The dominant narrative is not true. It can’t be sustained.
These concerns are secondary to all of the above. These concerns do not matter if the foundational truth claims (Book of Mormon, First Vision, Prophets, Book of Abraham, Witnesses, Priesthood, Temples, etc.) are not true.
Church’s Dishonesty, Censorship, and Whitewashing Over Its History
Adding to the above deceptions and dishonesty over history (rock in hat translation, polygamy|polyandry, multiple first vision accounts, etc.), the following bother me:
2013 OFFICIAL DECLARATION 2 HEADER UPDATE DISHONESTY
Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.
In sharp contrast to the above statement:
August 17, 1949 The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: ‘Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.’ President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: ‘The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.’ The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes. The First Presidency
Along with the above First Presidency statement, there are many other statements and explanations made by prophets and apostles clearly “justifying” the Church’s racism. So, the 2013 edition Official Declaration 2 Header in the scriptures is not only misleading, it’s dishonest. We do have records – including from the First Presidency itself – with very clear insights on the origins of the ban on the blacks.
ZINA DIANTHA HUNTINGTON YOUNG
(The following is a quick biographic snapshot of Zina)
- She was married for 7.5 months and was about 6 months pregnant with her first husband, Henry Jacobs, when she married Joseph after being told Joseph’s life was in danger from an angel with a drawn sword.
- After Joseph’s death, Zina married Brigham Young and had a child with him while still legally married to Henry Jacobs. Brigham sent Henry on missions while being married to Zina.
- Zina would eventually become the third General Relief Society President of the Church.
- In the “Marriage and Family” section, it does not list Joseph Smith as a husband or concurrent husband with Henry Jacobs.
- In the “Marriage and Family” section, it does not list Brigham Young as a concurrent husband with Henry Jacobs.
- There is nothing in there about the polyandry.
- It is deceptive in stating that Henry and Zina “did not remain together” while omitting that Henry separated only after Brigham Young took his wife and told Henry that Zina was now only his (Brigham) wife.
- It clearly shows all of Zina’s husbands, including her marriage to Joseph Smith.
Why is Joseph Smith not listed as one of Zina’s husbands in the “Marriage and Family” section or anywhere else on her biographical page on lds.org? Why is there not a single mention or hint of polyandry on her page or in that marriage section when she was married to two latter-day prophets and having children with Brigham Young while still being married to her first husband, Henry?
BRIGHAM YOUNG SUNDAY SCHOOL MANUAL
- In the Church’s Sunday School manual, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, the Church changed the word “wives” to “[wife].”
Not only is the manual deceptive in disclosing whether or not Brigham Young was a polygamist but it’s deceptive in hiding Brigham Young’s real teaching on marriage:
The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.
In November 2013, Church Historian Elder Steven E. Snow acknowledged the Church’s censorship and pointed to the advent of the internet as the contributing factor to the Church’s inability to continue its pattern of hiding information and records from members and investigators:
I think in the past there was a tendency to keep a lot of the records closed or at least not give access to information. But the world has changed in the last generation — with the access to information on the Internet, we can’t continue that pattern; I think we need to continue to be more open.
There is zero transparency to members of the Church. Why is the one and only true Church keeping its books in the dark? Why would God’s one true Church choose to “keep them in darkness” over such a stewardship? History has shown time and time again that secret religious wealth is breeding ground for corruption.
The Church used to be transparent with its finances but ceased disclosures in 1959.
- Total Church humanitarian aid from 1985-2011: $1.4 billion
- Something is fundamentally wrong with “the one true Church” spending more on an estimated $1.5 billion dollar high-end megamall than it has in 26 years of humanitarian aid.
- For an organization that claims to be Christ’s only true Church, this expenditure is a moral failure on so many different levels. For a Church that asks its members to sacrifice greatly for Temple building, such as the case of Argentinians giving the Church gold from their dental work for the São Paulo Brazil Temple, this mall business is absolutely shameful.
- Of all the things that Christ would tell His prophet, the prophet buys a mall and says “Let’s go shopping!”? Of all the sum total of human suffering and poverty on this planet, the inspiration the Brethren feel for His Church is to get into the declining high-end shopping mall business?
PRESIDENT HINCKLEY’S DISHONEST INTERVIEW
President Hinckley made the following dishonest statement in a 2002 interview to a German journalist:
In my country, the...we say the people’s Churches, the Protestants, the Catholics, they publish all their budgets, to all the public.
Why is it impossible for your Church?
Well, we simply think that the...that information belongs to those who made the contribution, and not to the world. That’s the only thing. Yes.
Where can I see the Church’s books? I’ve paid tithing. Where can I go to see what the Church’s finances are? Where can current tithing paying members go to see the books? The answer: we can’t. Even if you’ve made the contributions as President Hinckley stated above? Unless you’re an authorized General Authority or senior Church employee in the accounting department with a Non-Disclosure Agreement? You’re out of luck. President Hinckley knew this and for whatever reason made the dishonest statement.
TITHING BEFORE RENT, WATER, ELECTRICITY, AND FEEDING YOUR FAMILY
I find the following quote in the December 2012 Ensign very disturbing:
If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing. The Lord will not abandon you.
This despicably dangerous idea of tithing before feeding your family was further perpetuated in the April 2017 General Conference by Elder Valeri Cordón:
One day during those difficult times, I heard my parents discussing whether they should pay tithing or buy food for the children. On Sunday, I followed my father to see what he was going to do. After our church meetings, I saw him take an envelope and put his tithing in it. That was only part of the lesson. The question that remained for me was what we were going to eat.
Would a loving, kind, and empathic God really place parents in the horrible position of having to choose whether to feed their children or pay what little they have to a multi-billion luxury megamall owning church that receives an estimated $8,000,000,000 in annual tithing receipts?
“Well, God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son and besides, the Lord will take care of them through the Bishop’s storehouse.” Yes, the same god who tested Abraham is also the same capricious god who killed innocent babies and endorsed genocide, slavery, and rape. The claims, counsels, and directives of these General Authorities, compensated with annual six figure church salaries, to prioritize money before the needs, health, and well-being of children is hypocritical and morally reprehensible.
Besides, whatever happened to self-sufficiency? Begging the Bishop for food when you had the money for food but because you followed the above counsel and gave your food money to the Church you’re now dependent on the Church for food money? If you give your food and rent money to the Church, you are not self-reliant...you are Church-reliant.
DISHONESTLY ALTERING LORENZO SNOW’S WORDS AND TEACHINGS ON TITHING
The Church took the Prophet Lorenzo Snow’s 1899 General Conference Address words and deliberately omitted and replaced key words on tithing with ellipsis in its Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow manual.
This is what Lorenzo Snow said in his 1899 General Conference Address:
I plead with you in the name of the Lord, and I pray that every man, woman and child who has means shall pay one-tenth of their income as a tithing.
Compare this to how the Church uses and presents Snow’s exact same quote today in its Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow manual:
I plead with you in the name of the Lord, and I pray that every man, woman and child ... shall pay one-tenth of their income as a tithing.
The Church dishonestly alters and completely changes Lorenzo Snow’s words and teaching on tithing by removing “who has means” from his 1899 General Conference quote in its Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow manual.
In 2012, a Latter-day Saint published an eye-opening blog post that went viral among internet Mormons: Are We Paying Too Much Tithing? The article demonstrates how what is currently taught and practiced is contrary to how it was taught and practiced by the Prophet Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets, including Lorenzo Snow; whose above quote was deceptively altered and manipulated for today’s tithe-paying members.
Names of the Church
1830: CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST
1838: THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS
After revealing “Church of Jesus Christ” on April 6, 1830, Joseph Smith made the decision on May 3, 1834 to change the name of the Church to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints”. Why did Joseph take the name of “Jesus Christ” out of the very name of His restored Church? The one and only true Church on the face of the earth in which Christ is the Head?
Four years later on April 26, 1838, the Church name was changed to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” and has remained ever since (except the hyphen was added later to be grammatically correct).
Is it reasonable to assume that God would periodically change the name of his Church? If Jesus Christ is the central character of God’s religion on earth and all things are to be done in His name, is it reasonable to assume that God would instruct His Church leaders to entirely leave out the name of Jesus Christ from the period of May 3, 1834 – April 26, 1838? What possible reason could there be for the name changes?
Why would Christ instruct Joseph to name it one thing in 1830 and then change it in 1834 and then change it again in 1838? Why would the name of Christ be dropped from His one and only true Church for 4 whole years?
What does this say about a Church that claims to be restored and guided by modern revelation?
“SOME THINGS THAT ARE TRUE ARE NOT VERY USEFUL”
Elder Boyd K. Packer gave a talk to Church Educational System Instructors and faculty at a CES Symposium on August 22, 1981 entitled The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect.
Elder Packer said the following:
There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks made a similar comment in the context of Church history at a CES Symposium on August 16, 1985:
The fact that something is true is not always a justification for communicating it.
Joseph using a rock in a hat instead of the gold plates to translate the Book of Mormon is not a useful truth? The fact that there are multiple conflicting first vision accounts is not a useful truth? The fact that Joseph Smith was involved in polyandry while hiding it from Emma, when D&C 132:61 condemns it as “adultery,” is not a useful truth?
Elder Packer continues:
That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith – particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith – places himself in great spiritual jeopardy.
If facts and truths can destroy faith...what does it say about faith? If prophets of the Church conducted themselves in such a way that it can destroy faith, what does this say about the prophets?
What’s interesting about Elder Packer’s above quote is that he’s focusing on history from the point of view that a historian is only interested in the “weaknesses and frailties of present and past leaders.” Historians are also interested in things like how the Book of Mormon got translated or how many accounts Joseph gave about the foundational first vision or whether the Book of Abraham even matches the papyri and facsimiles.
Besides, it matters in the religious context what past and present leaders “weaknesses and frailties” are. If Joseph’s public position was that adultery and polygamy are morally wrong and condemned by God, what does it say about him and his character that he did exactly that in the dark while lying to Emma and everyone else about it? How is this not a useful truth?
A relevant hypothetical example to further illustrate this point: The prophet or one of the apostles gets caught with child pornography on his hard drive. This matters, especially in light of his current position, status, and teachings on morality. Just because a leader wears a religious hat does not follow that they’re exempt from history and accountability from others.
Further, testimonies are acquired in part by the recitation of a historical narrative. Missionaries recite the narrative about Joseph Smith searching and praying for answers, about acquiring the gold plates and translating the Book of Mormon, about the Priesthood being restored along with other foundational narratives.
Why should investigators and members not learn the correct and candid version of that historical narrative, for better or for worse? Are members and investigators not entitled to a truthful accounting of the real origins of Mormonism?
The question should not be whether it’s faith promoting or not to share ugly but truthful facts. The question should be: Is it the honest thing to do?
Elder Dallin H. Oaks made the following disturbing comment in the PBS documentary, The Mormons:
It is wrong to criticize the leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true.
RESEARCHING “UNAPPROVED” MATERIALS ON THE INTERNET
Elder Quentin L. Cook made the following comment in the October 2012 General Conference:
Some have immersed themselves in internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and in some cases invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said the following in his CES talk “What is Truth?” (33:00):
...Remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything at any time and every place. You will find even those who still claim that they have evidence that the earth is flat. That the moon is a hologram. It looks like it a little bit. And that certain movie stars are really aliens from another planet. And it is always good to keep in mind just because something is printed on paper, appears on the internet, is frequently repeated or has a powerful group of followers doesn’t make it true.
Why does it matter whether information was received from a stranger, television, book, magazine, comic book, napkin, and yes, the internet? They are all mediums or conduits of information. It’s the information itself, its accuracy, and its relevance that matters.
Elder Neil L. Andersen made the following statement in the October 2014 General Conference specifically targeting the medium of the internet in a bizarre attempt to discredit the internet as a reliable source for getting factual and truthful information:
We might remind the sincere inquirer that Internet information does not have a ‘truth’ filter. Some information, no matter how convincing, is simply not true.
With all this talk from General Authorities against the internet and daring to be balanced by looking at what both defenders and critics are saying about the Church, it is as if questioning and researching and doubting is now the new pornography.
Truth has no fear of the light. President George A. Smith said:
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.
A church that is afraid to let its people determine for themselves truth and falsehood in an open market is a church that is insecure and afraid of its own truth claims.
Under Elder Cook’s counsel, FairMormon and unofficial LDS apologetic websites are anti-Mormon sources that should be avoided. Not only do they introduce to Mormons “internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and in some cases invent shortcoming of early Church leaders” but they provide asinine “faithful answers” with logical fallacies and omissions while leaving members confused and hanging with a bizarre version of Mormonism.
What about the disturbing information about early Church leaders and the Church which are not magnified, or exaggerated, or invented? What about the disturbing facts that didn’t come from the flat-earthers or moon-hologramers but instead from the Church itself? Are those facts invalid when someone discovers them on the internet?
What happens when a member comes across the Church’s Book of Mormon Translation essay where they learn – for the first time in their lives – that the Book of Mormon was not translated with gold plates as depicted in Sunday Schools, Ensigns, MTC, General Conference addresses, or Visitor Centers?
Or the Church’s Race and the Priesthood essay where yesterday’s prophets, seers, and revelators are thrown under the bus over their now disavowed “theories”?
Or the Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham essay and that the Book of Abraham and its facsimiles do not match what Joseph Smith translated?
Or the Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo essay where they learn the real origins of polygamy and the disturbing details of how Joseph practiced it? That Joseph was married to other living men’s wives and young girls as young as 14-years-old behind Emma’s back? That God sent an angel with a drawn sword threatening Joseph?
Or any of the other troubling essays, for that matter?
Is this member in need of repentance for discovering and being troubled by all the inconsistencies and deceptions? Why is the member required to repent for discovering verifiable facts and for coming to the same logical conclusion about the LDS Church’s dominant narrative that Mormon historian, scholar, and patriarch Richard Bushman did?
The dominant narrative is not true. It can’t be sustained.
Most of the main information and facts that I discovered and confirmed online about the Church is now found from Church sources, Church-friendly sources, and neutral sources.
“And it is always good to keep in mind just because something is printed on paper, appears on the Internet, is frequently repeated or has a powerful group of followers doesn’t make it true.” Exactly - the exact same can be said of Mormonism and lds.org.
GOING AFTER MEMBERS WHO PUBLISH OR SHARE THEIR QUESTIONS, CONCERNS, AND DOUBTS
“The September Six were six members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were excommunicated or disfellowshipped by the Church in September 1993, allegedly for publishing scholarly work on Mormonism or critiquing Church doctrine or leadership.”
A few months before the September Six, Elder Boyd K. Packer made the following comment regarding the three “enemies” of the Church:
The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.
The spying and monitoring arm of the Church. It is secretive and most members have been unaware of its existence since its creation in 1985 after Ezra Taft Benson became president. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland admitted it still exists in March 2012. The historical evidence and the September Six points to SCMC’s primary mission being to hunt and expose intellectuals and/or disaffected members who are influencing other members to think and question, despite Elder Holland’s claim that it’s a committee primarily to fight against polygamy.
“WHEN THE PROPHET SPEAKS THE DEBATE IS OVER”
N. Eldon Tanner, first counselor in the First Presidency, gave a First Presidency Message in the August 1979 Ensign that includes the following statement:
When the prophet speaks the debate is over.
Some things that are true are not very useful + Censorship + Deceptively altering past quotes + Prioritizing tithing before food and shelter + It is wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true + Spying and monitoring on members + Intellectuals are dangerous + “us versus them” rhetoric + When the prophet speaks the debate is over + Obedience is the First Law of Heaven = Policies and practices you’d expect to find in a totalitarian system such as North Korea or George Orwell’s 1984; not from the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As a believing member, I was deeply offended by the accusation that the Church was a cult. “How can it be a cult when we’re good people who are following Christ, focusing on family, and doing good works in and out of a church that bears His name? When we’re 15 million members? What a ridiculous accusation.”
It was only after seeing all of the problems with the Church’s foundational truth claims and discovering, for the first time, the SCMC and the anti-intellectualism going on behind the scenes that I could clearly see the above cultish aspects of the Church and why people came to the conclusion that Mormonism is a cult.