The Truth Will Set You Free
The Leadership of the Church’s Lack of Discernment
I feel the leaders of the Church showed a clear lack of discernment by paying almost a million dollars to Mark Hoffman, to keep embarrassing documents out of circulation. Documents that were later shown to be forgeries, but not before several Church leaders had given talks rationalizing them.
I was led to believe that the President of the Church holds all the keys to this dispensation, including the keys of discernment. In a now famous Church News photo, President Kimball is shown posing with a magnifying glass while snuggling up to Mark Hofmann, a liar, forger, and murderer.
Doctrinal Changes in Response to American Political Pressure
Can it not be argued that changes made to core doctrines of the Church were in direct response to American political pressure – the ending of polygamy, Blacks in the priesthood?
While the tone of the following letter to the editor is somewhat mocking, it nevertheless summarizes the view that many people had about the Church’s about-face when President Carter made it clear they would not allow the Church’s tax-free status to continue if they did not change their racist policies.
“What’s done is done. There no longer is any prejudice against blacks in the Mormon church, the power of money took care of that. Back in 1978, the federal government informed the LDS Church that unless it allowed blacks full membership (including the priesthood), they would have to cease calling themselves a non-profit organization and start paying income taxes. On $16.5 million a day in tithing alone, that’s a lot of tax monies that could be better used in building up the Kingdom of God.
The church immediately saw the error of its ways, and the brethren appealed to God for a revelation; it came quickly. God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform, and today The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has nothing but love for all races of people on Earth.” 1
in 1968, ten years before the Church saw the light, John Lund wrote the following:
“Those who would try to pressure the Prophet to give the Negroes the Priesthood do not understand the plan of God nor the order of heaven. Revelation is the expressed will of God to man. Revelation is not man’s will expressed to God. All the social, political, and governmental pressure in the world is not going to change what God has decreed to be.”
John L. Lund, The Church and the Negro, page 109
Yet ten years later, when the Church’s status as a tax-exempt organization was in question, and shortly after President Jimmy Carter discussed the Church’s racist policies with Spencer Kimball, the Heavens opened and ban was lifted.
Incidentally, there is no written record of Spencer W. Kimball’s supposed 1978 ‘revelation’; reversing the priesthood ban on African-Americans?
Why was this not important enough to make it into the D&C?
The Church’s apologists deny that President Carter’s candid message to Kimball had anything to do with this timely, ‘revelation.’ Some even claim that the President never broached the subject.
This is not true.
Below I have replicated a note President Carter sent to me in response to my letter to him:
I only met Gordon Hinckley once. He didn’t make much of an impression on me one way or the other. I certainly didn’t get any loving or Christ-like vibe from him, I don’t think that arrogant is the right word to describe him but it’s close. He had what I would call an imperial manner, but that is only human with all the bowing and scraping he was the recipient of by his fawning TBMs and other sycophants.
I certainly can’t comment based on that brief encounter, if he was an honest or truthful man.
There is ample evidence that he was well practiced in gaslighting and lying for the Lord, often electing to provide misleading and untruthful answers when confronted with difficult issues.
Like many, I remember reading in Time Magazine, Aug 4, 1997, his response, when asked, “… Whether his church still holds that God the Father was once a man, his answer was uncertain and equivocal:
“I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it… I understand the philosophical background behind it, but I don’t know a lot about it, and I don’t think others know a lot about it.”
“I don’t know if we teach it?”
There seems to be a considerable amount of evidence, starting with Joseph Smith and continuing up to Hinckley’s day, that it is certainly taught as I believe Hinckley well knew.
“I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God, from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. … It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know…that he was once a man like us…. 2
“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.” 3
“Mormon prophets have continuously taught the sublime truth that God the Eternal Father was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth life similar that through which we are now passing. He became God – an exalted being – through obedience to the same eternal Gospel truths that we are given opportunity today to obey.” 4
“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…“ 5
“…God…is a personal Being, a holy and exalted man…” 6
And of course, Lorenzo Snow’s famous little couplet:
“As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” 7
He was asked on German television why the Church does not publish its financial records, to which he replied, “We believe that that information belongs to those who made the contribution, not to the world, that’s the only thing.”
This is not a truthful statement, members have no more access to the Church’s financials than the German interviewer.
When Hinckley was questioned by police during the Mark Hofmann murder investigation in the mid-1980s, he first denied he knew Hofmann, then amended his statement to say he barely knew him. The truth is Hofmann had Hinckley’s private phone number and met with Hinckley alone in his office at least 50 times. We know that Hinckley wrote checks to Hofmann.
President Uchtdorf, you have to admit that these types of prevarications give one pause. But you knew him, were these just a few examples of where ‘lying for the Lord’ was the expedient thing to do?
While today racism is no longer a major issue in the Church, it has certainly had a very ugly history of it.
“And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” 8
There is rabid Racism in the Book of Mormon and throughout the Church’s history. Why would a Church led by the Savior have allowed so much of this unbridled abhorrent behavior go on for so long in His Church?
The Book of Mormon paints a very narrow viewpoint regarding the concept of beauty. It seems, that anyone who is non-Caucasian, whose skin pigmentation is darker, is also “filthy”, “loathsome” or “not enticing.”
“21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
Second Nephi; Chapter 5, Verse 21
6 And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.
Alma; Chapter 3, Verse 6
15 And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites;
Third Nephi; Chapter 2, Verses 15
“…their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people.”
2 Nephi 30:6
What a toxic, counter-intuitive perspective, Does not every reasonable person recognize that natural beauty is inherent in all humanity – inclusive of all and exclusive of none.
Are the racist statements contained in the Book of Mormon Christ-like or do they represent moral depravity? Is the condemnation of another human being, solely because of the color of their skin, something the Lord would give such prominence to in ‘another testament to Him?’
Sadly, Mormon racism does not end at the Book of Mormon, there have been so many disgusting statements made by Mormon Prophets and Apostles who claim not just to be disciples of, but spokesmen for, the Master.
Brigham Young, ‘prophet, seer, and revelator’ shared his view of our African American brothers and sisters:
“You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race — that they should be the “servant of servants;” and they will be, until that curse is removed.9
“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so.”10
“Not only was Cain called to suffer, but because of his wickedness, he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures…. they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning.” 11
As well, rather than being a leader in human and civil rights, the Church did very little.
The Church did not support the civil rights movement, in fact, Black leaders urged the boycott of Mormon Tabernacle Choir products and the NAACP brought discrimination charges against the Utah Boy Scouts for forbidding black members from assuming senior patrol positions. Many college athletes refused to even play Brigham Young University teams, and protestors picketed the Church’s twice-yearly general conferences in Salt Lake City.
During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Mormon apostles and other leaders continued to preach racist and discriminatory Mormon doctrines affecting persons of color.
Bruce R. McConkie taught that, “Negroes are not equal with other races” in spiritual matters and that this is God’s law, not man’s. Mark E. Petersen proclaimed that “people are born black because of their inadequate performance in the pre-existence. “
McConkie didn’t make his hurtful racist statement in 1830, but at a time when men and women of good will in this country were matching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. seeking equal human rights for ALL of God’s children. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, even human secularist leaders spoke up, but not Mormons. And sadly, it was not just LDS leaders whose silence was deafening but also the Mormon rank and file, yet it was the connection between religion, civil rights, and social justice found within “local people of faith” who did most of the actual work of the civil rights movement.
I regret the several derogatory terms of racial bigotry and hatred expressed in the following direct quotes by the ‘Prophets’ and ‘Apostles’ of the Mormon Church, but I think it is important to show the level of intense racism, and the abhorrent demeanor of, the leadership of this relatively young Church.
Former Mormon Bishop, Lee B. Baker has assembled, derogatory terms describing African Americans used by the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in official publications, scriptures, doctrine, and training for decades:
“Nigger” (89 times), “Darky” (15 times), “Sambo” (25 times) and “Skin of Blackness” (110 times). 12
It is also of value to note that while almost all other denominations have apologized for their past racism, in contrast, LDS Church leaders, while generically criticizing past racism, have carefully avoided any criticism of past Presidents and Apostles very carefully.
Having said that, the Church needs to be given credit for trying to put an end to any systemic racism, as this message delivered by Gordon B. Hinckley, at the April 2006 General Conference illustrates:
“Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. I was there in the temple at the time that that happened. There was no doubt in my mind or in the minds of my associates that what was revealed was the mind and the will of the Lord.
Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?
Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.
Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.”
Many Mormons, as well as non-Mormons, view the recent harsh administrative policies devastating the lives of many LGBTQ members sadly with many tragic results as un-Christlike.
The new policy calls for mandatory church discipline for LGBTQ individuals married to those of the same gender. It also bars the children of LGBTQ parents from baptism and other saving rights until they are 18 years of age, and then, in a rule that would have fit well within the ‘Nuremburg Laws’ of Nazi Germany, only if they openly disavow their parents’ relationship.
If the Church chooses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, they have every ‘legal’ right at present to do so. But I have a problem with the children of gay or lesbian parents also being barred from membership in the Church in the face of my Lord’s admonition to, “suffer the children to come unto me and forbid them not.”
Wendy Montgomery, a co-founder of the Mama Dragons, a group of Mormon mothers with gay children, reported that she had been told 32 young LGBTQ Mormons have recently died by their own hand.
While the families who have suffered these great losses requested privacy, given the tragedy of suicide and the alarm this report has raised in the LDS LGBTQ community, the Deseret News asked experts for insight and solutions. These experts explained that it’s all about support. Parents, friends and religious congregations could help prevent suicides by thinking carefully about what they say and do and by welcoming, accepting and supporting LGBTQ people.13
The Utah Attorney General has commented that statistics show that “… Suicide is the number one cause of death of Utah children ages 10-17.”
This comes as no surprise when more LGBTQ youth find themselves disenfranchised even disowned by zealous religious parents, who now feel more compelled than ever to choose between their child and their church.
Many active Church members, gay and straight, young and old, see this uncharitable, unkind and unloving move for what it is: another unabashed rejection of LGBTQ members.
And the cost in human terms is great. The evidentiary research done by the Family Acceptance Project which tells us that children who experience high levels of rejection are:
- More than eight times as likely to attempt suicide
- Nearly six times as likely to report high levels of depression
- More than three times as likely to use illegal drugs
- More than three times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and STIs
Political science professor Benjamin Knoll discusses the link between Mormonism and teen suicide in his paper, “Youth Suicide Rates and Mormon Religious Context: An Additional Empirical Analysis,”
Knoll reports that youth in the 15-19 age group who live in states with heavy Mormon populations are at higher risk for suicide. As Knoll put it, “These are objectively small numbers, but it means that (again, controlling for other factors) youth suicides are twice as high in states with the highest levels of Mormon residents compared to states with the lowest levels of Mormon residents.”
This association did not exist in any statistically significant way in 2009. There is a greater frequency of teen suicide in 2014 versus 2009 in Mormon-heavy states such as Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Alaska. In those states, teen suicide is increasing at higher rates than it is in many (not all) other states; in Utah, the rate has doubled since 2009.
This study shows definitively that youth who live in areas with higher Mormon populations are at a greater risk for suicide.
IMPORTANT: If you or someone you know are suffering because of the LDS Church’s policies toward sexual orientation, please reach out for help call: 1-800-273-8255, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or 911.
If you are in pain because of issues relating to your sexual orientation and your Mormon faith, please recognize that a suicidal crisis is almost always temporary. Although it might seem that your unhappiness and your hurt will never end, it will end. Don’t let suicide rob you of the better times that will come your way. Regardless of what the Mormon Church teaches, you are as God made you and are of great value.
Please believe me that your perspective will broaden and “a year down the road,” the problems that currently seems catastrophic will have passed and you will go on to have a great life.
But most of all do not keep suicidal thoughts to yourself.
Help is available for you, call a friend, a family member, teacher, a therapist. Find a nonjudgmental individual you trust and let them know how bad things are. This can be your first step on the road to healing. You are a child of God, and HE loves you unconditionally. Hang in there.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”
Take courage too from the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a tendency to suddenly reverse its policies when enough outside pressure is applied. The Church’s major revisions were clearly driven by cultural, economic, legal and political changes, even though the Church attributes them to ‘revelation.’
The most recent past injunctions to be overthrown, of course, was the ban on Blacks holding the priesthood and barbaric practice of polygamy. This pattern suggests to me that eventually, the Church will likewise change its stance on homosexuality.
Equal rights issues are significant to Americans and in the future, perhaps not even that distant a future, the Church’s discrimination against an identifiable minority will result in not just sanctions being applied to it, but devastating public relations emerging from it.
Today the LDS Church’s forbids “same-sex attracted” individuals, as they like to call them, to love and marry or even retain their membership or that of their children. But the top of any large organization is a very political place.
The old right-wing white men at the top the hierarchy, Boyd Packard, and his ilk are departing, at an almost acceptable rate, and hard as it might seem when we witness Dallin Oaks being promoted to the first presidency, appear eventually more inclusive men will emerge.
When there is the right mix of political, legal and most of all economic pressure, the time will be ripe for a revelation.
They are already opening the door. In its essay on polygamy, while the Church affirms its defense of traditional marriage, “Marriage between one man and one woman is God’s standard for marriage,” it also provides the caveat, “unless He declares otherwise.”
I believe that when the ‘brethren’ pray hard enough for what they want to hear, they will hear it.
The Role of Women in the Church
Some would argue, that women are given a structurally subordinate role in the LDS Church.
While most religions are attempting to equalize the roles and responsibilities of men and women, Mormonism is one of the exceptions. Indeed, the role of women in the Church has not changed significantly since Joseph Smith’s day.
As Bruce R. McConkie put it, “… Woman’s primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband.”
When it comes to gender roles, the Mormon Church still clings to the increasingly outmoded beliefs of the nineteenth century.
Mormon women are still discouraged from seeking full-time employment, particularly in any career that might demand large amounts of time away from home. No such constraint, of course, on men.
Being an unmarried Mormon woman is especially problematic. They are counseled to seek marriage to a worthy man, failing which, they are told they will be married in the after-life, presumably to a man who has at least one other wife, or to one of the “odd” Mormon men who did not marry in this life. Now there is something to look forward to!
LDS theology is right wing and socially conservative. The Church actively supported the 2008 Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex marriage in the state. This proposition was eventually ruled unconstitutional. The Church also opposed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the 1970s.
A careful review of official LDS Church literature, including conference talks and articles from the Church’s Ensign magazine, by Professor Ryan Cragun, a sociologist of religion at the University of Tampa in Florida found that despite shifting mores in the rest of American society between the 1970s and today, the LDS Church’s views toward gender roles remain unchanged.
“We thought for sure they were going to soften the way they think about this [gender roles] — maybe they won’t talk about gender differences as innate and essential,”
“One of the things that really did surprise us is that there hasn’t been a shift in gender discourse in the Mormon Church over the last 40 years,” Cragun commented.
A convincing argument can be made, that the leadership roles that women play in the Church are, if anything, is being diminished. As late as 1946 women used to be “allowed” to give blessings to other women. That is, until Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith wrote the Relief Society, saying it would be “far better for us to follow the plan the Lord has given us and send for the Elders of the Church to come and administer to the sick and afflicted.”
In 1995, the First Presidency of the Church issued what it rather hyperbolically entitled a “Proclamation to the World,” in which it states that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Fathers are to “preside over their families in love and righteousness and are to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”
The Relief Society was never consulted nor did it participate in the crafting of this Proclamation.
Sadly, Mormon women who, too visibly or vocally seek a greater role for women in the Mormon Church, are quickly silenced by the all-male leadership, often through excommunication. Lynne Kanavel Whitesides, Avraham Gileadi, Maxine Hanks, Lavina Fielding Anderson the four female members of the “September Six” were disfellowshipped or excommunicated in 1993.
One of the most recent examples is the excommunication of Kate Kelly, a feminist whose organization, Ordain Women, had lobbied for women’s’ admission to the Mormon priesthood.
But the greatest harm and abuse the Mormon Church brought to the lives of women was the practice of polygamy. It was a cruel practice that destroyed the lives of many women. One only need to read the diaries of the poor souls who fell victim to this evil practice that Gordon Hinckley merely dismisses as, “not doctrinal.”
Larry King asked Hinckley during an interview on his television program September 8, 1998, about the Church’s history of polygamy. His response was:
“I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law.”
If, in the name of Christ, it is not doctrinal? Does this mean then that the DOCTRINE and Covenants = not inerrant? Is Section 132 just an erroneous revelation, like the one directing Oliver Cowdery, et al. to travel to Canada to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon?
Granted, Hinckley was an old man even then and probably not anticipating any probing questions from a softball reporter like Larry King, but not doctrinal?
Section 132:4 doesn’t say this is a covenant for 165 years and then will be expunged. It says it is an ‘everlasting covenant’ and “no one (Gordon Hinckley) can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my [the Lord’s} glory.”
Why couldn’t Hinckley have just been honest and have said, yes, it is part of our doctrine and beliefs but we no longer practice it because it is illegal or even, Joseph Smith got it wrong, and it was a disgraceful practice which we now correctly disavow. But to say it is non-doctrinal leads to the inimitable conclusion that Smith then must have created it as a cover for his sexual cravings and proclivities.
Regarding these last two points, LGBTQ and women’s rights, it would seem like the Church still holds the view, expressed by Boyd K. Packer that the three “enemies” of the Church are, “…the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement, and the ever-present challenge from ‘so-called’ scholars or intellectuals.” 14.
The Church’s Secrecy when it Comes to its Finances
While it is difficult to accurately determine the wealth of the Mormon Church as, unlike other nations, United States legislation does not require transparency and the Church certainly does not volunteer any financial information. There are however jurisdictions outside of the United States that require financial reporting if not accountability, and from those data, we can extrapolate.
In Canada, there are about 185,000 members, mostly in the Western provinces. If we take the reported Canadian donations (approximately $500,000,000) and divide by the number of active members, it shows that Canadian members gave a little less than 8% of their income to the Church.
If we were to assume that active U.S. members give at a similar rate as Canadians, total U.S. tithing would be more than $6 billion. Members from the rest of the world, where donation rates are much lower would add another ½ billion in total donations. So, we have a reasonable estimate of $7 billion each year in tithing income alone.
Likewise, by using statistics from Canada and other countries that also require disclosure of the value of the Churches assets and spending. The total value of church buildings, temples and meeting houses would be about $35 billion.
The Church has, of course, substantial for-profit business concerns which include among many other things, a $2 billion megamall in Salt Lake City, an insurance business with assets worth $3.3 billion, a media organization with 17 radio and at least one TV station and an agricultural company that owns reportedly 1 million acres in the United States alone.
The Church does, however, provide greater transparency when it comes to its charitable contributions. Since 1985 the church has spent a total of $1.4 billion on relief for disasters such as Japan’s earthquake and Ethiopian famine. A great deal of money, yes but less than it spent to build one super-mall in Salt Lake City and far less than 1% of the likely $200 billion the Church made from tithes in those thirty-two years.
How much do Church leaders make? It is very difficult to say, due to the extreme culture of secrecy surrounding finances in the Church, these estimates can only be treated as speculative.
We know however that in Canada where disclosure is required by law, in 2009 the average salary paid to Church employees was $ 83,000 ($95,300 in today’s dollars). Two of the Church employees earned between 80,000 and $120,000, 6 between $120,000 and $160,000 and the two at the top between $160,000 and $200,000 ($230,000 in 2017 dollars).
One would assume that senior Church leaders in the United States would make substantially more than mid-level ‘managers’ in Canada. It has been estimated to be in the range of $300,000 to $800,000 per year, but we really don’t know.
How much is paid by way of covered expenses and how much in cash? We don’t know.
But it is a fact that Apostles serve on the boards of the many of the Church controlled multi-billion dollar for-profit entities, such as Deseret Management Corp. ($1.2 billion in annual receipts), AgReserves, Hawaii Reserves, Polynesian Cultural Center ($59 million in annual profits), Beneficial Life Insurance (a $3 billion-dollar fund insurance company), Intellectual Reserve Inc., Deseret Trust Co., Ensign Peak Advisors, etc.
What are the directors’ fees paid to the Church leaders? We Don’t know.
Are stocks and shares are distributed among the many General Authorities.? We don’t know.
All financial records of these corporations are closed to public scrutiny by deliberate legal constructs the Church has designed. By forming the Corporation Sole of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is a separate entity than the Church, it makes the discovery of these board payments nearly impossible.
The point is, however, not how wealthy the Church is, although it might be argued that in a world where children still starve to death, this wealth might be better used than buying $2 billion malls, but the total lack of transparency.
If I invest a $100 in Exxon, I have a right to view that corporation’s financial statements. Why when I contribute a good deal more in tithing, to the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints am I refused any accountability?
If there were just one or two issues that would be one thing, but with dozens and dozens of serious problems, contradictions, lies and deceptions, I think any reasonable person must feel that a point of critical mass has been reached.
Weber also noted, that there is a tendency for those at the top of bureaucracies to lose touch with what is going on below, after all where is the problem? Life is very good at the top.
Mormon apostles don’t live the humble life Christ’s apostles did. They live very ‘high on the hog.’ They are given a generous salary, great benefits, prestige, and the fawning adoration of true believers, sycophants and those whose livelihood depends on remaining in the power brokers good graces.
As well, in real “Emperors’ New Clothes” fashion, even constructive criticism or bad news from below is carefully vetted and filtered by minions and underlings who fear being shot as the messenger.
I have been told that my letter will not reach you President Uchtdorf. I will be sorry if it does not because I want to add my voice to the many others who could tell him that all is not well in Zion.
The Titanic cannot be turned around quickly, but it is not too late to enter that turn, for the Lord knows that a change in direction is dearly needed. An enormous iceberg looms on the horizon, and that berg is named truth.
The Mormon Church has done much good and helped many people through its well-publicized humanitarian efforts over the years. and I believe you cannot find better, more honest, decent people than Latter-Day Saints.
But I feel that if those at the helm do not embrace a new, more open and less defensive approach, these dear souls may eventually be harmed.
If I didn’t care about the Church, the truth and most of all the members I would not have gone to all this trouble.
Thomas Jefferson taught that “However discomfiting a free exchange may be, the truth will ultimately emerge the victor.”
There have been many leaders in the Church that have given at least lip service to the diligent search for truth;
“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”
“If a faith will not bear to be investigated: if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.”
George Albert Smith
“This book [“The Book of Mormon”] is entitled to the most thorough and impartial examination. Not only does it merit such consideration, it claims, even demands the same.”
James E. Talmage
“Well, we have nothing to hide. Our history is an open book…”
Gordon B. Hinckley
Why not prove them right?
Questioning, doubt, critical thinking, and yes, even debate should be tolerated, not discouraged or punished as it is now.
The growth the Church experienced in the last century shows the bureaucratic structure has served the Church well, but this organizational form, that has functioned so effectively in the past may now actually destroy it.
I think dramatic new and open approaches are called for. I don’t presume to know what form this should take. Perhaps a series of informal, unrehearsed, unscripted televised round tables with a free exchange of ideas and concerns might be a step in the right direction. If done honestly, these ‘town hall’ type of meetings which would include the participation of the brighter general authorities as well as faithful members, questioning members and non-members – both men and women.
Would that take courage? Yes. Would it make some members aware of issues they are unaware of presently? Unquestionably.
But, you must surely be aware of all these issues. It would be truly frightening if, in the position, you find yourself, you have not thoroughly investigated each of them.
I assume that despite having done so, you are still a believer.
President Uchtdorf, how can you possibly hold a sincere “testimony” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Gospel it proclaims in the face of these challenging questions unless you have compelling answers to them?
In the name of Jesus Christ, and on behalf of the growing number of members who are hungering and thirsting for the truth, I am asking you, if in fact, you have any answers, share them.
A real spiritual witness is powerful and important, but If we have serious, reasoned objections that fairly and wholly take into consideration the available evidence surely a “burning in the bosom” cannot negate those legitimate concerns. Proverbs 28:26 teaches that; “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.”
There is considerable evidence that ‘feel good feelings’ are not always reliable as a means of determining veracity.
Unlike the Book of Mormon, the truth of the Bible does not require that we abandon critical thinking and just pray for a ‘good feeling’ to prove it true.
The truthfulness of the Holy Bible is obvious to anyone willing to investigate it. Unlike the Book of Mormon, the Bible is self-consistent and extraordinarily authentic. Its geography exists, many of its characters have been verified. Unlike the Book of Mormon, the Bible has been confirmed countless times by archaeology and other sciences. It possesses divine insight into the nature of the universe and it has made correct predictions about future events with perfect accuracy.
I don’t doubt you must have strong feelings about the Church. However, I question whether these feelings are enough to suspend all application of intellect.
People from all religions report having the same feelings that witness to them that their religion and beliefs are true.
Aliza Kim a young devout Muslim shares her testimony:
“After reciting the Shahadah, what I felt cannot be accurately described. I felt a rushing sensation go through me which felt like a thorough cleansing. I felt pure and was given lightness, peace and genuine happiness. I had never felt such innocent gladness like that in my life. And, those feelings have stayed on till this day, and I know they will be with me until my last day in this world. I am happy with Allah, my Maker and with my chosen religion.” 15
If Moroni’s challenge works for Mormons and their faith, certainly the same principle must work for Moslems and theirs, Jews and theirs and Catholics and theirs. Surely you are not so arrogant to claim exclusivity when it comes to gifts of the spirit.
Indeed, many non-Mormons would describe this ‘burning in the bosom’ sensation as simply “heartwarming,” a warm feeling related to an emotional response or passionate elation. The event or drama which generates it need not be true. It may come from watching a ‘tear-jerker’ movie where the protagonist dies saving his friend or listening to a rousing rendition of the National Anthem or the Battle Hymn of the Republic or just reading one of Paul Dunn’s, ‘war stories.’
Like other members, I had viewed your calling to the first presidency as a breath of fresh air. But as I see it, you now have a choice. You can continue to attend temple dedications and appear on the scene at American natural disasters and cut the ribbons at new malls and continue to live a life of privilege, wealth and ease. You can continue to go along and get along with your Church broke colleagues, or you can lead and make a difference by addressing the legitimate questions I have enumerated here.
I hope you will take this in the spirit it is given,
I have been direct, even blunt, but you strike me as a man who would prefer candor to approbation. If it was wrong to ask why I will know soon enough.
While it should not be necessary to say it, my faith crisis is based solely on the problems and issues I have identified in this letter. While I have been told I don’t suffer fools gladly, my misgivings do not represent hostile aggression on my part or come in response to someone looking at me the wrong way at church.
My misgivings with the LDS Church, have come after examining and researching Joseph Smith and the history of the Church from LDS-friendly sources. Sources such as the Journal of Discourses, Lectures on Faith, official Church records, documents, talks, letters and the scriptures themselves, and thoughtfully, even prayerfully asking for help, as I am doing here.
Dr. John Dehlin has done work exploding the following five most common myths associated with why faithful members leave the church:
- Someone offended them: No one hurt me, I love and respect my friends and family many of whom are committed members.
- A desire to sin: I am 70 years old, so it’s a little late for that!
- Never had a testimony in the first place: Again wrong, I wouldn’t have served in various callings, paid my tithing or attended the temple if I had never believed.
- Lazy, not reading the scriptures: I love the New Testament and read it often; admittedly the Book of Mormon, not so much.
- Studying anti-Mormon literature: While we might disagree as to what anti-Mormon Literature is, I certainly have not gone down that rabbit hole. It is easy to identify people who hate or those whose agenda is to destroy. I would not, however, consider the work of Richard Bushman, Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Fawn Brodie, B. H. Roberts, Dan Vogel or Grant Palmer, Mormon Stories or even Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, and the award-winning Broadway hit “The Book of Mormon.” as anti-Mormon.
As it happens, and quite unintentionally, I am writing this letter to you on Father’s Day 2017. My father, Thomas Douglas was a truthful and honorable man. He taught me in his humble way that truth is essential, it endures forever, and we should dauntlessly seek to know it. The Lord too admonished us to pursue the truth, for “… the truth will set you free.”
I cannot dishonor my father’s memory by placing all these weighty problems on my drooping shelf and then just walk away.
You will remember that Christ told Pilate before his agonizing death, “… for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”
There is a wonderful allegory in Book Seven of Plato’s; The Republic often referred to as ‘Plato’s Cave.’
It tells the story of many men held prisoner, chained and shackled such that they cannot look to their left or their right or behind themselves but only forward at the wall in front of them. Behind them is a blazing fire and between them and the fire is a walkway where men carry statues and other large objects.
All that the prisoners can see is the shadows of the objects that appeared on the cave wall in front of them which they then talk to each other about. Some of the older prisoners, ‘the elders,’ have developed explanations as to what these shadows represent; what their meaning is.
Then one day, a prisoner is released. Now free to wander around the cave, he sees the fire, and many of the objects moved in front of it. This former prisoner finally comes to understand the origins of the shadows, and to his amazement, he sees that the shadows were often misinterpreted.
He hurries back to share with his fellow prisoners the true meaning of the shadows, what the truth is.
But rather than welcome and embrace the reality, many of his former friends ridiculed him, particularly the elders, who even seek to take his life.
Finally, the freed prisoner is let out of the cave into the world beyond, a world filled with radiant sunshine where he can now see the fullness of reality illuminated by the brilliance of the sun.
I am speaking to my dear brothers and sisters here, you and I are like those prisoners. We see as it says in Corinthians, through a glass darkly. We live in a world where, like the prisoners, our knowledge is imperfect, a world of conjecture and illusion.
Some elders presume to know what the shadows mean, but they too are prisoners, and their shackles are just as firmly in place as are our own.
I don’t presume to be that prisoner freed from his chains who now longs to share the truth that only he can see. I am just a fellow prisoner, viewing the shapes and shadows on the wall, but seeking the truth by asking those questions that ‘the elders’ hope the prisoners dare not ask.
We will all leave the cave one day. Will we find in that day, as we enter that new world filled with the dazzling brightness of truth, that we had spent our time in the cave wisely or foolishly?
I hope that what I have written might provide greater clarity regarding the shadows that animate our actions and beliefs. At least it will show that there are alternative interpretations to those presented by the ‘elders.’
On a more optimistic note, the LDS Church has shown that, while rare, it can change. Thousands of changes have been made to the Book of Mormon.
Some of those changes to make it more politically correct, “White and delightsome,” to “Pure and delightsome.”
Others to reflect doctrinal changes; “…beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.” to “…beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.”
Others in response to American political pressure. Witness the suspension of polygamy, and acceptance of Blacks into the priesthood.
So, I would say to anyone reading this, fresh courage take, for when the pressure is on, the ‘Brethren’ receives revelation.
Just my opinion but, if in the future, the United States Government, moves to disallow tax deductibility for organizations discriminating against LGBTQ people as it was moving to do during the Jimmy Carter’s administration for organizations discriminating against African Americans; in that day, the heavens will open!
And while I have my head in my hat, let me say that I believe that women will finally be invited to play a meaningful leadership role in the Church, that an accommodation will be made for same-sex unions in some manner, practicing gay men and women will find a home in the Church and the ill-conceived policy of banning the children of Gay parents from Church membership will be lifted.
Why? Because the principal goal of any bureaucracy is viability – survival, and the LDS Church is certainly no exception.
None of these changes will make the Mormon Church any more or less true they will just advance the Church’s desire to be viewed as a mainstream Christian religion.
President Uchtdorf truth matters; it is a value, not an issue as the Church too often seems to view it.
I wrote to you asking these difficult questions not solely for myself, an insignificant sinner, but for of the myriad credulous men and women who put their unwavering faith in you and your colleagues. Particularly I wrote this in behalf of the generation of innocent little children who deserve to grow up knowing what is true.
If you ever read this open letter to you, I would still like to hear from you.
Let me end by offering you all my very best wishes for your future and leave you with this quote by Thomas Jefferson:
“Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.”
Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
My Friend, I would love to hear from you:
1 Kathy Erickson, letter to the Salt Lake Phantom or Ex-Mormons (difference) Tribune, 11 March 11, 2001.
2 Joseph Smith “King Follett Discourse,” Journal of Discourses 6:3-4,
3 Brigham Young – Prophet, 2nd President, Journal of Discourses 7:333.
4 Milton R. Hunter, General Authority “The Gospel Through the Ages”, 1945, p 104).
5 Joseph Fielding Smith, Prophet, 10th President Doctrines of Salvation 1:10,
6 Bruce R. McConkie – Apostle Mormon Doctrine, 1966 edition p. 250.
7 The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, ed. Clyde J. Williams , 1.
8 Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:21
9 Brigham Young, President and second ‘Prophet’ of the Mormon Church, 1844-1877 – Quotation from Journal of Discourses
10 Brigham Young, President and second ‘Prophet’ of the Mormon Church, 1863, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, p. 110.
11 Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 101, 1935
12 Mormonism, A Life Under False Pretenses, Lee B. Baker
13 Ted Walch & Lois M. Collins, Deseret News, January 28, 2016
14 Boyd K. Packer, Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council, 5/18/93.
15 The Truth That Found Me by Aliza Kim (January 2014) LGBTQ Policies.