Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Beware Faith-Promoting Hoaxes

SHIELDS.org has exposed an Internet hoax about an ancient steel knife found embedded deep within a Giant Sequoia tree. According to the hoax, the tree rings occupied by the knife date to 350-400 A.D. and appears to have a style from the Middle East. The story is a complete fabrication.

While I firmly maintain that there is fascinating evidence consistent with the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, there have been several hoaxes relevant to Book of Mormon issues. Latter-day Saints need to be cautious about believing faith-promoting rumors, even when they are dressed up with impressive details. Just because you got some story from somebody via e-mail or saw it on a Web page does not make it true. It's wise to wait for external confirmation or publication from a reputable source.

One of the earliest hoaxes aimed at Mormons was the Kinderhook plates. Many people claimed that Joseph was fooled by these forgeries, based on sloppy journalism in 1856 that resulted in a comment from William Clayton being made to appear as if it were from Joseph Smith. But the reality is that Joseph did not take the bait. If he had thought the plates were authentic, why pay them no attention? Why not purchase them or publish a translation or preach about them? It was a hoax that failed to snare Joseph. (See "The Kinderhook Plates" by Wade Englund for more information.)

One story that I refused to believe at first was the account of Gertrude Specht and her conversion, in which a scholar thoroughly familiar with early Christianity recognizes the evidence of the Apostasy and the Restoration as preached by humble missionaries, then converts and uses her mastery of history to boldly testify to others. I first received it as e-mail without supporting details, and it just sounded too good to be true. Months later I found that somebody I knew and respected knew her and could verify the story. Check it out!

{Jan. 2009 Update}
Regarding the popular Gertrude Specht Story - it is not entirely a faith-promoting rumor - but I have recently learned (Jan. 2009) that the more sensational aspects may not be correct. A more accurate overview of her story is given by Jonathan Green in "Gertrud Specht" on the Times and Seasons Blog, 2008. He contends that the high drama of the popular version does not hold up. Thanks for the clarification, Jonathan!
{End update}

For details on a variety of other LDS hoaxes and other hoaxes as well, see LDS Hoaxes and Myths at SHIELDS.org.

1 comment:

muzzie said...

I have received an email from a friend with a Testimony from Boyd K. Packer given Sunday Oct. 12 at a fast & Testimony meeting in Forest Bend ward ,indicating "A great catastrophe is coming. Now I probably shouldn’t say that because then it will happen. But it is going to happen. That’s what it will take to turn our hearts to the Lord. And we will learn from it." If this Email is correct i want to pass it on but if not I do not. How can I determine if it is true.