The Letter

 


A Letter to an Apostle


June 18, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
50 East North Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84150

My Dear President:

I am writing to you in the spirit of honesty and genuine hope and desire to commune directly with you. I have respect for you and the compassionate and honest approach you have taken to those experiencing doubts.

I am a lifetime member of the Church, father of five, a high priest and married in the Salt Lake Temple.

My family emigrated from Ireland to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, when I was five. The Edmonton branch then had N. Eldon Tanner as its President.

As a student and teacher of organizational behavior, particularly bureaucracies for over forty years, it is clear to me that the LDS church is heading into rough waters. A squall that may well threaten the church’s viability; at least in its present form.

weber

Max Weber, the great German sociologist, and political economist, was born twenty years after Joseph Smith’s death. He spent his life studying power, authority, and the functioning of large-scale organizations in the political, economic, and administrative realms.

Weber recognized that bureaucracies are created and organized according to rational principles. Incumbents being ranked in hierarchical order with their functions characterized by impersonal rules and governed by the methodical apportionment of jurisdiction and defined spheres of responsibility.

He correctly predicted that bureaucratic coordination of the actions of vast numbers of people would become the dominant structural feature of modern organizations. Weber saw the bureaucracy as the favored organizational form, the one that would shape both the modern polity and economy. Weber felt that bureaucracy offered the same advantages to the enterprise that assembly-line productive efficiency provided to mechanical production.

Weber also noted, however, that there were limitations and dysfunctions with the bureaucratic form of organization. Its primary advantage, the high probability of predetermined results, also makes it cumbersome and inflexible in dealing with specific or unique individual cases and or changing circumstances. Weber argued that bureaucratization leads to depersonalization, a structural intransigence and a slow response to change which can portend its collapse.

I believe the following four weaknesses that threaten the viability of any bureaucracy are becoming more pronounced in the LDS Church in this generation:

Rigid Inflexibility: A strict compliance with rules and regulations to the degree of discouraging useful initiative and creativity and resulting in a slow reaction to change and hesitant response to crisis.

Impersonality: An unthinking perfunctory way of doing things being stressed. With organizational rules and regulations being given priority over the individual’s needs, desires or feelings.

Goal Displacement: The tendency for the rules drawn to achieve corporate objectives at every level in the organization becoming an end in themselves. 

Isolation at the Top: As the organization grows in complexity, those at the top become increasingly out of touch with lower-level participants and their issues, fears, and concerns.

As you are no doubt aware, the growth of the Mormon church is over.

Nevertheless, the church still takes pride in projecting the public image that it is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world. An ignorant and lazy media repeat this mantra which is blatantly and demonstrably untrue. The Mormon church is not now, nor has it ever been the fastest growing religion nor even close.

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There is a principle of influence and propaganda that is often referred to as the Law of Conformity. It is what in logic, we call the bandwagon effect. If you are over thirty years of age, you can no doubt remember when every McDonald’s restaurant sign in the world displayed ’30 Billion Served.’

The Law of Conformity or social proof is the psychological phenomenon where people reference the behaviors of others to guide their actions.

It recognizes that we are social animals. We like what others like. We reject and discard what other people reject and discard. We tend to do what other people do to follow the crowd. We perceive behaviors as being more correct in a given situation to the degree that others view them as accurate. This ‘law’ extends to what we wear, how fast we drive on the freeway, what we buy, and yes, what religion we adhere to.

While the church’s PR department still perpetuates the lie that the church is experiencing extraordinary growth because it serves their purposes, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep up the façade.

The halcyon days of even four or five percent growth are long gone. The church may actually be in decline. As you know is in absolute free-fall in Europe. If it were not for the current missionary success in West Africa and a few parts of South America, even the current paltry growth rate of 1.21% wouldn’t be reached.

Additionally, while the church does not report resignations, some estimate that over 100,000 members officially resign from the church each year, and, of course, even more, just walk away and increase the already enormous inactive ranks. Again, Cumorah.com reports that “75 percent of foreign [LDS] converts are not attending church within a year of conversion. In the United States, 50 percent of converts fail to attend after a year.”

I would suggest that building your hopes on Liberia and Nigeria is not a very good business model. Even in these ‘hot spots,’ retention rates are meagre, some reported in the single digits.

According to sociologist Armand Mauss, in some parts of Latin America, 30 to 40 percent of new converts do not even return to church after baptism to be confirmed. 

But perhaps of greater concern to your ‘brethren,’ is that tithing income does not meet the operating costs of the church in those countries.

Clearly, the success the church is having in parts of Latin America and West Africa is because most of the populous are naïvely innocent and less well educated. But perhaps even more significant, the Internet and the “alternative” facts it showcases are mostly unavailable to Mormon converts in these countries. Further most insightful criticism and commentary on Joseph Smith and the church’s actual historicity is chronicled in the English language.

This is why, in my opinion, in true ’emperor’s new clothes’ style, the Mormon church projects wildly overly optimistic membership statistics. 

It is a real challenge to get honest membership statistics from the church itself, there are numerous examples of how inflated their counts are. In Iceland, for example, where every registered religion receives a tax rebate for every member over sixteen (sóknargjald) the government reports 162 registered Mormons (1) in 2019 while the church reports on its website 288 members (178% inflation). (2)

1 Populations by religious and life stance organizations”. Statistics Iceland.
2  https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/facts-and-statistics/country/iceland

Mormon demographer David Clark Knowlton in an article entitled, “How Many Members Are There Really?” shows how exaggerated Mormon memberships statistics are:


Mexico:

Members claimed by the church (1999) 846,931
Mormons in the official gov’t census (2000) 205,229
Phantom or ex-Mormons (difference) 641,702
Percentage of Mexican Mormons Overstated by the LDS Church 76%


Chile:

Members claimed by the church (2001) 520,202
Mormons in the official gov’t census (2002) 103,735
Phantom or ex-Mormons (difference) 416,467
Percentage of Chilean Mormons Overstated by the LDS Church 80%

David Clark Knowlton,
“How Many Members Are There Really?”,
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought,
38:2:53-78, Summer 2005)

As you must be aware, Islam is far and away the world’s fastest-growing religion. The number of Muslims on this planet will leap from 1.9 billion in 2018 to 2.76 billion by 2050. At that time, Muslims will make up one-third of the world’s total projected population of about 9 billion people.

Even if we compare Mormonism to more traditional Christian denominations, The LDS current dismal growth rate of 1.21% stacks up poorly against that of a great many others.

cgc

The Church of God in Christ

In 1965, the COG had 425,000 members. In 2012, the membership was 5,499,875, an increase of 1,194 percent.

The Presbyterian Church (in America)

pres

In 1973, the PCA had 41,232 members. In 2013, the membership was 367,033, an increase of 790 percent.

asem

The Assemblies of God

In 1965, the AoG had 572,123 members. In 2013, the membership was 3,030,944, an increase of 430 percent.

The Southern Baptist Convention

sbc

In 1965, the SBC had 10,770,573 members. In 2013, the membership was 15,735,640, an increase of 46 percent.

And these are honest numbers. As well, the LDS church counts membership differently than Christian churches. In most churches, members are asked to vote on various matters, and so, unlike the Mormon church, these churches do not want to waste their time and resources reaching out to those who no longer have any interest in their churches.

This is not the way the Mormons count. The LDS church is not a democracy. Members have no say as to what goes on in their church. The closest they ever come to having a say is an occasional superficial, untabulated ‘uplifted hand‘ in a sacrament meeting or at a general conference.

As you know, once someone joins the Mormon church, even if they attend one meeting never to return, they are counted on the church’s membership rolls for the rest of their life! 

Many are counted beyond the grave as the majority of those on the church’s rolls are inactive, so consequently the church is unaware of their passing.

While the church publishes worldwide membership numbers at about 16 million, Cumorah.com reports that less than half of those the church counts even identify themselves as Mormon. Assuming that the number of active members is lower than those who would even want to be identified as Mormon, hardly a heroic assumption, the actual functional membership, even ignoring record resignations, is more realistically to be around 5 million men, women, and children. And that is being generous.

Even lowering the missionary age from 21 to 18 for men and 19 for women — clearly hasn’t stopped the bleeding. Convert rates are now even worse than Jehovah’s Witnesses’ retention rates, which used to set the ‘abysmal continuance standard.’

Also to bolster their numbers, the church now adds to their membership numbers what they call, ‘children of record,’ boys and girls 0 – 7 years-of-age who have not yet been baptized and are therefore not actual members of the church.

The church’s annual report presented during General Conference shows that the LDS church grew by 261,862 people in 2015, a 1.7% annual increase. In 2016, it was even worse 1.58% and in 2017 even worse again 1.48%, and in 2018 it dipped to 1.21%. This is the slowest growth in any year since 1937 (when it was 0.93%), and again, these numbers are suspect.

Not surprisingly, it now appears that the church will no longer report the growth statistics. Having to report negative growth does not support the Mormon church’s growth myth.

Members are also having fewer children as the following shows:

New children of record during 2014……… 116,409
New children of record during 2015 …… 114,550
New children of record during 2016……… 109,246
New children of record during 2017……… 106,771
New children of record during 2018……… 102,102

2018 Statistical Report for 2019 April Conference

With a growth rate of 1.21%, convert baptisms down each year, and declining member activity rates – 25% for young single adults, it can be argued that the Mormon church is actually in decline.

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And again, there are also thousands of people officially resigning from the church every month, record numbers, but this is a statistic the church does not publish as it runs contrary to its growth fable.

The chart below shows the church’s current and its projected membership statistics.

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Active membership in the church which, as this chart shows, is less than 5 million with non-actives at more than double that number. The active membership will be virtually the same in 2060 with the non-active membership four times active membership. 

In her new book The Next Mormons, journalist Jan Riess provides some interesting statistics. In 2007, 70 percent of those raised in the LDS church were still in it as adults, by 2014, it dropped to 64 percent — and among Millennials, it was down to 62 percent. Riess, suggests that such apostasy rates are gaining momentum, and soon, as many as half of Millennials, raised Mormon will leaving the faith.

Riess’ research provides additional statistics. 67 percent of older Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, only 51 percent of Millennial Mormons believe so. 24 percent of older Mormons are disturbed by the exclusion of women from the priesthood, 59 percent of younger Mormons are. 20 percent of older Mormons think that gay marriage should be legal in the U.S., 40 percent of younger Mormons do. 78 percent of older Mormons watch General Conference, 44 percent of younger Mormons do so.

Some have suggested that the ship has hit the iceberg and it’s going down – the ship being the LDS church and the iceberg the Internet.

I believe, this new reality, is the reason the Mormon church has wisely taken a page out of Scientology’s playbook, aggressively building its secular empire – malls, raw land, TV stations, corporate ownership and the like, in anticipation of the inevitable future downturn in tithing revenues.

Does 1.2% growth, mostly coming from sub-Saharan Africa give credence to Joseph Smith’s bold prophesy?

“The truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear.”

Hardly.

The world population grew by over 80 million people in 2018. The church reports that 195,000 people joined the church in that year. Proportionately, fewer people, not more people on earth are discovering the LDS church each year.

Does the church’s dismal growth mean the church is not true? Of course not, but I think we need to ask why the stagnation?

I am sure that of even more significant concern to the brethren is the growing number of members questioning what they have been taught. People are resigning in droves, and even more, are just quietly becoming inactive:

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Clint Kimball, LDS Membership Statistics,
Updated August 20, 2018

David Ostler conducted a survey in May of 2018 of 514 stake and ward leaders about their faith and about the faith challenges they see in their ward, stake and organization. He received 514 qualified responses. In the survey, he defined a faith crisis as, when “a person discovers new information about the church and enters a state of intense dissonance and stress resulting in a loss of faith in some or all foundational truth claims.”

Below is a summary of responses for one of the key questions he asked:

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Ostler’s research shows that 97% of respondents know someone in their circle that has had a faith crisis. 95% reported that they knew someone in their ward, and 23% said they knew many in their ward who have experienced severe doubts. The leadership of the church must be keenly aware of this problem and have no doubt conducted its own more detailed research.

The chart below shows how the church has responded to the needs of those experiencing a faith crisis:

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The statistics show that more than half of stake and ward leaders (54%) indicated that the ‘church’ provides adequate information to leaders to help those experiencing, however when asked the less speculative question, does, “our stake or ward provide training to leaders about faith crisis?” it dropped to 15%.

These data clearly show that the church is in a quandary as to what they can do to stop this hemorrhaging. They have stayed with their time-honored but counterproductive practice of excommunicating anyone who too publicly questions the dogma. A policy that is wholly non-productive as they are throwing out the best and the brightest members.

The church has made a begrudging attempt at openness with the release of 13 Gospel Topic Essays that are intended address troubling historical issues that are causing members to doubt and leave the church, but it is generally recognized that they are too little too late. They are replete with historical misinterpretations, misleading statements, and an abundance of omissions. For example, in their essay on Blacks and the Priesthood, they state:

“In 1850, the U.S. Congress created Utah Territory, and the U.S. president appointed Brigham Young to the position of territorial governor. Southerners, who had converted to the church and migrated to Utah with their slaves, raised the question of slavery’s legal status in the territory. In two speeches delivered before the Utah territorial legislature in January and February 1852, Brigham Young announced a policy restricting men of black African descent from priesthood ordination. At the same time, President Young said that at some future day, black Church members would “have [all] the privilege and more” enjoyed by other members.”

But they fail to include the many racist statements by Young as well as quotes by him that indicate that there is no promise that the restrictions would be lifted in the foreseeable future:

“What is that mark? You will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth, or ever will see. Now I tell you what I know; when the mark was put upon Cain, Abels children was in all probability young; the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the preisthood (sic) nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had received the preisthood,(sic) until the redemption (sic) of the earth. If there never was a prophet, or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are, I know that they cannot bear rule in the preisthood,(sic) for the curse on them was to remain upon them, until the resedue (sic) of the posterity of Michal (sic) and his wife receive the blessings, the seed of Cain would have received had they not been cursed; and hold the keys of the preisthood,(sic) until the times of the restitution shall come, and the curse be wiped off from the earth, and from michals (sic) seed.”

Also, his statement from the same Deseret News article:

“…yet, the Canaanites may believe the Gospel, repent, and be baptized, and receive the Spirit of the Lord, and if he continues until Abel’s race is satisfied with his blessings, then may the race of Cain receive a fullness of the Priesthood, and become satisfied with its blessings, and the two of them became as one again, when Cain has paid the uttermost farthing.”

                                                                                               Deseret News, April 3, 1852

This is typical of the Gospel Essays, I find they are so highly edited, and so factually massaged to make them of little value to anyone seeking the whole truth. The essay on the Book of Abraham is nothing short of laughable. Not only does it not pass Occam Razor’s test,  it stretches credulity to extraordinary lengths.

I guess the church is in a bind; if they are honest, they know that multitudes will leave. I suppose they are hoping that at least the less discerning members will accept the stories the essays tell and not seek the whole story. That their search for truth will end there and they will not go on to read the work of legitimate non-Mormon historians, archeologists and geneticists. 

Is it working?  Six years in, the ‘Essays’ Project’ has done little to stop the wave of defections.

In my opinion, things will not get better for the Mormon church unless or until it addresses the bureaucratic weaknesses it currently suffers from. The rigid inflexibility and strict compliance to rules and regulations discouraging any useful initiative and creativity from those within the organization who have much to contribute. This results in a sluggish reaction to change and timid response to crisis.

More importantly the church needs to stop lying and apologize for their racist, sexist and homophobic history.

The Mormon church is a geneocracy, it is run by old men whose qualification for the job appears to be they outlived their peers.  Many of them have fallen into a vegetative state during their tenure. Are these the right people to run a vital organization? 

But how do you get the next in line to do the right thing, have a ‘revelation’ that changes the rules and retire? Some of them have been waiting in the wings for a generatiion.

As the church has grown, it has become more and more centralized and impersonal. The rules drawn to achieve corporate objectives have become an end in themselves. Unthinking perfunctory ways of doing things are still being stressed. Organizational rules and regulations are given priority over member’s needs, desires or feelings.

And, perhaps most importantly, there is isolation at the top. As the church grew in complexity, the financial and ego-boosting rewards were increasingly bestowed on those at the top. They became increasingly out of touch with lower-level participants and their issues, fears, and concerns.

This has to change if the church wishes to remain viable. 

I had mentioned that one issue that may have a deleterious effect is increased bureaucratization with its attendant inflexibility, irresolute response to change and impersonality. It is certainly anecdotal, but I have heard people say that the church seems to lack the vitality it once did. That it feels more like an ‘organization’ and less like a church as it once did.

Certainly there are other factors affecting the church’s growth including the general increase in secularism in the developed world.

It is almost trite to say that the world’s newest major religion is no religion! And just as a rising tide lifts all boats, an ebbing tide also lowers them. But, in the LDS church’s case, Google and the ubiquitous Internet has had and continues to have a much more significant impact on Mormonism than it has on other religions with the possible exception of Scientology.

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The Internet however is to Mormonism what the King James Bible was to Catholicism.

Why?

Because of the astounding claims made by its founder and the fact that the genesis of this peculiar religion is quite recent; well within the grasp and examination of scholars and historians.

Websites such as mormonthink.com, cesletter.org, exmormon.org, utim.org, reddit.com, the CES Letter and Richard Packham’s, Dan Vogel’s and Grant Palmer’s sites as well as numerous blogs such as John Dehlin’s mormonstories.org, zelphontheshelf.com, and mormoncurtain.org,  are just a click away.

Everyone now has their own “Urim and Thummim” right in the palm of their hand!

Members and investigators alike can now access historically accurate, uncorrelated and unsanitized views of Joseph Smith and the Mormon church’s foundational claims than was possible just a few decades ago.

It is indeed becoming harder to keep secrets in the digital age.

I think it is telling to look at the Google results received for each of the following searches:

I know Mormonism is true – 750,000
I know Mormonism is false – 651,000
Joseph Smith prophet – 496,000
Joseph Smith con man – 6,250,000
President Monson – 673,000
MormonThink – 13,000,000
Inspiring LDS Stories – 704,000
CES letter – 19,100,000

                                                         Google Search Date: June 6, 2017

It is not hyperbole to say young people are the future of the church. According to the 2011 Pew Research Center’s ‘Survey of American Mormons’ 51% of American converts are under the age of 25.

The church’s hard-line on LGBTQ issues is alienating to a generation that, as a whole, embraces inclusion and diversity. Homosexuality is not as problematic for Millennial Mormons as it was for their parents.

I believe the following problems about the truth claims of the church need to be addressed in a more direct, honest, comprehensive and less defensive way. Also, unless the goal is plausible deniability, I cannot understand why the church hides behind and gives tacit support to, nonofficial apologetic sites. Why do they not answer honestly and directly the legitimate concerns members and non-members have with the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the foundational claims of the church?

As for the avowals of the apologists at FairMormon, while less shrill and unChristlike than the stuff that used to come out of FARMS, this new generation of apologists seem to have adopted a tenor of desperate revisionism.

Failing a Mormon reformation or a significant change to the church’s dominant narrative, any future growth of Mormonism will, in no wise, equal its past.

But please, I am not suggesting that the LDS church will soon disappear. I think anyone who thinks it will just don’t know either history or bureaucracies.

And studies such as the 2016 Next Mormons Survey (NMS) show that chapel going Mormons still have a high level of belief. NMS questioned American Mormons about the level of their belief in Mormonism – its doctrines and practices. They asked members the question, ‘Which statement comes closest to your views—even if none is exactly right?’

a) I believe wholeheartedly in all of the teachings of the LDS church. (49.1%)

b) I believe many or most of the teachings of the LDS church. (33.9)

c) Some of the teachings of the LDS church are hard for me to believe. (12.2%)

d) Many or most of the teachings of the LDS church are hard for me to believe. (31%)

e) I do not believe in the teachings of the LDS church. (1.8%)

The numbers in parentheses indicate how people responded. Over 80% of those asked said they believed in all, many or most of the teachings of the LDS church. That is a very impressive statistic.

But there are a few significant impediments to any significant further growth of the Mormon church.

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First, we cannot escape the fact that Mormonism is and always has been an American religion. People outside the United States in countries that the church needs to fuel future growth are often “turned off” by American exceptionalism, and what can appear to be a ”style over substance,’ celebrity worshiping, materialistic culture. As well the prosperity Gospel the ”Brethren’ have been known to preach to bolster tithing receipts is recognized by many to be questionably.

The principles and tactics of ”salesmanship” that worked so well in David O. McKay’s 1950s America are, if not offensive, irrelevant in today’s third world.

Second, the church is out of step with most people in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe when it comes to contemporary social issues. A women’s right to make choices relating to her own body, the struggle for fairness and equality for LGBTQ people, and a host of other less dominant matters – euthanasia, the adjuvant uses of marijuana, etc.

14yr

But, the greatest obstacle to the future growth of Mormonism has to be Joseph Smith himself. Smith’s polygamy and polyandry and his ceaseless lying about these matters to not just to his associates and followers but to his real or at least legal wife Emma, as well as his many failed prophecies, and his boastful, self-aggrandizing nature.

More members are becoming aware of his sexual unions with many teenage girls, some as young as 14-years-of-age. This is hard for decent people to accept. Likewise, Smith’s lengthy ‘rap sheet’ including arrests for glass-looking, money-digging, being a disorderly person, threatening a sitting judge, perjury, inciting a riot, bank fraud and twice for both conspiracy to commit murder and treason. What does it say about the character of a man who when caught in a bank fraud scheme, packs his bags and flees town in the middle of the night leaving his flock to pay his debts.

When people discover the real Joseph Smith, warts and all, not the sanitized fiction the church has crafted, the version that most members were taught as children; it is not a pretty picture.

Also, as more non-Mormon historians turn their attention to Joseph Smith and the actual historicity of his foundation claims, the more difficult it has become for the church to put a positive spin on his actions, behavior, and most of all, his character.

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Maybe ‘not all things that are true, are useful,’ as your replacement in the First Presidency, Dallin Oaks says with a smirk, but they are still true and useful or not; they will be revealed despite relentless attempts at censure and coverup.

I suspect many, perhaps most, true believing members, particularly those over forty, will continue, to do what they have been told and avoid exposure to anything that is not, ‘faith promoting.’ To these people, Mormonism is something you do rather than something you believe.

It is going too far to picture most Mormons as latter-day Manchurian Candidates, naïve souls whose indoctrination has been so efficacious, that they accept uncritically, everything coming out of the mouths of their leaders. But statements from the likes of Oaks such as ‘we should not criticize the ‘Brethren’ even when they are wrong,‘ or ‘once the Prophet speaks, … the debate is over,‘ must give one pause.

Surely president Uchtdorf, as an elderly German you must ask yourself, do these statements not resonate with a familiar fascistic tenor?

We are seeing a growing number of members, particularly young ones, having the courage, despite the cognitive dissidence they experience, searching for truth.

Prospects, or ‘investigators,’ as the church likes to call them, are finding easy access to the rapidly growing number of online resources challenging the church’s foundational narrative and truth claims.

While some would suggest that the church leadership’s lack of transparency is based on the belief that, if its members were to be exposed to the church’s real history, they would leave the Mormon church in droves. A more generous view would grant that the imperative is to protect members, particularly the elderly, from unnecessary pain and confusion.

I suspect both are true. The problem, however is that in the twenty-first century, an increasing number of members will nonetheless be exposed to the unvarnished truth. It might just be how many wives Joseph Smith had or his ‘head in the hat’ means of translation.

At that point they will not just feel confused, they will feel deceived and this is likely to be worse than any difficulty that would have arisen had the church been more forthright; because it begs the question, “What else are they not telling me?”

Would it not be better to rip the Band-Aid© off, and honestly face the legitimate doubts, concerns, and questions people are having with the church’s fundamental truth claims? To do what is right, letting the consequences follow, even if it means the reconstruction of the church’s dominant narrative.

After all, the admission that Joseph Smith was anything but a saint is not necessarily a ‘deal-breaker.’ If anything, it gives hope to those of us who are also imperfect beings.

One last thing, however, before we get into the meat of my analysis. There is a view within the church that we should not question, but rather accept whatever the church leaders tell us. This view is well illustrated in the following excerpt from an editorial that appeared in the Church News reporting the Church Conference of April 7th, 1895, Wilford Woodruff stood up and said with annoyance.

wilford-woodruff

“Cease troubling yourselves about who God is, who Adam is, who Christ is, who Jehovah is, for heaven’s sake, let these things alone.”

He was essentially saying, ‘Damn you, just believe what I tell you to believe!’

I liked Eldon Tanner, he was my Branch President way back, but I cannot accept his statement that: “…when the prophet speaks, the debate is over,” any more than I would accept, “…when the Führer speaks, the debate is over,”

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I have been asked, why go to the trouble of studying, researching and writing this? Why not just walk away?

It’s complicated, but let me try to answer that question with a parable.

A man is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. After the initial shock of the bad news, he searches for the best cancer clinic, the hospital where he can get the best treatment available. After an exhaustive investigation, he settles on a facility that others have testified to as being highly effective, even though it is costly.

This hapless soul sells all he has and travels to this far distant clinic. But after a time, as his fortune is depleted and his condition deteriorates even further he learns that the clinic is a fraud. He discovers that the chemotherapy and medications that have been administered to him were nothing but worthless placebos – sugar pills. His radiation treatment was revealed to amount to a ‘doctor’ shining a laser pointer on his body.

 What should this poor man do? Should he pack his bag and quietly walk away?

 What would you do?

I am guessing you would cause a stir; you might go to the press or the law, you would do your best to warn others of this gross deception and fraud.

I understand that when someone questions your long-held beliefs, one’s first response is likely to be anger; as suggested in Galatians:

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
                                                                                                         Galatians 4:16

I have of course been the recipient of ad hominem attacks, one can hardly write a critique of something as vital as one’s religious beliefs without such being the case. Rarely are these attacks to my face, but rather through anonymous missives or malicious gossip. I understand the genesis of such hostility and my ego is not so tender that they dishearten. The only time, I must confess, do they hurt is when they come from friends or extended family.

I hope you will believe me when I tell you, I am not trying to hurt my brothers and sisters. I am merely trying to provide the facts and evidence of which they are unaware. Information that can empower and enable a more informed position regarding the truth claims of the Mormon church.

Truth really does matter.

Finally, on a personal note, I would like to tell you in my extensive examination of Joseph Smith and the Mormon narrative, while I found many disturbing things which I detail below, I did not uncover anything that assailed my faith in, nor my love for, the Savior.

Whether the Mormon church is true or it is not true, I boldly confess my testimony that the Lord Jesus Christ lives. He is the truth, the way, and the life.

So, President Uchtdorf, let me make one final plea to you to help those of us honestly searching for answers.

Faithful Latter-day Saints, believe there is no higher authority on earth than you and your colleagues. Indeed you and they purport to speak on behalf of the Almighty.

You know, I know, and more and more members are coming to know that there are disquieting questions regarding the truth claims of the Mormon church, the Book of Mormon and the Joseph Smith story.

It is not time that you and your colleagues provide an honest full-throated response to the questions I raise in the chapters that follow? To do the right thing letting the consequences and disruption to your comfortable existence follow. If not now, when? If not you, who – Bedard, Holland, Russell or Oaks?

Paul A. Douglas

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Click here to continue with my examination of the Book of Mormon