Rowling Wades Into Mormon History


Late last month, Rowling made an allusion to Joseph Smith, Jr.,’s claim to have translated The Book of Mormon from actual gold plates given to him by an angel. Her point was about the credulity of those accusing her of being a transphobe and bigot without evidence from her actual statements.

What Rowling couldn’t have known, assuming that she knows no Latter-Day Saints and hasn’t studied the subject or interacted with LDS apologists online, is that this off-hand remark would cause an avalanche of correction from Salt Lake City and the army of internet mavens sworn to protect and defend Smith’s revelation. To her credit, she corrected herself without caving to the Mormon church’s strict messaging on the subject. More after the jump.

For the official response of the LDS historians to Rowling’s tweet and the official version of the “Who Really Saw the Plates?,” see ‘What J.K. Rowling got wrong about Joseph Smith and the golden plates‘ in The Deseret News. For a more nuanced and, frankly, much more complete version, see Did the Eleven Witnesses Actually See the Gold Plates? at Mormonism Research Ministry.

I wrote a book about the Twilight novels of Stephenie Meyer, an exegesis that required I do a deep-dive into LDS history because both Meyer’s faith and her implicit criticism of Mormon culture in that series are essential to understanding it. See ‘Mormon Vampires in the Garden of Eden’ for the short version of the arguments I made in Spotlight. I was inundated with vitrolic criticism from the LDS Online Army for my ignorance and arrogance in talking about Meyer and Mormons, until a BYU emeritus professor stood up for me — and the attacks ceased instantly.

Rowling got off easily, believe me, and she was smart to post a correction as promptly as she did.

For more on the Mormon Church online, see here, here, and here. No community of believers has been as challenged as the LDS faithful have been by the accessibility to historical information that contradicts their tenets about Smith’s revelation and subsequent story — and none to my knowledge has been as successful in turning the medium to their advantage for missionary work. Rowling, of course, had no idea, and, again, was lucky to get off their radar as a threat as quickly as she has before FARMS or JettBoy were engaged.


  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Thanks for this fascinating post, and especially the two links to the 30 September Hanna Seariac Deseret News article and the Bill McKeever Mormonism Research Ministry (though I have not – yet? – followed any of their links).

    But also very much for the vivid sketch of “the Mormon Church online”, of which I had no real sense.

    I wonder what sense many people growing up pre- or extra-internet have of ‘Mormon’ / ‘LDS’ history, and where they get it? The Mormon Tabernacle Choir? Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet (1887)? (!) Probably not that many from Bernard DeVoto’s The Year of Decision, 1846 (1942) – though his Wikipedia article notes a 2016 reissue…. I don’t remember when I heard of some kind of Mormon connection of the original Battlestar Galactica (1978-79)… not as quickly, I think, as I heard something similar about Twilight (2005) and sequels.

  2. ‘Gentile’ interest in Mormonism largely sprang, I think, from Brodie’s ‘No Man Knows My History: a Life of Joseph Smith‘ (1945), Brooks’ ‘Mountain Meadows Massacre‘ (1950), and, more recently, Krakauer’s ‘Under the Banner of Heaven‘ (2003), a history of the ‘Mormon Fundamentalist’ murders and their roots in 19th Century events such as the Mountain Meadows massacre. The latter was published with significant fanfare; two other books were published just before and after Krakauer’s that also focused on the Mountain Meadows event, which spurred an enormous defensive response from FARMs and the LDS academic battalion of apologists. It also inspired the ‘Twilight’ books, which turn in large part on a believer’s wish-fulfillment re-imagining of the Mountain Meadows events and other challenges to naive faith in the Book of Mormon and Smith’s revelations (e.g., the genetic evidence that no Semitic tribes ever landed in South America).

    Rowling has been posting of late about Islamist fundamentalism in Iran vis a vis the women’s revolution against the theocratic regime there. She has done this without mentioning Islam once, a marker of her Islamophobia-phobia. I wonder if this seemingly unrelated aside to the other religion founded by a Prophet — with the suggestion that Smith was as many historians have concluded a “pious fraud” — was meant as a marker that she is also not a fan of Islam, though this implicit criticism, if it exists, probably springs from her core feminism rather than her esoteric Christian faith or awareness of Islamist persecution of Christians historically and currently.

  3. There is no revelation. The mormon religion was founded by a pedophilic narcissist that sad gullible people chose to follow. There are too many misconceptions to even start to list within this cult. Mormon people I have met are some of the fakest, most self centered frauds I have ever come upon. I find it hard to believe that anyone can believe any of the factually inaccurately beliefs that are part of Mormonism.

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