When Mormonism came out, it would have been easy and natural to assume it was a fraud. Because, if the facts of its origin are known and the implications understood – it seems like Mormonism either has to be true or a fraud.

(Bearing in mind that ‘true’ does not mean, cannot mean, and never has in any circumstances meant something-like ‘correct in every microscopic detail when each is detached and examined separately’. True means true-overall.)

But 185 years down the line Mormonism does not look anything like a fraud, quite the opposite. 


Therefore to the unprejudiced eye it seems a pretty straightforward matter to believe Mormonism is true (given that the choice is between truth and fraud) – assuming that one has had a personal revelation to that effect, there seems no reason not to accept that personal revelation as valid.

(For any Christian to believe must be a choice, it is an opt-in situation – my point is merely the double-negative that 185 years down the line, there is no compelling reason not to believe – if one feels in one’s heart, having prayed for guidance, that the LDS church is true.)

At least, that is how is feels to me – to believe in the truth of the CJCLDS should not be psychologically or logistically a big deal – because after 185 years experience and knowledge, to believe that the Mormon church is both valid and correct is easy, not strange, nor a thing rationally difficult to justify!

What is strange and difficult to justify; is to believe on the one hand that the CJCLDS is a fraud, and yet on the other hand that it is also what it clearly is: a good and beneficial organization. Although strange and difficult, this ‘on the one hand and on the other’ paradox is, of course, precisely what many people do believe: that is, many people do not believe the truth of the CJCLDS (implicitly they believe it was built upon a fraud – even if the fraud may have had noble intentions) but they do believe that the Mormon church is, nonetheless, ‘a good thing’.

Logical or not; this paradox is simply a factual state of affairs, I know of several people in the above situation – indeed perhaps most non-Mormons who are informed about the CJCLDS think that it is, paradoxically, both fraudulently-founded and also good.

The paradox is quite real, and the paradox is also quite common. I am not sure whether it is a stable psychological state – or meta-stable and liable to flip into either faith on the one hand, or a more consistent (but less honest) view of pretending that Mormonism is fraudulently-founded and therefore evil (despite appearances). This particular ignoble (dishonest, ill-informed, and/or malice-driven) consistency of regarding Mormons as an Evil Fraud is distressingly common among mainstream Christians. I mean, a willingness to believe that – because they regard the CJCLDS as fraudulently founded, therefore the obvious goodness of Mormonism ‘must be’ a fake. What follows is too-often a spiteful willingness and desire to believe all sorts of malicious lies and gossip and misrepresentations about Mormons; to infer all sorts of wicked and covert motivations – in sum to indulge in negative prejudice which already-assumes that which it ostensibly sets out to discover: i.e. the wickedness of the CJCLDS.

The 2 X 2 Table is therefore:

Mormonism is either:

True and Good
True and Evil
A Fraud and Good
A Fraud and Evil

To say that the CJCLDS is True and Good is to be a believer; to say it is a Fraud and Evil is to be dishonest about 185 years of knowledge and experience. Straightforward.

So, the two apparent ‘paradoxes’ are to believe the CJCLDS is True and Evil – which might theoretically be found in someone who believed the church had become corrupted – perhaps one of the other Mormon-descended groups such as the erstwhile Reformed Latter Day Saints. And the other paradox is Fraud and Good – which is the position being discussed here.

So, this is a challenge for decent, honest, mainstream Christians (note: the challenge is not for Mormon believers! – we believe the church is True and Good!) – I mean those many Christians who do not believe Mormonism is true, but who do believe it is good. The challenge to make an explanation for your honest beliefs: an explanation for the reality of the Mormon church 185 years down the line – an explanation that describes how goodness can come from fraud, and what that explanation entails and implies.

I think I may have found a possible way of rationalizing the paradox that Mormonism is both a fraud and good. Here it is…

Firstly to accept that Joseph Smith really was a Prophet of God as he claimed, and genuinely received divine revelations – and it was this which enabled him to do what he did, and which made Mormonism good –


Now, all informed and thoughtful Mormons accept that Joseph Smith’s was also (as he said of himself) fallible, and that his knowledge was incomplete. And a mainstream Christian could simply take this further, and claim that Joseph Smith was a true prophet who received a number of divine revelations- but so fallible that he also made many errors, made-up extra stuff, and over-reached – eventually, he got-carried-away to the extent of committing fraud as a means to a good end.

Let’s say, JS may have been on the one hand God-inspired and good-hearted and well-intended; on the other hand he had self-deluding elements – the kind of person who believes his own lies (not at all uncommon). So the good of Mormonism comes from God via Joseph Smith, and the fraud is from Joseph Smith alone.

To believe this would merely entail believing that God would use a very flawed prophet to attain his purposes – and that idea has ample Old Testament parallels. Of course, most mainstream Christians would reject, or at least strongly resist, the idea that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet- but most of those who do so are either ignorant of the facts, or so negatively prejudiced as the be irrational. Realistically, as Harold Bloom discovered (see above link) – once you know about what Joseph Smith actually did, honesty compels the choice between believing that he was either a real genius or a real prophet.

So, given that he does not seem to have been a genius; it is not really at all difficult to believe that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet! And both Mormons and non-Mormon Christians are agreed with Joseph Smith that he was a flawed Prophet.

If these premises are accepted, the only disagreement between Mormons and non-Mormon Christians can then simply be a matter of how much flawed of a Prophet Joseph was, which is a merely quantitative dispute. Both sides could agree that the Good of Mormonism comes from God and the problems (errors, incompleteness) from Man – from Joseph; but would draw the line in different places.

Maybe this idea of Joseph Smith as a true Prophet of God, but a much more flawed Prophet than Mormons acknowledge, is an honest and coherent way for non-Mormon Christians to harmonize their paradoxical beliefs?

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