My raison d’ être
“… convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical argument, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God for redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds.”
Apostle Orson Pratt
I’ll try Orson.
I have asked many questions in my ‘A Letter to an Apostle‘ that as Orson indicates. ‘by reason and logic’ are difficult to reconcile.
I am not asking out of ignorance. As the reader will discover, I have diligently sought out, explored, researched and thoroughly investigated each of the concerns and difficulties that are at issue for me. I have tried to uncover the most recent, reliable material related to each of my interrogatories. I have also carefully cited my sources.
As I have already said, most of the facts I quote as well as the commentaries I reference come from church-friendly sources – LDS historical documents, church newspapers and periodicals, Journal of Discourses, Lectures on Faith and the History of the Church.
I have also gone to the letters of learned and even some less learned church leaders, and, of course, the Scriptures themselves.
The rest of the facts, data and information has been garnered from serious and often meticulous research conducted by many of the world’s leading scholars in several scientific disciplines and, of course, professional historians. You will not find reference to the many mean-spirited articles posted on the Internet by those whose obvious purpose is to mock and despoil.
When it comes to questions of a purely scientific nature, matters relating to archaeology, anthropology, paleontology or genetics, I have given greater credence to the considered opinions of non-Mormon scientists and researchers because these scholars have fewer biases and predispositions that might impede their willingness to go where the truth leads them.
It is no secret that at BYU and all other LDS owned post-secondary institutions, criticism of the church, its policies or its leaders is ‘verboten.’ Even though those who teach at these schools are free Americans, should they espouse, even privately, any view which the ‘brethren’ disapproval of, they run the risk of the termination of their employment.
Ruthie Robertson, a professor of political science, discovered this was the case when she placed a post on her personal Facebook page supporting the LGBTQ community.
BYU demanded she retract her comments, and when she refused, she was summarily dismissed.
When asked by a reporter to comment on what this says about the state of academic freedom at BYU, the church released the following statement:
“All good LDS, including scholars, must accept the judgment of the Church’s General Authorities. If it is what the brethren want, then good LDS must say it is appropriate. This may be difficult for scholars, but obedience is an important concept.”
Salt Lake Tribune , May 26, 1983, p. B4
Since 1998, the American Association of University Professors, has placed Brigham Young University on its list of universities that do not allow tenured professors sufficient freedom in teaching and research.
Having taught at a large public university which, like most, placed great value on freedom of expression, and a commitment to the pursue of truth, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to teach at a place like BYU where imperious efforts to curtail free or critical thinking has become a way of life.
I believe there is abundant evidence that the Mormon church fears an open academic environment. Freedom is dangerous, freedom is subversive.
One of the first things that Adolf Hitler’s tyrannical ‘apostles’ focused their energies on was stifling the free exchange of unfiltered ideas coming out of colleges, and universities. The Schutzstaffel (SS) which literally translates as the ‘Protection Squadron’ enforcing a uniform duty to think and act as good National Socialists are supposed to think and act.
Within such an environment nothing was more natural than to abolish the heritage of what for centuries scholars, the world over, admired: German Academic Freedom.
Also, one must recognize that non-Mormon academics publish and are thereby subject to peer review. In contrast, it is extremely rare that a paper on archaeology or anthropology coming out of BYU would be accepted for publication by a leading scholarly journal, let alone survive the often-withering examination non-Mormon scholars.
Finally, before we begin, a word about a word – Mormon.
In 2018 President Russell Nelson became the seventeenth man to move, based solely on seniority, into the president’s chair at 50 East North Temple.
In addition to his shortening of the agonizingly long Sunday services that the faithful long endured, he also claimed to have awoken from his nonagenarian repose one night, ‘impressed,’ that, from that moment forward, the use of the word ‘Mormon’ should be made verboten.
President Russell would have people refer to the church by its full and cumbersome legal name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Now name changes are not unprecedented per se in Mormonism, the ‘church’ has gone through several iterations in its short history.
It was initially named, ‘The Church of Christ’ by Joseph Smith on April 6, 1830, The same name as the church at Dartmouth College, that his brother Hyrum had attended. Incidentally Dartmouth also had a ‘School of the Prophets’, a term Smith also later appropriated.
This name only lasted four years.
In 1834 Joseph had to face the fact that he was not the first to coin that name and it had better be changed to avoid if not litigation, certainly confusion.
Not to be caught in the same bind again, the name was quickly changed to ‘The Church of the Latter Day Saints,’ completely removing Jesus Christ from the moniker.
This name only lasted two years however (1834 to 1836) before, it would seem Smith recalled that the Lord had asked that His church carry His name. Consequently, it was renamed once again to, ‘The Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints,‘ which was used for another two years – 1836 to 1838.
Although it was still being referred to as the Church of Christ and the Church of Latter Day Saints, nevertheless in 1838 it was changed again to more or less its current name, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.’ In wasn’t until 1851 when Brigham Young signed off on the final change, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’ adding a hyphen and reverting to the British-style lower-case “d.”
Like some members, most writers, and all but Utah media, I will respectfully be ignoring President Russell’s admonition in this regard.
Besides taking 47 keystrokes to write just once, the loquaciousness is irritating to the reader, and the continuous use of the long version might lead one to think that I am mocking the church.
I do not doubt that this ‘revelation’ will be as short-lived as the one targeting LGBTQ couples that Nelson also referred to in the day as, ‘a revelation from God,.’
I can certainly understand why Nelson is ashamed of the word Mormon; it certainly brings unflattering images to the minds of a great many people. But changing the name doesn’t change the history.
Finally, I would like to tell you that I had no intention of posting my letter to president Uchtdorf. I first sought answers from others, including local priesthood leaders. I spoke with my former Stake President, a long-time friend and an intelligent, well-educated and honest man who I have nothing but respect for.
However, having taken on the task, if you will forgive back to back metaphors, I intend to leave no rock unturned and let the chips fall where they may.
The mass exodus from all church pews nationwide has been studied at length in recent years by the Pew Research Center. In tracking religious trends by state, religion and faith. Pew researchers have shown that sadly many of the record number of Mormons leaving their church, abandon not only the LDS church but also vacate their belief in God.
According to Pew, a third of all Mormon millennials have walked away from the church, so many that a new term has been coined for them, “Nones.” Nones have no religion, nor a desire to acquire one.
In a story written by Heidi Hatch, a reporter with Salt Lake City’s CBS affiliate KUTV she indicates that nearly 60 percent of all millennials raised in the Mormon church have stopped going – not in search of a new faith, they just wanted out of Mormonism.
This is certainly not solely a Mormon phenomenon. Ms. Hatch tells us that Millennials of all religious backgrounds are leaving the faith of their fathers at a rate never seen before.
To give a better understanding of where these LDS youth are coming from, she shares the comments of a Utah Millennial she interviewed named Shelley:
“I’m definitely not interested in any religion as far as religions that exist, I consider myself a secular humanist.”
Shelley says she has no need for religion in her life. This former BYU student joined the LDS church as a teen and said that she, “loved her church so much she wanted to be a bigger part of it. I joined what I thought was this perfect religion, the true church.”
Now, she says, “I feel like I’m way too logical now to be religious.”
Millennials like Shelley are not leaving because they’re lazy, want to sin or can’t obey the ‘Word of Wisdom‘, they have done their due diligence, they just don’t believe it anymore, and like most Millenniums, once the decision is made, there is no looking back.
However, research has shown that a majority of ex-Mormons, or more accurately, post-Mormons do not self-identify as a members of another faith tradition, choosing to describe themselves as agnostic, atheist or apatheist – someone who is not interested in accepting or rejecting any claims that God exists or does not exist.
Again quoting Pew, in 2015 they found that 36% of those born Mormon left the religion, with 6% becoming Evangelical Protestants, 9% converting to other Protestant, Catholic, or a non-Christian faith and 58% of ex-Mormons simply becoming unaffiliated.
Apologists for the church often talk about evaluating the church by ‘looking at the fruits‘ of the religion.
If millions of good people lose their faith in God when they exit the LDS church; what does that say about their fruits?
If countless women’s lives have been ruined by polygamy; many still suffering today in the numerous Mormon offshoots; what does that say about their fruits?
If generations of Black men and women have suffered discrimination by a church that now denies the doctrinal base of this abomination; what does that say about their fruits?
And, if scores of boys and girls have been driven to take their own lives because of the church’s LGBTG policies; what does that say about their fruits?
By the grace of God, I have been able to take a deep dive into the true historicity of the Mormon church without losing my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If anything as I searched for answers in the New Testament, it has brought me a greater appreciation for and an increased love for the Jesus of the Bible.
Faith is not a zero-sum game. It is not binary – Mormonism or nothing. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I hope that you will keep this in mind as you read on.
By all means, seek knowledge wherever you can find it. Talk to those in the Mormon church that you respect and whose opinion you value. If you feel you can risk the impact it may have on any future callings, talk to senior priesthood leaders. But remember their personal beliefs are just that, their personal opinions. Beliefs are not truth. Wisdom comes from knowledge, not from shared feelings and testimonies.
Many faithful Mormons fear that if they even entertain a question regarding the church’s official narrative, they will be sucked into an abyss of disbelief, resulting in a disruption of their comfortable homeostasis. And clearly there are myriad examples that may be true.
I remember once asking a Mormon bishop, how he deals with the fact that there is no archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon? You would have thought I asked him how often he had sex with his wife. The conversation went from archaeology to the color he planned to paint his kitchen in the “twinkling of an eye.”
Sadly, the vast majority of Mormons are remarkably ignorant of the history of their religion as well as the behavior and character of its founder Joseph Smith Jr. Even bishops and stake presidents are knowingly unaware of many of the facts that I present here.
It has been my experience that when Mormon leaders cannot refute the facts, they invariably retreat to ‘just pray about it and look for a warm feeling or just take it on faith and someday you will know the ‘truth.’
So, absent any help from ward or stake priesthood leaders I received beyond the paltriness above, I published this open letter in 2017. I did so with the faint hope that Elder Uchtdorf might come upon it and care enough to leave the ninety and nine and reach out to one who was lost.
I am yet to receive any response to my Letter to an Apostle; however I know he is aware of it. I has certainly gotten the church’s attention as FairMormon published a lengthy ‘rebuttal’ to it. To view their confutation, click below:
My General Comments on FairMormon’s Response
I think the church’s responses to my letter through the apologists at FairMormon is largely disingenuous and often displays a lack of basic logic. Nevertheless, since their rationalizations may confuse or mislead some, I have chosen to follow their lead and comment on them also in the form of a rebuttal rather than a conversation.
In the interest of fairness and openness however, unlike all LDS church sites as well as FairMormon itself, I have endeavored to show both sides, adding their refutations at the end of each of my interrogatives. I do so in the hope that this openness will help the reader by presenting both perspectives on each issue.
FairMormon begins by describing my letter to President Uchtdorf as,’ an online document which is critical of Latter-day Saint truth claims.’
I would contend that my directness in asking WHY or discussing troubling and contradictory evidence associated with the church’s history is not, as FairMormon suggests, prima facie evidence of criticism. By FairMormon’s logic, if your son asks, “why did our dog have puppies?” he is criticizing reproduction.
While FairMormon takes a rather defensive tone throughout. I will attempt nonetheless to respond to each of their comments, in a friendly way. But I have been told that I do not suffer fools gladly and that might occasionally show.
I should say that not all of FairMormon’s responses to my online letter were of no value. Some of their explanations were instructive.
There are many times however when these anonymous defenders of the faith, lacking convincing answers, would proffer a defense, no matter how irrational or implausible, rather than just say, “we don’t know.” In these cases, if FairMormon’s goal is member retention, I wonder if they, like FARMS before them, are doing more harm than good.
FairMormon, is, of course, preaching to the choir; their raison d’etre is to justify any and all statements and actions taken by church leaders past and particularly present. You will never hear them say, ‘that was a mistake;‘ or ‘President Nelson is no expert in that area,’ rather they dispense superficially plausible apologetic ‘snake oil,’ that they know will be eagerly swallowed by members who just crave enough elixir to dull their pesky cognitive dissonance.
I think FairMormon correctly recognizes that true believing or chapel Mormons are not looking for a deep dive into truth, truth is frightening, truth is subversive, rather they seek just enough conjectural adhesive to keep their shelves from altogether collapsing.
FairMormon searches for, interprets, and favors only that information and just those data which confirm their pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses; their conclusions had been set before they have even given ear to any argument or evidence. This is called ‘confirmation bias, ‘and it is intellectually dishonest.
I have been around long enough and have studied history and human nature long enough to feel that well-meaning zealots seldom do anything to advance the cause of truth and often do much to harm it. Examples range from the church’s sexually incursive and psychologically harmful youth interviews to the obscenity of the Mountain Meadows slaughter of more than 120 innocent men, women, and children by pious Mormon priesthood leaders.
So, instead of taking these apologists’ avowals as ‘gospel,’ I have commented where I feel their responses to what I have written are misleading or lack credulity or plain old common sense. My standard is simple – what would a reasonable man or woman find more compelling and believable.
To apply this standard, I have devised a rating system based on Occam’s Razor.
As you are no doubt aware, Occam’s Razor (also Ockham’s Razor) or sometimes the “Law of Parsimony,” is a philosophical problem-solving principle first attributed to William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher.
His ‘law’ can be interpreted as, ‘from among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.‘ It is the most likely to be true or at least the most correct – until proven otherwise. It is the same principle taught in medical school, “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras!’
‘Occam’s Razor’ then is the test, and I have distilled it into the following rating scale to test the apologist’s efforts.
The Mormon church is an immensely wealthy, powerful and secretive corporation seeking to secure the time and acquire the treasure of sincere, honest people who are, more often than not, no match for the church’s well-oiled PR machine. So, forgive me if I do not pull any punches in presenting facts and evidence that raise doubts about the church’s narrative or the truthfulness of its past or present leadership.
Many times I sang the touching LDS hymn, “Oh Say, What is Truth?” The first verse reads:
Oh say, what is truth? ’Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce,
And priceless the value of truth will be when
The proud monarch’s costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse.
It continues, praising the value of truth beyond all else.
Notwithstanding the sentiments expressed in this hymn, I don’t believe it unfair to point out that honesty has never been a core value for the Mormon leadership; and I am not just talking about Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor who it can be easily shown lied repeatedly, but recent, LDS prophets as well.
It would seem that at then top levels of the Mormon church, truth is the thing that gets in the way of expediency.
That was Boyd Packer’s message in his fabled talk, “The mantle is far, far greater than the intellect.”
When Packer said, “Sometimes the truth isn’t very useful,” he was really saying that the truth often fails to serve the church’s interests, ergo we, as Latter-day Saints, should promote expediency, so that we only communicate what is advantageous to the church, rather than what is fair, just, or true.
Gordon B. Hinckley is viewed with great affection by many members, and I am sure he was a good man, I met him a couple of times, and he seemed nice enough. Arrogant? Indubitably, but that is to be expected with all the bowing and scraping of true believers on the Wasatch Front that he was the constant recipient of.
Hinckley didn’t project any prophetic vibe to me, even though I was a TBM when I met with him. But Gordon was certainly a practitioner of, I’ll be kind, “situational ethics.”
In an interview with Time Magazine in August 1997, president Hinckley was asked, “Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?”
He responded, “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it, and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.”
“I don’t know if we teach it?”
Could he have missed what Joseph Smith said about it: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret, and He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.”
Joseph Smith (“King Follett Discourse,”
Journal of Discourses 6:3-4, also in Teachings
of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 342-345)
Or Brigham Young, “He [God] is our Father – the Father of our spirits and was once a man in mortal flesh as we are, and is now an exalted being.” [emphasis added]
Brigham Young, successor to Joseph Smith
(Journal of Discourses 7:333):
Or Bruce R. McConkie, who wrote and preached, “…God… is a personal Being, a holy and exalted man…
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon apostle and
theologian (Mormon Doctrine, 1966 ed p 250
Or, Joseph Fielding Smith who also taught, “God is an exalted man. Some people are troubled over the statements of the Prophet Joseph Smith … that our Father in heaven at one time passed through a life and death and is an exalted man…”
Joseph Fielding Smith, Mormon apostle and theologian,
later President of the church (Doctrines of Salvation 1:10):
Or, are we to believe that in his dotish he also forgot what he had written himself just a decade before this interview:
“The whole design of the gospel is to lead us, onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood. This great possibility was enunciated by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the King Follett sermon and emphasized by President Lorenzo Snow. It is this grand and incomparable concept: As God now is, man may become!”
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 179; “Eternal Progression.
Does Hinckley’s deceptive behavior jive with what the church preaches on honesty? Is this an example of Standing for Something as he titled his book?
“Lying is intentionally deceiving others. Bearing false witness is one form of lying. There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth.Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”
Was Gordon B. Hinckley, like many of his predecessors just, “lying for the Lord?”
I think any dispassionate observer can recognize that ‘Lying for the Lord‘ or just plain lying has been a way of life for Mormon prophets and their apostles.
President Nelson too has a gift for ’embellishing’ rather pedestrian events and experiences to make them, if not out-and-out miraculous, at least faith-promoting.
One example is the story he tells about his experience in Korea, that appeared in LDS Living and was scheduled to appear in his book published by the church owned Deseret Books. The article reads:
“Young Lieutenant Nelson performed many operations in less-than-optimal conditions. One day a nurse named Beverly Ashcraft approached him at the end of an operation in which she had assisted him. “What makes you different from all the other surgeons I work with?” she asked, likely assuming that he would have a straightforward answer.
Dr. Nelson thought for a moment and responded much differently than she expected:“Well, I don’t know that I’m different, but if I am, it’s because I know the Book of Mormon is true!’
… out of a sense of duty that she accepted Dr. Nelson’s offer to borrow the one and only copy of the Book of Mormon he had at that time. Her husband, Derwin, was a fellow surgeon, and a few days later she returned the book, tossed it to Russell, and muttered a feeble “thanks.”
“That is a totally inappropriate answer for someone who has read the Book of Mormon,” Lieutenant Nelson responded.“You didn’t read it, did you? I’m asking you and Beverly to read it, and when you have, then I want my book back.”
The Ashcrafts did read the book, and, over a period of time, Lieutenant Nelson taught them the gospel. In 1951, he baptized them, and then he lost track of the Ashcrafts.
Fast-forward 30 years to when Russell Nelson had become Elder Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who had just been asked to take a last-minute assignment to fill in for Elder Neal A. Maxwell at a stake conference in Tennessee. Elder Nelson headed for Tennessee, arriving at the airport where members greeted him with “Welcome to Tennessee, Elder Maxwell” signs.
During the Sunday morning session of the conference, Elder Nelson tells us he was drawn to a woman wearing a large hat and sitting on the left-hand side of the chapel. He asked the stake president who she was; the president didn’t know but managed to learn that her name was Beverly Zitting.
When Elder Nelson went to the pulpit, he felt prompted to call this woman to join him. “How long have you been a member of the church?” he asked her with the congregation looking on. “Thirty years;” she responded. “Who baptized you?” he then asked. After a brief pause, she answered, “You did, in 1951!”“What is your name again?”She explained that when Elder Nelson had baptized her, her name had been Beverly Ashcraft and her husband’s name Derwin. After he died, she had remarried, and now she had a large family who were active in the Church. “Beverly, how many people connected with you have come into the Church since I baptized you?” Elder Nelson asked. “You won’t believe this;” she told him and the congregation,“but two nights ago I had a dream that Elder Maxwell would ask me that very question.” So she had come prepared, and she pulled out of her purse a paper witl1 the names of all the people who had come into the church as a result of her baptism. The number was 80.
What a great story, an inspiring tale, but sadly a tissue of lies.
The truth is told in an article by Ryan McKnight entitled, “False Story Removed From Newest Book on the Life of Mormon President Russell M. Nelson:”
Ryan writes, “According to Leslie and Katie McKenzie, daughter and granddaughter of Derwin and Beverley (whose name is spelled wrong in the LDS Living article), that is not what happened.
In a phone interview with the Truth & Transparency Foundation (TTF), Leslie and Katie, told the real story behind their mother and grandmother’s conversion, a conversion story that has been a source of pride in their family for nearly seven decades.
Leslie and Katie say that their family have always been proud that their first exposure to Mormonism was through Nelson, the man who would later become President of the Church. They saw him as a spiritual giant, great leader, and the man that changed the legacy of their family forever.
They were aware that Nelson occasionally used the story of Derwin and Beverley as a faith promoting example of missionary work. The story even appeared in a 1984 Ensign article and in Nelson’s biography on lds.org. However, in these versions, there is no mention of Korea, Beverley being a nurse, or a serendipitous encounter at a stake conference in Tennessee.
According to Leslie and Katie, Beverley was never a nurse, she never lived in Korea, and she didn’t know Nelson until her husband introduced her to him.
Derwin met Nelson when the two were working at Walter Reed Army Military Medical Center in Washington D.C., not Korea. They were both doctors performing research, Derwin a veterinarian and Nelson a medical doctor. They became friends and Nelson later met Beverley who worked in the same hospital as a transcriptionist. Nelson introduced them to the Mormon Church and baptized them.
There was an encounter in the 1980s at a stake conference. Shortly after Nelson was called to be an Apostle, he traveled to Knoxville to speak at the conference. Leslie and Katie were both living with Beverley in Knoxville at the time. When they heard Nelson was coming to town they made sure to attend.
They remember that Nelson was aware of who Beverley was and knew she was in attendance. He did call her up to the podium during his talk and told everyone about her baptism story and about how there are many members of the church today as a result of her conversion.
There was no dream the night before, there was not a prepared note in her purse, and there was no confusion on the part of Nelson as to who she was. Katie adds that her grandmother ”has never worn a hat to church and did not have a hat on that day.”
Katie was first made aware of this new version of the story in early March when a family member sent her a screenshot of the article. She showed it to her mother and, when she realized that it was part of an upcoming book, immediately reached out to Deseret Book and LDS Living. She sent both companies a document with annotations pointing out the incorrect information.
Katie was eventually contacted by a representative from Deseret Book and another from LDS Living. The representative from Deseret Book thanked her for bringing this to their attention and that since it was so close to the release date they would just remove the story entirely instead of trying to fix it. The representative told Katie that this would require a reprinting of at least some of the books as the final printing process had already begun.
How about Jeffrey R. Holland’s discussion with John Sweeney of the BBC about Mitt Romney’s Temple Oaths. Did Holland lie or attempt to deceive?
- SWEENEY: Let’s talk about Mitt Romney, the man who may well become the most powerful man on earth. As a Mormon, in the temple, I’ve been told, he would have sworn an oath to say that he would not pass on what happens in the temple lest he slit his throat. Is that true?
- HOLLAND: That’s not true. That’s not true. We do not have penalties in the temple.
- SWEENEY: You used to.
- HOLLAND: We used to.
- SWEENEY: Therefore, he swore an oath saying I will not tell anyone about the secrets here lest I slit my throat.
- HOLLAND: Well, the vow that was made was regarding the ordinance–the ordinance–of the temple…
Was brother Holland telling, ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?’
Here again is the church’s definition of lying:
“Lying is intentionally deceiving others. Bearing false witness is one form of lying. There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”
But it was Joseph Smith Jr. who institutionalized the practice of lying. He instructed church leaders to deny he was practicing polygamy and polyandry. The prophet’s stamps approval allowed church leaders to deceive with a clear conscience; blasphemously believing that God permitted and even encouraged lying.
When accused of practicing “polygamy” Smith always denied it rationalizing that it was “celestial marriage” that he was engaged in, something Smith reasoned was altogether different than marriage.
If his accusers in and out of the church did not frame their allegations using precisely the right terms, he and his followers felt justified in prevaricating.
Sadly history shows that if accusers framed their words perfectly, Joseph and the apostles lied anyway.
Like many, I have never been a fan of Boyd Packer. I can’t help thinking of the quote by R.S. Nickerson when I read Packer’s missives:
“Neither a closed mind nor an empty one is likely to produce
much that would qualify as effective reasoning.”
But since we are discussing truth and honesty among the ‘brethren,’ let me provide one of his gems:
“I have a hard time with historians because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting. It destroys. I could tell most of the secretaries in the Church office building that they are ugly and fat. That would be the truth, but it would hurt and destroy them. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting.”
Boyd K. Packer, Faithful History:
Essay on Writing Mormon History, p.103, fn.
Does this sound like something Peter or Andrew or a true Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ would utter?
But the likes of Boyd Packer are hardly representative of rank and file Latter-day Saints, and we cannot condemn a whole church because of foolish pronouncements by one man.
As I say in my letter to President Uchtdorf, which follows, I have always found that, with few exceptions, everyday Latter-day Saints are honest, kind and decent people. But religious fervor, or a strong, “testimony” should not be the only standard when searching to know what is true, the only arrow in our quiver?
Romans Chapter 10, Verse 2, tells us, “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.”
Nor do I accept the Orwellian mantra hoisted on an already cowed people by the likes of Dallin Oaks that, “Not everything that’s true is useful.”
Useful to whom and for what purpose?
It would seem that Oaks has not considered that the corollary to his puerile statement must also hold, “That not everything that is false is NOT useful!”
I am told that Oaks trained as a lawyer not at BYU but at a at a highly ranked law school. Surely, he must have taken at least one class in classical logic or philosophy.
Is it possible that he never heard of the ‘Law of the Excluded Middle,‘ espoused by Bertrand Russell. The law states that if ‘A is B’ is false, then ‘A is not B’ must be true.
If we accept that brother Oaks statement in the affirmative that, ”A – Not everything that is true” is ”B – Useful,” then the negative corollary, ‘ ‘Not everything that is false is not useful,” must also be true. But then again, perhaps Oaks does, in fact, believe that. There are many examples in the Mormon experience where things that are known to be wholly untrue are nonetheless very useful.
Joseph Smith’s denials of his illegal polygamous and polyandrous marriages, and the lies he told the Saints and even his wife. False statements? Certainly, but very useful – to him and his agenda!”
The many paintings hanging in Mormon chapels, visitor centers and temples across the globe and the pictures still being reproduced in Church books and manuals, showing a young strong-chinned Joseph Smith studiously examining the ‘Reformed Egyptian’ characters on the golden plates while his faithful scribe sits across from him writing down his ”translation.” A much more inspiring image than reality – Smith bent over, with his hat in his lap and his head in his hat.
Which of the following two images might move an ”investigator” more?
The church has always known these images were not true representations of reality, but they remain because they are useful.
FairMormon in a rather desperate attempt to justify the use of these inaccurate, misleading but faith promoting images suggests that the ‘church’ wanted their artists to create something approaching reality, but their contractors simply chose not to.
Anthony Sweat in his essay “The Gift and Power of Art” quotes artist Walter Rane as saying:
“At least twice, I have been approached by the church to do that scene [Joseph translating using the hat]. I get into it. When I do the drawings, I think, “This is going to look really strange to people.” Culturally from our vantage point 200 years later, it just looks odd. It probably won’t communicate what the church wants to communicate. Instead of a person being inspired to translate ancient records, it will just be.”
Does FairMormon really expect us to believe that the micro-managing brethren, who sign off on the visual look of tithing chits, would defer to the imaginings of their retainers? Are we to suppose to believe that in an organization where decision-making is more centralized than North Korea, would give that power to anyone.
So, I intend to call bullshit where I find it, whether it comes from Dallin Oaks, Russell Nelson, FairMormon or Joseph Smith himself.
That said, in the words of that great dame Bette Davis, “Fasten your seatbelts, this is going to be a bumpy night!”
Paul A. Douglas