I recently had a chance to visit a few of the church historical sites in Palmyra with a never-Mormon friend. I have a few observations:
- The video that the missionary showed us in the visitors center began by mentioning that there were several accounts of the First Vision, but went on to essentially use only the canonized Joseph Smith History version. I'd give them points for a shift toward transparency if I didn't think they were doing it to avoid people's sense of betrayal when learning about the various accounts rather than to present an honest narrative.
- The missionary who led the tour through the Smith farm frequently spoke using first person plural pronouns to refer to the group, even when discussing specifics of Mormon doctrine or Mormon culture. We're blessed to know this, we're grateful for that, etc. The way he spoke made me think that either he'd looked at the group and incorrectly determined that every one of us was a member of the church or he had no expectation that anybody other than a member of the church would ever be interested in taking this tour.
- The Hill Cumorah visitors center still has a copy of that famous painting on display—you know, the one with Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon with the plates sitting out in the open while he runs his finger over the line he's working on. Even though that's not how the translation process worked—even according to the carefully worded Gospel Topics essay on the subject—the church still likes to pretend that it's being completely truthful about its history.
- Despite my best efforts, I was unable to locate the secret cavern hidden inside the Hill Cumorah. Maybe next time.
- It was weird that the television in the Palmyra hotel room would default to BYUTV every time it was turned on.
- My friend described the Christus statue room as "the Jesus terrarium" and I can't stop thinking about that.