Top Secret Research Hidden on YOUR Coffee Table!

That is right! For many years, the Church has been searching desperately for a place to hide some of the most damning facts in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Despite their best efforts, however, it seemed that people – especially the most malicious of anti-Mormons – always seemed to find them. They tried, over and over, to hide these kinds of historical blemishes in the Church magazines to no avail. They needed a better hiding place. Finally, last year, assistant Church historian Richard E. Turley, Jr. came up with a brilliant idea: hide them on member’s coffee tables! After all, what else is a Mormon’s coffee table good for? They obviously aren’t using it to as a place to set their coffee! So Turley and photographic historian William W. Slaughter put together the handsomely produced How We Got the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2011) and marketed it toward general Latter-day Saint readers (pp. vii-viii). Bound up in this beautifully illustrated (don’t let the pictures fool you – they are there to keep you from actually reading the book and finding all these secrets!) are some of the most devious secrets of Church history – facts that anti-Mormons have been trying to uncover for years.

Consider these examples:

Nephi or Moroni?

Few members to the Church know that some sources report that the angel who visited the boy Joseph Smith in 1823 was not Moroni, but rather Nephi! This fact – which clearly proves Joseph Smith is a fraud, has been cleverly hidden in the footnotes of this volume: “Joseph Smith’s 1839 history, penned by clerks, used the name ‘Nephi’ instead of ‘Moroni,’ a mistake that tracked into later publications before being corrected.” (p. 131, n. 4). Of course, they could have hidden it better by placing in the body of the text, but such space was saved for the more damning details of LDS history.

 A Seer Stone in a Hat to Translate the Book of Mormon

If anti-Mormons and disillusioned ex-members are to be trusted, then this is one of the most devious hidden details in all of Church history. To keep members from ever knowing about it, Turley and Slaughter put it on the first page of their chapter on the translation:

During the time Joseph had the plates, several people watched him translate. They said that rather than looking at the record itself, he looked into the interpreters or another seer stone, blocking out external light, such as by placing the interpreters in his hat and putting his face down into it. (p. 13)
This devastating detail of how the translation was performed has destroyed many a testimony. We can understand why the Church would be eager to see it resting safely on members coffee tables, where they are sure to never find it.

Joseph Smith, “Author and Proprietor”

Another little favorite fact of anti-Mormon’s is that Joseph Smith blatantly admitted to being the author of the book on the title-page of the 1830 edition, which he used to file for the copyright of the book. This is safely hidden on the first page discussing the printing of the 1830 edition (p. 27). If that were not devious enough, the very next page (p. 28) features a picture of the copyright registration, and the last page of that chapter (p. 37) has a picture of the title page, with the words “Author and Proprietor” under Joseph’s name. Indeed, Turley and Slaughter have successfully ensured that no one will ever find out about Joseph Smith’s momentary lapse in his deception.

Changes Made from one Edition to Another

One of the most important secrets to keep under wraps is that changes have been made from one edition to another. Turley and Slaughter skillfully hide this as they discuss the preparations for printing the 1837 edition:

Joseph let Oliver use the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon for this edition, but not before he reviewed it… “Joseph Smith went through the printer’s manuscript and altered the grammar of the text to reflect standard English rather than Joseph’s native upstate New York English,” concluded one linguist who studied the changes.
            Upheld by the Church as a translator, Joseph refined the language of the first edition, which may have suited early converts in New York, to make it more universally acceptable in the English-speaking world. (p. 43-44)

To ensure this secret is not exposed, they juxtapose the above comments with a picture of the printer’s manuscript highlighting the edits that were made (p. 45).

As they move on to the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon, there are even more controversial changes to cover up! After talking about the struggles it took to raise the funding for publishing this third edition, they keep under wraps the dirty secret that Joseph Smith “worked with Ebenezer [Robinson] to prepare a corrected text for publication” (p. 58). What happened as they prepared this so-called “corrected” text is shocking!

Comparing the first part of the printed text of the Book of Mormon to the original manuscript, they discovered some copying errors Oliver Cowdery had made in preparing the printer’s manuscript. Joseph also made “a few additional emendations and grammatical changes.” (p. 58)
One of the most controversial changes made at this time was the change of word “white” to “pure” in what is now 2 Nephi 30:6. Because of this change’s implications on Mormon views on race, it is important to ensure it will be well hidden. So Turley and Slaughter went to special pains to make sure it goes unnoticed. Not only did they talk about it on page 58, but they also included pictures of that passage from the 1830, 1837, and 1840 edition right there on page 59, with the word “white” (1830, 1837) and the word “pure” (1840) circled in red! I couldn’t have hidden this change better myself – their brilliance is unmatched!

Even after the death of Joseph Smith, new changes continued to be made to new editions of the Book of Mormon – and I’m not just talking about the rearranged paragraph’s and chapters, the new versification system, etc. The committee for the 1920 edition made “grammatical changes, continuing the tradition of updating the language to make it more consistent with that of many modern readers,” (p. 99) and the committee to the 1981 edition also couldn’t help themselves from making yet more new changes (p. 112-113). All of this is cleverly hidden in this book, where it may never be found by the average member of the Church.


It is clear, from the above evidence, that the Church has a lot in its history, particularly as it regards the Book of Mormon, which it is trying to hide. Angels changing names, seer stones in hats, textual changes to the “most correct book” – all of these are some of the most damaging facts in the Church’s history. But now, they are safely tucked away in this coffee table book, where it is unlikely to ever be found. This tactic was so successful they seem intent on hiding the truth about the Doctrine and Covenants in the same manner. If you are reading this, please, I beg you, do not buy this book! I’m afraid that if you do, then the conspiracy will enfold you and you may never be able to find these hidden facts. If this book is already resting on your coffee table, then I fear that for you it is already too late!

Okay, just in case you couldn’t tell, the above is my attempt at pure satire. Nothing in it should be taken seriously, most especially the plea at the end to not buy the book (in truth, I heartily recommend it! A book well-worth the read). My point, of course, is that many of the so called “hidden” truths about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon aren’t really any secret at all. And while this is not an official publication of the Church, can it really be held against the Church if people aren’t reading what they set on their own coffee table? The information is out there, in readily accessible formats for lay readers, like this book. Be sure to read my follow-up post here


  1. Heh heh, good job

  2. I'm glad you appreciate satire. However, you assert, erroneously, that this is a widely read publication that every member has access to and has purchased. Yes, this book, like all other books, can sit on a coffee table. But it is not correlated material that has successfully been distributed to all members. I would gander that virtually less than 1% of the membership owns a bunch of uncorrelated material that they actively engage. This is what is meant by "hiding" information. My father is a stake president, and even he didn't know most of the above information until I shared it with him. The church cannot hide public information, but it is doing its best to repeat its own version of events to quell any unsavory information.

    1. But Walter, if a church-owned publication company is publishing books that discuss this information (and this book is not the only one from Deseret Book which has done such), whose obligation do you think it is to read the material? I mean, the Church has a hard enough time getting members to read correlated manuals, for goodness sake. The Church can only do so much to get members to read stuff on Church history and doctrine. At some point individual members need to make an individual effort to study this on their own.

      What the Church has done is provide venues (Deseret Book, Church Historian's Press, BYU Press, etc.) where these issues can be discussed in publications. But at some point it becomes the responsibility of the individual member to venture forth on their own and study these publications. The Church can't hold our hand every step along the way.

      The most I think you can say critically of the Church is that, in some instances, the Church could have done more to foster open discussion of certain issues and be more open to differing viewpoints than the "official" version. But this is a far cry from the Church wholesale "suppressing" controversial stuff, which I often hear from critics.

    2. Are you kidding me? It was precisely because I had read the correlated manuals that lacked the information that when as an individual member making the effort that I discovered it was not true.

      It is doing far more than not holding people's hands, it is actively holding them back by knowingly presenting misleading information.

      I don't know what church you grew up in, but I think it is safe to say that after I graduated Seminary and BYU-I and gone on a mission, that the fact I was ignorant of so many critical issues is all the evidence needed to show that information was suppressed.

      I can not take anyone who says otherwise seriously.

    3. I'm afraid I'm not kidding.

      The Church has had some good material to introduce me to these issues, and I've greatly benefited from my own study of many non-official publications on these and other topics. During my studies as a teenager I was pleasantly surprised to read about a slew of fascinating, controversial issues (from Book of Mormon geography, to the Book of Abraham, to polygamy, to the Mountain Meadows Massacre, etc.) in both official Church sources like the Ensign as well as quasi-official sources such as the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, BYU Studies and the Religious Educator.

      And, when I discovered issues not talked about in these sources but elsewhere (usually in books published by faithful LDS scholars and issued from publishers such as Deseret Book) I simply said to myself: "Huh, well, that's something new. Interesting. I want to learn more about this."

      For the life of me, I don't know why people have this sense of the Church "suppressing" things. When I learned something new, even controversial stuff, I didn't immediately jump on the conspiracy band-wagon. I realized that my own studies were insufficient, and that I needed to dig deeper.

      "I don't know what church you grew up in, but I think it is safe to say that after I graduated Seminary and BYU-I and gone on a mission, that the fact I was ignorant of so many critical issues is all the evidence needed to show that information was suppressed."

      Or it is evidence that you didn't do enough study during that time. As Dean Jessee is said to have once remarked, in reference to people who feel betrayed by the Church "suppressing" information: "Oh, I think they'd be okay if they were more inclined to read."

      I don't know how to say it any other way without sounding arrogant, so sorry if it is: if you didn't know about these issues, the fault isn't the Church's.

      As I said before:

      The most I think you can say critically of the Church is that, in some instances, the Church could have done more to foster open discussion of certain issues and be more open to differing viewpoints than the "official" version. But this is a far cry from the Church wholesale "suppressing" controversial stuff, which I often hear from critics.

    4. Given that the Church owns and operates the Church Historian’s Press (publisher of the Joseph Smith Papers) and other outlets like Deseret Book,BYU Studies, etc., I think you would have a very hard time making the case the Church “hides” its history to a dispassionate observer.

      That said, I’m not surprised you didn’t know about all this stuff, or that your stake president didn’t know. But the problem is people just don’t do a whole lot of reading, and when they do read, it’s a novel. Lifelong American’s don’t know very much about American history, so why are we surprised when lifelong Mormon’s don’t know much about Mormon history?

      As an aside, I think the professional historians not writing more often for a general audience in the Church are also part of the problem (see here:, which is another reason why I think this book is so great – a very good historian has written something that I think common LDS will be able to pick up and enjoy, and which also discusses some of the things that critics have been using to take advantage of LDS ignorance.

      No, it is not talked about in Sunday School, but has it ever occurred to you that maybe the Brethren feel like are more important and relevant things to talk about? Maybe if you could help me understand why the things I talk about in my post even matter, then I could see your complaint a little more sympathetically.


  4. From Scott Gordon, in response to the video linked to Abraham Fralken:

    That portion of my talk got added at the last minute. I wasn't going to include it because I knew that it was a sensitive topic to many people. But, the fact is that most of "hidden" information is found in either church materials, found online at FAIR, or it is found in scholarly books that have been published and are readily available. So, to make my point, I only needed one reference. One article would mean it is not hidden. I more than met that threshold.

    The argument that the information appears only once every six years is silly. The author of that youtube video mistakenly believes that the Church teaches history as it is taught in college. The church teaches gospel principles that we should live by. If they can use a story from church history to illustrate that principle, then they will do so. But, they are under no obligation to teach a balanced history. That is up to the historians.

    In my presentation, I probably should have pointed out the items in the Joseph Smith Papers online. It is amazing that a church has published a scholarly historical document like that. Just try to get information from some of the other denomination libraries. I have, and while the librarians are very kind, they simply don't have the denomination backing and access to information like we do. I have not found anyone who makes their material , both positive and negative, as accessible as the LDS church.

    1. Scott Gordon's response Cont'd:

      It is true that there isn't a lot written on polygamy, but the question is if Joseph Smith practiced it or not. I don't think that is really a secret. There are more books being published that explore this topic in depth. Certainly the information is all readily available and accessible on the FAIR Websites.

      Included this portion on "hidden" information is sensitive to many because they have based their life decisions on the idea that the information is conspiratorially hidden. By showing that it is not, there are some who interpret that as me calling people lazy or ignorant. That would be an unfair categorization. We don't call people lazy because they haven't taken a particular course in college. They are just uninformed. The same in this instance. Most people don't go back and read old Ensign articles, or read real history books. However, if someone is going to make a life changing decision based on information being hidden, I would expect they would at least do a rudimentary Google search on church resources, or even FAIR resources to see if that claim were true. If they really were motivated, I would expect them to seek out books and information.

      I got in late on the night before the presentation, and decided that even though some people might criticize me for being insensitive or name calling, I should still add that item. The two issues that I addressed were Joseph Smith Polygamy (which is in the D & C so can't be hidden) and the use of a seerstone that was placed in a hat to block out the light. I could have used other examples, but those were the two that came to mind.

      In my fatigue and haste I did not label my PowerPoint slide appropriately. It should have emphasized the seerstones which were placed in the hat. The hat had nothing to do with the translation processes, except to block out light. The hat did nothing else. He could have used a burlap sack, or a box. But, the hat conjures up (expression used intentionally) images of magic. Magic hats have a long tradition. Joseph Smith could have certainly used that to his advantage. But, he didn't. He only stated that the plates were translated by the gift and power of God. It is today that we are getting hung up on the hat thing.

      It is unfortunate that there are some that now ascribe deceptive motivations to me. As I said before, I only needed to show one instance and I did more than that. Every quote I used talked about the seerstones. Now it is used as an example as to my deceptiveness, which completely misses the point. The information is not hidden. It is easy to find. One should not leave your faith based on black helicopter type of conspiracy theories where people are hiding information: especially when that simply is not true.

      I was forthright about my references as I listed each one. Anyone could check them. I knew that going in. I knew given the audience that they would. So why would I be trying to hide something or trick someone when I listed the references for all to see. Again, this falls into the conspiracy theory camp. I'm afraid you won't find any black helicopters with me.


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