An Insider's View of Mormon Origins
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An Insider's View of Mormon Origins

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  373 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Over the past thirty years, an enormous amount of research has been conducted into Mormon origins—Joseph Smith’s early life, the Book of Mormon, the prophet’s visions, and the restoration of priesthood authority. Longtime LDS educator Grant H. Palmer suggests that most Latter-day Saints remain unaware of the significance of these discoveries, and he gives a brief survey fo...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published November 15th 2002 by Signature Books (first published October 2002)
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Jessica
When I first started it I didn't believe a lot of what he said, fact wise, so I did my research (and appreciated how clearly and accurately he referenced) and found he is actually very clear and accurate on his history. I liked his approach and appreciated his perspective and opinions, although I did not agree with him on every single thing. He was very fair and honest, is easy to read, and in the end, I really liked the book. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking to get a clearer picture on L...more
Robert
I was surprised so many on goodreads have read this book. It is fascinating, but it helps if one is pretty well grounded in mormon history before jumping into this. Of course, the Mormon church guaranteed that it would have a wider audience than it might otherwise have had when they threatened to excommunicate the author after they'd been selling the book in church bookstores for some time. When will they ever learn?
Tonia
This book can be difficult for active, stalwart Mormons to read. It does not fall within the anti-Mormon literature as it was written by an active Mormon while he worked for the LDS church. It has helped me and others rethink and reframe life according to a path that is more open-minded and less dogmatic. No religion is above another, no person is more than another, people want to do great things and when the plan is not working as well as hoped, adjustments are made. Joseph and others did great...more
Mark
Read this book if you are LDS!

Grant Palmer is a Mormon "Saint". His courage and candor evidenced in this book is awe inspiring. I thank God for his work and honor his memory. His candor and courage in writing this book has been instrumental in giving me the courage of my own convictions. Please read this book if you've never considered any other point of view but your own regarding the truthfullness of the Book of Mormon. Grant Palmer makes his own conclusions (he believes that the LDS church is...more
Hawkgrrrl
An interesting literary criticism of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham. There were many interesting points, some of which had more merit than others. Ultimately, it was interesting if not entirely convincing (kind of like a lot of the papers I wrote in college).

More convincing: Book of Abraham connection to obscure 19th century astronomy book, connections between the BOM and 19th century preaching styles, Biblical connections to the BOM (and the lack of new doctrine), the gullible natur...more
Barry
If you are interested in Mormon History, this should be your starting point. Written in a respectful manner by an active Mormon and 35 year CES director, this book takes an honest look at the origins of the Mormon faith, not shying away from some of the more uncomfortable aspects.

My only critique of the book is that where the rest of the book is very well documented and factual, the 'Golden Pot' chapter is speculative and I wish he hadn't included it.
Nikki H
Won't rate it because I didn't finish it.
I started reading this when I wanted to learn more about the history of the early Mormon church. Palmer states that his purpose is to promote faith, but it didn't for me.

I abandoned it mostly because I didn't believe that Grant H. Palmer was as rigorous of a historian in his presentation of the material.
Regarding the story of Joseph Smith and the Greek Psalter. Palmer presents the story as evidence that "Joseph mistranslated a number of documents." But,...more
John
Apr 21, 2008 John rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: I challenge any LDS member to read it.
Very good book, well written. Can be a little dry at times but only because it is so well referenced and footnoted. The topic is very well presented, tastefully and in a way that it makes sense. Next to the Holy Scriptures, there is no other book that has strengthened my testimony as much of the Holy Spirit! I challenge anyone that believes to read this book. It will deeply bless you. The book is written in such a ways that it assumes that you already are familiar with LDS Docterine. As Palmer n...more
Jared
This one is a little difficult to review. I loved the immense factual content, citations galore and the unbiased view which Palmer paints the Mormon Origins. The various sections can get a little long in the tooth so to speak but they are riveted with so much dense content based on historical evidence and writings.

As a person raised in the Mormon church, I feel cheated, outright lied to and just plain flabbergasted at the complete and utter disparity between the historical facts cited by Palmer...more
Dave
Oct 23, 2007 Dave rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mormon history objectivists
This was a fascinating and somewhat painful book to read. It has a moderate objective tone and broke no new ground but was authored by a man who spent his life in the employment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who loves the people and institution but who hoped the institutional church would be more honest and open about its early history. The author is frank about human foibles and the likely misrepresentation or mythologizing of the life of Joseph Smith and some stories about...more
Kirk
I think this book is a great starting place for someone interested in a historical view of the origins of the early Mormon church. It visits some of the disagreements historians have with the church and provides possible answers to why they differ.

The book is well referenced, some of the pages are half text and half footnotes.

Some people have complained that parts of the book are dry or boring, but I didn't find that to be the case. It is a very short book. The author has packed a lot of infor...more
Clarice
Grant Palmer is not an anti-lds author, he is still an active member of the church that is not afraid to address the issues between the facts and the story. For those that read this book, they will have to come to new conclusions about their beliefs so I only recommend this to those that are ready to take that path. What's the saying? "Truth hurts..." Yes it can. But I'd rather the truth, than the illusion.
Elise
Certianly not as factual as it tries to be, but raises some good issues that need to be talked about more often and more openly.
Clay
Palmer does a great job at crafting an honest and scholarly work, while keeping it accessible to a wide audience.
Bill
In the spectrum of active LDS historians/authors, Grant Palmer is one of the more rationalist in his views on church history (and let me be clear: he's rationalistic, but not always rational). I gave him four stars, but would have preferred 3.5 overall. The chapters, in my opinion, are not equal to each other in their level of research and critical support. Chapter 6, "Witnesses to the Golden Plates," is his strongest and provides a good introduction to the way early church members articulated t...more
Bob
This was an interesting book for several reasons. Palmer is a former CES instructor and institute director with an MA in History from BYU. He connects a lot of lesser-known historical information (at least by most active LDS) together into a somewhat controversial view of the founding stories of the LDS church.

I didn't really relate to the first part of the book as much, because he uses issues with Joseph Smith's attempt to translate things like the Book of Abraham, the Kinderhook plates, etc.,...more
Tom Jenson
An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, by Grant H. Palmer, is a solid overview of the documented facts surrounding Joseph Smith Jr., the Book of Mormon, and the beginnings of the Mormon religion. With Palmer being a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a three-time director of the LDS Institutes of Religion, a former LDS seminary teacher, and a member of the Mormon History Association, I was fully expecting his book to be an apologetic view of Mormon origins, which...more
Cindi
I think Palmer wrote an excellent, scholarly work. I don't get the feeling he is biased or overly emotional. I found his analysis to be careful and his judgements mostly good.

Some of what I read here, I encountered in Church History classes at BYU. Some of it, I've read since then and some of it was entirely new. I especially appreciated the author's conclusions chapter as a solution to the problems he brings up in the previous chapters. I think his conclusions are insightful and correct, if yo...more
Lon
Orthodox Latter-day Saints would surely take umbrage with the conclusions Palmer draws from these "uncorrelated" yet well-documented versions of foundational events in early church history. The facts themselves can be interpreted in many ways--depending on the perspective of the reader; that Palmer only supplies his own interpretation of the story can be hardly be considered a crime, and his conclusions are not unreasonable; however, I always appreciate a historian who can honor the possibility...more
David S. T.
The author states in the preface that he goal with this book is to increase faith, but its hard to see exactly where the increase comes into play in regards to the Mormon faith. This book does a pretty good job presenting many of the arguments against the translations of Joseph Smith and leaves the reader questioning if anything that Smith did was actually true. The author presents countless examples of Smith using large portions of the BoM from the bible, King James translation errors and all....more
Buffy
A well written and organized book. The author used extensive footnotes with sources primarily from church leadership, primary documents (diaries, letters, contemporary newspaper/magazine articles, affidavits etc), Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith's personally written histories, Journal of Discourses etc. However, some chapters were more convincingly documented than others. I found his Golden Pot chapter particularily unbelivable.

Palmer's book is rare because it is held up by Mormon and Non-Mormon ali...more
Liz
Well researched examination of the origins of the LDS church. Mormonism has consolidated and, in some cases, white-washed its history. Palmer traces what actually happened, rather then the feel good stories the church shares today. He points out that the Book of Mormon reads like a nineteenth century creation and includes mistranslations from the version of the Bible Joseph Smith would have used. He also discusses the magical thinking that was common in that period and how much of what church me...more
Chuck Springer
I confess that I was a bit skeptical in reading this book, as the forward states that the authors' "agenda" in writing the book was "to incorporate recent critical historical and scholarly studies of LDS history in an orthodox defense of the faith. That his aim is to "increase faith, not diminish it." The author presents himself as possessing over 30 years with the Church Educational System, including but not limited too: seminary/institute teacher, director, etc.

I found that this book respectfu...more
Rob
A terrific read. Here is a a man who feels he is true to his faith, but maligned my mormon church leadership for sharing an "alternative" approach to mormon origins, rather than the official story the mormon church promulgates through its missionary program and correlated sunday school program across the world.

Palmer's alternative history is simply a consideration of all the sources describing the foundational events of the mormon church: Joseph's first vision, the golden plates/Book of Mormon,...more
Melanie
From the Preface: "I, along with colleagues, and drawing from years of research, find the evidence employed to support many traditional [official Mormon:] claims about the [Mormon:] church to be either nonexistent or problematic."

Um. Yes.

The thing about this book is that it's written from the standpoint of a believing member--albeit a skeptical one, but a member in good standing nonetheless (at least, as far as I know). I think this adds to his credibility. It's honest and sensitive. Most of th...more
Teri
My preface is this: read like a scientist; be analytical and scrutinize the information presented to see if the author’s conclusions are substantially validated.

I read this book on the recommendation of a friend and I have not previously encountered many of these views, even while I served an LDS mission. The author’s case is that the Book of Mormon was not “translated” by Joseph Smith, but that it was a product of his vast knowledge of the Bible and his ingenious mind (though it was completed...more
Chris Mower
I really enjoyed this book. It talks about many of the issues that I've heard throughout my life regarding Mormonsim and approaches them with a historical, researched approach. I felt that Palmer treated each issue with fairness and respect.

--ADDED ON 27 April 2012--

I wanted to come back and offer some additional insights on this book. Now that I've read hundreds of other pages regarding Mormonism, Christianity, and the like I realize that Grant Palmer did an excellent job of taking a handful of...more
Dave Winter
This is the best book I could possibly recommend on the origins of Mormonism. It answers such questions as: why is there so much protestant evangelicalism in the BofM? Where do the anachronisms (steel, silk, cement, "adieu," horses, etc.) in the BofM come from? Why keep the "golden plates" hidden from everyone? What is "Reformed Egyptian," and why doesn't it exist anywhere else in history? Why does the DNA of Native Americans betray purported Hebrew origins? Is the BofM really an ancient text, o...more
Jim
OK, I know that I am getting some raised eyebrows on this one... I had heard about it and thought that it sounded interesting. Besides, the truth is the truth and I don't believe in living my life in fear. Either the Church is what it claims and Joseph Smith was a prophet...or not. With that said, I have to say that I liked the book (I hear the boos and hisses...). Seriously, I have always valued gaining different perspectives on important subjects, and the Gospel is no exception. The premise of...more
Sarallyn
I read this book right after finishing Richard Bushman's "Rough Stone Rolling." This book presents much of the same information, but instead of focusing so much on Joseph's overall life it focuses on the main claims that Joseph made throughout his life, namely; the first vision, translation of the Book of Mormon, corroboration of the three and eight witnesses, and the restoration of the priesthood through angelic messengers. With a wealth of research Grant Palmer clearly illuminates the fallacy...more
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“the Mormon doctor said, “Sometimes Mr. Smith speaks as a prophet, and sometimes as a mere man. If he gave a wrong opinion respecting the book, he spoke as a mere man.” I said, “Whether he spoke as a prophet or as a mere man, he has committed himself, for he has said what is not true. If he spoke as a prophet, therefore, he is a false prophet. If he spoke as a mere man, he cannot be trusted, for he spoke positively and like an oracle respecting that of which he knew nothing.” 0 likes
“Evangelical preaching was also characterized by the extemporaneous interlacing of biblical passages with descriptive evangelical terminology that was designed to awaken people emotionally to their sins and cause them to tremble, shed tears, and fall to the ground.” 0 likes
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