I never really did get to a point where I was able to use it in any meaningful way. However, I recently encountered a great summary of the questions pointed out, and asked, in the CES Letter until a while back when I came across this blog post from a great blog called "Zelph on the Shelf":
I thought about posting something on my Facebook wall that would start out with the following quote from Russell M. Ballard:
"We have heard stories where someone asking honest questions about our history, doctrine, or practice were treated as though they were faithless. This is not the Lord’s way. As Peter said, 'Be ready always to give an answer to every man [or woman] that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.' We need to do better in responding to honest questions. Although we may not be able to answer every question about the cosmos or about our history, practices, or doctrine, we can provide many answers to those who are sincere."
--Elder Russell M. Ballard.
I never did get to the point where I felt inclined to post this on my Facebook wall, but I did go through the effort of re-wording the summary to pose each as a question to my believing relatives and friends. Here is what I came up with;
To my LDS friends and family,
I have a list of questions that I am hoping you can give me your thoughts on. But before I offer up my questions, I want to share a quote from Elder Russell M. Ballard which he shared at a regional conference recently,
"We have heard stories where someone asking honest questions about our history, doctrine, or practice were treated as though they were faithless. This is not the Lord’s way. As Peter said, 'Be ready always to give an answer to every man [or woman] that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.' We need to do better in responding to honest questions. Although we may not be able to answer every question about the cosmos or about our history, practices, or doctrine, we can provide many answers to those who are sincere." --Elder Russell M. Ballard.
In that spirit, here are several of my sincere questions that I hope you can patiently address for me the best you can:
1. Why is it that there are errors in the Book of Mormon that are also contained in the 1769 (circa Joseph’s family) edition of the Bible?
2. How is it that DNA analysis has concluded that Native American Indians do not originate from the Middle East or from Israelites but from Asia?
3. Why are there things in the Book of Mormon that didn’t exist during Book of Mormon times in that area? E.G. Horses, chariots, goats, elephants, wheat, and steel?
4. How is there absolutely no archaeological evidence for the millions of Nephites and Lamanites (their steel swords etc), even though we have archaeological evidence from normaler groups of people who existed thousands of years before in the same areas?
5. Why are Book of Mormon names and places strikingly similar (or identical) to many local names and places of the region Joseph Smith lived in?
6. Why is the Book of Mormon suspiciously similar to View of the Hebrews, a book published in Joseph Smith’s area in his time? Why is It also very similar to The First Book of Napoleon (published 1809), and The Late War, a textbook written in King James style language for New York State School children in Joseph’s time?
7. Why is it that the original 1830 text of The Book of Mormon had a trinitarian view of the Godhead, and was changed over time as Joseph’s ideas about the Godhead evolved? (Over 100,000 changes have been made to the book including many changes related to the nature of the Godhead.)
8. How come there were over 4 different First Vision accounts given by Joseph at different times, at least one of which didn’t even include God or Christ?
9. Why is it that Egyptian scholars who have translated the papyri Joseph claimed the Book of Abraham was translated from found that they have nothing to do with Abraham or anything contained in the book? Why is the church now claiming that “translate” meant “get inspiration from”?
10. Why is it that Joseph penciled in some parts of the papyri and those things do not seem to be in harmony with what scholars say should be in those missing parts?
11. Why did Joseph marry 34+ women, many without Emma’s consent (as forbidden in D&C 132) and 11 who were already married (some without their husbands knowing)?
12. Why is it that 10 of Joseph’s wives were teenagers, some as young as 14, several of whom he married while in his late 30's? This was shocking even by 19th century standards.
13. Why did President Hinckley publicly say polygamy isn’t doctrinal when numerous early church leaders, including Brigham Young, taught that it was essential for exaltation?
14. If the only scriptural justification for polygamy is “to multiply and replenish the earth” when The Lord commands it, either Joseph was sleeping with his 14-year-old wives, or he wasn’t adhering to scriptural laws.
15. Why did Joseph marry Fanny Alger years before he had the sealing power?
16. Why did Joseph marry some of his foster daughters?
17. Why did Brigham Young teach Adam-God theory, which is now disavowed by the church, at general conference and as part of the temple endowment ceremony?
18. Why is it that Brigham Young taught blood atonement, if it is now also disavowed?
19. Why is it that black people weren’t allowed to hold the priesthood until the 70s? Even though Joseph gave it to a few black people, but from Brigham to Spencer they were deemed unworthy to hold it?
20. Why is it that In the 1980s, the church paid around $900,000 to suppress bizarre and embarrassing church history documents? These documents were later proven to be fake. Mark Hofmann, the conman, turned out to be a murderer. Why is it that before the documents were known to be forgeries, church leaders gave talks offering explanations for them?
21. Why did Joseph Smith falsely translate fake plates called the Kinderhook Plates? Why did he claim they were historical?
22. Why do all of the spin-offs of the LDS church also have members say that they “know” their church is the true church? Why do other religions, such as Islam, say they “know through the power of God”, including the Heaven’s Gate cult, that their churches/beliefs are true?
23. Why did Joseph send Oliver and Hiram to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada, saying he received a revelation to do it if they failed? In addition, why did Joseph not know that treasure would not be available to them as they heard according to D&C 111?
24. Why do church leaders teach that you should bear your testimony in order to gain one, when this is a classic psychological manipulation tactic?
25. Why is that you can feel the spirit doing a multitude of things that have nothing to do with the gospel, like watching Saving Private Ryan?
26. Why is it that Joseph and Oliver receiving “the priesthood” is very suspicious, since they didn’t tell people until years later and changed earlier revelations to match their new accounts?
27. Why did Joseph use the seer stone he used to translate the Book of Mormon to find people “buried treasure”, for which he was taken to court on charges of fraud?
28. Is it true that people at Joseph’s time had a “magical worldview”, which included seeing things “with spiritual eyes” (like the gold plates)?
29. Is it true that Martin Harris was known as a gullible man? He was deeply financially invested in the Book of Mormon as he mortgaged his farm to finance it. Why is that after becoming Mormon, he was a witness to self-proclaimed prophet, James Strang, for whom he went on a mission? Strang also said he had gold plates and used a Urim and Thummin to translate them. His witnesses also never denied that Strang’s scripture was true.
Martin Harris testified and witnessed for several other religions, and also said that he had as much evidence for a Shaker book as he had The Book of Mormon. (He also said he saw Christ in the form of a deer and talked with him…so there’s that.)
30. Why did David Whitmer say he saw the angel with his spiritual eyes, and said his impressions were just like those of a Methodist having happy feelings?
31. Is it not true that people in Joseph’s time believe in “second sight” (imagination) and that it was no different to seeing something with your physical eyes?
32. Why did the witnesses to the gold plates not sign their own signatures or write their own accounts (except Oliver, who was the scribe)?
33. Why were all of the Book of Mormon witnesses, except for Martin Harris, were related by blood or marriage to the Smiths or the Whitmers?
34. Why did Joseph have many people sign an affidavit saying he wasn’t practicing polygamy when he was? Why is it that some of those who signed it were also practicing polygamy?
35. Why is it that Joseph didn’t even use the would-have-weighed-around-200 pounds plates to translate the Book of Mormon? Why could he also not retranslate the missing 116 pages, “lost” by Martin Harris’ wife to test Joseph’s validity as a translator and know through his seer stone how the manuscript would have been altered?
36. Why is that Joseph started the LDS temple endowment just 7 weeks after his Masonic initiation? Why is the endowment ceremony nearly identical to the Masonic ceremony in numerous ways?
37. Why do we say that the Masonic temple ceremony has roots going back to the temple of Solomon when it doesn't?
38. If the temple ceremony is supposed to be eternal (like God and presumably unchanging), why were blood oaths and other disturbing elements removed after a survey in the 80s revealed that church members were uncomfortable with them?
39. If Adam and Eve are the first humans, how do we explain the 14 other Hominin species who lived and died 35,000 – 250,000 years before Adam?
40. How is it that science can prove that there was no worldwide flood 4,500 years ago?
41. In addition simple mathematics and the logic of animal food consumption shows that there was insufficient room on the ark to house all the animal species found on the planet, let alone the food required to feed all of them.
42. Why is it that we claim to believe in things that science also discredits; such as the idea of the Tower of Babel, 600-year-old humans, Jonah and the Whale, people turning into salt, and carrying honey bees across the ocean?
43. Why does God seem really mean and radically different in the Old Testament?
44. Why has the church made efforts to whitewash its history and been dishonest on numerous occasions - only recently coming out with essays that address the issues that have been covered up or denied for so long?
45. Why is it that Zina Diantha Huntington Young, who became the General Relief Society President, was already married and 6 months pregnant when Joseph married her because his life was allegedly in danger from the angel with a flaming sword? Why is it that after Joseph died, she married Brigham? Why does her biographical page on LDS.org not state that she was married to Joseph, though it shows up on FamilySearch.org?
46. Why is the church not transparent about its finances anymore?
47. Why is it that the church spent 1.5 billion dollars on City Creek Mall, which is more than it spent on humanitarian aid in almost 20 years? As the ribbon was cut at the opening ceremony, Thomas S. Monson said “Let’s go shopping!”.
48. Why did the earlier church teach that tithing was 10% of your surplus; but the church now teaches that it is 10% of your income, even if you can’t afford to pay your bills because of it?
49. Why has the church’s name changed a few times?
50. Why have church leaders, such as Boyd K. Packer, warned historians about not telling too much of the truth if it isn’t faith-promoting?
51. Why does the church teach that the prophet can’t lead you astray, though this is a.) pretty obviously not true, and b.) not in line with things Joseph and other early leaders said?
52. Why did Dallin H. Oaks say you shouldn’t criticize church leaders, even if the criticism is true?
53. Why in 1993, were 6 scholars excommunicated/disfellowshipped for publishing their scholarly research on Mormonism and its leaders? In addition, why are people being excommunicated recently for alleged apostasy when they are simply asking questions like the above (including the author of these questions written out in a letter to a CES Director, Jeremy Runnells) ?
You can read the original CES Letter here: http://cesletter.com/