for his arguments, and was left to trust that he was interpreting the original sources correctly...
As a disclaimer though, if you love Mormonism and don't want to have any doubts about your religion I would probably not read either. Take the "blue pill" and just forget about it. The religion is harder to love when the fairy tail dissipates and the reality of its beginnings set in. If you want to know some of the crap that went down, and try to NOT let it bother you, read Rough Stone Rolling because it has apologetic justifications that help you deal with what went down. Some of them a severe stretch, but none the less it helps you cope. If you want cold hard information about the early beginnings of the church, and its key doctrinal, foundational beginnings... if you want to know how it really went down... read An Insider's View of Mormon Origins. This was by far the best book I have read, of the thousands and thousands of pages I have poured through trying to understand what the true origins of my religion really were. A little bit tough to digest at first, but I want the truth, not half truths buffered with fluffy justifications.
When Grant Palmer wrote this book, he was still an active member of the church. He has excellent credentials, and the book is well-sourced. When he received threats of excommunication for his honest presentation of this information, he chose to remove his name from the records. I think it is useful for members of the church to know this, because they often refuse to read anything written by a non-member because it threatens their faith. They should know that most people challenging the Church are well-intended, feeling troubled, and coming from inside the church now, seeking answers. Palmer was one such individual. I was another.
I highly recommend this book for anyone willing and desirous to face the claims of the Church head on, or for anyone who wants to continue their study of the robust, often inaccurately presented, story of Mormon origins. It is such a fantastic story.
Grant focuses his book on the 4 pillars of the Mormon Church. Each of the 4 pillars as he describes are, Joseph Smith as a Translator, the Book of Mormon, First Vision, and Restoration of the Priesthood. Grant also provides many references for his information. I don't feel that Grant is "Spinning" the discussion to one persuasion or another. He appears neutral in presenting the topics. Each of the Pillars are covered in as much detail as historical evidence is available. He presents an evolution to each of the 4 pillars from their infancy to their currently accepted versions. In his final years as a Member of the Church, Grant asked several times, "Show me what is incorrect and I will correct it!" The Church has published Essays in regard to these subjects. They have not officially addressed the details presented in his book. Grant has shown that the official origins of the LDS Church do not match the historical record. If this kind of subject bothers you then don't read the book. However, if you need to know and you are a member of the church, it's a good place to start.
Joseph Smith's First Vision for example (the evolution of the First Vision is detailed in Grant's book) has several versions. Each version becomes more authoritative and definitive in purpose. Grant details the evolution of the First Vision from it's obscurity to it's prominence. The earliest version of the "First Vision" was obscure in the church because it didn't appear anything but a "Forgiveness of his Sins". In later versions he is told, "all other churches are corrupt" and told to "join none of them". It is also interesting that Joseph describes in the first version, being visited by God, on the last version, being visited by both God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. In either case, the first version of God's visitation is more believable than the last because of the Old Testament God complex going on in the last one. Also rather incongruous is Josephs understanding about "join none of them" as he soon after joins with the Methodists.
This is just one pillar of the LDS Church which seems rather instable. But, the remaining Pillars have as many unstable qualities about them as well. The Spin Doctors will of course show that history is not as plain and simple as it appears. I have always lived by "Occam's Razor". When the pillars need whole books to explain their incongruities, there is something wrong with it. The Pillars of the Church should be easy to understand. However, the church as a whole is taught other subjects that requires "Less Explanation". The debate will rage on. At least the Spin Doctors will have something to do throughout the eternities. The rest of us can move on, Nothing more to see.
For the True Blue LDS member of the Church (Chapel Mormons as Grant calls them), reading the book can be unsettling as it should be. All of my life the Church has painted this ALTERNATE history as Anti-Mormon. When you use your rational mind to sort it all out, there isn't any better explanation for the behavior of the Church. Have an open mind, the history of the church as Grant pieces together, is enlightening, exposing and compelling.
The Truth will set you free, literally.