The Raison d’etre

A Letter to an Apostle –
Raison d’etre

“… 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,

 As you say, Orson.

I have made several assertions in my letter relating to the questions for which I am seeking answers or at least a greater understanding. It is only right and proper that I provide at least a few of the sources of my deep-felt concerns.

I have tried to compile the most recent and compelling research related to my interrogatories. I have also endeavored to provide facts and verifiable data rather than opinions and testimonies.

As you will see, many of the facts I quote and the commentaries I reference come from Church friendly sources – LDS historical documents, letters from learned and sometimes not so learned church leaders, the Journal of Discourses, the History of the Church by Joseph Smith, Prophet’s diaries and letters, Church newspapers and magazines as well as the LDS scriptures themselves. The remainder has been gleaned from serious and often meticulous research conducted by many of the world’s top scholars in several scientific disciplines and professional historians.

Admittedly, when it comes to questions of a purely scientific nature, issues relating to archaeology, anthropology, paleontology, genetics, like any reasonable person, I have given more credence to the considered opinions of non-Mormon researchers because these researchers and thinkers are free to go where the truth may take them.

It is common knowledge that any opinion, commentary or theory that contradicts or opposes fundamental Mormon doctrine or policies are not only discouraged at BYU but are, grounds for, and have often resulted in, dismissal.

Having taught at a large non-Mormon university, I am keenly aware of how stymying, these strict limitations placed on academic freedom at BYU and other LDS owned schools must be.

Likewise, and more importantly, the work done by non-Mormon professors is subject to peer review. It is rare, for example, that a BYU paper in the field of archeology or anthropology would be accepted by a prestigious scientific journal.

I have also strained to provide the most cogent arguments I could find relating to the subjects of my concern written by the army of Mormon apologists. These days, this means the folks at FairMormon.

I have tried to let the apologists’ statements and interpretations stand on their own and have struggled to comment only when their underlying assumptions are patently absurd, their reasoning manifestly illogical or I feel they are trying to deceive.

I have commented quite a bit!

Finally, this is not a hit piece. I have tried to fair, and present both sides of the story,  including the many rebuttal by FairMormon, however, this is serious stuff.

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, in many cases, no match for their well-oiled PR machine. So, forgive me if I don’t pull any punches in presenting facts and evidence that raises doubts about the Church’s narrative or the truthfulness of its past and present leadership.

As I have said already, I certainly do not accept the Orwellian mantra hoisted on an already subdued people by the likes of Dallin Oaks that, “Not everything that’s true is useful.”

Useful to whom and for what purpose? Has Oaks considered that the corollary to this puerile statement must also hold, “That not everything that’s false is NOT useful!”

I am told that Oaks was trained as a lawyer, not at BYU, but a highly-ranked law school, the University of Chicago. Surely, at that school, he must have taken a class in classical logic or philosophy. But that was a long time ago, and perhaps he has forgotten the ‘Law of the Excluded Middle,’ espoused by Bertrand Russell. The law simply states that if ‘A is B’ is false, then ‘A is not B’ must be true.

If we accept that Oaks statement in the affirmative that, ‘A – Not everything that is true’ is ‘B – Useful,’ is equal in the negative too, ‘Everything that is true is not useful,’ then it must follow that, ‘Not everything that is false is not useful.’

But then again, perhaps he believes that. There is certainly no lack of examples in the Mormon experience where things that were known to be untrue were nonetheless very useful.

Joseph Smith’s denials of his polygamous marriages, and the many lies he told the Saints and his wife in this regard. False statements? Certainly, but very useful – to him!’

The many paintings hanging in visitor centers and reproduced in Church books and manuals showing the strong-chinned young Joseph studiously examining the “Reformed Egyptian’ characters on the golden plates while his scribe sat across from him writing down his translation. A rather more inspiring image than Smith with his head in his hat!

The Church has long known these images were not true, but they remain because they are useful.

Which of the following two images might a prospect be more impressed by:

Indeed, there are many other examples of just that philosophy at play in the pages that follow.

So, I intend to call bullshit where I find it whether it comes from Dallin Oaks, FAIR or Joseph Smith.

With 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
July 2017